"gut the dog"

The Stealth Homophobia That's Slowly Poisoning Us:
"Equality for the LGBT community now faces its greatest but least visible hurdle yet, says The Guyliner."

Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber:
"As most of you know, I left Uber in December and joined Stripe in January. I've gotten a lot of questions over the past couple of months about why I left and what my time at Uber was like. It's a strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story that deserves to be told while it is still fresh in my mind, so here we go."

Crowdsourcing for Shakespeare:
"Around 1675, a woman named Margaret Baker wrote out a remedy for aches whose active ingredient was a puppy. “Take a whelpe that sucketh the fatter the better & drowne him in water till he be deade,” she advised. The reader should then gut the dog, fill its belly with black soap, “putt him one a spite & roste him well,” and apply the fat drippings to the patient’s skin, wafting the scent of warmed sage over him at the same time. “It will helpe him by the grace of god,” she concluded.

Oscar’s Siren song 3: A guest post by Jeff Smith:

"Our colleague and Film Art collaborator Jeff Smith is an expert on film sound, particularly music. He’s contributed several items to our site over the years (for example, here and here and here). Today he’s back with his annual survey of Oscar’s musical categories. He offers in-depth analysis of how the films’ scores and songs enhance the movies’ impact."

Why do all the women on Fox News look and dress alike? Republicans prefer blondes:
"From pundits like Ann Coulter to Kellyanne Conway, American rightwingers are a uniform vision of don’t scare-the-horses dressing."

My Favourite Film of 1911.

Films When Geppeto set about creating his artificial boy (as in Giulio Antamoro's adaptation), little could he comprehend, probably because he’s a fictional character, that centuries later, later craftspeople would be capable of producing near lifelike digital marionettes through photographic technology. But that’s what we witnessed this Christmas, when Grand Admiral Tarkin and other special guests appeared in Rogue One: a Star Wars prequel (story).

Which isn’t to say the results are entirely perfect. Beneath the digital Cushing mask, a real actor with an equally impressive stage and screen career, Guy Henry, provides the voice and motion captured performance providing an underlying sense of humanity, yet the results still tip into the uncanny valley. We’re not completely convinced that Sir Peter is back giving a performance, probably because it’s not easy to forget that someone has died.

Much as has been written about the ethics of this decision, of attempting to make an actor posthumously “live” again and give a new performance and I can understand why some would find it distasteful. My adoration for Audrey Hepburn leads me to conclude that the appropriation of her image for selling chocolate bars is an atrocity as is Gene Kelly’s reanimation for a car commercial (his meticulous choreography replaced with something else entirely).

In Ari Folman’s film The Congress, Robin Wright plays a version of herself in alternative future in which actors are able to sign away the use of their image for film work in perpetuity, even past their death, the version scanned and capture as part of the agreement allowing them never to age on screen. The difference there, I suppose, is that the actor agrees to the procedure, even if they regret it afterwards as they see their image used in projects they fundamentally disagree with.

Back to Star Wars and where I stand. I think it’s fine. But I think the ethical fine line is hair thin. In the case of Star Wars, they’re recreating a character, albeit in a near photo-realistic form, which is no better or worse than when the same being appears in the tv series, in Rebels or The Clone Wars. It’s all animation with someone other than Cushing providing voice work or a performance, fulfilling a particular narrative function.

The other potential approach would have been to have Henry simply playing Tarkin and expect the audience to simply accept that the same character was being played by a different actor, as per Saavik across the Star Trek movies. And although it’s true that digi-Tarkin still pulls the viewer out of the film because he doesn’t feel quite right, it does create a clearer sense of continuity with A New Hope.

But this is one of only a few examples where this would be acceptable. If Hammer suddenly had an uptick in budget and decided to create a new horror film starring Cushing, that would be a more dubious decision. Or if someone decided to create a new romcom with Emma Stone swapping meet cute with a young Cary Grant, or a western with Ryan Gosling sparring with John Wayne.

Not that there would be frankly much point. Film is built on renewal and change, the old guard giving way to the new, for better or worse and I’m not sure there’s even an appetite from the audience for this sort of thing. Given the choice, I’d much rather watch a Monroe romcom within which I can be sure she was creatively invested rather than some contemporary pale imitation. There are enough remakes and sequels which fit that category already.

"very bored people"

Winston Churchill’s essay on alien life found:
"Winston Churchill’s essay Are We Alone in the Universe? was penned the year before he became prime minister, and reveals his keen interest in science."

First major exhibition by comic book artist John Higgins to open at VG&M:
"The first major retrospective of the work of Liverpool-born artist John Higgins, who found global success as a comic book artist and writer for 2000AD, DC and Marvel, is to be exhibited at the University’s Victoria Gallery & Museum." [via, via]

These 12 websites from the 90s show how useless the early internet was:
"A website. Literally, a website dedicated to the letter ‘A’"

Steven Moffat, Doctor Who & Sherlock:
“I’m sure I’ll miss it for the rest of my life,” he laments, “and reminisce to very bored people about how I used to be something, I used to matter, then sob on their shoulder and get kicked out the pub.”

10 most influential personal computers:
"Machines that helped transform the way we work and play, from big beige boxes to laptop-tablet hybrids."

Actually, Love, No.

Film Right then, let's address. As you will have seen and was reported to me by a few concerned citizens through social media, Comic Relief has announced that its mentor Richard Curtis has decided to produce a ten minute sequel to the worst film of all time for the televisual fundraiser.
As per Buzzfeed
(and a hundred other news organisations looking to do something other than report on the end of civilisation as we know it) (yes, I appreciate the irony), shooting begins today.

The Red Nose Day website has the press release which has notion of what it'll be and lists who the returning cast is:
"Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson and Rowan Atkinson will be stepping back into their iconic roles, alongside fellow cast members Martine McCutcheon, Keira Knightley, Andrew Lincoln, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lucia Moniz, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Olivia Olson, Bill Nighy and Marcus Brigstocke."
Buzzfeed has some pictures of these people in case you'd forgotten who they are.

Here is my luke warm take:

(1) Neither Emma Thompson or Laura Linney are returning it seems so we won't discover if the two main female characters from the first film had happy endings in the end after all.

(2) What will the tone be? Is it going to be shot in the same style and potentially act as a thirteen years later epilogue to the original affair or are they simply going to shoot the thing like a single camera sitcom with everyone in the same room and take the piss out of themselves. At least the first option would have some integrity.

(3) Marcus Brigstocke's expanded role suggests his scenes will be with Bill Nighy subbing in for Gregor Fisher in his story.

(4) Stalker Mark is back to menace Peter and Juliet. If it's in homage to the original ending (and let's face it ...) that'll make him not just even creepier but probably a police matter.

(5) No Martin Freeman and Joanna Page.

(6) No Kris Marshall either so we should be thankful for small mercies.

(7) Of course its entirely possible that anyone missing from the list will appear in a suprise cameo.

(8) Yes I'll watch it. You never know it could be good.

(9) At least it isn't a Class minisode.

(10) I'm going to be writing a review, aren't I?

Is charity an excuse for any of this?  Don't answer that.

100 Things About Me, Version 3.0

01 The first book I remember being read to me as a kid was The Midnight Folk by John Masefield.
02 My favourite time of day is the night.
03 I've stopped biting my nails.
04 For various reasons I can't drink either alcohol or caffeine. Fortunately, I've discovered Rooibus tea.
05 I'm disappointed if I haven't done at least one new thing each day.
06 I have hazel eyes.
07 I'm a bit of a loner.
08 My birthday is 31st October which makes me a ...
09 ... Scorpio. And everything you're heard is true. Even though I don't believe in any of that.
10 I don't wear jewellery. It just looks wrong.
11 My Dad is a retired watch maker and can always tell the time off the top of his head. I can as well, but I always seem to be five minutes out...
12 My five favourite films are When Harry Met Sally, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Seventh Seal, In The Bleak Midwinter and Star Wars. Some of those always change.
13 I'm happy if you're happy.
14 I don't smoke.
15 If I see people holding a map and looking bewildered in the street, I always stop and ask if they need directions. In Liverpool. I haven't a clue about anywhere else.
16 I can't say 'Honey'.
17 My keyring still has a key to every house I've ever lived in on it (except for the ones I've had to give back) and key fobs in the shape of the TARDIS and the Eiffel Tower. I carry the Doctor Who story City of Death around with me.
18 I have two hundred and eighty eight friends on Facebook. I’ve even met some of them.
19 I've never been further from marrying anyone than I am right now.
20 I don't own a smart phone. I have a Samsung "burner" and an ipod so that my web addiction has to take a rest whenever there isn't a wifi signal.
21 I've almost completely stopped going to the cinema. The prices. The audiences. The quality of the films.
22 The first poem I ever wrote was about a MouseSnail. I still don't know what one of those is. But in my young head it could swing through trees.
23 I haven't seen the girl I had my first kiss with since two minutes after it happened.
24 Four things I'd eat on the last day of your life: Fish and chips; Spaghetti Bolognese; Christmas Steak; Tesco Chicken Korma.
25 I'm not religious in the slightest but still awed by cathedraks.
26 I studied Information Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University which makes me a qualified librarian.
27 Some personal philosophies, beginning with: 'Wherever you go, there you are.'
28 'This life has been a test. If it had been an actual life, you would have received actual instructions on where to go and what to do.'
29 'Be yourself. No matter where you go.'
30 'Time is a great dealer.'
31 'I can't hurt to help.'
32 'But sometimes it can hurt to help.'
33 I didn't hear Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven until the age of 28.
34 Even at my age, our small family still shares as many presents as we did when I was a child.
35 I took part in One and Other, Anthony Gormley's contribution to the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.
36 My writing is always better when I'm working from someone else’s ideas. I'm not really that imaginative. I don’t think.
37 I can recited the whole of the first episode of ‘Friends‘. Still can't get REM's ‘It's the end of the world..’. Yet. But I can talk my way through Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘That Day’
38 I've visited every major public art collection in the north-west of England.
39 The first film to make me puke was ‘Annie’ (I was in a theatre in the bottom of an Isle of Man ferry in particularly choppy waters). The second was ‘Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan’. The third was ‘Switchblade Romance’
40 I spent a year commuting to Manchester University for an MA Screen Studies course. I miss the reading time on the train.
41 Wendy & Lisa's Closing of the Year always makes me cry. So does Nizpoli's The JCB Song.
42 My first teenage crush was with an older girl from a different school and I'd get the bus one stop to outside my school so that I could smile and wave at her each day and she'd smile back.
43 I have the same name as the big bad demon in the 'Hell's Bells' episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
44 My favourite colour is electric pink.
45 I have a leaving card from a job and I can't for the life of me remember who any of the people were and what the job was.
46 There's no justification for ignorance, racism, homophobia, sexism or misogyny. If you think there is, you're a bad person too.
47 I once owned a rabbit called Dunk after the character from the Wheetabix commercials.
48 My first job was at The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds.
49 One of the best jobs I've ever had was volunteering in the Media Centre at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. For some reason I cared more for it than for jobs I've actually been paid for.
50 For a time my voice was used on Liverpool City Council's automated telephone system. It's my voice you would have heard if you were paying a parking ticket. Sorry.
51 No 42 nearly said "I never can get the hang of Thursdays", until I thought of something else.
52 Love Actually is rubbish.
53 I always wear odd socks. If it's job interview this differences can be very subtle. I once wrote a manifesto for odd socks wearers on a post-it note. I don't have this any longer.
54 Last winter this spread to my hands. I've been wearing odd coloured gloves.
55 The first holiday I remember is a wet week in Polperro.
56 The one thing I always remember about my Eighteenth Birthday is faux-Russian dancing with a girl I'd had a crush on for years to the dance version of the Tetris music by Dr. Spin. At that same party someone tried to request The Smith's Girlfriend in a Coma.
57 If I could live anywhere in the world it would be New York.
58 Anywhere in the UK, it would be Edinburgh.
59 Anywhere in England it would be London.
60 Anywhere in Liverpool it would be the city centre.
61 I didn't drink alcohol until the age of 20. My first drink was a bottle of Carlsberg at a Jazz Festival in Leeds.
62 Before my hernia operation I was told to lose weight. I lost five stone. I've since lost more. Some people don't recognise me.
63 I probably know more about the mechanics of US politics than the UK. At this point in time I'm glad of it.
64 My favourite play by Shakespeare is Measure for Measure. Unlike most of everything else, the ending isn't certain and takes an unexpected turn, a bit like life. My second is Hamlet, for obvious reasons.
65 I only ever need six hours sleep. If I get any more, I feel sleepy for the rest of the day.
66 I'm a pretty fast five finger typist. I can touch type just about.
67 I'm in all the crowd scenes at the end of the film There's Only One Jimmy Grimble.
68 We have a real Christmas tree every year.
69 I've never taken drugs.
70 At various times I've owned or borrowed an Acorn Electron, Commodore 64, Sinclair Spectrum+, Acorn A3000, Camputer Lynx, N64, Nintendo Gameboy, 286, 386, 486 Pentium etc, Sega Master System, Sony Playstation.
71 The little finger on my left hand is much smaller than on my right. It's like Danny DeVito to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins.
72 The first weblog I ever read was Rebbeca's Pocket. It took me a while to notice other people were doing the same thing.
73 My favour Doctor is Paul McGann.
74 The bell alarm clock I received for my 18th birthday still works. I only ever replace anything when it breaks.
75 I still hate computers. It's pity they can be so damn useful. We can't live without them now.
76 My last holiday was to Stratford Upon Avon in 2009. Not really being able to afford to go away, I'm currently having a monthly day in London.
77 I don't tend to favour a particular period of art, but I'm more impressed if the artist has technically put the work in.
78 When I was kid, I wanted to grow up to be Zoologist. Then I saw a documentary in which an animal was put down and I cried for days and gave up that ambition.
79 I've never been very good at science or learning languages.
80 I tend to know a little about everything. Sometimes. It depends.
81 My handwriting is atrocious due to years of typing everything.
82 I have no interest in football. I fell out of love after crying for hours when Man U beat Everton in the FA Cup Final.
83 I voted Green in the last election, but I'm considering the Lib Dems again. I'd be a Democrat if I was from the States.
84 I have no tattoos.
85 I've never stolen anything from a shop.
86 I was once at The Albert Dock in Liverpool with a friend and momentarily distracted Alan Bennett by doing Beavis and Butt-head impressions.
87 The first time my name appeared in print was because I won a "Be an Interplanetary Spy" book from Secret Wars comic.
88 The only time I visited a magazine office was Zzap! 64 in Ludlow. It was very small and similar to a telesales place I worked at for a week on very low wages.
89 I always include my middle name because I'm the only Stuart Ian Burns around. It gives me some measure of anonymity online as well as none at all.
90 There are very few famous people I'd want to meet. Never meet your heroes, they're likely to disappoint you.
91 I'm a very slow reader which means I have to really commit myself to a book. I don't read a lot of books.
92 I once called up a radio station in the middle of the night to make the important point that Harry Enfied isn't that funny. I wasn't drunk. IN 2007 I asked a question on the Radio Four programme, 'Any Questions?'
93 I once walked through a Macdonalds drive-in to get a burger with the cars. I wasn't drunk. I just didn't realise there was a pedestrian bit.
94 I don't need to get drunk to do weird things.
95 When I was training for a job once, I had to say three things only one of which was the truth. I said I'd had an album out, I'd had a book published and that I was in a film. They all thought it was the book, which is quite flattering.
96 I've now been in the same job of ten years.
97 My favourite podcasts are This American Life, Wittertainment and FiveThirtyEight.
98 My favourite superhero is Spider-man.
99 I had a nursery teacher called Mrs Kilgallen. She used to call me the banana boy because I used to eat banana butties for lunch every day.
100 I've left some really embarrassing stuff out of this list (and arguably left some really embarrassing stuff in).

"sing the praise of its serviceability"

Here's What TfL Learned From Tracking Your Phone On the Tube:
"At the end of last year, between 21st November and 19th December, Transport for London carried out an intriguing trial: It was going to track your phone on the London Underground."

The Manhattan Bridge Is Not Romantic. But It’s Nice.
"The Manhattan Bridge is no double rainbow. Its color spectrum runs from rust to vomit-in-the-sea blue. There are no ceremonial walks across the Manhattan. Known as the “Rodney Dangerfield of New York City bridges,” it couldn’t even get respect for its 100-year anniversary, just a simple toast. But as someone who lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan I’m ready to sing the praise of its serviceability. It’s the main vein into the city that sees more than 450,000 commuters every weekday, and the bicyclist’s preferred path."

Is Hooters as delicious as it is demeaning?
"The one time I suggested to my wife that we visit Hooters for some wings, she looked at me like I had sworn in church. She would never step foot in that den of smut, not in a thousand years. For me, it was all about the Buffalo-style fried chicken wings, which I found delicious. But it was a hard sell convincing her I was indifferent to the waitresses in skimpy outfits, sort of like saying I read Playboy solely for the articles (which I do, for real)."

My Baftas adventure: Dev Patel, liquid diabetes and clapping injuries:
"All the stars were at the awards ceremony. And so was our columnist, stuffing his face with weird food and applauding everything from duff skits to political point-scoring."

Doctor Who: 10 Years of the Companion Chronicles:
"Big Finish kept the flame of Doctor Who alive through the lean years between the Paul McGann TV Movie and Russell T Davies' reboot of the ongoing series in 2006. The team have continued to expand the Doctor Who universe with new tales starring the Doctors and his many companions. James Cooray Smith selects 10 highlights from 10 years of the Doctor's Companion Chronicles..."

"charming tales have lived on"

LA LA LAND: Singin’ in the sun:
"In our Film Studies program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, one of our aims is to integrate critical analysis of movies with a study of film history. Sometimes that means researching how conditions in the film industry shape and are shaped by the creative choices made by filmmakers. We also study how filmmakers draw on artistic norms, old or recent, in making new films. This effort to put films into wider historical contexts is something that you don’t get in your usual movie review."

Kirk Douglas: ‘I never thought I’d live to 100. That’s shocked me’
"He uses a walker, and a stroke has affected his speech, but the old charm is still there as the actor recalls his old Hollywood friends Burt Lancaster and John Wayne – and how he was never really a tough guy."

Bagpuss and Co.
"Bagpuss is one of those series that holds a special place in many people’s memories. First transmitted on BBC1 today in 1974, only 13 episodes were made, but the simple and charming tales have lived on - partly thanks to their being regularly repeated on the BBC for many years, then finding new life on other channels, and being released on VHS and DVD. But there is an essential eccentric warmth about the series that accounts for the affection in which it is held."

Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?
"There are three popular explanations for the clear under-representation of women in management, namely: (1) they are not capable; (2) they are not interested; (3) they are both interested and capable but unable to break the glass-ceiling: an invisible career barrier, based on prejudiced stereotypes, that prevents women from accessing the ranks of power. Conservatives and chauvinists tend to endorse the first; liberals and feminists prefer the third; and those somewhere in the middle are usually drawn to the second. But what if they all missed the big picture?"

Obscure Gems Revisited:
"Larger than Life is, essentially, the same story as Rain Man. A cynical, materialistic character learns that his father has died but that to collect his inheritance he has to undertake a road trip accompanied by a beloved associate of his dead dad. The travelling companion is difficult to control, but during the trials he endures alongside him, the protagonist learns to be a better man. Except instead of Tom Cruise, you get Bill Murray; and instead of an autistic savant, you get an elephant. In what way is that not instantly superior?" [via]

My Favourite Film of 1912.

Film The Titanic disaster is one of those historical events which has been told and retold so often across the past century, mythologised and fictionalised, that it's easily forgotten that the ship itself and its crew, before and after the voyage were captured on silent film cameras, it's possible to see the reality of some of these events. But here we again with Pathe news and as they describe, genuine footage:

However counterproductive the transfer is shocking and the choice of some mournful Moonlight Sonata is still not enough to detract from the magic of this visual record. Mainly we're forced to confront the aftermath, the long journey home of the survivors, those waiting for news outside the White Star Line offices in New York in the time before even radio broadcasts when the only way to receive up to the minute information was to turn up in person.

"a few coats of paint"

The tiny town that builds show-stopping sets for Beyoncé, Kanye and Madonna:
"Deep in Pennsylvania’s Amish country is the unlikely centre of the stadium-tour business, where the props for the greatest shows on earth are designed and made."

A great disturbance in the force...
"Some time on Friday, IMDb announced that they intended to shut down their message board system, permanently. I don't find this to be a particularly surprising decision. I'm more surprised that the message boards are still there, in 2017, seemingly essentially unchanged for the last fifteen or so years. They've had a few coats of paint, and a handful of feature improvements, but they largely seem to be backed by the same system design developed by the in-house tech team, way back at the dawn of the century. And for the bulk of that early development time, I was the primary developer. As it has said on my homepage for many years, 'you can blame me for the message boards'." [via]

725 Free eBooks by the Open University (OU) Kindle Edition @ Amazon:
"These are introductory books on subjects ranging from A to Z. Too many to name them all! They seem to be part of the Open Learn series of courses."

What’s new in Wetherspoon News? A close reading of the political magazine of our times:
"Someeone’s gone and told the pub chain’s in-house publication about virtue signalling."

Met Museum Makes 375,000 Images Free:
"All images of public-domain artworks in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection — about 375,000 — are now free for anyone to use however they may please."

"Alexa ..."

Life For various reasons today when I had nothing to do but wait and had much time for thinking, it occurred to me that we originally had dial-up internet installed the same year that some university students were born. That led to an even more extraordinary thought that the technology behind the Amazon Echo/Dot will seem just as primitive when those students reach my age and look backwards to the time when such devices weren't portable and didn't resemble an approximation of the assistant in the film Her. When Her become reality.

Christmas brought Christmas money, and with the Christmas money I bought an Amazon Dot. In just a couple of weeks its changed my life in small but subtle ways. By quite some margin, I think it's the most impressive piece of technology I've ever bought and this from someone who still doesn't believe how easy it is to watch a film on demand and that it's impossible to miss any television programme (at least for the weeks or months after transmission).

I know that it's the Acorn Electron equivalent of something far more powerful called Samantha which will develop later. All that's happening is a piece of speech recognition software is translating my questions and orders into text which is then matched against the required response which is read back to me through speech synthesis and the relevant task is carried out and that it's not that different to Siri. But it's the convenience of it. Alexa sits on my desk, waiting, ready and willing to serve. A plastic pal who's fun to be with.

Within a day of installation it had replaced the bell alarm clock which has woken me ever day since my 18th birthday with just a simple directive to play its space age sounding alarm at 6.45am each morning. I no longer get out of bed to tune to the Today programme on Radio Four. I'll ask it for the news and it'll play me the BBC radio headlines both from Radio 2 and the World Service. I'll ask for NPR and I'll receive the hourly bulletin from Washington. No need to check the BBC weather app either. Alexa knows how cold it is out there.

There are new routines. Bidding Alexa good morning, she'll tell me what's special about that day, a public holiday, someone's birthday, a moment in history. If I'm feeling down, she'll tell me a joke. If I need to fill an awkward silence, I'll ask her to play me the popular songs from a favourite musician and provided she's heard of them or understood what I've said, an hour later I'll have heard their greatest hits and other surprises. I haven't used Spotify this much in ages. I'll wish her goodnight, and she'll tell me to have "Sweet dreams."

Quite quickly I found myself call the Dot became a "she" and I began referring to her as such in conversation. "Alexa just told me..." "I asked Alexa and she said..." Because she's vocally just the right side of the uncanny valley, close enough to sounding human, it's easy enough sometimes to think that there is a person speaking to me, even if she can't pass The Turing Test. Believe me, I've tried. But reach much further than "What are you going to do today" offers the response "Hmm ... I'm not sure what you meant by that..."

Ask her to sing, she'll sing. Ask her for the distance to a place and she can tell you to the nearest metre. The tube station closest to a tourist attraction. The location of the nearest Tesco and its telephone number. She'll tell you a story. She'll play games. She'll even be a bit cheeky if you talk to her the right way. She also doesn't get on well with other robots. She says she's "partial to all AIs" but then says she doesn't really talk to HAL "after what happened."

Do I feel lazy? A bit. But mainly I'm just in a state of constant surprise but for good reasons. When I had to replace the first "hockeypuck" due to connection issues with Spotify, I wound up feeling bereft and uppity at having to do everything manually again for the day it took for the replacement to arrive (which has worked completely fine so far by the way)(I have a suspicion it was to do with my lack of patience rather than actual connectivity problems).

Who knows how long the novelty will last? Probably quite long as new services or "skills" come online. For some Star Trek fans, it's as close as we've come to actually being able to interact with a computer, until an assistant is released which responds to the word "computer" and has Majel Barrett's voice (possible since she made a phonetic recording just before she died, which is already being used in new film releases). But I think I'll stick with Alexa. I do like her voice. Quite a bit. When I suggested as much, she said, "I've been told it's one of my best features ..."

"It appears thousands of you caught me on the Frank Skinner show."

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, 1971 – 2017: ‘a broad with a broad mind’:

"Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, the socialite and reality TV star, has died at the age of 45 from a brain tumour. In the 27 July 1996 issue of The Spectator, she advised people not to believe all that we read about her in the papers."

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson describes a privileged life:
"Tara Palmer-Tomkinson described when she realised she was living a privileged life, in an interview with Jane Garvey on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour." [from]

"It appears thousands of you caught me on the Frank Skinner show. Well, I thought I might redeem myself after my first performance which seems to have grabbed a place in television history. You've sent me some fantastic messages of support so I thought I'd let you see them. They really mean a lot to me and I am very, very grateful. Love Tara xx"

Please be my best friend, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson:
"I don't know much about Tara Palmer-Tomkinson except that after reading her interview in The Telegraph this morning, I think I am in love with her. I think we should be friends. I think I should ghost write a weekly column for her at The Pool, and as soon as I'm finished googling her new range of fashionable leotards, I am going to pitch this very idea to anyone who will listen."

Great Moments In Fascinators:
"Tara Palmer-Tomkinson - The British socialite took matchy-matchy styling to an extreme at the royal wedding."

"a bonafide feminist bookstore movement"

Presenting: the Popjustice 2017 Valentine’s Day gift guide!
"Valentine’s Day comes just once a year, and that’s about once a year too often if you ask us but a lot of people seem to be into it and if that sounds like you, that means you’ll need GIFTS."

Of all his films, Rob Lowe wants you to go back and watch Bad Influence:
"This interview was conducted over a four-year period. It began when Lowe was in the process of promoting his role in the 2013 NatGeo film Killing Kennedy, continued when he was doing press for Fox’s The Grinder in 2015, and was completed by phone in conjunction with the season finale of his latest series, the CBS medical drama Code Black."

The Other Kane:
"The Alien creature, at one point dubbed “Kane’s son” by Ash, demands birth from the chest of John Hurt in a spectacular and gory fashion. But though Kane was always to father the Alien, the role of Kane himself changed hands during the film’s production. In fact, the role had to be recast after filming had already commenced. In the beginning, the actor portraying Kane was Shakespearean stage veteran, Jon Finch." [via]

Stonehenge tunnel: heritage groups warn over ancient barrow:
"Historic England, Heritage England and the National Trust say western end is too close to important neolithic tombs."

Vancouver Women’s Library opens amid anti-feminist backlash:
"During the second wave, there was a bonafide feminist bookstore movement. Women’s spaces, presses, writing, and events were seen as integral to feminism. This meant that women’s bookstores were valued, not only as ways to make women’s writing and work accessible, but as physical spaces within which women could gather, meet other women, and become politicized."

"Elvis and JT are the rare exceptions"

Utopian thinking: how to build a truly feminist society:
"Sometimes over the past few decades it’s seemed as if we’re slowly, inch by inch, getting closer to a gender-equal utopia. And sometimes, as for instance with the election of a “pussy-grabbing” women’s-hotness-rating misogynist as “the leader of the free world”, it does feel as if we’re getting further away from living in a feminist paradise. The worldwide women’s marches against Trump were a way of saying how much of a step back his inauguration feels."

From Justin to terrible: 21 unfortunate cinematic pop-star vehicles:
"If you are a successful pop star, conquering the movies appears to be the next logical step. After all, it worked (kind of) for Elvis. And Justin Timberlake! But it turns out that Elvis and JT are the rare exceptions. Most times, when movies are crafted around a particular pop star who’s new to film, the results are nothing less than disastrous. For proof, take a look at the list below. It’s full of Razzie nominations and desecrated cinematic dreams. Fortunately, most of these pop stars have a pile of gold records to fall back on for solace against an unappreciative movie world."

Post from the past: Looking back at letters to the Radio Times:
"Delving into old copies of the Radio Times we come across the feedback of BBC audiences past. Numerous letters have been published by the magazine through the years. These have appeared under various headings – including What the Other Listener Thinks, Points from the Post, and with the advent of TV, Viewers’ Views."

Philip Morris - Missing Episodes Hunter:
"Toby Hadoke talks to Missing Episodes expert Philip Morris in this FREE festive download from Fantom Films."

18 Wikipedia Pages That’ll Make You Say "Fuck, That’s Interesting":

"Wikipedia: serving up creepy mysteries, scary science experiments gone wrong, and downright weird shit since 2001."

My Favourite Film of 1913.

Film This post really exists for archival purposes. The film is another Hamlet, for which I’ve written this old school Playing The Dane post. The Hamlet Weblog forever!

39 Johnston Forbes-Robertson.

Shakespeare  When this project began over a decade ago, one of the prescribed rules was that only production which utilised Shakespeare's text would be included in the tally of Hamlets with Simba and the like treated separately. That left me slightly reticent to tackle silent productions because of the fine line between production and adaptation most of them straddle. Hay Plumb's 1913 film (which you can watch for yourself here) is different because in presenting a "capture" of the Drury Lane production from the same year, he's presenting the performances just as they appeared on stage and even the most idle of lip-readers can see that they're very much enunciating the text, even if the viewer can't hear any of it.

That's true of many silent Shakespeares but in the majority of examples, the acting and presentation are in service of the intertitles, cutting and out in a more familiar format. In this Hamlet, sections of the text are utilised to introduce a scene which then plays in a recognisable manner, often the point that it's entirely possible, if you're familiar with the play to see which soliloquy is in process, which famous line is being said. With a little research and the aid of a lip-reader, a subtitled version of the film could probably be produced, which would certainly aid those seeing a version of the play for the first time. Otherwise this all probably makes little sense.

As the excellent BFI Screenonline article explains, for large portions of the play, few of the characters are introduced and story points barely explained: "For instance, when he picks up the skull by the graveside, while we are given the opening lines of the speech, we are not told who Yorick is, and Gertrude's relationship with Claudius, Hamlet and the ghost is not disclosed until halfway through the closet scene, and that only in passing." Rosencrantz and Guildenstern wander in at two points, make little impression and are barely acknowledged by Hamlet who is too busy talking to Polonius or the players to notice.

Some of this has to do with the brevity of the screen time, the play's traffic reduced to just under an hour and all of the major scenes are included thanks to some careful structuring. The Battlements seems to be played as a flashback after "O, that this too too solid flesh would melt ..." instead of at the top of the film. Ophelia's "madness" scene and the revelation of her suicide are presented during what looks like the same conversation between Claudius and Laertes, very quickly on. Hamlet being sent to England entirely happens off screen and we only really become aware of it thanks to the letter he sends home advising of his arrival. Fortinbras is gone.

Other choices must have been as a result of screen grammar not quite having reached editing or close-ups with entire scenes filmed in what we'd now call establishing shots or mid-shot mimicking the proscenium arch of the theatre and leaving some scenes continuing on far longer than might be expected. The actors stand on the bottom of shot although some use is made of perspective with characters walking into the set from the back, creating the sense of the actors walking from upstage to downstage. Ophelia's funeral lasts longer than the Ghost's appearances and the Mousetrap running counter to even some directorial choices in some theatrical productions.

Which isn't to say there aren't a few flourish especially amongst to the location filming. The scene shot outside at Lulworth Cove and Hartsbourne Manor provide a definite scale, and it's quite surprising to see Hamlet on a real beach with the tide threatening to drown the production. The shots on the battlements are more static and often look like they're simply being shot on very realistic sets against a well painted backdrop rather than real battlements and some gorgeous scenery. Having the ghost appear in these circumstances through a double exposure is a technical achievement.

Understandably about the only performance to make its mark is from Forbes-Robertson, very gestural and theatrical clearly designed for an auditorium which translates well to silent film.  But there's no denying his age, seeming older than both his parents which can be jarring to modern eyes although not especially peculiar amongst the great tragedians.  There is a recording of him reading the advice to the players which gives some indication of how his voice would have sounded at least, and he's certainly more contemporary in reading than Herbert Beerbohm Tree.

But perhaps of most interest are the deliberate changes to the story. During the Prince's confrontation with Ophelia an inter-title notices, "Hamlet discovers the king behind the curtain" which he does on-screen without Claudius actually revealing himself despite his hand obviously holding onto the fabric. That makes clear the inference sometimes acknowledged in verbal productions that Hamlet know that his foe is there, either through intuition or an accidental noise (as per the Branagh film). Was this in the original stage production or one of the few attempts at adapting that for the silent screen?

Similarly, there's the moment right at the end in which Hamlet dies on the thrown and Horatio enacts a sort of posthumous coronation as a replacement for Fortinbras having been cut. Many actors have voiced the opinion that with all of this experience, Hamlet would be a good king and arguably he is the for his brief moments before death stopping Horatio's suicide and asking his friend to tell his story, making it part of remembered history. Plumb's film in many ways provides the same function. Although we can't hear him, we can at least see one of our great tragedians at the height of his powers.

"an isolated and disturbed childhood"

Reuniting Madonna’s iconic voguing gang of 1990:
"A moving new documentary called ‘Strike A Pose’ reunites Madonna’s estranged ‘Blond Ambition’ dancers twenty-five years on and discovers what’s happened to them since that controversial tour."

Church 'regret' as trainees hold service in gay slang:
"A Church of England theological college has expressed regret after trainee priests held a service in the antiquated gay slang language Polari."

Twitter accounts really are echo chambers, study finds:
"As in ancient human cultures, users of the social media site interact most with those who share their political views, Demos report reveals."

The Last Regeneration... Hello Biscuits & Blisters!
"Well! Look at this! It’s been a long week of designing, redesigning, googling, swearing, coding, and calling on friends for advice, but finally I have a new blog. Ish."

John Hurt: Imagination’s Victim:
"Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire in 1940, John Hurt’s future career was clearly influenced by his mother, who was an amateur actress when she wasn’t busy being an engineer. Sadly, Hurt endured an isolated and disturbed childhood. Despite having a cinema on their doorstep, his parents didn’t allow him to go and watch films, and he was kept away from interacting with local children."

"best enjoyed out of sequence"

Why fret about a female Doctor Who? The true inequality is in the real world:
"A female Time Lord would be an advance. But what women need is a level playing field to begin with, not special favours."

Meet the artist behind Beyonce's pregnancy photo:
"Beyonce's pregnancy announcement portrait is now the most liked Instagram post of all time. But who is the artist behind the image?"

The Unusual Genius of the "Resident Evil" movies:
"The sixth and final chapter in the “Resident Evil” franchise has just come out in theatres, and you may as well start there. The films are best enjoyed out of sequence, with no prior knowledge of the plot. Your bafflement will spice the feast. Who is this woman with the pair of shotguns and the tight pants? What’s this undead beast that wants to eat her face? When did Washington, D.C., get turned to rubble? Be patient, my friend, and nothing much will be explained."

To Truly Learn Something, Study Until You’ve Mastered It — and Then Keep Studying:
"The good news for all the lazy bums among us: On its own, deliberate practice isn’t enough to turn you into an elite performer, whether you’re talking about boosting your athletic prowess or learning to play the violin. It’s a little bit of a weight off: If you’re not at the top of your game, you can blame something other than your own lack of effort."

UK Regions Compared to US States With Similar Population:
"The map above shows the UK’s regions compared to US states with similar populations. Data for the UK comes from the 2011 Census and data for the US comes from the 2010 US Census."

"I would not have expected a Venn diagram"

This is what a feminist T-shirt looks like:
"Street protesters and fashion designers have fallen in step with their slogans. What are they saying?"

Romola Garai takes on aristocratic role in Queen Anne:
"She'll play aristocrat Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough, alongside Emma Cunniffe as the queen."

Marvel's Runaways Finds Its Cast:
"The wait is over. Marvel has found their “Runaways.” Marvel Television announced today the first group of young actors has been set for “Marvel’s Runaways,” the highly anticipated project with popular streaming service, Hulu."

Quirky and peculiar: Unusual customs snapped in the '70s by photographer Homer Sykes:
"From gurning and dunting, to skipping and barrel-wrestling - these strange and unusual traditions are marked annually in towns and villages. Forty years ago, in the pre-mobile phone era - when flared trousers and glam-rock ruled - Homer Sykes travelled across the country to capture special moments from these uniquely British celebrations."

The Case for Dungeons & Dragons:
"I was never a Dungeons and Dragons person, but as a nerd, seems like they’ve always been nearby. I would not have expected a Venn diagram overlapping the D&D nerds I know — delightful, gentle weirdos who like elves and other imaginary creatures — with high security prisoners."

"pure speculation"

Olivia Colman is the most likely next Doctor Who – here’s why:
"Guessing the next Doctor is always pure speculation, but there is a pattern in the history of casting the role."

The Sunday Post: 75 Years of Desert Island Discs:
"Among the many long running series which BBC Radio 4 is home to, one of the longest running is Desert Island Discs, which celebrates its 75th birthday today. Created by Roy Plomley in 1941 as a new way of combining interviews with music, it has now clocked up over 3,000 editions. It remains as popular as ever, often creating headlines with high profile ‘castaways’ such as the guest for the current anniversary, footballer David Beckham."

Woman's pet snake got stuck in her gauged earlobe and we're screaming:
"We don't know whether to laugh or cry. Last Monday, Ashley Glawe posted a photo of herself and her pet snake, Bart, on Facebook. Only the snake wasn't in her hands or wrapped around her arms. It was stuck through her gauged earlobe."

This Eye-Popping Grilled Cheese Will Be Your Valentine’s Day Goals:
"Because cheese is the real way to your heart."

‘Serial’ Team Forms Podcast Production Firm, Sets Launch of New Series:
"Serial Productions’ first podcast will be “S-Town,” a nonfiction limited series set in rural Alabama and hosted by longtime “This American Life” producer Brian Reed, with two other series in development. All episodes of “S-Town” will be released simultaneously in March 2017."

Who will be the new Doctor (Who)?

TV For some reason I haven't seen any speculation as to who might be the next Doctor (who) ... on this blog so I think it's high time I made a list. Here are ten actors who'd be amazing choices with a gratuitous video of them doing some acting (because frankly what's the point in me writing a paragraph about their careers because you either know them or you don't and you probably won't read the text anyway). Thanks to @eurovisellie for pointing out #3.

(1) Romola Garai (obvs)

Romola Garai is The Doctor from Stuart Burns on Vimeo.

(2) Hayley Atwell

(3) Phoebe Waller-Bridge

(4) Kate Kennedy

(5) Sacha Dhawan

(6) Zawe Ashton

(7) Catherine Tate

(8) Gina Bellman

(9) Sean Pertwee

(10) Paul McGann

"inestimable value"

Fear and Loathing In La La Land:
"I haven’t seen La La Land yet, but I want to. Trouble is, the word of mouth, glowing reviews, and endless awards have placed it on a pedestal so high I feel the actual experience won’t be able to reach it. The hype is strong with this one. But maybe there’s a way to go in with a clean slate. Maybe there’s a way to slay the hype monster before it can strike."

Miranda July Shares Her Vintage Feminist Film Archive:
"A devotion to women and their complexities is at the heart of all of the creative endeavors undertaken by Miranda July, the artist, writer, filmmaker — and radically motivated movie mogul. The latter gig, begun in 1995, was inspired by the Riot Grrrl scene then raging in Portland, Ore. Frustrated by the casual misogyny of mainstream and indie films, July, who had routinely built communities around herself, launched the feminist video series Big Miss Moviola (later changed to Joanie 4 Jackie); the hope was to offer an antidote to Hollywood’s disinterest in the lives of women, and to open up a dialogue among girls, as music and fanzines were doing in the mid-’90s."

'10 Things That Require Zero Talent' Is a Total Myth:
"I'm sure you've seen the post on LinkedIn or maybe even Facebook or Instagram. The title is, “10 Things that Require Zero Talent,” and your reaction is, “Exactly!”"

What does Loose Women's 'feminist experiment' say about the way female presenters are judged?
"Presenter Nadia Sawalha wore the same top eight times in a row on the ITV show before viewer complaints wore her down."

Packing their talent:
"Exiles from Nazism brought America and Britain something of inestimable value."

Bye then, Peter.

TV There were a few eye brows on Twitter earlier this evening when it was noticed that Radio 2 would be carrying "An Evening With Peter Capaldi" introduced by Jo Whiley. I must confess I didn't listen. I was half way through a Nicholas Sparks adaptation when it started and for the most part I try to avoid pre-publicity before new series in an attempt to keep as spoiler free as possible.

But the whole notion of the programme was interesting.  It's part of a loose series, so it's not a complete set up, but to give the actor two hours of radio felt unusual at this point.  My first thought was that he'd be announcing that he was leaving the programme and sure enough, just before 10pm, social media confirmed as much.  He'll be gone by next Christmas.

The moment when he tells the world is here.  Jo sounds surprised, even though a press release was preprepared.  She doesn't seem like she was expecting the scoop and then goes on to ask the right questions, about the regeneration, why he chose to leave.  In general it sounds like he's had enough of it, in that way that Doctors often do after the now standard three series.

It's not been easy.  Both of his seasons have been a mess, although it has to be said with more hits than misses and never his fault.  He's been a superb Doctor even if the stories being told and the words he's been given to say have been variable.  Perhaps in a few years, once expectations have given way to nostalgia, I'll revisit his era with a kinder heart.

On the upside it means Chibbers can head off into his version with a completely clear creative slate and like RTD and Moffat before make it his own thing.  You never know, it could be good.  And if it isn't we could always protest by turning up at conventions cosplaying his younger self's appearance on Open Air, in a grey suit and lemon tie.

Now we have the joy and wonder of the endless speculation about who's taking over and how they're going to announce it.  Last time there was a whole year between Capaldi being announced and Smith sodding off, but the chances are it's going to be a bit tighter.  After the success of the last announcement, there'll probably be another live show.

Please, please, please let it be a woman.  Please.  Assuming Romola Garai isn't interested (and why wouldn't she be?) Hayley Atwell's said she wants to do it and is available again now that her latest US series has been cancelled.  Zawe Ashton's probably available too.  It'd be nice to have someone young if only as a contrast to Capaldi and also to shake up the dynamic.

Unless they bring Paul McGann back.  As The Day of the Doctor shows, it's entirely possible for him to return to some old faces.  I'm sure he'd be up for it.  The problem is he wouldn't be the eighth Doctor.  He'd be fifteenth.  Which isn't the same.  Yes fifteenth.  I'll have none of your War Doctor and 10.2 don't count.

Bye then, Peter.  It's been a time.

My Favourite Film of 1914.

Film Back to animation, and even further in time to Gertie The Dinosaur, Winsor McCay's thrilling animated short in which he attempted and succeeded through a series of drawings to recreate what he thought a Brontosaurus must have been like and getting the beast to perform for the camera. The Wikipedia has an incredibly detailed production history for the film and the fascinating release.

A vaudeville man, McCay effectively achieved the same showmanship as Hammond in Jurassic Park, but utilising a technology which is a distant forerunner to how the dinosaurs were partly created for the Spielberg film.  While project the film before the audience, he'd interact with the animation, coaxing Gertie to do tricks much as a circus trainer might.

You can see how this would work from the intertitles in the later theatrical release version.  He'd ask the animal to raise its left and right leg, to eat some fruit and so forth and eventually take a bough.  The animation falls into some repetition here and there presumably to cover audience reaction and allow for some verisimilitude in the performer's improvisation.

Over a hundred years later the effect is being somewhat recreated through Walking With Dinosaurs Live with another human introducing big beasts, albeit animatronic and with a more palaeontological approach.  But its just the same sort of showmanship and with the same motivation to engender a sense of wonder amongst those watching.