incomprehensible mono-chromatic chaos

i find myself, lately, in a somewhat chaotic condition. plonked, pretty much, in a new country (and continent) with a new culture, new currency, new language, new food, new pretty much everything. it takes some getting used to. and right now i am mired in the mud of uncertainty, plodding through this soul-sucking peat bog, dog-tired and dreaming of sweet, sweet normalcy. order. business as usual. 

at times like these, i crave regularity. routine. other things too. cornflakes, for example. carrots and caramelised-onion hummous. peanut butter and jam sandwiches. chocolate spread on toast. ultra-processed vegan food. no-chicken nuggets and sweet-chilli sauce. my own pillow. even the bitterly cold and wet october uk weather. but mostly routine. routine is the microscopic mote of dust around which a successful solar system can begin to coalesce. routine, and tidying up, are the go-to gardening tools in my spiritual shed for use in my lifelong, ongoing psychic war against the indifferent weeds of entropy. put that metaphor in your pipe and smoke it.


several years ago, when i was working towards my phd (which, at the time, i didn’t particularly want, or in hindsight, need), i found myself in a similar situation, lost at sea and requiring a lunchtime routine. i found it, finally, in the form of a mug of loose-leaf green tea, a pb and jam sandwich, a clicky pencil, and a book of cryptic crosswords. 

university buildings are not, on the whole, particularly idyllic lunchspots. not my one anyway. they’re institutionally uninspiring, noisy, and worst of all, filled with students. these pestilential shits invariably set up camp midmorning in all the most satisfactorily situated spots then spend the entire day browsing social media, having pointless, performative group meetings and generally getting fuck-all done. 

however, every summer, university campuses undergo a magical metamorphosis. all the insufferable, foul-smelling, loudmouth undergrads fuck off for a few months, to do nothing elsewhere, and the postgrads and staff are left to wander the empty corridors in undisturbed serenity. 

i’d take my pick from an entire cantina of empty tables, empty benches. set down my mug, set up my book and my sandwich, start eating, start solving. and when my sandwich was eaten i took up my mug and finished off the job. for an hour or so each day i could completely forget about experimental soil mechanics, which, at that time, was saying something. it was all i could possibly ask for.

i look back now on those years with mixed feelings. it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, that’s for sure. at times i was so depressed and lacking in self-confidence i came fairly fucking close to irreparably fucking up my entire life. i also had some of my all-time peak experiences. i’m talking course-of-life-altering highs. as time passes, and the distance grows, i find that the middle ground is fading away from my memory. eventually, all that remains will be the very best and the very worst. 

so here’s to the very best lunchtime routine i ever had. 

and here’s to the next best – let’s hope it comes along soon. 

culture section

new working title: unculture

napoleon dynamite (2004) – jared hess

i’m going to put this out there – when i first watched this film, as a teenager, i didn’t really get it. it’s just ninety-five minutes of deadpan, frequently fumbled, mumbled dialogue delivered by weird characters wearing weird tshirts to a background of beige and low-stakes non-events in a retro, rural setting. i thought. 

– How was school?
– The worst day of my life, what do you think?

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

i was wrong. 

never have i had to reappraise a film so spectacularly. napoleon dynamite is one of the funniest films ever made. it’s so, so funny, and so, so brilliant. in every way. perfectly directed. perfectly written, perfectly cast and perfectly acted. perfectly edited, perfectly set and perfectly soundtracked. even the tshirts are perfect. don’t believe me?

vote for pedro

it’s one of those films you just know is going to be great, right from the title sequence. possibly the best opening credits in any film, ever. you just know you’re in capable hands, so to speak, and you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. 

trying to pick out the best quotes is a fun exercise, but ultimately pointless. just pick any line from the script. at random. but don’t just read the script, watch it, because the delivery, direction, and editing, is such a big part of what makes it all so funny. it’s seriously, sorely funny.

endlessly quotable, repeatably rewatchable, weird, witty and ridiculously hilarious. It’s a gorgeous, textured, toast-coloured ode to eighties small-town idaho and the intense, soul-crushing banality, agony and ecstasy of being a teenager. 

– What are you drawing?
– A liger
– What’s a liger?
– It’s pretty much my favourite animal. It’s like a lion and a tiger mixed, bred for its skills in magic.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)