Six Damn Fine Degrees #76: Tales From Viking Times

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

As a kid, I was a massive fan of listening to stories on cassettes. Far more so than music. Music cassettes inevitably had those tracks you wanted to skip past, leading to fiddling attempts to fast forward the right amount (…and miss it and go back and overly compensate going back and so try to jump forward and – uh-oh, I think the tape is chewed up now). Whereas a good story tape was immersive. You were there for the ride for at least the rest of the side.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #71: Agatha Christie and the desert

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

While Agatha Christie is possibly most famous for her many fictional English villages or mansions or lodges or what have you, my imagination was always drawn to the books she set in the desert. Preferably, though not necessarily, on archaeological digs. Because, although she herself keeps insisting she will not describe any scenery in her books, she has a knack of picking out details which bring these fantastic places to life. The sound of the waterwheel, the flowers, the sparsely furnished accommodations. In Murder in Mesopotamia, a group of archaeologists are working at a dig, very near the fictional town of Hassanieh. And although the plot is one of her weaker ones, the characterizations of the people and the description of their routines seems to evoke a world that just seems more real to me than St Mary Mead or Chipping Cleghorn. The reason for this, as I found out much later, is that they are, in a sense, more real – or rather, they represent Christie’s later years, ones imbued with more affection and gratitude, her second lease on life.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #60: My daughter, the Marvel fan

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

I would have liked to dazzle you with a cool origin story, but I can’t remember how and when my favourite daughter found her love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I am pretty sure she saw the first few movies in chronological sequence at home on BluRay, too young to have seen then in the theatres, so Tony Stark, Cap and the Hulk came to her at home, and it was probably the first Avengers movie that she saw in an upholstered seat, ticket in hand, with a bag of popcorn, on the big silver screen. But she was hooked long before that.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast Christmas Special 2021

Certainly, 2020 and 2021 have been strange years (and perhaps I shouldn’t say too much, since there is still one week to go until we get to the end of the latter), they have been difficult and draining in many ways, and Christmas 2021 is likely to be more lonely for some of us than we would like. The pandemic has been a drain on everyone, and it’s not over yet. But in spite of this, we have had some good times this year, we’ve watched some great films and TV (and admittedly some that were not so great), we’ve read some great books and we’ve played some fun games – not least the wonderful board game Pandemic Legacy, which at least gives us the feeling that this thing can be beaten… provided our medic isn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For the Christmas Special 2021, Julie and Matt are joined, albeit remotely in space and time, by regulars Alan, Mege and Sam as well as by our favourite returning guest Daniel Thron of Martini Giant, and we talk about the damn fine things we’d like to see under the Christmas tree – from the purely material but greatly enjoyable to things that are elusive but all the more necessary for that. Join us – and have happy, safe and healthy holidays! Wishing all of you the very best for what remains of 2021, and thanks as always for hanging out with us.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #55: John Turner as Roderick Spode 

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

Whenever you watch a live action adaptation of a book that you love, there is always the troublesome business of the casting. Will those starring in the production possibly match up to the version in your head from reading the original. If the actor does a good job, they might come close to how you imagined the role initially. An actor might even still do a good job, but just be wrong. Their performance is so at odds with your own take on the role, that, even if you keep watching it you’ll mainly be quietly tutting at it.

But occasionally an actor will come along and give a performance in a role that works so well, that so exceeds the version that once played in the brain, that they become that character going forward. When you re-read the book, it’s their version that you imagine. Whatever feeble brain casting you imagined before has been sacked and kicked out the imaginary production, forever replaced by the version you saw on screen.

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Kuessipan means ‘my turn now’

Myriam Verreault’s Kuessipan (2019) is one of the best films about friendship in a long time. Mikuan and Shaniss grow up on the Innu reservation in Québec, and while the movie could easily showcase all kinds of social problems of the indigenous population, it contains refreshingly few scenes of actual violence. It has the good sense of letting us know that even between the two young girls, things are very different: while Mikuan grows up in a relatively stable family, Shaniss finds her mother dead drunk and unconscious on the kitchen floor, and when Shaniss is placed in a care home, it’s Mikuan who walks all those miles along the coast to see her bestie.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #40: Pale Rider by Laura Spinney

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

Welcome to some sort of grim hat-trick. This entry might well be a part of our sadly ever-expanding series called Corona Diaries; it is also a revisit of what I once wrote for The Rear-View Mirror about Laura Spinney’s book Pale Rider; and the concept of six degrees carries a very cynical note when thinking about contagion, way back in 1918 when the Spanish Flu hit, and again today, for glaringly obvious reasons.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #37: Elmore Leonard

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

I don’t care how many movies you own, if your bookshelf doesn’t contain at least one single Elmore Leonard novel, there is a gap in your collection. There are very few novelists whose prose is already so close to a screenplay; in fact, if you, like me, imagine something very much alike to a movie scenes while reading a novel, you have it easy with Leonard, because his writing is, in the best sense of the word, graphic.

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