September was a very busy month for me, but also not so. I’ll explain. Aisha had to work late a lot, so I had to cover more of the Murphy- and house-based duties than usual, which is fine although it explains why the early weeks of the month were a bit light review-wise, because I didn’t really watch a great deal. Then we went to visit my grandparents on the Isle of Wight for a long weekend, again where not a lot got watched but mainly due to spending time with them and enjoying the island. Plus my Grandad insisted that his in-car MP3 player was reading his song files and displaying the titles and artists incorrectly, so I had to reformat close to a thousand songs during the stay, amending the titles, track numbers, artists and albums, almost entirely manually, whilst attempting to explain to him what I was doing, how it would work, and essentially every aspect of how computers work. I used to work data entry over the summers between university years, and let’s just say there’s a reason I don’t do that any more, and it might be the same reason I didn’t want to do it on my holiday, but family is family.
The point where the month became busy then not busy was the last two weeks which, if you’ve checked my weekly updates, you’ll have seen I spent back in China. The company I work for needed some parts from China fairly quickly, but we also had some adjustments to make on the tooling, so I went out and liaised with the factory several times, checking samples and suggesting changes, without having to wait for the normal 5 days of shipping for the parts to reach us. The means of the company contacting me whilst in China was the phone in my hotel room (I gave them my mobile number, which worked, but they refused to use it), and I had to be on-call to see them or talk to my bosses back home at a moment’s notice, so a great deal of the past fortnight was essentially spent inside a hotel room. I spent some of it working, other parts longing for social media to not be blocked in China (especially because I plan the Lambcast and do all of my LAMB admin stuff through Gmail, which is also blocked), and the rest of it watching movies and TV. I binged the entirety of Police Squad! and the first season of The Wire, and watched an additional twelve films from the confines of my room. It would have been more, but I did have to actually visit the factory, talk to the supplier, and leave the hotel room for the purposes of my sanity. Hence 12 films were watched, but only four of them were actually from any of my lists, as others were watched whilst doing other things, so this time last month when I said September could be really productive, or not, that is what I was talking about, and comparatively to the rest of the year, it kind of fell in the middle.
So what about China? Well, when I visited back in January it was a very structured visit along with my boss and his wife – this time I was on my own – so we met with suppliers every day and they took us out every day, and there wasn’t a great deal of culture experienced. This time I got to immerse myself a little more (I still ate at the hotel most days, but that’s more because they had a decent buffet and, being on my own, that way I didn’t have to sit around doing nothing waiting for the food to arrive, I could just enter the restaurant, gather my food, eat it then head straight back to my room or out for a walk). My main mass generalisation is that the Chinese people I ran into the most live very impatient lives, particularly around food and travelling. In traffic, no-one ever lets anyone out of a junction or into a lane. You merge at your own damn risk, and if you’re a pedestrian crossing the road (or indeed walking along the pavement) then if you’re not fearing for your life and moving with your head on a swivel as though enemy snipers could take you out at any second, then you will not survive to the end of the block. And perhaps even more dangerously at the breakfast buffet one morning I placed two slices of bread into the communal toaster (the kind with the timer that you set and come back to when it pings) and walked away to get a drink, only to see the man who had been stood immediately behind me, watching me insert the bread into the toaster, remove one of my slices and walk off with it. There are many things that puzzle me about this. Did he think I had put the bread in there for him? Was this some kind of silent fat-shaming for me daring to have two slices of toast? And, most troubling, why was he satisfied to take a slice of entirely untoasted bread out of the toaster, where it had not been situated enough time to even begin to warm up let alone toast, when there was almost an entire loaf of non-toasted bread RIGHT NEXT TO THE FUCKING TOASTER?!?!? I didn’t say anything, mainly because he probably spoken English as well as I speak Chinese, which is to say not at all, and also because I couldn’t really foresee an outcome where I didn’t come off as some kind of toast-obsessed raving mad man. Also I’m British, and making a scene is just not done, even over toast.
As for evening meals, I was taken out on a number of occasions by the supplier I was visiting, and the most memorable (and second-most delicious, my first ever Korean BBQ being one of the best things I’ve ever eaten) was to a lobster house (actually crayfish, but they call them lobster). I’d not had lobster (or crayfish) before, and it was quite delicious, even if the crustaceans had to be broken apart with my teeth and hands clad only in thin plastic gloves. Whilst the meat is nice, I find it not really worthy of the effort taken to find it amidst the mess of shell, claw and innards. Also, for the entirety of the meal there was a TV on the restaurant wall showing a loop of footage of live crayfish frolicking in the rivers and having a merry old time, before being caught, killed and cooked for my dinner. There’s not much that’ll put me off eating something, but seeing that very thing in a live state whilst I’m expected to rip off its claws, ;gouge out the head and skin it with my fingers is gonna be close. I thought that’d be the worst of it, right up until the last day when we went to a chicken restaurant with the exact same concept, but this time with video footage of rows upon rows of battery hens supposedly making me oh so anxious to chow down on their brethren. What made this even worse was that the chicken there wasn’t even all that good.
Other adventures were had, but I’ve rambled on long enough and haven’t edited the photos yet, so if I think of something interesting I’ll add it to the next weekly post. For now though, let’s see how my goals stacked up for September:
Aim: Review 8 or 9 1001 List movies each month
An American in Paris
The Naked Gun
Aim: Review 1 “Bad” movie each month
Aim: Review 1 “Blind Spot” movie each month
Aim: Review 2 “Film-Makers” movies each month
Aim: Read A New-To-Me Book
Rivers of London (Ben Aaronovich)
Suggested by my friend Beth, I can see why she thought I’d like this as it’s got a Terry Pratchett-esque vibe, but way gorier. It sees a young, freshly established police officer in London being recruited by the relatively unknown department of magic, dealing with underground mystical issues kept hidden from the general public. So far there are five novels in the series, though this was only my first taste, and I liked it a lot, despite a somewhat weak ending that involved some convenient and previously unexplained abilities, which made a lot of sense when I found out that Aaronovich has also written for Doctor Who. I’m going to check out at least the next book in the series to see how well the story continues in a previously established world, and I’m hoping a bit more explanation is given for some characters as, whilst I appreciate we the audience are supposed to be about as informed on the situations as the lead character is, I’m very perplexed as to how, for example, characters can be humanoid incarnations of actual rivers.
What If? (Randal Monroe)
Randal Monroe is the creator, author and illustrator behind XKCD, perhaps the best web comic out there, especially if you’re into nerdy science and computing stuff. He has an off-shoot project wherein he receives often ridiculous hypothetical questions, and tries to work out the realistic, science-based answer, and this book is a collection of some from that site, as well as others previously unpublished, and I found them to be funny, interesting and occasionally very weird. He answers questions like what is Yoda’s force output, how could you recreate the shot from 300 where the arrows block out the sun, and how could you build a bridge from New York to London entirely out of Lego, but the more entertaining parts are the questions he deemed to insane or worrying to dignify with an answer (Can you make your teeth cold enough to shatter when drinking coffee? How fast would you have to run to be cut in half by cheese-wire?). My main problem though is that the book’s cover promises, on both the blurb and via the cover’s illustration, that it will answer the question “How many humans would a rampaging T–Rex need to eat in a day?” and alas, this question is not answered on any page of the book, dammit.
Aim: Visit Somewhere New
Visited: The Isle of Wight
OK, so the Isle of Wight isn’t new to me, I’ve been visiting there every year since I was born, but the main point of this aim was to find new places to walk Murphy, and he’d never been before so as far as I’m concerned it counts, especially because he loved it. There’s a beach near my grandparents’ house that, when the tide goes out, it goes out for about a mile, and Murphy had the best time ever running around and splashing in the shallow pools of warm water. If you want me to name new places that only I went then yeah, there’s a bunch of places in China, but I’ve talked about that enough already.
So film-wise it wasn’t all that great, but better than other months. I was going to go to bed before writing this, but I’m determined not to let October run away from me like previous months have, and that means embracing it and getting as much done as I can as early as possible. At this rate it’ll be impossible for me to complete many of my overall annual goals unless I knuckle down and start watching and writing, so let’s all hope I can do that in the coming weeks.
Weirdly enough, I’m reading a Ben Aaronovitch novel myself at the moment (his Doctor Who New Adventure TRANSIT)…
Huh, weird. I’ve not read any Doctor Who novels, any that you’d recommend?
Most of the ones I’ve read are part of earlier ranges and thus out of print, but I think there have been reprints of Human Nature by Paul Cornell and Trading Futures by Lance Parkin. In fact, you can’t go wrong with anything by Cornell or Parkin.
Lawrence Miles is one to look out for if you frequent secondhand shops; his stuff hasn’t been reprinted or published in ebook format. But a lot of his individual ideas ended up working their way into the new series. Plus, as a science fiction writer he’s pretty good. It’s a shame he seems to have retired from that.
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