Category Archives: Reviews

What I’ve been listening to in 2021

Here is a YouTube playlist of my now-traditional top-ten list of the albums I’ve listened to the most in the previous calendar year. (See this list of previous entries.)

I listen much more to whole albums than to individual tracks, so each year I pick the ten albums that I listened to the most (not counting compilations), as recorded on the laptop and the desktop box where I listen to most of my music. (So these counts don’t include listening in the car or the kitchen, or on my phone.) I limit the selection to no more than one album per artist, and skip albums that have featured in previous years. Then from each of those ten objectively selected albums, I subjectively pick one song that I feel is representative.

#10=. Dire Straits — 1985 — Brothers in Arms (3 listens)

The year is around 1989. My friend Andy Charles and I are big fans of Dire Straits’ Love Over Gold. I ask to borrow his CD of Brothers in Arms, but he is reluctant. “It’s always the same”, he says: “You lend something to someone, and you never get it back”. But I persuade him I will return it, and he lends me the CD.

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Spoileriffic thoughts on Wandavision

I got a recommendation from a friend to watch the first three episodes of Wandavision in a block. That suggestion was solid. It’s slllooowww to get going, especially, if you’re not bathed in American sitcom culture. Fiona and I watched the first episode together and didn’t get much out of it. We started the second, and she bailed before we reached the opening credits, feeling it was more of the same. As a matter of pacing, I think they needed to bring the red helicopter into the first episode, so there’s something there other than a 1950s sitcom of the kind that 2020s TV has left far behind for a reason.

In fact, I wonder whether the best way to watch this show isn’t just to skip episode 1 completely.

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 41

Emma — Jane Austen

I usually think of this as my second favourite Austen (after Pride and Prejudice, naturally), but on my re-read of all six, I found to my surprise that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had Sense and Sensibility. Perhaps it’s partly because I had overdosed on screen adaptations recently: the Kate Beckinsale and Gwynneth Paltrow versions from 1996, the 2020 film with Anya Taylor-Joy, and the 2009 Romola Garai TV series. I really enjoyed all of them, but I guess having seen four rather different perspectives on the novel, the novel itself didn’t really have much more to show me.

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What I’ve been listening to in 2020

Rather belatedly … Here is a YouTube playlist of my now-traditional top-ten list of the albums I’ve listened to the most in the previous calendar year. (See this list of previous entries.)

I listen much more to whole albums than to individual tracks, so each year I pick the ten albums that I listened to the most (not counting compilations), as recorded on the laptop where I listen to most of my music. (So these counts don’t include listening in the car or the kitchen, or on my phone.) I limit the selection to no more than one album per artist, and skip albums that have featured in previous years. Then from each of those ten objectively selected albums, I subjectively pick one song that I feel is representative.

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 40

If I Never Met You — Mhairi McFarlane

This is is my fourth McFarlane book. (Previously: You Had Me At Hello, It’s Not Me, It’s You, Here’s Looking at You). She continues to impress and delight, although I do have to admit that by this point the plots are slightly starting to blend into each other a bit. Continue reading

Hulks (five different ones). Part 5: the MCU

Well, I blinked, and the best part of two years passed since the fourth and penultimate part in my series about The Incredible Hulk. (See also part 1, part 2 and part 3).

For this concluding post I’m finally talking about the MCU proper, in which the Hulk is played by Mark Ruffalo starting with Avengers (2012), as distinct from the 2008 movie The Incredible Hulk which is nominally part of the MCU but tonally and narratively quite different from the rest of it. I’m talking about this guy:

He has brief irrelevant cameos in post-credits scenes in Iron Man 3 and Captain Marvel, which we will ignore, but is a major character in five films: Avengers, Age of Ultron, Ragnarok, Infinity War and Endgame.

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 39

Northanger Abbey — Jane Austen

I’m making my way once more through all six of Austen’s completed novels, and was interested to see how this one would hold up. Although published posthumously it was actually the first one she completed, and bears many of the marks of juvenilia — including a lot of pop-culture references that are now lost on us, and were probably already outdated by the time it was published fourteen years after completion.

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Things I’ve given up on watching recently

We live in a content-saturated world. It took me a long while to get used to the idea that books are now easy enough to source that I can start one, decide I don’t like it, and just give up. I don’t owe the book anything. The same of course goes for TV shows and films. Here are some that I have started, but given up on in the last few months.

The Americans

This is the one that I sort of regret giving up on, and might return to. Continue reading

What I’ve been reading lately, part 38

Tremendous Trifles — G. K. Chesterton

One of the better ways to approach Chesterton is through a collection like this one, consisting of 30 or 40 or so short, self-contained pieces in which he thinks about things he has seen or done. He is always a keen observer, quick to see beneath the surface of things, and able at drawing analogies between trivial occurrences and the most profound matters. And of course, he is fun.

The pieces collected as Tremendous Trifles vary rather wildly in quality, but in any one of them fails to appeal, there’s always the knowledge that the next one will be along soon. It’s the second time I’ve read this (see my notes on the first time), and won’t be the last. Continue reading

What I’ve been reading lately, part 37

High Society — Ben Elton

Elton doing what he does best, colliding a cast of somewhat stereotypical characters (the corrupt politician, the drugged-out singing star, the teenage runaway) and working with the sparks that fly — and doing so with rather more craftsmanship than he is often credited with.

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