Things I Liked April 2022

Committing to writing one of these posts every month was probably a mistake because it means I get increasingly regular doses of oh-my-god-time-is-slipping-away that I have to work through, type up, and stick on the internet.

Like every so often I’ll be listening to a YouTube video and it will be casually mentioned that said video was recorded in 2018 and I’ll think to myself “oh, that’s pretty recent” and then I’ll think “no it isn’t, that was four years ago.”

Stop the world. I want to get off.

But that hasn’t stopped me Liking some Things recently. Here are a few of them.

Vampire Survivors

I’m aware my audience isn’t really a super-duper videogame audience and definitely isn’t a super-duper nostalgia-videogame audience but if you did want to spend the princely sum of three dollars on a pixel graphics game where you kill wave after wave after wave after wave of monsters in a bullet hell / wave survival / Castlevania tribute game with a lightly gothic theme then this game is for you. Honestly I’m not even sure why I like it—I was never really into the classic games that it’s a tribute to (there’s a whole “-vania” subgenre that I honestly know precious little about) but there’s something about the core gameplay loop I find deeply satisfying. Monsters attack you, you kill them, then you eventually get overwhelmed, then you unlock powerups and try again. Rinse. Repeat.

I suspect the fact that it’s three dollars helps. It’s very hard not to enjoy something that costs three dollars, especially in our new depressing world of microtransactions and games-as-service. Hell these days I think if I paid three dollars for a game and it consisted of nothing but a text box saying “you don’t have to spend any more money on this game” I’d be pretty overjoyed.

Kill monsters. Get gold. Kill more monsters. Yes it’s not proposing meaningful solutions to the systemic issues that cause monsters to exist in the first place, but what do you expect for the price?

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

I like Agatha Christie. I especially like televised adaptations of Agatha Christie because they’re such a fixture of British television that there’s something that feels almost like home about them. And I especially like it when you get adaptations of the more obscure stand-alone stories because, well, there’s a lot of Poirot and Miss Marple out there (both of them had massive TV runs and David Suchet did very famously manage to adapt every single Poirot story for the screen over the course of the 1990s and 2000s) and it’s nice to remember that there are some really good Christie stories that don’t involve her iconic recurring characters.

I will admit that Why Didn’t They Ask Evans isn’t quite the classic that some of her other stories are. Although to be fair when you’re talking about Christie that’s a high bar because so many of her stories either originated or provided iconic examples of such genre archetypes as “the narrator is the killer”, “the detective is the killer”, “the suspects are all being picked off one by one”, “what seems to be a serial killer is actually just one person obfuscating the murder of their single real target”, “the killer was a psychotic child” and of course “the killer was all of them.” But I enjoyed it, and I think a big part of what I enjoyed about it was that it’s one of the more, as it were, deep genre stories in the canon.

Something I sometimes find myself circling back to, as somebody who enjoys, reads, and writes genre fiction of all sorts, is how closed genre fiction can sometimes feel. While I don’t have much time for the implicit value judgement that comes from dividing books into “literary” and “genre” works, I do think it’s fair to observe that genres can sometimes get the teensiest bit own-tail-eatey. And to a large extent this is inevitable. If you put a magic sword in a fantasy novel, then a reader is going to immediately bring a whole lot of context to that sword and is going to want to know if it’s Excalibur or Sting or Stormbringer or just a Sword of Monster Bashing +1 and are going to expect the writer to be familiar with all those archetypes as well. Basically reading fiction in an established genre you’re not familiar with is like walking into the middle of a conversation between six strangers who’ve been talking for an hour already about a party you weren’t at with people you don’t know.

How precisely this ongoing conversation effect manifests varies a lot from genre to genre but in crime fiction, at least in cosy crime fiction, at least in the highly specific kind of cosy crime fiction that Christie writes, it tends to manifest as complexity.

Sidebar: something else I liked this month that I didn’t have quite enough to say about that I thought it deserved its own segment was a YouTube video about the history of MMORPGs. One of the things that YouTuber pointed out was that a major problem facing MMOs as a genre—and the reason that MMOs today can never quite have the magic they did back in the day—is that the player base has just got too damned good at them. Content that would have lasted months in the early days of the genre gets chewed through in hours today by a voracious player base that the developers pretty much can’t stay ahead of.

Classic mystery stories were kind of the same. This was Christie’s fifteenth novel, so not that far into her career in absolute terms, but certainly deep enough in that she had a dedicated following who knew all of her tricks (she’d already published The One Where It’s The Narrator and The One Where It’s Everybody by this point) but who still demanded to be baffled, yet could experience bafflement only in the most convoluted of circumstances.

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans is about young Bobby Jones who, during a round of golf, finds a dying man at the bottom of a cliff. The dying man’s last words are “why didn’t they ask Evans?”. There follows an action-packed sequence of events in which Bobby and his childhood friend/romantic interest Lady Frankie Derwent engage in ever more dangerous shenanigans as they try to find out who “they” are, who “Evans” was, what “they” might have “asked” them and why “they” “didn’t”.

Their plans for this involve staging a car crash, faking concussion, and breaking into an asylum.

Vital clues in the mystery include a throwaway reference to the apparent suicide of a character who never appears in the story, and one of the supporting characters being very good at doing impressions.

The actual solution to the mystery is a fabulously this-era-of-crime-fiction-ish mix of the screamingly obvious and the ludicrously opaque. On the screamingly obvious side, there’s a scary man in black who keeps popping up and looking menacing and it turns out that yup, he’s basically the killer. On the frustratingly opaque side, the killer was working for the real villain/villainess combo who were trying to cover up a seduction/murder scam they’d done before the story even started where they’d faked the will of the dead millionaire who gets offhandedly referenced in the first episode, motivated entirely by the fact that they found out that Bobby Jones had heard the phrase “why didn’t they ask Evans” and decided that obviously the best thing to was to do a bunch of other murders to make sure that this single meaningless-out-of-context phrase didn’t lead to them getting caught for a murder that they had definitely already got away with. The main characters even lampshade this, pointing out after the villains have abducted them and tied them up to be murdered that they’re only in danger because the killers falsely assumed that either of them knew what the hell “why didn’t they ask Evans” meant.

Also, again, a major plot point is that a character is, like, really good at doing impressions.

Overall it’s enjoyable hokum. But I think my single favourite thing about it is the title.

Agatha Christie’s explanation for the inspiration behind this book is as follows: “You go to tea with a friend. As you arrive, her brother closes a book he is reading – throws it aside, says: ‘Not bad, but why on earth didn’t they ask Evans?’ So you decide immediately a book of yours shortly to be written will bear the title, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? You don’t know yet who Evans is going to be. Never mind. Evans will come in due course – the title is fixed.”

Words cannot describe how much I love this. Firstly, I love that she talks like this is something that happens to her on the regular. Like the highly specific circumstance of going to tea with a friend and arriving just as her brother is finishing a book and making a highly specific comment about it is a thing that just pops up all the time in her world. Secondly, I love it because I kind of know exactly what she means. Essentially the title of this book is a sort of memefied description of a plot hole. Writing a mystery novel called “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans” is like writing a fantasy novel called “Why Didn’t They Use the Eagles” or, for that matter, a romance novel called “Why Didn’t They Just Talk About It”.

And on an even more meta level, I love the dynamic that suggests existed between Christie and her readers. There’s a subgenre of very hard logic puzzle that takes the form “X and Y both have limited information. X is asked if they know what Y’s information is, and says no, then Y is asked if they know what X’s information is, and says no as well, and then X says ‘oh, now I know what Y knows’.” This story is basically that, but a murder. The real mystery isn’t “who killed the dead man at the golf course”, the real mystery is “what kind of crime could have been committed such that knowing that somebody investigating said crime considered Why Didn’t They Ask Evans to be an important question would allow you to solve it”. And that’s kind of brilliant.

M&S Collection Truffle & Olive Oil Crisps

This is the sort of thing which makes me feel I’m betraying my working class roots but I can’t tell if it’s betraying in the sense of ‘turning against’ or betraying in the sense of ‘revealing’. Because the thing about truffle crisps is that, on the one hand, truffles are posh. But, on the other hand, they’re still fucking crisps.  Like, they’re mass produced in a factory. They don’t actually cost that much more than, like, Walkers Sensations. And Walkers Sensations, although they are more expensive than other Walkers crisps, are not … how to put this … are not targeted at people too affluent to turn down a buy-1-get-1 free deal. The thing is, I really like truffle flavours in general but, unfortunately, because I know that false consciousness is as thing I can’t never decide whether I like the flavour of truffles because I have been told that they are a luxurious thing or because it’s actually nice. Like, I think it’s actually nice? It’s probably actually nice. And these crisps are in black and gold packaging so they must be special. In fact, they’re so special they used to do only do them at Christmas. But, unlike other Christmas foods, they’re actually pleasant to eat so they’ve started doing them all year round. The M&S Christmas-only crisp is, I believe, winterberries and prosecco which is about as awful as it sounds.

Fboy Island

First things first, I understand how TV works. But, seriously folks, if the premise of your show is that you’ve got a bunch of fuckboys on an island trying to fuck women just fucking call it Fuckboy Island.

Anyway, the premise of Fboy Island is… well. Basically, it’s every dating reality TV show which is “it’s Love Island but.” And, in this case the “but”, is that there’s only three girls but there’s a whole bunch of guys and half of them are self-proclaimed “nice guys” and the others are self-identified “fboys” (that is to say, fuckboys, the f stands for fuck, everyone knows it stands for fuck). The aim for the girls is to find a boy who isn’t shit and date him—at the end of which the happy, non-shit couple will receive £100k. The aim for the boys is, if they’re a nice guy, to date the girl sincerely so they can share the 100k with her and, if they’re a fboy, to date the girl insincerely so they can run off with the money. 

There’s a lot about this format that really works. Because there’s only three girls, and they have all the power, it means there’s a lot less of the difficult woman versus woman stuff that those kind of shows can sometimes trade on. The guys very very quickly got divided by some kind of atavistic herding behaviour into three equal pools, one per girl, and there was pretty much no tension or cross-pollination about that. This dynamic also weirdly meant that the guys could have genuinely good relationships with the girls they weren’t trying to f alongside the girls also being friends with each other. For this kind of dating show, it’s relatively self-aware (or at least gives a good impression of it) and manages some genuinely illuminating and heart-warming moments, as well as some truly epic dramas. Like, there’s a bit where one of the girls—CJ—has been let down by an fboy and she turns up at the elimination ceremony dressed like she’s going to a funeral in 1863. And when the host asks if she’s all right and has lost anybody, she promptly replies “MY HOPE.” Which, y’know, fair play CJ, I don’t think I’ve ever loved a reality TV contestant more.

Fun and games aside, there are couple of things about the series that didn’t quit work for me. While I thought the setup was interesting and, weirdly, got around a lot of the problems that dating shows often have the implicit “nice guys versus fboys” dynamic is obviously grounded in some complex assumptions about, um, what men are like. For example, there were a couple of contestants who entered as “nice guys” because they were looking for a relationship, but were also clearly very sexy, good at sex, and comfortable talking to women in a flirty way, and this was kind of framed as unusual. Even though it’s, like, not? Like, when you get right down to it, “has a lot of casual sex”, “is cool”, and “is an arsehole” are unrelated traits. You can, in fact, be nice and fuck a lot. You can definitely have difficulty getting laid but still be kind of a prick. Hell, you can even have a lot of casual sex but be bad at it and not have very much game. Because trying to pick people up in a low stakes environment is like one of those skill checks in a video game you’re allowed to retry endlessly. Like, if you want to find somebody to have casual sex with, and you don’t much mind who, you will eventually find someone who is willing to have casual sex with you. It’s a pornier version of the stable marriage problem.

I think the biggest problem, however, was that the people making the show doesn’t seem to have realised that “fuckboy” isn’t a technical term and, therefore, people who label themselves that on a reality TV show can have a, um, a problematic range experiences, motivations and personalities. Frankly, most of the fboys on fboy island were just kind of young guys who liked to fuck and didn’t care much about other people’s feelings because they were young and liked to fuck. And you can definitely imagine a situation where, either in real life or on a reality TV show, you could get with a guy like that and it could be hurtful because, well, people who don’t care about your feelings tend to do hurtful things. But the problem would be immaturity, not anything darker. But, the thing is, there is also a more messed up side to guys who have a lot of casual sex. Because, um, like PUAs were a thing and are still kind of a thing even if they don’t called themselves PUAs any more and that style of interacting with women can still very easily go places that are manipulative and involve a certain amount of disregard for consent. And the specific issue with Season 1 of Fboy Island is that there was exactly one guy who was like this. Let’s be very clear, he makes for excellent TV, but it’s excellent in a way that I have very mixed feelings about.

Spoilers for Fboy Island.

By a remarkable coincidence that definitely wasn’t engineered by the producers the final episode boiled down to the three women having to choose between an fboy and a nice guy. To give a little more context, about two-thirds of the way into the series the show actually reveals who came in as fboy and who came in a nice guy so by that point the premise kind of shifted from “can you work out who the fboys are and eliminate them” to “can you redeem an fboy” which, let’s face it, is as concept the romance genre is very familiar with. And, once again, my respect for CJ knows no bounds because she had plenty of to-camera moments where she was basically “well I do really like this fboy and he’s making me a lot of promises about how he’ll change so I could probably fix him up or I could just go with the guy who’s already nice to me.”

Anyway, of the three women, CJ picked the nice guy (although, to clarify, CJ’s nice guy was this incredibly alpha romance hero dude who paid professional football, was covered in tats, gave no fucks, had nothing to prove and was strongly implied to be excellent at sex), Nakia picked the fboy but he’d been genuinely (well, TV genuinely) falling in love with her over the course of the series and so, therefore, agreed to share the money, and that left Sarah. Sarah’s fboy was the guy with the full PUA strat and he had been, honestly, actually unpleasantly manipulative for the entire fucking show. Like, his to camera segments were basically him explaining how PUA tactics work. Like one of his choicest lines, after he’d shared some personal details about the fact he was adopted with Sarah, was “I like to open up a little bit to women so they open their legs to me.” He was very notably the only one of the guys that actively made the woman he was trying to get with work for his attention and feel insecure about whether he liked her or not (again, this is PUA 101 stuff). And, funnily enough, it worked and she picked him at the end and he took the money. Which was an amazing TV moment. And then the presenter came on and said “actually, we’re not letting you have it, because we don’t want to reward this behaviour, so we’re giving it to a charity of Sarah’s choice.”

And … I have complicated feelings about that.

If this was always the plan if someone picked an fboy and the fboy chose to take the money then … okay, fair enough, I guess? Although firstly, how the hell are you going to recruit people for season two, and secondly haven’t you then still recruited people for a rigged competition? And, obviously, all reality TV is rigged but literally not giving someone the money that they have won under the terms presented to them would, I think, actually be illegal in my country.

What gives me even more complicated feelings is the possibility that this was the company that made the show trying to save face because they suddenly realised that this series was going to end with a man being give £100k for emotionally manipulating a woman and exploiting some really problematic gender dynamics. And, on the one hand, yeah I agree, that’s not the kind of shit you should reward. But, on the other hand, maybe if you don’t want to reward that kind of shit don’t make a show the premise of which is that guys can win £100k by convincing women they care about them.

Sidebar: one of the things I kind of liked about Fboy Island is that it didn’t have the implicit sex negativity of, say, Too Hot To Handle. But, on reflection, a show that is set up with the assumption that the girls obviously want a long term relationship, because that’s what girls want, and that people who are just interested in casual sex are doing wrong is … not great? Like, it should technically be completely valid for the girl to pick a fuckboy in the final choice and be like, “okay mate, here’s the deal, I really like banging you and I obviously don’t want you to take all of my goddamn money but can we admit here and now that neither of us are in this to find a life partner, we’re here to boost our Instagram follower count, so let’s go halfies, no harm no foul.”

Unsidebar: the thing is, I do think rewarding men for doing full on PUA shit on a reality TV show is a really difficult line to walk. And I do think there is a world where the producers set things up expecting all the fboys to be charming, slightly immature lads who just liked to bang and would either be redeemed or not by the end, and therefore were not remotely prepared for someone to turn up with a skillset that at least overlaps with that of a sexual predator. I can definitely imagine them having a meeting around episode 6 where they just say “oh my God, this guy does not a play in a post #metoo world, what the fuck are we going to do if he wins it” and I can equally well imagine some member of the amoral algorithm cult standing up and saying “it’s all right, we’ll pretend it was a moral lesson.”

I’m not saying that definitely happened but I am saying that if it did happen then, um, we now have a situation where the company felt it was morally wrong to give this many the money he won fairly but not morally wrong to keep all the advertising/streaming revue they got from putting him on TV every week. Which is, y’know, a thing.

Basically this one of those situations where the only way out of the situation I can think of is to not to get in the situation in the first place. Like, either it was planned from the beginning as a gotcha for any naughty fuckboys in which case I genuinely think that’s unethical because you’re a running a competition and you have set the terms of that competition and then just arbitrarily changed them at the last minute for whatever the streaming equivalent of clicks is. Or it was a last minute course correct because they decided having someone that manipulative winning was bad in which case I’m sorry but if he can’t keep the money, you can’t keep the money either. It is clearly not okay for a corporation to say, “this man can’t profit from his immoral behaviour but we can profit from it just fine.”

I think what particularly messes with my head is that a lot of what was unacceptable about the evil fboy’s behaviour was that he used a lot of strategies that, when you think about it, were the same kind of strategies that the show itself was using to make good reality TV. It’s just the show was doing it in a depersonalised way that no-one had to take responsibility for. For example, the whole thing where they reveal who the fboys are about two-thirds of the way into the series is, ultimately, putting strong social pressure on the female contestants to at least consider picking an fboy. Like, one of the gross manipulative strategies that some kinds of men use to pressure women into sex is to “admit” that they’re a bad guy and that getting with them is risky and that it’s, y’know, something you might not want to do because you, y’know, might not be ready for it. And that’s not okay when a guy does it to someone’s face but, in that case, it’s equally not okay when the structure of a television programme that you are on, controlled by people who basically control your life for the duration of your tenure on that programme, do the same thing but with a script.  

Anyway. That’s Fboy Island. Having written all this, I feel quite bad for having enjoyed it. But, well, I did. What have you been enjoying this month? Tell me in the comments. Or don’t.  

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63 Responses to Things I Liked April 2022

  1. ancella says:

    oh gosh I read about FBoy Island’s casting call in Deuxmoi (ig gossip site). It sounded so odd that I thought it was just a rumor. The twists were odd, though, like they don’t expect there to be Season 2. I also think that giving the FBoy 100k is great for ratings. And I hope you don’t feel too bad about enjoying it–I kinda want to watch it now.

    • Oh, I don’t really feel bad about enjoying it: I’m just a bit uncomfortable with where it ended up, and the degree to which the show seemed to feel that not giving a man 100k he had kind of legitimately won (albeit in a gross way) absolved them of moral responsibility for the setup of their own show?

      I think it has been renewed for a second season (https://www.bustle.com/entertainment/fboy-island-season-2-premiere-date-cast-trailer-location) – though how it’s going to work, I don’t know, when they’ve essentially publicly declared that no fuckboy behaving like a fuckboy is going to get paid.

      I don’t know if it’ll just devolve into another Too Hot To Handle – which is, err, not good.

  2. Rebecca says:

    OK so the truffle thing…makes me think of my caviar theory. I reckon it’s basically the Emperor’s New Clothes, a posh person once said it was great, all the other poshos didn’t want to go against the crowd so they all agreed. Bam. Caviar became a ‘thing’ and still to this day rich folks just don’t want to admit the fish eggs they paid £150 a jar for taste awful. (But linking more to your thing, I am guilty of thinking ‘oh, it’s from marksies so must be better’ when really…a ready meal is a ready meal. Marketing, it works. Stick on some gold and a sexy advert and we will pay £12 for a microwave lasagna—I mean, not after this month’s tax raise but…yeah). See also, the £100 easter eggs I spotted in London this weekend. £100, for a f***ing chocolate egg just because it was from Fortnum and Mason. So yeah…eat your truffle crisps, it’s fine 😂. Also, eat the rich, because what the F are they actually doing?!

    My month: new series of Taskmaster has come to brighten our lives. I love Taskmaster so much, it is just pure British silliness and Greg Davies is amazing in that role. The comedy scene in this country right now actually is pretty great. I also jumped, 10yrs late, onto the Nightvale train and smashed through 200 episodes in 2 weeks. (I mentioned last month working in a CRAPP-style office and erm…well that’s how much I avoid talking to my creepy colleagues. 200 episodes worth of Nightvale colleague avoidance. I didn’t realise how political it can get and I love those little one-liners). The rest of my month was trudging back into the query trenches so…the less said about that the better. Everything is fiiiiiiiiiiiiiine, they do say 6th time’s the charm, right?! (Reckon I have the experience for a PhD in rejection at this point though so, silver linings 😂🙃)

    • Kathleen says:

      Rebecca, in Norway (and I assume the rest of the Scandis) they sell caviar in a tube, it’s bright pink and tastes like some unholy combination of fish-salt-come, kids eat it on bread like American kids eat peanut butter, it stinks up the shared fridge in the work kitchen, all in all it is an abomination but definitely subverts the whole caviar-only-for-rich-people thing :). 0/10 do not recommend!

      • Rebecca says:

        Well shit. I’m even more anti caviar now 😂.

      • Katy says:

        And in Southeast Alaska, in the Alaska Native community, herring eggs are a treasured seasonal treat. You put branches in the water and the herring eggs stick to them and kids will happily eat them in huge clumps right off the branches. Definitely an acquired taste, and too strong for me to just eat plain like that since I didn’t grow up with it, but not a rich people thing.

        • Rebecca says:

          Oh man. You guys are not selling it 😂. In England it is very much associated with rich folks.

          • Katy says:

            Which just goes to make your point, really – the whole rich people food/ poor people food divide is an artificial construct and why shouldn’t we plebes eat truffles and fish eggs if we want?

    • I’d probably eat the rich if they came in a gold packet from Marksies. I’m clearly quite suggestible.

      The thing is, I don’t *mind* caviar … I mean, I don’t think I mind caviar, I’ve only eaten it a couple of times, at some else’s expense, but I agree it is probably not worth the ceremony. Or maybe it’s like absinthe and the ceremony is part of the point?

      You know, I’ve never actually watched Taskmaster and I really should because it’s just the sort of British thing I like.

      Also, if you’re into Nightvale, I take it you’ve also done Magnus?

      • Rebecca says:

        You must watch Taskmaster! It is thoroughly ridiculous in all the best, most wholesome ways (always depends on who they have on, a couple series were more actors than comedians so weren’t quite as good, but overall it is just a bunch of people making tits of themselves which is never not good. It’s a weird show to describe as it shouldn’t really work, but it just DOES.)

        I mentioned my caviar theory as a bit of a throwaway maybe amusing anecdote and have now learned a lot about international views on caviar. Perhaps I shouldn’t dismiss it so lightly. However, I once saw a fish get like ‘milked’ of its caviar (just squeezed the fish until it all oozed out 🤢) on…I wanna say the One Show (seems like the kind of VT they’d have) and just can’t get that image out of my head.

        I haven’t done Magnus! I only got into podcasts about a year ago and have so far just listened to nonfic stuff (mostly just Dirty Sexy History and Off Menu) but I love how these writers have found sideways ways into professional writing. Huge respect for that. Will definitely check Magnus out.

  3. Becs says:

    Is this the new Hugh Laurie adaptation of WDTAE? If so, I also watched it last month and enjoyed it. I also like this story because it has a romantic comedy feel about it with Frankie and Bobby, as well as y’know the murder-solving. My partner who will watch all the AC with me, said “have we seen this one?” and I said “yes – but a different version” and he followed up with “do we find out why they didn’t ask Evans?” and I replied “yes.” He then preceded each episode with a “I hope we find out why they didn’t ask Evans” comment (wink wink) which, I hope you can imagine my facial reaction. I love that anecdote about AC and the origin of the title. That’s amazing – “the title is fixed – I’ll work it all out in due course.” Genius.

    I’ve been watching The Gilded Age – and constantly reminded how amazing Christine Baranski is with her dry dowager-esque lines. And I discovered that a new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion is coming later this year. Another one to add to your Austathon, I’m afraid. Dakota Johnson is Anne Elliot. I’m not sure. But will probably watch.

    Walkers Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli crisps – always and forever. And special because black packaging (am so easily influenced)

    • Becs says:

      And I always forget to say thank you for these posts and the space for me to respond and ramble about my partner’s terrible jokes. Thank you <3

    • Yes, the official hierarchy of Walkers Sensations is: BBQ beef Teriyaki (rarely available, so precious) Thai Sweet Chili, then the chicken ones (kind of the middle ground of Walkers Sensations), then the balsamic ones. I’ve never seen the cheddar and bacon ones actually for sale anywhere so they’re clearly some kind of crisp myth.

      Your household dialogue re. the asking of Evans pretty much matched our household dialogue. I confess I was initially quite … not put off … but disorientated slightly by it being so very bright colours and jolly hockey sticks (well, jolly golfing clubs) because all the AC adaptations recently have been super-dark Sarah Phelps style.

      I actually really loved TGA – I saw mixed reviews on Twitter but I thought the performances were phenomenal and I found it less slow/nothing-happeny that I was expecting. Christine Baranski is just one of my favourite actors (I think, by the end of The Good Wife, I was mainly watching for her) but I also really liked seeing Miranda from SATC getting to do something different.

  4. Chris Zable (AmphipodGirl) says:

    I have a soft spot for Why Didn’t They Ask Evans. The logic puzzle aspect you allude to is very appealing, as is the whackadoodle, slapdash way our protagonist and his friend investigate the case. I definitely want to check out the new adaptation.

    Most of the things I liked last month were seasonal.

    First of, Robin’s Eggs. These are a candy that’s only available for a few weeks around Easter and only in certain stores — not exclusive ones or anything, just I can get them at my pharmacy but not my grocery store. Basically they’re malted milk balls (like Maltesers or Whoppers) but oblong so you can say they look like eggs and coated in a thin candy shell (like M&Ms or Smarties) that’s speckled — again, that’s for the “egg” thing. They’re one of my favorite candies and the fact that they’re only available briefly certainly adds to the allure. Eating one is a test of will — do I have the patience to let it dissolve in my mouth, so the thinning shards of shell fracture around the turning-to-goo chocolate layer and then the hard umami center dissolves in turn, or do I just smash the whole thing with my teeth and get it all at once? I definitely prefer the dissolving method but sometimes I get too impatient.

    Passover! First there’s deep cleaning the kitchen, which I have a love-hate relationship with. It’s a lot of work but very satisfying when it’s done, plus it’s an excuse to avoid any other pressing tasks for a week or two. And then there was the seder. We usually have close to two dozen people for seder, but of course the last couple of years with the pandemic that wasn’t safe. Two years ago it was just our family, and some friends chatted with us by zoom. Last year we had a few friends and ate outdoors. This year we were outdoors again, but had a nice big gathering — 18 people, including all the friends we’ve been sharing the ritual with for many years. We had food and joy and singing and silliness. When afikomen negotiations broke down, the kids (5 teenagers) broke off and finished the seder on their own inside the house, kind of out of spite? Like, yes, children, show the adults what’s what by running away and enthusiastically and correctly finishing a religious ritual all on your own. That’ll teach us. (Rolls eyes at self, at kids, at world.) It was one of the happiest gatherings we’ve ever had.

    And baby bunnies! Our living room has a wall of windows looking into the back yard. When we moved in 16 years ago, the yard was manicured lawn, concrete, and a swimming pool. We got rid of all that and planted a wild tangle of native plants and now we get a lot more wildlife. For a few years we’ve been sometimes seeing the odd rabbit or two, but this year we’ve been seeing babies for the first time. We get one or two at a time, starting out as fluffballs about the size of the average adult human’s fist, progressing rapidly to little leaping things with cute little white tails and getting close to adult size within weeks. We’re on at least our third batch of new babies so far this year, and now I know why they say “breeding like rabbits”.

    Finally, I got to read ARCs of The Taste of Ink by Daniel May. It’s a trilogy which reworks material previously released as 7 shorter works. The trilogy taken together is an MMM polyam romance with a ton of hot kinky sex and good character work. It’s mostly sex, honestly, but it’s the kind of writing where every sex scene advances the relationships, the plot, and our understanding of the characters. A+, highly recommended. (CW for a ton of cheating and past dubcon.)

    Onward into May!

    • Katy says:

      Passover! Thank you for reminding me that something nice happened this month. My house hosted a Seder, which we’ve done a few times on a smaller scale, but this year we had fourteen people and three dogs, and it was lovely. It was also a bit of a personal milestone because I hate inviting people to things; there’s a part of my brain permanently stuck in middle school that thinks everyone will say no. But this year I (accidentally, tbh) invited our whole WhatsApp friend group and was astonished and pleased when people responded with a lot of enthusiasm and then actually showed up.

      • Chris Zable (AmphipodGirl) says:

        Isn’t a big seder lovely? And honestly, I think a lot of people are relieved to be invited so they don’t have to do one.

    • Thank you for sharing – sounds like many, many wonderful things to enjoy this month <3

  5. Melanie says:

    In April, I liked Randy Rainbow which makes April exactly like every other month. Except in April I was liking his book, Playing with Myself, rather than just his videos and live performances. No surprise, he has a charming campy voice and is hilarious. If the book does tend towards “You like me, you really like me”, well, he’s allowed. Because Patti Fucking Lupone and I do, we really do.

    My other April thing is how happy it makes me that Trader Joe’s is selling some really good Korean food, especially pajeon and tteokbokki, which would have been too “exotic” about five minutes ago but are now ready for their closeup as the absolute best comfort food. Here in rural Vermont, the closest Korean restaurant is a hundred miles away, so it’s nice to have a bulging freezer.

  6. Monika says:

    I binged all the Heartstopper comics and then watched the new series 3x. Nick & Charlie and their friend group are the best. I adore her illustrations and humor and the adaptation is really incredible. So nice to read hopeful and joyous queer stories that tackle real issues for teens. I’ve had such a soft spot for YA stories the past couple of years. They have been so good lately!!

    • Anonymouse says:

      Yesssss! I’m actually watching Heartstopper as I write this. I’m really enjoying it and it’s great but it just made me wish that for one time it would be the f/f relationship that’s centred. I dunno, perhaps I’m living under a rock but where are the f/f movies and TV shows? I feel like books are catching up a bit but when I try to think of movies none are really romances and most are from 20+ years ago. I mean I’m nearly forty and I felt there was as much or more visibility when I was in high school than there is now.

    • I need to get round to watching this – it’s very much on my list but I was distracted by Fuckboy Island.

    • Ros says:

      I binged Heartstopper at the rec of my best friend, then hated that it was finished and started episode 1 again immediately. <3<3<3 And it gives me hope that things really have changed in a generation. Or two. I hate to think what would have happened in the 1980’s if a trans young person had tried to swap from the boy’s school to the girl’s school or vice versa. But it was a total non-issue in Heartstopper, and I loved that.

  7. Carey Matthews says:

    I fully endorse truffles, despite MY working class, Midwestern American roots. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know what a truffle was until I was well into adulthood. It is definitely the tastiest when on salty, trashy things like fries and chips. High/low for the win.
    I continue to read too many books, but my recent favorites are The Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S. Pacat (I’m late to the game on this series, but boy did I love it) and all the wonderful stories from Arden Powell. Have you read Powell? Such a range of storytelling styles, I found their work really captivating. Most of them are really short and available on Kindle Unlimited, so that makes them supremely consumable. Shout out to my friend Jill for those suggestions, which she found via a book recommendation list from Freya Marske. Also love Freya, excited for her upcoming book.
    Oh, and thanks to all the blog comments last time about OFMD, I had to get a subscription to HBO Max so that I could partake. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I really need to assess how many streaming services I’m paying for right now.
    Thanks for the monthly “like” list, always entertaining!

    • Ah, truffle chips are so good! I got an advert on Insta the other day for a company that makes, like, truffle salt and truffle mayonnaise – I might have to try it out.

      Also yay for good reading!

      Unfortunately, OFMD still doesn’t have a UK release day. I’d heard late April / early May? But all records seem to have been expunged from the universe.

      • Carey Matthews says:

        I have to add an addendum – I read the section about Fboy Island out loud to a coworker, neither of us having even heard of the show. In the midst of our laughter, we looked up the show and the contestants. And get this, not one, but TWO of the male contestants are from my hometown of Toledo, Ohio. Two! Who knew that the mid-size city where I grew up was a hotbed of Fuckboys?!

        I also told her she should read your books since she enjoyed the blog so much. I am trying to spread the gospel of AJH one person at a time.

  8. Анна says:

    My April was not rich in things that I really liked. Therefore, I will tell my favorite story about Agatha Christie.
    Of course, for me it is a symbol of the good old England, one of the few that I have known since childhood.
    The first impression, and a very strong one, was Joan Hickson.
    Oh, those light blue eyes and their piercing gaze.. Oh, this English village, where everyone cares about every little thing that happens to their neighbors.. And murders, many murders. 🙂 Childhood is a wonderful period for reading books written by Agatha Christie. And I was her fan.
    My mother once, when I asked her to buy me another book by Lady Agatha, asked me how old this writer was.
    I told my mother that this writer died the year I was born.
    Mom said “Oh, thank God” and bought me this book.
    I was puzzled by her reaction and demanded an explanation.
    She replied “I just imagined that she was still young, and she was writing book after book in her England, and I would have to buy book after book for you ..”
    😆😆😆
    My mother was not a big reader, yes (and the books were very expensive). But she definitely understood that I would not stop until I had read all the books of this writer.

    • Andi says:

      I love Joan Hickson, her Miss Marple was just an essential part of my childhood! The music from the old BBC series has a physically calming effect on me.

    • Oh my God, but Agatha Christie wrote … like … 70 books or something didn’t she? Your poor mother!

      This is such a charming story, though, thank you for sharing.

      And, as ever, sending you my best thoughts for the safety of you and your family.

      • Анна says:

        in fact, I think that with the money that my mother spent on buying books, she could buy a cheap car .. or not very cheap .. I didn’t only read Agatha Christie books .. oh my god ..
        I just now (really) appreciated how cool it was! 🫣

  9. willaful says:

    I’ve been reading a lot of D.E. Stevenson in recent years and the best thing about it is spotting all the ways she inspired Christie. I literally found the inspiration for Miss Marple last year!

    My friend read _And Then There Were None_ for a book club, her first Christie, and had the “oh, this is so typical… oh wait, she did it first!” train of thought.

    • Oh wow, I’m completely ignorant of D.E. Stevenson and will investigate.

      It’s always disorientating, isn’t it, to encounter something that feels incredibly stale, and realise that you’re actual witnessing the original incarnation of it.

  10. Melissa says:

    As always, I love to read about the things you liked, Alexis. Thank you! And everyone’s comments. Wish there was a ‘like’ button. (Is there a ‘like’ button?).

    It’s autumn here and we’re just starting to get a bit of a chill in the air. So we’ve had one or two visits to the kebab van at the end of the street for the pure pleasure of eating hot chips in the cold dark on the walk back down the street.

    Also Heartstopper. Re-reading the comics and my face hurting from smiling so much watching the tv series. Just lovely.

    • It’s super charming the way half these comments are “yay spring” and the other half are “yay autumn.” Nothing beats kebab shop chips on a chilly evening though.

      My comment-tech is in a bit of a state atm – subscribe to comments seems to have broken but I’ll see if I can fix that and implement a liking feature. Seems appropriate for Things I Liked anyway 😉

  11. Katy says:

    I love the phrase “memeified description of a plot hole.”

    Honestly – maybe it’s weird to post a gushing fan letter on your blog. I hope I’m not transgressing blog etiquette. But what’s been getting me through this freaking exhausting month of pandemic teaching and getting laid off for the third year in a row and terrible embarrassing job interviews is your writing, which I somehow did not know about until I was reading KJ Charles’s blog and she recommended For Real. (I feel like my face reading For Real went through every stage of Woman Trying Kombucha – not in a bad way, just it’s a book that requires you to think and be uncomfortable, and I did not know what I was getting myself into. But by the time I got to that freaking amazing scene of the Oxford dinner party and everyone treating Toby like he actually is a talking cat, I was sold.)

    Anyway. Thank you for the absolutely beautiful misdirection in Boyfriend Material, which reminded me of what I wanted and didn’t get from Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers.

    And thank you, more than anything, for Something Fabulous. I figured out a while ago that I’m probably demisexual, but it’s something I never really felt comfortable claiming as an identity because it felt so – nebulous, I guess? And it sounds weird to say this but I’ve literally never seen it deliberately represented in a book before. (Plenty of repressed and Unawakened ppl, but never as a “oh, hey, this is how my brain and sexuality work, and this is what it feels like.”) I wasn’t prepared for how hugely affecting it would feel to have a book make the effort to understand me, or how true to my life experience it would feel. And I definitely wasn’t expecting that from a delightful regency screwball comedy. So thank you.

    • Chris Zable (AmphipodGirl) says:

      Oh my God, they really do treat Toby like he’s a talking cat! That is a beautiful and brilliant way to put that. Thank you for a new slant on a scene from a favorite book.

      I’d be curious to hear more about what you felt you got from Boyfriend Material that you didn’t find in Busman’s Honeymoon — I love both books, but am not immediately seeing the connection,

      • Katy says:

        Oh, I just felt like Busman’s Honeymoon had this amazing setup – that we’ve spent Gaudy Night watching Harriet work through her trauma and become a functional person who can be in a relationship, and we’ve been so completely in Harriet’s head that we’ve failed to notice that Lord Peter hasn’t worked on his own trauma at all and has instead spent the past twenty years building up a shell of coping mechanisms that’s about to shatter. But it’s a book where I like the idea of it better than what she actually does with it. I don’t think she’s very good at the broad comedy stuff, and all the jumps in POV lose me, after how immersive Gaudy Night was.

    • Oh gosh, not against blog etiquette at all, although I may scuff and flail! Thank you so much for the kind words about my writing, and I’m delighted to have been discovered via KJC, who is one of my favourite writers.

      I’m really glad the rep in SF worked for you; I know ace-spectrum characters are under-represented in the genre in general so silly screwball comedy isn’t, for some readers (and fairly) an ideal setting.

      Also I’m super aware I have a … varied? back catalogue so I always wonder what it must be like for readers who read BM and then try FR or vice-versa, since I think those books are at opposite ends of the genre spectrum.

      • Melanie says:

        I discovered you via KJ Charles, too. And I got to her via Courtney Milan. So I guess CM is your literary grandmother. You could do a lot worse.

      • Margali says:

        Yes, I found you through Boyfriend Material, then I think it Looking for Group, Glitterland and Waiting for the Flood (which I immediately re-read upon finishing it because I loved it so much.) Amazon told me the next book in the series was For Real, so I bought it and started it without reading any reviews or plot descriptions. It was definitely different than what I expected! I did enjoy it though, and plan to go back and read it again — I’m curious to see how I will feel about it when I’m not working through the “Wait, what??” reaction I had the first time.

    • Yuri says:

      TJ Klune wrote a demi-sexual character in “How to be a Movie Star”, a lovely comedy romance about one of the friends from his book “How to be a Normal Person”, which features an asexual character. I wasn’t sure that I’d like HTBAMS as much as I loved HTBANP but I went with it and ended up really enjoying it. One of the characters is an homage to Chuck Tingle and makes me very curious about his work.

      Other things I liked in April was coming back to quicunquevult and discovering the Austenathon which made me very happy! In viewing I watched the first season of Resident Alien with Alan Tudyk which was wonderfully darkly funny. And I finally got around to watching the Paddington movies which were delightful.

      Also enjoyed walking through the gardens with my Mum and watching the roses – I’ve never been a gardener but Mum moved recently and its been revelatory to see the various roses bloom and fade and change so that every few days its like looking at a gorgeous new garden. First time I’ve ever understood the fuss about roses.

      • H. Geranium says:

        I adored TJ Klune’s “How to be a Movie Star”. I felt like the audiobook also added to the experience.

  12. Kathleen says:

    This is kind of dumb and obscure, but one thing I enjoyed this month was a single exchange from a 6-part, in-the-weeds spy documentary that (I assume) is only available in Norway and comprehensible to Norwegian speakers, hence the dumb and obscure part. The documentary focuses on this famous case of a high-level Norwegian diplomat convicted of espionage in 1984, on the basis of evidence that can at best be described as circumstantial. The guy was released from prison in the 90s and now lives in Moscow, which, yeah. Anyway. The doc features extensive interviews with the guy, Arne Treholt he’s called, who, now in his 80s, is still scary smart and can really turn on the charm. And the interviewer is pushing him and pushing him on why he kept having these private meetings with known KGB operatives when he, Treholt, was based in NY as the deputy head of Norway’s UN mission. (Treholt never denied the meetings but insists they were sort of a private peace initiative/ dialogue and backchannels). So the interviewer keeps circling back to this point, trying to get him to explain why tf he thought this was a good idea, and Treholt is getting increasingly annoyed, and finally he just stares straight at the camera, sighs like the interviewer is the dumbest person on the planet, and says in this completely patronizing tone, “what you have to understand is, my job was really boring.” MY JOB WAS REALLY BORING!!!

    Reader, we screamed.

    I mean, I feel compelled to note that I’m not condoning espionage here. But I kind of admire that level of fuck-it energy. Not to mention that he was the number 2 guy in the permanent mission. How boring could that job have been??!

    Needless to say, “my job was really boring” has become the catchall justification around our house for pretty much everything. Dishes not done? My job was really boring!!!!

    Anyway, now whenever I’m faffing around on twitter or GR or, er, someone’s blog comments instead of working, I can comfort myself with the thought that at least I’m just lazy and unproductive and not, you know, committing treason.

    So that was my April enjoyment.

    • Anonymouse says:

      Ha, that is indeed a great line. My job was really boring. I am definitely using that. 🙂

    • Oh my God, I love this story and will also be employing “my job was really boring” forever now 😉

      Also Arne Treholt sounds like a slightly less ambiguous than the British equivalent, Kim Philby, who was *actually* working with the KGB and got away with it because of … as far as I can tell … classism? Like nobody could believe someone who was the right sort of person, which he was, could do something like that.

      There’s actually interview footage of him after he was accused of being a spy, like, the second time (again, he kept getting accused of this and then somehow managing to deny) where he just looks so unbelievably shifty that I don’t know HOW the entirety of British society was just like, yep, seems legit.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2A2g-qRIaU

      Either way, the story is uncomfortable-making and contains no excellent zingers.

      • Kathleen says:

        The Arne Treholt case is interesting because, legally speaking, it was very thin. But his actions were suspicious AF. And the documentary basically ended up not falling down on one side or the other.

        I’m familiar with Kim Philby only because the whole MI-6 spy recruitment thing was an ongoing joke in my college since we were a bunch of social science graduate dweebs. That footage is something, though. The trustworthiness just shines right through! Ugh, now I’m having flashbacks to this PPEist in my M.Phil cohort who, I swear, couldn’t have been more than 22 but had the same accent, the same affect, always wore a jacket and tie, the same habit of deflecting via circumlocution and fancy words, the same shiftiness. It took me the whole first term to realize he wasn’t playacting some role, he really was that much of a knob. That dude is probably an MP now, yuck.

  13. dobbsthedog says:

    I have a couple of things that I quite enjoyed in April.

    1. Discovering Anna Zabo’s books. Keti (SherlockedAvocado) posted several times about different titles, so I checked them out and really enjoyed them. I blew through the Takeover series in a few days and am now working my way through the Twisted Wishes series. I really like Zabo’s writing and all the different queer identities they include in their writing.

    2. Birds! April is the time that a lot of migratory birds return to Nova Scotia and I am so enjoying going out on my back step in the morning and listening to them. I’m also super excited because it looks like I’ve got a mating pair of yellow-rumped warblers in my yard. I am fascinated by warblers; there is a huge variety of them and they have these beautiful songs, but are so small, they’re hard to spot. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to spot some more as the spring progresses.

  14. Claire says:

    OMG your review of Fboy Island is perfection. I watched it at some point during the pandemic when I was looking for something a bit silly to distract me. I had never watched any reality dating shows, and my sister in law convinced me to give this one a try! WOW. Bananas. Exactly what I needed at the time.

    Your analysis of the PUA tactics that participant used is bang on. I found myself yelling at the TV whenever he was on the screen. I am curious to see what they will do if they have a season 2. I also wonder how much info the participants actually have, and what their contracts look like!

    Things I liked in April…Heartstopper on Netflix was outstanding. One of my favourite bands (Calexico) released a new album, which I’ve been listening to on loop. I’ve been learning embroidery, and listening to some favourite books on audio while stitching. Spring is finally here in Montreal, and my neighbourhood is coming alive after a long winter. Thanks for these posts 🙂

    • I genuinely found Fuckboy Island pretty fascinating (as well as good TV, for all its problems): I thought it was trying to avoid a lot of the issues of similar style programmes like Love Island or Too Hot To Handle, at least as regards the treatment of women, but then ran aground on either cynically or accidentally incentivising men $100k to behave really badly.

      I mean, obviously the show is produced but I do think it was … something … telling? Encouraging? Something … that it felt like all of the other fuckboys, by the end, were willing to see three women as human beings with feelings, rather than as toys or tools or prizes to be won. So I do think the Evil Fuckboy was a notable outlier, in the sense he wasn’t really a fuckboy as such. Just an openly manipulative person with a solid grasp of PUA strategy that he was willing to employ in ways the others just weren’t.

      Heartstopper is on my to-watch list. And spring is always a pleasure!

  15. Margali says:

    “…for that matter, a romance novel called “Why Didn’t They Just Talk About It”.” Whoops, woke up my husband from a nap with my too-loud snort of laughter when I read that!

    My best April thing was traveling to New York to see my sister — a cross-country trip that was delayed for two years by the pandemic. Highly recommend the Tenement Museum, if you or any of your readers are planning a trip.

    • I, too, have had a NYC trip pandemic delayed and then delayed again due to family stuff – so I’m delighted that you managed to see your sister. Honestly, I can’t wait to travel again but it’s feeling like it could be a while still.

      And than you for the museum rec – when I get back to New York, in 2087, I will definitely visit.

  16. Ursula says:

    “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?” was a welcome bit of cozy mystery. I was surprised that I kept forgetting whodunnit even though I’ve seen a few versions of the story. It had all the flashy cars, beautiful clothes and lush greenery that I love in a good British mystery television.

    I have been enjoying catching up on podcasts “Judge John Hodgman” for laughs and light quibbling. “Lexicon Valley” with John McWhorter for fascinating word stuffs and show tunes.

    I also checked out “The Shrieking Shack”. Thank you for the recommend. It is an interesting perspective to hear as someone who liked reading HP but did not have a significant bond to the books. I am now watching my daughter hear them for the first time. I’m not sure if she likes the story or the wizarding world or just feels like she should like HP because the marketing is everywhere. She was already down for anything witch related. We’ll see when she finishes them.

    It’s also fascinating reading with her as she is too young and inexperienced to know the tropes and references. She doesn’t know that if the Marauder’s Map shows up in Act One it will be used in Act Three. She was super disappointed when it got confiscated and elated when it came back. Where I read dry and kinda brutal myths and fairytales as a kid, she has Fluffy and Buckbeak to love. I’m interested to see what she thinks when she decides she is ready to read the folklore behind the beasties.

    • Oh, I used to listen to Judge John Hodgman all the time but … I’m podcast fickle and I drifted. Thank you for the reminder.

      Also watching people engage with tropes for the first time is super fascinating – I occasionally get DMs from people who don’t read a lot of romance but have, for whatever reason, picked up BM and they’re sometimes like I CAN’T BELIEVE OLIVER JUST BROKE UP WITH LUC 80% OF THE WAY INTO THE BOOK, THIS BETTER NOT END IN TRAGEDY!

      • ursula says:

        A quick recommend on the Judge John Hodgman front. Check out episode 566 – “Pleat Bargain”. It is like a warm, cozy cardigan hug. I may have uncharacteristically listened to it 3 times in the past week.

  17. lindsay says:

    Being familiar w/tropes and foundational texts/trope namers reminds me of my work’s pandemic book club, where we took it in turns to pick 1-3 pieces to read that week and there were 2 weeks where I had to read Hemingway (again) and my picks were mostly sf&f because that’s the main genre I read in and I know several free online mags because I wouldn’t pick anything that couldn’t be obtained in a fully legit way.
    Anyway, I was by far the most genre savvy person and hearing the other members’ interpretations was wild. One person was making the argument that N.K. Jemisen’s “The City Born Great” wasn’t necessarily fantasy and maybe it was all an allegory. I also had to explain ‘Lovecraftian’ and why a non white non male author engaging with aspects of that mythos was interesting. Another story I picked, which I love, was set up as basically a page on a website like Genius, but for folk songs and the story is told mostly in the annotations. I didn’t realize that no one else in the group really had experience with that sort of site or even non standard story formats where you’re picking out the story bit by bit out of hints and allusions.
    Anyway, long story short, I was marinated in genre and no one else was swimming with me which made things odd since so much of what the stories were doing was lost on them.
    Things I enjoyed recently: KJ Charles’ Will Darling trilogy, Taskmaster, actually- and also the first season of the Norway version, which just got added to the Taskmaster YouTube channel.
    Other thing: regarding fancy potato chips, about 15+ years ago I was in London and M&S, I think, had Kettle Chips brand Salt and *Balsamic* Vinegar chips, which were the best chip/crisp I’d ever had and which I have never seen again.

  18. Valerie says:

    *Controversy warning**
    My boss recently brought in Jeni’s Ice Cream as a Friday fun treat. I’m not usually one who enjoys “workplace fun” when said fun is created by the boss. However, the particular flavor of ice cream was extremely controversial and sparked a lot of debate, some of which got hilariously heated. One of my coworkers even demanded that whoever invented this ice cream be arrested immediately.

    The flavor? Everything Bagel. This particular “everything” blend includes garlic, onion, salt, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds. With a vanilla cream cheese ice cream.

    I was in the minority here, but I have to say I loved it. It made no sense in my brain, but who cares. It was good. I also may have bought a pint for myself to eat at home in secret.

    And not to be too gushing here, but I’ve also been loving your books so much. I’ve read 5 in the past two months, a couple of them even going back and listening to the audio version after reading.

    And if Jeni’s ever makes a truffle ice cream, you bet I’ll be there.

  19. chacha1 says:

    We have been watching Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ and I’ve been having fun yelling at the screen about how bad these spies are at their job. They keep saying they’re going to catch someone, and then they do, but then they lose him/her again. They keep saying they’re going to take someone down, but when they have the perfect opportunity to do so, they muff it or have a ‘oh but maybe they’re not all bad’ moment so the villain lives to be villainous again. I’m like: they’re down; your weapon is out; take the shot. But nooooooo.

    Also there are an amazing number of hand-to-hand fights which strikes me as a waste of energy in the comic-book world of tech, plus more than half those fights feature women, sometimes wearing heels and always with longish hair being glamorously tossed.

    It is, in short, ridiculous. 🙂 Kind of what we need right now.

  20. Meg Wilson says:

    So, you know those cheese snack thingies you were going on about in March? Trader Joe’s sells them in *truffle flavor.*

  21. Senetra says:

    So your comment about M&S truffle crisps has drawn me to comment. A few weeks ago my facebook memories were of the many flavors of Walker’s crisps that I tried on a trip to London. Favorites were Worcestershire and the Sunbites Sweet Chili. I hadn’t worked up the nerve to try cheese and onion or prawn yet. I also ate my weight in jaffa cakes, but I must admit that the brand Aldi sells is much better tasting to me. My absolute “OMG why can’t these be everywhere all the time” potato chip was had in Paris a couple of years later, Lay’s Olive Tapas. So salty and savory and just damned delicious. I had them in 2013 and I still dream about them.

    The thing I have enjoyed the most is a children’s cartoon called Craig of the Creek, about a group of elementary school students and their lives as they hang out at the creek in their town. Craig has tasked himself with mapping the creek (in marker and crayon) and some of the people they cross paths with are the Horse Girls (they roleplay as horses), the Sewer Queendom, two high school girls they thing are witches but who are really just worried about life after high school, and a group called the Tea Timers whose leader looks like Princess Peach. I love it.

  22. Clementine says:

    Okay, so, Fuckboy Island! I mean, I can see why they didn’t name it Fuckboy spelled out in full, as that would make for super annoying times for journalists covering the show, but I dooo wish we could have heard “FUCKBOY… FUCK, BYE!” during the eliminations, and as it’s on HBO, why not?

    A few thoughts:

    + I fucking love this show! I’m so glad it’s getting a season two & I wonder what new twists might occur.
    + CJ is the beeest. I legit mad cackled at her loss of hope. RIP, DARLING.
    + I adored that there was no drama between the girls & that they were genuinely supportive of each other. I rage-quit shows that manufacture and play up girl-on-girl drama. Ew.
    + So, I logically agree with most of what you are saying in re: to Garret’s money being snatched back, BUT I DON’T ACTUALLY CARE? It was great TV, I laughed, my heart soared for his fuckboy hand getting a slap, and suck my left tit, Garret, you’re absolute scum! Also, I’d guess their contracts didn’t state anything about guaranteed prizes to be had? And, it’s been a month since I watched (or a couple months? what is time? i thought my mid-life crisis was going to be about regretting past choices, but instead it’s about time flying by in a way that is super confusing and helpless, i might as well be dead already, bye.) but did the contestants KNOW they were in competition for $100,000? I thought the host presented that as a twist in the final eps? But my memory is a dumpster, so who knows!
    + Okay, but onto the fuckboy who demanded my attention this season. Casey, Casey, Casey, he of the floppy hair, cotton candy promises, and nerdy wit. See, for me, I rarely cared what was going on with dingbat Garret because he was SO OBVIOUSLY not going to change & had super icky vibes & didn’t even have cute hair, god! But Casey represents, well, a huge problem for people like me who are easily, easily swayed by… I want to call it sincere-ish vibes in fuckboy’ing? Like, even Casey may not be sure what Casey is really going to follow through on in the end. To be fair to him, I thought Casey had some true points/moments on the show. Like when he (gently and fairly, imo) tried to bring a convo to CJ that she should not actually have control over who he befriends. Then a scene, as directed by the producers, I’m sure, where he so sweetly professes out loud his reformed fuckboy ways as he sleeps downstairs in the doghouse. I AM VERY CONVINCED. SURELY THIS MAN WILL DO NO WRONG… is exactly what I shouldn’t think in these situations, but always do, yay! Anyway, I’m not sure why producers decided to throw him out during the funeral ep, but I’m glad they convinced him to “escape” and come back for more draaaama! The worst thing about Casey is that in the end, he WAS reformed, thus giving hope to people with savior complexes around the globe.
    + I can’t feel bad for enjoying the show, I just caaan’t. It’s like my thing with cheese, as in, I don’t eat meat, but I will eat cheese, and it’s rather disingenuous to pretend like one is ethical and the other is not. Like, the planet is still being fucked by the methane from cattle whether they’re raised for meat or dairy. PLUS OMG HAVE YOU EVER FUCKING SEEN THE DAIRY COW VIDEOS? THE TREATMENT OF THESE MAJESTIC CREATURES IS SUPER BRUTAL. Dear christ, it’s utterly heartbreaking. I mean, maybe your farming practices are less fucked over there in the UK than here. The US sucks, god, fucking capitalistic hellhole of doom. But anyway, back to my point, which is…I can actually make A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G problematic or unethical in my brain if I want to, so there comes a point where I just have to tell myself I’m doing what I can and chill the fuck out. I’m not eating meat, so I can eat cheese. I watch a bunch of documentaries and shows exploring actually important matters, so I can watch some not entirely free of issues reality TV, etc. etc.. There is probably an actual word for this behavior, but as I can’t recall, I’m just going to call this way of thinking Big Cheesin’.

    Anyway, I haven’t watched any new dating reality shows since My Mom, Your Dad (not a rec, though the concept is sweet) buut I am watching the new season of The Circle, and if you haven’t checked out that show yet, I hardcore rec it!! The concept is that there are a bunch of strangers, confined on their own in small apartment spaces, conversing strictly online & trying to sort out who is a catfish & who’s not. Season one is my favorite and I’m not sure it will ever be beat because it has SHUBBY and he is one of my top ten fave reality personalities of ALL TIME. He is so earnest and nerdy and loyal!! All the best things in a human being. OH. But season two has Chloe from Too Hot to Handle and she baaaabes her way through the eps and is an absolute delight! In conclusion: The Circle, good stuff.

    Okay, so, my favorite thing in April was a vacation to the ocean with my daughter. It’s warm enough to walk the beaches with shoes off, but still mostly quiet and empty of the screaming children and over-boisterous dogs of summer. I realize that absolutely makes me sound like a grumpy asshole, but I mean every word of it from the very bottom of my heart!! Other than that, my fave thing was the series conclusion of Better Things. This show is SUPER HARD to rec because I can never guess who it might appeal to. Because it’s such a character-driven, day-in-the-life series, I’ve had friends say it’s super boring. I totally get that, it really feels like you’re just hanging out with these characters, but there is something deeply touching to be found, for me, in every ep. Basically the short of it is that the main character, Sam, is a sort of washed-up actress raising three kids on her own. Sam is played by Pam Adlon, who I think is rad as fuck. Like, seriously, I have a mad crush on her. The series ended on a perfect note, it could not have gone any better, but I seriously wept my way through it because it was like saying goodbye to people who you’ve become so close to. I don’t want to lose them, and I’m sad, and I’m getting a little teary right now just thinking about it.

    I think one thing about this show is that it brought a warm feeling of a particular time in my life to mind. This house where I lived in my thirties, when my daughter was a teen. The place was designed for an artist and there were leopard print carpets, a King Fish statue with a jeweled crown in the driveway, and a huge art studio in the lower level, with concrete flooring, so the kids could all go wild making art. I am really giving out too many identifiable details here. One day I’m going to receive a text from a friend going: WHY ARE YOU TYPING OUT YOUR ENTIRE LIFE TO PEOPLE ON THE INTERNET, YOU ABSOLUTE LUNATIC. Which, you know, fair point, but anyway. This home was always busy with everyday motion. My daughter and her friends, my friends, my partners & exes, family, there was always someone staying over from the city. Always someone on the guitar, and lots of dancing, and food. SO MUCH FOOD. I think food might be my number one love language. No. Quality time, but after that, food. I think, especially, of lavender, as we had rows growing at that home, and I cannot tell you how many lavender recipes we came up with through those years, but we could have opened a themed restaurant at one point in time.

    My mind is popping up random memories. Like this ridiculous contest to see who could throw their watermelon rind the farthest off the deck. Or me with a friend, and we’re in our thirties, but we’re buzzed on wine, and scrambling up the forested hill at the back of the home, way too old, but laughing and stumbling and feeling all of twelve. And here is the ghost of the cat I loved for nearly half my life, and the spirit of a human I wish had more time, and the obnoxious purple of my bedroom walls, which I thought was so so cool at the time, but in hindsight, was just loud. The bathtub where I spent time reading books, at all hours of the night. It was shaped like a flower and could comfortably fit three people, and sometimes, we would get in there with wine and cigarettes, when smoking was still a thing we did, and open up the window all the way to blow our smoke outdoors as we told our stories and sometimes fought over whether the world was getting better or worse (and i was right, i was totally right, and im still right, of cooourse) but through the debates, there was love.

    I’m thinking about the horrible noises the coyotes made in the dark, those wretched howls signaling something was about to die. And the time there was a dead rat in the driveway next to my car, and my friend was kind enough to pick it up with a shovel and throw it in the bushes because I couldn’t bear to see it up close. But I also didn’t want her to be alone with that death, so I filmed her on my phone, standing way back, like it was a nature documentary, like she was David Attenborough right there in our yard. Who knows what killed that rat–a coyote, or an owl may have dropped it, orrrrr my neighbor swore there was a mountain lion in their yard, but for all I wished to see one, they never appeared. I do love that neighbor, she became like my forever family, and we still text each other “NEIGHBORS 4-EVER” love notes a couple times a year, even though it’s been a while now.

    Anyway, there is nothing specific exactly that brings the feeling of this time in my life to mind when I watch Better Things. It’s more the genuine vibe of a household that is alive with the heartbeat of teen children. I miss that, a ton, and looking back, I didn’t appreciate it the way I should have. I was always in the middle of solving someone’s drama. or worrying about what might come next, or just worrying, always w-o-r-r-y-i-n-g. But looking back now, with the absence of the anxiety of things yet to come, it was wonderful. It WAS alive and loving, and, honestly, filled with a lot of joy, even though I often felt over-whelmed.

    I think about this idea all of the time. How to better appreciate RIGHT. NOW. There was actually this one time with my dad at that house. I was maybe like thirty-three and we were sitting out back on the patio drinking wine (there is a river of wine in this comment, whoops). It was summertime, the lazy heat of evening, and I’d picked my dad up from the airport earlier that day. He was in a lounge chair and I was sitting on the concrete steps going up to the house. I still think about those steps sometimes in random moments, and how familiar they were as I sat there lighting cigarettes through years of seasons, and this groove in the concrete where I used to dip my toe. The ever-changing colors of my toenails in the warmer months, from sparkly to purple to the hot pink of summer and romance. I feel a fondness for that spot, it was super comforting, and I haven’t smoked in years, but I will admit that old habit was a comfort during shit times, as well.

    Anyway, my dad. We’re drinking at dusk and a song came on, I cannot for the life of me remember who it was–even though I genuinely wish I could–but my dad started crying, apologizing and saying the song brought back a certain time, and he hadn’t known it then, but it was THE BEST time, and he wished he’d appreciated it more. I have only seen my dad cry on three occasions, including that night, and not to get too deep into it, but my dad is a pretentious dick who comes from a long line of pretentious dicks and is very achievement-oriented, and I am more of… a muppet with too many feelings. So there was a real awkwardness to that moment, in my secondhand embarrassment for him being so old and vulnerable, and for myself in not knowing how to comfort him. That memory really sticks with me. I’m still trying to be better at remembering to enjoy where I am at the time, which in the here and now, is in the quiet of a still house, empty of noise save for the sound of a cat by my side.

    I realize I’ve basically just typed out an overly sentimental “LIKE SANDS THROUGH THE HOURGLASS, SO ARE THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES” type thingy, so I think I should head out now. Thanks again for hosting these monthly posts, it’s super nice of you. I don’t know how long they will be sustainable for, energy & time-wise, but I genuinely appreciate hearing what you and your readers have drawn hearts around. <3

    ps: i didn't love on any new music in april, really. but i'm super stoked for harry styles, perfume genius, and regina spektor's upcoming albums.

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