And now for something a bit different, as we return to the quite-well-loved feature The Very Late Review. In this occasional series, I ask readers of the blog to review and rate (out of 10) a wide range of people, things, films, cereals and experiences. Sometimes because I’ve missed out on them myself, sometimes just out of curiosity as to the public mood, sometimes with the aim of providing a ‘bluffers’ guide’ for other readers, since in this complicated world it’s impossible to keep up with even half of what’s going on. We are as usual indebted to Megan, who has collated the verdicts, written them up, and calculated overall scores.
After a few rounds of the Very Late Review we’re now in the fortunate position of having a huge treasury of reviews across many disciplines, and are on the way to the ultimate 10-year goal of being able to provide an instant and reliable consensus on pretty much everything. Some time around the end of the year I will give someone the immense job of cataloging ALL the Very Late Reviews into one huge Wiki-type document which we can keep adding to. But anyway. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here is the latest edition. Megan, with remarkable conscientiousness, included at least one quote from everyone who took part.
To have your say in the Very Late Review 8, check the end of this blog, where there’s a list of new items to review. As ever, the rules are: only mark things out of 10, and don’t review things if you’ve not actually experienced them to some degree. And the last rule is that you can override these rules if you really feel like it, because this is only for fun. Thank you. Over to Megan.
Since universities are just starting up in the UK (have been in session here for three weeks, though), I am going to talk a bit of methodology (for the ratings), something professors and lecturers LOVE to hear about:
- I did not include a rating number if the reviewer admitted not having seen/read/visited/eaten the item they were reviewing. Except when I made mistakes.
- I split houmous and salami’s ratings into two numbers. When I remembered.
- When people gave separate ratings for the film and book of Time Travel(l)er’s Wife, I averaged them.
- Excel displayed fuzzy_ducky’s extraordinarily out of range score for The Sky (100000000000000000001/10) as a exponential code thing that I couldn’t figure out.
- I am not a statistician and don’t actually know what I’m doing.
I also must commend Mr Watson for confounding the Canadian. While I know who Ant & Dec are, 90% of y’all’s references to them were alien to me. And in Canada (well, the English-speaking bits), we tend to spell ‘houmous’ as ‘hummus’, but I knew about that weirdness having been (mostly) vegetarian when I lived in the UK many years ago. Typing ‘houmous’ is hurting my fingers and brain, though.
Enough of my blithering, here’s what you all thought of this Very Late Review’s selections:
Ant & Dec
Get their best reviews from ‘Byker Grove’, which I gather was one of their earliest TV projects. Few people actively hated them, though many were ashamed to acknowledge that TV’s most ubiquitous pair were still held in high esteem in their eyes because it is ‘uncool’ to admit such a thing. Others just flat out love them, though. Aislinn even admitted to boosting her rating a bit artificially because she wanted them to get an overall score of 7 or 8 out of 10, which is very nearly as adorable as Rachael calling her rabbits PJ & Duncan.
Memorable quotes: ‘They are the equivalent of Methadone; I don’t use it myself and I find it highly distasteful and yet it provides a lot of comfort to the less fortunate.’ (Josh); ‘I’ve met them! Back when they were PJ & Duncan, but I have photos and autographs and they were just so lovely. As my mother said at the time “what canny bairns”. I nearly died of embarrassment but they were great.’ (Katy); ‘It is partly their fault that I will never go paintballing, because I was so traumatised by one of them losing his sight in that terrifying Byker Grove episode’ (Laura-B); ‘I was a big fan of SMTV Live as a smaller person, and Ant, Dec and Cat were all happy smiley fun. Now that they do grown ups TV I want to smash their heads together.’ (Misha); ‘My head tells me I should dislike them intensely, but my heart won’t let me.’ (heatheroo); ‘As a 9 year-old, I was slightly indignant that they brought too much comedy to (what I considered) the incredibly gritty Byker Grove.’ (Lindsay)
Average score: 6/10 (sorry, Aislinn)
Diving score: 6.5/10
Full marks: 2 out of 25 reviews
Nul points: 2 out of 25
Time Travel(l)er’s Wife
A very interesting mix here. Confusing, yet not confusing. Romantic, yet stalkily unromantic (see clembear’s comparison to Wurthering Heights). Excellent, yet really not very good at all. It was quite a few people’s favourite (or near favourite) book, but none of you rated the film highly. (I have not read the book, but tried to watch the film on a plane to Iceland when I couldn’t sleep. I drifted in and out of consciousness for the full running time, but I’m not if it was because of exhaustion or sheer boredom. Very confusing.)
Memorable quotes: ‘I haven’t read the book, but when I worked a WHSmith I made a lovely display of them, so the only thing I can say about the book is that it’s very stackable.’ (Helen (@iamanicelady); ‘The relationship between the two main characters Clare and Henry is beautifully written and I felt like I was being taken on a journey with them both.’ (Rozzie); ‘I think they simplified the film too much and missed some of the most important parts.’ (Anji); ‘I thought the book was one of the most disappointing things I have ever ever read…and don’t get me started on the pointless, horrendous film version of said book.’ (Laurs); ‘The film wasn’t as good so it gets a point knocked off. Also it uses the American spelling of “traveler’s” which shouldn’t annoy me but does…’ (Iona); ‘Film was ok, the guy was hot!’ (lisan66) (Very true. Even hotter in real life, BTW.)
Average score: 5.5/10
Diving score: 5.5/10
Full marks: 1 out of 21 reviews
Nul points: 1 out of 21
Salami (and Houmous/Hummus)
Although Mr Watson offered houmous as vegetarian alternative (as so many party hosts do), a lot of non-veggies decided to weigh in too, particularly as a lot of people just aren’t keen on salami (though several weren’t keen on houmous either). I found it intriguing that amycool hasn’t tried hummus despite her boyfriend’s dedication to it, but yeah, the smell can be quite off-putting at first. But please! Try it! (I’ll get my friend Christine to make you some; it’s the best ever.)
Memorable quotes: (Salami) ‘Cannot live without it. Sainsbury’s used to do some pre-sliced with some kind of cheese round the edge, thus satisfying 2 cravings at once.’ (squoozles) (Good lord, that sounds amazingly deadly.); ‘The only thing that puts me off is that the little white bits in salami are just pure fat. If you took all the white bits to one side and just stuck them onto your body, you’d have the same result as eating them, and that’s science.’ (Ivan) (His whole entry is very, very amusing.) (Houmous) ‘Oh how it can vary. When it’s good, it’s oh so good, but the low-fat/cheap versions can be a bit gross. And you don’t want it to go off… obviously. (Someone); ‘I think I generally prefer food that isn’t lumpy and is less funny smelling.’ (Kate B); ‘Some people think it’s a bit pedestrian to have at dinner parties and stuff, but put it in a nice dish with some coriander on top and olive oil and fancy little toasted breads or biscuits and it is the best thing ever.’ (Madeleine)
Average score: 4/10 for salami, 7/10 for houmous
Diving score: 4/10 for salami, 7.5/10 for houmous
Full marks: 0 out of 10 reviews for salami, 1 out of 13 for houmous
Nul points: 2 out of 10 for salami, 1 out of 10 for houmous
A lot of people critique the whole business of potholing based on the fact that it just sounds really damp, cramped, and terrifying (says even MusicalLottie, who helps teach the basics of caving) and I have to agree somewhat because it sounds a bit like the basement of the cinema that no one ever goes in and we suspect inspired the set designers in Hostel. But I digress. Again. This is not an activity for the claustrophobic, but can have its exhilarating moments. Not a popular choice overall, though.
Memorable quotes: ‘I’m not particularly claustrophobic but the thought of being trapped in a hole barely large enough to accommodate my then tiny body is not a pleasant one.’ (amycool); ‘Our guides (told us) that the water in a particular bit of the cave is shallow enough to stand in so we could all get off our tubes… only for 10 gullible fools to disappear under the water.’ (EmT); I’d rather get wet than force myself senselessly into the side of a hill.’ (Lex) (I just loved how this sounds out of context, but lex (sorry, not sure if male or female) did say more interesting stuff that makes this make sense.); ‘I should have a high score for this seeing as I lead caving sessions at work, but ours are a man-made ’system’ of tunnels. So nice and safe, dry, non-scary and rather easy – though I still come out black and blue.’ (MusicalLottie); ‘Why oh why would anyone do this? How can crawling through dark, damp places that seem too small for sensible people ever be fun?’ (Laura); ‘It strikes me that you have all the effort of walking up a mountain but none of the view.’ (SamJJ)
Average score: 3/10
Diving score: 2.5/10
Full marks: 0 out of 10 reviews
Nul points: 2 out of 10
My boss, who doesn’t have a laptop because he thinks they are flimsy, has an iPad. He travels a lot, so he wanted it for reading and doing crosswords. However, he travels a lot in places where he is likely to get mugged for his iPad and he doesn’t like the crossword apps he’s found, so it’s not nearly as useful as he had hoped. Anyway, the general consensus among y’all is similar: it’s kinda neat, but too expensive for what it is.
Memorable quotes: ‘iPad seems to do everything except that thing that you would really find useful; playing a DVD, for instance. A procrastinator’s best friend. Very expensive alternative to A4 sheet of paper/book/newspaper. Pretty though.’ (ChrisP); ‘I love Apple. They make pretty things but if you have a laptop already then very little reason to have an iPad. I know someone who is now using to prop up a computer monitor. Says it all.’ (Tim); ‘Never touched one or used one but I hate them because I love actual physical books. The world would be a terrible place without book smell.’ (Lydia) (This is true, but I still think Kindles are pretty cool.)
Average score: 3/10
Diving score: 3/10
Full marks: 0 out of 10 reviews
Nul points: 4 out of 10
Sadly, too few of you have been to India to really assess its grandeur (so few, in fact, that I didn’t do a diving score). Even those who have been say it is overwhelmingly full of stuff and people. But, I think we can generally agree that it is difficult, fascinating, and somewhere worthy of adventuring in.
Memorable quotes: ‘An absolutely incredible place. One of those ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ situations: I love the busyness and the colour and the narrow streets and people and cars and cows everywhere but some people find it too much.’ (Becca, who also recommends a Kevin McCloud documentary called “Slumming It”); ‘Far more complicated than my narrow experience of it.’ (Clembear); ‘Never been there, but love my indian takeaway.’ (fuzzy_ducky)
Average score: 9/10
Full marks: 0 out of 3 reviews
Nul points: 0 out of 3
Well, the sky is pretty rad. A few hinted that watching the sky might be more amazing than watching anything else (I fear the infinite, so I cannot stare too long, especially at night). And, as Ally said in her great review, ‘I don’t think you can rate the Sky out of ten when it’s so important and exciting. It’d be like blasphemy, only not really.’ Regardless of the controversy over rating something unrateable, Watsonians think the sky is awesome.
Memorable quotes: ‘Then on top of just how amazing it is just to look at the sky, there’s also the wonder of stellar exploration; as Carl Sagan said “the sky calls to us”. Things that humans have made are on or passing by other planets. There are people living in space *right now*. How frikking amazing is that?!’ (Tibbs, who gets props for name-dropping Sagan); ‘A couple of my relationships have largely involved gazing together at sunrises, sunsets, clouds and stars. Of course those relationships didn’t last, so maybe girls aren’t as impressed by it.’ (JontyLarr, with whom I disagree); ‘Should be commended for it’s colour choice and dedication to the job.’ (Lauren); ‘How does one review the sky?’ (Kathryn); ‘Overrated. I prefer the sea.’ (Daniel) (My fear of the infinite prevents me looking at the sea for too long as well. Sigh.); ‘I like the sky. There has been a book about it falling down, a poem about it being red at night and a song about it being a big blue man.’ (Aislinn)
Average score: 3.7037E+18/10 (seriously, what does this mean? No more 21 digit numbers, please.)
Diving score: 10/10
Full marks: 18 out of 25
Nul points: 0 out of 25
Phew, that was longer than usual. Thanks again to everyone, including Mark, for letting me take over your bandwidth and computer monitors yet again. You are very funny people. Now I’m off to look up Byker Grove on YouTube.
And here are the review items for next time, with, as usual, brief explanations of why I want them reviewed:
THE MILLENNIUM TRILOGY (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO ETC) by Stieg Larsson (books; have completely passed me by; now everyone is reading them)
YOGA (activity; have never tried it)
SEVEN DAYS (TV show, Channel 4; have missed it)
RICHARD BRANSON (multi-millionaire; can’t work out if he seems nice or not)
SURFING THE VOID by Klaxons (album; haven’t heard it yet; quite liked last album)
ISRAEL (country; as a tourist destination, not as a political/religious entity, which is a more complicated discussion)
COFFEE (drink; this is for people who can’t review any of the others, and don’t want to be left out altogether)
Reviews as Comments on this blog, as usual. Thank you for participating!