Weekend (2011)

I like to think that I’m not homophobic, but I realised this week that I don’t think I have ever seen a single film specifically about gay people. I haven’t seen any of the supposed titans of queer cinema like Brokeback Mountain, Philadelphia or Top Gun.

The only one that comes to mind is one of my favourite films Withnail & I, which is on the surface about male friendship. However, the film is sufficiently open to interpretation as to the nature of their relationship that you could comfortably make the argument that they are gay or that one has an unrequited love for the other. At the very least it features Richard Griffiths playing Uncle Monty who is probably the best gay character in any film, managing to be simultaneously hilarious, tragic and shit scary.

My concern comes from the fact that I am currently writing a (fairly long) short (romantic comedy/erotic horror) story at the moment (ETA Q2 2012), which features a couple of very prominent gay characters, and is written from the perspective of a female character.

As a result, I am now the self-appointed spokesman for the gay and female experience, despite belonging to neither group; further bolstering my similarity to Lady Gaga…

I was interested in seeing the film to see if my dialogue and depiction of a gay relationship had any degree of consonance with what a gay writer/director had made.

Though I’m not gay, I do feel some degree of empathy with the gay community. I probably have more in common, in terms of interests and worldview with the average gay man than the average straight man (I don’t like football/I love Eurovision etc).

I think I’ve probably been propositioned by more gay men in nightclubs than by women. I reckon I would probably do far better romantically if I was gay, the stumbling block is that men’s bodies are just not interesting to me in any way; we’re an indistinguishable mush of bland looking bastards. So I will continue to fruitlessly venerate women, who are generally put off by how gay I seem (oh the irony).

Anyway, Weekend is one of the better romantic comedies I have seen (though it’s not all that funny). It bears similarities to another quality romance Before Sunset, in that, it is solely about two people getting to know each other and falling in love over a short period of time, with a looming deadline that is imminently about to separate them. The difference being that Weekend is set in indistinct Nottingham, rather than Vienna.

Weekend concerns a bearded, everyman, loner called Russell who goes on his own to a gay bar looking for transient sex. In the morning he wakes up with a (seemingly) self-confident and dominating, aspiring artist called Glen. They end up spending most of the weekend together, even though Glen is planning to move indefinitely to America on the Sunday. Over the course of the following two days they get to know one another and talk about their familial and sexual histories and their ambitions for the future.

One fun thing about the screening I went to was that there was a middle-aged woman who kept interacting with the film for some reason. Responding to random questions asked by characters (example: “Do you fancy meeting up later on?” woman behind me: “Yes, he does”).

The aspect of the film that was most eye-opening for me (and this might come off as naive and ignorant, apologies, baby I was Born This Way) was that though the logistical nature of gay sex is different, the emotional experience is exactly the same. That is not to say that I had previously assumed the experience was lesser, I had just assumed it would be different. What made me enjoy the film is that it is not just a ‘gay’ film aimed at a primarily gay audience, I think most people could empathise.

One of the key strands of the film is the way homosexuality is presented to the world through films and culture, as well as through the actions of homosexuals themselves.

Glen repeatedly raises the point that gays in films and TV shows are usually non-threatening creatures with their edges rounded off for public consumption. Characters that are never given any degree of autonomy or inner lives; they are always sidekicks or comic relief, rarely fleshed out in any meaningful way. As the film goes on Russell becomes increasingly confident and begins to challenge the more militant Glen about his confrontational approach and how his fear of commitment equally plays into the way the public views homosexual relationships.

The film’s depiction of drug use and sex is refreshingly un-self conscious, I like that the characters are able to be relatively hedonistic without some inevitable cosmic punishment being dealt out to them as a result.

It is the ending of the film that pushes Weekend into Tear Blog territory; I will say that I did come quite close to crying (so I’m making progress). As the couple say their goodbyes at the train station and various things that needed to be said are said. The film ends with Russell back in his flat, back to square one, uncertain that the two will ever see each other again. A depressing but entirely realistic conclusion.

Anyway, really enjoyed the film and I hope its honesty and realism penetrates more mainstream romantic comedies (if you’ll hard-on the pun).

TEAR RATING:

Top 5 Saddest Games of All Time

I have tricked you with the title of this post, you’ve been punk’d by old Micky!

I have no idea what the saddest games of all time will end up being.

Most ‘all time’ countdowns should really read ‘thus far’ as we don’t really have a good idea of what ‘all time’ holds, I reckon there will probably be some amazing books/games/music/films/experiences that dwarf what we currently rank as the very best, if only we could zoom out to view the whole timespan of human endeavour (Quantum Wanks will blow your mind).

The thing is, arranging things into definitive lists is always more intriguing to people, as everyone loves a good definitive list, if only to argue about how undefinitive it is. People don’t give a shit about hierarchy-free subjectivity, they want lists and grades and decimal places.

One of various things that stop this list being very definitive is that I have never played the game Final Fantasy VII, which people always use as a touchstone in these kinds of lists about sad games. I did have the demo on PC, which I played through repeatedly, but nothing sad happened in that ration of the game, and it was hard to tell what was going on; something to do with a sweary black man finding some chickens.

It is too late for me to play it now though. I have come to the realisation that all turn-based RPG’s are just total life sponges that give you the impression you’re growing and achieving things, whilst your life, body and soul suffer irreversible atrophy.

Below there are a couple of spoilers, but most of these games have been out for donkey’s years now. So I can’t be blamed for your complacency.

Also, in classic Tear Blog fashion, none of these games have actually made me cry. Oh well, too late, here’s the list…

5. Silent Hill 2 (PS2)

Silent Hill 2 concerns a man called James Sunderland receiving a letter, from the wife he thought was dead, telling him to visit her in the town of Silent Hill.

James keeps meeting a doppelganger of his dead wife called Maria, who is repeatedly killed before his eyes, before frequently turning up again unharmed. The dialogue and the characters seem to operate using a dreamlike logic that makes you question whether any of the events that take place are actually supposed to be happening. The best Silent Hill games created a kind of horror that is not possible in other mediums, very few jump scares, just a pervasive sense of nightmarish dread and sadness.

The finale sees James coming to terms with the fact he killed his wife because of her terminal illness. What’s interesting is that you can choose to run through the section where James relives a conversation with his wife’s doctor, actively choosing to avoid the truth of what took place. I got the ending where he drives his car into a river, killing himself to be with his wife, which is apparently one of the happier endings.

4. Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360)

Although I can’t say I like Read Dead Redemption all that much, it is way too long and having to routinely kill so many thousands of people just becomes wearying before too long (the older I get, my enjoyment of games has become inversely proportionate to how many people you have to kill to progress). If you have played the game you are probably expecting I have put it on the list for the iconic ending (which is admittedly very good, but got spoilt for me by some turd posting it on Facebook long before I played it).

The main reason it makes my list is for the single most emotionally mature moment I have seen in any game. During a seemingly mundane quest nearing the finale, after John Marston is reunited with his wife Abigail, they go to pick up some cattle from Bonnie McFarlane, a woman that saves John Marston at the start of the game and who he subsequently spends a lot of time with, doing missions and helping out on her farm.

John and his wife buy some cattle from Bonnie and wave goodbye as they trundle off into the sunset. As they leave the camera lingers on Bonnie for quite a while as she waves goodbye; it is at this point that it suddenly dawns on you that she was totally in love with John, she walks back inside her house and you never see her again.

3. Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

You are a young man on a purposely ill-defined quest to bring a girl back to from the dead. In order for this to potentially happen you are told you have to kill the 16 Colossi that roam a sacred, mainly deserted landscape.

Why I don’t mind killing in this game is that it is so minimal, there are no redundant enemies to pad things out, only individually distinct giant creatures that each take around half-an-hour to an hour to bring down. The game has an amazing moral ambiguity. These creatures all look ancient, and most of them don’t even actively try to attack you, merely shake you off or attempt to prevent you from harming them. So the whole way through you’re continually questioning your character’s motivations, and, frequently, felling these creatures feels shameful rather than rewarding.

Aside from the general melancholic atmosphere, the saddest moment occurs right on the cusp of facing the final colossus, when your sole companion on the journey, Agro the horse, falls to his apparent demise. Misfortune befalling horses is always sad in my book as I love horses best of all the animals. Mainly due to the fact that they are my friends.

2. Lemmings (MegaDrive/PC)

Lemmings is so distressing. You have to lead a tribe of cute little green haired creatures across a landscape to safety; they keep walking forward no matter what. You have to save a certain quota of them along the way, in order to succeed and progress. Unlike other games where it is possible to achieve 100% perfection and avoid casualties, Lemmings frequently introduces scenarios where it is impossible to progress without killing some of your lemmings (for example through blowing them up to progress through walls).

I had the PC version of the game, wherein there were a couple of extra devious levels called ‘Oh No! More Lemmings’ which were generally beyond my child-brained capacity to solve. A particularly depressing level called ‘Ketchup Factory’ saw the lemmings marching towards a relentless grinding machine. I wanted so much for the lemmings to be able to progress, but I just had no idea what to do, so the lemmings were endlessly churned up in that machine each time as I fruitlessly tried to save them,. I never got past that level.

I do have a sickened admiration for the really brutal worldview that Lemmings seems to put forward: in order that everyone doesn’t die, some have to die, many will die needlessly, but so long as enough survive it is worth the price. It’s very Stalinist.

1. Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64)

Zelda games are not really known for their emotional maturity and usually get criticised for their adherence to an unaltered narrative/gameplay structure (it is easy to forget that, unlike other gaming franchise protagonists, the Link you play as is seldom the same Link from previous quests. No matter your triumphs in previous games, the world always reverts back to being oppressed and threatened in some way, an eternal recurrence that is quite Nietzschean).

Majora’s Mask is by far the most conceptually interesting Zelda game. Link finds himself cursed and placed in a parallel universe where the world is due to end in three days, at which point a grotesque, ever visible moon will crash into this world, destroying everything. Link attains the ability to postpone this event by learning a song that lets him revert back to the start of this three day period and try again.

Majora’s Mask is unique among Zelda games in that it has a social focus on getting to intimately know the inhabitants of the world and what their routines are, where they will be on any given day and how Link’s actions can affect the trajectory their lives take over that three day period. The forthcoming apocalypse that the inhabitants are sceptical about on the first day causes a hysterical mass evacuation on the third, the closing hours see the skies darken and the music become incredibly ominous.

There are innumerable sad moments in the game (as well as bucketloads of wacky shit like a ghostly hand that lives in a toilet and is desperate to wipe it’s arse), ones that stick out for me now are: Link convincing the postman not to flee despite his paralyzing fear, convincing him of his duty to stay and deliver a very important letter, in the world’s closing hours; the other is the swordsman who earlier in the 3 day period reveals his ambitious plans for cleaving the moon in two with his sword, in the final moments it is possible to discover him cowering and crying in the store cupboard of his shop.

However the whole emotional crux of the game is the quest to reunite the landlady of the hotel, Anju, with her fiancée Kafei; who it is eventually discovered has had a curse put on him, turning him into a child. This is a complex and involving quest that requires many resets of the clock and wider progress in the game before you actually have the assets to solve their dilemma. They are ultimately reunited just as the world is ending, where Anju gets to see that Kafei is a child, and they hug pathetically just before their world is destroyed.

A slight caveat is that, when you complete the game and prevent the apocalypse, if you reunited Anju and Kafei, during the credits you get to see their wedding take place but it is not made definitively clear whether or not Kafei’s curse was lifted. Which could mean that Link had a hand in setting up a paedo honeymoon for the ages.

Regardless, Majora’s Mask is unreal and it is a shame that the games industry is so sterile and risk averse at the minute because I can’t see anything like it being made again any time soon.

If you have any suggestions for sad games I would be pleased to know, I love feedback! Or any other devastating experiences that you can recommend send them my way.

Anne Frank’s House

Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read the diary of Anne Frank so I imagine a great deal of the power of the experience is lost if you haven’t. Though admittedly the museum does do a good job at presenting various choice extracts from the diary; read aloud and written down around the house.

My only experience with the Anne Frank story is a BBC adaptation that got half-heartedly played by an RE teacher once at secondary school. The class never got shown the ending for some reason. Teachers were still using VHS when I was at Secondary school so that meant it was usually more hassle than it was worth to remember whereabouts they were on a film with an individual class, so they would usually just shelve it.

Films teachers have started showing me, but forgot to show the ending:

– Roots (1977)

– The Diary of Anne Frank (1980)

– The Cross and the Switch Blade (1970)

– Regeneration (1997)

– Witness (1985)

– Salvador (1986)

– Cliff Richard’s Heathcliff* (1997)

So if anyone could tell me how any of those end, it would be appreciated.

I hope to read the diary one day, but right now I’ve got more important things to do with my time, like watching American sitcoms in full and reading endless, anonymous, speculative comments underneath episode reviews.

For some reason I live in Holland at the minute, so when I heard that one of my old Uni pals was visiting Amsterdam I jumped at the chance to meet up (if anyone else is in Holland hit me up, I’m lonesome). Her friends she was there with were going to the Heineken factory (boo!), but she wanted to go to Anne Frank’s house, which was obviously the more compelling activity.

I was put off going to the Anne Frank museum in my 2 previous trips to Amsterdam, mainly because my colleagues kept talking about how long the queues were. The queue ended up being about 25 minutes long; I’ve waited longer to go on Toyland (RIP) at Alton Towers.

In the queue, we were spoken to by an American guy who was trying to promote his comedy variety show. He singlehandedly dispelled me of the notion that all Americans have good teeth. It is only in hindsight that I realise that it is a pretty shameless thing to try to promote your comedy show by pestering the captive audience in the queue for Anne Frank’s house, would he have hassled us if we were orthodox looking Jews, rather than a dork and a lesbian?

Anne Frank’s house has been subsumed within the museum so it is now encased in the centre of a gift shop, a learning centre, a café. To think that the Frank’s were hoping they would never be found and now millions of people each year are tramping around their house looking at their belongings. There’s no furniture in the house now, due to the request of Anne’s father, Otto Frank; you do get to see their toilet though: result!

The tour does suffer from the same thing that every museum does, where you happen upon an informative video being played, but due to the pace people travel around the house you usually turn up midway through. Meaning that you catch the end of the video, and then wait for it to start again, and then start walking again midway through when you reach the point where you initially arrived. Giving the impression to newcomers that you look like you got bored midway through and left.

You get to go through the various rooms in the house and see how the different areas were concealed, behind bookshelves etc. All the way through the tour you are building up to the crushing inevitability of finding the attic and the final space where the Frank’s were discovered. The house is filled with photos of the family and their correspondence. The mundane nature of the house does give it a lot of power, due to their sheer ordinariness.

I will say I would have like to have been able to see the attic space. You get to see the step ladder and the entrance to the attic, but you can’t go up to see inside the attic itself. Common sense says this is probably because it would have been a logistical nightmare, as traffic around the house would have bottle-necked.

I must admit that my criticism is one that stinks of embarrassing modern day entitlement, that ‘I should be able to see everything!’ and that ‘I want to have every aspect of the Frank tragedy itemized for my consumption! Why didn’t the Frank’s consider tourist accessibility when choosing their hiding spot!?’

Regardless, it does mean that the whole museum builds up in pressure and intensity till you get to the focal point of the whole story and then the museum flinches at the last second. At the very least, I suppose it is fitting that the last image you see is what the Nazi’s would have seen when they finally discovered the family’s hiding spot, mere months before the end of the war.

Afterwards you are led back downstairs, where the Frank family’s fate in the concentration camp is narrativised, you hear an interview with the last woman to see Anne Frank alive at the camp.

The only survivor from the family was the father Otto Frank.

The tour of the house ends on a really strange note, which is kind of unrelated to the Holocaust but is really profound and difficult regardless. It is an interview with Otto Frank talking about the posthumous literary fame of his daughter. I am paraphrasing here, but he says something along the lines of:

“It took me a long time to read my daughters diary, and when I did, I could only read it in short bursts at a time. I feel like I had a great relationship with my daughter. I had a relationship with my daughter as good as any parent/child relationship I know of, and we talked often. But reading her diary, showed me that she had a much richer inner life than I ever could have anticipated, she recorded so many observations and opinions that she never expressed, and I never could have guessed that she held…”

He continues as follows, this is the closing thought that the tour of Anne Frank’s house ends upon:

“Reading her diary has led me to the conclusion, that no parent can ever really know their child.”

Which is one of the saddest things I have ever heard. Imagine losing your whole family, wife and daughters, and afterwards coming to the realisation that you probably never knew them at all.

My mam and my younger sister went to the house last week, after my family came up to visit me. My mam was apparently crying her eyes out all the way round; whilst my dad and brother went to smoke kush (I don’t think Ken had any, he just accompanied David there). At the very least I can say I understand my brother, he’s a boy that just loves him some kush! Ken’s a fucking enigma though (why does he wear such shit t-shirts!?).

The last thing to note if you are planning on going to Anne Frank’s house (which I would overall highly recommend to anyone interested in sadness) is to visit the learning centre tacked onto the museum, because it has a very interesting social experiment attached to it called Free2Choose.

It looks a bit like a game show. It is a square platform, with benches around the outside. there are about 40 or so protruding poles, which have two green and red buttons on. There are four screens, each placed on each side of the square platform, and with different subtitles on each screen for different languages. You are given a GCSE Citizenship-style scenario, illustrated with a short documentary, they usually go as follows:

“This is Zabra she goes to school in France, she usually wears a headscarf, but her school board is planning to disallow the wearing of the headscarf to school as they believe learning should be secular…”

The assembled audience then has to answer a question as to whether they feel that the headscarf should be banned in school. You record your opinion covertly by pressing either the red or green button. The screens then flash up with a percentage breakdown of how people in the room answered the question, followed by an ‘all-time’ aggregate of people’s answers.

The area cycles through multiple scenarios, including: racial profiling/homophobia/the rights of far right groups to engage in politics/Holocaust denial.

Due to me and my friend, generally erring on the side of killjoy open-mindedness and political correctness, you could have put our responses to most of the questions on autopilot. The fun was in seeing how many secret racists/homophobes were lurking in the room. There were a surprising amount; usually accounting for about a quarter of the vote each time around, in a room of roughly 12 voters.

A fun secondary game to play was ‘spot the racist in the room’. The results were inconclusive, it seems racists look just like you or I.

The aggregate ‘all-time’ scores were also interesting, with a roughly 65% non-racist/35% racist breakdown for most questions. The big question is, what were so many racists doing at the Anne Frank museum? Do you think they were just walking round ironically and letting out secret anti-semitic farts?

SADNESS RATING:

*This musical got turned off by the teacher because the whole class was pissing themselves at Cliff Richard beating his wife. I have since bought the VHS from a charity shop for 50p, and it does not disappoint, one of the funniest films I can remember having seen. Cliff comes up with a hypothetical explanation as to what Heathcliff was up to when he disappeared to make his fortune, it involves Cliff Richard shooting Aztecs and shagging geisha girls.

The Tear Blog – Melancholy Mega-mix (Spotify Playlist)

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I thought that an interesting avenue of exploration for the Tear Blog might be if I made a compilation of the kind of songs that make me feel sad.

Hopefully some passing commenter can point me in the direction of similar songs that might unlock my inchoate tear glands.

The Mega-mix is available as a Spotify playlist here:

The Tear Blog – Melancholy Megamix

I tried not to go for any obvious ballads, because that would probably end up being a bit much. I thought I’d pick a selection of songs that capture a range of different kinds of sadness.

A major caveat is that Joanna Newsom’s songs aren’t on Spotify. Her best songs are intensely sad, but maybe it’s for the best that she wasn’t part of this mega-mix because her songs are usually quite long and would probably weigh the whole experience down a bit too much; and that’s not what a mega-mix should be about!

It was for the same reason that I left off quite a few, really titanic, melancholy songs like “Hope There’s Someone” by Anthony and the Johnsons or “Blame Game” by Kanye West, because they are just too imposing. I tried to go for a selection of less showy songs that hopefully work well together.

As a word of caution, a lot of my opinions are just based off the songs themselves, so in quite a few cases I have probably completely misconstrued what they were even supposed to be about.

ONTO THE MEGA-MIX:

The Tear Blog – Melancholy Mega-mix Tracklist

1. Colour Me In – Broadcast
2. Tonight – The Avalanches
3. Enchanting Ghost – Sufjan Stevens
4. No One Asked Me to Dance – Deerhoof
5.  Mathew 25:21 – The Mountain Goats
6. Replica – Onehotrix Point Never
7. This Night Has Opened My Eyes – The Smiths
8. Surf’s Up (solo version) – The Beach Boys
9. We Were Wasted – The Leisure Society
10. Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying – Colin Stetson & Shara Worden
11. This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush
12. Prospector’s Quartet – Jonny Greenwood

Running time: 43 minutes

MELANCHOLY COMMENTARY:

1. Colour Me In – Broadcast

Thought I would start with a song that, when it was first written, wasn’t that sad but has since gained an unbearable amount of poignance. I only got into this group after lead singer Trish Keenan’s death, due to pneumonia, last year. The song sees Keenan singing to a potential lover, who hasn’t responded to her advances yet, but she is not put off, telling them that “it’s never too late, to colour me in.” It is too late now as she is dead. Unrequited love makes me very sad indeed. I used to get deeply upset at the squirrel scene in The Sword in the Stone, aged 6.

2. Tonight – The Avalanches

Almost all of The Avalanches songs on Since I Left You songs are unabashed concentrated joy, so it is particularly jarring when this song turns up suddenly. The reassembled sound collage approach of the rest of the album is used to opposite ends on this song. The murky salvaged piano melody coupled with the torch-bearing sentiment of the vocals produces a sad, nostaligic feel. It seems to be about one night of happiness simultaneously shot through with sadness because you don’t know whether you will even see the people/person again.

3. Enchanting Ghost – Sufjan Stevens

I am a big fan of Sufjan Stevens’ more arch songs, but for all the conceptual weight and effort he puts into his music, he would be as successful (probably even moreso financially speaking) if he just kept doing the kind of powerful stripped down ballads that he (seems almost ashamed) he can do in his sleep. This song is about being haunted by the memory of someone you continue to love despite their absence.

4. No One Asked Me to Dance – Deerhoof

Despite being one of my favourite bands, Deerhoof nevertheless have very few songs that have any kind of identifiable sentiment to any rational person, unless your children have ever been kidnapped by a man who lives in the clouds (a subject they dedicated an entire album to). No One Asked Me to Dance might be their most direct and simple song ever, a classy Spanish guitar riff, and lyrics about watching people on the dancefloor but not taking part.

5. Mathew 25:21 – The Mountain Goats

Taken from their album based around verses from the bible: The Life of the World to Come, this is Christian music with a rare dignity. If you have indulged me enough to read (and listen) this far, I suggest dedicating your attention to the narrative of this song, because it loses all it’s power otherwise. The song is an autobiographical account of John Darnielle travelling to visit his mother-in-law, who is dying in the hospital. I find it hard to believe that anyone wouldn’t be moved by his delivery of the line: “And you were a presence full of light upon this earth / and I am a witness to your life and to its worth.” It’s weird to hear someone have something pleasant to say about their mother-in-law, have we finally escaped the Bernard Manning paradigm?

6. Replica – Onehotrix Point Never

After a song as heavy as the previous, I thought I would leave a bit of breathing space with an instrumental. Like the Avalanches’ Tonight, this song is made from various bits of salvaged audio, most prominently a melancholic piano tune. In this song’s case, the audio was sourced predominantly from trashy old adverts that were then subsequently manipulated into something far more unusual. The song/album’s conceptual underpinning is how future generations, or even otherworldly beings might, one day, piece together various disposable fragments of our present day culture but approximate it completely incorrectly. It is a simultaneously depressing and funny concept I think.

7. This Night Has Opened My Eyes – The Smiths

Despite liking The Smiths and Morrissey, I had somehow not encountered this song before last week. Shame on me, because it might now be one of my favourites of theirs. An account of a young girl feeling emotionally blank, neither happy or sad, after secretly giving away a child born out of wedlock. The guitar riff sounds strangely disco.

8. Surf’s Up (solo version) – The Beach Boys

Despite the generally upbeat and chipper nature of their music, the Beach Boys’ story is one that is filled with sadness. Parental abuse, substance abuse, debilitating mental illness and, in the case of Dennis Wilson: drowning in the ocean. This song is taken from an album with one of the most monumentally depressing covers ever:

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It’s not a song I feel like I fully understand, but it is a song I find moving regardless.

Surf’s Up paints a picture of the american aristocracy at a music hall show on New Year’s Eve, before suddenly transitioning into an impressionistic passage about everything being washed away by a tidal wave, letting a new generation begin from scratch. There is something inherently sad about the band who gave surfing such a mythical, good-time vibe inverting that image and using it as an analogy for something destructive, albeit cleansing. The solo piano version from the Smile Sessions boxset is a particularly sad rendition of the song.

9. We Were Wasted – The Leisure Society

This immaculate song is now inextricably linked with the ending of Paddy Considine’s directorial debut Tyrannosaur, which I liked but perhaps laid on the misery a bit too thick. Taken on its own terms, the song turns a wild night of drinking into an analogy for having wasted your life.

10. Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying – Colin Stetson & Shara Worden

A nightmarish reinvention of a Blues standard. Stripped of almost all musical accompaniment other than one rumbling unconsummated saxophone note, coupled with an uncomfortably raw vocal. This is a harsh song, thankfully its atmosphere and emotion stop it simply being an endurance test.

11. This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

First heard this, aged 7, on some kind of feminist compilation CD my mam used to listen to whilst tidying up (called New Woman vol. II or something like that). It is one of my favourite Kate Bush songs, it’s open-ended sentiment means it could be about any number of things, the only thing that is certain is that it is one of the saddest songs ever written.

12. Prospector’s Quartet – Jonny Greenwood

Getting your head around the There Will Be Blood soundtrack means that you get to enjoy repeat viewings of the film, almost, as a musical. This piece of music plays during the montage that establishes the context for the indelible finale. I don’t think there will be a time I can hear this piece of music without getting chills up my spine.

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…and that’s the Melancholy Mega-Mix! Hope you don’t want to kill yourself!

If you can hint me in the direction of any powerful songs you reckon I might like, just pop me a message.

Best Coast – Our Deal (music video)

I was put off listening to Best Coast’s album Crazy For You for a very long time purely on the basis of how pathetic the album cover is:


Awful, I’m sure you will agree.

I enjoyed all the singles from the album, but I just couldn’t deal with listening to a record that had such a poorly cropped picture of a cat on it (my skills at image manipulation are also incredibly amateur, as will soon become apparent).

The band finally clicked for me when I saw them at this years End of the Road festival. I was in a delicate state after having made the patently terrible decision of alternating Hobgoblin with boxed wine the previous night.

I found to my surprise that Best Coast’s music made me inexplicably emotional to the point where I felt like I might cry. I found this odd for a number of reasons:

– Their lyrics are incredibly simplistic (rarely is the opportunity to rhyme crazy with lazy squandered in the world of Best Coast).

– All their songs basically sound exactly the same.

– They feature lolcats in their videos, 7 years after they ceased to be funny.

– Their lyrics make frequent reference to recreational drug use! WHICH I AM AGAINST!

lol, jk. I’ve smoked weed over FOUR times!


I had been put off them for ages because I thought that they were an ironic surf-rock pastiche. But, once I saw them live, I realised that the band run on pure sincerity.

Their terrible lyrics and simplistic arrangements couldn’t be any further from ironic pretense. These are just songs that the singer, Bethany Consentino, thought would be good, so she did them.

Something about how sheerly pathetic they are made me really respond to them in my dishevelled state, to the point where the following amateur lyric (and many others of its ilk), somehow, brought me incredibly close to crying:

“Maybe I’m just crazy! Crazy for you baby!”

It takes a unique kind of talent to make that lyric moving.

I am now quite fond of the band. I even find myself reappraising the album cover, the band probably sincerely thought it looked good.

The video for their song Our Deal marks their most conscious attempt at a tear-jerking tragedy:

The video is a modern day update of Romeo and Juliet, it features a romance between two starcross’d lovers from rival gangs (a startlingly original re-imagining, I’m sure you will agree).

The video was helmed by Drew Barrymore, a woman who has been in her fair share of tearjerkers (E.T.) and would-be tearjerkers over the years (Never Been Kissed etc.).

The lovers in question are Chloe Moretz (from Kick Ass) and Tyler Posey (?).

There are also cameos from the annoying sister from Drake and Josh and Donald Glover from the hit-and-miss, high-concept sitcom Community. A veritable all-star cast! Barrymore’s own ex-child star status obviously guided her casting decisions.

The video has an unusually 17th century approach to romance mores. Moretz is 14, Posey is 20, which would qualify any attempt at sexual relations between the two as statutory rape in this country…

This romance doesn’t come across as seedy as it sounds in theory, as the video is quite stylized; also Moretz seems preternaturally old beyond her years. Her film career so far suggests she finds being a child an annoying formality.

Again, Best Coast’s jangling guitars and pathetic lyrics manage to make me emotionally prone for reasons I find hard to assess.

The video also conjures the same spirit of enjoyable adolescent cheesiness that permeates those fan made videos on Youtube that exhibit a tenuous romantic relationship between incongruous characters from pop culture whilst a sappy song plays. Ron/Draco, Buffy/Giles, Aragorn/Legolas; three examples I just thought of at random that a quick search has vindicated as existing.

WHY I DIDN’T CRY
I laughed my tits off at the twist.

Surely she would have heard him continuing to spray.

TEAR RATING

Lost Pet


Leon was the youngest of our 4 cats.

The Holt family were more prone to call him ‘the Kitten’ than his real name, even though he was around 4 years old and was long since a fully grown cat.

Leon was named by my brother after the main protagonist of the seminal computer game Resident Evil 4. We also have a tortoise named Lord Sadler, after the game’s antagonist. That tortoise has his own existential difficulties as he spends the whole of each night futilely trying to scrape his way out of his habitat. This is no doubt due to the fact that he’s after some sweet tortoise pussy.

Cats are such independent creatures that it is hard to notice initially when they have gone AWOL. The issue of the missing cat was first brought to attention by my father (Ken), who said that he hadn’t seen ‘the Kitten’ for a week. That week has turned to a fortnight, turned to three weeks.

There are various threats that face the life of a cat: roads, wild animals, psychopathic children.

There have been incidents with previous cats.

My first cat Hazel went missing for a similar length of time and came back with barbed wire wrapped around its leg. It survived the incident though and went on living for a long period afterwards. It finally passed away a week after it had gone senile and tried to piss in a toaster.

Our second cat Frisky went missing one day and never came back.

Leon is our sixth cat, one of four that we have at present.

It’s sad thinking about lost pets, the lack of certainty about their fate is troubling as you are relatively powerless to do anything about it. Pets are also completely thick and most likely can’t envisage what the concept of being lost means.

CLOSEST I CAME TO CRYING

I thought about the period of time that the cat has been missing.
3 weeks.
I had an image in my head that the cat could have been attacked by a fox, or otherwise injured somehow.
I thought about the fact that the cats generally never stray massively far away from the immediate area surrounding our house.
It could have been laid stranded on the outskirts of Dalton Wood.
There was potentially a window of time where the cat could have been saved, but I was not aware that it was missing.
Something about the idea of the cat suffering or being in peril, meowing out into the cold night whilst I was farting around on the internet in blissful ignorance makes me feel very sad.
I hate the idea that there was a window of time where I could have prevented the cat’s death or disappearance if I’d been in the right place at the right time.
This made me feel sad.

WHY I DIDN’T CRY?

The cat might not be dead and could conceivably come back. I’m sure that historically there must have been a whole battalion of cats that have been away much longer than a month and have still eventually come back. A quick check for anecdotal evidence on Yahoo! Answers suggests some cats have come back after months away.

It would be amazing if a Homeward Bound style situation developed and my two missing cats (Frisky as well as Leon) finally came back, bounding over the hill, making wisecracks and accompanied by a brand-new, sexy female tortoise for Lord Sadler to hump.

Still I think, much like his namesake, chances are good that Leon has probably ‘taken- too-much-damage-and-didn’t-have-a-green-herb’ shall we say, and these words have inevitably flashed up before his eyes…


In Jonathan Franzen’s excellent novel Freedom, there is a scene where one of the characters wages a vendetta against house cats, based on the decimation of the bird population wrought by the rise of domesticated felines.

Since finishing the book I became instilled with a sense of guilt about the excessive amount of cats we own and the havoc that they could be wreaking on the local bird population (though they generally bring back dead mice and baby rabbits rather than birds). Nevertheless there is a question about whether it’s fair to set up four cute furry killing machines right on the outskirts of nature. Maybe it’s for the best that there is potentially one less cat besetting the already precarious position of wild birds in this country.

There is also the possibility that the cat has shacked up with some other family who he reckons treat him better. In which case fuck him.

TEAR RATING:

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father


I don’t want to write too much about this film as much of the effect will be lost if you know anything about the plot going in, I will say only this:

It is potentially the saddest film ever made

I still didn’t cry though.


TEAR RATING: