Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Dick Twittington 24: Jigging like a good'un

This week on my Twitter feed is mainly about the Henriad, which I end up watching over three nights then reliving a bit online.

Theatrical Spot: Jonjo O'Neill at the Globe. SITTING! I didn't think actors were ALLOWED to sit at the Globe!
1 RETWEET Charles Twigger
10:07 PM - 21 Aug 13

"actual cherubim caught on photo." #bloghitsoftheweek I didn't know Arthur Conan Doyle used Google.
1 FAVORITE Alex Ramon
11:20 AM - 22 Aug 13

Apprentice Spot: Either someone actually gave Zeeshan a real job or he's just roaming Canary Wharf in a suit trying to look busy.
2:43 PM - 22 Aug 13

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Dick Twittington 23: Reader, I married it

This week on my Twitter feed, I eat a cake then watch some other people baking them on telly.

I'm on the back seat of the top deck*, I must be young & foolhardy! #sevenagesofbus *because that's all that was available
9:01 AM - 14 Aug 13

I don't know who had this keyboard before me but they were a messy eater *shakes out enough crumbs to make a new sandwich*
12:29 PM - 14 Aug 13

Today the work canteen had an almond pithivier. It was basically a pastry with a cake in it. Reader, I married it.
2:58 PM - 14 Aug 13

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Book review: Bleak Expectations

One of my favourite Radio 4 comedies is Mark Evans' Bleak Expectations, a spoof of Victorian novels, particularly Dickens', that see their heroes go through endless hardships, surrounded by grotesquely evil characters. So what with needing a bit of cheering up after The Casual Vacancy, Evans' novelisation of the first series was the way forward. Sir Philip Bin, inventor of the bin, looks back on his happy childhood, cut short when his father disappears, his mother goes mad and his new evil guardian Gently Benevolent sends him to St Bastard's, a boarding school with a 100% pupil death rate.

I wouldn't call this a must-read for fans of the radio show, especially if they've listened to it more than once, because not just the story but also the jokes are pretty much exactly the same as in Series 1, and the narrator's voice in my head kept alternating between Richard Johnson and Tom Allen as Pip Bin. The main addition, replacing the radio series' framing device, is a series of footnotes from Evans providing a modern-day explanation of the novel's Victorian "facts." Even if I did know all the best lines in advance I still enjoyed the ludicrous story again as Pip and his best friend Harry Biscuit go round accidentally (ish) killing every member of the Hardthrasher family. I'd recommend this to people with a silly sense of humour who aren't necessarily familiar with the original radio series - this might inspire them to seek it out.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Dick Twittington 22: D'you know who she was fingering?

This week on my Twitter feed: Very little, frankly. I know it's the Silly Season but I'm not the papers, I don't have to say stuff for the sake of it. Which admittedly is what my Twitter feed consists of at the best of times, but shh.

@stephenfry "Stephen Fry is an attention-seeker" says Steven Berkoff. At which point the very concept of irony implodes.
2 RETWEETS Autism N.Ireland, Kirsten SE
10:05 AM - 8 Aug 13

"Dental Surgery & Sunbed." Now there's a combo. Do they offer both services at the same time?
9:09 PM - 8 Aug 13

@merseytart I saw a girl with a pierced cleavage once. I saw it, but I still don't know how it's physically possible.
4:28 PM - 9 Aug 13

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Book review: The Casual Vacancy

I do like to be awkward, so while everyone else was going on about J.K. Rowling dragging up as Robert Galbraith, I was catching up with her first non-Potter book written under her own name, The Casual Vacancy. I'd been a bit wary of it as its reputation precedes it, as one of the books most likely to be given up on halfway through and a really dark affair. It's certainly a departure from the family-friendly books she made her name with although anyone who'd paid attention to them would have known the strong feelings she brings to the fore here: The Casual Vacancy is populated almost entirely by characters like the Dursleys.

The story is set in the determinedly middle-class small town of Pagford in the Westcountry, its affairs run by a local council as there's a larger town nearby that deals with bigger issues. The book's starting point is the surprise death of one of these councilors, and one of the few people who seemed to care about the poverty-stricken estate that occupies the borders, and which the insular people of Pagford would like to see offloaded on their larger neighbour as their responsibility.

The barely-concealed reality is that the relatively well-off people of Pagford have contempt for their needier neighbours, as exemplified by the wayward teenager Krystal Weedon, the daughter of a drug addict, and in her attempt to make sense of the world alternately repellent and in some ways admirable. Of course the people of the town only see her as a monster, and with a vacancy on the council they hope to get someone more sympathetic to their cause in to make sure she and her like are no longer their problem.

I actually found the book pretty involving, it's a portrait of a whole town that builds up a lot of individual character studies. It's occasionally witty but mostly it's a very angry book, Rowling's feelings about middle-class NIMBYs never disguised, with barely any character not displaying some pretty horrific side. Even when, as here, I completely agree with the author's politics, I can get a bit frustrated when they hammer it home to this extent so that was an occasional irritant, as was the way Rowling writes Krystal's dialogue, rather overegging her poor grammar. But overall I found it worth a read - although I'll definitely need something a lot lighter next to cheer me up.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Book review: The Complete Sherlock Holmes vol.1

I feel like I've probably read all of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories at some point or another, but how to know for sure if there's any I haven't quite caught? I got a four-volume Complete works downloaded onto the kindle and went back to the start, with the first volume covering A Study In Scarlet, The Sign of Four and the first short-story collection, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I'd re-read the first novel comparatively recently so it didn't hold many surprises, and its structure is a bit heavy handed (the first half of the novel is the investigation, the second half the background to the case, not exactly a slick whodunnit) but still enjoyable.

The Sign of Four also features an international backstory although Doyle manages to weave it into the investigation part of the novel a bit more successfully this time. The short stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes include many I remembered quite well, like "The Five Orange Pips" - it's interesting, and not in a good way, that at the end of the 19th century the Ku Klux Klan are treated as the almost-defunct, entirely obscure fodder for a crime story, but in the following century they'd had enough of a resurgence that the letters "KKK" appearing on threatening letters makes the reader instantly guess their meaning.

By the end of three books in a row I was ready for a break from Conan Doyle but there's no denying these stories are more re-readable than most.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Dick Twittington 21: The huskier gentleman

This week on my Twitter feed the new Doctor is announced. I mean, he's not announced on my Twitter feed. He's announced on a worldwide simulcast live TV show. But I then comment about it on my Twitter feed, which amounts to much the same thing.

"London's Air Ambulance" just drove past. Drove, as in, it's a car. I don't think they get what the"air" part means.
7:08 PM - 1 Aug 13

The new type of Caffe Nero milkshake may have finally discovered a concentration of sugar that's too much for me.
7:28 PM - 1 Aug 13

Wow, there is one bloody aggressive moth in this kitchen! It keeps dive-bombing into my face.
11:08 PM - 1 Aug 13