Friday, September 25, 2009

Bookshelves and storage

As we continue to succumb to the allure of new books (I've had a reading fest of books this month actually), I couldn't resist being interested in this BBC piece on bookshelves.

So why do we display rather than store away?

Well, for me at least, to be honest if I can't see it I struggle to know I have it. Visibility is everything for me. If it is visible, I can usually relocate it. If it is behind cupboard doors or in a drawer, it may as well not exist. I will completely forget that I have it.

This creates a number of storage problems, not just with books, CDs and DVDs but also clothes (since our stupid wardrobes have the bar from the back of wardrobe to the front rather than from side to side).

Anyway, I digress.

For us, display is not about ostentation - not really - but more about being able to easily pick things up for a second read or more. Lots of stuff in our collection gets read and re-read: not just practical stuff like computer book or recipe books etc, but also academic writings (for when we're writing, and sometimes that includes blog posts). And fiction will often be re-read as well, as will poetry. And I have great fun reading books about film and TV for fun, even if they are theoretical/historical texts.

Yes. We are just weird book readers.

In Praise of Spaced: 10 years on

I love Spaced. It remains one of those series that I can conjure in my mind's eye with ease, my brain cluttered with lines and images from its two short and glorious series.

It's 10 years on apparently since Space started. And I'm not alone in my love of Spaced as Anna proves.

Show your love for the show: what are your favourite moments?

Some of mine would be:
  • the Job Centre scenes about "the Phantom Menance" (in fact any mentions of TPM have me in fits -- "Sarah?" "No, George Lucas" and cue bonfire clip)
  • Amber leaving the house ("Buffy!")
  • the expressions of love for a fictional FBI agent
  • the dinner party
  • "too fruity for crows"
  • The Matrix spoofs
  • going clubbing and the A-team dance
  • Tim's drawings
  • "Hawk the Slayer's rubbish!"
  • Twist's affect on Brian's art and Marsha's moment of inspiration
  • the tank

All utterly brilliant and more besides.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Being Human at Mayhem will be missed - I'll be doing Shakespeare


Had tickets booked for months to see Twelfth Night at RSC Stratford on 31st October.

And what gem does Nottingham Broadway give me at the same time?

Flipping fest of Being Human no less! ARGH!!!! Couldn't they have scheduled it for the evening so I could rush back and do both?


Sunday, September 20, 2009

MediumRob's Meme - fantasy scheduling

Inspired by Rob's latest meme on fantasy scheduling, here are my thoughts. I've not been able to focus in on a single night or channel, so these are more overall mutterings and suggestions:
  1. Extending Tobe's thought, a pox on reality TV -- sorry fans, but this also includes all Strictly-come-slit-my-throat-rather-than-vote shows too. I appreciate the banter of others who love this sort of thing, but the incessant media ravings over the schedule battle of X-Factor vs Strictly had me screaming "fighting the battle of who could care less" (apologies to Ben Folds Five)

  2. Saturday nights in the wintertime = Doctor Who. Where it belongs. It should air from October to Xmas or January to Easter. I have loved having a Xmas Special but they've not all been special enough to justify the Spring starting time (with the Xmas ep as a taster/teaser/one-off story).

  3. Saturday evenings in the spring OR early autumn = Merlin. This depends on DW gets that post-Xmas to Easter slot. Saturday evenings should have at least half the year with some supernatural/spooky/sci-fi entertainment. And no, I'm not wanting 'Demons' back thank you.

  4. Be consistent with schedules/slots -- we all remember debacles about scheduling 'Seinfeld'/'Arrested Development' etc. Bumped around the post-'Newsnight' schedule, going AWOL for a week or more. Whilst digital channels are sometimes erratic about screening things in order, they are often more predictable about screening the same programme or type of programme in the same slot. Five is the nearest we have on terrestrial for managing this most of the time. I might not like or always agree with its programming but I know that 9pm on Tuesday is pretty likely to be CSI-ish in nature.

  5. New dramas -- ITV1, BBC1 and BBC2 at the least should be compelled to regular commission, produce and then schedule within 6 months of completion* one-off single (short) series dramas of 3-10 hour long episodes. These should not be then endlessly recommissioned until the lustre of the original gem is utterly diminished (especially if they were designed as a one-off originally). Use the 'strip-across-the-week' technique if you must.

  6. 11pm onwards every Saturday night on BBC2 = classic film slot. I want a decent film commentator to front the screenings. A five minute intro will suffice. I want black and white and classic art house. Nothing more recent than 10 years old. At least one in every three films not in English.

  7. Post-Newsnight Review on Fridays BBC2 = cult film slot running til at least 2am. Again, with commentator introduction. You may have guessed I am of the generation that grew up on Alex Cox and b-movie/cult/sci-fi screenings.

  8. Terrestrial TV repeats -- that digital switchover is still a few years off yet. In the meantime let's give people who don't want to clutter their houses with DVDs or fill their computers with downloads (illegal or otherwise) the chance to see some classic dramas of all kinds of genres. I'm quite happy for this to be run in tandem with...

  9. ... themed nights. After the initial effort of BBC2 linking with radio, themed nights got terribly carried away with themselves until they littered the scheduled with barely connected works. There's an opportunity under the Rullsenberg schedule to give this all another chance. Why not use themed nights - approximately 5 weeks apart - to bring out the context of contemporary or recent TV productions? Link 'Spooks' with 'The Sandbaggers' and le Carre dramatisations (even films); link dramas like 'Shooting the Past' with documentaries on photographers and 'Who do you think you are?' style family histories focusing on use of photographs as historical documents; link appropriate episodes of 'Coast' with 'The Onedin Line'/'Poldark'; re-air those dramas about comedic actors private lives with examples of their works and the legacy in contemporary comedy (sadly I think some legal restrictions may apply to these).

  10. Stage dramas and Shakespeare -- I want them on TV at least once a month. I'd prefer once a week, but recognise this may be unrealistic. However, full play-length dramas / filmed versions of stage shows can work. If live projections to cinemas can work (as the National Theatre has been experimenting) then why not TV screenings for broadcast as a play run comes to its end? It may encourage revivals. And if we're talking true fantasy, then I'd like screenings of plays starring Dougie Henshall and/or David Tennant on a regular basis please.
Bit random these thoughts. I couldn't reign myself in a channel or for a day. But this nostalgic approach would certainly make me happy.

* ITV1 -- I am so looking at you for commissioned and even promoting stuff only to faff about with actually airing things.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I feel that in honour of 'Talk like a pirate day' (LibraryThing is having great fun with its text today 19th September to mark the occasion) I should recommend reading -- or even better, listening -- to 'How to Be a Pirate by the lovely Cressida Cowell.

Why should you listen?

Well, because there's a nice man reading it of course, complete with entertaining voices!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ten Years On: on bereavement

Ten years ago my mum died. It was also my dad's birthday. And their wedding anniversary. She wasn't conscious that day and life support was turned off that afternoon.

In the intervening years:

  • I started and completed a PhD
  • Neil and I travelled to New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles and New Zealand
  • We bought a house

My dad died a few years later: he'd initially rallied after mum's death, far more than any of us had anticipated, before declining swiftly and begrudgingly.

I mourn the loss of my dad as a man who could have been great, whose life had seen events I have only read in history books and who never got the chance to fulfill all the promise I can see he had looking back on his life. (And who was only just well enough to be around for some of my achievements).

But I miss my mum: I got my dad's Germanic nose and what intellect I possess probably comes from him. From my mum, I feel I got the curiosity to do something with whatever brains I possess, and her heart and empathy. At least, that's what I hope.

Sorry for the self-reflection; I do occasionally indulge in thinking about what I'm like and my life, and thinking about loss.

But mostly, as further birthdays approach, I want to reflect that I have been incredibly lucky and have the love of a good man and good friends. I have a lot to be happy about and mum (and dad) would want me to celebrate that.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Vote Vote Vote for Maureen Carter's "Blood Money" in the People's Book Prize!

Some of you will know that I've become a huge fan of Maureen Carter's series of novels about Detective Bev Morriss, published through Creme de la Crime. Shamefully though, I've only just managed to shift my ass over to The People's Book Prize website to cast my vote for Maureen's latest book, Blood Money.

If you haven't already picked up on Creme de la Crime's excellent catalogue of publications, then you are missing a treat, because they are wonderful. Something for pretty much every taste, regardless of whether crime fiction is really your bag or not: sure, there are obviously 'crimes' to be resolved at the heart of each book, but these are so variable in scale and context that I would think most readers would find something they like (I'm hugely impressed by Roz Southey's series about musician Charles Patterson, set in 18th century Newcastle-Upon-Tyne which has an incredibly different tone and style compared to the gritty contemporary narratives of Carter).

The People's Book Prize is a small operation, aiming to bring to public attention works from independent publishers via public libraries and the web. Having been lucky enough to discover the likes of Creme de la Crime publishers, I am very aware that many smaller independent publishers can have a hard time getting shop space and reviews for their works, so I'm all in favour of anything that helps improve awareness.

Anyway, my voting's done for August and September books: I was rather persuaded by the blogger whose comment was used in praise of Carter's book...


[You can read the full review I did on Blood Money here]

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Disheartening or encouraging? How many books to read in a lifetime

Norm picks up on the calculation that 14,000 books is a reasonable calculation for a lifetime's reading based on 4 books per week for 70 years.

I really do not know whether to be disheartened by such a calculation in light of all the books published (it amounts to a measly 0.008324477724 per cent of books), encouraged by the idea that I could reach such a level of reading, or further disheartened that there remain so many people who don't have access to literacy skills or reading materials.*

Have I read enough? Never enough.

*I'm going to try and not think too hard about those who have the skill to read but do not use it.

Bloody slow internet today


Typical. I get a day at home and I can't even make distracted use of the internet whilst I do other things.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Live Music Review: Jeffrey Lewis at Bodega Social, Nottingham Wednesday 2 September 2009

It was incredibly pleasing to see a healthily substantial crowd attending the latest Jeffrey Lewis gig. It's out of term-time so it possibly wasn't as crowded as it could have been (it wasn't the sardine experience that was Camera Obscura at the gig in 2006) but was all the better for that. Heck, some people even danced!

Anyway: we were a little later than usual arriving so didn't catch the entire set of The Fishermen Three, and completely missed the first support (was there a first support? I think I grasped he was from Derby. Sorry for missing you). Still, we were so swept up with hearing The Fishermen Three, with Jack Lewis (yes, brother of Jeffrey and equally wonderful) that we felt very well treated in terms of a support act. As you will know from other reviews here, support acts can be variable. Some, like Broken Records supporting Twilight Sad can blow the main act away somewhat; others are The Displacements (*spit*).

It was also nice to see some familiar faces in the audience: there was a good Nottingham Uni American Studies contingent which was very reassuring as I do like to see young people with good taste in music. I should have known I could trust them.

Anyone who has seen Jeffrey Lewis perform live will know that his shows are a mix of songs, chat and multi-media activity. In this case we got a couple of 'films' (his illustrations with commentary for narratives and/or history): one was as yet incomplete on the early years of European settlers in the USA, focusing on the Mayflower, and one (clearly well thumbed) noir tale of disguises and deception. Both utterly brilliant. Both hugely difficult to convey in writing (I hope to add Neil's pictures to help, but check out Lewis's site for further visuals

Quirky, funny, sincere, heart-rending: listening to Lewis is a wonderful and unique experience. It seems hard to believe that a folk (anti-folk?) artiste could produce a musical set where one of the highlights is a rap about being a mass murderer of mosquitos in Maine, but with Lewis, anything is possible!

One final note: you really REALLY have to hand it to an act whose merchandise stall not only has CDs and T-shirts but gives space to promote the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, aka the Wobblies). A local IWW branch has been set up in Notts. Very pleasing. It also provided a nice reminder that Lewis contributed artwork to the graphic comix book history of the Wobblies that I had picked up in New Zealand a few years ago! This seems to be pretty rare in the UK now and not exactly easily accessible in the US, which is a real shame. It's a great text about the great Union.