4chan, Blitzed, Big Little Lies, Garfunkel & Oates, Einaudi

What we’re reading

Politics, politics. Do we read anything else these days?!

If you only have a vague idea of what 4chan is all about, you’re not alone. It started life as a bulletin board that attracted a massive subterranean following of young, male gamers and hackers — literally subterranean, as many of them spent their days in their parents’ basements. But their radical cynicism has had a vast influence on online culture that has spilled over into alt-right politics. This eye-opening article traces the history of 4chan and analyses how, in its nihilism and ennui, its community was drawn to Donald Trump. The author, Dale Beran, is a writer and an artist and he does a brilliant job of skewering a complex and troubling feature of our messy political landscape.

More politics — another era, and another strange, little-known story. Crystal meth seems like a modern scourge, but the drug was synthesised in Germany in 1937 and patented as Pervitin. It produced intense feelings of energy, focus and vigour and was used widely by the Wehrmacht in the second world war. Not only was the army off its collective face on crack, Hitler was also stoned for much of the war, thanks to the ministrations of his personal physician, Theodor Morel. In 2016 a German journalist and filmmaker published a fascinating account of the drugged-up Nazis called Blitzedbased on new research in Germany and the US. This book review by Antony Beevor, the eminent WW2 historian, provides a clear and engrossing overview of this astonishing episode.

What we’re viewing

After the seemingly endless drought of decent TV this summer, here comes Big Little Lies. This dazzling series has been created and written by David E Kelley for HBO and is adapted from the novel of the same name by Australian author Liane Moriarty. It tells the darkly comic story of 5 families and the school their kids attend. The novel is set on Sydney’s northern beaches, but the story relocates seamlessly to Monterey in California for the TV series. The executive producers feature 3 powerful Australian women: Moriarty herself, Nicole Kidman (who also has a starring role) and Bruna Pandandrea.

The storytelling is intricate and multilayered in this flawless production. A murder that has taken place is revealed in intriguing flashforwards as the viewer gradually pieces together the various characters, events and relationships. It looks stunning. Oh — and the music! There is no score to speak of, and songs are used sparingly but to great effect. The opening song is Michael Kiwanuka’s ‘Cold Little Heart’, from one of last year’s best albums. The first 2 eps have featured PJ Harvey, Agnes Obel and Leon Bridges, alongside Kiwanuka. Have a listen here.

Big Little Lies in currently screening on Foxtel’s Showcase. The first ‘not-to-be-missed’ series of the year.

Garfunkel & Oates was the only TV show we found worth watching over the summer. It is funny, but somehow disturbing and off-centre. Garfunkel & Oates are a comedy-folk duo made up of actors/songwriters Riki Lindhome (Garfunkel) and Kate Micucci (Oates). Their band name is derived from a Simpson’s joke about Lisa joining the second-best band in America, playing their number 2 song, ‘Born to Runner Up’.  The series follows the personal and professional misadventures of Garfunkel and Oates as they attempt to make it big in Hollywood, one satirical song at a time. Lindhome has described their show as ‘Glee with dick jokes’, which is pretty accurate.

Garfunkel & Oates screens on Netflix. Listen to their latest musical offering, Secretions, here.

And watch where it all began with Lisa ‘There’s-no-shame-in-being-second’ Simpson.

What we’re listening to

We recently had the immense pleasure of watching Ludivico Einaudi in concert, performing his latest work, Elements. Einaudi is an accomplished and enormously popular Italian pianist and composer who has scored numerous films and TV shows and has released a sizeable catalogue of works. His style derives from neo-classical piano music with striking contemporary elements. That’s what he does best and it works. He was supported by 5 good-looking musicians, all in black and all amazing players.

Einaudi performed the entire concert with his back to the audience, which was disconcerting at first. But it freed us up to gaze at the abstract images projected on to a backdrop, producing a drifting sense of movement — a stunning feature. It was as if Einaudi and his minstrels were floating through space and the entire event was deeply engrossing, even transformative.

Listen to Elements and drift away here.

Strange Loops is a blog that celebrates the mysterious power of words, music, dance and the moving image. Each month or so we present a roundup of the best of what we're reading, what we're viewing and what we're listening to right now.