Saturday Morning Brain Drain [10/4/21]

A place to let it all out.

Image via Amazon

What I watched: Utopia is a very, very strange series. Oddly pandemic-prescient, high on conspiracy theories, randomly violent, and fascinating. There are two seasons, comes to us via Amazon, originally BBC Four.

Season One Trailer

Season Two Trailer

It is difficult to describe, but it is worth watching, if only because it retains the ability to surprise.

What I read: I’ve decided that I am just a lazy reader. Give me an easy genre – ninja or wizard or mystery or police procedural or historical romance – and I am a happy human. This was reinforced this week as I read two books that were translations, and genre defying. I didn’t enjoy reading them, mostly because of the unfamiliar pacing, but also because they took effort to slog through.

I read There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura. Some parts were interesting, because of the descriptions of employment agencies or city customs or snack foods…but not because of the slow, rather pointless plot. NPR, however, loved this book, and gave it a long and glowing review.

I also read Hotel Sacher by Rodica Doehnert. Centered in the Hotel Sacher of torte fame, it follows the lives of Austrian aristocracy and wealthy Germans before, during, and after World War One, with a few working-class people and the personifications of Death and Love thrown in for plot movement. I simply didn’t like any of the characters. And I am especially frustrated by the constraints under which woman lived 100+ years ago. However, the Historical Novel Society really liked the book.

I also read two wicked little books with a sociopath heroine who gets wonderfully nasty revenge on persons who harm her at work or who harm those few persons she cares about. Jane Doe, and Problem Child: A Jane Doe Thriller, by Victoria Helen Stone, are full of artfully-crafted, successful revenge for infractions both small and large.

What I listened to this week:

Crazy P – Something More

The Rapture – It Takes Time To Be A Man

Magic & Naked – Bring Me The Moon

So, dearest DeadSplinterites, how are you doing? Are you feeling all right? What have you watched, read, or listened to? Do you have any plans, fun or otherwise, for the weekend? Please do drop by and let us know what is up with you!

About Elliecoo 474 Articles
Four dogs, one partner. The dogs win.


  1. Watched:  nothing new, really.  Still working on The Expanse, plowing through The X-Files and Frazier again, and haven’t yet finished up the Genius:  Aretha Franklin season.

    Read:  I’m so focused on getting through this fucking 700+ page book that I really have no energy to read anything else right now.

    Listened:  I’ve been listening to a lot of the late, great, John Prine:

    Big garden day today.

  2. I haven’t had much time for reading lately, I need to download something to take on vacation.

    I watched Murder Among the Mormons (Netflix). It’s a wild ride. Worth the watch although I wish they would have spent some time on the role LDS church culture, or any church for that matter, plays in crimes like these.

    Listening to Skullcrusher

    Storm In Summer



    • @Hannibal, thank you for this music! I usually dislike higher tones in music and voices (hurts my ears?), so most female singers whom I gravitate toward are gravelly, like Patti Smith. This, however, I really like, thank you!!!

    • I had a hard time getting into Murder Among the Mormons at first but then it picked up in episode 2!

  3. @butcherbakertoiletrymaker I have been enjoying your prior recommendation of Philip Sayce this week. Loudly…LOUDLY. Two of the three April is hell projects are done; the next one, which will take weeks and weeks, will finally start Monday. Keep those music suggestions coming, my friend.

  4. We have been watching Escape to the Chateau – it’s about a British couple that buy a crumbling but beautiful chateau in France and their trials and tribulations with renovations and starting a wedding business.  It took me a while to like the lady of the house, Angel, and  I don’t necessarily agree with some of the design choices but she’s grown on me and the scenery is gorgeous and everyone is pretty affable and charming.

    • @Lymond, charming is the thing, yes? I can forgive a charming character for many more infractions than I can the curmudgeonly (such as me).

    • Where does this couple get all their money? The husband is handy but they seem to have deep pockets.

      • We were wondering the same thing – I think he is a “presenter” on other shows. It’s not cheap to stay at the Chateau and one season they said that they had 17 weddings booked – and they charge up to 38,000lbs per wedding. He also retired from the military – so I think he may have some kind of pension. There is also an Escape to the Chateau DIY – where Angel and Dick consult with other crumbling chateau owners about their renovations – so I think they’re doing all right. 

        • @Lymond, we say the same thing (questioning the available cash) even when watching my boyfriend Monty Don on Gardner’s World. Just owning land is not inexpensive, and he visits(or one of his cohosts does) random people with interesting gardens all the time. Also, the bane if my existence is the gardner’s mantra, “in 5 years it will look wonderful”.

      • I always have the same question when I watch House Hunters International. Sometimes they explain, very vaguely, that it’s a couple and (usually) the man has been transferred, so I guess the company is picking up the cost, at least for a while, as a relocation package. But other times there are young people “looking for a new adventure” and I always think, “Who is funding this ‘new adventure’?” 
        We had to give up watching the domestic version. It got Better Half too upset. What broke him and caused a mild psychotic break was an episode where there was a young couple with a child and another one on the way. The guy/father/husband was in the military, and he was pretty young. They wanted to leave base housing and get their own house somewhere along the Gulf Coast near the base in Alabama or Mississippi, who can remember. “With a tight budget of [something like] $105,000”—“WHAT? You can buy an entire house for $105,000?!? Do you know how much this apartment cost?!?!” “I do, because I was at the signing and chipped in for the down payment. I’m the co-owner. Let’s watch.”
        “At $128,000 this 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom is a little bit out of their price range but it—” “WHAT?!?! Why don’t we live down there?” “I don’t know how welcoming the community would be to a biracial gay male couple, first of all, but second of all that’s a hell of a commute.” (This was all pre-Covid, which proved that lots of people can function perfectly well from home.)

        • I follow an Instagram account called @cheapoldhouses and the same issue comes up. “How is this 4bed 2bath 1908 Victorian only $78,000???” Well, it’s been abandoned for 18 months and it is in Cairo, IL (or some other similarly economically depressed locale with no jobs and is still practically a sundown town). 

          • A few years ago I went on this epic road trip through upstate New York. We passed through lots of towns with lots of houses for sale. Upstate was hemorrhaging residents at the time. It was astonishing how cheap the housing was. At my insistence we spent a day house hunting, not that I wanted to buy anything, but just out of nosiness. I wanted to see what was up. I guess it was a Saturday or a Sunday so we attended a couple of open houses uninvited and then moved along to another town, went to another couple of open houses, and so on. “I don’t understand this. These houses are perfectly fine, the area is beautiful, and they’re all a fraction of what you’d pay on Long Island.” My friend, who was the chauffeur and spent his childhood summers in the Adirondacks, said, “Mattie, I’m going to pull over here and get some gas. Go into that convenience store across the street and pick us up a couple of coffees.” 
            Oh God. I could almost hear the banjo song from “Deliverance.” 
            “Friend? I’m getting a little hungry, aren’t you? Look, that diner seems completely charming, let’s have lunch there!” “If you say so.” 
            Same vibe. 
            Back in the car, I again asked, “What is up with all of this? Aren’t we near Albany at least? Are these people state employees?” “No, Albany is a little too far away. We’re…have you noticed the Confederate flags?” I hadn’t, but all of a sudden I started seeing them everywhere. (This was the Obama era.) “Are you sure we’re still in New York State?” “These are our neighbors!”

        • HGTV is my mental catnip and there’s some shows that I can’t watch because they’re set in expensive Canadian cities. My brain can’t handle the inverse of what hurts your other half’s brain. I’m like “how can you spend $600k on a 3 bedroom home that is that size and needs $125k of renovations??” 

          • I like HGTV because there’s so much Canadian content. I think the shows are heavily subsidized by the provincial governments of Ontario or British Columbia and then the federal government as a whole. You see them in the credits, even if the hosts go out of their way to disguise the fact that they’re talking about residential real estate in the exurbs of Toronto or Vancouver.

  5. Watching baseball and Twin Peaks The Return [I love me some David Lynch, questionable relationships aside]. Also, Jericho of Scotland Yard on Acorn, enjoyed.
    Finally finished Charterhouse [meh] and moved onto The Sleepwalkers, I think I’m going to like it.
    Ween. I can’t stop listening to Ween.
    And obsessing about making rugs. A few years ago I bought a rug-hooking pattern but never worked it. I just hate being told what to do in my non-work life. But lately I’ve been giving the side-eye to the pattern and thinking, fuck your dark black lines, imma gonna do what i want, imma gonna color outside the lines. bwahahahahahahahahah

  6. We are good for one episode a night of Utopia. Crawling out of body parts waste is nightmare worthy.

    • It really is worth watching, it is just so very odd and randomly gory. Has no one else seen Utopia?

    • …I could be wrong but I think it was originally a “channel 4” thing rather than a BBC4 thing…which is sort of a nonsense distinction if you’re unfamiliar with UK TV channels?

      …BBC 1 & BBC 2 were literally the first two channels…then came ITV which had ads…but stood for “independent television” & was actually a different channel depending on what region you were in…so at the weekend in the capital you’d be getting LWT (London Weekend Television) but up north you might be watching Granada or something…generally there’s less regional variation these days but I think still a bit here & there…like STV in scotland…& once there was digital tv they added ITV2/3/4

      …channel 4 was the next independent channel & was/is the same everywhere as far as I know…they also have some other channels that came with the digital tv thing…E4, more4 & Film4 (iirc) & every so often come out with something impressive

      …then came 5…which was pretty cheap in the beginning but added 5star & 5USA once digital channels became a thing

      …basically it’s all kind of a mess…& BBC3 stopped being available anywhere but online a year or two back so a lot of people get BBC 1, BBC 2 & BBC 4 but not BBC 3 because it’s “not on the telly”

      …either way…I’m pretty sure channel 4 made utopia…or at least aired it first

      • @SplinterRIP, we pay for BritBox, have Amazon, and are on a family Netflix. We do not have cable, so no TV channels such as CNN, Fix, etc.

        But the question remains, have you watched Utopia? Because I think that you would find it fascinating…

        • …pretty sure I saw the first season because friends were into it…kind of drawing a blank on the second one, though?

  7. @Sedevilc, rugs…please keep us posted on how this goes for you? I often feel the same way about embroidery (pillow covers, whatever), but have yet to actually do the thing.

    • @Elliecoo  Will do. I have extensive experience with embroidery, btw, so can help out there. Do you have a basic design in mind? I can’t draw so what I do is trace what I want, I’ve used scroll saw pattern books, coloring books, stencils etc to come up with the basic design. Then if it is grid based, like counted cross stitch or needlepoint, you overlay the grid onto the design, or just transfer the outline onto the base fabric and wing it. I made a baby quilt once using winnie the pooh coloring books and a sort of redwork technique, but with more colors. Super easy and impressive end result.

      • @Sedevilc, I have a lo ely embroidered shawl from the 1800s, done by a family member. There is a stain that if covered would make it suitable for framing and hanging. If I ever finishing cooking ahead today, or this weekend, I will take a photo to show you. All advice is very welcome!

  8. I finished Preacher on Hulu a couple weeks ago, and then canceled/deactivated my Hulu account, and have been watching stuff on Hoopla and Kanopy.  Once I run out of stuff on there that interests me, I’ll activate either Netflix or Amazon, but I haven’t decided which yet…
    That Utopia looks interesting, even if I have no clue what it’s about from the trailers.  Has a very “comic-booky” look to it though.
    If anyone is open to reccomendations for reading, two series that I loved, and don’t get read often enough, are the Miriam Black series by Chuck Wendig and the Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz.  Miriam Black is sorta horror-adjacent urban fantasy, main character is a drifter who has the psychic ability to see how/when/where someone dies with physical contact.  She’s pretty foul-mouthed and entertaining.  Spellman Files is about a 30-something burnout/slacker who hangs out in San Francisco and occasionally works for her dysfunctional family’s Private Investigation firm.  It’s pretty funny, and it has really short chapters/segments, so it’s great for reading in little bits, like waiting in line and such.

    • @lochaber, both book series sound right for me, will check them out. Utopia may appear comic bookish, but it is more horrific? I liked Preacher, although (as with Utopia) I needed to limit my viewing to one an evening, because I have a pretty low violence limit before I get bad dreams.

  9. I restarted Animal Crossing, after a year off. It is all-consuming of my free time which is good and bad. Good for my stress levels and bad for anyone who wants my attention. Mr.ZG is busy playing Final Fantasy so our relationship will weather my new obsession just fine. Needless to say, I haven’t watched or read or listened to anything this week.

    • @HammerZeitgeist I was late to the whole Animal Crossing trend. My daughter got me a Switch and the game for Christmas. It really is as relaxing and fun as I’d heard. 

      • @Hannibal I was late to Animal Crossing New Leaf on 3DS (by many years) and the community was still very active. I find that without the hype of the trend, there’s less pressure to keep up and you can just do things at your own pace…that being said I’m a completionist and am already filling my museum up as fast as possible. Bonus is that all the information you want about the game is out there on the internet now.

  10. @Lymond, I did! Luckily I had Keitel around to fix that…

  11. Books: Watching nothing, and still reading The Shell, which is not an easy read. People are especially brutal in prison. Hope to finish it this week.
    Music: I went down a YouTube rabbit-hole, and ended up purchasing Peter Murphy’s “Ninth”, which came out in 2012. His work has been so varied, and I can’t love it all. However, I’m very much enjoying this more muscular, less esoteric release from him. Here’s one of the singles that drew me in.

    Video game: I finally loaded the Skyrim DLCs and am playing them for the first time, only 9 years or so after it was first released (and probably 5 years after I purchased the game).

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