Monday, 28 January 2008

Organgrinder's Best TV Shows of 2007

One of the blogs I follow regularly is The Guardian's Organgrinder. Recently they've been running a poll on the best television shows of 2007 and the results are now in:

Your Favourite TV Shows of 2007

You can quickly tell that Organgrinder readers are a discerning bunch. Doctor Who is rightly at Number 1. And other favourites in our house are found high up the list too, Life on Mars (11), Battlestar Galactica (12) and Spooks (19). Cranford comes high on the list, at 7, and rightly so. We have only caught up on this since Christmas and thought it superb. Heroes, at 2, is much too high on the list, but this list doesn't take into account the weaker second series, which has not aired yet in the UK. It also does not have one of our favourites of 2007, Chuck, which has not yet aired in the UK.

Monday, 21 January 2008


When writing my Ralphies recently, I was amazed and disappointed to find out how little I had been to the cinema in 2007 and vowed to put that right in 2008. Well, we've made a good start and even went to see Cloverfield on its opening weekend. I like to go to see a film on its opening weekend because there is no chance yet for any hype to have got to you, you've not seen or heard any reviews, you experience it raw and new. I loved Cloverfield though Viola felt totally sea-sick with all the swaying of the camera and had to experience most of it with her eyes closed, and Emily too. I began to feel a little nauseous too, but that may have been the "butter" they put on the popcorn here, something that always seems very appealing when you first go in to the cinema ("theater") but regret about half-way through eating it. I am not going to review it, but will leave it to those with the expertise to do so. One of my favourite blogs, Filmchat, has some great initial reflections on Cloverfield, Memory and Time. I'd just say: (1) Don't expect to be able to watch much of it if you get seasick easily; (2) You probably won't be disappointed; (3) I hope that it does not launch a thousand copy-cat films of the swaying personal camcorder, no music, personal chronicle kind. Just because this film does it brilliantly doesn't mean that we should have to put up with loads of films trying to do the same thing badly.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Willie, Willie, Harry, Ste: Remembering the Monarchs

Viola and I have been watching a lot of period drama recently. We loved Cranford and enjoyed Sense and Sensibility. In the last episode of the latter, the youngest daughter spends the episode trying to remember the kings and queens of England. I thought to myself, "What she needs is a mnemonic." The one I was taught by my Dad was "Willie, Willie, Harry, Ste, Harry, Dick, John, Harry three . . ." The Guardian's Notes and Queries provides the full version of this and other enjoyable mnemonics:

Willie, Willie, Harry, Steve, Harry, Dick, John, Harry Three, Edward One, Two, Three, Dick Two, Henry Four, Five, Six, then who? Edward Four, Five, Dick the Bad, Harrys twain and Ned, the lad. Mary, Lizzie, James the Vain, Charlie, Charlie, James again. William and Mary, Anne o'Gloria, Four Georges, William and Victoria. Edward Seven, Georgie Five, Edward, George and Liz (alive).
A little googling reveals some interesting variants. For anyone with some spare time, it would be a lot of fun to chart these in synopsis.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

How British are you?

Well, I scored 13/13 so I guess the answer is that I am very British. How about you?

Monday, 7 January 2008

UK living standards outstrip US

Looks like we chose the wrong time to move to the US; this is from The Sunday Times:

UK living standards outstrip US
Living standards outstrip those across the Atlantic for first time in over a century
David Smith, Economics Editor

LIVING standards in Britain are set to rise above those in America for the first time since the 19th century, according to a report by the respected Oxford Economics consultancy.

The calculations suggest that, measured by gross domestic product per capita, Britain can now hold its head up high in the economic stakes after more than a century of playing second fiddle to the Americans.

It says that GDP per head in Britain will be £23,500 this year, compared with £23,250 in America, reflecting not only the strength of the pound against the dollar but also the UK economy’s record run of growth and rising incomes going back to the early 1990s . . .
Mind you, it's still much cheaper to eat out in America. And the beer is cheaper here too. And the petrol.

Christmas 2007 on Americanizing Emily

Viola has an excellent Christmas 2007 post over on The Americanization of Emily including pictures of my friend Q's wedding at Salisbury Cathedral, the highlight of our trip.

2007 Best ofs

My predictable "best of"s are on my NT Gateway blog. (It's an annual indulgence among bibliobloggers to give their best ofs, known as "Ralphies", each year). For 2008: I need to get to the cinema more, listen to more different music and read some fiction, and then my 2008 Ralphies might be a bit more interesting.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Is Doctor Who a revolutionary?

i09 has the answer, and a great chart to go with it:

Doctor Who: Revolutionary or Tool of the Man

Apparently he was much more politically active during the Thatcher era. (Weren't we all?). The graph is enjoyable and dubious in equal measure. Tennant's doctor's actions are indeed difficult to categorize as "revolutionary", but there is something of the radical's desire to return the earth to a better state, especially when it was overrun by the Master at the end of series 3. (Thanks to Loren Rosson for the link).

Friday, 4 January 2008

Travelodge vs. Premier Inn

So which is better, Travelodge or Premier Inn? When we visit the UK, we often need a cheap hotel while on the road or at the airport. Up until this visit, we had always used Travelodge. Its main advantage is that it can be unbelievably cheap. I always book way in advance and often get a family room for £15 ($30) for the night, and never pay more than £26 ($52). It's a little cramped for a family of four, but perfectly fine and you always know what you are going to get -- nice double bed, sofa bed and pullout, TV, tea and coffee, en-suite bathroom. But this time, as well as using Travelodge one night, we used Premier Inn another night. It is the direct rival of Travelodge, both budget hotel chains with locations all over the place. Its walk-in weekend rate is a bit cheaper than Travelodge, at £48 ($96), but its pre-booking rates are much worse because non-existent, so it can work out quite a lot more expensive than Travelodge. Nevertheless, we thought it superior. The room was a bit more spacious, the beds were a bit more comfortable, the service was a lot more friendly and one did not have to keep going to the desk to ask for extra sheets, towels, pillows, etc., as we always have to at Travelodge. In the morning we paid £15 for an excellent breakfast for four of us. So if the prices are similar, Premier Inn is definitely worth prioritizing.

I suppose the ideal would be to book independent bed and breakfasts. They are all different and they can have real character. And if you are lucky, the breakfast might be really good. But they are unpredictable and can be expensive. We regretted going for an independent place on another evening this year when there was a Premier Inn down the road at half the price.

Google Fight makes Travelodge the clear winner, but I'm not so sure.

Queen Elizabeth II will leave behind a legacy of waving

We missed out on the Queen's Speech this year since we were spending the day at Viola's folks in Peterborough, and they are not at all royalist. (Neither am I, and yet watching the Queen's Speech has become a family tradition). If I had have seen it, perhaps it would have included some waving. Thanks to Jeff Peterson for passing on this entertaining piece from the Onion News Network:

Queen Elizabeth II Will Leave Behind Long Legacy Of Waving

Americanization of Emily catches up

I am delighted to see the return of The Americanization of Emily over the last week or so. I was out shopping in Swadlincote ("down Swad") with my mum, my brother Jonathan and my sister Nicola when Viola was writing her Catch-up post. It's nice to see a picture of Viola on the blog. The one of me in a Duke t-shirt was taken while we were visiting Myrtle Beach, a particularly enjoyable weekend, and not just because of the pile of articles I took with me on statistics and the Synoptic Problem, read in response to a dawning realization about a problem for the Q theory that I had not previously noticed, but that is to stray onto the subject matter of my other blog.

Viola's subsequent post on the End of the World Cult relates to a fascinating documentary we watched on our return from England on Wednesday, and which I am tempted to use in future to illustrate the phenomenon of eschatological movements and the revision of failed prophecies.

By the way, a very happy 2008 to you all.