An Airbnb in Copenhagen: how I went TikTok-viral and teens from the UK said I had the affectations of a cokehead
The second time I went interrailing I booked a reasonably-priced Airbnb in Copenhagen as a stopover on my way to Norway - the date of my stay coincided with my birthday so I decided not to go for the cheapest option.
I knew something was wrong as soon as I turned up: there was a 3ft Buddha statue in the window looking outwards and a TV hanging above him. Stepping inside, my spacious one-room condominium was split in two by heavy-duty curtain. There was a copy of Hokusai’s Great Wave (it was, at least, 6ft on the diagonal) hanging on one wall and a full-height mirror leaning against the wall opposite. The light switches by the door only turned the TV on to display a massage price-list.
Behind the curtain was a massage bed and accompanying accoutrements. Behind the mirror was a light switch, hanging, its live wiring exposed.
The true kicker was the bathroom: there was no bath, there was no shower. It wasn’t even a wet-room. I messaged Anna, my host, to ask about the lack of any kind of washing facilities and she answered with a simple “I left you a bucket”. And there it was, under the sink. The tap was extendable: I had to pull the tap out of its socket to turn it into a quasi-shower head.
I recorded the whole thing to upload to my Instagram for my friends to see and laugh at it, and then a few years later I uploaded it to TikTok because I’d remembered what happened. The video went viral and the main takeaway a frightening number of those hundreds of thousands of viewers had was that my sniffle betrayed my raging cocaine addiction.
It was my birthday the next morning and I spent it crouched in a small plastic bucket showering with a bendy sink tap. There was water fucking everywhere and I didn’t actually feel that bad about it.
A Nigerian-German in Liechtenstein
I stayed in a hostel just off Liechtenstein’s one and only main road - it was flanked by meadows and mountains on either side. There was a bloke unpacking in my dorm and I gave him the usual “you alright mate?” and he shot back with a “fucking hell! you’re not from around here, are you?”. It turned out that he was in Liechtenstein for an international martial arts competition. Later, it also turned out that during this same weekend was Liechtenstein’s Independence Day. The two seemed linked. Maybe the international martial arts lobby was desperate for tax relief.
Later that evening I met my two other roommates: a Dutch lass living in London and writing a book and a lovely bloke from Berlin with Nigerian-German heritage. While our martial arts friend was out scrapping with the locals, we drank a lot of white wine and tried not to melt in August heat.
The next day I went to watch the Independence parade and followed it up to Liechtenstein’s castle, where I had a pint with the Prince of Liechtenstein. He even paid for it :)
I was the first back at the hostel and could hear the kindly Berliner arrive before I could see him; he got on a bus to a nearby Austrian town where a group of old Bavarian women accosted him and pressured him into buying a set of authentic cream-coloured, leather lederhosen. He considered it for a second, remembered that it was Liechtenstein’s independence day and thought to himself: when in Rome. Mind, the Liechtensteiners don’t wear lederhosen.
His lederhosen squeaked as he walked and he had to peel himself out of it in the evening. He came back to our room streaming with tears of laughter at the mistake he’d made walking around the richest, whitest parade in Europe as a black man wearing cream-coloured lederhosen.
In the third year of my filmmaking degree I realised that my screenwriting lecturer was a bullshitter. What’s worse is that I also realised I kinda admired it; it didn’t really matter if the stories he told were true, only that remembering them makes me howl.
One week, he needed a last-minute sound recordist for his PhD project. Having zero interest or experience in sound recording, but having quite a lot of interest in spending the day with this man, his 15-years-junior fiancee, and their baby, I decided to volunteer.
On the day I wore my brand new white trainers. Experimental musician-slash-actress Keeley Forsyth was there, too. We spent the day driving around Halifax and walking through fields, and alleys, and ginnels, and mud.
At midday, on a staircase running up the side of a pub and towards an overpass above it, he bent over to tie his shoes. His glasses fell off his face and into a tidy pile of literal shit. He picked them up, gave them a sniff, assuredly proclaimed “this is human shit”, and threw them aside.
During the drive back, he explained to me the one time someone had cursed him. Famed actor Donald Sutherland, specifically, had cursed him because he refused to foot the bill for a £150 bottle of wine. Donald ordered the waiter to open the bottle and pour a glass; he dipped his thumb in the wine and leant over to draw a cross on my lecturer’s forehead. Whether the curse has come to pass I don’t yet know.
My brand new white trainers were fucking ruined and, in retrospect, I think I got cursed by proxy.
But that was one of the lessons of film school I’ll never forget: stories are fun. I love to embellish and pretend and reframe and bullshit, sometimes. All you have to do is call it oral tradition and nobody bats an eyelid.
A few weeks ago I tweeted this:
want a game that's gonna emotionally ruin me - obvious runner up is disco but I don't have the time to commit to it right now, so I'm thinking kentucky route zero instead— 🕊 Eryk (@peregrine_coast) August 12, 2023
The last few months have been pretty intense so I’ve not really been able to just sit down and take a day off. Until today! I decided to go through a bunch of my fave games/shows to experience a bit of catharsis and maybe have a bit of a cry. I watched the first two episodes of Sense8 and played the first episode of Kentucky Route Zero again.
Sense8 is an odd show which I adore completely. I think a lot of it stems from how thoroughly it reflects the Wachowskis’ liberalism; a liberalism which I’m guessing is closely linked to them being queer and of a certain age. Will is a cop, but he’s one of the good ones! White people can wear dreads because, like, we’re all one people, man (also: yellowface in Cloud Atlas)! That said, the milquetoast politics are contrasted by complete sincerity in almost everything else: every character feels everything deeply, every character is honest and justified and vindicated.
I went to a talk Lana gave at Camerimage, Poland in 2018/2019 and I still think about it semi-regularly. A few key members of the production team were also there, and the one thing they talked about was the intensely close bond they all developed while shooting both seasons. The whole thing was filmed on location in eight countries and featured 8 key cast members. It’s wild! I’m not sure that anyone other than the Wachowskis could have pulled it off. Going from Sense8 to probably the best sequel to the Matrix we could have got is such a clear progression of a singular creative voice.
There’s no great point to this other than to gush about Sense8 a bit; despite the sometimes shoddy dialogue, wonky performances, cinematography which screams shit-we-have-this-location-for-one-more-day-and-three-days-of-scenes-left, and a slightly nonsensical central premise… I absolutely love it for the tenderness and honesty and sincerity and weird orgy scenes.
An Independent Web
Every time Twitter has a wobble I go down a deep hole of trying to make a space for myself on the internet. It’s pretty cyberpunk to go back to the roots of the internet; servers at home hosting your corner of the internet, accessible only via your friends’ sites or, god forbid, Google doing its job.
After lots and lots of research, here’s where I’ve landed. Blot.im (this website) is my personal blog and landing page. All of my long-form thoughts live here (though I definitely do not write as much as I’d like to). Peregrine Coast Press pays for a Mastodon instance and that’s where all of my shit-posting and microblogging lives. The obvious advantages are that I own all of this. I can cross-post everything to any new platform which pops up safe in the knowledge that some overzealous Ts&Cs won’t actually claim my work as their own.
I flitted between a few blogging sites in the past few months. Micro.blog is a really great idea, but I found the UX and Dealing With Hugo a bit too much for me - I didn’t like the way the blog looked, and I want writing to be frictionless. I don’t want to be learning CSS and HTML just to make something I’m happy with. Obsidian Publish was a strong contender - I love the idea of the digital garden, though I can’t actually envisage my use for it. Everyone who’s into Digital Gardens might as well be speaking gobbledegook because like… what the fuck is a Map of Content? Why is me writing a blog post on the internet suddenly about synergising thoughts and amplifying my interconnected ideas?
(I would actually like to go back to it at some point but I don’t read enough or take enough notes for that specific usecase to be relevant to me. My day-to-day is a fucking mess of apps and I’m slowly finding myself leaning more and more towards pen-and-paper.)
I don’t want to pontificate too much about the benefits of doing things this way lest it sounds like a “Just install Linux!” argument, but I hope that the rapid downfall of several platforms at once has folks reconsidering what their presence on the internet actually is.
I’d love to set up WebMentions and comments and content syndication, but I think the reality is that nobody really gives a fuck right now and it’s quite beyond my abilities to set up. The majority of my interactions with folks are on Discord right now, and blog-to-blog replies are pretty old school. One step at a time!
Graphic Designing Transmission For Them
At risk of showing a bit too much of how the sausage is made, I thought it might be interesting/of use to write down how I approached the art side of Transmission For Them. Let me know if you want to know anything not mentioned in here!
I’ve been on a huge sci-fi hype recently (mostly thanks to Mothership and everything about it), and I’ve always had a soft spot for the cliched VHS aesthetic. Those were my foundations for thinking about Transmission’s whole vibe. I also took a fair bit of inspiration from Death in Space.
When Zine Month approached, I knew that it was the motivation and deadline I needed to put something out. I started with the cover:
trying to write a solo journalling game and the writing bit isn't going so well so I'm making the awful error of starting layout first. also committing the cardinal sin of making everything white on black. print shop is gonna hate me pic.twitter.com/gqgx1e6ngs— 🕊 Eryk (@peregrine_coast) January 12, 2022
I shared the cover before I had anything else down - it’s pretty much the only thing that remained unchanged from start to finish. It got some cracking responses which really helped get over that initial motivation bump.
Choosing white-on-black was a huge constraint I wanted to test myself with. I’ve been learning layout and graphic design mostly through doing (and I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who paid for anything I’ve put out so far - you’ve basically been paying for me to learn in public), and Filmmakers Without Cameras and Demesne of Conflagration were both really maximalist, varied pieces of work. This was supposed to be the opposite: two colours, 16 pages, and a chance for me to try more graphic design.
The white-on-black feels like an obvious choice for a piece set in space: the dimensions of the page seem to fade away and the white text stands in stark contrast to its surroundings. It’s pretty neat!
I got this idea of “elegance” into my head fairly early on - I wanted sharp lines, stark contrasts, and balance. Looking at these spreads felt amazing; I wanted to put one prompt on each page to give the prompts all that breathing room, to make them look lost in space. Alas, this thing had to get printed and bound somehow.
This was also where Sam and Josh, the writers, came in. My prompts up until this point were very simplistic: “How did you meet them?” and “What was your last argument about?”. They came in and blew my word limit wide open. There’s a running theme in my collaboration with Sam & Josh and Charlie. I went for ultra-minimalism, and they… didn’t.
It made for a nice balance. Transmission For Jehn is a magical piece of work; the narrator talks about going to space as if it’s no big deal. He has Sun Ra on speed dial, and he makes short work of Europa, Io, Ganymede and Callisto. Contrasting my layout inspired by the sharp lines and contrasts of hard sci-fi with Sam & Josh’s descriptive, flowing prose and Charlie’s psychedelic lines ended up in a great marriage of the real and fantastical. At least I think so - I hope it comes through!
Charlie’s art piece above is lovely, but it doesn’t actually appear as a spot anywhere in Transmission (though it is in there - bonus points to anyone who can find it!). We agreed that it was a bit too booby for the vibe we wanted and had to go back to the drawing board to find a style that was more reflective of Transmission thematically.
There’s also a reference in Transmission to a film I have a lot of love for - I was worried it was a bit too on-the-nose but so far nobody’s pointed it out. The first person to point it out will get a free, limited edition Transmission For Them patch 👀
Combining the real-world Moon landing photography with Charlie’s art is reflected in our prompts, too. At any moment you could draw a card asking you to reflect on very human moments with your partner, while another card could ask you to reflect on the pod of space whales swimming alongside your spaceship. Magical realism is another soft spot of mine.
I still threw in some ultra-minimalist bits, though! I approached most of the chapter headers by asking myself how I could represent the key ideas of each chapter as minimally as I could. No ideas come from a vacuum, though, and I spent an unholy amount of time scrolling down Pinterest. My main feed is still mostly made up of white-on-black art. —
Here’s the nitty gritty: by far the hardest and most tedious bit of the whole process was fitting prompts into a layout which conveyed space but also remained economical to print. I set down some ground rules to start with:
- Each prompt could not break on to another page.
- Each prompt had to be easily referenced.
- Each page had to be balanced.
By setting the baseline grid to match my desired leading, I could maintain an even leading between pages. I used that to figure out my total line budget per page: 50. From there, I knew that each prompt would take up at least 8 lines - 2 lines above and under to act as padding, and the remaining 4 lines for the card number and divider. This was hugely helpful in balancing each page - there were times where I’d be shifting two or three prompts around to free up one or two lines on a page.
I ended up changing header fonts fairly late into design - the opening spread gave me some trouble. When I initially wrote it, I really leaned heavily into the Transmission For Jehn inspiration. We steered away from that, luckily, and that proved to be a much more interesting direction. Below is the same spread as it looked at the start and end of the design process.
Ignore the colour difference between the two - that was an export mistake I made at the time.
The first header font was the font I’d used on the cover. I tried to make it work for the sake of consistency, but it’s fair to say that it didn’t work at all. The new font was a bit of a cheat; it’s variable so I could tweak its width to fit the space.
I hope these half-formed thoughts made sense and are of some use ✌