Books: When my copy of Steve Berry's book Behind The Sofa plopped through my letterbox the other day, it took me a while to remember when I ordered it. (This amused The Belated Birthday Girl enormously, as it's a charity book raising money for Alzheimer's Research. She said it, not me.) It turns out that the original purchase was made back in March, when Berry announced his plan to self-publish a book of celebrity memories of Doctor Who, and asked people to pre-order it directly from him half a year in advance, to help him raise the money to print it. A fine cause, and I duly PayPalled him the fifteen quid: whereupon PayPal chose to shut his account down, because (and I'm reading between the lines here) they're subhuman filth. After two days worth of continuous kicking from all quarters of the internet, PayPal eventually released his funds again, but to this day I'm still rather reluctant to use them for any payments if an alternative method is possible. Nevertheless, after all the ups and downs, the book is finally out, and it's rather lovely. By its nature it's an episodic affair (and would therefore be a fine addition to any toilet bookshelf), but Berry has managed to get some comic mileage out of the sequencing of these short pieces. So, for example, Richard Herring's preference for Elisabeth Sladen over "that slattern Katy Manning" sits directly across the page from the erstwhile Jo Grant's own article. Entertaining book, delightful illustrations, great cause, buy now.
Movies: October was a somewhat film-heavy month, as it usually tends to be. And somehow, it always feels weird when the LFF ends, and a few days later I'm back at the cinema seeing regular stuff. But how could I turn down the opening weekend of Skyfall? After the much-needed reboot of the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale, it seemed like Quantum Of Solace was a messy step backwards, with its garbled plot and scrappily-edited action. Skyfall has definitely put the series back on track again, although I'm attracted to the theory that it's more of a film about the idea of James Bond than a 'James Bond film' in its own right. Part of that may be down to the surprisingly large proportion of the story that takes place in the UK, as if Sam Mendes has been taking advice from those Government adverts about how we should all go on staycations this year. Not to mention all the little variations on characters and situations we already know and love - I'm not complaining about Ben Whishaw as the new Q, but I'd like to see them go the whole way down the nerd route and cast Richard Ayoade next time. Still, Skyfall hangs together a lot better than its predecessor, and most of its setpieces do all the stuff you want a Bond movie to do, including some great old-fashioned not-CGI explosions at the climax. You could argue that a lot of the 50th birthday in-jokes and references are just fan service: but I think it's excusable in this instance. When you're James Bond, the world is your fanboy.
Telly: Well, I say telly, but it's hard to decide what category a UK fan of Breaking Bad should use. Sure, the first two seasons were shown on TV here, all the way up to a ballsy season finale that convinced me we were in the presence of great television. The Belated Birthday Girl, however, would have you believe that this was the point where the show jumped the shark. It would appear that every network in the UK agrees with her, because it's never been shown on TV since, and seasons 3 and 4 have only been available on DVD years after their original US transmission. I've only just caught up with last year's season 4 on disc, and I'm itching for more, but without the inconvenience of piracy. So hooray for Netflix, who have been looking for fiendish ways to lure punters into their online movie and TV service, and have come up with a brilliant one: they're streaming Season 5 of Breaking Bad, just weeks after its US screening, and ages before the DVD release. They've convinced me to sign up - after all, the first month's free, so I could just watch BB for nothing and scarper immediately afterwards. But I may hang around for a bit and see what else they have to offer. Such as, in February 2013, the US remake of our very own House Of Cards, produced by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey in Ian Richardson's old role. A terrible idea? You might very well think that, I couldn't possibly comment...
In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site Of The Month for November 2012 is Lopburi Monkey Festival, or at least a blog about it written by Richard Barrow. It happens in Lopburi in Thailand on the fourth Sunday of every November, so there's one coming up on November 25th this year. For over two decades, the boss of the Lopburi Inn Hotel has been setting up open-air buffet tables once a year as an offering to the macaque monkeys who roam the town. Chaos and messy eating inevitably ensues. See Richard's blog for a full description with pictures, and have a bonus video if that's whetted your appetite.
The start of November means that it's nearly six months since our most recent visit to Japan, which seems good enough as a self-imposed deadline to finally start writing about the bloody thing. Feel free to berate me in the comments box below if I don't start putting up some travel articles in the next few weeks.