Yves Klein at Tate Liverpool.

Art The first and so far only comments card I've ever filled in Tate Liverpool was about Yves Klein. One of his blue paintings, IKB 79 1959, was once part of the permanent exhibition. One day, this must be over a decade and a half ago, I was in an especially cantankerous mood and noticed that, because the painting was behind glass and positioned in a particular place with a florescent light above it, the blueness seemed to be off colour, slightly dull, the shimmer of the pigment only really visible along the edges.  After chatting to the invigilator, I headed to the foyer and filled the white space on the card and popped it in the box, not expecting a reply.

Tate replied via email and explained to me what's now patently clear.  That the painting has to be behind glass for protection purposes and so it's almost impossible not for light to be reflected off the surface no matter were the painting was hung.  Would you believe I argued back about this?  But the exchange was perfectly cordial and in retrospect especially patient considering my ignorance.  There's always a trade-off in museums between displaying and preserving an object and sometimes, because of the very nature of a painting or sculpture or an example of the decorative arts, there isn't a perfect solution.

IKB 79 1959 returns to Tate Liverpool for this retrospective and remains one of art history's greatest achievements, breathtaking in its execution and visual beauty.  Displayed in a corner near the entrance, as far away from direct light as possible, it has an almost supernaturally watchful presence within the gallery, with all the foreboding of Clarke's monolith.  It shimmers as your eyes find it impossible to quite focus on its aquamarine surface, unable to fix on any particular details.  To stand before it, is to find your emotions being absorbed and reflected back, as it broods, smiles, addresses, surprises and it's impossible not to look, to want to look, addicted by its luminosity.

International Klein Blue or IKB, was created with the help of the chemist and paint dealer, Edouard Adam, attempting to retain the radiant blue that the dry pigment has even after it had been applied to the canvas.  The result is the bluest of blues, with all the lucidity of the skies in the Giotto frescoes which were the painter's initial inspiration.  Giotto mixed lapis lazuli with egg tempera and oil which hasn't aged well in some cases but Klein's "trick" was to suspend the pigment in a synthetic resin, Rhodopas, described by Klein as "The Medium."  As a result the surface has much the same quality as it must have done when he originally applied the paint.

If the exhibition had simply been an empty room with this at the centre, then nothing more would need to be said, an example of an artist at the apogee of his creative powers, what would be the perfect album for a musician, the unrepeatable novel for a writer, the first feature film whose magic can't be recreated.  But like any creative, Yves Klein during his slender life (he died of a heart attack at thirty-four in 1962 just after most of these paintings were produced), kept trying, kept working and if the rest of the items in the exhibition are any evidence, wasn't fucking around.  As well as a painter, he was a judo master, one of the few in Europe at that time, and there's even a startling photo of him leaping off a building (albeit heavily staged).

But IKB 70 1959 doesn't exist in isolation.  Klein painted over two hundred similar paintings, trying out different painting techniques from brush to roller to sponge and there are smaller examples of these blue voids elsewhere in the show.  In his 1957 show, Monochrome Proposals, Klein displayed eleven identically sized blue monochromes with different prices to "focus our attention of the sensitivity of artistic expression and the role of the audience".  But they are different, with varying textures leading to other ways in which the light shines from the canvas but few as successful as the larger work.

Similarly, there's a rainbow of even smaller monochromes collected together with only purple missing from the usual list and other than the IKB, none of them are actually monochrome, either because of blotchy paintwork, or dirt which has collected on the surface across the decades or fading.  Around the same time, Klein experimented with utilising his pigment within sponges either attached to the surface of a canvas or as stand alone sculptures, but this has a dulling effect, making it just seem like the kind of blue water based paint we'd use in school, artificial.  But it's important for us to see these choices in order to appreciate the miracle of IKB 70 1959.

Half of the main display space is filled with Klein's Anthropetries, in which the artist attempted to find a crossover between performance art and creating something with aesthetic qualities.  A film is included demonstrating how these works were achieved, as the artist daubs naked women with blue paint and they then press their bodies against the canvas, the idea of a whole being becoming living paint brushes.  People with long memories, or want to click here, can see a recreation of just this on Channel 4's Club X in 1989 during a live television broadcast, which even filtered through TV Hell's presentation is still fascinating.

Klein said that he considered his paintings to be "ashes" of the original work implying that the actual art work was the process of creation rather than the results.  But creative people always say that their output is always a goshima shadow of the version they had in their heads, and it's possible, that the very great artists in all media are those who're able to replicate the version they have in their head to the rest of us as close as is meaningfully possible.  Klein was able to do just this.  IKB 70 1959 is one of a small number of paintings which has the capacity to create sense of wonder despite its apparently simplistic formal qualities and shouldn't be missed.

Yves Klein (with Edward Krasinski) is at Tate Liverpool, 21 October - 5 March 2017.  £10.00 / £8/00.

Elizabeth Wurtzel on Bob Dylan.

Music Writing for The Guardian:
"I learned from Bob Dylan that, if you are good with words, you can invent whatever life you want. That is the power of writing. Great authors create worlds, with cityscapes and neighbourhoods and characters that they choose. I’ll be damned if you can’t become the person you render. Bob Dylan’s masterpiece is himself, all his work and all the people it has affected."

Let's Not Kill Hitler.

Books Here's a brief but fascinating explanation for the origin of the "kill Hitler" genre of time travel stories. Doctor Who isn't mentioned but it does mention Rimbau's El Acronopete which sounds structurally oddly familiar. A cast iron box travels through time (albeit implied as happening in a dream) and ...
"The machine provided the setting for a story in three acts, in which the following group of characters travel in time: don Sindulfo García, a scientist from Zaragoza and the inventor of the device; his friend and assistant Benjamín; Clarita, don Sindulfo's niece and ward; a maidservant; Captain Luis, Clarita's beloved; several Spanish hussars; and a number of old French women of 'loose morals' that the mayor of Paris wants to rejuvenate so that they "regenerate" themselves."
They're then involved in the sort of hijinks which wouldn't be too out of place in a Who story if you squint, albeit in the wilder spin-off material.  An English translation is available here.

My Favourite Film of 1924.

Film Just over ten years ago, while I starting research on my MA dissertation, I attended a Philosophy of Film conference at Liverpool University. Inevitably this was mentioned on the blog and here's what I wrote:
"This last couple of days have been spent at a Philosophy of Film conference at Liverpool University. I'm feeling hot and drained so I can't really put into too many words how enjoyable it's been. I might not be intelligent enough to have grasped all of the intricacies of everything which was said over the two days and I think I might have over compensated by talking to people a lot and loudly (as usual).

I did have a moment of zen during one of the breaks at the refreshment table on the first day when I began to second guess myself and my own greed.

Should that be a small muffin, or a large muffin?

I chose a small muffin.

I think it was a (tiny) personal victory."
My intention was clearly to return to the topic but as has so often been the case over the years, my over expanded interest in everything and attention span of a small rodent has meant that there have been plenty of occasions when this didn't happen. There never was a follow-up post about what actually happened during the one flashmob I attended back in 2004.

Philosophy of Film is a rather new discipline within the wider film studies sphere and in simplest, most obvious terms is to apply various elements of philosophy and and philosophical discussion to the study of cinema. The primary mainstream exponent is Slavoj Žižek, whose Pervert's Guide documentaries are a prime example of the approach although it's also arguably that Mark Cousins's The Story of Film also has elements in the way it juxtaposes extracts from across the world and different film industries to make a case for this or that point about the social order of things.

The conference, titled The Philosophy of Film: Towards an Understanding of Film as Art gathered together academics from across the world with a diverse and rich selection of papers some of which sound especially left field reflecting back a decade. Grand Theory and/or Grand Film? Towards an Intrinsic Philosophy of Film utilised Michel Gondry's little known or seen Human Nature as a jumping off point, investigating just how philosophical the two mice hitchhiking to New York are.  This was the first illustration of just how wide a focus, the Philosophy of Film actually has.

My memories of the weekend are blurry at this remove, mainly because as I flat out admitted in the earlier post, most of the papers flew skyward over my head even after at that point spending eight months studying film at a fundamental level.  Partly this was because a certain working knowledge of philosophy was also expected, this was being held in the philosophy department and so the bias was naturally in that direction.  One of the organisers has been kind enough to send me synopsis recently and there are sections in here, glancing through, which I have difficulty grasping even now.

It's the talks which focused on specific films which are most vivid, at least in terms of having a memory of seeing the slides.  There's Last Year at Marienbad: Film as Philosophy which considered whether the film itself was conducting a philosophical discussion about itself.  The Philosophical Ambience in Ozu Yasujiro’s Tokyo Story which was I think the way I discovered Ozu, one of the directors I've shamefully neglected in this favourite film list.  The Lord of the Rings as Descartes’s Malign Demon: Jackson’s Trilogy as Philosophy was considered the light relief at the end.

Clearest in my memory are the gaps between, the breaks for tea and lunch and talking to the attending academics at a time when I still felt like a peer even though I really wasn't.  There's a confidence in youth, which at the age of thirty-one I still retained.  As I discovered, academics don't tend to talk about the subject at hand, conversations always tend to be about the last conference they attended or business in their own university department, there's a clear demarcation between office hours and business and leisure because of course there is.  There has to be.

On the morning of the second day, to settle us in gently for the day ahead, the organisers screened some Buster Keaton films including my favourite film of 1924, Sherlock Jr. which would have been my first viewing.  Nothing prepared me for the innovative camera work or just how funny it was, a room full of academics tittering along during a piece of cinema they must surely have seen a few times.  However serious the film can be both in its execution and how it's considered, it's often important to be reminded that it's primarily a form of entertainment.

More on coping.

Life Early last year, I asked How Do You Cope? in relation to the amount of creative stuff there is to consume in the modern world and where to start. In the main, I'm coping better, trying not to feel "guilty" for ignoring all the stuff I'm not interested by in favour of the usual. Quitting is part of that. Deciding that if you're not enjoying something like a television series or a book or a film, that it's ok to stop.

Daisy Buchanan in The Guardian:
"We live in a world that tells quitters they will be punished; that life should be hard and there are rewards for hanging on in there. This idea forms the basis of half the motivational quotes on Instagram, and I think it’s poisonous. I’ve wasted so much time thinking “winners don’t quit, and quitters don’t win” that I’ve put up with a range of frustrating and miserable situations, assuming that I needed to fix myself and not the external problem. However, quitting has only brought me joy, and helped me to discover other people and experiences that I really care about."
All of which said, it's still important to challenge yourself, try new things, step out of your comfort zone because that's probably how you developed the interests you have now.  It's just about knowing when to back out.

"That was Tuesday ..."

Politics In case you missed it, here's Michelle Obama's rally in New Hampshire today and what might be the best speech of the campaign. Notice how she pivots from talking about Hillary's opponent to talking about Hillary and getting the vote out. This feels like the equivalent of her husband's convention speech in 2004. As far as we know she has no political ambition, but if she did decide to run for President, surely, utilising this kind of rhetoric, with this confidence, she'd win.


TV Documentarian Adam Curtis has updated his blog for the first time in two years (removing the "This page has been archived and is no longer updated." banner from the top) to advertise his new iPlayer documentary "Hypernormalisation" which judging by the trailer seems to be about "How Trump happened."
"The film has been made specially for iplayer - and is a giant narrative spanning forty years, with an extraordinary cast of characters. They include the Assad dynasty, Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, the early performance artists in New York, President Putin, intelligent machines, Japanese gangsters, suicide bombers - and the extraordinary untold story of the rise, fall, rise again, and finally the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi.

"All these stories are woven together to show how today’s fake and hollow world was created. Part of it was done by those in power - politicians, financiers and technological utopians. Rather than face up to the real complexities of the world, they retreated. And instead constructed a simpler version of the world in order to hang onto power."
Hopefully it includes my favourite line of his "but this was a fantasy" with a jump cut to footage of 60s hipsters and the music of Devo.


Museums Yesterday I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum for the first time in my forty-one years, a day trip from Liverpool. There are plenty of justifications for this, but partly it's because of the reasons outlined by the Cancer Doctor who appeared on the PM programme tonight. He told Eddie Mair that one of the key decisions people make after a diagnosis, especially after a terminal diagnosis, is that they fling themselves headlong into a bucket list and how he wished more people would take that attitude before a diagnosis so that they don't feel like they have any unfinished business should the worst happen. Recently I decided that since I am nearly forty-two, that we only have one life and we don't know what might happen tomorrow, I should do some of the things I've always wanted to do.

Yesterday I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum for the first time in my forty-one years, a day trip from Liverpool. Instead of offering a review, because it's pointless to review a hundred and fifty year old museum of this magnitude, here's a list of things I learned.

(1) Pay attention to the tube map and don't panic on the underground. 

 After heading down to Euston Square tube station, for some reason although I'd already checked the route beforehand, I managed to confuse the Circle and Piccadilly line in my head and then rushed onto a train which meant I not only managed to get on a train on the wrong line but it was also going in the wrong direction. Fortunately, I was able to calculate that I could alight on Edgeware Road and swap to a Circle line train going in the opposite direction taking me back round to South Kensington station. Londoners can now feel free to call me the "fucking amateur" that I undoubtedly am.

(2)  Tyrone Guthrie invented the thrust stage. 

The key reason for visiting the V&A other than so that I can actually have the memory of visiting the V&A now whenever anyone refers to it, was to see the theatre and performing arts display. This was somewhat of a return visit having previously seen much of it when originally housed that the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden nearly ten years ago. As expected this is a shadow, a mishmash of the highlights collected around themes which does the collection something of a disservice.  It's a continued disgrace that we don't still have a national theatre museum, but I expect one of the reasons the original closed was due to visitor numbers -- it was deserted when I went -- so I'm not sure what the solution is.

For Shakespeare fans there are three key objects.  They have a Shakespeare First Folio, which was an unexpected surprise, opened on the first page of The Merry Wives of Windsor rather than Shakespeare's portrait which makes a change.  There's also the tunic Henry Irving wore for his Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing at the Lyceum in 1882.  Then there's a large diorama which explains the history of thrust stages with miniature recreations of festival theatre in Ontario, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford and the recreation of the Globe which really explains the difference between a genuine thrust, a half thrust and a glorified proscenium arch with Tyrone Guthrie's original designs as the standard.

(3)  Wherever you go, there you are.  

The V&A has a vast fine art collection, much of which is strewn throughout the chronological and geographic displays more on which later, but two rooms are dedicated the Sheepshank collection, gifted to the museum by a cloth manufacturer from Leeds.  Almost as soon as I walked into these rooms, I realised that I'd stumbled into just the sort of display I'd expect to find in a regional art gallery and that for the following half hour I was essentially on some lost version of one of my old Public Art Collection visits, more so considering, as was so often the case then when I'd turn up in a town only to discover the gallery was closed for renovations, that one of the rooms was closed for a rehang, the one which just happened to have my beloved pre-Raphaelites.

Many of the same artists feature, a Landseer, some Ettys.  I imagined myself, notebook in hand, giddily jotting observations about their William Blakes or excited about what could the best painting on display, Danby's Disappointed Love.  A young woman crouches in woodland next to a lake in total despair, miniature portrait and torn letter signalling something horrific has happened to her heart.  The mystical detail of the brushstrokes isn't realistic but still draws you into the image, her white dress popping against the dark green of the trees.  If this had been the result of travelling to a Macclesfield or Oldham I would not have been disappointed and here it is hidden away in a corner of the V&A.

(4)  Gallery fatigue continues to be a threat.

As you'll have noticed from previous dispatches, if I'm even slightly interested in an exhibition, I like to take to time to see everything which generally means I'm wandering around for quite some time longer that most people.  Shakespeare in Ten Acts at the British Library a few months ago took me three hours.  The upshot is that gallery fatigue tends to set in after about two to two and a half hours, as the ability to absorb what I'm seeing disappears.  After the theatre and painting rooms, which also includes a display of Turner and Constable and despite the intervention of lemon cake from the cafe, gallery fatigue really began to lay it groggy clutches on me by about half two in the afternoon which is a bit of a problem if you're there for a whole day on purpose, especially since ...

(5)  The space is big. Really big. 

The V&A, like most national galleries, is huge, the equivalent having the whole of National Museums Liverpool in one building five times.  With my approach to museums, I'd could spend a day just working my way through a single room or section, so it would take me roughly three months to see the whole thing.  With just a few opening hours remaining, I took the unsatisfactory decision to simply walk the place, map in hand, making sure I'd stepped through all the rooms attempting to make the gallery fatigue work for me as I only stopped to see the items which really caught my eye, mainly the paintings mixed with the furniture and decorative arts materials telling the story of a particular period in history.

The experience was a bit like that sequence in George Pal's film adaptation of The Time Machine as Rod Taylor watches history unfold before him, or Lucy in Luc Besson's film of the same name.  So much to see, too much to take in.  I dawdled most in the rooms which have been scooped up from their original establishments and recreated in the museum, panel by panel, like pocket universes (which also made it also somewhat like seeing a National Trust property or stepping through the mirrors in Doctor Who's The Girl In The Fireplace).  But even then, I was conscious of the clock, the deadline of the museum closing time causing a need to push on.  Seeing so many beautiful objects in one place is overwhelming especially when there's barely seconds for your mind to gather context, read notes.

(6)  You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.

The one room which must be visited is the Raphael chamber.  Massive frescoes leant by her Majesty the Queen line the walls of a space which is the size of a church if not a cathedral, which given how much of the rest of the surrounding spaces have low ceilings is truly awe inspiring.  The paintings themselves are actually pretty difficult to look at, light shining across their protective glaze, but the equally massive information labels offer a decent synopsis of what we're seeing.  Oh to have a day to simply sit in that space and watch people's reactions on entering looking up and around the contours of the ceiling boggle eyed.  But the V&A is rather like taking the Grand Tour in one place, probably because much of its collection is from the results of that Grand Tour.  The cast galleries feature plaster recreations of some of Europe's great statuary including Michelangelo's David which is much  taller than I expected.

(7)  There aren't enough toilets.

As we've discussed before, I'm usually happy if there's some decent paintings and adequate toilets at a museum or art venue.  The problem at the V&A is that because they gallery is so vast, it takes a good five minutes to walk to the nearest toilet which is a problem if you have the constitution of a child and need to go more than most especially if you're standing up a lot.  Eventually I worked out some good routes back to the main toilets but please, the V&A, for the love of Daenerys Targaryen will you please add some more conveniences or failing that better signage in the middle of the exhibition spaces demonstrating their locations.

(8)  I ain't nothing like a Dame.

In the performance section, alongside a recreation of Kylie Minogue's tour dressing room (add another day to unpack that visual feast) is a selection of costumes for dress up amongst which is Widow Twankey's dress.  Once I'd worked out which way it was supposed to fit, and after another visitor offered to attach the velcro at the back, I took this selfie:

I'm sure having a hat would have made the difference.  On the upside, having lost all of this weight over the past few years, most of the costumes were way too big for me.  Yes, I tried them all on.

(9)  You can't see everything.

Which feels like I'm repeating myself, but it's true.  As closing time descended, I was just stepping into a gallery dedicated to the Americas.  Having barely glanced at anything, the staff were pulling chords across doorways and closing the rooms down, a massive physical hint that they wanted to go home.  Sorry, photography.  As I wandered with urgency back to the cloakroom to pick up my backpack, I was impressed with the speed that the staff were able to coax visitors towards the exit.  Having worked in similar situations, there are always straddlers and yet here we all were streaming towards the doors before the closing time of a quarter to six.

(10)  You can't walk back to Euston from the V&A in three hours.

Or at least not the way I was attempting it.  Google Maps indicated it was possible to walk to Euston from the the V&A in just over an hour.  Deciding it would be a good way to see new parts of London, or parts of London new to me, and with a three hour gap between closing time at the gallery and my train home, I photographed the route ahead of time.  This took me into Knightsbridge which meant I could visit Harrods food hall (to buy a Christmas pudding) and the original Harvey Nicks and wander through Hyde Park at dusk, see the lake and then step under the actual Marble Arch.  Which was all fine, except I then misread the map on my tiny iPod screen and walked way too far up Edgeware Road to the point that I was completely lost.  After asking a street sweeper for directions, who spent the next three minutes telling me he didn't know, I walked up another wrong street and ended up taking the tube from Paddington station back to Euston following much the same route as before.  Fucking amateur.

Soup Safari #73: Broccoli and Stilton at the The V&A Cafe.

Lunch. £5.75. The V&A Cafe, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL. Phone: 020 7942 2000. Website.

My Favourite Film of 1925.

Film When Sight and Sound published their top 10 greatest film list in 2012, there were a number of changes in comparison to 2002 in the critics, the most remarked upon being the swap over at the top with Vertigo knocking Citizen Kane off the top spot after half century having shifting slowly up the list since its first appearance in 1982. Here, conveniently are all of the list for successive years. See if you can spot the other huge moment:


Bicycle Thieves
City Lights
The Gold Rush
Battleship Potemkin
Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages
Louisiana Story
Le Jour Se Lève
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Brief Encounter
The Rules of the Game
Le Million


Citizen Kane
The Rules of the Game
Ugetsu Monogatari
Battleship Potemkin
Bicycle Thieves
Ivan the Terrible
La Terra Trema


Citizen Kane
The Rules of the Game
Battleship Potemkin

The Passion of Joan of Arc
The General
The Magnificent Ambersons
Ugetsu Monogatari
Wild Strawberries


Citizen Kane
The Rules of the Game
Seven Samurai
Singin' in the Rain

Battleship Potemkin
The Magnificent Ambersons
The General
The Searchers


Citizen Kane
The Rules of the Game
Tokyo Story
The Searchers
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Pather Panchali
Battleship Potemkin
2001: A Space Odyssey


Citizen Kane
The Rules of the Game
The Godfather
The Godfather Part II
Tokyo Story
2001: A Space Odyssey
Battleship Potemkin

Singin' in the Rain


Citizen Kane
Tokyo Story
The Rules of the Game
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Searchers
Man with a Movie Camera
The Passion of Joan of Arc

That's right. After appearing in every list since the 1952, Battleship Potemkin's finally dropped out, having fallen into the 11th place in the top 100. Admittedly this was close, just one vote below 8½ but given how far up the list relatively it was in previous years this is still a magnitudinal shift especially considering in 2002 it managed to hold in there during The Godfather blip.

There's a couple of reasons, I believe. Firstly, Man with a Movie Camera had recently been rereleased in a couple of restored editions with decent soundtracks so it was at the surface of people's minds. The Passion of Joan of Arc had also been recently released on a superb Criterion edition. A restored Potemkin wasn't to be released until late in 2012 after voting ended.

But I also think that unlike the other films on the list, with the exception of Joan, it's not an easy film to love. The whole rest of that list has titles which aren't just spectacularly ahead of their time in some way, but also at a basic level very entertaining. Any of those films bare repeat viewing just for the sheer pleasure of it.

Whereas Potemkin is a film to be admired on a technical level, academically studied, but it's not something that you'd want to watch over and over because you like the characters, it's designed not focus on any, or the story, the resonance of which is more historical and only emotional if you're politically invested.

Yet, for the odessa steps sequence alone, it's my favourite film of this year because so much of later cinema, especially action cinema springs from it, and sometimes it's ok to simply admire a work for its artistic brilliance even if it's not something you'd want to watch every night. Having said that, in writing these paragraphs, I'm very tempted to watch it again very soon.

Clinton Landslide.

Politics Back in April, Nate Silver decided to throw caution to the wind and discuss what would be required for a Hillary Clinton landslide, what the electoral college map would look like depending on how many points ahead she'd be on election day. Without jinxing things too much - a month is still a long time in politics, it's still worth reading if you're in the mood for some schadenfreude:
"Democrats have long talked about turning Texas blue — or at least purple — but the truth is they haven’t come anywhere close. Obama lost Texas by 12 points in 2008 despite his near-landslide margin nationally, for instance. But Clinton has a number of factors that could work in her favor. We estimate that about somewhere between 37 and 40 percent of Texas’s electorate will be Hispanic, black, Asian-American or Native American, depending on turnout. A high proportion of its white population has college degrees. And Trump has run afoul of locally popular politicians, such as Ted Cruz and George W. Bush. Previous polls of Texas had shown Trump with only a mid-single digit lead there, although a more recent survey had him up by 11."
Cut to tonight and ...

At the end of his piece, Nate says:
"There have even been a couple of national polls that showed Clinton with a lead in the mid-teens. But my powers of imagination are limited. Other than losing North Dakota to go along with South Dakota, or perhaps the statewide electoral votes in Nebraska to go along with the congressional district ones, it’s hard for me to envision Trump doing any worse than this — unless he really does shoot someone on 5th Avenue."
Not quite that, but metaphorically ...

Class War.

TV Find above the first proper trailer for Doctor Who's new spin-off Class, uploading to BBC Three with two episodes on the 22nd October and heading off for another six weeks after that. It's about what we expected, The Sarah Jane Adventures with the tone of Torchwood. Usual business about cautious welcome, though I hope it's more of an ensemble than some of the establishing shots imply and it's not a male protagonist and bunch of co-stars.  Clever of writer Patrick Ness to address head on all the potential comparisons with other genre cousins, knowing full well that he's essentially using a well worn premise in the Whoniverse.  Hell, even Torchwood had its rift.  Find below a specially shot teaser with the Doctor smashing the fourth wall:

Before you ask, yes, yes I am. Or at least I'm planning to ...

Dear Barack.

Politics Back in 2008, I wrote an open letter to new US president Barack Obama, asking him for one favour. To be his own man. Eight years later, Lindy West now writes to him in The Guardian thanking him for doing just that:
"Thank you for modelling competence, humour and grace for your constituents, whether they appreciated it or not. You were held to a higher standard, with more gratuitous obstructionism than any president in history, and you didn’t just meet that standard – you transcended it. You chuckled through racist death threats and “terrorist fist jabs” and secret-Kenyan-Muslim-lizard-people-Satan’s-gay-butt-priest bloviations long after any average person would have thrown a chair through the window of a Jamba Juice and take to the wilds until death. Laughing at your enemies, holding on to your identity undimmed and letting your anger out when it really matters – those are lessons that have helped me, personally, in a very direct and tangible way."
He's going to be missed.

Museum Peace.

Audio Originally published in the Short Trips anthology Dalek Empire, then recorded and released as a subscriber only special, Big Finish have now decided to include James Swallow's story in their new Short Trips Rarities strand. Hopefully the other two will emerge later. With the company producing so much material, it's impossible to keep up with everything and so having not gotten around to the Dalek Empire series yet, I wasn't even aware until checking the TARDIS Datacore later that the key figure here, the old soldier Kalendorf was a major character there or that he and the Doctor would have met before in some earlier story. But the writing is compelling enough that their reactions to each other and their shared visit to a museum commemorating the Dalek conflict passes quickly, playing like one of DWM's Brief Encounters.  Nick Briggs's reading is about as you'd expect, although he makes Eighth rather more northern than my ears hear when McGann's playing him, the accent wandering between Liverpool and Manchester. Placement: published in 2006, this was arguably Big Finish's first cheeky reference to the Time War, with Eighth in the depths of trying to decide whether to sacrifice Gallifrey to beat the Daleks, as per the suggestion of Dalek and Parting of the Ways. The description doesn't quite match the Night of the Doctor version and although it's tempting to make it about The Ancestor Cell instead, I'm inclined to make it the earliest story in the Time War era, as though he's questioning the extent of his potential involvement.

Research Tools:

Books Sometimes a book vital to your research won't be in your university library and so you'll have to resort to an interlibrary loan. Most universities charge for the service and so before you go through the process of requesting items, it's always good to know if they're even available in this country.

Welcome to COPAC.

COPAC is a unified catalogue or database of everything available in UK and Irish academic, national and specialist libraries.

So you can search for the title of the book you're looking for and find out if another library has a copy.

For example, COPAC tells me that Lance Parkin's Doctor Who novel The Dying Days is available at the British Library, National Library of Scotland, Oxford University and Trinity College Dublin.

Safe in that knowledge you can go through the rigmarole of an interlibrary loan.

But there's also the added bonus of seeing if another university in your area has a copy so you can simply visit them in person and usually they'll allow some form of access to see the item, saving time and money.

Research Tools:
Box of Broadcasts.

Books With students either starting out at university or returning after the summer break, Liverpool suddenly seems like a busy place again, I thought it might be fun or useful to have a short series of ideas for sources that might prove useful in research. Having an Information Studies means you never quite give up on keeping connected to such things and it feels wrong not to put this knowledge somewhere.

Box of Broadcasts, then.

Box of Broadcasts is a massive streaming database of everything broadcast on much of Freeview television and BBC Radio since 2007.  Literally everything.  Every film, documentary, play, concert, game show, soap, drama and comedy.  Everything.  Apart from, oddly, the red button service.

Plus ten foreign language channels.  Plus a whole bunch of archive material mostly about Shakespeare starting in 1990 onwards.

And if you're a student or staff member at an academic institution you have access to the lot, providing you have the correct log-in information.  Essentially if you can log-in to a computer on campus or an email account, you have access to this.

Box of Broadcasts is here.

You'll have to register initially, but after that you just log-in each time using your institutional log-in.  Anywhere with a web connection and a browser.  Even works on tablets and phones.

There are two key access points.  An EPG like guide which you can scroll backwards, or a search box which has numerous advanced search options.

The legal proviso is that it be used to educational purposes.

How does this benefit researchers?


Between BBC Four and BBC Radio Three and Four there'll be literally thousands of programmes on hundreds of topics.

One of the most difficult problems at university is getting an overview of a topic with a sound academic foundation or finding an angle on a subject and although a lot of this stuff is also available on the BBC website, it's much, much easier having it all in one place.

Isn't that amazing?

My Favourite Film of 1926.

Film The Adventures of Prince Ahmed is the oldest surviving animated feature film. Argentinian animator Quirino Cristiani is known to have produced animations earlier than Ahmed director Lotte Reiniger, but they've been lost.

Working backwards through time in selecting these films, I'm slowly hitting the milestones or at least the eras of the milestones, the first colour films, the age of sound, and soon feature films, commercial films and experiments in moving images themselves.

But because I'm working backwards they also feel like the last of their kind.  This is the last possible animated feature film I can select, The Wizard of Oz the last colour feature film, Grand Hotel the last sound picture, and I have an idea what the last film will be but let's not spoil the surprise.

At what point should I stop?  The first commercial film?  No, that feels too late.  Lantern shows?  No that feels too early.  I do have an end date and indeed an end film in film in mind but filling the spaces between will be a real challenge.  Rocky times ahead.

* * * * *

Putting that shop talk to one side, what of the film itself? My single viewing was during my MA Screen Studies course, a screening in a seminar room from the BFI dvd. Although I'd read the brief synopsis, nothing prepared me for the magical radiance of the images and story and how so much potential beauty is lost when such things are produced in a computer.

Earlier in the year, Google celebrated the life of Reiniger with one of their Doodles, in this case a video piece which is still available on their YouTube channel:

Cynically, however lovely this is, I assumed that it must have been produced in a computer to give a sense of what the films were with much less effort. Imagine my surprise whilst researching this blog post in finding this making of video in which its revealed the artist mimicked the techniques of the original director in order to create this tribute:

"I just cut these out" she says as we survey a silhouette I don't think most of us would be able to produce as neatly or under the kinds of deadlines she must have been up against. On reflection, of course it had to be traditionally animated to give it the right atmosphere. To do anything else would have been a disservice.

Doom Coalition 3.

Audio Well, that's much, much better. As you'll remember I wasn't monumentally impressed with DC2, describing it "as a group of episodes which exists because it's time for some more Eighth Doctor adventures, rather than because there are any especially interesting stories to tell". Although some of my criticisms of that previous installments still stand, especially in relation to how the companions fit within the overall superstructure of the series, this is a more entertaining set of episodes mostly because there's a greater sense of forward movement in terms of where the story arc is heading and also because River Song has effectively become a full time player bringing a whole different energy to events. Plus it's regained its sense of fun, helped immeasurably by the chemistry between the main cast. Eighth and River Song are a great fit, coming across more as equals than she ever did with Eleventh. But, and although it's true the opening installment assuages this slightly, I do wish we could return to the old four episode monthly installment structure for the Eighth Doctor last seen for the Mary Shelley stories. As was discovered in the BBC Eighth Doctor novels, having epic, universe saving adventures can become tiring after a while.

Absent Friends

Arguably the highlight of the set largely because it sets aside galaxy destruction in favour of the Doctor investigating a problem on a small scale in the old style and has deepcut implications for his companions. As well as allowing us a window into Liv's past, there's also Helen catching up with herself which leads to the Doctor confirming my old theory about the Whoniverse that the Doctor and is companions can't change history if they're aware of the original outcome. If the Doctor had managed to stop Rose Tyler stumbling into her flat in Aliens of London he could have slipped back a year and have her visit her Mum before she was even reported missing. But as he explains, now that she's run headlong into her own future, those events are now set in stone. This fan of Koquillion is also especially appreciative of the ultimate explanation of why everything which looks strange is in fact exactly what it appears to be and not the red herring were clearly supposed to believe it is. One slight continuity question: the Doctor gifts his companions chip and pin debit cards in 1998 which seems extremely early and we know they're supposed to work because Helen uses hers for train travel.

The Eighth Piece

Ambitiously structured story redolent of some of the 90s novels from Virgin and the BBC in which Eighth utilises a very Seventh tactic for slightly more benign means in what's effectively a retelling of the Lost in Time episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Cross cutting between the eras is achieved with minimal fuss and it's never confusing, even if the ultimate reason for the mcguffin's existence never quite coalesces. Unlike the previous box, this Doctor is a much more active, investigatory figure who clearly has a lot of faith in his TARDIS to return and pick up his companions at the correct moments. Embedded in here is an utterly compelling performance from John Shrapnel as Thomas Cromwell, the cold, controlling and intellectually vital figure pictured in the Holbein paintings. Top marks to the producers for discovering a rational reason why the Doctor won't recognise River Song in the future and for keeping it just in character -- hopefully it'll be utilised in the upcoming second River Song boxed set so she can have whole conversations with Sixth and Seven as well.

The Doomsday Chronometer

Big Finish repays its loyal listeners with an audio character gag which only makes sense if you've heard to Fifth Doctor portion of Classic Doctors, New Monsters. Is it the same actor? Sounds like him. How funny.  That whole section, with River and Helen flitting around time and space is an utter blast, its experimentation with the narrative structure very Moffat era and unlike anything I've heard in Big Finish before.  If anything though the installment suffers from too much happening syndrome, with barely much time to quite appreciate the implications of what we're hearing before another plot thread is applied and again, the threat of the clock never quite feels properly established.  Despite having River's presence, it's still very strange when she poignantly  references something from the revival right in the middle of what's still technically the classic era.  Her sheer awesomeness is over balancing things not least because Alex Kingston is well into the swing of audio now, her performance indivisible with the television series.

The Crucible of Souls

The Eighth Doctor's referencing of the Battle TARDISes as a programme from his past pretty much disregards the idea that all these audios are still happening in the three year Greenpeace gap at the start of the EDAs.  The TARDIS Datacore has finally adopted my structure of books/comics/audios as his biographical order, I notice, so perhaps that's gained currency.  Hasn't there been another occasion when a Doctor's companions mistake some other figure as being the regenerated Doctor?  I'm wracking my brain, but other than the River Song story Signs, I can't think of anything in particular.  Help needed.  Pretty decent finale overall, which explains why Robert Bathurst was in what seemed like a pretty nothing role and he tops off what is a pretty incredible cast overall.  My only fear now is that the final Doom Coalition box doesn't somehow lead in to the Time War set which is due for release this time next year.  Even though we know the Eighth Doctor's fate now, there still seems to be plenty more ongoing stories to be told before all of that descends.