Skip to content

№ 6: Pipeline Detonation Date Night, Fancy Pen Lad, Mountaintop Ambient Perfection

Alex Payne
Alex Payne
4 min read

Table of Contents

Hope your summer is off to a lovely start! As always, something for your mind, your body, and your soul.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

for your mind

Is How to Blow Up a Pipeline a good date night movie? Does your date enjoy the suspended potential for loud explosions that might prove fatal to sympathetic characters? Does your date fancy the idea of about two hours of that?

No? See it anyway.

We're constantly exhorted to accept the urgency or necessity of some new cultural product. Speaking only for myself, I often experience new films, shows, etc. as gasps from our auto-asphyxiating society: alienated, ironic, faddish, cruel, either bitterly cynical or else hopeful of little more than relief from some assumed anxiety.

Pipeline makes itself necessary viewing by sidestepping all that, directly addressing the material reality of our moment, terse and unwavering. The film has no interest in making its audience comfortable, yet makes no attempt to shock, provoke, titillate, or horrify.

Set in the sparse landscape of deep Texas and taking place mostly in harsh daylight, the film maintains tension without noir-ish tropes. In that respect and others, it brought to mind Syriana and The Hurt Locker (of which I only cosign the former).

As a fan of political thrillers, I found Pipeline a superb one. Leaner than a marathoner, it jogs from one tight edit to the next. Characters develop as far as necessary and not a step further. Diversity is essential to the story yet goes completely unspoken—shown and not told, dramatized and not preached. Meanwhile, solidarity across the characters' complex identities is in full effect. It would be a good thriller without its good politics; happily, it has both.

In a favorite scene, an obnoxious documentarian interviews a young family displaced by the fossil fuel industry. When the family bristles and clams up, the interviewer cajoles, burdening the family with the "importance" of sharing their story. Here, Pipeline takes its clearest shot at other climate media—perhaps at the whole culture. Is it important that we tell these stories? That we have a conversation, raise consciousness, build consensus? Or is it already well past time to do something, anything that might keep our planet recognizably habitable for humans and non-humans alike?

fountain pens

for your body

Maybe you write a lot on paper. Maybe you'd like to write on paper more. You've heard fountain pens make writing on paper better but holy god there are a lot of options and could someone please just tell me which pen to get? (Maybe you are me four years ago.)

Pilgrim, I give you this: a quick and brutal guide to fountain pens.

We begin by wiping 90% of the options off the board. Disregard any pen that does not fill via a piston/vacuum mechanism. Cartridges are wasteful, converters are annoying, and you want to be able to write for a while without refilling, yeah? Plus, piston/vacuum pens look cool—especially if you get one with a transparent "demonstrator" barrel—and filling them is fun.

Now, nothing disposable. Nothing that's gonna fall to pieces the first time you drop it. Nothing twee, nothing precious, nothing vintage or hard to find. Nothing that makes you look like a 1980s Wall Street creep about to sign The Big Deal.

What's left? Not much, and that's the idea.

The basic option: TWSBI Eco. If you're not an intolerable fussbudget like me, you could (and probably should) stop here.

The moderate option: TWSBI Vac700R. Why get this over the Eco? Built better, writes better, holds more ink. I use one every day.

The spendy option: Lamy 2000. Sleek, solid, feels great in the hand. Writes like a fucking dream as long as you stay in the sweet spot—that is, hold it such that the nib touches the paper at the optimal angle, which you'll quickly feel out. I also use one of these every day, along with its rollerball sibling.

What ink? Pilot Iroshizuku Take-sumi. It's liquid bamboo charcoal, which means it's pretty sustainable. One 50ml bottle will last you ages.

With loaded pen in hand, find yourself some paper that doesn't bleed/ghost—Tomoe River will serve you well. You're all set.

Fountain pens don't have to be complicated. Whatever you pick, I hope it makes writing a pleasure.

Mountain Ocean Sun - Peace Conference

for your soul

This pick wasn't intended as an ironic juxtaposition with the militant movie selection above, though you're welcome to read it that way. It just happens to be a record I recently rediscovered, one I'm certain is under-heard even by ambient music heads.

Mountain Ocean Sun have made just two albums, of which 2009's Peace Conference is the second. The group seems to be anchored by Warren Defever, audio engineer, solo artist, visual artist, Detroit venue owner, and the backbone of 4AD dream poppers His Name is Alive.

If you lack the taste or patience for ambient music, Peace Conference probably sounds like a bunch of hippie jingle-jangling. For this one, Defever purportedly joined frequent and infrequent collaborators "on a mountain, in the woods, near a river, a lake, and the city." Sit with it—or in it, really—and you'll find yourself the honored guest at their private ritual. Is it a conjuring ritual? Banishing? A great attuning, maybe. Whatever's happening, it feels simultaneously improvised and premeditated.

The label that put this record out, Home Normal, trades in what they call "organic minimalism." Peace Conference is about as organic as it gets in this odd corner of the music world. Purely synthetic ambient music can feel utterly decontextualized: music for uninhabited imaginal spaces. This, by contrast, is ambient by and of people and place, grounding and elevating, drawing the listener within and without.

See you next month!