Romola on Sexism in the Entertainment Industry again.

Film Yes, again. It's still happening. From the New Statesman:
"Although she finds sexism doesn’t affect her career at this point, she’s had run-ins with directors and producers over misogyny in their work. Recently, a scene she was in had been rewritten with her character saying a line that minimised domestic violence. “I went to the producers; the argument they came back with was that domestic violence was ‘a downer’,” she grimaces, translating their attitude into: “We really didn’t want to make too much of a thing in the show when murdering women is much more interesting!”"
All together now, #ffs.

From the Archive.

TV In case you missed it, the BBC iPlayer launched a new category yesterday, "From the Archive", which gathers together in one place the various BBC Four collections and whatnot which are already on there but otherwise hidden in the various other genres. From the BBC Press Office:
"From the Archive will include a wide range of programmes from 1946 to present day. It will feature footage which hasn't been shown since first broadcast, including collections such as the Great War Interviews, a series of interviews with World War One veterans and civilians filmed in the 1960s. Until now, many of these programmes were only available to watch on the BBC’s website. Today’s launch brings them to viewers on computers, the BBC iPlayer mobile and tablet apps and on connected TVs."
At the moment, the smart TV iPlayer (Roku etc) just highlights six programmes and a few of the collections but hopefully more will follow including the A-Z section which is already on the website and tablet apps.

What Happened.

Books Hillary Clinton doesn't answer the question implied in the title of her book until page 392. The tl;dr version of what's laid out in that chapter will be familiar to anyone who's been listening to the FiveThirtyEight podcast for the past twelve months (and indeed its founder Nate Silver is quoted extensively throughout) or just paid attention during the campaign. The Comey letter, Russian interference, her message being swamped by the coverage of her emails and whatever scandal was engulfing her rival that hour, the electoral college causing not all votes to have equal worth, systematic voter suppression, people wanted change no matter the cost and the general fact that what was the Obama coalition hated her so much they prefered to vote for a third party candidate, write in Bernie Sanders or not turn up to vote at all.

All of this is presented with plenty of statistics and wonk but ultimately, and this is true of the whole book, there isn't a single explanation for why sixty-two million people voted for her opponent despite her qualifications for President significantly outweighing his.  Perhaps an investigation will uncover some fraud which dwarf all of this, that voting tallies themselves were hacked in key states, that the polls which suggest Clinton would squeak through were correct but another agency effected the number of votes cast.  That voters who were expected to turn up and vote actually did but their democratic right was deleted by a third party.  Even if this is proved it doesn't mean Clinton will become President anyway.  The US constitution has nothing on what happens if a Presidential election is compromised in this way.

Outside of that chapter, What Happened is a curious entity.  Unlike the Katy Tur book Unbelievable, this isn't a straight memoir of everything which happened during the election from the inside.  There's a sense of what campaigning was like, travelling the length and breadth of the country, meeting people, attempting to understand their needs.  There are sections which cover how the candidate was feeling at key points notably in the pre-released passage about the resultant POTUS looming over her on the debate stage.  Election night is given just a few pages (perhaps its still too difficult to talk about for her) or when Comey letter was released.  Such passages are surprisingly frank and there's a sense that if the campaign had been more open during these moments and in this style it might have made a difference.

There is much analysis.  Anyone who watched the primaries will recognise how like her later opponent, Sanders and his supporters were able to contribute to a general sense of paranoia against Clinton making it about personality over policy, feeding assumptions that she was going to be somehow dangerous to the country.  Clinton enunciates how difficult that was to fight against.  If people assume you're a crook, despite all evidence to the contrary, they'll stop listening.  The chapter "Those Damn Emails" is gold as it unpicks the deficiencies in the reporting like an episode of Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver, how it was treated as though it was the greatest scandal in US history because it was assumed Clinton had some nefarious reason for it which simply wasn't there.

But for over half of the pagination, What Happened reads like an extended stump speech, reiterating and litigating the messages which were stagnated or ignored in the campaign.  In places it becomes a suggested policy document for the Democratic Party, a list of suggestions as to how they might organise or engineer their message so they can have a chance in hell in the future.  Some of this, it has to be said, is a slog for this British reader because its being direct at a different audience across the pond, especially since much of it seems like common sense and it's difficult for me to see how people can't have come to these conclusions themselves, why it needs to a Presidential candidate to write them in a book.  But it does and she does and hopefully somebody will heed it.

The general emotion on completing the book, hell on completing the first page is sadness.  How could a person this articulate, sensitive, intellectually stable and capable of such thought and empathy have lost in that election?  As with any autobiography there is an element of ego and of punching up your own identity.  But there's also a laser focused self-deprecation which indicates that in becoming a candidate she thought she would be able to overcome whatever shortcomings she perceived herself to have.  It's obvious, despite the evidence, that she blames herself even though history demonstrates that no candidate is perfect.  It's just that on this occasions the rivals were held to completely different standards and that there wasn't a lot she could do about that.

New Discoveries.

TV Star Trek Discovery premiered on Netflix in the UK this morning and is fine, really, really fine. Like most revivals post Doctor Who 2005, it takes the elements of the original mythology and spins them around a different televisual language, in this case a single protagonist, multi-part story. Having spent the best part of a year watching my way through a year's worth of a Trek which even in the sequel and prequel series and films followed roughly the same formula established in the 1960s, it's refreshing to see the franchise attempt something different, partly for its own survival. Imagine if the show had returned in the same old mode, reiterating the usual three or four storylines, offering yet another version of The Naked Time or Data's Day.

But the real pleasure for me is in not having to wait to see it.  This is the first Star Trek series which I've been able to watch on "broadcast" almost as soon as it's been made available in the US and participate in the discussion, enjoy the reviews and as is the case in the 2010s, gorge on the YouTube videos listing easter eggs in exacting detail.  In the olden days actually seeing Star Trek was a frustrating process especially if you were in a non-satellite family tied to video releases and terrestrial broadcasts.  Having the entire series (including animated!) available at the touch of button Netflix is the kind of magic which busts Clarke's third law to smithereens.

Here's how I've watched Star Trek previously.

The Original Series 

-- the 1980s BBC Two broadcasts at 6(ish) with the teaser editing in after the titles - the one with the BBC Micro asterisk field beforehand

-- The Cage was a rental of the sell-thru version from Video City in Garston in the late 80s

-- episodes recorded from Sky by my Auntie

-- borrowed from a librarian friend (who also loaned by tons of the books)

-- the 90s "remastered" BBC Two version running at the wrong frame rate

Star Trek: Animated

-- Afternoon broadcasts from Sky One recorded while I was at school.  When we first moved into this tower block, Sky One and Sky News were being delivered via a BSB squarial on the roof.

The Next Generation

-- Random episodes from season one on rental VHS from Video City

--  BBC Two broadcasts, every Wednesday at 6pm.  Unless there was sport in which case it was pre-empted.  Sometimes we'd only see one episode in about two months

-- Sky bought first run the rights from s4 onwards which meant waiting for the VHS releases which were, I think, just two episodes a month for £12.99 which wasn't easy on pocket money.  Plenty bought as presents instead.  I received Devil's Due/Clues from friends as an 18th birthday present.

-- s5 and parts of s6 during ten hour binging sessions at university in halls because one of my housemates was able to get bootleg recordings of the US TV broadcasts sent to him.  Even then we didn't see all of them and not in the correct order.  That's definitely the first time I saw The Game.

-- s7 mix of bought tapes and episodes recorded from Sky by my Auntie.  All Good Things was another birthday present.

Deep Space Nine

-- Watched the first episode Emissary at a friend's house on what looked like a fifth generation recording of the US TV broadcast in which you could only really make out who everyone was by their outline, the whole thing resembling an impressionist painting.  Which I then had my own copy of and you can imagine what that visual smear looked like.

-- random s1 episodes recorded from Sky by my Auntie

-- Others rented from the Blockbuster video on Allerton Road.  Special rental tapes with four episodes on them.

-- By now I was unemployed and signing on and couldn't afford to buy the episodes.  Sometimes I'd visit the Virgin Megastore in town and stand and watch them on the preview tv screens clustered in the middle of the first floor.

-- The BBC Two broadcasts

-- But most of it was renting the sell-through releases from Roughley & Gerrard newsagent on Aigburth Road.


-- The Caretaker during Star Trek night on BBC Two, 10:50 in the evening on 26 August 1996.

-- BBC Two broadcasts until they lost interest and Sky became the exclusive broadcaster

-- First five seasons rented from Roughley & Gerrard until I lost interest

-- which meant the first time I saw most of season six and all of seven was earlier this year on Netflix


-- Box sets rented through Lovefilm, although this blog post indicates this was after the show had been cancelled.


Of course, all of this happened pre-internet and hose-pipe rather than bucket social media so the concept of spoilers wasn't really an issue with most of us reliant on Starburst or latterly SFX magazine for news and reviews of episodes.  Most people I knew didn't have Sky and those who did weren't fans so when the BBC broadcasts were the main source we were all watching it together any so it felt like a new series even if the episodes were over a year old.  Now I can't imagine how I'd cope having to wait for a home release of Discovery.

[Related:  How I became a Star Trek fan.]

Day of the Vashta Nerada (Classic Doctors, New Monsters: Volume Two).

Audio  One of the knock on effects of featuring an Eighth Doctor adventure set during Time War within these mash-up box sets is that has greater import than the other three stories due to shining a light on a period in the Time Lord's history for which we so far have scant knowledge. The other three tales are entertaining but pretty typical fill-in fare, whereas Day of the Vashta Nerada actually adds to the mythology of the character, not least because this is Big Finish marking out its own territory.  We now have an even greater understanding of how the Doctor is able to continue on the fringes of the conflict even though Gallifrey is desperate for him to become involve despite the whole business being an anathema to him (paralleling nicely with a much earlier intergalactic war portrayed in the Fifth Doctor story).  Similarly we appreciate the extent to which the morality of the Time Lords has been weakened to the point that the difference between them and the Daleks is entirely grey.  All of which is background to an otherwise pretty traditional base under siege piece with the Doctor leading a group of people through a complex fighting various genetic mutations of Vashta Nerada, each more deadly than the last, connected lightly to the earlier story in the box with Fourth.  Having not heard the War Doctor boxes, I know that there'll be some elements I'm missing, the significance of Jacqueline Pearce's Cardinal and whatnot and it'll be interesting to see how that also effects my enjoyment of the upcoming Time War series.  McGann's found a tone for this Eighth which has the years on him, a slight element of exhaustion undercutting the adventure seeker of old.  He's just putting off the inevitable; the War Doctor is close.  Placement:  Pretty late, I'd say, between The Sontaran Ordeal and his regeneration.  We'll see if this changes once the boxed sets are released.

Twin Peaks, side by side.

TV Last night, after sitting my laptop next to a portable television, I watched the final two episodes of Twin Peaks side by side, just about in synch (ad breaks and buffering led to some hiccups) and was entirely convinced this was the proper way to enjoy the episodes.

 On the simplest level, like Mike Figgis's Timecode which similarly juxtaposed action in separate screens, longueurs in one episode such as lengthy driving sequences or pauses in conversation coincide with important action in the other and the shots and themes really do talk to one another.

But there's much to it than that. Alex Fulton has a length explanation for this theory with plenty of evidence along with how it effects the narrative to create a happy or at least satisfying ending:
"Herein I will suggest my own opinion, based on a unique reading of the material, that the ending is in fact of the happy variety: Cooper wins. Having said that, the way the events are depicted works like a puzzle with its pieces all out of place. Using a little bit of that intuition Agent Cooper so often employs allows the viewer to lock the pieces in place. A rearranging of the events of final two episodes gives the viewer a more satisfyingly optimistic conclusion, albeit one that does not resolve in the traditional way of most television. It requires some work on the part of the audience—not a strange concept in avant-garde art—to properly formulate."Here's are some of the key moments:

And a focus on the ending in particular:

It's remarkable how the final shot of the forest in #18 is the exact length of the closing credits in #19 and the experience ends with Julee Cruise on #17 which just happens to be two minutes longer.

Pop-Up Globe.

Theatre While we wait for Shakespeare's Globe in London to return to its roots, in Australia, a pop up version of iron and steel has opened in Melbourne in Australia and looks brilliant:
"As a gamble, it’s paid off – the Pop-up Globe has completed two seasons in New Zealand, and already sold 40,000 tickets for its first repertory rotations in Melbourne. Three companies with a total personnel of 90 travel with the show, as does its wardrobe of 500 bespoke costumes. The size is warranted for the programme; no less than 14 individual shows are staged every week of its season. It’s a relentless schedule replicated in the physical construction of the theatre itself; the whole Pop-up is assembled over just six weeks, and packed down in less than three."
Touring companies which carried a theatre with them is how drama and comedy flourished in the sixteenth century and it's often suggested how Shakespeare was inspired to become an actor and dramatist, perhaps even joining a company himself in the "missing" years.

Dr. Eighth.

Book A few years ago BBC Radio 4 broadcast about the history of the Mr. Men and how the franchise is being looked after and exploited by Roger Hargreaves's son Adam, especially after it was sold on to UK entertainment group Chorion and how they're only really interested in modernising the product around the fringes, keeping the key elements as much as possible. Now, here's some cross franchise pollination with Who stories written and illustrated in the style of a Mr. Man book, one for each Doctor, including Eighth. As expected Hargreaves has the very 2013 problem of not being able to reference anything about this iteration of the Time Lord due to other licensees having properly defined him apart from about an hour of telly. I'd expected his solution would be to offer a generic version, but actually between the character design with his floppy hair and green skin (surely a reference to his jacket in Night of the Doctor) and what few lines of dialogue he has, the writer offers a pretty good approximation of his dry wit.  Across the thirty-two pages there are two linked stories, about saving the crew of an exploding starship and mediating a conflict between the Sea Devils (old school design) and Silurians (nuWho look) and it's all good fun and even manages to have an illustration of the inside the TV Movie console room evoked by the steampunk supports.  Placement: Frankly there's nothing in here which not as well be canonical considering what's been permissible elsewhere, so due to his costume, I've put it at the start of the Time War.

Girls Unbound.

Music Thanks to my nearly total obsession with the Sugababes reunion and lack thereof, it's impossible not to also be taking a sideways glance at Girls Aloud, the ITV to their BBC, and just exactly what happened there. Now, here's an unsurprisingly frank interview with Nadine in which its reveal exactly what did happen there, and unfortunately it all occured on my patch:
"In an ideal world there would be a commemorative plaque above the entrance of Liverpool’s Echo arena. “Here ended Girls Aloud, the last great girl band” it would say. On 20 March 2013 Nadine Coyle – one fifth of the genre-bending, pop-reshaping rabble – was getting ready for the final night of the band’s reunion tour. “I was in hair and makeup,” she explains in a north London restaurant, “going through my nightly ritual.” Rather than taking delivery of a good-luck bouquet, Coyle received some news via the band’s PR and manager – the other girls wanted to call it quits. Not the more fashionable “hiatus”, which they’d already done in 2009, but a proper split. With the band working to majority rule, there was nothing she could do."
Astonishing behavior from all concerned.

Class Dismissed.

TV Let's mark some time. Doctor Who spin-off Class is officially cancelled which was somewhat expected given show runner Patrick Ness had already announced he's walked away. Here's what current BBC Three controller Damian Kavanagh said today at the Broadcasting Press Guild with some invective:
"No, [we're not bringing it back]. There was nothing wrong with it – I thought Patrick did a great job, he explored an amazing world."
No, it was rubbish. After a promising first couple of episodes it plopped straight into the kind of sub-Buffy territory those opening episodes seemed like they were commenting against, with some astonishingly ripe dialogue an uncertain tone and a feeling of watching some random episodes from a much longer series were all the character development was happening elsewhere. Also had the interesting approach for a Doctor Who spin-off of mostly ignoring all the potential mythology available in favour something trite and generic. A glance through my reviews shows someone become increasingly tetchy as the series unfolded.
"In honesty, it just didn't really land for us on BBC Three."
Which judging by the lack of pre-publicity and in series promotion seemed be the case before it was "broadcast" or uploaded. There were hard core Doctor Who fans who didn't even know it existed despite Capaldi turning up in the first episode.  If you thought it was actually any good you would have mainstreamed it on BBC Two, except there isn't a timeslot on the channel any more for this kind of thing with primetime mostly filled with documentaries and Dragon's Den.  So you dumped it on BBC One, again without bothering to publicise it first.  It's almost as though you didn't want people to watch it because you were quite rightly embarrassed.
"Things sometimes don't, and I've got to make decisions about what we're going to do from a drama point of view."
Well, quite.  Thanks to the license fee settlement, gone are the days of even being able to afford Being Human of Spooks: Code 9 or indeed the BBC could afford to pay for BBC Three to go out on a linear channel.  This wouldn't have gone into production without the US money.
"There are always times when you do something and you have to decide that it's not going to come back. Class is just one of those things."
Honestly, we understand. It probably wasn't what you were expecting and it wasn't what we were either. It's just annoying that it ended on a cliffhanger. Perhaps Big Finish'll produce their usual ten boxed sets in other to provide a resolution.  This generation has its own The Tripods.

None of which has stopped me from foolishly buying the bloody thing on blu-ray because I'm a flagellating completist.

TV Creamed.

TV Last week, nostalgia website TV Cream celebrated its 20th anniversary birthday, which I planned to mention here but entirely forgot about in the middle of everything and so here's a belated happy birthday anniversary to them.  My guess is I first stumbled into the website pretty soon after launch when it was still in its black html stage with alphabetical pages of text and downloadable real media recordings of programme theme tunes.

Having lived in a BBC family, it was an ideal way of learning about the kinds of programmes which had been broadcast on the other side as well as the proper USP of reminding of the programmes which I'd completely forgotten or slept through because I was a baby.  Finally I had an explanation for the programme filled with monsters which had haunted me for decades, multi-coloured beasts not of this dimension that cause a fair few nightmare.  It was Animal Kwackers.  See above.  Shocking.

Then there was the newsletter with its stunning length and authority. Just how many hands did work to produce this voluminous text?  During my recent life laundry, in one of the boxes I found a print-out of a Cream Digest from March 2004, the TOP 50 Media Movers and Shakers.  It's twenty-four pages long, in courier new, double sided.  Needless to say it's at the top of the magazine mountain waiting to be reread.  There are people listed who I've never heard of and that has always been one of TV Creams best aspects, making you feel like an insider.

Eventually I was invited to write for their sister publication Off The Telly which is pretty high in my list of things in life which I look back on with amazement and glee (if you see what I mean) and although I've been asked to write for Cream now and then I never seemed to have any decent enough ideas, or at least good enough to suggest, which can be added to the list of life's regrets along with not accepting the Kirsten from France's invitation into her room on my second night at BA (Hons) university, not actually living in Manchester during my MA university because I miscalculated my finances during the application process and not dieting until being forced to by my hernia operation.

To bury the headline somewhat, to celebrate the anniversary birthday, TV Cream have produced an actual television programme, which is quite frankly brilliant and you can watch through this YouTube playlist on YouTube.  It's an offshoot of the kinds of things they've created for their periodic podcast, but in vision with analyses of some frankly bonkers television, interviews and other surprises which I won't reveal because its best to watch with little idea of what to expect.

I'd love to see more of the commentary pieces on forgotten television if they wanted to turn that into a regular YouTube thing.  Please make these clips go viral pronto.  Anyway, Happy Birthday Anniversary TV Cream.  Here's to the next twenty years!

Missing Presumed Drowned.

TV While some of us still have nightmares about the furnaces the BBC employed to cremate old episodes of Doctor Who, if reports are to be believed, spare a thought for those seeking information about shows broadcast on The DuMont Television Network in the US which shut up shop in the 1950s. During his search for old episodes of The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, the first US network show starring an Asian-American actress, he discovered a pretty horrifying bit of testimony:
"As it turns out, there wasn’t much to hear. The DuMont Television Network made and aired ten episodes in 1951, canceled the show in 1952, then shuttered for good by 1956. According to the 1996 Library of Congress testimony of actor Edie Adams, most of the DuMont series kinescopes — including, presumably, any remaining episodes of The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong — met a watery end following a legal dispute over the network’s archives in the ’70s: “[One of the DuMont lawyers] had three huge semis back up to the loading dock at ABC, filled them all with the stored kinescopes and two-inch videotape, drove them to a waiting barge in New Jersey, took them out on the water, made a right at the Statue of Liberty, and dumped them in Upper New York Bay! Very neat, no problem!”
The rest of piece will ring bells for anyone who's read about the search for old archive shows in the UK [via].

"around £60 I think"

Music This extensive interview with composer David Arnold manages to include a question about his work on the Eighth Doctor theme which has recently returned to the audio releases:
You did the Eighth Doctor’s theme for Big Finnish Productions’ “Doctor Who.” What goes into doing a theme for a character with such a deep musical legacy and such high expectations? What influences did you look to and was there anything about the least famous Doctor character that spoke to you?

Arnold: I did this when Doctor Who was off air and had been for many years. No one really expected it to come back and this was for a limited edition CD run of audio stories of Dr Who. it was a low key, low budget (around £60 I think ) favor I was doing for Mark Gatiss whom I’d known for a while. I loved the show when it was on TV and watched it religiously as a child. My favourite was Patrick Troughton. It was great to be able to go back to how I felt about watching the show. I wasn’t interested in re-inventing really… more revisiting….so I stuck closely to the classic Derbyshire version. It was always Doctor Who so in a way the actor didn’t matter; I was still writing for The Doctor.
One of the reasons I returned to the show was that version of the theme introducing Storm Warning, Eighth's first adventure. It sounded so strange and alien and yet also comfortingly nostalgic and close to the original, which is just what those first audios ended up being.

Cinema Paradiso: An Update.

Film Here's the short review of Cinema Paradiso after a couple of weeks. It's worked well enough so far that I've decided to cancel a few other subscriptions and stump up the extra eight pounds a month to upgrade my subscription to three discs at a time unlimited.

Now for something longer.

The two subscriptions were Spotify and Disney Life. Amazon Music Unlimited caters for all my music streaming needs, with a more flexible and user friendly mobile app and being able to stream through the two Echo Dots we have in the flat now. Since signing up to Disney Life, I think I've only watched about two films. So it seemed reasonable to convert those for more physical discs from CinPa.

Here are the list of positives:

Dispatches and receipts are as timely as latter day Lovefilm. Discs posted by them one day always arrive here the next and similarly those posted back are turned around the next day so I've still been able to churn through four discs a week, if I'm watching one each evening. We'll see how that changes with the increased dispatches.

The My List page is super flexible in terms of priority and you're able to literally put the films in a big long list in the order in which you want to see them. I have mine set up in release order going backwards and have been putting each week's new releases at the top. The algorithm apparently just works down the list from the top until it reaches a title which is currently in stock and allocates it which seems a lot more logical than the seemingly random approach Lovefilm had.

The profile page for each film which sometimes includes a Rotten Tomatoes score. Actor / director filmography pages seem modelled after the IMDb's and includes everybody and everything. Although sometimes it seems a bit inaccurate like suggesting Julia Roberts was in Season Two of Beadle's About which the IMDb contradicts.

The pre-release titles are listed in release date order going backwards which is something Amazon's flavour of Lovefilm couldn't accomplish despite being a feature of proper Lovefilm and Screenselect before it.

Customer service has been excellent so far. I had an initial issue with dispatches and it was sorted out via Twitter DM.

There's an option to buy top up rentals of you want to seriously binge if you have time off. I wonder how many people take them up on this in the Netflix age.

There's a scheme in which if you manage to persuade someone else to sign up you get 1/6 of your subscription off while they're still in the game and actively using the service. If you manage to have six, you get your subscription for free. So if you're thinking of signing up and want to help me out, use this link to begin your sign-up process - which includes a 30 day free trial (which is something I didn't even get).

The catalogue is huge and has items and unlike Lovefilm items don't seem to have been pulled since the service began.

The negatives:

In the New Release section et al, World Cinema and everything else are listed separately. Also there's an odd demarcation between "films to watch" and "movies to watch" which doesn't seem to be very clearly defined in terms of difference. Oh and new releases of back catalogue ("classics") don't have their own section and there's no way to sort them by theatrical release date.

The search is very raw: fine if you're just looking for a single title it falls over if you're looking for a franchise title like Doctor Who which then presents a list of nine hundred odd entries after presenting everything with the words "doctor who" in the title or synopsis and doesn't put those items with it in the title first.

None that I can see other than the price. Back in the day Screenselect charged £14.99 got three discs at a time before reducing the price to £11.99 some way into the Lovefilm ownership. £19.99 seems quite steep although my guess is its because the overheads of posting the discs back have increased a lot since then.

I received two discs in the same envelope today. Lovefilm offered the option of individual dispatch so I've asked if they do too. This will only really be an issue around Christmas time if a bumper envelope is delayed in the post going either way.


Life Over the past month, I've been busy with some things, primarily a life laundry in which, for various reasons, I've had a rethink of all my possessions, deciding what I truly need and what should be sent to the charity shop, recycling and refuse collectors. Over the past couple of years its become apparent that in the fifteen years since my last major clear out, the VHS apocalypse of 2003, I've accumulated again and now the internet exists with its abundant availability there's really no need to hang on to everything, that the want to have things needs to be balanced with the practicalities of psychologically having the space to move about and breath and dance.  So I drew up a set of mental rules (both meanings), ordered some new IKEA furniture and set to work.


One of the problems with books is I tend to like buying them but don't spend a lot of time reading them.  Eventually it came down to streamlining to my main interests (film, Shakespeare, Doctor Who, music I suppose, bit of fiction) and "dumping" the rest.  Plus there's trying to get away from the idea of collections.  For a few years I've been trying to build a complete collection of Doctor Who books across the various series.  Most have sat on the shelf unread.  Now they're sat on the shelf waiting to be read and then they're heading to the nearest charity shop.  The Penguin Shakespeares have just gone.  I decided to just keep the Ardens - they're more comprehensive.

I've interrogated each book with a set of questions.  Have I read you?  If I have, will I ever read you again?  If I won't is there some especially sentimental reason for keeping you.  If there isn't, enjoy the trip to the charity shop.  If I haven't, will I ever?  No?  See you.  Might I?  Welcome to the book mountain, I'll get to you once I've worked through the backlog of magazines, comics and other business.  There's something quite liberating about knowing that the books I own will the those which I truly love or found most useful.  Incidentally, I've also instituted a ban on duplicates.  All but the hardback versions of the Hitchhikers books are no longer in my possession.


This was brutal.  Deciding to keep just Empire, Sight and Sound, Doctor Who Magazine. the Shakespeare's Globe publication and Yahoo! Internet Life (due to its rarity) I've recycled the rest apart from odd issues just because and others which I've set aside for final nostalgic read (mainly some Rolling Stones and Premieres).


Mostly gone.  Nothing too spectacular and nothing which I've actually looked at in the past twenty-odd years.  Mainly UK reprints of US material although I've kept the four issues of Spider-Man about his visit to the UK to cameo on the Wide Awake Club because I don't think that's ever been reprinted or likely to.  Otherwise you don't want to know what else has gone.  It would make you cry.  Moving on.


Ha.  Well.  As I explained when I briefly surfaced for air a few weeks ago, I've thrown out my ludicrously baroque approach to cataloguing my films and whatnot in chronological order by when they're set, as detailed here.  At a certain point it became a noose and yet I continued onward, amid all the person hours, diligently attempting to find the exact dating for some off-air recording of a BBC Four documentary so it would fit in the sequence, ultimately spending more time amassing and cataloguing this material than actually bloody watching it, my bedroom filled with little boxes covered in dates, which was fun in principle but a nightmare in practice.

The process of getting to fuck it was pretty simple.  At the start of the month, when faced with all of those boxes and knowing I wanted to have less of those boxes, I simply said fuck it and got to work.  The alternative was individually deaccessioning things from the database and yes, fuck that.  I separated the films from everything else and then headed off into the everything else asking similar questions as the books, echoing the methodology.  The film and television documentaries have been retained.  Most of the art stuff.  History if it references Shakespeare or are related to the plays.  Attenborough documentaries.  If they're with/by someone who appeared in the old "talks" series on this blog, they stayed.  Bin bags filled with DVD-Rs ensued.

The films were harder.  I've kept everything, but on the proviso that no dvd retains its original packaging, slipped instead into a plastic wallet.  My four thousand odd film dvds now reside in around thirty-six of the original little boxes (pictured here) on a book case sorted alphabetically (no not the individual discs, the boxes at least).  This has the new benefit of me not having to consult a fucking database if I want to find a particular title, I can just check through the box, which is liberating.  I do still have a database listing them all, but that's mainly so that when I'm out and about I don't end up buying something I don't already own.

In case you're wondering, yes that includes Doctor Who.  A decade or so of Doctor Who dvds with just the disc and the insert retained, now sorted into thirteen or so boxes, one for each incarnation, mixed with Big Finish and AudioGo releases all in plastic wallets now too.  An extraordinary amount of space has been saved just getting rid of packaging which might look amazing on the shelf but is no use to someone who lives in a flat.  Plus it deals with the issue of spines not matching, now that there aren't any.  Take that 2Entertain.  All of this is not unusual behaviour I expect.  Anyway ...


They're still in their boxes for now, sorted in alphabetical order on the shelf.  Blu-rays always feel more fragile than DVDs, less likely to play properly even if they have a few scratches.


Like the DVDs, mostly retained but reduced to plastic wallets.  I haven't decided how to sort them yet or if I'm going to bother.  The next job will probably to go through them and add the titles to my Amazon music library.

Life Stuff.

Biggest challenge.  I set myself a target of being able to put everything life related into four bankers boxes, one each for education, work, tourism and miscellaneous (which is mainly old scripts and amateur writing).  Books filled with college notes have gone.  Ancient payslips shredded.  Pointlessly retained receipts and flyers for shows I didn't see but picked up at venues recycled.  Was an exhibition especially good and do I have fond memories?  No.  Go.  So huge was this mass of paper, I saw programmes for exhibitions which I don't even remember happening even though I probably spent hours in there.  Did I manage to reach the target?  Just about.  Knick knacks have gone into a battered old brief case because I've always wanted to do that.


Seriously people, sort through your cables.  I had a box full, most of which were for technology I'd thrown out or replaced years ago, included a parallel port printer cable from an old dot matrix printer.  No one needs that many HDMI or kettle leads or any other nonsense especially since most of it is available on Amazon for a couple of pounds, or Maplin for three times that amount.


Having already relatively recently had a necessary clear out due to losing a quarter of my body weight, this was really about storage.  After persevering with the chest of drawers which features on my Twitter profile but has never had quite the right dimensions for any of my clothes, I've replaced it with a set of KALLAX shelves from Ikea, accompanied by these DRONA boxes acting as drawers which are huge and perfect and in which everything fits.


Gone, gone, gone.  I would say I've lost about a half of my possessions so far (if you factor in all the plastic cases) with another third of the rest going, mainly the books once I've read through them.  I feel liberated having realised that I only ever re-read or rewatch about 5% of anything and that the nature of an object as a way of retaining culture has changed.  Let's see what happens in the next fifteen years.

An Apology.

Life Back in the naughties when blogging was still a thing and phrases like "digitally artisanal" weren't being thrown around be people who're stupid enough to be still doing this as a justification for not simply dropping every thought into a fifty tweet thread on some other platform, there'd be how to guides on how to write the best web-logs. Underneath "choose a decent name" and "write in short sentences" was a warning against explaining why you might not have posted in a while. "Don't apologise for not blogging" they'd say, "just blog."

Which is the rule I've tried to stick to across the years, but I posted five times in August having been wandering around here almost daily up until then and well ... Does anybody even notice?  Does anybody care?  Most blogs that have gone by the wayside across the often do so without much warning.  A lot of the old Brit blogs I used to read end on a fairly typical post without a Dear John letter to its audience explaining why it's breaking up with them.  Things happen and people just stop.  For a while I wondered, if I ever did decide to call time on this, what would I do?  Would I simply stop too, or would I have to say something, offer some kind of explanation?

Fortunately, I don't have to decide yet.  I'm not going anywhere.  As I've said in the past, there's really no point in me not having a blog even if the post frequency oscillates between constipation or full on liquidy diarrhoea.  With a whole new Doctor Who to review with some frequency, the ongoing potential for a Sugababes album in the future when everyone's finished their maternity leave and plenty of Hamlets on the horizon (and to catch up on), something will appear here.  The reasons for having this blog haven't changed, even if this paragraph in particular sounds like I'm trying to convince myself.

Anyway, so yes, I apologise for not blogging much over the past month, I've been busy with some things.


History The Guardian asks, Where were you when Diana died?

I was in bed.

For some reason I'd woken up very early that morning, perhaps 5pm. which was entirely unlike me until my routine became waking up at 6:45 every day. After making a cup of tea, I settled in to watch The Hudsucker Proxy which I'd video taped overnight from Channel 4. In between times, with no internet, no social media, I hadn't turned on the television and when I did, it was after popping the video directly back into the machine, bypassing whatever was on Channel 4 at the time.

Once "You know, for kids..." was over, at the end of the credits, Channel 4 announced that Diana had been in an accident.  Which she had at the time of recording, and this was the information I passed on to my parents, the information they woke up to because I woke them up to tell them.  Only after I'd left the room did I realise that this was old news and by the time we turned on the television her death had been confirmed.

"real time"

Film Sometimes the ponies run free. Here's David Bordwell, just as I'd hoped, analysing the narrative structure of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk:
"A more conventional choice would be to confine the action to a fairly brief stretch of time, say two hours, with the rescue fleet arriving at the climax. There might even have been an effort to handle the action as occurring in “real time,” that is, with the duration of the scenes matching their duration in the story. In any event, Nolan could have crosscut his four men–Farrier in the air, Dawson and others at sea, Bolton and Tommy around the Mole–at the points when their activities are roughly simultaneous. If Nolan wanted to include earlier incidents, such as Tommy’s escape from the Germans or his efforts to board the Red Cross ship, those could have been presented as personalized flashbacks. Instead, all that material appears in chronological scenes, but on three distinct time scales."
As with any film, it'll take several years for the implications of Nolan's decisions to marinate. There are plenty of interesting indie films which have messed with the time scheme in an interesting way -- 11:14 replays the lives of several people involved in a motor incident and shows it from each of their perspectives, but this is a rare occasion when it turns up in a mainstream film (the grey area between art house and blockbuster somewhere Nolan knows all too well).

Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia has a really weird middle hour.  The opening and closing hours cross cut pretty conventionally as you might expect in a hyperlink film, but in that central hour the quiz programme suggests that were chronology watching about half an hour of "real" time but the whole section fills an hour.  Anderson shifts backwards and forwards to show parallel actions one after the other but without repeating material from the quiz programme.  It's subtle enough that you might notice notice until after multiple viewings.

Scottish Hamlet.

TV Good grief, the BBC have announced a classic theatre broadcast for BBC Two. Oh, yes, it's Andrew Scott's recent Hamlet which is very exciting especially since it's being produced by Illuminations:
"Robert Icke, Director (and Almeida Theatre Associate Director) says: “It has been a real joy to work with such a gifted and dedicated company of actors on bringing this most-famous play to audiences in 2017. The production has been on a wonderful journey from the Almeida to the West End, and I am very much looking forward to this next step on BBC Two. To be able to offer our version of Hamlet to as wide and diverse an audience as possible has always been of paramount importance to us, and now we are thrilled to be able to bring it to people across the country.”"
The press release is a bit ambiguous about whether it's a theatre recording or a reshoot for television. I've asked Illuminations via Twitter for a confirmation.

Lovefilm RIP.

Film In case you were wondering this gap between blog posts is because I'm having something of a life laundry, deciding which books I really want to keep and reorganising my dvd collection.

 Sidebar: I'm ditching the chronological approach to classification by the date in which everything is set in favour of alphabetical order so I might have have chance of finding a film without having to consult a bloody database.

 Yes, I did spend a lot of time curating that database and yes, I wish I could tell the younger version of me to watch more of the them rather than many the many minutes it took trying decide whether a particular western was set at the beginning or end of the 1880s. But I'm through the tunnel and out the other side.

This interruption to my sorting schedule, is to mark some time. This morning Amazon sent its loyal Lovefilm by Post users an email advising that the service is to close on the 31st October this year. Happy birthday to me.

As you know, other than for a brief gap last year, I've been receiving discs from some version of this company since 2002, over fifteen years, starting with ScreenSelect then to Lovefilm when they merged and finally on Amazon's website.

Honestly, I knew this would be happening soonish. Streaming has entered primacy, with physical sales of films dropping massively and even blu-rays showing signs of serious discounting.

Which isn't to say I wasn't pretty devastated. The key reason why I returned to the service was because if you're interested in something other than the newest releases or the popular canon the available catalogue on subscription streaming is a joke and I can't really afford to pay for everything separately.

But it turns out there's a further option, the cutely named Cinema Paradiso, whose website has some of the old school charm of ScreenSelect and also seems to have titles that Amazon doesn't even have in their database yet (and now we know why).

So I'll be migrating over there and see what happens.  If it's rubbish, I haven't lost anything.  But for all they say that they're not closing and investing in new titles, I suspect I'm putting off the inevitable.  We'll see.

Now, back the book mountain.  We'll speak again soon.

"I've spoken to erm ... a few ..."

TV This morning Jodie Whittaker gave her first broadcast interview since the news to 6 Music's Shaun Keaveny while publicising her new drama vehicle Trust Me in which she (ironically) plays someone pretending to be a doctor at just the moment when she herself is going to be playing the Doctor.

The entire audio of the interview is here and there a video clip here in which she offers some of the most expressively Doctorish gesticulations since Matt Smith's appearance on his reveal show. In few of her roles, which tend to towards the dower, is she able to tap into this expressively sunny side and let's hope she's allowed to a lot of this for Who.

Brilliantly she knows what's about to happen in the process of mentally preparing herself. She knows that to some extent her life's about to change, that like no other role, everyone is going to have an opinion (sorry!) globally but fortunately she says she's not on any social media so she's shielded from idiots like me.

BBC News has a video interview of her saying much the same things in a more sober voice:

God, she's going to be great.

Along Came Polly.

TV In a break from tradition, the BBC have bothered to release the San Diego Comic Con trailer for the next bit of Doctor Who without us outside the hall having to moan about it first. Oh and my, scenes, scenes.

(1) Bill's back -- so as expected we'll get to see her getting a proper send off from him. Also hugging. Proper hugging. Capaldi's a hugger finally.

(2) Moffat's using his final lap to reshoot scenes from The Tenth Planet pt 4. Including the regeneration because why not.  Expect conspiracy theories that it'll include footage from the actual episode as way of revealing that it's been found.

(3) Who's playing Polly here?

It's difficult to tell from this poorly lit screenshot but it could well be Ellie Spicer, who portrayed the actress playing Polly in An Adventure in Space and Time.  Here she is in another poor screenshot I just took from the screen while watching the blu-ray ten minutes ago:

Could be. Updated: It isn't. Lizo reports its Lily Travers

Different jumper. Judging by this shot from The Tenth Planet:

The one from Adventures is more accurate.  Though like the console room which in the clip looks like the one from Hell Bent, you could argue that instead of needing to accurately portray the production limitations of the time as was required in the docudrama, the Christmas special is portraying a more idealised reality. Updated later: James Smith, a friend of the blog, has clarified that its not the TARDIS console room so there's something more complicated going on like time changing or a new scene.

(4)  I bet Mark Gatiss is playing an ancestor of the Brigadier.

(5)  Anyway it looks like a big old celebration of the Moffat era including his anniversary successes.  It would be astonishing if there weren't more cameos despite what he says about not wanting to have a victory lap.  This is not some ordinary story which happens to have a regeneration at the end.  Like The War Games, Logopolis, Survival and The End of Time, it's the end of an epoch.