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So not only did I spend most of my weekend removing wallpaper, I spent Monday and Tuesday evenings doing that too, even though I felt like poo. (It's a big, horrible messy job and I'm aware that the best case scenario is we'll be living in a building site for months, so I feel the need to spend every waking hour working on it).

My back hates me and my right shoulder is none too happy either (both of these were a problem before I started this project).

So yesterday I limped through the day, came home and promptly fell over. Around 8 pm I felt like I was actually coming down with something - not good, because I have two big non-optional pre-paid non-refundable weekends in a row coming up.

Anyway, I feel marginally better today and I'm getting my hair done after work so I can only spend so much time making myself feel worse tonight.

On a more positive note, we were watching the first part of the BBC's short documentary on the Pennine Way, and - you can see where this is going. I think it mostly appealed to me because the southern part - the Peak District and Calderdale - are the bits I know quite well, and in the case of Calderdale, would move there tomorrow if I could. But yeah, it's a vague plan for some time in the future.

Having said that, we then watched the episode of Parks & Recreation where Tom secures his iPod dock to his Roomba to create a mobile stereo system... and we nearly bought a Roomba. I understand that in "normal" relationships one or both of you are an adult and either don't find things like this appealing in the first place, or one of you puts the brakes on it for sensible reasons. My life is more fun.
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On account of feeling too lousy to do anything these last couple of days, I got out the box set of The X-Files I was given some time ago. I've got through the first two discs of season one.

Due to the separation in time, I had failed to notice just how directly Supernatural has ripped off the X-Files. Only the X-files has a woman as protagonist and women and people of colour doing important high levels jobs throughout. Much as I love Supernatural, the lack of women Doing Important Stuff bugs me a lot.

Otherwise, it's aged pretty well.

The X-Files is the reason I started watching TV as an adult. I hated TV when I was a kid, mainly because of the lack of continuity - something would happen in one episode that you'd expect to change things and then the next week everything was set back to "start" again.

I didn't have a TV throughout university and when I lived in Leeds. I occasionally had housemates who owned one but didn't watch it. Then everyone, including people who didn't watch TV, started talking about the X-Files, and I thought I'd see what it was all about. And then it started having a story arc, and references to past episodes and how that affected the characters.

It's commonplace now, but it was groundbreaking at the time.
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Yes, it was on in April. I record 3 times what I have time to watch, so it takes a while.

This is a four-part Italian series set in WWII. The first episode was decidedly sub par and didn't exactly inspire watching more, but I'd done series record and in the spirit of continuing to learn European languages via the medium of crime drama I persisted.

I ended up being really glad I did. The second and third episodes were much better. In the second, de Luca is a policeman in Bologna at a date when I thought the Italians had already surrendered but they seem to be still fighting, and Il Duce is definitely still in charge. It's about trying to do effective police work in a climate where everybody is paranoid about the regime and air raids are a daily occurrence. I can't remember much about the mystery itself, but the point was more about the near impossibility of keeping law and order in the circumstances, and about being the poor sod who really cares about continuing to do so.

At the very end of episode two Bologna has fallen to the partisans and de Luca finds out that he's on the "first against the wall" list because even though he's not a fascist, one of the things he did as a police officer was save Mussolini's life, so he has to run away, with the other fascists. In episode three he's on the run with a fake ID, but in a small town the partisan policeman (who has no experience as a policeman but who also cares about law and justice) recognises de Luca and blackmails him into helping him solve the murder of a much-loved local man. de Luca starts out reluctantly but gets drawn into the puzzle. This is easily the best of the four programmes.

The fourth takes place on the eve of the 1948 elections, in which good policing is even more difficult because of the politics. It still making some important points, but it's the one that I found most depressing and I couldn't really get into it.

There was a series called Foreign Bodies on Radio 4 some time ago about how all the different European nations work through their angst over 20th-century events though the medium of detective fiction, and Inspector de Luca was a good example of this.
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I've been sucked in. The books and the film. Lovefilm finally sent us the first disc. It's an HBO production so they think it's big and clever to only put two episodes on each disc (they do the same with Boardwalk Empire, but I don't mind about that). We jointly decided to order the seasons 1-3 box set instead of waiting.

Meanwhile I've started the first book.

I mentioned this to one of my co-workers - it took her somewhere between 3 and 4 months to read all the books. I read faster than her, but she works fewer hours and isn't always reading at least one non fiction book alongside, so I think thatps probably a fair estimate.

Initial thoughts - it really is the Wars of the Roses, isn't it?

Also as pointed out by my co-worker, there's nothing in it that you haven't read in other fantasy books, but that doesn't stop it being a real page-turner.

I'm schlepping the book around in my backpack for the time being, but if the threatened banishment for work takes place soon I'm going to have to sort out a Kindle arrangement.
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I'm definitely slipping. All through the first series of The Bridge I could tell when they were speaking Swedish and when they were speaking Danish. Not what they were saying, but I could definitely tell the sound of one language from the other.

This time round, I couldn't, except when they were talking about work, in which Danish uses the German verb "arbeit" and Swedish uses "jobbe" as a verb.

I suspect I need a big dose of Swedish Wallander (Krister Henriksen version please). Allegedly BBC4 has more coming this year.

Also allegedly the makers of The Bridge are working on a third series, and can't wait to see how they write themselves out of the ending of the second series. There are many plausible scenarios in which Martin doesn't go to jail, but not a lot in which he emerges with his career intact.

BBC4's latest Saturday night Euro-crime is Salamander, a Belgian number. It is neither as good as the best Scandinavian efforts nor as bad as the Radio Times made out (so far). I was hoping more of it would be in French so I'd be less tied to the TV and the subtitles[1], but it's 99.9% in Flemish. Which I thought I didn't speak At All, but it turns out is more generically Germanic than I thought. If anything, it sounds more like the Scandinavian languages than German. I'm also left wondering how it is that I've been exposed to so little spoken Dutch/Flemish.

[1] Having said that, my French vocabulary expanded markedly from watching Spiral. Previously, touristy general getting-by language aside, my vocabulary tended heavily towards history, archaeology and literary criticism
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Oh dear.

The first half hour was so bad as to be almost unwatchable. Where did they dredge that script from? Truly awful and unfunny lines.

It got a bit better in the second half hour.

Peter Capaldi was disappointingly unsexily evil. Maybe because the obvious comparison is Jeremy Irons in The Borgias.

A lot of the jokes would be hilarious to 10 year olds, but it's on after the watershed.

But Jason seemed to enjoy it, so it looks like i'm stuck with the run.

What it has reminded me is how much I loved the book when I was 19 and maybe I should stick with that instead.

And this after Ripper Street got my hopes up that the BBC can do compelling adventure drama.
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I'm not overly impressed with the first episode of Elementary.

Holmes comes across as deliberately rude, not brilliant and oblivious.

Lucy Liu - just how much plastic surgery has that woman had? It has to be excessive if I even notice.

Closing with Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives" - really? I mean, I love that song as much as the next obsessive 80s new-waver, but - was that somebody's idea of wit?

As the successor to House, it doesn't make the grade.

Having said that, there's lots of New York scenery porn. Which is just as well, because Jason seems to like it so I'll be stuck with the whole series.
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Somewhat belatedly, I have finished watching the BBC adaptation of Parade's End. I pretty much only did because Benedict Cumberbatch was in it, but found that I did enjoy it after all.

I had to read 3/4 of it as part of the Literature of the Great War course I did in my honours year of undergrad. We were explicitly forbidden to read the last book; it was meant to be a trilogy and Ford only wrote the last installment because of public pressure to tie up everything neatly.

I can't, however, remember a thing about the books - they came up towards the end of the year, when I was concentrating on writing on the Anglo-Saxon book of Judith and linguistics essays that would get me into grad school at U of T. I thought I remembered that the poisonous society wife was in Aldington's Death of a Hero, and I remembered the thing about the sonnets being from Robert Graves. Actually, I'd put money on there being something similar with sonnets in Goodbye to All That, because I was still paying attention when we did the Graves and I did like it.

I'm almost tempted to re-read the books now, but I see that at some point I did sell the single-volume edition that I had. Doh!

Sherlock

Jan. 10th, 2012 01:46 pm
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While I'm thinking about it, this week's Sherlock is the first I've not enjoyed that much.  I'm sure it was of similar quality to the rest of the series, but the only Sherlock Holmes story I really enjoyed as a child and read lots of times was The Hound of the Baskervilles.  I do understand that Gatiss & co. are only loosely basing this series on the original books, but I was really looking forward to something that didn't materialise.
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UK people, if you haven't already seen it, you should watch The Pendle Witch Child on the iPlayer (available for another week).

It's one of the best documentaries I've seen in a long time, and not just because Prof Ronald Hutton is one of the talking heads.

There are many reasons the BBC shouldn't axe BBC4, and this is a prime example.
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As I predicted, the hard drive in the new TV box is filling up rapidly. Oh well, if it comes to it we'll have to go through it and delete things we think we'll never have time to watch.

Two things got me really excited today, though. The first was Bettany Hughes' documentary on The Minoans, which was on More 4 a couple weeks ago and I think is a repeat of something she did earlier. Anyway, it had me simultaneously wanting to head for the library ([livejournal.com profile] eciklb, can you recommend any good beginner's guides to the Minoans and the Myceneans?) and the travel agent (the colour of the Agean Sea was astounding).

The other was a random episode of BBC2's Museum of Life, which is in itself a pretty random account of the various activities of the Natural History Museum (also note to self - still haven't been, and need to rectify that soon). It follows all sorts of nature-collecting expeditions from the end of the world to Britain's backyards, and looks at some of the neat stuff in the collections. All kinds of fascinating, and introduced me to an Antarctic expedition I previously haven't really read about, the one known as The Worst Journey on Earth (more research to come soon, I'm sure), the one that brought the first Emperor Penguin eggs back to the Western world.
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I admit that I watch too much TV, and have picked up some more guilty pleasures.

I also hit a whole new level of sadness - I decided I couldn't wait for terrestrial TV to pick up season 2 of True Blood so I increased our cable package so we could get the channel that shows it. I haven't read enough of the books to decide, but on balance I think I like the TV version better - the sense of place is amazing - palpably swamp-like - and there's a lot more to it.

ITV2 is carrying The Vampire Diaries, another teen vampire series. It's refreshingly honest about teens drinking and having sex, for a US series. The books came out back in 1991-93 but the TV show is new, so they insult Twilight a lot.

When we discontinued our cable package with the whole loss of Sky 1 kerfluffle, I missed two seasons of Grey's Anatomy. Season 4 is finally out on DVD and I've been getting through it really quickly from the rental company. There is no excuse, but I find it very comforting. And they're all so pretty. I have two episodes left and then I think I'll be illegally downloading season 5.

In other, not guilty pleasure news, on those rare occasions we run out of rental DVDs, we're working our way through The West Wing from the beginning and are up to the middle of season 3. If anything, it's more amazing on repeat viewing.
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I've finally finished watching all of The Wire, but some combination of LJ/Firefox/my laptop is refusing to let me use a cut tag, and I know some of you haven't seen it all yet & don't want to see the spoilers., so I can't post my thoughts on it.

Except that it's awesome and it has joined MASH and The West Wing as my favourite TV of all time.

Edit: Spoilers in comments!

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Despite feeling pretty bad last weekend, I manage to watch a couple of films which made an impression.

First up was the original Chinese version of The Eye, in which a young blind woman gets a cornea transplant and starts to see dead people. This film is not really scary as such, and I don't think it's meant to be. Instead, it's surprisingly substantial - it's about dealing with being a sighted person after a lifetime of blindness. The dealing with seeing dead people is on top of that, and while the film is not that frightening to the audience, it shows effectively how the girl seeing the dead people is confused and terrified. The end is pretty much what I expected, but it gets there by a somewhat unexpected & roundabout way.

I can't wait to see what Hollywood did to it.

The other one was American Gangster, which I liked so much I didn't even object to the length of it (it clocks in at nearly 2 1/2 hours). Denzel Washington playing the bad guy was novel; and Russell Crowe was very good too. The only problem I had with it is that it isn't The Wire, but I'm at the stage where everything (except possibly Supernatural[1]) suffers by not being The Wire.

[1] In answer to your question, [livejournal.com profile] a_carnal_mink, we watched the last disc of series 3 yesterday. The first half of series 4 is out, but my rental tells me there's quite a wait.
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I have just finished watching the first episode of Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery on the BBC's Watch Again function (it's available for two more days; after that and for non-UK readers, it's probably on UK Nova.

The whole thing is incredibly cool and fascinating. Granted, some of the lobotomy stuff is quite horrific, and the story of the lobotomy survivor they found (and did the first ever MRI of someone who had been lobotomised) was very sad, even though he ended up a mostly functional individual.

It's a five-part series. Part two, heart surgery, goes out on BBC4 tomorrow night. It's entirely possible that part 1 was the best bit, but it looks promising.

It rocks. Check it out.
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Everyone else is blogging about the season finale of Heroes. I slept through it and haven't had a chance to watch the tape yet.

The other series that ended this week (and also took me several days to get around to watching) was Long Way Down, the sequel to Long Way Round.

For those of you not familiar with the concept, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman get on great big motorbikes and drive around the world (Long Way Round) and from John O'Groats to Cape Town (Long Way Down). Long Way Round was a wonderful, life-affirming, life-changing experience - the message is to say fuck it and follow your dreams. I'm willing to admit that could have been because of where my head was at when I was watching it, and that it's easier to say fuck it and follow your dreams when you're a rich famous person, but I still loved every minute of it.

So I was really looking forward to the sequel. Parts of it were nearly as good as the first trip, but it just didn't grab me as much. I think it really suffered from being in six parts instead of ten (though here Wikipedia tells me that the version of the DVDs that my rental company sent was an extended special), as it felt really rushed all the way through. Granted, they didn't have the extreme terrain to deal with that they did in Mongolia and Siberia (there are, believe it or not, better roads in Africa). Many of the places they visited on the way down were seriously inspiring.

I've had the book since before the series started, but I thought it was cheating to read the book first. I am sad and need to get a grip. I can start it now.
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It appears that I got my life back at exactly the right time - the BBC have made a new series of Coast. I've raved about this before. Tonight they visited Shetland and Orkney. Want to go NOW.

That, and a new series of Midsomer Murders also started tonight, which is a real guilty pleasure. It's very gentle and nice (high body count notwithstanding).

With the exception of teaching that class on Wednesday, this is the level of workout my brain's going to get all week!
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Yesterday, I didn't manage to leave the house, except to run across the road to the newsagent's for snacks & next week's TV paper. I felt like poo, & the weather was worse - freezing fog is not good for my joints.

Today I didn't start to feel human till about 3 pm. We took a trip to Majestic Wine Warehouse, and are now more than adequately stocked with alcohol. Which I can't drink with my stomach in its current angry state, but I can hope that changes soon.

There's been good stuff too. I've had the first two discs of Carnivale. (I read about it when it came out, but our cable company didn't carry the channel it was on at that time). I had high expectations, which have been more than fulfilled. I am totally loving it.

I've also seen two films that I enjoyed much more than popular opinion would have predicted. One was The Sin Eater (apparently called The Order in the US). It's a secret orders and supernatural stuff within the Catholic church story, and I can never get enough of those, so it's not surprising that I rate it higher than the two stars the Radio Times gave it. It's not The Omen, or even Stigmata, but it's an interesting story with some stunning settings. The underground anti-church was particularly creepily done.

Sahara is a big dumb adventure involving Confederate gold and an outbreak of a new weird disease in Africa. It does have more explosions than are strictly necessary and has difficulty deciding whether it's Indiana Jones or James Bond and goes with "both", but it's an enjoyable lark nonetheless if you can get past the improbability of the ship full of Confederate gold ending up that far into the desert, abnormally high tides that year or no.

I'm also reading the book of The Long Way Round, the series I found so inspiring earlier in the year. It doesn't have the spectacular visuals of the films, but it's still excellent stuff.
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Things are getting better. I'm still not doing much that isn't work and sleep, and I still can't even attempt to think about finding a new job without my brain refusing to co-operate and being convinced I'm unemployable, but I'm no longer miserable 100% of the time.

Simon Shama's Power of Art was on Rembrandt and set in Amsterdam this week. I haven't been since I was 15 (and for some reason thought it was the Night Watch of which there is only a fragment) and would really like to go back. There's a lot of neat architectural & cultural things to do there, which people forget because of the whole dope thing. As it happens, Eurostar takes just over 5 hours and doesn't cost that much more than going to Brussels.

I also remembered to tape Later with Jools Holland because Muse were playing (I think Later is a fantastic show - there's very rarely any bands on it that make me run out of the room screaming and often really good acts I'd never hear of otherwise, but I have a bad tendency to forget it's on). Muse were, predictably, excellent, but the fun new act for me was Duke Special. I didn't know anybody could sing with that strong a Northern Irish accent; but Jason assures me that just shows I haven't spent enough time in Northern Irish pubs. There's an obvious Dresden Dolls comparison, but not only can he play the piano properly with both hands and all, there's a clarinet player in the band! Really good stuff. The guy from the White Stripes has a new band, The Raconteurs (who have the most migraine-inducing web site ever, so I'll spare you the link), and they weren't bad either. More than a little Thin Lizzy influence there. Must remember to tape it again this week, as Jarvis is on.

The last thing I bought before I realized I'd taken the retail therapy a bit too far & had to stop spending was a pair of jeans. I got too big for my last pair of jeans some years ago & as they're the one thing I have trouble getting to fit, had just put off getting another pair. As it happens, the first pair I tried on in M&S fit perfectly, which was more than a little exciting.

Having jeans that fit doesn't make my life that much more convenient, except when it comes to ferret-wrangling, which I had to do this weekend. Usually they climb up my tights. Last time, I thought I'd be really clever and wear the lovely pink faux-combat trousers I wear to work at the animal shelter. Unfortunately, the combats are a bit loose at the ankles, so I ended up with ferrets climbing my legs instead. Jeans. The only way to deal with ferrets.

I did something verging on creative this weekend. We have some treats left over from Halloween, and I now have Mars bar vodka and Smartie vodka soaking away in the kitchen. I hope it works, as the vodka was even worse than the stuff I normally use to make flavoured vodka.
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I'd be more worried about being depressed if I wasn't still finding myself able to get excited about things I normally find interesting. My understanding is that when that happens, it's time to worry.

BBC Two have started a new series of Coast. I only just finished watching the first series, which was really interesting and had both of us exclaiming "oh, we have to go there!" every five minutes. The main presenter this time around is Neil Oliver, the adorable Scottish archaeologist who has also done Two Men in a Trench (of which I have only seen clips, but plan to sit down and watch when I have time). The first episode was Thursday night, and made me feel much better when I watched the video on Friday. I see lots of coastal walks in our future!

The sole redeeming feature of Saturday was I got round to watching the second episode ofSimon Schama's Power of Art. I'd only vaguely heard of Bernini before I saw this; now, I need to go to Rome to see the rival Bernini and Bertolini (er - I think) churches, as well as the sculpture.

Also saw another Coen Brothers film, The Man Who Wasn't There which, while not exactly cheerful, was shot very stylishly in black and white in 50s film noir style.

These may sound like silly things to get excited about, but as long as I'm not able to get around as much as I'd like, it'll have to do. Also, it gives me raw material for intricate plotting of things to do when I'm feeling better.

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