Saturday Morning Brain Drain [3/12/22]

Image via Rotten Tomatoes

What I Watched: I stumbled onto the Halloween Baking Championship when a local bakery owner won the latest season, so I sort of watched them out of order. Pro tip: skip the season hosted by the annoying fellow with the puppets. An easy, fun watch even if it is currently the wrong holiday season.

There is zero mean-spiritedness, and the horror-themed desserts are – wait for it – to die for! The show kept Carla Hall,  Zac Young (creator of the piecaken, OMG), and Stephanie Boswell around as judges for the longest time, although the third judge has varied. Hosted by comedian John Henson, the show’s schtick is costuming the judges – and they are impressive costumes, with good-natured judge participation.

Trailer One

Trailer Two

What I Read: I’ve pretty much fallen in love with the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka. Some of you or one of you may have suggested it here; I bought the first book back in September of 2021, and promptly ignored it. My mistake! Please tell me if it was you, fellow DeadSplinterite – I owe you a huge thank you. I’ve inhaled the first six books this week, and so far, have encountered no disappointing volumes. Also, it has half ton spider ladies who sew, moral ambiguity, and magic! For those who like to try a book out before investing, Jacka offers the first chapter from each of the twelve books here. I can’t understand why Amazon hasn’t snapped up the rights and made an original series. Here is what the website says:

The Alex Verus series is a sequence of urban fantasy novels that I published between 2012 and 2021.  It follows the story of Alex Verus, a mage with a dark past who runs a magic shop in the Camden Town district of north-west London.

Alex Verus is a diviner:  a mage whose magical talent gives him the ability to perceive the short-term consequences of any action he takes.  By searching through possible futures and selecting the actions that will lead to them, he can do things such as dodge attacks, throw objects with perfect accuracy, and guess someone’s password on the first try.  This is impressive to normal people but less so to other mages, whose magic types let them do things such as teleport, disintegrate things, throw fireballs, or fly.

Mages in the Alex Verus setting are split into Light and Dark factions (NB: ‘Light’ does not mean ‘good’).  Alex was apprenticed to a Dark mage in his youth and it ended very badly.  As a result, by the start of the series, Alex is on bad terms with both Dark mages and the Light Council, and would really much rather just run his shop and be left alone.  Fate, however, has other plans.

So began Fated, the first Alex Verus novel, released in March 2012.  Eleven more books followed, with the twelfth and final novel, Risen, being released in December 2021.  The series was published in both British and American editions, and as of 2021 has been translated into German, French, Russian, Czech, and Swedish.

What I Listened To: As of Today, it’s Time to Start Christmas by Frogers; God Damn Feelings by Benjamin Amaru; Work It Out by Bakermat; and Looking For Something by Castlebeat.

Thank you for playing Brain Drain! How are you, dearest DeadSplinterites? What’s new in your world, darling ones? Have you had any fun of late? Please do share!

About Elliecoo 493 Articles
Four dogs, one partner. The dogs win.


  1. Saw Top Gun 2.0 The Mavericking on the plane back from Vancouver.  It is actually not as horrible as I feared. Unlike the original, this one has a plot that wasn’t entirely cobbled from teen male fantasy.

    There were no, “Holy shit! It’s Viper!” moments but it was just a semi-brainless but fun movie with some actual adult emotion moments. There were moments of nostalgia with Goose and Iceman.

    Also the movie makers removed much of the homo-eroticism that made Top Gun so funny (unintentionally) upon later viewings. (Okay, Fox Two* me, but I still enjoy watching the aerial dogfight sequences of the original.)

    *Top Gun speak for firing a Sidewinder missile.

    Completed the “Winning Time” series S1 on the Lakers Dynasty.

    I enjoyed despite not being remotely a Lakers fan. Ironically, I related more to “You Know My Fucking Name” aka Larry Bird being a kid from a tiny rural town. But I agree with Westhead screaming “FUCK BOSTON!”

    Jerry Buss is brilliantly played by John C Reilly. Two parts sleaze, one part gambler, one part geniuz, one part nice guy (liked to pay off his lovers debts and education etc.)

    The actors who played the Lakers did a great job of how I viewed the Lakers (maybe not how the then Lakers themselves viewed themselves.) I’ve worked with Jerry West types before (been accused of being a never happy/always miserable Jerry West type… NO!?! /shocked, not shocked/ unlike Jerry I do have happy moments and smile… once every two years.)

    I get McKinney’s fast break offense. Brilliant metaphors to describe it. Changed the  game dynamics forever.

  2. I watched the first three episodes of Wednesday last night.  At first I didn’t know if I was going to like it because I want her to be darkly weird, but not a complete psychopath.  They seem to have toned it down after the first episode.

    I’m reading Trouble is What I Do by Walter Mosley.  His Leonid McGill series is by far my favorite but this one is much too short.

    • Once everyone who wants to watch Wednesday has caught up (no spoiler zone here) we will need to do a discussion.  I liked it ever so much! I will check out Leonid McGill, a new series for me.

      • I loved Wednesday too!

        I’ve been watching Sex Lives of College Girls S2. It’s written and produced by Mindy Kaling which for me means it’s a hit.

        Gossip Girl (the reboot) S2 is just as bad as S1. I don’t recommend it, yet I keep watching.

        • If you were unhappy with the casual racism of the guy behind Barbarian you may want to look into Tim Burton who has said unless a character is specifically written to be Black then they are inherently white, and Black people don’t suit his aesthetic. He also completely removed the Holocaust story from the Miss Peregrine movie, and any trace of Jewishness from The Corpse Bride. Those are just a few examples. I can sometimes separate the artist from the art but in Burton’s case his racism and antisemitism are part of his art.

          • Shit, I had no idea! Thank you for that info @Hannibal . I will not be watching anymore of his work. I wondered why Wednesday never replied in Spanish to her father (which would be a more natural interaction). I thought maybe it was part of her rejecting her parents schtick. But it happens in their emotional bonding moment too. So more probably it was Tim Burton’s resistance of her heritage even though it is a major element of the plot.

            • @HammerZeitgeist I hate to be that person but Burton is so openly racist I can’t enjoy anything he does anymore. He’s one of those people that rails against “forced diversity”, his words. I didn’t watch any of Wednesday so I didn’t know she didn’t speak Spanish to her father. And I didn’t know the story had her distancing herself from the family. That’s very sad, because at its heart The Addams Family was always about a loving, functional family. And while most young people go through a period of independence the show and early movies had Gomez and Morticia supporting Wednesday and Pugsly even when they didn’t understand the choices they made, like summer camp.
              I’m not going to judge anyone who watches and likes his work. I’m sure there are people I shouldn’t support that I do. But Burton, like Depp, and JK Rowling have been ruined for me. 😢

        • I meant to add that I am ambivalent about Tim Burton.  He has his moments, but he also has his moments.  Stylistically, I mean.  I had no idea about that other stuff.

        • …he’s one of the executive producers…& his production company is presumably making bank courtesy of netflix

          …but four out of eight episodes were directed by not-tim-burton

          …the show has flaws…& given your reminder that burton has more of those than I generally remember to consider it wouldn’t be hard to lay most of them on his

          …but I guess I was telling myself that a lot of people who weren’t him were involved who maybe deserve a shot…& I’d say the goodwill they brought to the table was enough to outweigh the underlying burden of burton….at least while I was watching it

          …reading this thread has me thinking that might have relied on suspending bits of my brain that I wouldn’t ordinarily think of as disbelief, though?

  3. What I watched:  Lucy and Desi, which is a great documentary about their lives and their lives together.  I mean, it’s really well done.  Amy Pohler directed it and she should do more of these because she’s a much better documentary director than she is a comedic actress.  Come at me.  I don’t care.

    What I listened to:  This week’s stop on the best engineered albums of all time brings us to Tusk by Fleetwood Mac.  Released in 1979 and engineered by Richard Dashut, this was the album that followed their most well-known blockbuster hit, Rumours.  I remember interviews with the band discussing Tusk, and they were very clear that they felt that, no matter what they did, they were going to catch a lot of hell over their follow-up album.  If they went with their label’s desire to just reconstruct Rumours, they would have gotten shit for “selling out”.  But, they also knew that going in a completely different direction (which is what they did here with Tusk), would also get shit for not doing another Rumours.  So, the band–and Lindsey Buckingham in particular–felt their best option was to go where they did.  Tusk is similar to the Beatles’ White Album in that it is highly experimental, but in terms of the actual sound, it is much closer to the then-unreleased Beach Boys album Smile–which Buckingham actually had accessed the tapes in order to get ideas for Tusk (which is fairly obvious with the tracks That’s All for Everyone and Beautiful Child).  Buckingham did all kinds of crazy shit in the studio, just to see what it would sound like.  I’m particularly fond of his decision to tape a microphone on the studio floor, then lay down next to it and scream “TUSK”.  Without getting too much in the weeds, placing a microphone right next to a reflective surface creates an effect called “comb filtering”, which–if you listen closely under a good pair of headphones–you’ll hear in Buckingham’s voice on the title track.  The effect is completely natural–not the result of running the signal through a box–and I love shit like that.

    Buckingham did most of the initial tracking at his home studio, and then brought the tapes to the new studio for the band to overdub their parts.  However, there are still three tracks–“The Ledge”, “Save Me a Place”, and “That’s Enough For Me”–which are 100% Buckingham on tape.

    Mick Fleetwood had asked Warner Bros. to buy them a new studio to record Tusk.  The label refused.  So the band spent a bunch of their Rumours royalty money on building a new studio…that the label still charged them time for using.  Between the amount of time they took to put the album together, and the costs imposed by the label, Tusk was the most expensive rock album to date at over a million dollars (which is just shy of 4 million in today’s money).  On top of that, it sold “only” 4 million copies, compared to Rumours’ 20 million, so the label deemed the album a failure.  Only in this business can you sell a quadruple-platinum record and be called a failure.  At any rate, the album still made a ton of money because it was a double-album and was priced at $16–which is the equivalent of shelling out $56 today.  Plus, Mick argues that the album would have had better sales if the RKO radio chain hadn’t played the entire album in its entirety prior to release, which allowed people to record the album off the airwaves at home.  Speaking as someone who used to do a lot of that shit as a kid with no money, I can see the validity in Mick’s argument.

    Sonically, this album is all over the map.  There is a ton of deliberate lo-fi, in addition to the cleaner (read:  radio friendly) tracks.  As I’ve stated previously, lo-fi doesn’t automatically equate to terrible sound, provided it is done correctly–and it is done correctly here.  Engineering-wise, I do not envy the work that went into this album, because it basically required approaching each track on its own terms, which probably meant doing full resets on the gear in tracking and mixing–not to mention just having to “reset” your ears when moving from one track to the next.  Audio fatigue is a real thing and has screwed more than one engineer in the studio.  Fortunately, that problem did not translate into the final sound here.

  4. My brief 2-day work-free pause is over, sadly, so I will be brief.

    I used the break to binge Season 2 of Avenue 5, which I thought was better than Season 1. There’s a very funny sub-plot that takes place back on Earth which is all too believable.

    I also binged the only season of Katherine Ryan’s Duchess, which is about a single Mom living in upmarket London. Katherine Ryan is a Canadian comedian living in London and she’s very funny if you’ve never seen her stand-up. The child actor who plays her daughter is mesmerizing. So much talent in one ten-year-old (or at least the character is ten years old.)

    I also kept up with White Lotus (they’re on Season 2) which again I think is better than Season 1. The cast is larger, for one thing, and for better or worse there is no larger social commentary to muddle the storyline. In Season 1 we got “treated” to mini-explorations of Black/white race relations and the theft from and exploitation of Hawaiians, both valuable topics to investigate for sure, but a sideshow from horrible rich white people being horrible to themselves and others, occasionally redeeming themselves. In Season 2 we get none of this, so far (up to Episode 5, we do not learn of, say, how corrupt Sicily is and what led that part of Italy to fall under the sway of their particularly vicious form of the Mafia.)

    What unites these three viewing experiences is that they’re all extremely foul-mouthed, and they make you believe the worst about humanity, but they’re very witty (White Lotus less so) and of superior intelligence. And best of all they’re basically soap operas under the guise of Quality Television (well, maybe not Avenue 5. Being Quality Television I mean. But some of Hugh Laurie’s lines are eminently quotable and worth repeating in our own lives.)



  5. Also:

    I did not watch this but:

    Breaking: Netherlands puts an end to US’ World Cup quest

    Well done, farscy, and I say this as someone who was completely unaware that the US even played professional soccer internationally until the women’s team did so well recently.

  6. I have to admit I am addicted to this Youtube channel.  This one is for our dog loving host…

    but he also does very educational videos that make me wish he was my science teacher in high school, this is long but well worth it…

    Listening to some fun Scary Pockets covers…

  7. Speaking of watching things, you know the lady (-in-waiting), Lady Susan Hussey, who got in so much trouble for interrogating the Black woman about where she was from? “Hackney.” “But no, where are you really from?”

    You’ve seen her on TV if you watch The Crown. IRL she was married to Baron Marmaduke “Dukie” Hussey, who was Chairman of the BBC and adamant about not showing the Martin Bashir interview with Princess Diana. Her character doesn’t get a big role on the show but she’s in there, and Dukie of course is featured prominently.

  8. I didn’t watch much this week, just some true crime on in the background at the hotel while my daughter and I chatted.
    But I did read a fantastic book – The Trees by Percival Everett. It’s a dark comedy/ horror story about the history of lunching and LE violence against Black people in America. It’s shocking , powerful, and very funny. I felt a little guilty enjoying it so much.

  9. i actually havent watched,read or listened to much of anything this week…just a chapter or two of the united states of japan before sleeps

    early to bed early to rise me this week……part sobriety and part keeping my house barely heated and bed is oh so cosey

    i did come across this trailer tho

    which looks like it will probably be a wonderful feel good flick if nothing new

    i’ll probably watch it

  10. @Ellicoo I owe you an apology. I didn’t mean for my comment to you about Tim Burton to sound so judgmental. I’m not judging anyone who chooses to watch him. It’s more like he’s been ruined for me. Like JK Rowling and all things Harry Potter. But it came out harsh and that was insensitive of me.

    • @Hannibal absolutely no need for apologies. We are an open forum and I appreciate and respect your thoughts. I understand, and we could probably add Mel Gibson to that list of famous person who are ugly behind the persona, and many more. Talent sure doesn’t equal kindness.

      • Thanks, I’m glad I didn’t offend you. It’s good to have a place we can speak freely but I want to be respectful in how I do that. And I’m afraid I was a bit blunt. And I certainly don’t mind admitting when I think I was wrong. ❤️

        • Nope, it was for you @SplinterRIP . I would even argue that it has potential to be the next Expanse which unites us all…but those are very big shoes to fill. And the time travel “stubs/stumps” (I forget what they are called) still make me dizzy like all time travel does.

          • …maybe great minds really do think alike

            …or at least…I nearly said something about the post-jackpot “civ” being a bit expanse-ish

            …gotta love a show that casually drops in that functional (& apparently tame) nano-assemblers are a thing…but just in passing because…like…it’s not even about that, really?

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