Where you lead, I will follow. To Netflix.

TV Find above the final official trailer for the Gilmore Girls revival which just looks astonishing. Some of the line readings are all over the place and there's bound to be a certain amount of patience required as wait for the actors to get a handle of their characters but damn. Six hours won't be enough. It won't be enough. Theory about Melissa McCarthy. She filmed a whole bunch of scenes on her work days so she's threaded through the whole thing. We'll see.

Meet the Perennials

Life Recently, no actually not that recently, I've become quite aware that I'm not a standard forty-one year old and that if anything I'm still the same person I was ten years ago, same mind set, same approach to everything pretty much, like I've been in stasis for ten years. If I feel older, it's because of a greater number of aches and pains. But mentally, I remain attached to the new things, pretty much, especially online. Now there's a word to describe me, us.

"We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge and know how to hustle. We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic. Perennials are also vectors who have a wide appeal and spread ideas and commerce faster than any single generation."
Having just missed out on Generation's X and Y, it's nice to finally have a category [via].


Shakespeare In the past, I've written about how the uncertainty surrounding Shakespeare's authorship of some plays has led me to deciding upon my own personal canon of about forty odd plays. Essentially if there seems to be decent evidence that the playwright had his hand in, the play's added to the list.

Imagine my surprise over the weekend when publication of a New Oxford Shakespeare was reported in the media with news of the inclusion of the 1602 rewrites of The Spanish Tragedy and Arden of Faversham.

The latter has been published as apocrypha before but this is the first time, I think, that it's been included within the main body of the rest of his work, albeit as a collaboration with an anonymous writer.

The eye-catching other decision is to list the Henry VI plays as a collaboration with Christopher Marlowe, something which has oft been suspected but again, this is the first time it's been marked for co-authorship.  See also All's Well That Ends Well, which adds Thomas Middleton's name.

How much of this is true depends on whether you agree with the data mining methodology of comparing the texts to corpuses of data about how these writers utilised language in the plays which are well established as theirs.

My own theory is that there might even be other plays floating around, currently listed as anonymous, which might well also be his work as well as others.  Despite his genius, there has to be work which pre-dates what we know to be his earliest plays.  No one, not even him, can start there.

Does co-authorship diminish his status?  Possibly, yes, maybe, no?  To an extent, he's been elevated above his peers to an unfair degree.  Each of this collaborators had equally rich careers which are barely performed or studied to the same degree.

So really it serves to bring them to the fore.  I'd love to see a BBC season about Shakespeare's peers, without whom he wouldn't be the playwright he became.  Has Middlton's A Chaste Maid in Cheapside ever been recorded?

My Favourite Film of 1923.

Film Is Harold Lloyd's Safety Last and my first viewing although I can't completely confirm this because it happened (comparatively) so long ago in the 1980s, when his silents were repeated as a series on BBC Two in the early evening in a specially prepared television version.

For years, I've had the theme song at the back of my mind and sure enough, through the magical internet, here it is:

And even more remarkably, here it is with a glimpse of the BBC Two logo beforehand, along with a chunk of one of the programmes:

Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy was originally the title for a 1962 compilation film arranged by Lloyd himself, which as the Wikipedia explains was well received by audiences, but less so by critics, presumably because at that time a lot of the material was otherwise unavailable and the preference would have been to see the films in their original state. This New York Times review is especially disparaging.

Then in 1974, the title was appropriated for a television series with a similar aim, but longer clips, written by Peter Durston (of which the web has nothing) and produced by Bob Hoag (of which there are half a dozen listed on the imdb).  Other than that there's scant information about the origins of the series, other than an uncited explanation from the Wikipedia that they were result of the films being leased to TimeLife in 1974.

Except, of course at the BBC Genome, where you can find synopses for all of the episodes and their TXes.

The first run of nine episodes can be seen here.  Just to complicate things, although the opening episode indicates its a series of ten, only nine seem to have been broadcast with Flash Gordon filling the Friday slot in the week of the last episode.

Then the show returned in October 1980 with another run of episodes which seems to mix the original broadcasts with new episodes and the repeats continued right through the eighties, with the final repeat happening on 4th September 1987.

After that, although his films were shown sporadically it was in complete versions ending with Back In The Woods on a Friday lunchtime in 1990.  Since then only near complete showing was as part of an episode of Paul Merton's Silent Heroes which includes Never Weaken.

My memory of the show is dim, it was, as I say, a very long time ago, but it would have been my first taste of silent cinema, however hacked about they were.  Without labouring the point, is the world really a better place having repeats of Antiques Roadshow and the like in this timeslot now?

Hooray for Harold Lloyd.

The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo.

TV Second episodes of any new show are always trouble with a capital T. Now that all the characters have been introduced as well as the concept, the writers then have to find something to do and more specifically something which is as much like the opening episode to keep things familiar whilst simultaneously offering a road map for what the show is ultimately going to be. Many show runners often propose that programmes don’t really find their feet until the sixth episode. Doctor Who only really entered the public imagination when the Daleks arrived on screen six episodes into the first series.  Buffy’s sixth episode was Angel (assuming you think of Welcome to the Hellmouth and The Harvest as a single unit).

Class doesn’t necessarily have that luxury. Who and Buffy enjoyed much longer seasons so it has to set out its stall pretty quickly and The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo is as successful as it can be under the accelerated circumstances. Plot wise it’s very early Buffy, drawing on elements of Teacher’s Pet, Reptile Boy and if you squint I, Robot … You Jane not to mention The X-Files’s Never Again. Oddly enough this is the first appearance of a living tattoo in Doctor Who’s mythology (judging by the TARDIS Datacore). But the execution is generally unlike those shows with a deep cut of reality spliced through it which indicates that although it’ll also be utilising the metaphoric supernatural, it’s with a more depthful sense of characterisation.

Unlike similar shows, especially Who’s own spin-offs, our heroes are not really heroes. For the most part in these kinds of series, once the protagonists receive their calling they suddenly become very efficient in their new vocation even if only a week or two has passed since their first interaction with whatever it is as a requirement of the format. By SJA’s second story, Clyde and Luke were already chasing Slitheen around their school. But in Class, the Doctor having haphazardly gifted them their mission, these kids have absolutely no idea what they’re supposed to do about it. They don’t have plans, they’re not strategic, they don’t think things through. They find themselves investigating but they don’t really know what that entails. All of which makes this feels fresh, makes it feel “real”.

They’re gripped by constant uncertainty and events are having a cumulative effect. Unlike the main series in which a companion has to affect a rather blasé attitude to death for the format to work, here it hurts. Ram’s PTSD cuts deep as this figure who’s spent his short life in control, on the football pitch and in his personal life finds himself having to fight to regain some semblance of the person he is. But he’s no warrior despite his actions in the opening episode. Another series might have had our heroes attacking the giant lizard thing or finding some method of combating it. Here they win because Ram suicidally risks what seems to him to be a pointless life ultimately turning his loss of control in on itself. That’s a huge choice in writing terms.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t moves to put some narrative furniture in place. Tanya’s attempting to hack into UNIT, a back door which could become this show’s “Huggy Bear” or Sunnydale High School Library or Mr. Smith unless writer Patrick Ness turns that on its head and it does nothing of the sort (and isn’t it interesting that she even knows what UNIT is?). Mrs. Quill’s mission is slowly dawning on her although it’s perfectly clear she’s no mentor, content instead to work in parallel to whatever else is going on. Alice is showing signs of becoming a kind of reluctant leader. As an aside, does she actually have no heart? What’s keeping her alive? Like Ram’s leg, how’s that going to work medically going forward? Such things are not easy to hide, even considering the cuts to the NHS.

But there’s no particular drive to rush into anything, building the friendship between this group of more interest than artificially introducing such genre tropes. As in reality, the characters change subtly depending on who they’re speaking to and the motive. I’ve already seen criticism of the “they don’t talk like normal teenagers” variety but even though supposedly most realistic of dramas, with tons of improvisation and gritty camera work, fictional characters never do. Plus it stereotypes teenagers, many of whom are just as witty, grounded and intellectually vital as this lot even if it’s on a slightly less heightened level than in Class. Not all them are, true, but neither are adults as recent election campaigns have demonstrated. I’d trust the Coal Hill Academy crew to vote more than most of the current electorate.

This second episode also offers even more grist for the mill in story terms as we’re introduced to the concept of The Governors. In The Day of the Doctor, the sign for Coal Hill Secondary School identifies the Chairman of the Governors as one I. Chesterton although this sure has to be some other group? Katherine Kelly really is marvellous as Mrs Quill with just the right amount of wacky energy. In close ups she’s utterly compelling; her piercing eyes constantly appraising the scenery, suspicious of everything. We still don’t really know her motives. To continue my comparison with Spike from yesterday, if Quill’s somehow “unchipped” would she stick around to continue the work or fuck off out of it? My guess is she’ll do just that, leaping into the bunghole of time at the earliest opportunity.

So yes, another success which is going to make it all the harder to write about. Miracle Day might have been a complete mess but it’s always easier to be an amusing dumpster arsonist when you hate something. I can well remember my disappointment when Torchwood’s television adventures kept missing the target, when every decent episode was followed by some shocking panto. Class doesn’t feel like it’s capable of that, in that I can’t imagine what a rubbish episode of Class would look like. But then Torchwood had a very good opening, pretty good follow up and then fell down the cracks in the pavement outside Ianto’s shrine, so episode three will be the clincher? Can the show maintain this momentum? Tune in next week to find out. Or whatever it’s called when you stream something on the iPlayer …

For Tonight We Might Die.

TV Good. So, so good. Satirically launched ten years on from the exact day of the second official television attempt at a Doctor Who spin-off, Class has a confidence Torchwood rarely managed, an expressive proficiency which in its first episode at least puts it in the same bracket as the very best of genre shows. Which doesn’t mean it’s especially original, we’re not in Orphan Black or Sense8 territory, but as an example of trying to do a sort of thing in a particular moment, in a particular idiom for a chosen audience demographic, Class excels. It’s funny, smart, has genuinely interesting characters played by likeable actors and actresses and most especially, I’ll be watching the next episode because I want to and not because you’ll be expecting me to post a review. Miracle Day.  It's also available to watch on the iPlayer for the next eleven months, in case you didn't know.

Creator and writer Patrick Ness is pretty shameless about resurrecting Buffy: The Vampire Slayer in the Whoniverse, even opening the episode with similar beats to that series’s opening episode Welcome To The Hellmouth with expectation busting scary moment in the darkened corridors of the school during the teaser followed by the cast being largely introduced walking into the school the following morning. That was Buffy’s first day, but interestingly there’s no particular viewpoint character upfront, Ness taking advantage of the viewer’s inbuilt knowledge of what a school is and more important the archetypes which tend to fill such classrooms. He knows that we know that he knows that we know that he knows we’ve already watched enough of these kinds of programmes to get the gist so why repeat any of it?

It's The Sarah Jane Adventures for the Torchwood age bracket but without the pantomime. But whereas those shows recreated the look and feel of the parent series, albeit for different audiences, Class rejects the current Doctor Who’s idiom for the most part with rapid cutting, shorter scenes, intensified continuity and storylines running in parallel (though admittedly in order to introduce and service all these characters). There are also funny intercutting sight gags and a general sense of experimentation which has been purposefully lacking in quite this way of late in the Moffat era, which has been to an extent aping the classic era which much longer scenes and linear narratives. You can tell I liked this. I have my serious head on. Which is odd because the programme on the whole doesn’t.

Nevertheless it is unexpected that Ness would choose a “breaking of the status quo” introduction to the series, with all the characters in place waiting for the badness to happen, oscillating between omitting narrative information from the audience to create mystery and expositional diarrhoea. That’s something he’s learnt from Joss Whedon’s series, in which Buffy was the lead character and much of the show was from her point of view but Xander and Willow, like April, Ram and Tanya here, were still also a way for the viewer to relate the spooky-doo and others mania. But because they’re citizens of the Whoniverse and watched the same television we have, they’re not surprised by its existence, just by the nature of it. They were probably part of the 456’s human microphone.

Anyone else, just for a moment, wonder if Ms. Quill would be revealed to be another long lost Time Lord? She certainly has the temperament, Katherine Kelly sharp-tongued eccentricity making you wonder exactly how she’s able to keep her teaching job, although having said that, remembering some of my teachers … Either way, she’s utterly compelling with just the right level of moral ambiguity without becoming dislikeable. The less attention-grabbing approach would have been to make her a kindly mentor ala Sarah Jane (and even have brought in a previous companion for much the same role), but by making her mysterious, even dangerous, not a class protector through choice, instead of Giles we have the chip-neutered Spike from season four.

Her students might be archetypes but they’re also dimensional from the off. Ram is the athlete but he’s quickly given depth through tragedy (will Ness slip in a reference to refrigerators next episode?). April’s the prom princess but she’s also the loner, the warmest of the characters now without a heart. Tanya’s the brain but also exceedingly cool. Which leaves Charlie as the criminal except he’s more of a fugitive. Ok, a direct The Breakfast Club analogy doesn’t quite hold up, especially since British high school dramas haven’t traditionally portrayed the same kind of clique system, but in his writing Ness is working hard to write against expectation, to make these characters feel real, to plausibly connect with each other as human beings. “Does this mean we’re mates now?”

Ness also seems to have been left to chart his own mythological course. If the school had been renamed and the Doctor hadn’t appeared, there’s not much in here directly connecting it to the Whoniverse. But the best thing about the Whoniverse is that a writer can insert masses of imaginative new stuff and it absorbs it with less fuss than a Spontex. Almost the entirely population of a planet wiped out by mini-Balrogs who only live in shadows? If you like. An alien prince hiding on Earth with his mortal enemy as his indentured body-woman? Fine. Arguably one of the problems with Torchwood was its desperation to embrace the main series. I’d be quite happy if we never see the Doctor again and we have seven more episode of shiny new things to enjoy.

Inevitably I’m going ask, when is this set? Did anyone notice a date on anything? Obviously we’re back in shared universe territory so anything Earth bound and planet threatening will inevitably make us wonder how it’s affecting this new band of characters, just as I was always scared for the kids in the attic during Miracle Day. Clara’s been accepted as gone, dead or missing, but the Moffat era has a slightly hazier approach to contemporary stories. How many Zygons are there in the school? I’m betting on Mr. Armitage. But all of this is getting way ahead of everything. There are still seven episodes to go and anything could happen. For all we know, a Monoid could fall through time and wander into the school canteen during episode three.

If there was one slightly discordant note, it was the sudden emergence of the Tenth Doctor’s theme on the appearance of the TARDIS during the flashback. Clearly the intention was that Charlie and Quill were rescued by Twelve but it’s a measure of Murray Gold’s initial achievements that those notes have become so synonymous with that version of the Time Lord causing us to wonder briefly – did Tenth save them? Is that why he doesn’t emerge from the blue box because David Tennant wasn’t available? Other than that composer Blair Mowat acquitted himself well on his first drama series gig after a mix of films, shorts and documentaries including The Fan Show on YouTube.  The sound mix is all over the place, some of the dialogue unintelligible. But that could be just the downmix on my headphones.

What of the Doctor in his only appearance on television this year barring the Christmas special? Well, he’s the Doctor. Capaldi having completed his transition from the menace who growled his way through season 8 back to the benevolent alien we know and love.  He’s just magic now isn’t he? Following Russell’s lead when he wrote the Time Lord into his school based spin-off, Patrick is careful to make sure he doesn’t hog the spotlight, the kids the key to the solution. The Doctor’s holding back, testing them to some extent, but without the cruelty of Kill The Moon, stepping in when required. Will the next series be partly about him regaining his memories of Clara or have we properly moved on now? I appreciated the grace note, but how did he remember be the old caretaker without her?

Like Fleabag and Thirteen, Class is a demonstration that BBC Three, even with its new delivery method is capable of spearheading some excellent drama. Before you ask, no I haven’t seen episode two yet, that’s for tomorrow night. As I write these words its only half nine which is a welcome change from how Doctor Who was broadcast last year, with me still tapping away on this laptop past midnight as a result.  It’s strange not having to sit through five minutes of Strictly first but it is entirely convenient to be able to see a new episode of something when I want to. Which isn’t to say I haven’t missed the collective post-broadcast atmosphere on social media afterwards. Though I have got any mention of it muted on Tweetdeck to avoid spoilers, so for all I know you’ve all be talking up a storm.

The second episode of Class, just like all shows will really emphasise the format.  The “next week” trailer somewhat suggests it’ll be much as we expect, an alien of the week for the kids to fight or some time travel related business or both. We’ll (or more likely I’ll, since you’ve all seen it already) see whether everything will stand alone or the storytelling is going to be more cumulative and interrelated, the effects of one adventure bleeding into another. Perhaps, like Buffy, it’ll do both. Will we see the emotional toll on the characters as they have to deal with stuff week on week or embrace the great spirit of adventure? Will eight episodes be enough? The fact that I’m speculating about this shows that the job is done. I’m hooked.

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.