Recommendations from Kieran Coyle:
In fiction, by far the best book I read recently was “I Am Pilgrim” by Terry Hayes It is described as the astonishing story of one man’s breakneck race against time to save America from oblivion. I can hardly wait for the author’s next book, “The Year of the Locust” due out in May 2021 (but don’t hold your breath because it was first scheduled for publication in September 2019).
If you haven’t read any of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy yet, you are in for a treat. They are “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest”, featuring Lisbeth Salander, an asocial computer hacker with a photographic memory, and Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist and publisher of a magazine called Millennium. This series is set in Sweden and gives an indication that Swedish society is not as perfect as one might think but has a lot of dark undercurrents running through society.
There is a lot of other good Scandi Noir stuff out there – but not for these depressing times. For pure escapism, I really enjoy the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. Jack Reacher, an ex MP, wanders around America with only a toothbrush, a cash card and (and now since 9/11) a passport to his name, righting wrongs in quite a violent manner. “The Sentinel” is the 25th book in the series, and for aficionados of the series, Lee Child himself is retiring and over the next three books, this being the first, he is handing Jack Reacher over to his brother Andrew, so we will see how that goes.
And finally, a topical political thriller “To kill the president” by Sam Bourne. The book blurb starts “The unthinkable has happened. The United States has elected a volatile demagogue as president ....”. Need I say more?
2020 has been a bad year for movies – I haven’t seen any since the Irish Film Festival in late February. Looking back to previous years, one that immediately springs to mind is “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”, which is well worth a look. It is written, directed, and produced by Martin McDonagh and stars Frances McDormand (of Fargo fame) as a Missouri woman who rents three billboards to call attention to her daughter's unsolved rape and murder. Indeed anything by Martin McDonagh is wonderful, especially the quirky “In Bruges”, starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. Which reminds me, McDonagh’s brother, John Michael, wrote and directed “The Guard”, also starring Brendan Gleeson – a wonderful movie.
TV and Box Sets:
Moving on to TV series, one of the most enjoyable series I have ever seen is an under the radar SciFi series called “Firefly”- it’s an American space Western drama television series, created by writer and director Joss Whedon, (of “Buffy” fame) set in the year 2517, and follows the adventures of the renegade crew of Serenity, a "Firefly-class" spaceship.
The show explores the lives of the crew and passengers who survive as fugitives on the fringes of society. It was cancelled after 11 of the 14 produced episodes were aired, but now has achieved cult status among SciFi fans. A spin off movie "Serenity" was released in 2005.
For the more earth bound among us, I loved a little series called “Sports Night” by Aaron Sorkin, more famous as the creator of “The West Wing” (one of the greatest pieces of TV ever produced). “Sports Night” is a short, two season series that focuses on the trials and tribulations of a group of friends and work colleagues - while trying to produce a good show under constant network pressure.
Any series of Aaron Sorkin is worth a watch. Two other series he produced, in much the same vein, are also recommended. The first was “Studio Sixty on Sunset Strip”, starring Matthew Perry, of “Friends” fame, and Bradley Whitford, late of “The West Wing”, and concentrated on the pressures of trying to produce a good quality weekly comedy programme. And if you are still itching for more Sorkin, the more recent “The Newsroom” is also worth a look.
Finally, if you want to go back to the last century, I could suggest “Hill Street Blues” - to my mind, the greatest TV series ever written, yes, even better than “The West Wing”, and certainly before its time. It ran for over 140 episodes, over seven seasons, back in the early 80s – maybe a bit long to commit to – and concentrates on the lives and woes of the staff in a single police station in the Hill St. district of an unnamed American large city.
Pick a topic, anything from playing a musical instrument (and may I suggest the Ukulele, as it is easier to carry around than the grand piano) to felling large trees (sometimes even avoiding property), to surviving lion attacks and it is all there on YouTube, the best source of information (and disinformation) since the encyclopaedia!
Recommendations from George Carter:
The Crown on - Netflix
Even if you have never felt any interest in the British Royal Family this series can get you hooked. Great script. Intelligent and witty.
Social Dilemma – Netflix
Gmail, Google, Twitter, YouTube Facebook. You may use them – but did you know how much they use you?
This documentary may set you thinking.
“Where is George Gibney?” BBC podcast
It was a scandal that rocked Ireland’s world of amateur swimming, and this documentary series provides compelling interviews and commentary that will make you reflect on ways needed to stop it ever happening again.
The German War – A Nation under arms, 1939 – 1945 by Nicholas Stargardt
From 1939 to 1945 an entire nation descended into madness under the sway of a charismatic and gifted orator. This book recounts the ways in which day to day life in wartime Germany and its battlefields accommodated a killing spree that had no precedent in history. It is a compelling read and leaves the reader in no doubt that the fault lies not in Germans but in all humans.
Becoming an expert on Bull Island.
It’s close by, has a fascinating network of paths through the dunes, is never the same, and makes you thank God that you are not a seagull!