Alexis Denisof on playing Fortinbras in the RSC production of Hamlet with Mark Rylance.



During a roundtable for Much Ado About Nothing. I'm assuming this is the famous pajama production. The rest of them are here.

Chagall: Modern Master at Tate Liverpool.



Art  On the wall above my television hangs Marc Chagall’s Paris Through the Window. A couple of years ago, long enough that I don’t remember which year, I began covering my walls with framed images and as their contribution to the effort my parents bought me this present for Christmas because they “knew I liked Paris” and there it’s hung ever since, a welcome glanceable distraction whenever a given film or television programme bores but isn’t quite terrible enough to turn off. In truth, I was never been quite sure if I've liked it. The pastel colours have a slightly deadening effect on the imagery and although I appreciate certain aspects of the it, the abstract Eiffel Tower, the strange cat bird mammal, it didn’t seem to quite cohere for me and still doesn't even after all these years.

Well, Paris Through the Window (1913) is in Tate Liverpool’s summer exhibition, Chagall: Modern Master and standing in front of the real thing, much larger, with its more vibrant technicolor, I realise what I’ve been missing these past few years.  The blues, whites and reds of the picture frame evoking the tricolore.  The blue man, his face looking back and forth (a notable Chagall motif reflecting his past and future).  The parachutist, incoherently lost in the background of my print almost leaping out of the canvas in actuality. It’s a brilliant, brilliant painting, in an exhibition full of brilliant, brilliant paintings and another demonstration to me that no matter how good the reproduction of a piece of art might be, it will never, ever, replace the original and in this case is the difference between watching Empire Strikes Back on VHS and then the big screen.

Except, and this is often the case with divisive artists, it’s not easy to explain exactly why you, or rather I, like Chagall. As one of the attendants suggested to me yesterday during the press view, he's an artist who defies the synopsis, there are a dozen different things happening in many of his paintings all at the same time and he’s an artist who repays the lingerer. The same attendant pointed to an element of one painting I’d entirely missed despite having spent ten minutes looking at it.  Like all great art, there’s a breathlessness to being in its company, the gasp moment which also happens when we step into edifistic cathedrals like Liverpool’s own Anglican, or hear the bassoon at the opening of The Rites of Spring or watch the dream world bending in on itself in Inception. Awe! That’s the word. Awe!

Luckily, nothing we’re provided with about Chagall’s biography dims this awe, simply magnifies it.  For a start, Chagall was a non-conformist at time when artists were desperately trying to define themselves. Russian born in 1887, by the turn of the century Chagall had begun his studies as a realist painter in Yehuda Pen’s studio in Vitebsk before moving to St Petersberg to the school of the grandly titled Imperial Society for the Encouragement of Fine Art, the Hermitage Museum and other places learning about the works of the great masters. Within five years he'd moved to Paris just as cubisms was getting off the ground.  Then, after planning to visit the mother country briefly, found himself trapped there for eight years due to the Great War, during which he became a teacher himself, and he comes in contact with the constructivists.

Chagall, at this exciting nexus point in the history of art, looks at all of these different movements, all of these ideas, and absorbs them into his own style to produce something different. So while it's possible to infer most of these movements in his work and a few others, there’s a Chagall element throughout which makes them all the more exciting. His work become less interesting when he’s trying his hand at pure cubism, as he does in some uncharacteristic sketches of nudes, or constructivism, which are even more half-hearted where he’s clearly just going through the motions and extracting the waters by creating what amounts to glorified doodles. His fellow artists must have noticed because disputes with the core constructivists led to his resignation – from the art college he established.

But the fact that he recognised, utilised but rejected all of these different schools, still means that this exhibition is almost a short history of art. As curator Simonetta Fraquelli explained in her brief explanation before lunch, she chose to focus her exhibition on this particular decade of the artist's life because it is when his style was forming, when his motifs were developing, his thematic concerns and exactly what it is which makes his work recognisably his. His strength and its strength, is that we can look at his work to explain to us what cubism is and much as isn’t. Chagall is still a teacher, even after all these years, even in this early work. He lived through until 1985 incidentally. The shop has limited editions of a book and cd he produced in conjunction with Bill Wyman. Bill Wyman!

All of which is fine, but what about the paintings, why do I like the paintings? Mostly it is the details, the “random” details. Chigall said, “If I create from the heart nearly everything works. If from the head, almost nothing.” Well said. Early in the exhibition we’re confronted with The Holy Family, which apes the structure of a nativity painting, but has the Christ figure in the vicinity of the male figure and depicts him as a fully grown pre-crucifixion naked man which to some extent could be seen as an intellectual exercise but looks as though its thrown together, as though the artist was desperate to get this image onto the canvas. Chagall’s Jewish faith suffuses much of the work, oscillating between devotion and cynicism and this seems to be a mix of the two.

Chagall repeated various iconography across his life. He painted humans and animals in bright green but not always in the same painting. So there’s a small sketch called The Green Donkey which features a green donkey, obviously, but when a goat turns up in his I and the Village, the image which features on Tate’s advertising for the exhibition, it’s painted white and it’s Chigall himsel,f because this is presumably one of his self portraits, who’s bright green, locked in a staring contest with the beast. When he paints the moon it’s almost always with a smiley face lightly sketched in on top. He has a recurring motif of figures on their side – there’s a Jewish couple on Paris Through the Window in this position which I’d entirely failed to notice until it was pointed out to me today (along with the upside down train).

Chagall features himself in the work a lot, floating within or above the scene, painting pallet and brushes in hand. Perhaps we’re supposed to assume that these are his dreams, that he’s almost justifying their surrealism for his audience. In some cases this projects forward to comic artists. I was reminded of those moments in Spider-man strips, when Peter Parker’s internal turmoil would be depicted as the various facets of his life, beating criminals, failing exams, hovering across the shoulders of an extreme close-up of his head, half covered by his superhero mask. Perhaps we could interpret some of these paintings as showing Chagall's pre-occuptions, and by putting himself within their space, he’s taking ownership of them. It’s notable that when he’s addressing more universal concerns, he absents himself.

Typing all of that up makes it sound utterly nuts and it is, but gloriously so and presumably why Chagall’s stock in the history of art has never been quite as unequivocal as those “great masters” he studied himself. But standing before something like the transcendent Lovers in Blue for the first time, in which something almost but not exactly like Yves Klein blue is wrapped around a self portrait of the artist dressed a pierrot and his wife Bella suffused which such devotion, it glows, and it’s impossible to not wonder why? How could you miss this. But then I can’t really understand why Alain Resnais’s difficult Last Year at Marienbad isn’t a popular classic so my priorities are almost as surreal as some of Chagall’s artistic choices, which is me suggesting that I understand why you might not love his work.

Lovers in Blue is glazed so the back wall of the gallery space is reflected onto it if looked at from a particular angle and on that back wall is The Promenade, another portrait of the couple in which Bella is shown blowing in the air from her husband’s hand rather like a kite. It’s a poignant juxtaposition, an inadvertent mixing of the two images. That’s possible because of the decision by the Tate not to partition off the gallery spaces too much. Unlike most majors, the first gallery is entirely open, including the windows looking out onto the rest of the Albert Dock and Mersey creating a conversation with the paintings which themselves often reference window frames and the outside, not least Paris Through the Window. There’s plenty of seating too in this exhibition. People like to know these things.

Plus he’s unafraid to be humorous. Loads of these paintings are funny. Man With His Head Thrown Back shows a man bent backwards in an almost impossible way. Chagall has signed this upside down, so throughout our interaction with the work, we’re wondering if it has been hung upside down. When faced with this, I assumed what can best be described as the Question of Sport picture board position so that I could indeed see the painting in what might just be the right way up, quickly realising that Chagall has produced a painting called Man With His Head Thrown Back which may only properly be seen with our own head thrown back the obvious problem being that in throwing our head back, we’re making a nonsense of the composition because the man is standing on the floor.

The exhibition closes with a little shop (I like a little shop) but before that is a small space that glances forward to Chagall’s long career.  It’s a disorientating experience because we’re missing the interstitial tissue, the part of his biography which led from his more romantic approach to creating murals for the State Jewish Chamber Theatre, including Love on the Stage in which the shapes of dance are turned into a kind of faux-cubism, to the stark, monochrome horror of Saltimbanques in the Night. Who are these clowns supposed to be? Even the shots of colour can’t hide the dourness of thing. What else did he paint in 1957 and was it all like this? With his hallucinatory history of the Jewish people in the 20th century across the wall from it, War, it’s a very moving but very downbeat end to the show.

By then, I was a bit overwhelmed anyway. It’s almost too much. When I reached those final works, I knew it was over and I was sad, so sad that as I stood in front of the last of paintings I was seeing for the first time, the beautiful Clock with Blue Wing, I almost wept. Yes, really, because this may be the last time I see it outside of prints and postcards. It’s from a private collection, just as many of the works here are from private collections, or originating in Moscow. Their visit to Liverpool is fleeting. The problem with awesome culture is that there never seems to be enough time, but that’s the final thing I like about Chagall. It’s that he created work that we have to spend time with and in doing so provided the no-so-raw material for an exhibition that I really didn’t want to end.

Chagall: Modern Master at Tate Liverpool: Exhibition runs 8 June – 6 October 2013.  
Tickets: Adult £11.00 (without donation £10.00), Concession £8.25 (without donation £7.50).  Audio guide available £3.00.

Mesopotamia.

Life Lis has written one of the bravest blog entries I've read in some time. It's about how social media's changing out interpersonal skills:
"Not long ago, I met up with someone I knew solely from Twitter, which is not the first time I’ve met a Twitter friend, but I sat in a bar with this person for a couple of hours while she talked about herself the entire time. She didn’t even pause to draw a breath, but that wasn’t what troubled me about our meeting."
One of the problems we have as human beings sometimes is that we want to be liked. We want to seem like a peer and we want to build friendships which is something which is becoming increasingly difficult in this connected/unconnected world.

Sometimes, and I suspect I've been guilty of this over the years, we can over-compensate to the point that we forget that it's not just about wanting to advertise ourselves to a prospective friend through monologuing or advertising ourselves to them but simply being good company, that things evolve and the rest comes if the chemistry is really there.

WHO 50: 1991:
Timewyrm: Genesys.



TV This week's guest blogger is James Smith.

The launch of The Doctor Who New Adventures happened in an oddly liminal time. The TV series had ended two years before (although no one was actually admitting this yet) and the Target Books range too was coming to a natural end. This was not simply a result of the TV series’ cessation either. It was also a consequence of Target’s active push, over the previous half decade or so, to novelise as many of the then as yet unadapted TV stories they could. In the latter years of the 1980s Target books came out every month. A rarity even in what we think of as the range’s heyday. The books were both a source of regular income for Target and a regular fix of printed Who adventures for fans. In 1990 there was no new book in April, May, August or December. Because there couldn’t be. The material wasn’t there adapt, print and sell. Target were in a strange position. With no TV series fans would surely have lapped up adaptations of old stories in larger numbers, but the adaptations of older stories were, basically, done.

There was demand, but no supply.

By the end of 1990 there were only seven Doctor Who serials of which Target had not published an adaptation. Four Dalek stories, three Douglas Adams stories and Battefield. Battlefield, scheduled to be last book of 1990, was delayed (something that would happen with future Ben Aarnovitch books featuring the Doctor Who logo) and eventually came out in 1991, a month or so after the New Adventures started. The other six were beset by rights issues. Although Target supremo Peter Darvill-Evans hoped to resolve these issues as soon as possible, it’s worth noting that half of them have still not been novelised now, more than two decades later.

Darvill-Evans had already looked into novelising stories which had been abandoned before production (leading to the The Missing Episodes subrange that produced three titles in 1989-90) and found slim pickings. He arranged a novelisation of the 1976 Argo record Doctor Who And The Pescatons and attempts to novelise the stage plays were defeated by rights concerns.*

Original novels were the next logical step. Peter would later intimate that The Missing Episodes books had proved fans would buy books not based on TV stories. Indeed that they had in part happened in order to prove such a thing. (He was probably very wise to not underestimate the innate conservatism of fandom.) Armed with this knowledge, he visited John Nathan-Turner at his office in Wood Green, a few stops on the Hammersmith & City Line from Virgin’s premises in Ladbroke Grove

Despite not having a show to make JNT was still in situ in what had been the Doctor Who production office. Like everyone else connected with Doctor Who in 1990, he was trapped in liminal space. (There was no one else at the BBC willing or qualified to deal with the series’ licencing. JNT remained on staff until the drama department’s staff producer programme was wound up at the end of 1990). After their discussion Nathan-Turner was amenable to giving Darvil-Evans a licence to “continue Doctor Who in book form” (a direct quote) and advised him to abandon his idea of a linking theme of a “hunt for a missing Ace”. (JNT disliked the McGuffin and considered the relationship between the characters to be a strength of the series’ final years. Having a plotline that ensured they would barely interact up was counterintuitive.)

Demand? Meet supply. Beginning in June 1991, the initially bi-monthly series quickly became an all year round concern. The New Adventures, for many fans at least, and certainly for this one, replaced both Target books. The bus ride to the local W H Smiths to pick up that month’s guaranteed Target release continued. They were just now Virgin Books, not Target books. The stories now came in a narrative order, not leaping up and down the history of the TV series, and they were (initially only a little) longer. Other than that only the Doctor Who logo and the price point had changed. And neither very much.

However, there is another aspect to this. Let’s go back to that direct quote from the licence. “Continue Doctor Who in book form”. Even during the six years they co-existed DWM never pushed the Worlds Distributors annuals, despite them being the only long-lived source of licenced non TV Doctor Who stories. (It only occurs as I type this that this may have been because of commercial rivalry). This was firmly not the case the Virgin books. DWM and the NAs shared covers, characters and continuity. When Bernice was introduced to novels she was added to the comic strip as well and received a ‘Travelling Companions’ article as all the TV companions had done. DWM treated the Virgin Books as it had previously treated the TV series. It became, in effect, a tie in magazine to the novels, which were the current form of (what we were in those days pleased to call) “the show”. Its past, as represented by the VHS releases (which also began in earnest at this time) was also engaged with, but the Virgin Books were The New Doctor Who Adventures, the continuation of the series. The first, last and only time this has happened in the history of Doctor Who spin-offs.

It is this, as much as their overall high quality that distinguishes the New Adventures from all other non-TV Doctor Who. They had no rivals. The one possible rival, the DWM strip, chose to play along (and consequently underwent a renaissance of its own). They form an ongoing narrative that picked up where the TV series left off. They marched forward in an unexpected direction, which nonetheless grew naturally out of the final years of the TV show. In that strange liminal zone of the early 1990s, when no one would admit that Doctor Who on TV had ended, the books were seen as a stop gap by some and as the legitimate heir by others. They themselves were brought to an end by the BBC deciding to bring the licence for original Doctor Who fiction in house, just as the Universal TVM co-production was announced. The idea of original Doctor Who novels, a risky, odd, unusual prospect when Darvil-Evans conceived it, was now worth, well, let’s be honest, stealing from him. Even when the series returned in 2005 its tie-in fiction would consist of new stories running parallel to the TV show, not novelisations of it. Before Timewyrm Genesys there were not original Doctor Who novels. After it, there are hundreds.

Some may prefer the EDAs that followed the disastrous creative and commercial train wreck that was the 1996 TVM to the NAs. Yet there is no denying that the EDAs copied the NAs model and to be fair, no one has ever really tried.

It is worth noting, however, that amongst 1992’s New Adventures are two written by people who scripted 1989 Doctor Who TV episodes and two written by people who scripted 2005 TV episodes. If there is a bridge between Survival and Rose, it’s the Hammersmith Flyover.

* (The Pescatons too would sneak out in late 1991, in a manner that would be oddly replicated a decade and change later when the last EDAS and PDAs hit shelves after the launch of the 2005 TV series.)

Sugababes vs "Sugababes" is off.

Music Here's the Newbeat version of the now row between the Sugababes and "Sugababes" story (not that I'd ever considered there was such a thing) (obviously). Essentially they're all talking to each other and everything's fine, so expect a charity record from the six of them within in the year.

More interesting are the comments about what the album contains, Mutya in particular sounding like a pre-2005 Russell T Davies on Doctor Who:
""We wanted to take our time and make sure it was right," explained Mutya.

"The most important thing for us was to make sure we did it properly."
So they won't refer to One Touch initially but by the fourth album they'll be riffing on Soul Sound and it'll end with a cameo from Bernard Cribbins making us cry. Again.

From Siobhan:
""As for the album I think it's important there's not one sound because we all like different music."
Which makes this sound like the album will be a bit of each of the previous solo efforts and if this thing is anything like either of Siobhan's albums or Song for Mutya (if not necessarily much else of the Mutya album), it should be something special (so long as they're not interrupted by Graham Norton somewhere in the opening track).

Alfred Hitchcock's "Have You Heard?"

Photography In 1942, at the behest of President Roosevelt, LIFE Magazine printed a photo-story outlining the damage rumours and hearsay could potentially have on the war effort.

 What resulted was a story entitled "Have You Heard? (The Story of Wartime Rumors), the feature carrying Hitchcock’s name is a war thriller in photos, shot by LIFE’s Eliot Elisofon from a plot “suggested by” FDR’s press secretary, Stephen Early, and “directed by” Hitchcock himself."

 From their introduction:
"Have You Heard? is the result of their cooperation in photo-dramatization. A simply sexless story, it shows how patriotic but talkative Americans pass along information, true or false, until finally deadly damage is done to their country’s war effort. One false rumor is silenced by a man who later is unwittingly responsible for starting a true rumor which ends in a great catastrophe. Moral: Keep your mouth shut."
As the modern LIFE contributor notes, parts of it feel very Hitchcockian, some of the still looking like they could be frames from his war time creations. Hitch even has his customary cameo.

Here's a version on DeSlide which is slightly easier to read.

Unsurprisingly, the story still has resonance today, especially on the internets.  You want to be the haberdasher, but you'll inevitably end up being the bridge club member.  As I did the other night when I was saying to myself, "Ben Daniels.  Huh?"

Who, how, where, why and what?

Links  Who does Brandon Baltzley think he is?
"Baltzley is quiet as he guides the car across a bridge, one place giving way to the next. He tends to be most himself in these moments. In conversation, he's too conscious—too aware of how he seems. "Who wants the truth?" Warhol asked. "It's not what you are that counts, it's what they think you are." Two hours from now, Baltzley will leave me sitting alone at a bar and return to tell me that he's been doing coke and playing with guns. An hour after that, he'll cry in a hotel room while we talk about his dad. Two hours from now, he'll give me what I think he is—an hour after that, he'll show me the truth."

How does everyday life compare between today and pre-1950?
"A graduate student at Eastern Michigan University, who was born in 1974, wrote her graduate school thesis about life before mid-century when technology did not reign supreme. In order to speak with authority, she spent a month forgoing any modern convenience that did not exist before 1950. She found it interesting and enlightening concerning the ease with which we face everyday life in the 21st century. Indeed, we expect life to be convenient today but that, of course, has not always been the way it was."

Where Does Art Fit Into The Goodnight?
"That's Goodnight, as in The Goodnight, the bowling-and-billiards-and-pingpong-and-karaoke-and-drinking establishment that's still kind of new to Anderson Lane, that used to be a Fuddrucker's, that's just a long film-reel roll away from the Alamo Drafthouse Village. And that's Goodnight, as in The Goodnight-Loving Trail, the trail used to drive Texas Longhorn cattle from the Lone Star state to Colorado in the 1860s."

Why does France insist school pupils master philosophy?
"I have been staring in admiration over the shoulder of my 17-year-old daughter, as she embarks on a last mental rehearsal before a much-dreaded philosophy exam. My primary thought is: Thank the Lord I was spared the torment. I mean, can you imagine having to sit down one morning in June and spend four hours developing an exhaustive, coherent argument around the subject: Is truth preferable to peace?"

What is wind?

Canada has Doctor Who lookalikes too.

TV To Canada, and Edmonton, Alberta where a Matt Smith lookalike has been found working the supermarket check-out within vicinity of a local news reporter who's a massive Doctor Who fan. There's nothing about the following report which isn't amazing:


I won't spoil it, but doesn't it look at one point like he's riffing one of the old Blue Peter explanatory scripts? Plus the are a couple of shots of him which are just eerie...

Christmas at the Vatican.

Music In 2001, the Vatican had a Christmas concert which was televised. The IMdb page with partial cast list is here. Notable performers include Byan Adams, Tom Jones, Sarah Brightman, Shola Ama, The Manhattan Transfer, Cleopatra (Comin' Atcha!) and Jewel (Kilcher). I've always been curious about what it might sound like, because it sounded like it could be one the most oddball, if festive, musical events ever. Oh look, someone's uploaded it to Spotify:



I was right. It's the beginning of June and I'm now broody for all things Christmas. The Jewel track's especially fun for all the giggling in the middle.

A YouTube uploader suggests this is from the same year. It's an unlikely cross-genre collaboration between The Cranberries and Westlife:



Happy Christmas. You're welcome.

Someone else's review of Mutya Keisha Siobhan's new single 'Flatline'.

Music As I've just said in Twitter:


Well, yes, of course I haven't, I'm just some guy, and not even that. So I'll have to rely on Digital Spy's assessment.

The general sense is that it's a slow burn, which is fine. Sometimes if a song sounds really brilliant on its first listen, it's because there's no back end, which is pretty much all of pop music now, let's be honest.

There are a few spoilers if songs can have these things, but since there'll be whole album's worth of the things, I think that's ok.

I like that they each seem to be getting a showcase, which is very in keeping with their first album, this technically being their second album.  Of course.

The Walker Art Gallery website updates the positioning of the opening hours and address details. It's good news.

Art You might remember a couple of months ago when I was in one my curiously cross moods I offered a survey of where the local museums and art galleries put their visitor information.

 Here is an update now that National Museum Liverpool have refreshed their website because I want to give credit where it's due. Here's what I said about their old site with a screenshot:



There we are, top right, opening hours with a link to "more visitor information" which goes into greater detail about closures and that sort of thing, though there are also some more clicks required to get to an address and transport links through a menu of links.  All of the NML websites use the same style sheet so all of them have a very similar navigation system.

Here's the new site:



Top right one box with the opening times in big bold lettering and below that another box with the address and a small image of a map and a link to the map. Well done you and well done whoever designed the website.  These details are in the same place for all the venues which share the same eye-catching style sheet.

I've two more suggestions if I may:

(1)  Make the image of the map itself a link the map too - it's more intuitive and was the first thing I tried to click and better to find the tip of your finger to if you're viewing the site on a tablet.

(2)  Create some mechanism, more links in the black bar at  the top ala the BBC website, a drop down menu, whatever, so that the user can shift between venues from the actual venue page rather than having to click back to the master page via the "Back to National Museums Liverpool" link at the top which feels like extra clicks.  I understand why you wouldn't want to.  Forcing the user through that route means you can introduce them to events and whatnot at other venues, but I'd actually be more inclined to simply Google the individual venue instead to get there.  With a link at least you're keeping them on the actual website.

Other than that, one down, seven (non-NML) to go.

How would you find out how many days are in the lunar month?

Linguistics Did Neil Armstrong flub his moon speech, or have we all simply misunderstood his accent?
"Which led a team of researchers from Michigan State and Ohio State to take an interest in the controversy. The scientists tried to shed light on the question, though, based not on the context of Armstrong's famous first words ... but on the words themselves. Their claim? The solution to the "a"-or-nay puzzle lies in Armstrong's state of origin -- and in the idiosyncratic accent it gave his speech.

"Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, in the northwestern corner of Ohio. His father, however, worked as a state auditor, moving the family around the center of the state until Neil was a teenager. Central Ohio has a regional accent, and one of its quirks involves a unique way of, yep, pronouncing the phrase "for a": its speakers tend to blend the two words together. Into what MSU researcher Laura Dilley describes as a "frrr(uh)" -- essentially, a "fruh" -- sound."
For comparison:



Possibly.

"Would you please stop that?"

Music Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman walked out his own concert on Monday evening after noticing someone recording the thing on their iPhone.
"Krystian Zimerman, from Poland, was distracted by the concertgoer while in the middle of playing Karol Szymanowksi's Variations on a Polish Theme in B Minor at the Ruhr piano festival in Essen.

Still playing, he raised his gaze towards the audience member, who was sitting in a balcony seat above him, and said: "Would you please stop that?"

"But while Zimerman, 56, resumed playing the work he had clearly lost his concentration, and left the stage shortly afterwards, evidently agitated."
He blames the amount of clips of things there are on YouTube.  But it's not just the results.  As some of the commenters note, what is destroying music and the enjoyment of going to see live music is "the entitled little shits out there who think they can film whatever and whoever they want."

 One of the reasons I've sworn off concerts is because you do end up spending most of the night dodging camera screens rather than listening to the music.

 If somewhere like the Globe Theatre is capable of policing this -- YouTube isn't awash with "unofficial" recordings of plays -- other venues should be able to as well if they cared to.

The vacuum, the void, the hole.

TV As predicted, the vacuum, the void, the hole in information about who will be playing the Doctor after this Christmas means the internet (which lets face it is the media now) is in full speculation mode.

The May Sue's all over Wil Wheaton's blog post about knowing who's already been cast in the role, utilising the prompt for his comment to crown Chiwetel Ejiofor as Doctor number whatever its going to be depending on who John Hurt's playing.

Perhaps Wil Wheaton does know. He is Wil Wheaton. If he does know, it's annoying because it's another example of there being a kind of network of people who're privy to this information, the rest of us maroons outside of the circle, ie, the general public, left to wait for the official announcement.

I like Wil Wheaton, but why's Wil Wheaton in the know?

This information should either be internally at the BBC until they're ready or in the wider public.  The interstitial area which includes licensees and the like being included in the larger side of that venn diagram.

Of course, Wil Wheaton might not know the truth.  Or he might think he knows the truth and he knows the fake truth which has been put about in lieu of the actual truth.

Either way, we're still in, as predicted, the vacuum, the void, the hole in information about who will be playing the Doctor.

The pro-female lobby of which, as you know, I'm a member, is more vocal this time.  There have been pieces in The Guardian and The Slate and all kinds of places.

I don't know if it'll happen.  I'd like to think that Steven, casting Andy and everyone else went into the casting gender blind, but after fifty years that would have to be a conscious decision.

My understanding is when they spent the three weeks in a hotel working their way through all the people who wouldn't be the Eleventh Doctor because Matt Smith had already presented himself none of those people were female.

The chances are it'll be another white male.

Except the emergence of Zawe Ashton on voting lists is interesting, simply because it's so left of field, and pretty compelling.

Like David and Matt before her, she's the sort of actor whose known and liked amongst people who've seen them in the things they've seen them in in a way that most of the actors in these kinds of lists simply aren't.    Here's a typical example at IGN.  Here's another at The Guardian which she actually won (which is a switch from 2009 when The Guardian's readers voted against a gender change) (but that was after The Stolen Earth went out when Tennant fever was at its height) (plus when they last published a list Matt Smith wasn't anywhere near it).

Nevertheless, I like it.  It seems to fit.  Fresh Meat could be the new Party Animals or Casanova.

Plus Zawe is on Moffat & co's radar having played the original Sally Donovan in unbroadcast pilot version of Sherlock, the same casting call which put Matt Smith on their radar when he turned up to audition for Watson.  Wheels within wheels.

Is she very Doctorish?  Judging by what I've seen of her she can be.  There's an intensity of performance in Dreams of a Life which is remarkable.  Plus she can do the goofy thing.  See Fresh Meat.

Plus if you're going to do the traditional thing of casting someone who's a polar opposite of what's gone before, Zawe's perfect.

But the vacuum, the void, the hole in information continues.  Mostly it'll come down to whether the actor wants to spend eight or nine months filming in Cardiff, which isn't the back of beyond but is a huge commitment, which is why everyone especially the Doctor Who team itself were surprised Catherine Tate, who was already a household name thanks to her sketch show, did and would.

Would Chiwetel? Don't think he would.  Would Zawe?  Maybe.

Would Romola Garai?  Maybe too.  She committed a fair chunk of her year to The Hour, and would have again before it was cancelled.  Will that cancellation turn out to be fortuitous for us Who fans?

What makes summers hot and winters cold?

Food Summer Skin Care With Milk:
"Washing your face with chilled milk is relaxing and soothing to the tired face. After coming from outside, just let the sweat dry. Then wash your face with water and then massage the face with milk for about 2 minutes. Rinse with cold water and pat dry. This will leave the skin moisturised and clean."
And smelling of cheese?

Flatline.

Music This was tweeted about half an hour ago:


Then:


Oh my. It begins.

Who is the Secret Actor? #7

TV There's a deceptively large amount of information in the latest column, which took a week off for the bank holiday. Secret's talking about someone else again but there information that could prove useful should this thing run on long enough that we can read between its many lines.

This week it's about dealing and working with writer/performers. After a bit of preamble, there's an anecdote about a situation in which the a writer/performer is precious over their lines. At this point I should note that there's probably no right answer to this. Some writing has a rhythm to which is important to keep fidelity with and some writers are happy for whatever help they can get to make the thing better. If there's a breakdown in communication here it's that the state of affairs wasn't made clear during rehearsals and there's always the possibility that Secret's friend is being pigheaded about running all over the writer's words which they've had to toil over. Writing isn't easy and comedy writing, if done well is even harder.

Ahem, anyway, they've filming for TV in front of a live studio audience so this is a studio based, multi-camera sitcom or sketch comedy.

No times are given but consider:

The Household Name is a woman.

How many women in the history of television have been writers and performers of their own material in multi-camera sitcom?

French and Saunders
Ruth Jones
Meera Syal
Catherine Tate
Julia Davies (ish)
Miranda Hart
Jessica Hynes
Victoria Wood
Maureen Lipman

Assuming it's the UK of course. Could be anywhere in which case ... shrugs ... I've asked Twitter again. James's old blog post about female writer/performers is pertinent too.

But the point is it's a finite number. Plus it's fairly well indicated that the person who is Secret's friend is a supporting player and not really friends with the Household Name. Plus someone reading the column might even have been at this recording. It's the kind of incident easily remembered. So they would know who the Household Name is and also who Secret's friend is and ...

Well, the other thing is you do begin to wonder who would or could be like this. Secret calls them a "national treasure" which could suggest Wood. But that would send us as far back as Dinnerladies wouldn't it?

Yes, well, not as much information as I thought. It's all rather like being on the edge of trying to remember something but ... what was I saying?

The Game of But.

Jennifer Lawrence in Cannes.



"Yadda, yadda, yadda..."

What makes day and night?

Music From NPR in 2000:
"Cole Porter gave various accounts of how he came to write "Night and Day." He once said the music was influenced by an Islamic call to worship he'd heard while traveling in Morocco. Porter also said he began the tune on a Saturday night at New York's Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and wrote the lyrics the next day while lying on a beach in Newport, Rhode Island. He wrote it specifically for Fred Astaire. "Night and Day" is the song with which a besotted Astaire finally captures the stubborn heart of Claire Luce on Broadway and Ginger Rogers in the Hollywood version, "The Gay Divorcee." He sings, they dance, oh, did they ever, and she melts. In the film, the producers replaced all of the original Cole Porter tunes except for "Night and Day." It begins with one of the most unusual verses in popular song, pulsing, monotonous, insistent."