Film Let's return briefly to the subject of film durations. Les Vampires was originally released across seven months from the 13 November 1915 – 30 June 1916, has ten episodes and a running time of 417 minutes or just under seven hours. Over time there's been some discussion as to whether director Louis Feuillade's meisterwerk constitutes a single film or a series of them and having watched the whole business in just under a week last Summer, I'm on the side of it being a series.
Structurally it has everything you might expect from a modern television series with a clear protagonist, A and B plots, recurring characters and stories which last a single episode undercut with ongoing storylines. Viewing the series was akin to working through a modern boxed set, even though some episode durations vary wildly between installments, even more so than an HBO or Netflix series which aren't pinned to the traditional network television advert structure (or scheduling requirements in the case of the BBC).
At the risk of providing a review, as with television series too, some elements are more palatable than others, some storylines more exciting or involving. There's a lot of running around and superfluous moments designed to create empty tension and a fair number of false cliffhangers in the Doctor Who mode. As Time Out identified in their review "if shown, as it often is, in one great unnatural marathon, it can be sheer torture. Best viewed on tape." Treated as one long film it's unpalatable. Treated as a series it's mainly quite wonderful.
Which then makes me wonder about the number of films which benefit from being watched in shorter installments. The Hateful Eight feels very long, too long, with much padding and not many likeable characters. But I wonder now what my attitude would have been if I'd approached it as a television series, watching each of the different "chapters" as separate entities over a number of sessions. How would that have changed my attitude to the piece? Are we more relaxed about episodic drama having a meander?
But why do we persist in suggesting that some films are too long whilst happily graze through thirteen episodes of some Netflix drama telling one long story? Is it because by its nature episodic television provides breathers and a certain pacing which allows us to mentally detox between incidents whilst a film forces us to keep watching and be engaged with the characters and story for a much more intensive period? The Hobbit films seem very long, but collectively there's less screentime than an average series of Game of Thrones.
Perhaps, as the demarcation between film and television becomes ever unfocused, especially on streaming services we'll become more relaxed about film durations too. How long can it be before Peter Jackson releases yet another version of his Tolkien films which increase his vision yet further. Or perhaps it is that the filmmakers think they can take advantage of our extended attention spans even though they don't have enough story or their characters aren't complex or compelling enough to justify the story they're telling.
For Jo, My Dear Friend:
"In her speech, Jo was full of fire and passion about what Impact could become. A drab newspaper turned into a cutting-edge magazine. We’d give the students what they wanted – the first thing she would do is carry out a survey asking them. No more dull-as-shit stories about the hall presidents; we would hold the university to account. We would reach outside campus and find out what was going on in Nottingham – and across the Midlands. We’d be as good as any newspaper from any other university." [via].
The English vet saving Sri Lanka’s street dogs:
"A vet has left behind her home in England to care for Sri Lanka’s street dogs. Janey Lowes from Barnard Castle, County Durham, has spent the past two years caring for the neglected animals."
60% of primate species now threatened with extinction, says major new study:
"Primates are remarkable. We’re all familiar with chimpanzees, monkeys, and ring-tailed lemurs, but have you heard of tarsiers, with their big eyes? Or Cleese’s woolly lemur, named after John Cleese? Or the fabulous red-shanked douc? What about the scary-looking red-headed bald uakari? Or did you know that primates can be as small as mice?"
This Video Reveals The Easter Eggs In Every Disney/Pixar Movie:
"As if we needed anymore evidence that these films are solid gold, here’s a compilation of all the easter eggs hidden within every Disney•Pixar movie. Spoilers: it goes way deeper than just the Pizza Planet truck. Prepare to have your mind blown."
It’s Not Heat Vision: Why Scott Summers Always Left Me Cold:
"Who is Scott Summers? It’s a question that until Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men I didn’t care to answer. Scott reminded me too much of the people who’d ignored me at school, never the bullies, but the ones complicit with their silence. The kind who see themselves as better than every other person in exactly the same situation. As a disabled teenager learning to live in an abled world, I resented Scott’s desperation to hide who he was and what he could do. I couldn’t help but find something sinister about trying to be the most normal mutant in a room full of them."
Posted on Sunday, January 22, 2017
Books It was inevitable that an anthology in the style of the old Big Finish Short Trips books particularly their annual Christmas number would include an Eighth Doctor story to make up the numbers and like The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who this is set in the Time War. Night of the Doctor having given BBC Books and their authors something official to fix their eye on which doesn't involve dodging the decade or so's worth of licensed material else to point of blandness. In this the Doctor finds himself trapped in the final second before Christmas Day 2016 in temporal orbit around the Earth and isn't quite sure why. Stop reading here if you haven't run your eyes across the story yet because it's worth a brief discussion and I don't want to spoil things for you. Having said all of that about the licensing, writer Scott Handcock, perhaps emboldened by Eighth's regeneration speech has written a poignant epilogue to Big Finish's With Lucie adventures and particularly Relative Dimensions, the story in with the Doctor spends Christmas with Lucie, Susan and her son Alex, who in what's becoming increasingly the case in terms of how continuity has recently been treated across the franchise, is named as such here. Anyone who hasn't kept up with those stories will probably just treat her old hypercube's message as new information, but the rest of us will recognise it for the emotional gut punch it must be for the Time Lord remembering Alex's fate. Handcock has written for Eighth and Charley before and in a Christmas Short Trips book, one of the massively expensive ones, and for Big Finish in general which would account for his fidelity with the material, but it's such a welcome change to have even a short piece of fiction in a BBC Book about Eighth which is deepened if the reader is aware of another corner of the franchise. Oh and I choose to assume that I was right about the companion's rooms; that the Doctor thought he'd deleted them in Relative Dimensions but the TARDIS later revealed that she'd kept them saved anyway, rather like Lorelei Gilmore putting Rory's Dean box in the closet knowing that they'd be needed again later. Placement: The descriptions of the Time War are similar to Natural Regression from The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who so it seems right to put them together.
Film As I discussed this time last year, the film documentary, Visions of Light, introduced me to a great deal of classic film and more particularly its cinematography. Hidden amongst one of the key montage sequences underscored by Saint-Saens Aquarium from The Carnival of Animals is the shot from Griffith's Intolerance in which a 100 foot camera crane swoops through the massive sets with their massive statues and thousands of extras. A hundred years later, even with modern special effects technology, few shots in any film quite have this grandeur and thanks immeasurably to the verisimilitude of the ancient camera, the sense of watching history unfolding on a grand scale.
When I'd see the film a few years later it was on a tiny screen when I was going through a phase of thinking that the best venue for "old" films was on the old CRT 14" Sanyo portable on our back balcony. But even in that context, and despite realising it's not a perfect film by any means, the whole of the Babylon section of the film lost none of it's allure even if the ropey, unrestored dvd copy with its plonky Mickey Mousing electronic piano music which ScreenSelect had sent did draw away from the experience somewhat. Aquarium still feels like the perfect accompaniment with its mysterious, searching themes and drooping scales.
But these films were designed to be seen on massive screens in huge auditoriums, the IMAX experience of their day, and for anyone outside London, seeing a work like this in that context is an impossibility for perfectly sound commercial reasons. Despite the slight uptick in interest in silent film, there probably isn't the market for a revival of Intolerance with its three hours of piety and dislocated structure. I'm amazed even Metropolis managed to be something of a success a few years ago, but at least that exists in the context of being an antecedent to a great number of later films and so has an in-built curiosity value.
Nevertheless imagine my surprise, a few years ago, to see this sequence on a massive screen anyway because Martin Scorsese included it in his film Hugo which I saw in screen one of Picturehouse at FACT almost exactly five years ago. As I described in the ensuing review, throughout the film I found myself removing the glasses and enjoying the visuals without, especially during the sequences when the director cut in pieces of film history, suggestions for Georges Méliès's legacy. In one moment we see the very same swooping Babylon sequence, and Scorsese doesn't retrofit the shot in 3D, realising that it requires no tampering for it to envelope the vision of the audience.
Finally seeing it at this scale even for a few brief seconds was breathtaking. As I said then, "it’s not until you can see every figure on that ambitious set that you can fully understand the grandeur of what Griffith was trying to accomplish." You are indeed transported and in a way which isn't necessarily the case even with 3D films, thanks to the distancing aspect of the technology as it is now. However beautiful Hugo's visuals are, it's entirely possible that it was the shots from Intolerance I was thinking about most as I left the cinema that day and even as I wrote that review. Not that any of this excuses Birth of a Nation.
Lunch. £6.00. Cellarium Café and Terrace, Westminster Abbey, 20 Dean’s Yard, Westminster, London SW1P 3PA. Phone: 020 7222 0516. Website.
Audio Utterly superb. One of those Short Trips whose scope belays its duration, this epic yet intimate story just goes to demonstrate how there was much more to be said about the Eighth Doctor and Charley in the early days and that they more than deserve to have some more stories recorded by a full cast set in that era, and like the Mary Shelley trilogy as part of the monthly release schedule. The TARDIS travels back in time so that the companion can meet one of her heroes, a Victorian explorer and author of a famous diary, only to find he isn't there (as per the title). A tale about self-fulfilling prophesies, there's a moment in the middle which is simply jaw dropping in how it embraces that era presenting a conversation which was always implicit but never enunciated, until now, Ian Atkins perfectly evoking the atmosphere of that period. His expository prose is often spectacular too, capturing the fundamentals of a character and their environment in just a few words. India Fisher is now entirely in the groove of reading these talking books, with the younger Charley resurrected and dimensional. Placement: Between the 1st and 2nd season I suppose.
Film Find above a fascinating snippet about the process of restoring The Front Page for the Criterion Collection. I won't spoil it, but it's one of those occasions when you learn something genuinely interesting about classic film production.
Politics It's a week until inauguration and while I was in the shower this morning I found myself singing some Joni, specifically Big Yellow Taxi. Metaphorically the lyrics really seem to capture the transition the US and the world is about to go through from the strong, articulate man who's been in the Oval Office this past eight years to [censored]. The stark difference between Obama's compassionate, open, forward looking farewell speech and Trump's behaviour at the press conference do bring to mind at least the first couple of verses:
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot SPOT
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
‘Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go,
That you don't know what you've got
‘Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.
If you want a curious visual representation of what Trump's time in office will probably be like, here's the all too literal promo for the Amy Grant cover version:
That point made for completion stake here's the Counting Crows version featuring Vanessa Carlton, looking for all the world like 70s Sarah Jane Smith:
Posted on Friday, January 13, 2017
Audio Big Finish have announced that they're opening up a wormhole in my bank account. There's more Eighth Doctor material to come as the Short Trips series takes a sideways glance at the Time War:
"With the universe fracturing around him in the crossfire of the Time War, the Eighth Doctor has turned his back on his people, choosing to help those suffering from their actions. But what happens when events of the Time War touch upon those he's known and cared for? Two new Doctor Who Short Trips in 2017 explore what it means for former companions when Time War influences reach their lives..."Sarah Sutton reads a Nyssa story set during the war and Carole Ann Ford reads an Eddie Robson written what could be a re-encounter for Susan and the Eighth Doctor. Just when I think I've got this under control.
Film Here's guest writer Brendan Connelly on the first ever animated feature film El Apóstol:
Sometimes, marketing is so successful that it impacts our ideas of what is real and what is not for much longer than was expected, or is maybe even desirable.
So people still claim today that Coca Cola invented Santa Claus, that Warner Bros. pursued Ronald Reagan to play Rick in Casablanca, and that the first full-length animated film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. All of these things are tall tales that can be traced back, one way or another, to marketing misdirection.
The history of early cinema is truly quite patchy and has often often been dramatically revised, but it seems pretty certain right now that anybody looking to name the first animated feature of all time should actually look past Disney's fairytale to Quirino Cristiani's El Apóstol, or The Apostle.
For what it's worth, Cristiani delivered the second animated feature, Sin Dejar Rastros, or Without a Trace, just one year or later.
Both of these films are now listed as officially lost, with their only known prints perishing in a fire*. All we really know of these movies now is what was written about them at the time, what Cristiani has explained himself, and some scraps of archive photography and concept art.
Just a few years back, a documentary was released, built around an interview with Cristiani, that attempted to explain what these films were – what they were about, how they looked, how they were made, and why. It's unfortunately very possible that this is the closest we'll ever get to witnessing Cristiani's pioneering works for ourselves.
The key to understanding anything about The Apostle from such great distance is to know not only its satirical objectives but also the social and political context that gave rise to the film. The Apostle was a then-contemporary political allegory, in which a thinly-veiled fictonalisation of the Argentinian president, Hipolito Yrigoyen, scales a mountain and calls upon the gods to rain destruction down upon corrupt Buenos Aires.
In the climax, the film depicted a scene of the city on fire, accomplished by building a scale model and then burning it on camera. Does this mean the film isn't an animated movie? Well, some Disney disciples will have claimed so, but I think it's more important, overall, to prick the Snow White myth than to argue over technicalities.
I'm neither Argentinian nor anything like old enough to know things about Hipolito Yrigoyen that I haven't been able to dig up online, but it seems clear that his political campaigns made effective use of religious, sometimes apocalyptic imagery. Cristiani's intention was - or at least it seems so, from my very restricted viewing platform - to leverage that same style of rhetoric, but exploding it, making it humorous, and wielding it against the president. The title is a great first sample of this, using a nickname for Yrigoyen that was well known and not always well-intentioned.
The style of the film was set, to a large extent, by political cartoonist Diógenes Taborda, aka El Mono, or The Monkey. Unable, and certainly unwilling, to draw the thousands of frames that would have been necessary to make the film the Disney way, El Mono drew the characters just a few times, which were then broken down into components, printed on card and cut-out.
Cristiani's technique for animating the cut-out pieces would be familiar to anybody who has seen Terry Gilliam's work on Monty Python's Flying Circus.
This technique gives rise to some very strict stylistic limitations, particularly in how shots can be devised or executed. We are very far away from the more naturalistic, live action-like choices in staging or shot composition that hand-drawn cel animation can offer. Nonetheless, a good filmmaker can still make hay here, and the reception of The Apostle suggests very powerfully that, even with his hands tied financially, stylistically and technologically, Cristiani made a relevent, effective film.
Many of us are fully used to dipping back into film history and plucking out all sorts of movies – this blog absolutely proves it. If I know more about 20th Century America than any other set of cultures in world history, and I think I probably do, then I'm sure that the ready availability of their cinema is the real reason why.
I'm relatively uneducated about Argentina, hardly aware of how the country was in the 19-teens, and I know extremely little about Hipolito Yrigoyen. What I do know, I've scraped up reading about The Apostle, first as a general enthusiast about animation, later when this film in particular had caught my imagination.
It's another lingering effect like the Santa and Reagan stories, a tale made in the media that has rolled on for a lot longer than anyone might have predicted. Cristiani was making a film about and for the Argentina of his time, and yet, here I am, interested and, to some minor extent, informed about that world because of a film.
I expect that I would understand the situation much more deeply, if maybe in a way that I'd find even less easy to articulate, had the film have survived.
The Aspotle made animation and cinema history, and that's one reason why it's especially tragic that it was lost. It also captured and commented on history, and that is another.
[*a tragic irony as one climaxes with an inferno, the other is called Without a Trace]
TV Bit late. Sorry. Just after the episode was published on the evening of the 25th December, the Christmas flu which decimated half the country including its monarch descended and I was in bed for nearly a fortnight due to this, that and the other. This is the first night my thought processes have become legible enough to knock out the usual six to eight paragraphs, the day after we took the decorations down. Having rewatched The Return of Doctor Mysterio tonight, I'll admit to enjoying it more than at Christmas, when I was disappointed enough that I quickly messaged a friend with the words "boring and obvious" in the face of many reports after the preview screening that this was the best Christmas special ever. In a word, no.
On second viewing, I could see more of the virtues. The two hander between the Doctor and Charity Wakefield's Lucy Fletcher (a rare occasion when an actor's own name feels more like something from Doctor Who than whatever their character is called) with the screaming rubber gonk, is perfectly pitched, the Time Lord wrong footed by a human who is just as capable of unflappably asking difficult questions as he is and feels like one of the "lost" companions which wander through this franchise, all shiny and entirely overlooked due to circumstance. Plus the opening flashback, the Ghost's origin story has Capaldi's full charm offensive and its a joy to see his Doctor in neutral benevolent alien mode, even if he's not entirely paying as much attention as he should to the situation.
Everything else? Eesh. Actually, eesh isn't quite fair. It's fine. It's ok. But it's not more than that. It's an hour of something with a Doctor Who title sequence, that does all of the things you'd expect a Doctor Who story to do. There's just no real spark, no moment which sets it above the more average spin-off material, doesn't, ironically soar in the same way as previous Christmas episodes with their huge iconic moments, like a third of the population of the Earth standing on the edge of buildings or the Doctor in a sleigh pulled through the sky by a shark. As the only Doctor Who episode of this year it had the obligation to be something special or unique, even on Christmas Day, if not because it's Christmas Day and instead its just yeah, fine, I can see what you're doing there. Ok.
As a cross genre experiment, having the Doctor meet a superhero isn't an awful idea even if its about five years on from really catching the zeitgeist. Paul Magrs was right on the button back in 2010 when he ran through many of the similar story beats in Demon Quest's Starfall instalment and with a character whose fate was more directly linked to the main story rather than simply being an alternative saviour. Plus there's the more experimental wing of MARVEL UK back in the 90s when the Seventh Doctor pitched up on the actual Baxter Building to deliver Death's Head onto Earth-616 after having shrunk him down to human sized after the character's original appearances as part of Transformers G-1 continuity. 'Head's next story had him fighting the Fantastic Four. God, MARVEL UK in the 90s was weird.
But this is just bland. Having decided to attempt a homage to the Richard Donner Superman films (despite Bryan Singer having done a perfectly decent job already), Moffat offers up a kind of essential Waitrose version of the Kryptonian who barely registers as a character and simply as a series of cliches. Justin Chatwin's performance just about holds things together, but I'm not sure what's supposed to be gained from running through these old superhero tropes at a time when it's one of the dominant screen genres without bolting much of anything else on, a dated parody of the CW DC series in much the same way as David Tennant's appearance in that episode of Extras with all of its jokes about rubber aliens and the like.
At a surface level, the production team do offer some deference to the source material. Referencing Siegal and Shuster in the post-credits press conference and Grant's room offers and orgy of evidence to his love of comics even if he doesn't seem to reach the stage of wanting to buy long boxes, or plastic bags and cards. Plus the choice of the post-Crisis Man of Steel comics with the seminal John Byrne writing and artwork shows that someone has thought through the time scales involved in the story rather than simply thrown any old Superman comics in there. I did wonder why Grant doesn't seem to have retained any of his collection for later in life. His room seems to be empty. Perhaps they're in storage or he's migrated to Comixology.
Otherwise there's no gravity or depth here. Although RTD has listed Lois & Clark as a tonal influence on the revival and notably his era, the notion of a lonely God making Earth his home after his own planet is destroyed can't be ignored either. The Ghost could and should have been a strong enough figure for them to be able to share notes about protecting humanity and the implications of that, the question of why they do it, what gives them the responsibility. But we have none of that, mostly because the Doctor's in full on omnipotent mode, pretty much in control of the situation from the off, a jeopardy free zone. Having probably remembered what happened in Aliens of London and realising this alien invasion plan is pretty much the same, there's nothing to do than much the same and firing a rocket at it.
You can see why. Moffat's written himself into a corner. Having had the Doctor accidentally create a superhero at a very young age, he then realises that he can't have said youngster actually practising the arts while he's growing up because it creates so many narrative issues. Where's the Ghost during all the Earth's other invasions and major disasters? So he has the Doctor ask him not to use his powers. Which is frankly unbelievable. If a strange, old man gave you the ability to fly, dodge bullets and x-ray vision, would you then do nothing when the stars disappear or the Master is taking over the Earth with his cosmic baubles? Nevertheless, there's Grant sitting on his hands, having relationship issues and only deciding to use his powers just before the Doctor shows up. Apparently.
The final scene is equally gob-smacking. Grant says he's going to stop using his powers because the Doctor's back and going to take care of everything. What? Including the random house fires and fairground tragedies? Next time there's a train derailment or a mine collapse, Grant's just going to stand looking at the sky knowing the Doctor, who's probably having a nap on the Eye of Orion, will turn up eventually and ...? What about future invasions of which the franchise demands there'll be at least a couple in Grant's lifetime. Never mind Captain Jack, Rex Matheson and the kids the attic, there's now also a gorram superhero on the planet. Who can fly. Who's appeared on television so everyone knows exists.
Not that The Ghost's has much of any great significance to do with this story anyway, other than saving Lucy's skin on a couple of occasions, providing a target for the aliens and catching the rocket. Structurally, much like earlier stories without a regular companion, you'd expect this figure to team up with the Doctor to save the planet. But the Doctor has Nardole to talk to and Lucy does a fair amount of investigating before she's relegated to the standard love interest / damsel role. Perhaps this is were many of my frustrations lie. This is an example of one of those superhero team-ups were the writer can't find enough for both characters to actually do so one of them exists purely so that one of them can appear on the cover in what the reader assumes is going to be a much more exciting adventure.
Frankly, Nardole's the least of our worries. Not having rewatched The Husbands of River Song since broadcast for various reasons, I'd frankly forgotten most of anything about the character. A bundle of whimsy and eccentricity, he's mainly appropriated some of the Eleventh Doctor's random glee over children's toys and curious fashion fetishes. The friendship and ease between he and the Doctor is a welcome new tone in the show's core relationship, at least for this one episode, partly because the humour isn't over played and helped by Capaldi and Matt Lucas's ease. I'm not sure how much he actually contributes to the episode other than his Silent Bob explanatory speech at the end over the Doctor undoing the top button of his shirt. He's more of a distraction from that central relationship.
It's fair to say that my expectations of more depth and inability to look past the conceptual anomalies put me in the minority. The reviews have been otherwise very positive with the likes of The Guardian enjoying the foregrounding of the romcom elements, however run of the mill they seem to me. The Telegraph gave it five stars for the much the same reason. I sit offering a human recreation of the shrug emoji and wondering if these people have seen Supergirl which is consistently, on a weekly basis, superior to this even in its weakest moments when there's a generic villain of the week and Cat Grant is awol. Ultimately The Return of Doctor Mysterio is a piss weak version which happens to also be a Doctor Who Christmas special with Capaldi cracking a few decent jokes in the middle and that is simply not good enough. Boo.
Film The Kuleshov Effect is the editing technique in which the same shot of a person's blank face can be used to react to numerous objects or actions because the viewer will fill in the emotional response themselves. Or to let Hitchcock explain:
The technique was first expressed by Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov in the 1910s and 1920s and pioneered by Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Vertov and later Hitchcock and the French New Wave directors notably Truffaut.
It's one of the reasons when we talk about best actor in any film we're always on slightly shaky ground because we're never entirely sure how much of what we're attributing to a great performance is due to the intervention of the editor or director (although to be fair they have to have the raw materials to work with in the first place not that Oscar voters are basing their decisions on the rushes).
The original film has apparently been lost although there are a couple of authenticity claims here and here but YouTube is filled with recreations and further experiments from film students.
Arguably the best expressions of the effect are in the alternative endings sections of a number of dvds in which original material shot during principle photography is married to pick-ups to create a different conclusion, in some cases to the point that the motivations for a character's actions are change completely from the back end.
Taken 3 offers a particularly egregious example of this. Incredibly in the original version of that film, the unfortunate incident didn't take place and whole sections were reshot to give Byan Mills a completely different reason to kill all the bad people at the end, and while whole chunks of the scenes leading up the hand to hand combat were redone, barely anything in the final heist was changed.
Although I clearly don't know whether Kuleshov made a version of his film in 1918, I wanted to simply notice how, despite developments in new technology, some of the principles of filmmaking originally established nearly a hundred years ago are still being utilised, albeit in slightly more sophisticated ways.
TV Happy New Year. Sorry I've not been around much lately. On Christmas Day evening, the virus which seems to have effected all of us to some degree hit me and I was in bed for much of this past week, only really emerging long enough to post Review 2016, which seems to have gone down well, so that's nice. The lurgy is still lingering on, doing various uncomfortable things to my body which are indescribable in polite company. Which should go some way to explain why you haven't seen my review of Doctor Who or whatever that was. Rest assured you'll be seeing the usual six to eight paragraphs of semi-legible opinion once I'm motivated to.
To the point: BBC One has refreshed its idents after about ten years, replacing the circular theme with something akin to a piece of art documentary of the kind which might grace a wall at the Liverpool Biennial. Find above a collection of the first, an exercise class and sea swimmers, the idea of having a collection of people representing "oness". Are they real people or actors and are these just as produced as everything else albeit on a less digital scale or are we seeing something much more spontaneous? I'm intrigued. The implication seems to be that they won't be themed with the programmes but there has to be some scope for that, cosplayers in front of Doctor Who etc.
Updated 02/01/2017: They're by Martin Parr and these are real people.
Posted on Sunday, January 01, 2017
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:
The Mutya Keisha Siobhan album is finally released.
No. The All Saints managed to get their act together instead. New project in 2017 apparently. Ok. No marks.
Arden Shakespeare announces Arden of Faversham.
No. But the Oxford Shakespeare has so maybe in the next couple of years? No marks.
Moffat and Capaldi leaving Doctor Who at the end of series ten.
Ish. I supposed I meant an announcement of such. Well, Moffat's going with some suspicion of Capaldi too without anything concrete. 1/2 mark.
Film streaming services announce deals which allow for studio back catalogues to be available in greater depth and for longer ala music.
No. Not at all. No marks.
Major scandal leads to early UK general election.
No, ho, ho, ho, ho. Bless the naive version of me which wrote this twelve months ago. So innocent. No marks.
1/2 mark all together, which I think is the lowest score I've ever managed, which is to be expected given that it is 2016. Anyway, to 2017 and ...
The Mutya Keisha Siobhan album is finally released.
Tim Supple announced as new creative director of Shakespeare's Globe.
New female Doctor emerges at the end of the 2017 Who Christmas special.
Trump doesn't complete the year as President.
Some hopes and a logical assumption. I'm essentially trying to game fate and the system here.
About By any measure, for most of us, this segment of time has been utterly rubbish, either because of world events and our reaction to them or something horrible which has happened closer to home. Now that we know for sure that the world is a divided, broken place, I decided that that this year's blog review should be a list of good things which happened in 2016. 216 of them. So people tweeted, Facebooked and emailed sentences. Something which has happened to them or something they've enjoyed. Something about a song, a film, a book, a meal, a friend. Or just something which they found positive about this unusually horrendous year. Dozens of people contributed and they're credited below. Everything else was chosen by me. Let's take the zero out of 2016 and find out what's left.
1. Liverpool schoolchildren donated warm scarves to rough sleepers to mark Valentine's Day. - @jadewright
2. The vote for the HMS Boaty McBoatface which then never was. I loved it. It captured for me the true spirit of asking the public and getting ridiculous answers. - @siobhanfarmer
3. Government launches consultation that paves the way for the GCSE-only rule to be dropped, and for Functional Skills to be reinstated as an equivalent qualification for Level 3 Early Years Practitioners. - @WastedElegance
4. Gary Lineker emerged as an unlikely champion in the fight against hate reporting.- @vauxhallwoman
5. President Obama awarding Ellen her Medal of Freedom was such a beautiful, feelgood moment that got me blubbing. - @shauna
6. The positive upswing in sales of 'Nasty Woman' t-shirts. Reclaiming the high ground one shoulder wiggle at a time. - @Rullsenberg
7. The US decided to put a woman (Harriet Tubman) on the $20 bill. - @katieUM
8. I got to vote for a woman for President of the United States for the first time in history. - @giagia
9. The Ice Bucket challenge, which had been dismissed by so many, actually made a real difference showing that good things happen and people can make them happen. - @joelidster
10. The pope visited the Mexican border near my hometown, bringing worldwide attention to the plight of immigrants. - @elpasoanne
11. London electing a Muslim mayor against the backdrop of a very islamaphobic campaign from his rival - @hannahkirkman
12. The Hillsborough Enquiry published and finally confirms the truth.
13. Night Service on the London Underground.
15. Colombia's government and Farc rebels agree new peace deal.
16. This comic strip.
17. Misogyny is bad for men's mental health.
18. The Guyliner's reviews of The Guardian's Blind Date columns.
19. Washington Post to add 60 newsroom jobs.
20. Norway man rescued after climbing into public toilet to retrieve his friend's phone.
21. Myanmar swore in its first elected civilian president in 50 years.
22. Lara Favaretto's Momentary Monument - The Stone at the Liverpool Biennial (which also raised money for charity).
23. The Superlambanana was repainted.
24. John Minton painting resurfaces after years spent in owner's shed.
25. National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in the US.
26. The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square gave us a thumbs up.
27. The botched fresco restoration saved the town's economy.
29. The interactive Google Doodle celebrating Clara Rockmore's Thermin.
30. A computer painted a Rembrandt.
31. Stolen Picasso rescued.
32. The Women's Art Twitter Feed.
33. DC Comic's Rebirth. It's been like coming home.
34. The ferris wheel scene in Superman #7.
35. The issue of Doctor Who Magazine which was essentially just one giant, glorious Tom Baker interview. - @The_Arn
36. The Power of the Daleks. - @RobinBrown78
37. Lucie Miller is back.
38. Gareth and John visited Ianto's Shrine.
39. The Doctor Donna returned.
40. The Danny Dyer episode of Who Do You Think You Are was magical from start to finish. That man is a treasure, and his face should be on money.
41. Sir David in Planet Earth: seeing so many joyous tweets about faceplanting snow leopards and dancing bears. - @siobhanfarmer
42. Ed Balls on Strictly! - @wifeinspace
43. Ore and Joanne winning Strictly: He's a sports presenter. He didn't go to stage school. He cried almost every week. And it was pure joy. - @keris
44. Mel and Sue's tweet about not taking the dough. - @janinegibson
45. Top Gear being terrible (in a perverse way that's good for original TV). - @janinegibson
47. Box of Broadcasts. Still.
48. Stranger Things on Netflix. Seriously awesome. - @Rullsenberg
49. Netflix's The Crown, especially the final scene of the series where SPOILER SPOILER as SPOILER SPOILER. - @neilperryman
50. Season two of Making a Murderer was announced. - @froggielevog
51. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is always insightful, moving, feminist and funny, but in season two it kicked things up a notch. Episode four brought us not only one of the most realistic, no-nonsense abortions on TV, but also this cheeky little number from the depths of Rebecca’s subconscious. Naturally, it both reflects her insecurities about sex and references an iconic routine from Singin' In the Rain… - @dianeshipley
52. Tatiana Maslany finally won an Emmy for Orphan Black.
53. Gilmore Girls returns.
54. Will & Grace reunion.
55. Star Trek's 50th Anniversary.
56. Cold Feet returned.
57. Maisie Williams Pranked Game of Thrones Fans.
58. The Magicians is a TV adaptation of Lev Grossman's 'Harry Potter meets The Secret History' novel and a fine example of clever adaptation between media. The TV show preserves the spirit and tone of the original while changing loads of details in smart and practical ways, and through the first season has evolved a waspish pragmatic style of humour all of its own. - @markclapham
59. Deal or no Deal UK ends on a winner.
60. Leonardo Dicaprio won an Oscar. - @WastedElegance
61. The reconstructed majesty of Abel Gantz's Napoleon on the big screen - the grandest of grand follies. - @The_Arn
62. "I saw four professional women doing their thing with no "but you need a man" subplots: busting makes me feel good." - @magslhalliday
63. Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters.
64. Carrie Fisher FINALLY confirmed she and Harrison Ford had an affair while making Star Wars. #HanleiaForever - @giagia
65. Bridget Jones had a baby. And it was hilarious. - @ClodaghMMurphy
66. Hello to Jason Isaacs.
67. Spider-Man’s cameo in Captain America: Civil War.
68. Deadpool's sex montage
69. Rogue One indicates Star Wars now owns Christmas film releases for years to come.
70. This documentary about a video shop closing.
71. The message of the film Arrival.
72. Kirk Douglas is a hundred.
73. And so is Olivia de Haviland.
74. Dublin's doughnut rising. Revolution Bakery, Aungier Danger, Rollin Donut, Off Beat Donut Co. The best imo is Dublin Doughnut Co but please do ALL your own field research. - @GreenClouds4
75. The humus salad I ate at the Humpit in the Corn Exchange in Leeds.
77. Fifteen new bowls of soup.
78. This photograph of the Bake Off's Ruby Tandoh worshipping a mince pie.
79. Marina O'Loughlin's review of Tasty.
80. The rise of political opprobrium and action (to follow) against terrible working conditons proving journalism still has a role. - @janinegibson
81. Teen Vogue.
82. Saw David Tennant performing as Richard II at the Barbican in London: complete with a hilarious accidental destruction of the stage by Jasper Britton when he stamped his foot a little too hard. - @Rullsenberg
83. Godspeed, anarchist librarian kid. - @lauraewaddell
84. Shakespeare First Folio discovered on Scottish island.
85. Russell T Davies's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
86. The To Be Or Not To Be Sketch at Shakespeare Live.
87. Theatre where Hamlet first performed given listed status.
88. Arden of Faversham added to Oxford's Complete Works of Shakespeare.
89. Jobama. - @keris
90. Guy dresses up as dog's favorite toy.
92. Fuck 2016.
93. Man stuck in compost bin!
94. The family who lives with a bear.
95. Frozen Pants.
96. How Many Girls Are in This Photo?
97. Subway post-it notes.
98. This crowd's reaction to a dude flipping a water bottle.
99. Well Dylan won the Nobel. - @LizzieWurtzel
100. David Bowie's Dark Star. It turned what could have been the utterly demoralising tragedy of a premature death into an incredible artistic supernova. - @TheDaiLlew
101. David Bowie's musical Lazarus played in New York then came to London, a cast recording album was issued - complete with three more Bowie recordings. - @brendanconnelly
102. The ongoing programme of Bowie reissues finally gave us all a copy of The Gouster. - @brendanconnelly
103. The video for Genghis Khan by Miike Snow. Kitschy delight in danceable form. - @redfacts
104. Brian Wilson toured endlessly with Pet Sounds. - @lucyswebdesigns
105. I was so lucky to see/hear both Stevie Wonder and Brian Wilson live in 2016, and both occasions were as amazing as I'd hoped. It's a truism, but music really does make things better. - @notesuponnotes
106. The Peaches gig courtesy of REVo who has been working up to this gig for years. - @nicolawass1
107. Suede touring their new album with accompanying film and a glorious greatest hits set. Euphorically nostalgic. - @discodave75
108. My favorite band, Wolf Parade, got back together, and I spent a week in New York City seeing them live, five nights in a row. - @tempestuous
109. Beyonce and the Dixie Chicks opening The Country Music Awards.
110. Kate McKinnon's Hallelujah.
111. The All Saints reformed and released a pretty good album.
112. This Sugababes track leaked.
113. OK Go's Upside Down and Inside Out video.
114. The occasional public humiliation of the self-important and talentless attention seeker Zac Goldsmith turns out to be 2016's silver lining. - @thejimsmith
115. The Obama administration in 2016 designated seven new national monuments and expanded an existing one; total land acreage protected in the US: 1.85 million acres and total square miles protected, if you include new ocean preserves, is 447,694. - @flowill
116. The cheery way Clare Malone says “Hey Jody” on the FiveThirtyEight podcast.
117. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
118. Samantha Bee meets Glen Beck.
119. The Obamas reading "Where The Wild Things Are" at Easter.
120. Mayor Bill De Blasio's promise to all New Yorkers (even though no one should have to make this speech).
121. Lindsay Lohan live tweeting during the Brexit coverage.
122. The Green Party's New Year Message: "Let's be honest, 2016 has been sh*t."
123. "Guys. It’s time for some game theory."
124. Chilcot finally published so that people can stop asking when Chilcot is going to be published.
125. The Rob & Helen storyline in The Archers had us gripped. The programme is an escape into a world that each listener has their own version of in their head, their own personal Ambridge. - @JonPeake
126. Radio Garden.
127. Steve Hewlitt's interviews on PM about his cancer treatment. Eddie Mair's sensitive and intelligent interviewing style.
128. Ross Sea became a marine reserve. - @RobinBrown78
129. Scientists are confident that the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica is healing - it's now millions of sq km smaller than at the beginning of the 21st century. - @LizLockhart1985
130. Deep Learning made a computer beat the best human at Go. - @frabcus
131. SpaceX landed rockets which had put objects in orbit, paving the way to 10x cheaper space travel. - @frabcus
132. India's energy minister said new solar power is now cheaper to build than new coal power. - @frabcus
133. Europe's ExoMars enters Mars orbit.
134. Scientists improve photosynthesis.
135. Evidence suggests huge ninth planet exists past Pluto at solar system's edge.
136. The West Indian manatee is no longer endangered.
137. Eternal 5D data storage could record the history of humankind.
138. Second moon discovered around Earth. Ish.
139. Chernobyl exclusion zone to be turned into world's largest wind farm.
140. Iguana vs Snakes.
141. Tim Peake and every other astronaut has returned safely to Earth.
142. Giant pandas are no longer endangered.
143. Scientists have used groundbreaking technology to figure out how the Earth looked a billion years ago.
144. The success of the British team at the Rio Olympic games. - @matthewjrudd
145. The Paralympics. - @hannahkirkman
146. Andy Murray. - @davegorman
147. Nick Skelton Individual Team Gold in Show Jumping at the Rio Olympics. - @AlexiaPage
148. Mr Tonga in the Olympis opening ceremony. - @AlexiaPage
149. "Minority" sports appearing in prime time on BBC One during the Olympics and forcing schedule changes the likes of which we've never seen.
150. The celebration of the British Women's Hockey Team winning the Gold medal at the Olympics.
151. Usain Bolt's Olympic Triple Triple.
152. Alistair Brownlee helped his brother Jonny over finish line in dramatic World Series finale.
153. Wales reaching the semi-final of Euro 2016. It was like seeing John Sparkes appointed new Doctor Who. - @brokentv
154. 2016 is the year I discovered the amazingly talented writer, singer, actor, producer, Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame. So happy he walks upon this earth. - @KTSavage
155. Hamilton won a ton of well deserved Tony Awards. - @katieUM
156. I got back together with the love of my life and he took me to new York for the first time. - @WastedElegance
157. Met Nichelle Nichols (who played Uhuru in original Star Trek) and told her she'd been an inspiration to women like me. - @vauxhallwoman
158. I studied all year for a professional qualification, and today got the job I wanted from it. - @TrapOne_
159. Being diagnosed with depression. Sounds like a downer, but actually, doing something about it and getting it treated after 20+ years has resulted in the last few months being the happiest I've had in a very long time. - @TheDaiLlew
160. My best friend of 27 years getting married. In a castle. - @TheDaiLlew
161. Cross legged by the side of my wife we sat on the sitting room floor of a friend’s home in front of the flames of a real fire. I gazed at her, and we looked round the room at a group of people who, in the space of what seems only a few months, have become close friends. And in the midst of all the unsettling moments of 2016 at that moment, during that weekend, I knew that I was blessed to have a circle of people whose company I enjoy, and with whom I felt secure. - @GeoffShadbold
162. I learned early this year that a series of satirical novels from the 1950s to early 1980s had been reprinted by the author’s family. And so I spent Christmas night chuckling while reading of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick declaring war on the United States as Leonard Wibberley’s mouse roared once again. - @GeoffShadbold
163. Saw one of Shakespeare's First Folios while it visited Duluth, Minnesota in October. - @tempestuous
164. Spent a week at the world's best summer camp, teaching songs I know by heart to one of my favorite kids. - @tempestuous
165. Black Walnut Creme in my coffee during a weekend with friends in a picture-perfect lakeside cabin. - @tempestuous
166. Introduced my nephew to the magic of Pee-wee Herman, by way of Pee-wee's Big Holiday. - @tempestuous
167. Skipped annual viewing of Love, Actually thanks to Stuart's timely reminders about its rubbishness. (Just kidding) (Not kidding about appreciating the reminder about the rubbishness!) - @tempestuous
168. I've acted in three different stage productions in London. - @suzynorman
169. I've had two poems accepted for publication. - @suzynorman
170. This year, Kevin and I conquered the foxtrot, at least to the point of being able to move around the dance floor without colliding with other dancers! We can also now do a passable tango and cha-cha, and are looking forward to adding more dances to our repertoire in 2017. - @suw
171. My tiny baby! - @speedina
172. Over the last 15 years my dad collected 1785 bowling balls and built this Pyramid with them. - @saywhatagain
173. I'm in Ohio and finally got to climb dad's bowling ball pyramid. - @saywhatagain
174. I've raised nearly £1800 for Cancer Research UK this year so far. - @Rullsenberg
175. My son turned 18 this year. For a trans* young person that's actually a big deal (suicide rates in trans* teens are horrifying). - @RosieBrent
176. My fan art for the Scandi detective show Trapped went viral in Iceland, which delighted me no end. - @redfacts
177. Creating 'Baker's End' with Simon Barnard and our fabulous cast and crew. We came up with it because we were a bit fed up at the end of last year, and we made something that we hoped would cheer up ourselves and everyone else. And we had bloody good fun making it. - @paulmagrs
178. The thinking digital conference - via Herb Kim who is always v generous re sharing tickets within the digital & creative sectors. - @nicolawass1
179. I found a pound in the washing machine. - @NevFountain
180. As property developers circle Crusader Mill, it’s been great to see the artists at Rogue Studios respond critically and creatively and forge overdue collaborations with neighbouring textile producers. - @Natalieviolet
181. I managed to successfully grow green beans from a seed this year. Only one plant survived the snails in my garden, but I got enough beans for a couple of meals. My grandparents grew all their own veg for many years, and that side of the family were market gardeners going back generations, but I’d never managed to grow anything before. - @lydiajo
182. Having self-published a children's book with one of my best friends, I'm delighted that the story has found a small but appreciative audience. - @LizLockhart1985
183. Discovering the NUS Extra card for alumni with all of its amazing discounts.
184. I got a book deal for a book with an autistic girl as the main character (to counterbalance the never ending number there are about boys). - @karamina
185. My baby niece Gracie beat a cancerous Wilms tumour and had one of her kidneys removed by the wonderful surgeons and Drs at Great Ormand St Hospital. She's just been given a full bill of health. Worth all of 2016 just for that. - @JoCoumbe
187. The lump is non-cancerous! - @firda
188. Did my dream road trip around the north coast of Scotland. - @firda
189. Got to revisit Reykjavik, Iceland, my happy place. - @firda
190. I bought a brand new car for the first time in my life. - @elpasoanne
191. feeling listless turned 15! - @elpasoanne
192. I grew tomatoes in my garden for the first time. - @elpasoanne
193. I went to code camp, and it was awesome. - @elpasoanne
194. This year's bright spots mostly private: Kid got engaged, family member 4 years cancer-free. - @brooligan
195. Having my first solo book published and my second commissioned. - @The_Arn
196. The wedding of two autistic friends; a joyful day of musical theatre and geeking out with friends old and new. - @the_arn
197. My small gesture of hope this year has been to give up smoking, in the face of so many reasons, both personal and global, to carry on. - Anon
198. My Mum's friend June phoned her. They haven't spoken in years.
199. I stopped biting my finger nails.
200. Accidentally stumbling upon New Broadcasting House during a Christmas shopping trip to London and being able to lean against the TARDIS whilst coincidentally wearing an Eighth Doctor t-shirt.
201. Being able to laugh as loudly as I did on Christmas Day with a large mystery present turned out to be a hat stand.
202. I created a TV show, Sonnigsburg, that finally premiered this week in Australia. And it's also on YouTube weekly. - @keithgow
203. My son called me 'Mummy' for the first time. That was nice. - @hayjane
204. I got a new job, lovely friends got married in November. - @AnneMarieT123
205. The Orbiting Human Circus Of The Air is a podcast that feels like Wes Anderson directing a loose remake of David Lynch's very odd sitcom On The Air, a super whimsical, melancholy series about a radio show broadcast from the Eiffel Tower that defies reason and geography. More compelling and less annoying than it has any right to be, and beautifully produced. - @markclapham
206. The long term plan that my husband and I made when we started dating came to fruition in 2016, and we get to move back to our favourite place in the world. -
207. I found my happy place - on the dance floor in the Euroclub at the Eurovision Song Contest. - @eurovisellie
208. A stranger asked for suggestions about good things that happened in 2016. Spent a memorable day at work with colleagues shouting out random positives ('Golden Eagle numbers are rising!', 'Nimrud not totally destroyed by ISIS!') - @vauxhallwoman
209. Golden Eagle numbers are rising! - @vauxhallwoman's colleagues
210. Nimrud not totally destroyed by ISIS! - @vauxhallwoman's colleagues
211. I discovered a week ago that Tumblr user helthehatter had a similar idea to this and also wants us to remember the good things which happened in 2016.
212. So did Reddit.
213. I gave birth to our baby daughter the day that Trump got in. What felt like the darkest day politically was illuminated by an overwhelming joy and hope. As my husband relayed the news to me in the delivery room, I didn't despair at the world I had brought her into, rather I felt that her purity and goodness could chase away the bad. - @toomanydresses
214. All those small reminders that the loudest voices don’t represent who we are and there’s still a lot of decency in the world. Like this one. - @hannahkirkman
215. Discovering that my friends are my family and the energy to fight for a better world because things have been so bad. - @Danoosha
216. I'm still alive and relatively healthy, for which I am genuinely thankful. - @lemurpatrol
A Thinkfluencer's Christmas Carol:
"Marley was dead: to begin with. Or his brand was, anyway. His Twitter avatar was an egg, and his only tweet read, “Hello, #world. Still figuring out this #twitter thing.” He had no LinkedIn profile. Did Scrooge know Marley’s brand was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? He had forced Marley out of the counting-house, citing his failure to promote the business on social media as an abrogation of his duties."
How does a vegetarian do Christmas?
"I love the few days before Christmas. In fact, I think prefer them to the day itself. I thrive on the frantic last-minute shopping, the armfuls of bags, the evenings wrapping and tying presents. Queuing out the door of the greengrocer’s to overfill my basket with every possible thing I might need (and then the same on top again)."
Why Mariah Carey’s Christmas hit will be around forever:
"Mariah Carey had a banner year in 1994. Her third studio album, 1993’s Music Box, had grown into a blockbuster hit, thanks to the chart success of songs such as the Harry Nilsson cover “Without You” and the inspirational “Hero.” Billboard named Carey the top female pop singles artist of 1994—she had five singles chart in the Hot 100—and the top female pop artist overall, as measured by combined albums and singles activity. Still, even being on a commercial hot streak didn’t guarantee that her 1994 Christmas album, Merry Christmas, which spawned “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” was going to find an audience."
Pregnant waitress gets $900 tip just days before Christmas:
"Everyone knows that waiters and waitresses in the US get lousy wages. It’s one of the reasons people usually try and remember to give them a tip. One couple in Arizona certainly bore that in mind when they gave a heavily pregnant waitress a Christmas gift of $900."
I interviewed Peter Capaldi for the Guardian and here’s the rest of the transcript…
"Regular readers may know that I am slightly a fan of Doctor Who, so it has been a great pleasure over the last few weeks to have had the chance to both interview and meet Peter Capaldi as part of my job."
Crowding Around the Nativity:
"The Gospel of Luke says that the pregnant mother of Jesus could not find shelter in an inn, so she had no place to put down her newborn but in an animals’ food trough—phatne in Luke’s Greek, the word rightly translated as praesepium (Latin), krippe (German), crèche (French), presepe (Italian), manger or crib (English)."
A Blood Curdling Collection Of Scary Snowmen:
"The typical soft and smiley snowmen just don't seem appropriate for a year as messed up as 2016, so it's no surprise there have been way more horror snowmen going around the net this year than ever before."
Ryan Reynolds explains why he looks so sad in *that* photo from Taylor Swift’s party:
"There are a lot of things we love about Ryan Reynolds, but we had all the sads for him when a photo popped up on social media of he and his wife, the lovely Blake Lively, celebrating July 4th at Taylor Swift’s house."
Eva Wiseman: The Christmas journey:
"You're reading this (indulge me) in hour three of a five-hour train ride. Spread out on the table in front of you are an unread novel with an illustration of a teacup on the front (teacup book covers are the new pink stiletto, keep up loves) and a greasy Marks & Spencer salad box containing a single flaccid bean."
Why "I’m The Bishop Of Southwark" Is The Christmas Slogan We Need:
"Ten years ago a senior bishop in the Church of England went out for a Christmas drinks party. He came back with a sore head, accusations he’d broken into the back of a Mercedes, and an increasingly legendary story that would give birth to a proto-meme."
Help, my turkey won’t fit! Quick fixes for Christmas dinner disasters:
"Avoid common festive disasters with our crisis management tip sheet: stock up on cream and ice, get a decent stick blender and plenty of booze."
All Dead, But Still Alive:
"We’ve no way of knowing for certain what Gordon Murray was doing on 22nd December 1965, but we can take a fairly good guess."
Diary: Alan Bennett.
"11 January. It’s not to disparage David Bowie, but if even a fraction of the tributes being paid to him and his influence were true we would never have had a Conservative government or indeed any government at all."
Your most underwhelming Christmas photos:
"From Santa in Greggs to a Croydon of Christmas past, our so-so festive pictures were even more disappointing than usual this year."
7 Wonders: Christmas (s)hits:
"When it comes to our contributors and Christmas tunes, it seems one woman’s chocolate Santa is another woman’s soggy sprouts. We all agree Susan Hanks is just plain wrong, mind."
Horribly Awesome Version of "All I Want For Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey:
""i put “All I Want for Christmas is You” through a MIDI converter, and then back through an mp3 converter. the result is this garbage"
Victorian Christmas traditions:
"From Christmas cards to decorated trees and Christmas crackers, many of our best-known Christmas traditions are products of the Victorian era."
Costume Party: Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut:
"One of the chief pleasures of the film is its enveloping look into the sumptuous lifestyles of the wealthy (lifestyles made all the more aesthetically pleasing when bedecked with twinkling Christmas lights). The very first shot shows Alice from the back as she takes off a filmy black dress."
The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does:
"Over the years, hundreds of people online have shared memories of a cheesy Nineties movie called “Shazaam”. There is no evidence that such a film was ever made. What does this tell us about the quirks of collective memory?" [Thanks LMG!]
Decades After Daring Rescue, 2 Tennesseans Relive Christmas Miracle:
"On Dec. 24, 1956, when Judy Charest was 3 months old, her father went to take a shower and when he came out, Judy and her mother, Marguerite Hunt, were gone."
Coca-Cola didn’t invent Santa ... the 10 biggest Christmas myths debunked:
"Are you still boring your relatives with stories about Prince Albert’s tree and the origin of mistletoe kisses. Stop! The truth is much more interesting..."
The Worst Tweets Of 2016:
"Everyone should be ashamed of themselves."
Spain's 'El Gordo' lottery sparks celebrations across Madrid:
"Workers at a home for the elderly were among those celebrating Thursday in Madrid after all the tickets with the top prize-winning number in Spain's 2.3 billion-euro ($2.4 billion) Christmas lottery were sold in one city neighborhood."
COLUMN: December 22, 2016:
"TWAS the day before the night before the night before Christmas, and all through the house it was utter bedlam."
The Definitive Analysis Of ‘Love Actually,’ The Greatest Christmas Movie Of Our Time:
"“Love Actually,” the 2003 film that launched a generation of cinematic hot takes, is the story of nine interconnected relationships in the weeks ahead of Christmas in the United Kingdom."
[Editor's note: That title. But it's otherwise a pretty useful analysis which hits many of the same notes as my research.]
It's Christmas! The best festive songs, chosen by Slade, Neil Diamond, the Waitresses and more:
"Slade, Loretta Lynn, Run-DMC and Mike Batt have given us some all-time Christmas classics. But what’s the one Christmas song they couldn’t get through the holidays without? They – and other festive hitmakers – give us their picks ."
Jewish family flees Lancaster County after wrongly being blamed for Christmas play cancellation:
"A Jewish family has fled Lancaster County after the cancellation of a 5th grade production of "A Christmas Carol" was partially blamed on them by conservative news outlets."
FULLY OPERATIONAL FANDOM: FANS SHARE STAR WARS HOLIDAY MEMORIES:
"‘Tis the season and Star Wars fans have already received the best possible gift thanks to the release of Rogue One. But as the holiday and the end of the year approaches, it’s only natural to turn towards the past. I asked fans about their memories of holidays of yore that have ties to Star Wars and received answers that will make you smile from ear to ear."
The North Pole is going to be 50 degrees warmer than usual, three days before Christmas:
"For the second year in a row, temperatures in the Arctic region have spiked, startling scientists."
Racist White Lady Spreads Racist Christmas Cheer To Hispanic Ladies, Racistly:
"Yay, another white racist lady video has gone viral! Even better, this time it is Christmas-themed, because it’s Christmas! It’s a truism these days that, wherever several are gathered when a white lady (or a dumb white man trying to work out his resentment over why he didn’t do better in life) goes on a racist tirade in public, somebody will pull out their Obamaphone and film the whole thing, and they will get reaction shots from the other bystanders, who are equally as “WTF?” as everybody else about the fragile, melting white snowflake making noise in front of them."