TV To tonight's Pointless Celebrities which has now become the tea time tv fixture on a Saturday night now that we're into a run of new episodes. This was a FA Cup Special so of course had a question board about ears which included the following clue which popped up during dessert:
"Wait? What? Surname? He doesn't have a surname..." I said as I spluttered over one the final mince pies we have in the mouth, almost chocking on a current. "He's just Spock? Isn't he? Unless it's trick question and they mean his human mother's name ... her first name's Amanda ..."
Cue five minutes of jabbering as a lapsed Trekker with a memory like a one of the grills in Kirk's cabin tries to remember the surname of Amanda's mother thinking that Pointless had taken a turn for the rock hard and even as Richard's suggesting that it's one of the easiest answers on the board.
Of course the answer they give is Spock which just led to more jabbering.
"Spock, how can it be Spock? His name's just Spock. It's not Spock Spock." And then went and tweeted as much which is what you do in 2015, it's communal, which led to a couple of replies to the effect that it's unpronounceable and that someone thought he was called "Mister" on the basis that it's what Kirk called him in times of high drama.
Cue research, or rather Googling "Spock's first name"
The Wikipedia has nothing.
The Official Star Trek site says "Full Name: Spock (lineal Vulcan name unpronounceable)" which doesn't make much sense in this context since the "lineal" name is the surname and we can all prononce Spock.
Who in the what now?
Doctor Who fans have it easy. We have the TARDIS Datacore for out trivia needs which pulls everything together in one place thanks to the BBC insisting that such things as canonicity are fans business.
Thanks to Star Trek's interesting approach to these things, there are three fancyclopedia entries for the character. Crumbs.
Memory Alpha's entry on Spock Prime (in other words Nimoy) has "full name generally considered unpronounceable to Humans" and "Jane Wyatt, who played Spock's mother Amanda Grayson, was once asked by fans at a convention what Spock's first name was. She replied, perhaps jokingly: "Harold."" ("Grayson! Thank you!")
Memory Alpha's entry on Spock (alternate reality) (Quinto) has "full name generally considered unpronounceable to Humans".
Incidentally the unpronounceable business is from the episode "This Side of Paradise". It's from this line of dialogue:
LEILA: And this is for my good? Do you mind if I say I still love you? You never told me if you had another name, Mister Spock.
SPOCK: (wiping away her tears) You couldn't pronounce it.
The assumption I suppose is that since he's "Mr Spock" "Commander Spock" and "Captain Spock" in the parlance of Starfleet then Spock must be his surname. So when Leia, sorry, Leila says "another name" here she means first name. Fair enough. But what is it?
Step forward Memory Beta. Memory Beta is the fancyclopedia which deals with Trek's spin-offs, it's version of the expanded universe in Star Wars or what who fans think of as "the stuff we read or listen to when it's not on television". That tells us Spock's name is:
S'chn T'gai Spock
Revealed in Barbara Hamley's classic TOS novel Ishmael about an amneasiac Spock finding himself in the old west. The "fact" section of the entry makes it sound deliciously good:
"The novel has Spock interact with the leading characters from Here Come the Brides along with many other characters from franchises outside of Star Trek, including the Cartwright family (Bonanza), Hokas (Earthman's Burden), a "scruffy-looking spice smuggler" (Star Wars), Viper pilots (Battlestar Galactica), both the Second Doctor and the Fourth Doctor (Doctor Who), one of the gamblers from Maverick, and Paladin (Have Gun–Will Travel)."
Confusingly, Memory Beta has a link back to Memory Alpha which itself has an entry for the novel with a longer synopsis including the nuggest about his first name and more specificity on the Who references:
"The British science-fiction television series Doctor Who is referenced at least four times: the Fourth Doctor is described on page 13, Metebelis crystals (from "The Green Death" and "Planet of the Spiders") are mentioned on page 57, the Second Doctor is described on page 154, and Kirk recalls legends of a planet of stagnant time-travelers (meaning the Doctor's people, the Time Lords) in the Kasterborous galaxy on page 200."
Doctor Who itself has an entry on Memory Alpha. And Memory Beta. I may have strayed off topic.
The point is, Pointless Celebrities is quite right. Spock is his surname. His first names are S'chn T'gai which are indeed unpronounceable.
Film For the past couple of years at around this time I've looked back at what happened in this blog's annual review a decade ago. A decade ago I kept a record of everything I watched that year (films, television and theatre) as well as listened to (mostly Doctor Who) for the entire year, and posted the results in the final week of December. That's all still here and perhaps most interesting in capturing the moment when I first watched a lot of television, notably Alias, the last series of Buffy and Friends and my first run through of Firefly. It's also the first year I signed up to Lovefilm and really began to widen the scope of the kinds of films I was attracted to, working through most of the primary French New Wave as well as the rest of the filmic canon in preparation for the applying to do film studies at university. If you can be bothered going and having a look you'll also see I hyperlinked all the titles. Most of them don't work, especially at the BBC, though it's worth noting how most of the Channel 4 shows I watched then are now available to stream over the internet from the same page I linked to back then.
Knowing that in the end I'd probably only end up writing something along the lines of the contents of this first paragraph, I decided to pay homage to that year and keep a record of the films I watched this year but posting them on the blog as and when on a generally weekly basis. Remembering the nightmares of 2004 when trying to remember on which days I'd watched which episodes of Murder One, I disregarded television and everything else. Find below, now, a big long list of all the films I watched in 2014. Here are some statistics. I watched 331 films last year. I watched only one film twice, Gravity, and another in a shorter and longer version, The Desolation of Smaug. The only films I saw at the cinema were Boyhood, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chinese Puzzle and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, which is a lot more than usual. 144 films came from Lovefilm-by-post. The rest were a mix of iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant stream and things I already owned. No I'm not going to go through and work out which. Nobody cares, least of all you. Anyway, here they all are. Join me at the other end for the analysis and "best of..."
Beverages I don't drink.
Well, I mean obviously I drink, just don't drink alcohol.
Regularly, if ever.
Tonight, supping through a bottles of red grape flavoured Shloer, I've been trying to remember the last time my stomach welcomed in a tipple. There was a mouthful of whiskey (or was it whisky?) a month ago because which my Dad wanted me to try, but before that? Don't know. Was it the quarter glass of champagne on Christmas morning two years ago? Did I have a beer in between?
On all occasions it went straight to my head. Which is why I don't drink. I can't drink.
There are all kinds of reasons for this, just as there always are.
Even though my parents had the French approach of giving me some wine with lemonade in my mid-teens, this wasn't the entrance that it is for many people. Even during school when all of my friends were already becoming heavy drinkers to some degree, a lot of coca-cola was consumed.
This led on to my first year of university when I can remember with clarity the lengthy conversations had with "friends" about why I didn't drink. I didn't like the taste, I'd say. They didn't understand. I can't really afford it, I'd continue. Generally coming from financially comfortable family background they didn't understand that either.
My first actual beer, a Budweiser, was eventually bought at a Jazz Festival. I didn't enjoy it, but I was with a friend I trusted and was paying and it seemed ok. I kept that bottle for years.
From there I did drink. Within limits. Three somethings. Always three somethings. But after three somethings, I was drunk as a skunk.
Three wines. Three Buds. Three lagers. Three ciders. Never shorts, because of the burning sensation that led to in the throat even in mixers. But if it was watery and had volume ...
I drank with friends. I drank with work colleagues. I drank with work colleagues who were friends. It didn't interfere with my studies, studious, me, and even at university itself I don't remember waking up with a hangover.
I do vividly remember when going for a meal with my third year housemates to celebrate my twenty-first birthday and after having consumed large amounts of white cider beforehand ordering a fish based pizza even though I don't eat fish either (taste, texture) and asking one of them why the room was spinning.
You won't hear any exciting drinking stories about that time. Not about me anyway.
University ended, and back in Liverpool I continued trying different things. Three Guinesses. Three Newkie Browns. Three Budvars. Three Woodpeckers.
I tried to stretch my limits. Tried the mythic four, which tended to happen at the Krazy House thanks to the two for one offers on bottles. Tried to extend the process with halfs. Even mixed my drinks.
All of which was essentially disastrous. Without studies to keep me from tipping over, I'd be shit faced within a couple of hours and would stay that way and the hangovers began. I chundered, a lot. Sometimes over my bed clothes.
But the thing I noticed was that I was a horrible drunk, or more specifically a horrible person whilst drunk. Apart from the verbal diarrhea, I was often sarcastic and if not that, embarrassing, and because I was drunk without having blackouts, I remembered every horrific moment.
Apologies were made. A lot.
As I've been writing this I've been trying to remember when it was I finally decided to stop. I think it was gradual, beginning after an especially terrible evening during a work leaving drinks when my legs gave way in a pub on the way to the bar and I puked outside a takeaway and I decided I wasn't going to ever be drunk again. After that I decided I'd only ever drink with people I trusted. Then, I think, I just stopped anyway.
I never have liked the taste of most of it. I never have liked the person I become when I drink, mostly because if drinking is supposed to make you more of the person you already are, I'd hate to think what that actually means otherwise.
Now that I'm out of practice too, it takes even less for me to get drunk or at least tipsy. Shocking. Really.
Thank goodness for the trend towards bars in which caffeinated beverages are on a somewhat equal footing to the alcoholic kind.
There's still a stigma to not drinking apparently. Every now and then I'll have a conversational flashback to those undergraduate conversations.
It's actually a decent bellwether for whether I'll be friends with a person or even like them. If the not drinking is a thing, well ... it's also surprising how unwelcome it is when you turn the conversation around and ask them why they do drink.
Which is a bit defensive probably. But you should hear how defensive some people get when they meet someone who doesn't drink.
Not that I judge anyone for it, as I shouldn't. In fact the whole thing is one of life's disappointment.
I'm also fascinated by wines and love visiting wine cellars, longingly glancing along the labels. Sideways is one of my favourite films. But I've little to no sense of what they're drinking, my main experience of the stuff being whatever's been dished out at private views. Whiskey (or whisky) too. Swig and spit seems pointless and sad, and I'd probably still get drunk all too quickly on the vapours from the bucket.
But as I sit and write this on New Year's Eve considering a second bottle of Shloer to see in the new year, I'm fine.
I like Shloer. I like water or fizzy water if I'm treating myself. I like tea, especially Lady Grey. I like coffee. I like that the most it does is keep me awake or, oddly, with some kinds of coffee, usually instant, make me sleepy.
You can follow Stuart on Twitter @feelinglistless.
Film Here are then and here we go with the final, the last of these sometimes weekly what turned into film review posts. Back at the beginning of the year when I said, "I'm going to try and keep a running record of the films I've watched in 2014" I didn't realise, as I so often don't when beginning these projects how elaborate a process it would become with hours spent trying to find something useful or interesting to say about films which probably don't deserve either. In that original post the comments are pretty brief and it's not until mid-March that the format settled down into something resembling a more formal film review post each weekend. There probably isn't much of a coincidence that this was also the time when Doctor Who would previously have begun and I'd be writing Saturday night anyway. Then later in the year, of course, Doctor Who actually began and I'd have to find some other time to knock these out too.
Writing these posts has given me a new appreciation for the work of professional film reviewers, especially those who work for the nationals who have to comment on all the films released in a given week. We all have tastes and interests and yet a Kermode or Bradshaw has to have an opinion about everything and knowledgeable. That explains why in some cases one of their reviews is little more than an elaborate synopsis and a star rating; there's no much that can be said about pretty generic *** or ** film that does its job but is nothing remarkable other than to say that it does its job and is nothing remarkable especially in a week then some oscar contender or big summer blockbuster is released. No wonder they enjoy carving up the turkeys. They're doing all the work of the team of reviewers on one of the monthly magazines themselves so it must be fun to let loose once in a while at the new The Hangover sequel.
The final post will analyse the results and suggest a potential list of the best and worst films I've seen this year. How useful or interesting has this been for you? At a certain point I did forget that I was only ever supposed to be doing this for a year in homage to Review 2004 until a few weeks ago when it dawned on me that I wouldn't be completing #disneywatch in the public gaze. Glancing through the stats, the readership for the posts has averaged at about a hundred and fifty which seems large enough to me, though the most visited with 556 page views was episode #38 where I didn't list or review any films and posted a Norah Jones video instead. No idea why. Either way I'm heading into next year with only vague notions of what to write about other than the usual but I'm genuinely interested - have you used any of this as any kind of a recommendation?
Hemingway and Gellhorn
The Lone Ranger
It's a Wonderful Life
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Lilo & Stitch
Superman: The Movie
Superman and the Mole Men
Let's begin with Christmas. Happy Christmas. Snowglobe is amongst the ABC Family movies which litter Netflix and and about the only one whose poster doesn't feature a smiling blonde woman or a puppy. Christina Milian is the daughter of a family of Cuban bakers whose desperate for some independence and finds it extra-dimensionally within the world of titular magic snowglobe which is delivered to her by persons unknown. A surprisingly effective mash-up of Pleasantville and The Purple Rose of Cairo (yes really) it benefits from a funny script which understands its debt to and comments on Capra-corn and committed performance from Milian and notably from Matt Keeslar as Douglas the snow shoveller she meets in the other reality who has the Jeff Daniels role in seeing his globe view shatter. By a wide, wide margin I enjoyed this more than Elf and the Doctor Who Christmas special too if I'm being honest.
Having bought Dad the dvd for Christmas, we sat and watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that evening. He's one of life's film talk-throughers, but I noticed after the initial scenes with Mark Strong and the wig he was quite most of the time which I think means he enjoyed it. Which he should because it's a modern classic. It's not until watching this third time, in this setting that I realised that it's actually a pretty Christmassy film with all the important flashbacks to the storm before the calm when all of the spies were still a team, at an office party complete with a Santa Stalin. Victorian vibrator, Dickensian dildo comedy Hysteria also ends on Christmas Eve just as it should with its overall theme about the spirit of giving. Having decided before the festive season not to watch too many Christmas films this year, a couple turned up anyway and surprised me. Hysteria's great by the way. It's The Road to Wellville with sex toys.
The season's other rewatches: It's a Wonderful Life is a horribly depressing film if watched at the wrong moment and Christmas Eve was dicey. The BD includes a trivia track which only pops up about every ten minutes mostly to tell us which awards it's won or lists its appeared and contains the horrific colourisation with its pastel skin tones. Having been given the boxed set for Christmas I've begun working through the Superman films again beginning with The Movie which just as I remember has a magical, epic first hour, a nonsensical time travel ending and a depressingly generic middle though its interesting to note how few superhero films do stop in the middle just to show magical having powers can be. My New Year's Eve film choice this year is Strange Days which looks all the more prescient and whose squid technology can't be too far away from happening in some form now.
Hemingway and Gellhorn, the HBO mini-series-movie with Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman as Ernest and Martha has numerous problems. In seeking to tell us about the whole of their life together we're left watching a bitty, episodic, narrative mush especially once they've left the Spanish Civil War which would have had more than enough material and feels like it could have a clearer shape on its own. In order to justify hiring Owen and Kidman for the roles its desperate to give them both some agency which means that although its Gellhorn's story, sequences which should be about her are regularly given to him for no good reason. Plus there's the astonishingly weird decision to Forrest Gump them into contemporary footage for long stretches which never quite looks right in the way Eric Rohmer achieved on purpose with paintings in The Lady and the Duke. Oh and it has one of the worst Orson Welles impressions I've ever seen.
The Lone Ranger on the other hand was a pleasant surprise, given its reputation. Johnny Depp as Tonto is problematic in a way that not even the presence of so many real native americans can quite excuse as is the odd flashback structure. But director Gore Verbinksi's embrace of the source material is admirable and what many critics don't seem to have noticed is the extent to which filmmakers have consciously referenced the vast history of the Western genre from its roots in silent film when it wasn't even a genre yet as such right through the Philadelphia western to whatever it is that we do now. The final half hour, which has one of the best choreographed action sequences I've seen this decade is a loving homage to Buster Keaton, notably The General but also some other shorts and one shot in particular had me cheering. Arguably the film's main problem is its length. With some judicious cutting there's a magic two hours in here.
#disneywatch continues onward. For some reason the original dvd release of Atlantis: The Lost Empire is "full screen" panned and scanned and it's not until returning Amazon afterwards that I realised I could have bought the special edition widescreen version for the same price. Apparently there's not a shred of Joss Whedon left in the screenplay which is surprising - the sense of the team dynamic feels very much like something he'd do and it does retain the sense of what Disney originally asked him for which is "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" meets "The Man Who Would Be King". Finally seen Lilo and Stitch which is as brilliant as everyone says it is though it shows just how far Disney's identity crisis had gone at the turn of the century that this re-imagining of ET was sandwiched between Atlantis and Treasure Planet. You might well also ask how they went from releasing something as smart as this to Home on the Range within two years.
This was the year I finally felt as though I’d come home. My family actually moved back from New York after five years in 2012 but it’s taken me two years to really feel as though I belong. The reason? TV.
If that sounds odd, bear with me a second. When we moved to the US in 2007 it was television that felt most alien to me. Yes, I’d watched a lot of US programmes prior to moving – I could bore along with the best about The Sopranos v The Wire and whether Oz was the greatest prison drama of them all (quick answer, yes, even now, although Orange is the New Black does make it a close run thing) – but watching at odd hours on BBC2 or C4 was very different from being able to watch all the American television I’d ever dreamed of, whenever I pleased.
And initially I really missed the programmes back home. I wanted Peep Show and The Thick of It, Life on Mars and The Line of Beauty. A great deal of American television, particularly the network shows, seemed over-produced and bland, filled with interchangeable actors with big hair and nice smiles.
Then, within a couple of months, two very different programmes changed my mind: the first, filling a Sopranos-shaped hole, was the slick, superior first series of Mad Men, the second (don’t laugh) was Gossip Girl. Somehow these two shows – the classy, clever drama and the campy teen soap filled the final days of my first pregnancy, helping me to feel at ease in my new home. Other programmes followed – comedies such as 30 Rock and Community, dramas from The Good Wife to Game of Thrones – until those five years passed and it was time to return.
And therein lay the problem: I returned to Britain and felt completely out of touch. There were whole swathes of British culture I’d completely missed out on – comedies and dramas people would mention that had completely passed me by. Eager to catch up, I series-linked endlessly but nothing grabbed my interest from much-praised Scandi dramas to the latest sitcoms and thrillers. Five years in America had turned me into the sort of person who only watched US shows. My TV was constantly tuned to Sky Atlantic while I raved to everyone about how much better things were now, in 2012, where you could basically ignore the UK and spend your time watching quality cable TV.
So what changed this year (apart from fed-up friends wishing I’d stop praising every US drama to limp on to these shores)? Partially, as had happened in America, I gradually readjusted to UK viewing but partially too this was a stellar year for British shows. While some (cough, The Fall, cough) left me completely cold, others (Happy Valley, Line of Duty, The Missing) grabbed hold and would not let me go.
I stopped caring so much about production values, about the fact that US shows will always seem that little bit slicker, and concentrated instead on the way in which Happy Valley gave us a crime show that was as much about the aftershocks felt in a community as the crime itself. I retuned my brain to the rhythms of British comedy, the gently offbeat pace of The Detectorists and the wilfully downbeat tone of shows like Rev.
Most of all I fell in love with Peaky Blinders, a drama which can at times be clunky, which walks a constant line between melodrama and outright soap, and yet which also has ambition, style and, crucially, chutzpah to spare. This was TV as it should be, occasionally over-reaching itself, but at least daring to take risks.
And as the camera panned over Cillian Murphy’s face in the brutal, beautifully paced concluding episode, I realised that the reason I enjoyed it so much was because British TV finally made sense for me again. I moved back to the UK in 2012 but 2014 was the year I came home.
You can follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahjphughes. She writes for The Guardian.
That Day We reach the time when I assess how well I predicted the ups and downs of the year and look forward to the next. Here we go again:
A Lovefilm app launches on the Roku 3.
No, no it hasn't and indeed I cancelled my subscription to the disasterously named Amazon Prime Instant in December. At a certain point I realised I wasn't using it as much as I should and was simply holding out for the television series which will hopefully be released on shiny disc anyway and I'll be able to get through the by-post service. So now I'm down to Netflix+Lovefilm-by-post+my own embarrassingly huge dvd collection. No marks.
The Mutya Keisha Siobhan album is finally released.
No, no they didn't. Still waiting. Every now and then Keisha will tweet that she's writing song (as she did on the day after Boxing Day) or that they're recording, but nope, nothing. No marks.
Stella Creasy is promoted.
No, no she wasn't though she continued to be an excellent MP and well worth following on Twitter. No marks.
Moffat announces he's leaving at the end of the next series of Doctor Who. Gatiss takes over.
No, no he hasn't and I think I talked enough about the implications of that. No Mark either so indeed no marks.
Time is a Great Dealer.
I'm still here, so there's that. 1/2 mark.
Which is rubbish. Weird year. Here we go again...
The Beatles are added to Spotify.
Taylor Swift does Glastonbury.
Greens overtake the LibDems in Parliament.
The next series of Doctor Who is better than the last one.
Spider-man joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
One of those is pretty subjective I expect. You know full well which one.
"The islands of the Pitcairn group have always had a close connection with Mangareva in the Gambier Archipelago, and at one time a Polynesian trading triangle operated between Mangareva, Pitcairn and Henderson. Mangareva's lagoon had abundant supplies of black-lipped pearl oyster shells, which made fine scrapers or scoops and could be cut to make fish hooks. Pitcairn had the only quarry in this part of Polynesia where flakes could be chipped off the sharp-edged stones to make adzes and other tools. Inhospitable Henderson Island's small population supplied red tropicbird feathers, green turtles and other 'luxury' goods."
"The National Geographic Society in 2013 undertook an expedition, in cooperation with the Pew Charitable Trusts, to determine the health of the marine environment surrounding the four Pitcairn islands. The islands are home to descendants of the famous mutineers of the H.M.S. Bounty. We found an exquisite and highly functional ecosystem surrounding two of the more remote islands, filled with large predators and the southernmost functional coral reef ecosystem in the Pacific."
Pitcairn Islands Repopulation Plan 2014 - 2019 [pdf]:
"This Repopulation Plan aims to attract and retain migrants to Pitcairn and address a number of key areas including housing, education and health to ensure the Plan is successful. It is a project that has been developed by the Island Council, Her Majesty’s Government and the community.
The 75th anniversary of Byrd expedition visit commemorated with new stamps:
"StampNews.com is glad to inform that Pitcairn Island Post has prepared for releasing as special commemorative issue on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Byrd expedition. The stamp issue consists of five stamps that are to be put into circulation on the 11th of December."
"Sadly, my last day on this beautiful island is here. It also happens to be 11-year-old Emily’s birthday and the whole community gets together to celebrate. It is great to have everyone in one place one and be able to catch up one last time. After eating what seems like an unnecessarily large amount of food, the time has come for many of us to get our bags and head over to the landing at Bounty Bay, to board the Claymore II vessel and head back to Mangareva."