Around the world in sixteen Extraordinary Homes

I’ve been catching up with BBC Two’s The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes – a programme hosted by Caroline Quentin and Piers Taylor that is kind of like Grand Designs, but the houses are already built and no one gets pregnant before the end of each episode.

My dad first highlighted the show to me, because there was an entire programme dedicated to underground houses. The dynamic duo visit four locations in each episode, sometimes staying overnight to get a really good feel of the dramatic, the exotic, the downright crazy of each domicile. Piers gives the insight of the architect, whilst Caroline gives a wonderfully optimistic more down-to-earth opinion.

And it’s in the relationship between these two that the show really shines. Yes, the houses are incredible and it’s always brilliant to look at grand designs and see what you like, what you’d have done differently, and of course, start planning your own incredible build for a very long time in the future.

But Piers and Caroline give the show its human edge: they get on together like a long-married couple, not quite bickering, but certainly knowing enough about each other’s flaws to make comfortable jokes at their own expense. And with Piers “banging on” about architecture in a knowledgeable fashion, whilst Caroline bounces around with less insightful but more useful notes (“so pretty”, “can’t open the door!”), it reminded me of something.

I realised what it reminded me of was Sidepodcast. Mr C’s carefully thought out opinions, research into topics and general stubbornness blend perfectly with my slightly air-headed but passionate three-part rages and driver crushes. The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes is like us but in a parallel universe.

Anyway, the show has been repeated and is on iPlayer at the moment, so watch if you can. The underground episode in particular was fascinating, and I’ve made lots of notes for our future bunker.

Playing favourites at Wimbledon

Usually when I watch sports, I am looking for a good game/match/race, and may have a favourite in the mix but as long as it’s a good battle or an impressive display, then I’m happy. Over the last six months or so, I’ve been investing myself into the WTA tournaments so that now I have a handful of favourites, for a variety of different reasons.

Somehow, I’ve escaped without any of them meeting each other when it really matters, but now, on the second Tuesday of Wimbledon, the inevitable has happened.

Halep vs Konta. What’s a girl to do?

I like Konta because she plays with a no-nonsense attitude, seems good at holding in the emotions until after the match is won or lost, and has been gradually improving her way to the top rather than leaping into the spotlight out of nowhere. The British coverage of her can be a bit trying, particularly when there are other stories to take note of, but her performance at Wimbledon this year is undeniably one of the big stories. First time she got past the second round, the third round, into the quarters. First British female since the 1980s. First time we had a male and female Brit in the quarters for since the 1970s. These are just interesting and feel good stories.

Plus I saw her play at Wimbledon last Monday, so.

Konta after winning her first round last Monday. Now into the quarter finals.

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On the other hand, I’ve been so intrigued by Halep lately. The relationship she has with her coach Darren Cahill (who I really would like to have coach me through just general day to day life), and the big fall out they had, the reconciliation, the way you can see she is improving and learning that tenacity and never-say-die attitude that is required to get to the finals and to take home the trophies. She’s never won a grand slam which is amazing because she’s been playing well for a long time. And now she has a chance, and there’s also the opportunity to take the number one spot in the world rankings. No pressure.

I want both of these women to win. I think they both play exceptionally well and have great stories to go with their games. What do you do? I’ve not been conflicted like this about a sporting endeavour for a long time. Still, at least the agony will be over in just a few short hours.

Unless Venus Williams also wins.

Because then she’ll play the winner of the Konta/Halep match.

And as we established on that Monday I was at Wimbledon, I think Williams is a goddess.

Venus Williams is incredible.

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Review overview with Goodreads statistics

I was perusing the Goodreads site for a while early today when I noticed their stats page. I haven’t really delved into this side of things much, other than looking at the count of books I’ve read each year. What was I hyped up on in 2014 for goodness’ sake?

Today I spotted this graph of books by publication date by read date. Forgive me for this self indulgence, but what an interesting way to view reading habits!

The big gap to the left is just where I caught up a load of book reviews then went through a period where I wasn’t reading much and if I was, I wasn’t reviewing anything. Then things start to pick up again. I love that the top line is gradually moving forward with each year – I’m reading plenty of current stuff.

And you can see during the 2012-2014 period where I was working through my Big Read list and delving into lots of classics. Now I’m almost done with that list, there’s a lot less older material on my reading list.

I also really like the areas where you can see me catching up on series’, like the two I have highlighted: Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz.

I’d never really thought about my reading habits in terms of published era, and this is a great way to view those stats. Also, what a great combination of subjects: maths and books.

No treble

Oh hi, yea, I’m a bass player now.

Mrs Christine channeling some Este Haim with the Yousician app. Usual Friday evening in then

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It’s not like I need another hobby at the moment, but this is the end result of a Friday night when you watch Glastonbury on iPlayer catchup with a glass of wine, and there just happens to be a seriously gorgeous bass guitar lying around the house.

Of course after just a couple of days of this, I can’t feel my fingers anymore but hey, bass players are cooool.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – ‘I, like, can’t even with this place’

Oh my stars. Unlike Baywatch, where I had all the expectations in the world and was a bit disappointed by the trailer, for Jumanji, I had nothing. When I rewatched the original for Film Watch, it wasn’t as good as I remembered, so why would this be any better? Well, the first trailer was released today and already, I am loving the look of this remake.

I’m really hoping Karen Gillan’s character can keep up this level kick-ass (I mean, literally high-flying kicking someone off a motorcycle!) because I am clinging to the hope that the Rock gave me that we shouldn’t judge her skimpy jungle outfit on face value. It seems like the film does come out that way, but let’s see.

Aside from that, it looks like so much fun.

  • Ye olde console game
  • Ruby Roundhouse: Fighter – Killer of Men
  • The Rock’s famous arched eyebrow
  • The character realisations, “where’s the rest of me?”
  • The Rock trying not to cry
  • Beautiful Hawaii
  • Bonus Jonas flying a helicopter
  • The stampeding rhino!!
  • “You don’t get in the water with a backpack, everybody knows that?” (Uh…)

S.H.I.E.L.D.’s up!

This week, I just finished watching season four of Agents of Shield, and my word, it was an incredible ride. (Vague spoilers below, nothing major.) I’ve loved watching the trials and tribulations of these Shield agents since the show first began, but it has gradually been improving in quality to the point that this series was an absolute triumph.

My affection for the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been wearing thin recently, the novelty of so many inter-connected movies has long since worn off and now all that is left is a strong feeling of being overwhelmed and consistently unable to keep up. At least with a TV show, it is for the most part self-contained. The odd reference to the bigger universe is a bonus and easily ignored, although it’s fair to say the events of each season are affected by what happens in that big bad world.

Previous episodes have dealt with the aftermath of trying to keep a register of superhuman beings, but this series was all about something slightly more interesting – artificial intelligence and computer generated worlds. It was kind of like the Matrix, only with more interesting characters, great dialogue and pithy one-liners.

Our intrepid group of heroes have come a long way since the first series, where they were starting to uncover a dastardly plot whilst also dealing with monster-of-the-week type stories. Season four not only had an over-arching plot but it was also split into three distinct parts that all connected and disconnected and then looped back together again. It was cleverly done.

The stories are great, the acting fine, the characters are brilliant and I love the wit. On top of all that, there’s great entertainment expertly laid over the top of quite important, timely and serious ethical and moral questions. What happens when you create artificial intelligence – who is responsible for that when it goes rogue? Can you prefer a life that isn’t real over something you can’t quite remember? Should you use a higher and unknown intelligence to improve your own? Isn’t that what science is anyway, standing on the shoulders of giants?

I’ve really, really loved series four of this great show, and now, with a cliffhanger to keep us going to the series five, I’m eagerly awaiting what comes next.

On the record 2017, Part 5: A poptastic celebration

I was supposed to post this at the weekend but I was a little busy keeping an eye on all the action from Glastonbury. The thing is that this year, far more than at any point in my entire life, I had heard of some of the artists on the stage, and knew many of the songs being played. It was a revelation!

The one thing I haven’t developed yet is a method and indeed a motivation to seek out new songs. Apple Music make it pretty easy to hear songs you don’t know, they have playlists and regularly updated charts and an entire radio channel for that purpose. I just haven’t quite figured out how best to go about it. Anyway, on with the albums.

Week 21

  • One More Light, LINKIN PARK
    I like the odd Linkin Park song or two so was interested to see what they’ve come up with this time. It veered a lot more towards pop than I’d anticipated, there wasn’t the rage and angst there used to be, which is interesting. Good album but nothing really stood out.
  • Kylie, Kylie Minogue
    Aw, lovely Kylie’s first effort is a poptastic celebration. It’s all very Hit Factory, which is no bad thing as long as you know what you’ve signed up for. The classics are, of course, fantastic, and the rest of it fills in the gaps nicely.

Week 22

  • El Dorado, Shakira
    Really love this album! It’s fun, upbeat and a wonderful eclectic mix of styles and languages. It’s standard Shakira, but there are lots of influences in there and you can tell she was just having fun with the whole thing. Great job.
  • Songs From the Big Chair, Tears for Fears
    Hmm, not sure about this. The good songs are incredible. Everybody Wants to Rule the World is up there with the proper classics. Head Over Heels, very good. But there are also some real low points. It’s a totally mixed bag.

Week 23

  • Harry Styles, Harry Styles
    Not one of my favourites, but a good job by Harry. Nice to have something completely different from his One Direction antics, but I’m not sure the faux seventies style really does it for me. They seem like good songs, well crafted, and the album works well as a whole, but it’s not really to my taste.
  • The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill
    It’s clear this is a work of art, something that many hours of love and attention have gone in to. I like the songs, but the school classroom stuff didn’t really add anything to my listening experience. Nevertheless, Hill has such a fantastic voice and her talent shines through from start to finish.

Week 24

  • Witness, Katy Perry
    Was super excited about this album arriving and thankfully not disappointed. It’s a superb pop journey stacked with great beats, intriguing concepts and thoughtful lyrics. There does seem to be more of a political or philosophical edge than previous efforts, but I think it all works really well.
  • The Last Broadcast, Doves
    Another hit and miss album. Like a couple of the songs but much of it is just a bit too experimental and lacking in actual tune-age for my tastes. Really like Pounding, There Goes the Fear is okay, the rest I can take or leave… and probably leave, if I’m honest.

Week 25

  • Melodrama, Lorde
    Quirky and well crafted, this is a concise and compact album that feels like a lot of effort has gone into every single song. I worry some of it has meanings that go beyond me, but if I just settle back and listen then it’s a great selection of songs, ideas and lyrics bundled together brilliantly.
  • Blue is the Colour, The Beautiful South
    Adore this album, lots of great songs and I like the blend of Paul and Jacqui’s voices, and the way they work together and apart. The singles are great, but I particularly love Little Blue, a real favourite. My only complaint is with Liar’s Bar, as the gravelly voice Paul does drills all the way through my ears and makes my eyes want to fall out.