(August 27 – Sept 2)

Regular readers of these ramblings will know that one of my recent obsessions is smart devices. This started out as an obsession with bluetooth speakers, then bluetooth colour-changing light bulbs. Then I realised that I could potentially control my light bulbs with my voice and, well …

To date, I have four Google Homes in my house: one in each of the kid’s rooms, so they can listen to music / podcasts / stories; one in the kitchen, mostly so I can listen to music while I cook; and one in the front room so I can control my Chromecast and the two smart lights in there. Sure, it’s fair to say I’m not exactly using those devices to their full potential, but I’m definitely having fun with them.

This week I added a few new devices to the setup. I’ve been ogling the Mijia touch-controlled bedside lamp for a while and finally saw one at a sufficiently tempting price. Now, I actually have two bedside lamps in my bed room, but I wasn’t about to shell out for a second fancy bedside lamp, so I simply fitted the other lamp with a spare Yeelight smart bulb that I happened to have lying around.

I also replaced the Google Home Mini in my kitchen with a .. non-mini Google Home (again, after seeing an unmissable offer), which meant I ended up with a handy Google Home Mini for my bedroom. Which meant I could control the lights which sit next to my bed without actually having move my arm.

After much tweaking, I finally settled on three lighting setups: “reading”, in which my bedside light is bright enough for me to read by, but the other one is set to a dim red (for that all-important red light at bedtime!); “night”, a suitably low-level ambient setup for the rare occasions when I want to Netflix and chill in bed; and the imaginatively named “orange”, a nice bright orange for everyday use.

Even more fun than all of that is the particular trigger word I need to use for the Google Home to switch on these modes for me, which is “activate”. For example:

“Hey Google, activate night.”

To which I get the response: “Okay, activating the Night.”

It’s the little things …


A busy film week this week. As the Elderbeast has been sick all weekend (and would go on to be sick all week as well) I allowed him the privilege of choosing our Monday night viewing. He picked Ready Player One which was turning out pretty good, but because it’s so goddam long he bailed at the end of the second act. I’ll have more to say about that one when we eventually finish watching it.

I also checked out the first episode of the Sci-Fi Channel’s 2000 adaptation of Dune. It had been much-heralded at the time, but I don’t remember very much about it. I didn’t want to watch the David Lynch film as I’m still only about a third through the audiobook and want to enjoy the end of that without another version getting in the way—also, I still seem to remember the Lynch film pretty vividly.

Unfortunately the Sci-Fi version was a fair disappointment. While plenty of the detail made it to the screen, much of the subtlety was lost. I had the impression that scenes were rushed through production (the likely peril of a TV budget back then) which diminished any sense of dramatic tension: things simply happened in the order in which they happened. It definitely gave me a renewed appreciation for the Lynch film which, at least for the first hour or so, manages to perfectly capture both the mood and drama of the book.

For Friday Horror we watched Hereditary, which is a film that will stay with me for a loooong time. It’s one of those rare films where the ending more than adequately pays off on the terrific sense of dread that has been developing throughout, but also one where it’s not just about the ending (like, for instance, Audition). Amazing stuff. I hope to see it appearing in many future lists of the best horror films ever made.

For Saturday I continued my brief Les Liaisons Dangereuses revisitation with Dangerous Liaisons, which perfectly captures the deliciousness of the source material, despite being somewhat Americanised (not least with the title). Unlike Valmont, however, you don’t quite get the same sense of the emotional journey that the characters take. I suspect Milos Forman (Valmont) was far more interested in exploring the characters, which is why he took a few liberties with the story, whereas Dangerous Liaisons was mostly about capitalising on the success of the play.

I do wish we’d managed to get Alan Rickman in there as Valmont (it was, after all, his performance in the play that first brought him to the attention of Hollywood), but I imagine we might have missed out on his legendary Die Hard casting if Hollywood hadn’t decided it was necessary to have a known actor (John Malkovich) in its film version of Dangerous Liaisons.

On Sunday afternoon I finally treated myself to Sunset Boulevard, one of several notable cinema classics that I have so far failed to see. My only surprise is that I was genuinely expecting something of a noir thriller. Other than that it’s as perfectly wonderful as everyone says it is, and it’s already earned a place on the rewatch list.

For Sunday night I stuck on Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, thinking that the Elderbeast would be tickled by it. The good bits are just as good as I remember but, oh boy, does it take a while to get there. The film rides comfortably on the Caine-Martin double act, and the script is just about good enough to keep you watching. However, it seems that this movie falls into the same trap as a lot of comedies–particularly eighties ones: namely that it’s a light-hearted romp that’s oversold by having a comedy superstar like Steve Martin in the cast. We remember all the Steve Martin bits (Ruprecht the Monkey Boy, in particular) but the rest of the movie can’t help but feel a little flat in comparison.

It’s a very rare film that properly meshes the comedy and the story—when it works you get Ghostbusters or Animal House; when it doesn’t you get almost every other film starring a Saturday Night Live alumnus.


I’m continuing to make slow progress on The Haunting Of Hill House. As good as it may be, it’s hardly a page turner and I’m struggling to muster the discipline to pick it up each night. This will likely be a slow burn for me.

I’m also still immersed in the audiobook of Dune—given that this is 17 hours long this was always going to be a month-long project (at least). A few weeks back I listened to an Audible interview with Joe Hill, where he was asked what he liked in particular about audiobooks. I was very struck by his answer, in which he explained that having a book read to him had the effect, sometimes, of revealing to him how a book should be read. It makes sense. We read books to ourselves the same way each time, in our own voice, which may not be the right voice for every book we read. Someone else will inevitably offer a fresh perspective.

Joe Hill’s example was of a book that used a specific dialect and needed an actor familiar with the patois to bring it to life. Dune isn’t in that category, but it is lush with details, and has many, many characters to follow around—at least initially. I’m finding that the audiobook version is bringing the story to vivid life in a way that my previous readings of the book never really achieved. I’m picking up details that I know I missed on my previous readings, and I’m having absolutely no problems keeping track of the characters and the subtleties of the plot.

Having just written the above, I’ve opted to use one of my Audible credits on the audiobook of It (which has received superb reviews). It’s another book that I’ve read many times, and am very familiar with. However, I stalled on my last rereading and am now fascinated to see if/how the audiobook version brings a fresh dimension to the book.