This Sparks Joy! Winter 21/22 edition

New format, who dis?

Which basically means I’m changing this up and now there will be one post per season rather one per month. And having thought about the sorts of things I want to share I shall now try and include at least three things that have made me happy from the following categories; music, tv, film, theatre, books, poetry, and nature. There may be other topics, it really does depend on what I’ve up to!

This time, I’m bringing you five things which may help to brighten up the last of the winter.

Music: The Amazing Devil is a folk group made up of Joey Batey, who plays Jaskier in The Witcher, and the incredibly talented Madeleine Hyland.

Ruin Album Cover
Ruin Album Cover

They were already bringing joy to my life with their first two albums Love Run and The Horror and the Wild and their third album, Ruin, was released on 31 October 2021 and it is everything I could have hoped for. Their unique vibe pulses through every song and you can hear the growth from the first two albums in both music and lyrics. My current favourite song from the album is Inkpot Gods but there isn’t a bad song in there so go forth and enjoy.

I’d recommend purchasing the album from Bandcamp so that the artists actually make some money from the album but it can be found, along with the other two albums, on Spotify and Apple Music as well. I will caution, though, that once you create a playlist of all three albums you may find yourself not really listening to anything else for quite a while.

TV Series: I was very late to the party with Leverage, only finding it last year when I was desperate for something to distract me from the pandemic and the shit show that world politics has become.

Photo of cast of Leverage

If I had to give an elevator pitch for it, I’d say “Modern day Robin Hood set in America with Robin and his Merry Men being played by a group of con artists, all of whom who use their skills to take the money of the monster capitalist villain of the week and return it to the people they hurt”. It gave me found family dynamics, clever plots and a whole lot of arseholes being handed the consequences of their actions in the most dramatically satisfying way possible. I loved all five seasons unashamedly and unreservedly.

The show originally ran from 2008 to 2012 so when I heard they were bringing it back as Leverage: Redemption I was both excited that I’d have more to watch but also a little concerned. Would they retain everything I’d loved about the original? Would all my favourites come back? Would it be end up just being a disappointing shadow of its former self?

Promo poster for Leverage Redemption

The answers, thankfully, are yes to the first two question and no to the third. Watching Leverage: Redemption was like meeting up with a friend you’ve not seen for years and finding that the not only has the friendship remained true, it’s actually been strengthened by the absence.

The fact the world has become considerably darker and the rich even more powerful has not been ignored. Climate change, the rise of the far right, hate crimes, the dangers of the wellness industry … all of these are right there, front and centre and this show hasn’t forgotten it works best when it doesn’t pull any punches.

I love the change of dynamic that taking Nate out of the equation created and both of the new crew members are a delight. The fourth wall breaking jokes with Noah Wyle’s character were extremely amusing but I have to say that Breanna has my heart (although Parker will, of course, forever own my soul) and the way she fits into the team is glorious.

There are sixteen episodes in the first season but even so I was left wanting more immediately. Thankfully IMDb has confirmed they’ve commissioned a second season so I can rewatch these episodes safe in the knowledge I’ll be seeing lots of new capitalist monsters brought to account in fairly short order.

In the UK you can watch Leverage Redemption for free (with adverts) from IMDb TV via Amazon. Please come chat to me about your favourite episode if you do watch!

Promo poster for The Emperor's New Groove

Film: Since my brain is refusing to watch new films at the moment, have an old favourite of mine that I put on when I want a low stakes giggle.

The Emperor’s New Groove features a self absorbed yet compelling protagonist, a wonderfully inept villain with an adorkable himbo sidekick, and enough witty one-liners to keep you laughing all the way through.

It is one of the more overlooked of the Disney films (if anything in the Disney vaults can be said to be overlooked at all) and I find that sad because it never fails to cheer me up and make my day a little brighter.

Once you’ve watched it I defy you not to attempt to shoe-horn Kronk’s “the poison” speech into everyday conversation. It’s on Disney+ if you subscribe.

Poetry: The Nomad Palindrome by Kai Carlson-Wee

I first came across this poem when Jay Hulme (another excellent poet you should check out) tweeted about it last year. And then it went to the back of mind, as these things do, until I was talking to a friend about how 22.02.2022 was a palindromic date and he asked me if I could find the palindrome poem. I immediately knew what he meant and, after a quick search, managed to find it on Kai’s own twitter feed.

It’s both incredibly clever and melancholically beautiful and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I am typing out here rather than simply including the photo of it from Kai’s tweet because I can’t get the full text into the photo’s alt text box and I want this to be accessible to everyone using screen readers.

The Nomad Palindrome by Kai Carlson-Wee

Maps, dogs, rail, stars, a Warsaw door,
no sleep, no moods,
I lived on flow, on speed, on spit-faced lonely tuns,
red rum, Tums, on bad dessert, sands,
eye-level, dim as time,
stab on, sway on, span on, Erewhon,
drawn onward,
nowhere, no naps, no yaws, no bats
(emits a mid-level E), yes, DNA stress, ED, dab,
no smut, murders, no Tylenol, decaf, tips,
no deeps, no wolf, no devil-is-doom,
on peels, on rood,
was raw as rats, liars, God, Spam.

Kai has a webpage where you can find his poetry and books and as well as twitter (link above) he can be found on Instagram and Vimeo.

Nature: Attingham Park. This is a National Trust property just outside Shrewsbury with both house and grounds available to explore. That said I have to admit that I very rarely venture indoors here, since I’d far rather wander by the river, through the woods, and across the deer park; just revelling in the outdoors and the wonderful variety of birds and animals it’s possible to see if you aren’t making too much noise.

Here is a short video showing just how many small birds – including Marsh Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits and a Chaffinch – can appear when you provide a small amount of seed and stand very still in the wood:

And here are some photos of the various and wonderful things you can see as you walk:

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