So I survived my first week at work! Well just about survived, I twisted my ankle on the way home on Friday so now I’m limping around in pain. I’m not used to working full time so I’m really exhausted and I haven’t really had time to write or post much during the week. This weekend I’ll try to catch up with writing a few reviews and have some posts queued up for posting next week.
So if you look up binary and hexadecimal in Google, it tells you the number of results in binary and hexadecimal respectively. Ah, Google.
I haven’t seen The Simpsons for ages, I stopped watching it properly maybe five or six years ago. But every now and then I’ll catch an old episode or see a clip from it like this one, and the nostalgia hits. Because this show shaped my childhood and adolescence, it was something I watched and memorised and loved so much for such a long time. I really need to go back to the beginning and rewatch the whole series, catch up on the new episodes, and brush up on all the quotes I have been using since I was a kid.
Having got hooked on Only Connect last year, I’ve now been suckered into watching another quiz show, Pointless. This one is hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman and features teams of two players who complete by trying get the lowest score. They are asked questions that had previously been put to members of the public, and aim to find the most obscure answer, that the fewest number of other people knew. There are various rounds and different types of question, so the format varies a bit throughout the show.
I like the format, it’s unique and a nice twist compared to other quiz shows. They have good questions which cover a range of topics, so sometimes I know none of the answers when it’s something like sport, but other times I can get a good few answers myself. It’s not quite as difficult as Only Connect, but it’s not completely dumb either. The hosts are also great, there is a good chemistry between Xander and Richard and they can be genuinely funny with their awkward banter. They’re both great in other shows, so it’s no surprise that they are a winning combination here.
I used to say that I didn’t like quiz shows, but that was back in the days where the most popular one around was The Weakest Link, which was basically just rather dim people being cruel and overly competitive whilst a horrible host insulted them. This is nothing like that, and with shows like Pointless and Only Connect the genre has clearly moved on, in a good way. I really like it and I’m glad I started to watch it, because it’s a lot better than I assumed it would be. Overall it’s a clever and funny show, just really entertaining in a way that took me by surprise.
I recently finished reading The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. It’s a bit different from the sort of thing I usually read, but I do occasionally like to expand my horizons. I’d seen this one in the book shop and been amused by the title and the premise of the book. Then when I looked up some reviews on Amazon I noticed that at the time the Kindle edition was only £0.20. Well I figured that for 20p I could take a chance on a book that had good reviews and intrigued me. And I’m really glad I did, because I loved the book.
Allan Karlsson is the titular centenarian, and on the day of his 100th birthday he climbs out of the window of his room at the home for old people where he lives, to escape his birthday party. On the run, he makes an impulsive decision to steal a suitcase at the bus station, and this leads to him being pursued by both the police and a gang of Swedish criminals. He makes his way across the country, acquiring new friends and leaving a trail of bodies behind him after a few unfortunate incidents. Interspersed with the current events are chapters which tell the story of Allan’s long life, from his childhood onwards, which makes it clear that this sort of adventure is nothing out of the ordinary for Allan.
It’s a fantastic story, and I was utterly captivated by it. The plot is brilliant, and the writing is great too, I loved the style of it. The characters are also excellent, Allan especially but also the various other characters he encounters (including a few historical figures in his past). It’s a thoroughly entertaining and funny book, a perfect enjoyable and light hearted read. I was taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed it, but I really loved it and I would unreservedly recommend it.
After 12 months of unemployment, 175 jobs applied for, and 23 job interviews, I have finally got a job. I start tomorrow and I am currently a frantic mix of excited and terrified. Yay?!
So 10 O’Clock Live is back on air for a third series. For anyone who missed it, the show is Channel 4’s comedy-driven look at the news and politics. The show originally got off to a shaky start, but I think the second series was an improvement, so I’m hoping that it will continue to develop. It’s not without flaws, for example I still find the political discussions to be awkward viewing, when there are various shouting guests all disagreeing and some of them clearly talking nonsense, but then that is true for all shows that feature political discussions, not just this one. As with previous series, David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker continue to be the high points, Jimmy Carr is not quite as annoying as I used to find him but he’s still never going to be one of my favourites, and Lauren Laverne is stuck in the position of being the one keeping it all together, which means she doesn’t get to do much herself. Overall it’s not great viewing, but it is good enough and I like it enough that I will continue to watch it, especially since I rarely miss anything that features David Mitchell or Charlie Brooker. I can see why some people don’t like the show, but I’m still prepared to give it a shot.
I loved the whole labyrinth thing through John Green’s Looking for Alaska. This is a great illustration of a great quote from the book.
Last week I read Looking for Alaska by John Green. It was his first novel, but it is actually the last of his that I had left to read, having worked my way through his other books over the past year or so. The book is about Miles, a 16 year old who is going away to boarding school for the first time. There he becomes friends with his room mate who is a prankster called the Colonel, and falls for a girl called Alaska. But when she dies he becomes obsessed with understanding her life and what happened to her. I liked the book for the most part but there were aspects of it that I disliked too.
The positives - it was a compelling read, I finished it in one sitting. It combines humour with emotional depth and some interesting observations about relationships, life and death, serious topics like that. I liked the main character Miles too, although he wasn’t all that different from the male protagonists in some of John Green’s other novels. I also liked the way that the chapters were structured, first counting down to an unspecified event, and then counting the days since the event. It added a tension and a good sense of timing to the book.
The main downside is the issue that I seem to have with a lot of YA books which is that I just can’t relate to the characters. It’s not even that I’m too old now, just that my own teenage years were nothing like what is depicted in these sorts of books. But maybe that’s why I like reading them too. Anyway, I did find all of the characters a bit trying at times, they all have their flaws, but that’s not a bad thing either to have imperfect characters.
Overall I liked the book, but not as much as some of John Green’s other books. Now that I’ve read them all I think my favourites are The Fault in Our Stars and An Abundance of Katherines. Then would be Paper Towns. This is actually probably my least favourite, along with Will Grayson, Will Grayson (which wasn’t bad, just not spectacular). But as I said, I enjoyed the book and I’d recommend it to people who like John Green and this sort of YA.
Another book I read recently is The Postman by David Brin. The book was recommended to me by one of the people at my book group who is a big fan of all of Brin’s various novels. Apparently it was also adapted into a really terrible movie some time ago, but fortunately I had never seen it. The book is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel set some time after a vaguely explained catastrophe that had led to the downfall of civilisation. I used to read quite a lot of post-apocalyptic SF, and occasionally I still do, so while I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, I was cautiously optimistic.
As I said, it is a post-apocalyptic novel, set is the remains of the United States, where a solitary drifter is making his way west. After he is attacked and all of his supplies stolen, he comes across an abandoned postal van with a body inside. He takes the uniform of the dead postman, and some of the letters he was carrying. As he continues to travel west he starts to create the story of himself as a real postman, a representative of a new government seeking to re-establish civilisation. He passes through various small towns that have survived and they come to believe that he really is a postman, putting him in a position of authority to help build a new society and face down the threat of savage factions which still seek to fight.
I mostly enjoyed the book, it was a good read that held my interest and I got through it quite quickly. But it did have a few flaws. Firstly, written in 1985, it felt a bit dated in places. The book had the civilisation collapsing in the early 21st century. That’s not a big problem, I’ve read other older SF books that have the same issue where their future is now our past, and it’s easy to overlook in some cases. But this one seemed to have a clearly dated 80s vision of the future and technology and even the characters, I thought. The characters themselves were another issue, I just didn’t much care for the main character. He’s a well developed and well written character certainly, but I found him to be increasingly annoying as the book went on. But there is no rule that says you have the like the character to like the book, so again it’s not a major fault.
The main problem with the book though was that it was originally published as two separate novellas and then combined, and you can really tell. I loved the first section of the book, and alone it would have received high praise from me, but the second half really brings it down. The insightful, philosophical approach of the first half gives way to more action driven sequences than aren’t really as well done, along with less developed characters, and increasingly repetitive musings from the main character.
Overall there are some positives, I enjoyed reading the book and I thought it raised some interesting questions about society and civilisation and the individual’s role in that. But while there were a lot of good elements, it just didn’t come together overall and it definitely started to lose it in the second half. I’ve certainly read better post-apocalyptic SF than this one. However I enjoyed it enough that I am interested in checking out some of David Brin’s other novels, especially his space opera books, so I will look into that in the future.
I recently finished watching through all of The Young Ones on DVD. I’d never actually seen the show before and my boyfriend insisted that I needed to experience it, so he got me the DVD and we watched it all together. I know the show is really popular and a lot of people consider it to be a classic, but to be honest I was a bit disappointed with it. To be clear, it wasn’t bad, and overall I did enjoy it, but I just don’t think it is as fantastic as a lot of people think. Maybe I would have appreciated it more if I had first seen it when I was younger, but watching it now it just came across as a bit juvenile in places. But on the other hand it was also brilliant in places, so I’m not completely criticising it. Overall it was a tough one and I still can’t completely make up my mind as to what I think of it. On the whole I’d say it’s a positive, but I’m still struck by the sheer random mess of it too. But maybe that’s a good thing.