Books: I may not buy as many books as I used to, but I can recognise a good deal when I see one. And I saw one in Fopp a few weeks ago - two paperbacks, both written by culty eighties popstars who've subsequently moved on to other things, on sale for a fiver for the pair. Yes, I know this is precisely the sort of price-gouging deal that's killing the printed word, but whatever. 2023: A Trilogy marks the long-awaited return of the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu to the public eye, after noisily quitting the music biz in 1992 and dabbling in a series of performance art projects (suggesting along the way that the JAMs was merely the first of them). If you tried to imagine what a book by them would be like, your first guess would probably be a Happy Shopper version of the Illuminatus trilogy, and that's more or less what we get. There are some nice ideas in here, notably a whole plot strand taking place in another dimension involving a band made up of dead animals and the late John Lennon (not that one). But unlike Bill Drummond's more autobiographical books - 17, for example - this one gets swamped in a morass of stoner braindribble. It's the second book I've read this year where I've felt "it needs a vicious copy edit by someone unconnected to the author," except that the first one wasn't being published by an imprint of Faber, and therefore has an excuse. By comparison, Thomas Dolby's memoir The Speed Of Sound is a much easier read, though it has its own frustrations. He can drop names with the best of them - the book opens with him in 1984 trying to transmit a computer file to Michael Jackson over a gas station payphone - but his music career only takes up a small part of the book. Which I suppose is fair enough, given that he went on to develop a ringtone synthesiser that was in most of the mobile phones sold in the early noughties. Nevertheless, the second half of the book largely documents a series of boardroom meetings interspersed with tech conferences, and you find yourself wishing he'd write more about what it was like going to public school with Shane MacGowan. Still, for £2.50 a book, you can't really complain too much.
Internet: In a couple of weeks, we're going to hit Bastille Day. As some of you may be aware, that'll be the 21st birthday of this site: nobody really pushes the boat out for a 21st since they lowered the homosexual age of consent, so I wouldn't expect to see too much of a fuss here. It will also, however, be the first birthday of bermondsey-beer-mile.co.uk, which The Belated Birthday Girl and I set up last year: and given that that site's achieving roughly ten times the hit count of this one, maybe we should buy it some sweets or something. We seem to be settling into a pattern of revisiting the Mile every six months or so to gather material for site updates, and we've just done another one of those. It's been a busy six months for the Mile, with The Bottle Shop closing down, uBrew teetering but just about staying afloat, Bianca Road opening, and Hawkes Cider getting a couple of arches wider. If you're in London and it's a nice Saturday afternoon, why not use the site to navigate your way along the best stretch of boozers in the capital? As you can see from the regular peaks in our usage stats, you won't be alone.
Telly: Remember when Russell T Davies ran Doctor Who for a few years, and we were all worried how much time he spent on soppy things like characters and relationships? It's fun to reflect on those days in the wake of Steven Moffat's time in charge, which spent so much time trying to do clever things with plotting that you stopped caring about the people the plots were happening to. (The jury's still out on Chris Chibnall's showrunning skills, but I'd suggest that if he had the nerve to ditch the two kids and just make it about Jodie and Bradley, it'd be a step forward.) Anyhoo: Rusty's blend of sci-fi plotting and soap opera dynamics has hit some sort of glorious peak with Years And Years, just finished on BBC One but still around on the iPlayer for the next couple of months. (It's also just started on Monday nights on HBO if you're in the States.) Sure, it can be as uneven as his run on Who was, with the tone of the first episode lurching all over the place in an attempt to cover as many hot button issues in an hour as possible. But once That Thing happens towards the end of the first episode, it settles down into doing what Davies seems to do best: juggling big ideas and big emotions, but through the prism of an ordinary family. The central cast are all terrific, their characters evolving gradually over the fifteen-year span of the story, all in the service of a distinctive author's voice with something to say. It's vaguely criminal that its viewing figures were so low: despite the occasional misstep, Years And Years had an ambition and scope way beyond anything else being attempted by British TV right now. Still, the iPlayer link's up there for you.
We're approaching the season when we're going to be talking about a lot of theatre on this site: and as it's an odd-numbered year, some of it will also be Mancunian, if you know what I mean. Even if you don't, don't worry about it: I may well be seeing some theatre in Manchester in July, but given the current backlog of posts you may well not be reading about it till August. Still, as I plough my way through all the stuff I've done in the last few months, expect some much-delayed despatches from Asia, and - if we're/you're lucky - some BrewDogging action from a little closer to home. Only a little, mind. Plus, y'know, that birthday I'm probably not going to be celebrating very much. Watch this space, and feel free to nag me in the comments about how far I've got with it if you must.