Things I Liked – January 2021

Okay, so, keeping up with my vague resolution to blog here is me blogging more. Here is me actually doing a Things I Liked post at the start of the month after the month it’s about instead about halfway through the month after the month it’s about.

Go me.

Jenny Nicholson on The Vampire Diaries

I’ve already included Jenny Nicholson and The Vampire Diaries on this blog—indeed, as part of this blog series—so Jenny Nicholson talking about The Vampire Diaries was pretty much guaranteed to make me happy. Part of her brand is that she does very, very long in depth videos sometimes and The Vampire Diaries video is, like, two and a half hours analysing a completely absurd TV show in way more detail than anyone could ever possibly need to. And people analysing absurd things in way more detail than anyone could ever possibly need is, um, something I have a lot of time for.

I could say quite a lot about this but it’s hard to without essentially stealing someone else’s pop culture analysis but it’s a good mix of light-hearted not exactly nostalgic discussion of the series and genuinely unusual and weird facts. Like there’s a whole big story about how shittily the company who owned The Vampires Diaries IP treated the woman who actually wrote the books—which, again, you can see for yourselves in the video.

Although I do think she’s mean about Elijah’s hair.

Oxygen Not Included

This is another game from the same people who made Don’t Starve and it has a superficially similar premise but very different gameplay. You control a team of “duplicants” who are sort of well-intentioned but incompetent clones trying to survive in a space colony they’re building in the middle of an asteroid somewhere using only stuff they’ve dug out of that asteroid.

It doesn’t have the same “oops I’ve fucked up, now I’m dead” energy that Don’t Starve has. It’s more of a “I am a hundred game days into this colony and I’ve just now realised that I’ve been neglecting an incredibly important thing and should probably have another go, this time probably not neglecting the incredibly important thing.”

So far I’ve been through that loop about nine times, discovering a new very important thing every time.

Because it’s got a base building aspect you can find lots of stuff online about people who’ve built all sorts of elaborate, remarkable machines to do things like produce food automatically or turn poo into oxygen. I have achieved none of this.

My bases consist of boring rectangular rooms with long, squiggly inefficient corridors coming off them because I realised I was out of coal or algae or something, and occasionally they get flooded with polluted water because I accidentally demolish the wrong tile, turn off the toilets and cause my duplicants to wee everywhere.

Fun times.


Well, this one’s a little weird but, uh, for all the pandemic has been quite bad? It’s also helped me get back in touch with reading. Because the thing about being a writer is that reading and writing can come from similar mental spaces, so doing too much of one can impinge on the other, and I’m increasingly terrified I’m going to end up like Garth Marenghi in Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place, proudly declaring himself one of the few people you know who has written more books than he’s read.

But the thing about pandemics, and lockdowns specifically, is that they give you a lot more free time. So I’ve been quietly chewing through my ballycumber. And, frankly, this has been helpful too because I haven’t had to make any meaningful decisions about what to read, or worry if I’m keeping up with the sort of things I should be reading.

Also it’s winter and it’s cold so tucking up with a kindle and duvet is lovely.

Soy Eggs

I found a recipe in The Guardian for soy eggs. Spoiler, it basically goes: get some eggs, put them in soy sauce overnight, eat.

But they’re a surprising improvement on the egg experience. There’s something fundamentally unexciting about an egg, possibly something to do with their having been designed by evolution and selective breeding to be the most efficient, no fuss way of delivering nutrients to a vertebrate that can possibly exist. Adding a slight umami flavour makes a remarkable amount of difference. I suppose it’s like putting butter on dry bread.

And the nice thing about these is that you can boil up a batch of them, stick them in a jar of marinade, which makes you feel like you’ve done real cooking, and then you have a nice healthy snack that you can grab whenever you feel like one.

Some episodes of Killing Eve

By which I mean, I’ve only watched some episodes, not that I found really patchy. And, oh my God, this is fabulous—especially if you’ve played any assassination-themed video game, since Villanelle is clearly just Agent 47 only more female and less bald. She even does the thing where she wears disguises but rather than bringing them with her she just picks them up as she’s wandering around. And occasionally her missions will go wrong and she’ll just be forced to kill everyone in the entire building or chase the target across a field firing a gun with badly implement ironsights and I’ll be like, “yep, been there.”

I mean, been there in the sense of “played that level in a video game.” Not that I’m actually an international assassin. That looks perilously like hard work.

Anyway, I think I’m the last person world to watch this—to the extent that I think it’s up to its fourth season, which honestly feels like a lot to me for a show whose entire premise is a game of cat ‘n’ mouse. I mean, really, by this stage it should definitely be called Singularly Failing to Kill Eve. Or possibly Not Even Trying To Kill Eve.

I will say that I do think, it’s camp as balls in the sense that for all its prestige TV miniseries psychodrama packaging it’s basically just a 70s spy thriller. And, to be fair, I think it absolutely knows this—like, I’m not that far in yet so no spoilers (actually, that’s a lie, I’m fine with spoilers) but as far as I can tell the premise is that Villanelle is either the little girl from Leon if she grew up and went into the family business or Black Window from Marvel if she’d just kind of stayed evil. Basically, she seems to love two things which are killing and, really specifically, Sandra Oh’s hair. I think there’s a backstory explanation for this but, right now, I don’t care. I’m here for it anyway.

Redditors versus The Stock Market

Like pretty much everybody I’ve been fascinated by the gradual unfolding of The Big Short But With Memes.

Although holy crap does this highlight how weird and clearly-just-gambling the stock market is.

Like as I understand it what happened here is:

A Big Stock Market Guy noticed that a video game store was going to lose money in the pandemic because retail was suffering and physical video game stores aren’t exactly a growth sector right now…

So he … borrowed a bunch of shares in this company, promising to give more shares in that company back later to the people he borrowed them from? And this is a thing people do all the time in financial markets and think is normal? Like if I went into Greggs and instead of buying a packet of four sausage rolls for three pounds I instead said “tell you what, I’ll take these four sausage rolls now, but I’ll give you five sausage rolls tomorrow”.

And then he sold those sausage rolls because he hoped that sausage rolls would get cheaper and that tomorrow he’d be able to buy five sausage rolls for less than he originally paid for four sausage rolls. Again, this is apparently just how buying sausage rolls works in the financial markets.

But then a group of internet people who self-define as a “bunch of degenerate gamblers” realised what he was doing and, because they’re internet people, didn’t like the idea that he was picking on a shop they all remembered buying games from as teenagers, and decided to teach him a lesson. Which they decided to do by buying up as many sausage rolls as they could so that when the time came for the Big Stock Market Guy to have to give his sausage rolls back to Greggs they’d be able to say “ha ha we have all the sausage rolls, you can’t have the sausage rolls unless you give us one million dollars”.

And this is kind of working?

Except now some people are saying that maybe the reason that the Big Stock Market Guy and all his Big Stock Market friends are so worried is that there might actually be more sausage rolls out there than there were supposed to be, because it’s possible that somebody was committing sausage roll fraud. And also there are now stories running in the Wall Street Journal that say that the internet people have stopped buying sausage rolls and are now buying silver instead, but this might be a scam. And the internet people are really keen to keep buying sausage rolls. And a sausage roll selling app by the unbelievably ironic name of Robinhood is stopping people buying sausage rolls because it’s causing volatility in the sausage roll markets?

And all this moving around of imaginary sausage rolls some of which are real imaginary sausage rolls and some of which might be fake imaginary sausage rolls is a real billion dollar service industry and incidentally one of my country’s largest exports?

I think I’m going to go back to trying to stop my space clones from weeing everywhere.

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16 Responses to Things I Liked – January 2021

  1. Leslee says:

    Welp, I mean. The NYSE is, in fact, a sausage-fest. In all ways.

    Also, ballycumber is the truest word to my life I have ever been informed of.

    • From what it’s worth, ballycumber is from The Meaning of Lif by the late Douglas Adams. It’s a book entirely about inventing cool meanings for weird English place names. I recommend 🙂

  2. Melissa says:

    Thank you for introducing me to the word ballycumber. Six is in fact, the constant number of half-read books in, on, under, next to, or otherwise in proximity to, my bed.

  3. chacha1 says:

    We started re-watching dance movies last month. Ran out of new Star Trek, and The Rookie only releases one at a time, and while there are apparently infinite martial-arts/shoot-em-up movies to suit the husband there are many fewer of those I’m willing to sit through.

    So, we liked Street Dance 2 (again) and High Strung: Free Dance (again) and Strictly Ballroom (for about the 20th time) and Moulin Rouge (OMG that movie is 20 years old and I am ancient).

    • Please don’t tell me Moulin Rouge is twenty years old. I’m vulnerable at the moment.

      Although a dance-movie fest sounds AMAZING. I haven’t watched Strictly Ballroom in years but every time someone on Strictly Come Dancing does a semi-legal lift I put on a Australian accent and complain about “flashy, crowd-pleasing steps.”

  4. Eseme says:

    When I saw that video show up in my YouTube recommendations (I started watching Jenny on your recommendation) I immediately thought it was an intersection of two things you said you liked. I thought about emailing you but figured you were subscribed. It was an amazing video, I have not watched Vampire Chronicles but now feel like I don’t need to but have been entertained anyway.

    Things I have been liking lately have been books and authors you’ve recommended and watching Leverage (I managed to have watched only part of the first season previously). I am utterly loving it, but I adore competence porn and that’s what the show is, with excellent writing.

    • Err, I’m delighted to be providing a stream of what I hope are excellent recommendations – although I do have awful taste so do bear that in mind 😉

      Never watched Leverage. But I don’t enjoy competent, well, competence porn.

      • Eseme says:

        Leverage is a show I enjoy because it’s about a bunch of people being really good at what they do. This is a thing I like a lot. It’s also a show about found family and it’s insanely well written. Consistently good, there aren’t really dud episodes. The dialogue is awesome, so much witty banter. The show also does something most shows don’t – the grifter, the bombshell character whose job tends to be to distract people by being sexy is in her 40’s. Nearly every character breaks stereotypes in some way, its great. If you like heist movies, this is 77 episodes, and each one is a heist movie. If you don’t like heist movies, then this definitely would not be your thing.

  5. Janice says:

    Since you mentioned Animal Crossings somewhere, and I am apparently easily influenced, I made my son let me play it on his Switch. I am now hooked, and I don’t think he is getting it back without a fight. Also, guess what I caught in my flimsy net? You guessed it, a Dung Beatle!

  6. Kat says:

    I have to say, Alexis, I really like being in your head, as much of it you allow us to read.

  7. Julika14 says:

    Speaking of reading more and Kindle and such: how come I can’t lend any of your books to my sister? It’s a jarring departure from my mental “like a bookshelf, but less dusty” framework.

  8. Bridget says:

    Rather belatedly, I want to convey my appreciation of the Guardian recipes link; I tried making the eggs and then basically spat them out and binned them because they were SOFT and AAAARGH and probably very nice if you like that sort of thing, which I apparently don’t. HOWEVER, the trail mix is fucking amazing. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly healthy but as snacks go it’s even better than the culinary work of genius that is Red Leicester flavour Mini Cheddars. So thank you! Obliquely :).

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