Things I've been watching:That Mitchell and Webb Look
. I've been binge-watching this for a couple of days now. I'm enjoying it a lot even though I find it (usually) more wry than laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes it's actively unfunny, as in the sketch where a man goes into a little shop ostensibly to buy food, ends up buying two cans of cheap strong beer instead, and it's clear that this is a routine he goes through every day as he desperately, hopelessly tries to cover up his alcoholism. I was astonished to hear the audience laughing at it (or was it a laugh track?). Apparently the last sketch from the very last episode was the (in)famous old Sherlock Holmes
, which makes everyone cry; somehow I'm not surprised that Mitchell and Webb chose to end the show that way.Parts Unknown
, Anthony Bourdain's most recent show, which is less about extreme food adventures than Bourdain's previous work and focuses to a surprising extent on history, culture, and politics. I was loving it, and then we got to the episode about New Mexico, where I live. I found it oversimplified, almost stereotypical, and much too filtered through Bourdain's romantic obsession with cowboys and the west (and guns--there was a long segment of Bourdain with gun enthusiasts that I skipped most of because it made me so furious). So now I wonder if the whole show is like that and I just didn't notice because of my own ignorance; other episodes, especially those set in troubled parts of the world, did seem a lot more serious and balanced to me, though.
Weeks ago I started watching Captain America: Civil War
on Netflix and got so bored about half an hour in that I still haven't finished it. I guess I'll watch the rest eventually, but the whole premise is so contrived that it's hard to care. But part of the problem could be me: I often have a hard time settling in to movies, even though I can watch episode after episode of a TV series.
Things I've been reading:
Right now I'm about halfway through Matter
, one of Iain M. Banks's Culture novels. I'm enjoying it all right, but I don't understand why so many people say these books are the best thing ever. The ones I've read have all been a bit same-y, and so the worldbuilding that was initially so impressive ceases to impress. I do give Banks some points for naming a ship Eight Rounds Rapid
Before that I read Dan Chaon's new mystery/thriller Ill Will
, which, again, I liked well enough, but which also seemed like another example of that phenomenon where a "literary" novelist writes a genre book and is wildly overpraised for things that are, in fact, pretty typical of the genre. Chaon did throw in a few self-consciously literary touches, but I don't think they were necessary or even beneficial to the story. And plotwise, I still can't decide ( potential plot spoilers )
A while back I read Kai Ashante Wilson's Sorcerer of the Wildeeps
but forgot to post about it. It's a little bit slight and short, story-wise (it's a novella, really, not a full novel) but it's fantastically well-written; I especially admire how Wilson melds African American Vernacular English and a high fantasy setting in a way that is first surprising and then just absolutely, seamlessly right. The worldbuilding is tantalizing, too, and I hope Wilson writes more in this universe. And did I mention that the main characters are queer men?
Other stuff: I have a 24-day streak on Duolingo in both German, which I'm just beginning, and French, which I studied for years and then neglected for years. Has anyone else noticed that some of the Duolingo example sentences are rather . . . dystopian? I keep getting ones like "Don't believe that soldier!" and "It's better to avoid that zone." Or, today, "A little robot came and saved them," which was nice.
A request: Now that I've joined the 21st century and have Netflix streaming and Spotify, I'd love recs for movies, TV shows, and especially music.