So I guess I really should have done a post before now to mark my continued intent to ramble on this year, but I’ve been a bit busy with work. A week in Norway right at the start of the year being a particular low or highlight depending on whether you caught me shivering in the minus fifteen degrees Celsius chill or eating at some very nice restaurants (reviewed on TripAdvisor btw). I keep asking my boss to get me over when the sun’s out for longer than a few hours because all I associate Norway with at the moment is being cold, wet and in the dark. Oh yeah, that and how expensive everything is – a McDonalds meal will for instance leave you less than happy or lovin’ it when you have to pay around £9 for it.

When I wasn’t over there or working, I was finishing off watching Vikings Season 3 on Amazon which has been incredibly entertaining and, in terms of solo activities, the highlight of my Christmas break. I enjoyed it a lot more than Last Kingdom on BBC2 which despite being based on the work of one of my fave authors Bernard Cornwell, I found to be somewhat lacklustre in comparison. The main character in Vikings – Earl Ragnor – is an intriguingly complex character and the details of the Norse religion and way of life (the two things are for the most part inseparable) are fascinating. Of course we have the popularity of Game of Thrones to thank for these other shows being made I guess and in my mind it remains the best, although of course it’s fantasy rather than history.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that my watching Vikings was preceded by another show based on the work of one of my fave authors in form of Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. Again I really enjoyed it – although it was quite slow at times like an X-Files filler episode it wasn’t as slow as Sense8 and I think it was more atmospheric. As far as I can recall (it’s been a while since I read the novel) it stayed reasonably close to the book while expanding on the story and number of characters to make an effective teleplay. The ending was very well done and I’m intrigued to see where they go next with this. I assume there’ll be a Season 2 coming reasonably soon.

However these two shows on Amazon are overshadowed by the delightfully mentally muddled Mr Robot. The ideas contained within are certainly quite ‘Dickian’ in places but leaning more towards the work of William Gibson. There are also obvious similarities as the story develops with a certain cult film starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. It’s one of my favourite films and so I was quite happy for the similarities which still left me guessing.

The dysfunctional characters are excellently written and acted and some of the dialogue is as crispy as a piece of well grilled bacon. The socially dysfunctional Elliot Alderson is played frustratingly well by Rami Malek who I’m sure isn’t so odd or mumbling in real life but reminds me a lot of IT bods I have met in my past existence as an IT analyst.

Confusion, excitement and menace abound and it even went a bit Fifty Shades at one point. The soundtrack is also very well put together and compliments the on screen antics very well. A cover of the Pixies ‘Where is my Mind’ particularly stood out and as well as mental health issues (used for storytelling fun and frolics mainly rather than being seriously discussed) the show has a lot to say about modern society, globalisation and commercialism. There is some borrowing from V for Vendetta in terms of the masks but this now seems to be art imitating life imitating art so it is easily forgiven.

A final element of why I enjoyed Mr Robot so much was how it makes you the viewer one of the characters in the story. Elliot talks to you directly in his head and while this narrative trick may seem a little lazy it is done with post-modern panache and reasonably sparingly. In one episode after a lot of non-VO on screen action Elliot mentally turns to you and says ‘don’t think I’ve forgotten about you’ – brilliant. You also become a discussion point between Elliot and the mysterious ‘Mr Robot’ in one great scene in what I assume is Times Square.

I also watched all the series of This is England (’86, ’88 and ’90) and thoroughly enjoyed them although Siggy and I agreed that it made for some pretty dark holiday viewing. We also saw quite a few films on the various rental and streaming sources at our disposal. I think I’ll put talking about them all to one side for a separate post.

As for music, my CD marathon continues to be stalled while Spotify feeds me new music and Kasabian had an extended residency in my car. I recently weaned myself of them using Faith No More’s Sol Invictus as a substitute and will try and go back to Queen (to continue the ever increasingly anachronistic marathon) sometime next week.

I’ll probably do a post next week as a catch up of where I am reading-wise and you can look at the image on my Twitter feed of @couchmagpie to see what I will be reading this year. I have about sixty paperbacks to get through. I’m currently reading an advanced reading proof of Hideo Yokoyama’s Japanese best-seller Six Four for Amazon’s Vine Voices. By the way it may seem like I rave on about Amazon a lot but I am in no way sponsored by them just for the record! It does seem like I should own shares in them though…


In an attempt to get back into gaming I looked up The Hobbit Lego game online and read some seriously mixed reviews so decided against it. I also got Watchdogs at a trade-in shop but didn’t really take to it. Instead I took the time to download DiRT Showdown from Xbox Gold and have been having a bit of fun with it when the mood takes me. It seems like I might have hit a hurdle I can’t get over with the game as I can’t progress onto meatier racing and demolition stages until I have mastered the subtle (?) and imo pointless art of drifting. If this is the case I am glad I didn’t purchase it.

I’m still toying with the idea of buying a PS4 but there’s a lot of ‘buts’ standing between me and the purchase not least of which is the pitiful amount of time I spent last year gaming. However the fact that there is at least one iteration of Call of Duty that I have yet to play is kind of nibbling away at me like some kind of mental tapeworm.


In the mean time I’ll just ramble on…
[image: the sky opposite my house earlier this week – the lumpy clouds and bright sunrise gave people across the UK (including me) some great photo opportunities before they went to work…]