I got a telling-off only the other night from a friend for never having previously heard of Ray Bradbury, before I stumbled across Fahrenheit 451 in Norwich's Forum Library a few weeks back.
The story concerns a future in which society's obsession with television and other new visual media has led to the outlawing of the written word, and the role of firemen is to burn books. With all traces of their former role reduced to dangerous rumours, fireman Guy Montag meets his quirky teenage neighbour, Clarisse McLellan, in the aftermath of his wife's suicide attempt and begins to question the role he plays in society. What follows leads to murder and to a manhunt, and ends with the protagonist meeting a number of exiled academics, who travel from place to place, each with the memory of a single book held safely within their mind.
The written style is simple and it is not hard to imagine Bradbury typing away at a ten-cent typewriter in the basement library of a 1950s university, in much the same way as one might use an IT suite now. His story has since been subject to many interpretations, but the author himself observed how a love of visual media was leading to a loss of interest in books, information presented almost entirely without context, and the danger of not learning from past mistakes.
The week after I finished the book, Bradbury sadly died at the 91 after a short illness. I might never have previously heard of him, but news of his passing was greeted in an official public statement from Barack Obama at the White House.
Current TV Shows: This year has seen the end of two long-running TV shows that we in the UK had inherited from US networks - 'Desperate Housewives', which I have absorbed from my girlfriend via some kind of slushy, pink Stateside osmosis, and the seminal medical drama, 'House'.
I swear that when the latter series ended on Sky a few weeks ago, it felt like there had been a death in the family. I moped for days afterwards and clung desperately to the thought that there are still some episodes from the final series that I haven't seen and that I could always run through my old DVDs. But while I'll miss it, I'm anxious to see what project Hugh Laurie will work on next.
American TV never rests on its laurels for very long, and new series '2 Broke Girls' is looking like a promising sitcom. There's a cute premise involving a business startup and two likeable main characters, and I may be a little bit in love with Max, the sharp-tongued waitress from the wrong side of the tracks.
Current Food: Techincally it's a TV show about food - but in very few places outside of Heston Blumenthal's lab will you get away with cooking a goat curry with lotus flowers on British TV. When Eastenders gets too much for you, switch to the GoodFood Channel and watch 'My Sri Lanka' with Aussie chef Peter Kuruvita.
Part of this show's appeal is that Kuruvita is engaging and respectful, and he sticks seamlessly to the positive aspects of his journey despite visiting areas which were recently ravaged by civil war. It also certainly doesn't hurt that the landscape he is travelling across is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Stop reading now and go watch it!
Current Drink: If I'm going by what's in the fridge, bottled water. My partner has decided to set up an emergency kit containing lots of tinned food, medical supplies and the like so that we're covered in the event of civil unrest. I'm politely sceptical but if the zombie apocalypse comes now, at least I'll be able to stay under the duvet for a few days longer before I have to go loot the Co-op.
Current Blogs: The TUC Touchstone blog has some excellent articles, not least this one about why Colombia should not be offered a trade deal by the EU while trade unionists are still being intimidated and assassinated there.
Current Excitement: Euro 2012! The Balkans have put on a fantastic show so far, with only a few banana-throwing Russians trying to spoil the party. The lamentably poor Irish aside, every team I have seen in the tournament so far has brought something, and I am cautiously optimistic about England's chances tonight when nippy Man Utd paceman Danny Wellbeck gets his chance to run at aging Swedish meatball Olof Mellberg. If the football is as impressive as the electrical storm above Donetsk, we're all in for a treat.