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Friday, 17 January 2020

Latest Podcast, Book and TV Recommendations

Over 50s woman listening to music with headphones on
Hi folks and welcome to Five for FriYAY, the occasional post that celebrates the coming weekend and gives some suggestions for great reading, viewing and listening.

Podcast: Postcards from Midlife 

There are quite a few new podcasts aimed for women in mid life. They usually cover all the negative aspects of being older, so unless there's humour, I find them a bit of a turn-off.

The Times has launched a new podcast called Postcards from Midlife, featuring Lorraine Candy, editor of their Style magazine and former editor of Elle, and Trish Halpin, former editor of Marie Claire and Red.  Both women are in their early 50s. The first episode featured a discussion on libido with Suzy Godson. A very promising start: the chemistry between Candy and Halpin is good, and there are a few jokes and witticisms.

Podcast: Man In The Window


If you like true crime, Man In The Window from LA Times/Wondery is an absolutely superb example of the genre.  It covers the crimes of a serial rapist and serial killer known variously as the East Area Rapist and the Golden State Killer. The criminal started his spree in the early 70s and committed at least 13 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California until 1986.  He was only recently apprehended, thanks to amazingly complex and detailed genetic research.

The podcast is meticulously researched and presented by Paige St. John, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter. What's most fascinating about it is the attitude in the 70s towards rape.  It was hardly ever investigated as a crime.  Women who were raped were expected to keep quiet about it. There was certainly no counselling or help to recover.

One of the reasons that the serial killer and rapist went undiscovered for so long was that police forces refused to co-operate with each other, and there were often political reasons for not wanting to expose a series of crimes in an area. It was largely thanks to amateur crime buffs and retired police officers that progress was made.

The last episode is a discussion about attitudes to rape in the 70s and 80s. One of the saddest aspects of the case is that the law of statute in California expired very quickly in the 70s, so the criminal cannot be convicted for the rapes committed then.

TV: The Witcher, Atypical and Wisting 


We haven't had Netflix for long so we're like over-excited kids in the sweet shop.  Atypical is an amusing series about an adolescent with Asperger's and his family life. It's honest and can be both poignant and funny.  I was pleased to see Jennifer Jason-Leigh who was in some memorable films in the 90s, including the creepy Single White Female.

The Witcher is the "latest Game of Thrones clone," a fantasy series featuring Guernsey heart throb Henry Cavill. It's based on a series of novels by a Polish writer that are even more successful than GoT.  The series is not as good as GoT but it's entertaining. The main drawback is that not much is explained, so you're constantly having to look things up.

The drama constantly veers between the past, the present and the future, and it's hard to identify which period we're in. The Witcher is a man of few words but has a memorable and varied selection of grunts. Apparently he was a lot more talkative in the books, but the silent and brooding version portrayed by Cavill won the day.

Finally, on BBC 4  (and the iPlayer), Wisting, the Norwegian detective, was also dealing with a serial killer plus two members of the FBI who were flown over to help.  Episode five was absolutely gripping. Highly recommended.

Books: Another Tour de Force from Ian McEwan


The cover of Ian McEwan's book Machines Like Me
In his latest novel Ian McEwan confronts the imminent battlefield of Artificial Intelligence and morals and ethics.  Machines Like Me is set in a surreal 1982 where Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister has lost the Falklands War and is soon to be replaced by Tony Benn.  There is civil unrest because of robots replacing humans at work, and autonomous cars are commonplace.

A shiftless man, Charlie Friend, spends an inheritance on buying one of the first artificial humans, Adam.  Charlie and his girlfriend, who lives upstairs, agree to independently program Adam in terms of how they want to shape his personality, from various check lists.

Jealousy rears its ugly head when Charlie realises his girlfriend has been having sex with Adam, and Adam believes he is in love with her.  But worse is to come when the robot takes a very black and white view of a legal issue, and is unable to deal with nuances and interpretation as humans would. And faced with being used as slaves, and finding themselves in a world they can't understand, the artificial humans struggle to cope.  A fascinating and accessible read.

Books: Queenie, the Black Woman's Bridget Jones?


Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams has been described thus, but I think it diminishes the quality and impact of this powerful book, which was short listed for the Costa First Novel Award.  The blurb on Amazon doesn't help:  "Queenie Jenkins can't cut a break. Well, apart from the one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That's definitely just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Then there's her boss who doesn't seem to see her and her Caribbean family who don't seem to listen (if it's not Jesus or water rates, they're not interested). She's trying to fit in two worlds that don't really understand her. It's no wonder she's struggling."

There's far more to the book than it seems.  Queenie is trying to get through depression and has spiralled into self-destructive behaviour.  She emerges triumphant. I love the humorous touches and the sense of community in London.

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