October 7th, 2011


*vaguely waves*

For a long time, there's a a post I've been meaning to make. Sometimes tunes just hang around and you sort of know what they are, or know where they have come from, without knowing where they originally came from. I've been meaning to post to try to find out what they were, possibly even with a LiveJournal phone post in which I attempt to recreate the tunes in a possible attempt to help convey what they are.

Serendipitously, I have been able to resolve three out of the four tunes that have been bugging me, at the rate of one every three or four months. "The music from the M&S commercials" turns out to be "At the River" by Groove Armada, "some tune we were humming at work" turns out to be the end of "A.M. 180" by Grandaddy (I think I've got the band and song name the right way round) and "the music from the Sports Review of the Year that they used to use as a tribute for the remembrances" turns out to be the quiet bit of "the Olympic Fanfare and Theme for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Summer Games" by John Williams, or somesuch.

Three down, one to go; inevitably, this probably will be the most difficult one. Can anyone provide an identification for, or a recording of, "the theme tune for UK commercial television channel ITV's gymnastics broadcasts from about 1981"? This may be tricky, as it may well have been specially commissioned for the broadcast and thus not known by any other name. More likely, it's a piece of library music, which might be identified. I'm secretly hoping that it, too, was another light classical tune that might be known under some other guise. I know, mhp-chat is that way, but asking here is more fun.

Here are some book reviews. These were going to be short, but they grew. I've not been feeling in much of a communicative mood recently, explaining the radio silence.

Dave Gorman vs. The Rest Of The World: one day, last July, British author/comedian Dave Gorman tweeted "Does anyone play any games? Real life, not computer games. Would you like a game?" Plenty of people respond yes; Dave travels the country, learning and playing lots of new games, and eventually he decides to turn some of the stories into a book. As is usual, Dave's work is really more about the people he meets rather than the adventures on offer, and the balance is fairly firmly further away from the games than would suit my personal preference. Accordingly, there is a tendency to focus on games played against big characters, or against public figures. He's strongest at writing about the games with which he's most familiar, particularly poker.Collapse )

However, I choose to believe, based on the body of evidence of his life's work, that Dave is very firmly on the side of the angels; he likes people in general and I enjoy his chatty style. I'm not sure that he has written more than one really satisfactory ending in his four books, but endings are difficult to write; while this one is a miss, it's not a disaster. Certainly the book is a very entertaining read, generating a handful of snorts of laughter, but it describes a pretty identifiably smaller adventure than as described in his previous books, and proves a much slighter success as a result. I'm not sure I would go so far as to recommend the book to someone who was a fan of neither Dave Gorman's previous work nor writing about games, but if you like the thought of reading about "a nice bloke playing lots of different games and writing entertainingly about them" then you'll probably enjoy it at least as much as I did.

For Richer, For Poorer, Victoria Coren's poker memoir, is a tremendous hit that I have thoroughly enjoyed devouring in full twice in as many days. The book makes no secret that the book's eventual destination is the 2006 European Poker Tour event in London at which Coren wins £500,000, but the journey is a fascinating one, and the motif interlacing details of that final table - with thought patterns in full, which might be considered an (independently reinvented) analogue for the way The Master Game covered chess - with Coren's near-twenty-year journey to get there.

The narrative is roughly chronological, so skips between different strands. There's an element which just considers Coren's development of her poker skills over time, playing in bigger and bigger games with more and more success, a pleasingly "get rich very slowly" story. There's an element which concerns journalistic observations, either professional (for instance, when she has a reason to sell a story about poker to a newspaper, or when her journalistic credentials have qualified her as a celebrity) or when the rest of her life has taken her to where the action is. Lastly, there's an element that concerns her private life, turning this into a true memoir. The book's subtitle, "a love affair with poker". has more than one meaning.Collapse )

It's definitely the more successful book of the two; it's probably the book I've enjoyed most (though it's competing against fairly shamefully slim pickings here) over the past year or two. Again, I'm not sure I would go so far as to recommend the book to someone who was a fan of neither the author's previous work nor writing about poker, but if you think you'll be well-disposed towards the book in theory, then you're very likely to love it in practice. More, please, Ms. Coren; I look forward to the behind-the-scenes story of Only Connect some day!

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