Between recent illness and attendant insomnia, I’ve found a bit more time over the last few months to take in media. My sleep loss is your gain when it comes to media reviews, so let’s hit it.
Memories of the Alhambra: I tried like hell to like this, but could only get through the first episode. It had some interesting ideas: a disappearing programmer, an immersive augmented reality game, the mingling of old-world Spain and modern technology. And yet it didn’t do it for me. Not sure why. Call it the one K-drama I didn’t like. I may try again in the future.
Save Me: I gave this a brief mention in my K-drama rundown on Hollywood in Toto, but it bears mentioning here. This is a very dark show, and goes places with the characters that I’ve never seen on other television programs. The plot involves a cult called The Mighty New Sky, and how it tries to take over a town in South Korea. It’s full of disturbing moments involving a nice family’s seduction and destruction, horrific betrayals, and bizarre rituals with a creepy cult leader. A bit too long, but full of unforgettable moments. The themes of friendship, familial love, and aging cynicism vs. youthful idealism really make this a show to watch.
Ultraviolet: A Polish crime show set in Lodz, focusing on a group of vigilantes solving both cold cases and new crimes using social media hacking, much to the chagrin of the local police department. The characters are likable, and there are some genuinely funny moments, but no surprises to speak of. The culprits tend to be rich industralists, Polish nationalists, and other such stock heavies. Still, it’s fun and fairly lighthearted. As good as any cop show you’ll see on American TV, though with similar social commentary.
Unit 42: A Belgian crime show, this one about a team of cops solving crimes that have a technological angle, like internet-connected pacemakers that explode and semi-autonomous vehicles chauffeuring corpses. A bit heavier than Ultraviolet, which gives it a more gripping style, but like Ultraviolet, there are no surprises. An alert viewer will figure out whodunit long before the cops do, which is a problem: the episodes often only make sense if you ignore the massive plot holes throughout. You will be entertained if you turn off your brain before watching.
I also read books, on occasion.
Salt: A World History: The title says it all. It’s a history of salt and its effect on various cultures throughout the world. A dry subject, naturally, that edifies and occasionally entertains. I like how it destroys myths about salt and explains its value to civilizations both ancient and current. Author Mark Kurlansky has books on other foodstuffs, including Cod and Milk. And Paper, if you are inclined to eat it. For my part, I’m full.
A History of the World in Six Glasses: Author Tom Standage provides a sweeping history of six world-changing beverages: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola in a book that’s far more than the sum of its drinks. Who knew how important coffee was to The Enlightenment? What was the first beer made of, and how important was it to early man? The parts on Coke are a little more anemic compared to the section on tea, for example, but that’s more due to Coca-Cola’s place on the world stage than a weakness of the text. A lot of fun to read. Think of it as a history book for people who hate history books.
American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza: I’ve had a lifelong interest in baking bread, and when my wife got me a copy of Peter Reinhart’s book Artisan Breads Every Day more than ten years ago, it helped kick-start my bread making to the level I’d always wanted: artisan loaves with the big holes. While American Pie isn’t a new book, published in 2003, it’s nevertheless a terrific travelogue of Reinhart’s quest to find the best pizza in the world. What constitutes the perfect pizza and if he actually finds it will have to be read about in the text. Full of recipes for both dough and toppings, Reinhart promulgates the idea that the quality of any pizza starts with the crust: 80% of the grade, so to speak. So even a pizza with mediocre sauce can be saved by a great crust. Obviously, this is a cookbook in large part, so factor that into your buying decision. If you want to know how to make tasty pizza at home, from lean Neapolitan pies to the more substantial New Haven pizzas, this is the book you need. My only problem is the disappointing paucity of pictures. All that reading makes my lips hurt.