Get home before the morning comes

I recently finished watching Russian Doll on Netflix, the show created by Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler, featuring the former as Nadia who relives the same night over and over. It’s Groundhog Day-style drama and although it was a bit of a rollercoaster to get there, by the end, I really loved it.

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. The good thing about reliving the same time period over and over is that makes it essentially time travel and we all know that’s my favourite genre.
  2. The first episode was interesting, but I thought it dipped for the next two until Alan turned up. Once there were two of them, and they were workshopping their way towards a solution, it really picked up steam.
  3. I like that it’s not about the science at all. Although initially, Nadia wants to know how, why and what’s happening, gradually it becomes more about the humans and the relationships, what they’ve done and how they’ve got there.
  4. Sometimes it’s nice just to have thirty minute episodes of something, so you can whip through it as quick as you like.
  5. Natasha Lyonne is really, really brilliant. We all know it and have known it for a long time – she’s the best thing in American Pie, she outshone the entire ensemble cast of Orange is the New Black, so of course. But even so, I could listen to her just say cockroach every day for the rest of my life.
  6. That song. How much effort must go into picking just the right song that will be repeated over and over and stick in the viewer’s mind until they can’t remember a time before they heard it? Gotta get up, gotta get out, etc, etc.
  7. Also, omg, Paulie from Rocky showed up and all my worlds collided.

Definitely give this one a watch if you have Netflix.

Everything is alive

I can’t remember how I stumbled upon the podcast Everything is Alive but I know I listened to the first episode about a can of cola and found myself oddly moved and disturbed at the same time. It’s not often something has that effect on you. The premise of the show is simple but weird. Our host interviews inanimate objects, except they are not as inanimate as you might think. They have voices, thoughts, past histories and philosophies, insights into the human condition as seen from a point of view I can guarantee you won’t have thought of.

So it’s brilliant and bonkers in equal measure and I recommend giving one or two a listen to see if they’re your kind of thing.

One other part of the show is that there’s often a little aside, a phone call to a human, that adds some history, some information or some other story that is tangentially related to the subject at hand. In the episode about a grain of sand, somehow the topic of the phone call was the voices that record the announcements at train stations.

Eleanor and her husband Phil are the voices of several London Underground stations, and Eleanor shared an insight that I would never have thought of:

They deliberately chose my voice and Phil’s voice because we’re very clear, very neutral and very easy to understand. And the other thing is, the way that we’ve done it, is we’ve always used the same studio, the same microphone, obviously the same voices and for consistency reasons we kind of find a contract to say that we would be available for ten years, you know, unless obviously anything happened. And actually, God bless him, Phil died about, you know, three weeks after that ten years expired. So, he did his time, but fortunately we’ve got enough of his voice on record that it’s never been an issue.

He was a good guy. You know, very lovely guy and I feel very privileged as a widow to have his voice. I don’t say that lightly because I know a lot of people who would give anything to hear their husband’s voice again. And mine won’t shut up. (Laughs) He never did and I’m hoping he never will.

I frequently travel to London for meetings and work and recordings and what have you and yeah, I hear him a lot. And it’s always lovely to hear him. And I actually quite like the fact that obviously nobody else would know that this is so special for me. And I just love the fact that he’s still there just getting on with life and, you know, directing people to where they need to go and just being part of the furniture of London.

But actually, hearing that he’s been taken off of certain platforms I know that he used to be the main voice at Waterloo until about a year and a bit ago and when somebody told me that he’d gone from Waterloo I grieved again as if I’d lost him. You know, it affected me that much knowing that his voice was just slowly being taken away.

Like I said, a range of emotions in this show. Intriguing, moving, disturbing all at the same time. I love it.

Attention seeking

I’ll be honest with you, this year has not gotten off to the fabulous start I was hoping for when I made those resolutions. Instead, I’ve had not one but two bouts of illness, with a work trip crammed in between, and suddenly we’re in the middle of February and I’m just about ready to start the year. Whilst I have been under the weather, however, streaming TV has been my saviour. Netflix released the new series of One Day at a Time just in time to save my sanity, whilst also giving me a motto to live by. One day at a time and eventually you’ll feel healthy again.

Under recommendation from a friend, I’ve been watching Seal Team on Sky which is both brutal and brilliant. And I managed to clear down a lot of the stuff I’d been saving up over Christmas. (Although I still haven’t watched the New Year Doctor Who yet. Why is that? Do I not want to? Or am I saving it because there’s so long to the next one?)

But you know what’s really been the surprise of the season? The Playstation. Sure, we knew we’d get obsessed with Tomb Raider but then Spider-Man followed and we’ve already been discussing what could possibly be next. Since when has gaming taken up such precedence in our lives? A while back, we went to watch a film and realised it had been ages since the previous one because of that cheeky little webbed superhero swinging his way through the city. There’s something addictive about finding the right game, that sweet spot that hits your talents – be they puzzles or shooting or chasing pigeons around New York.

Earlier this year, Netflix pegged Fortnite as their biggest rival. Forget the cinema, forget regular TV or box office movies, forget the incoming Disney streaming channel or Amazon’s impressive efforts to take on the content behemoth (although I’m sure they’re all up there), it’s a game that they are most afraid of.

Now, I don’t have any experience of Fortnite, and I’ve already admitted that gaming as a whole is not my forte, but I can wholeheartedly agree that when you go to reach for the remote, the choices are ever-growing and ever-expanding. An interesting paragraph in the Games Radar piece linked to above:

However, it is fascinating to see Netflix shift slightly towards more game-oriented experiences. the choose-your-own-adventure style path towards the various Black Mirror: Bandersnatch endings could easily have been something fired up and played on a home console…

I tried that Bandersnatch thing and did not enjoy it, but that’s not to say the concept of interactive streams isn’t going to expand and be something to watch out for going forward. The one thing Netflix have to watch for is trying to expand too far. You have to face your competition head on, of course, and you have to try and rival their efforts but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything that they do. It just means you have to do what you do better.

I don’t particularly want to play games on Netflix, I want them to keep making The Crown and One Day at a Time. I don’t really want to head to Netflix to play through a Spiderman story, but I do want good, reliable content from them, that is kept fresh. Not that that seems to be a problem either, Netflix is reportedly making 293 different projects this year alone, so we’re not likely to run short anytime soon. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if Netflix’s biggest competition isn’t Netflix itself?

The rise and fall of the spider superhero

It took just over a month, but we finished Spider-Man on the PS4 and what an adventure it was. Those early days were brilliant, working our way through the main mission, the side challenges and generally just swinging through the city. The game got gradually harder, as you might expect, but it was also more rewarding.

There were three things, however, that really dipped our love of the game and now I can’t decide whether I overall really liked it or not. (Spoilers from here on in.) Firstly, we took a two week break from playing which was partly to do with being ill but also quite a lot to do with knowing that the next bit we had to do was play as MJ. Those scenes playing as Miles or MJ were so frustrating. Slow and sneaky was the aim and constantly being spotted and captured and starting over again, it wasn’t fun.

Secondly, the city gradually descended into chaos as the bad guys infiltrated, and at first that was quite interesting to watch – seeing the slow creep of crime and the increasing presence of the Sable stormtroopers, it was cleverly done. But then after the big break out from the prison, you couldn’t swing for more than a second without being a target and the city was no longer any fun. Smoke everywhere, and you were being shot at all the time so you couldn’t go chasing for pigeons or do any of the side missions without risking your life. Those were the best bits, for me, and broke up the main story nicely, but without the safety of the city, we had to just hurry on and get to the finale.

Eventually we arrived at the end game. The big boss. Oof, seriously, that was the epitome of not fun. I’d gotten quite good at the fight scenes but this felt like an endless battle. I get that part of the challenge of fighting the bosses is figuring out the pattern of what you have to do to defeat them. I don’t really enjoy that, I’d rather just get on with it, but at least I expect that. In this case, though, because there’s no indication of how well you’re doing, you have no idea if you’re doing the right thing or just wasting your time. And the big bad took so long to be defeated, it really felt like a good ten or fifteen minutes just doing the same thing over and over and hoping you were actually achieving something. I just don’t have the patience for that.

The only good news is that having finally beaten the boss, the city is back to normal and we can go on chasing pigeons again. The story wrapped up nicely and I have to say it was a really good narrative. I was completely invested in Peter and his relationships, I was curious what would happen with Miles, and I was absolutely gutted when Aunt May… well, if you’ve played it, you know.

I have mixed feelings about the whole adventure but we’ve still got a few city missions to complete and some DLC to investigate, so the journey isn’t quite over. There is, probably, one thing that definitely made it all worthwhile and that was the J Jonah Jameson podcast. This guy was by turns completely right, totally ridiculous or hilariously hysterical. I mean, the last thing we heard him say was that he wanted to train up Police Rhinos. For reals. That’s his actual plan. Brilliant.

It’s the little details like that which made the game for me, and I’m just disappointed it couldn’t all live up to the high expectations we set after the first half. If nothing else, though, having played the excellent Shadow of the Tomb Raider followed by the fabulous Spider-Man, my interest in PS4 gaming has been reignited and I’m already wondering what I’ll be investing my time in next.

On shuffle

Catching up with a recent Graham Norton Show episode, The 1975 were on to promote their latest album and tour and whatnot, and I believe they might have told the greatest story that’s been on that show. Matty Healy, talking on behalf of his bandmate, described to Saoirse Ronan and assembled guests a situation regarding one of her movies.

Adam came into rehearsal ages ago, once, and he said to me, he was like: “Have you seen that Lovely Bones film?” And I was like “Yeah.” And he was like, “It’s mad, isn’t it?” I was like: “It’s great, it’s good.”

He was like: “No, it’s like… it’s like mad. It’s like she’s dead, and then she’s alive and then there’s the credits and then there’s some other people. I watched the whole thing, it was completely mad.”

And I was quite confused, because I’d seen it, I just thought it was really good.

And he came in the next day, and he was like: “Oh… my DVD player’s on shuffle.”

This is crazy funny. He must have been SO confused. Why would a DVD player even have a shuffle option? It makes no sense! And Adam admitted he’s not seen the film in the proper order since, so he must still wonder what it was all about.

On the record – Was Peter Kay right all along?

Before we get into the album adventure for 2019, it’s worth a quick reminder of why this project even started and if we have made any progress on the original premise. Three years ago, it all kicked off when a conversation on Peter Kay’s Car Share caused a real life debate in our household.

I was on Kayleigh’s side, that you could have whatever album you wanted as your favourite, whether it is a compilation or not. Mr C was firmly on the side of Peter Kay/John, who rejected the idea of a compilation album being eligible for selection as your favourite.

So, after three years of listening to albums, I can update that I now understand both sides of the argument and… reluctantly… admit that Peter Kay was right. Although, I don’t think Kayleigh’s entirely wrong.

The trouble is, I think they are talking about two different things, and it’s the word album being used in both contexts that is the problem. If you are like John, then you’re considering the album to be a body of work put together by an artist to tell a story or share an idea in the form of anywhere between 10 to 20 songs.

If you are like Kayleigh, then an album is anything available to buy (on CD in her case) whether that is a collection of songs by one artist or by many. It’s called a compilation album after all. But the trouble is that it’s not really the same thing as the one-artist-one-story-to-tell album, despite featuring the a-word. In this day and age, it would be more accurate to describe it as a playlist. And once you get to that point, then you can easily see that John is right – you can’t have a compilation as your favourite album when it is, in fact, just a really good playlist.

He’s right but that doesn’t mean Kayleigh is completely wrong, it just means he needs to narrow the parameters of the argument for her.

And yes, I do know I’ve put too much thought into this. Just wait until I get back to agonising over the impossibilities of a top ten albums of all time list.