The Ghost Monument.

TV Custard creams! The TARDIS makes custard creams! If jammy dodgers seemed on brand for the eleventh Doctor, custard creams feels like the last thing you might expect for thirteenth and yet totally correct, as was her response which was munch the thing down as quickly as possible.  Lately I've been attempting to lose some more weight, but custard creams keep appearing the cupboard and my self control isn't what it once was.  The wreckage of teeth in my mouth thanks to a couple of decades of tooth grinding can't really bite into them any more without some risk.  But by-gad they're perfect for dunking, so long as you don't keep them in there too long.  Plus they're super cheap, about fifty in a packet for forty pence in Tesco.  Even less in the value range at Aldi.  Oh dear, I appear to have eaten another one.

Second stories or episodes are the first time we really get a chance to see how a new incarnation of the Doctor exist at full wattage after their introductory installment(s) and have an inclining of how the given actor is really going to approach the role.  The End of the World was structurally still part of RTD's task in demonstrating the breadth of the show at this early stage although Chris had Boaked himself out by then.  While New Earth on reflection does give us a roadmap to the Tenth Doctor's personality, the body swap story meant we still didn't really see him and Rose in action until Tooth & Claw.  The Beast Below is maligned but again it's an on-point expression of who the Eleventh Doctor would be, which could also be said of Twelfth Into The Dalek for worse, much, much worse, the start of that season's apparent project to make us actively dislike him.

It's too early to really say how The Ghost Machine fits into that tradition, Jodie Whitaker's Doctor is still cooking.  Without knowing the production schedule, we don't know were this sits in terms of how comfortable she in the role, and there are occasions, like previous Doctors, when she is still trying to calculate the balance of exposition over emotional beats.  She's also still for the most part, not the viewpoint character, which causes us to be slightly at a distance from her, which is something which has oscillated across the years but we've recently become less used to.  Usually if she's in close-up, it's for an important moment.  With three companiofriends to deal with, she's regularly at the back or middle of the framing, or emerges towards the end of a scene between two other characters, usually to help chivvy the story along.

Which isn't to say she isn't delightful.  She is.  Her performance and this version of the character is a welcome change from the introspection of recent incarnations with the weight of the universe on their shoulders.  She doesn't need to ask herself if she's a good person.  She just is and knows it.  She's especially mobile too, weaving in and out the other characters and sets like a dynamo, rarely still, sonic at the ready.  In the scene on the shuttle when she has little choice to but sit down, this Doctor seems trapped, impatient.  These are writing, performance and production solutions and there'll doubtless be a moment when we see her sat alone, contemplating and it'll be all the more powerful because of it.  Jodie's nuance shines best in the interior scenes.  Perhaps these were shot later?

That;s especially true of  the closing moments when the TARDIS finally returns and thirteenth really becomes the viewpoint again, barely holding back the tears as her old friend returns.  We finally see her interior soul as she rests herself against the time ship's exterior, caressing the sign.  Then as the door opens, an awestruck look usually reserved to companions radiates from her as she glances around the new interior, the TARDIS having decided on as an expert notices, "basically the 2005 one with crystals instead of coral" but massively huge, augmented by CG.  It's in these moments we see Jodie really settle into the role, calmer, more authoritative.  As season seven (the first one) shows the Doctor's mojo, her sense of being is directly connected to her TARDIS and she's not complete without the ability to step into the fourth dimension.  I like it too.

One element which Chibnall is keen to demonstrate is the Doctor fighting with her wits rather than guns, even the to point of having Ryan acting like a numpty with a large gun to demonstrate the point, marinating in the juices of toxic masculinity.  As you know, I've acknowledged that THE DOCTOR DOES NOT USE GUNS unless he does, sometimes, but it's good that the show goes to these lengths to broadcast this imagine, especially now.  In order to show this is the same person who's been at the centre of the show for the past half decade, we hear Thirteenth also namedropping and practicing Venusian aikido.  I bet there are some jelly babies in those massive pockets of hers.  You could argue that leaning heavily on such things might risk the character becoming a bit generic, but Jodie's Doctor so far has been anything but.

Second installments also need to have a story significantly different from the first so that potential new viewers can get a feel for the premise.  On that score, The Ghost Monument is fine, certainly less of a curiosity than some of the others.  Judging by the plot synopses for coming adventures, Chibbers is following the recent recipe of offering a future and historical story in the first couple of weeks, although this was a much more stripped down affair with less characters and a very clear, specific story goal.  Comfortingly tab A into tab B.  You could imagine the content of this race in most Who contexts although obviously in a novel or audio because there's no way in the world the show could afford to go and film in such a picturesque landscape.  Abroad.  For this long.

Well, hello gorgeous.  After the cinematic first episode, it's usual to shift into a much more studio based affair to save money.  Instead we're now in HBO or Netflix territory in budget terms apparently, although I'd be interested to know if lobbing another couple of episodes from the season means that the budgets for those have been amortized across the rest.  Previous episodes have shot abroad and had some scale, but this finally feels like its achieved the teenage dream of producing a feature film per week.  Were the ruins a build or already on site in South Africa?  How did the spaceship crash manage to look so convincing?  Without Confidential, we can only hope that Andrew Pixley has his archival pick axe at the ready and a venue to provide us with these titbits.  Extra issues of The Complete History perhaps?

For all the scale, this is still a character piece.  As I predicted last week, with more companions, there's less need for guest spots but also a greater opportunity to provide varying viewpoints on aspects of the story like the aliens or the planets they inhabit and carry over stuff from previous episodes.  Now it's not just up to the Doctor to sympathize with those who've lost loved ones or ask the difficult questions, and this new TARDIS team is becoming quite the Greek chorus.  Graham and Ryan are also given a chance to consider Grace's death (although it's odd that they seem to have waited until now rather than either before or after the funeral) and the Doctor's clear affinity for Yasmin putting her trust and faith in the police officer.  All of their reactions feel very real too, astonished at the new surrounds and predicament and unafraid to show it.

Small but remarkable guest cast, British cinema legends all.  I've been mad keen on Susan Lynch since she co-starred with Rachel Wiesz in the millenium British noir Beautiful Creature, a passion which was crystallized by Downtime, no, not the Bill Baggs psychodrama, but the lift thriller co-starring the Eighth Doctor in the period after reading the Earth arc BBC novels trying to decide which other McGann performances could be considered canonical even though the character he was playing had a different personality and name.  She initially seems ill at ease with the jargon but is utterly riveting while describing how her home planet has been laid waste.  Shaun Dooley's playing less against type but has the chance to offer more lightness than usual.  Art flipping Malick plays a hologram who doesn't feel like he's completely done in this series.

Which segues us about as neatly as The One Show to the other surprise of the episode.  A story arc.  Who has been very continuity and mythology heavy in recent years, often at the expense of telling the stand alone takes which are the DNA of the show.  Around seasons six and seven, the only real place you could experience a story unconnected to anything else was in the novels or AudioGo audio books.  In the preshow publicity, Chibbers at al specifically said that this would be ten episodes with stand alone stories implying a return to the old format of being able to pretty much watch the stories in any order and it would still make sense (something the dvd releases could take advantage of across its decades long project).

Well.  Apart from the aforementioned perfectly natural conversation carry overs from the previous week, no  "special treat to cheer us all up" we now have flying scarves pulling something called "The Timeless Child" from Jodie's brain, a hitherto unmentioned piece of Time Lord ephemera which seemed to momentarily knock her off balance.  Any relation to the Nightmare Child?  Is there an intergalactic creche filled with epic sounding youngsters like the Quantum Child, Apocalyptic Child and Oblivion Child sharing the sandpit?  Or is it something closer to home?  How is this connected to the Stenza?  Is it connected to the Stenza?  Like Grace's unusual death last week, seeds are being sown which will either be resolved in eight weeks or Chibbers will be dragging us along right through the seasons China has already licensed.

Tomorrow's another London day for this writer  (I'm visiting Greenwich again for some shopping) so I'll bring this to a close at the beginning and the new title sequence, banged straight into from the announcer for the first time since Rose.  I think.  Throwing out the orchestral majesty of the Murray Gold era (justified by RTD because he thought the Delia Derbyshire version sounded a bit sad) (hrumph), new composer Segun Akinola resurrects the original's mysterious, uncanny sound, with percussion underscoring a reworking of what sounds like the original Radiophonic Workshop recording.  The outro is noticeably more dramatic but like 2005 version denies us the middle eight, which wouldn't make our headspin with excitement until 2007.  Always good to hold something back.

Like the music, the credits pay homage to the past whilst being entirely futuristic offering a mini-history of Who titles across the first couple of decades.  It begins with something akin to the first decade or so, rotating shapes offering the impression of the time vortex from the 60s and early 70s.  They're then married with the fluid artifacts of the split-scan methods from the late 70s.  Finally we're in the starfields of most of the 80s.  But they're all of a pieces and transition between each other perfectly.  No face or TARDIS this time.  It's created by the mysterious John Smith, he or she of Wholock fame who director Rachel Talalay contracted to provide some of the special effects for the last series now being given this ultimate task.  Well done.

So we're over the second episode bump just about intact.  Can we define how Chibber's approach differs from his predecessors yet beyond the sheer scale of the thing?  A certain back to basic, more traditional approach to the storytelling, more character, less plot based material, an abundance of script which begs for rewatching in order to catch of all the dialogue, especially from the Doctor.  If anything, the reason I'm grasping at straws is because he's taken a step back, is less interested in imprinting his own personality, perhaps because unlike RTD and Moffat, he's less known for having a particular approach to writing, Born and Bread, Camelot and Broadchurch not really having a common theme or thread.  So far, so good.

The 231163 Diaries:
Alfred Kazin.

Politics Alfred Kazin was an American writer and literary critic, many of whose writings depicted the immigrant experience in early twentieth century America [source]. Whilst this entry doesn't directly depict events which happened on the 23rd November, the words are a prophecy of the future effect Kennedy's assassination would have on history.

November 22, 1963

Kennedy was shot around noon in Dallas this afternoon and died about an hour later.  The fact is, when have concluded all self-pitying thoughts about the in-consequence of the might when they have fallen, that the dead do have a very great power over us - that the last cry of the dying, though it is certainly not carried with any action, reverberates in out mind as a continuing effect .... Because we die, when all is said and done we live in consciousness on this side of life and not the other, Kennedy's tragedy will have a larger effect on our lives than his administration.  The final destructive blow taken against him and his silent subjection takes on continuing implications that his own actions did not.  His somehow pitiful fate has become a major event in our lives.

Publically, his appearance was always light, ironic, witty in resource and charming.  His fate is in its consequence incalculably heavy.  He is a perfect example of the prodigal son - all that substance lost and wasted!  We thought (because he tried to seem so) that America could be without the business of the Damocles Sword descending upon us - which is tragedy or fate (the tragedy being that we cannot resist its weight).  In the end all the wealth, charm, easiness, youth, came to very little [very little in proportion to the ends expected of such advantages].  The tragedy is the Irish immigrant hope that enough money and [illegible] would turn life into a "success," that the inevitable terms of life's bargain would somehow be changed.

[Source: KAZIN, Alfred.  2011.  Alfred Kazin's Journals.  Yale University Press.]

Doctor Who's Honest Trailers.

TV Sunday night's episode seems to have been an unqualified success. Overnight ratings in the UK were 8.2m with a 40 odd percent share which is huge (although as my Mum pointed out there was sod all on the other channels). Next week, ITV's running The Chase opposite which is incredibly bad faith treatment of Bradley Walsh, his two key shows running opposite each other albeit in different genres.  Reviews for the most part have been ecstatic from what I've read, although I'd be equally interested to see what people who didn't like it thought, what didn't work for them (assuming its not just man-baby screed about SJWs and gender box ticking).

Anyway, in the past couple of hours Screen Junkies have produced Honest Trailers for the classic and new series which are surprisingly light touch, cover some of the ground us fans know already but have a couple of decent jokes each. The classic series version necessarily has a few more of the old cliches in but does at least acknowledge the existence of Big Finish. But the nuWho edition just makes me want to go watch it all again. There's just something about this dopey old show which isn't anything like anything else on television still. This is a show which could not be pitched from scratch now. Yet here it is still getting huge ratings.

The Woman Who Fell To Earth.

TV Deep breath. You know the trailer with Jodie Whittaker in various states of either surprise, anxiety, mouth open, sometimes clutching her head due to what we now know to be post regenerative jitters? That would be me too right now. That was astonishing. Simply astonishing. Yes, I’m prone to superlatives and all too often that something is good or rubbish. By any measure that was a fantastic hour of television and one of the best introductions to a new epoch of Doctor Who, ranking alongside Spearhead from Space, Storm Warning, Rose and The Eleventh Doctor in terms of taking something old and making it new again.

But the problem with being a fan in these circumstances with over half a century of mythology rattling around in your brain is that to experience all of that, all of the changes, all of the tiny decisions in tweaking the format also means I’ve become the human embodiment of the cover of the best fake edition in the For Dummies series. It’s not just that I need help to even, I need at least a further ten chapters on how to literally even. Adele’s popping along in the background as she so often is in situations like this and I don’t know where to begin to even start to talk about the bigness of The Woman Who Fell To Earth (and don’t just mean the post credits casting reveal of Big).

Right, structure. I need a structure. First principles. Opening observations. Doctor. Storytelling. Friends. Enemies. Other random nonsense. That should do. I really did need this tonight. My anxiety’s on the down-low lately which I’m attributing to completely cutting caffeine from my diet included the few milligrams still extant in “decaffeinated” coffee and tea and just stick with rooibos. This that has been a rough week out there for those of us who want to think the best of people and continue to be reminded that many of them are awful. The combination of the two has been confusing so thank you to this silly old franchise for blasting through.

Let’s begin, four paragraphs in, with an apology. When it was announced that Torchwood’s Chris Chibnall would be assuming control, this blog’s writer can’t be said to have offered his best support, quoting Heston in Planet of the Apes at the title of the post and mentioning his weak episodes of Life on Mars. Despite some grudging conciliatory notes at the end if that January 2016 blog post (the announcement was a long time ago), I nevertheless have to stand corrected. This was the best script Chibnall's written for anything Doctor Who related, probably because unlike his previous work, it's the franchise in his image rather than having to walk lock step in the trenches of other show runners.

From the opening shot, Ryan's vlog, this feels about twenty years on in conceptual terms from the close of the Capaldi era. This is a world of YouTube and Twitter, where grandparents Skype and technology in general is advanced enough that the Doctor can build her own sonic screwdriver and vortex manipulator from bits lying around in a garage. Choosing Sheffield as the opening location (albeit with sections shot in Cardiff still) increases a sense of verisimilitude, because for all the housing estates in the RTD era, there was often a sense that we were watching “reality”, whereas this felt like a real place, pissed Sheffielder chucking the salad from his kebab at an alien included.

The dialogue too sees a shift away from the “screw ball” patter of recent years, in which, however funny it was often, meant everything had the edge of a sitcom (unsurprising given the writer). This was more of a piece with a down to earth drama serial, as though characters from Casualty or Corrie have wandered into a Doctor Who story. No “Jericho Street Junior School under 7s gymnastic team” or pretty much anything Bill would have said last year (or whenever it was). They're just different approaches. This is still a significant paradigm shift. Droll rather than slapstick, nothing feels forced and notably no one is being chippy for the sake of it.

The key exception to this is the Doctor, who from the first time she pops in on the rail carriage just moments before we all quote along to the preview clip which we watching a couple of hundred times, probably legally because we all waited, is the Doctor even if she doesn't quite know it yet. In his recent piece for the New Statesman, friend of the blog James Cooray Smith notices that the first episode of each incarnation “Doctors" first stories essentially fall into two categories, in which they're essentially burning bright from their opening moments or spend much of the episode still cooking. Robot's an example of the former, Castrovalva the latter.

The Woman Who Fell To Earth is right down the middle. No zero rooms or Tyler bedroom for the thirteenth. She's apparently survived the fall at the close of Twice Upon A Time (thanks to still being in the regenerative cycle) (probably) and already on the case, chasing an alien despite not quite knowing what her name is. She's conceptually aware of enough of the change that she knows she's still not quite complete, echoing previous speeches about not really knowing who she is yet. That allows CC to introduce the audience to the Doctor and who the Doctor is, while still keeping with the old notion of needing to have a nap at some point in order to expel some pent up artron energy.

Everything is brand new. For the first time since Rose, nothing is held over from the previous Doctor or production team, no sense that we have to even know that anything before this has existed. Previously the show always felt the need to keep its viewers on side. Ben and Polly in The Power of the Daleks. Sylv turning up for the TV Movie. The Eleventh Hour was written to reflect the RTD era's interest in global catastrophes whilst absorbing Moffat's whimsy. Whatever in the fuck was happening in The Twine Dillemina or Time and the Rani. The Eleventh Doctor upstaging his successor. There's none of that here. For some, this is the first ever episode.

Meanwhile, Jodie fucking Whitaker. If all you've seen of this actress are her more downbeat roles, the notion of her playing the Doctor probably seemed a bit mad. I sort of knew it would be fine. In something like Adult Life Skills, the kind of blazing eccentricity the role needed is on full display and in this character she's finally able to demonstrate that side of her personality. If the pre-show interviews have demonstrated anything it is that this is her default mode in real life, with all the no shits given approach we've loved of most previous actors in the role. Tom. Peter D. Nothing in her previous career suggests she's been working up towards this, yet it's perfect casting.

Although at this point she's still trying to feel her way around how to work the dialogue, in places presenting some slightly dotty exclamation point acting and a Matt Smith like tendency towards unusual line readings, she's just, sigh. You could devote several long essays on her face, as it stretches hither and thither, every thought dancing across there like a Gallifreyan Phil Cool, a face which launched a thousand gifs. Finger up her nose, excited about a spoon, realising that she's going to have to Harold Lloyd it between two cranes. Smiling with goggles on has to be the new Twelfth Doctor dancehandsing.

By the end, and I wonder if they were shot at different times, she's completely settled in and its oddly in these closing moments when she's consoling Graham and watching Ryan attempting to fight his dyspraxia in order to cycle, that we can see her range and that she feels at her most Doctorish and relatable, the benevolent alien who hasn't quite been around this past few years. You simply can't imagine this Doctor perpetrating the kind of cruelty we've seen on some occasions recently. When she apologises to her friends for having to see a body, we can see that this is going to be an empathic Time Lord who thinks the best of people. Hello you. We've missed you.

For all that, CC is still closely guarding exactly what kind of show this is going to be for the next nine weeks. Storywise, this is pretty simplistic stuff, even by the standards of previous introductions closer to a Sarah Jane adventure or Class. The Doctor often works best, is best defined when she has an antagonist to laugh in the face of and Tim Shaw fitted the bill with his dental dimples (quite the trigger for me that) and reason to force everyone to run about Sheffield trying to gather exactly what his M.O. is (essentially the Hirogen from Star Trek's Voyager with a singular fetish).

It's also about the companions, or friends as they are now and always have been. Crowded TARDISes haven't always worked. In narrative terms it means you have to find something for all these characters to do in each episode leaving less room for interesting guest cast. There's the third wheel syndrome as an extra character or two are introduced into an already existing relationship and distracting from the reason we're listening to these McGann audios in the first place and why do you have to even be there with your unspellable name and deeply uninteresting back story? Some cuts are deep ...

None of that here. They're all [RTD] marvellous [/RTD]. They're also entirely capable of holding their own and work as autonomous beings without the Doctor being in their life, or defined by each other, much like Ian and Barbara all those years ago. I'll talk some about them in future weeks (call it my version of withholding the opening titles) and I'm trying to fill the gaps were story arc speculation should be. For now, Ryan and Yasmin will bring out of the youthfulness of the Doctor and Graham, now that he's a widower (oh Grace) the couple of billion years of life that hidden beneath that young face.

All of this way in and I haven't even mentioned the production design and whatnot. The party circular's preview of this episode immediately went into a deep dive about aspect ratios and it's true, this is a very "cinematic" version of the series which is saying something considering how gorgeous it looked circa 2010. It'll take me a few watches to really appreciate the shot choices and so forth. It's noticeable just how often the photography takes advantage of digital camera capabilities to keep both a background and foreground object in sharp focus so that everything feels hyper real without it ever exhibiting a soap opera effect.

But it's getting late, almost the eleventh hour and I'm getting tired. A proper journalist would probably put all of this to one side and come back to it with fresh eyes in the morning. Since I'm nothing of the sort and I know there'll be at least three people wondering if I'm even going to write about this series, I should probably work towards some kind of resolution to this ramshackle collection of opinions which would probably work better as one of those YouTube video essays in which someone with a deep mid-Atlantic accent intones edits comparing shots from this and The Christmas Invasion.

Did Grace need to die? Don't know. Of anything in the episode it was the one moment which seems forced and feels like its going to be returned to at some point. But its noticeable that the script makes it very clear that it is her bravery that leads her to that moment, a behaviour she exhibits throughout the episode, a source of inspiration rather than the fridging it might have been if it had been less well handled overall. The funeral scene is unprecedented, the show confronting death and the effects in a way that's not quite been dealt with before in the same way. Bradley's is brainstorming good in his eulogy, also extinguishing any doubts as to his casting.

What I love most about the episode is that it is identifiable, inclusive and inspirational. The trappings of the Doctor are most often the result of alien technology which looks like magic, the sonic popping out of the TARDIS console, the clothes from an infinite wardrobe. This Doctor's prop has Sheffield steel running through and her costume is an ensemble thrown together in a charity shop. That means a city can now mention its key industry in relation to this silly programme and people will potentially be rummaging through charity shops trying to recreate the costume (even knowing that won't be its real origin). Perhaps there's a new thread of cosplay in which people turn up in Doctorish clothes they found in Oxfam.

More than that, it wears its diversity on its sleeve and doesn't make a big thing of it. The Doctor only mentions a couple of times that she's a woman, it's not really important for her even if it's a huge moment in reality. Other than that, these are just people and although Yasmin's the first Asian companion, at least on screen, it isn't her primary reason for existing. We'll see how this pans out in future stories, and the Rosa Parks episodes is sure to be charged. Honestly the only reason I've considered these things is because I felt the need to write this paragraph.

Representation matters. For too long people who don't look like me have only had people who look like me to identify with on television. Now we have a mad female Doctor, who's a resourceful mechanic, super smart, fallible and kind. Dyspraxia sufferers now have someone to identify with and don't disregard the effect of seeing an emotionally complex young black man on screen. NuWho has worked towards this moment in increments across the years. Finally, when it's part of the show's DNA, that it isn't trying to make up for past decisions and simply being.

Which is presumably also the message of the post credits roll call, to show that these decisions aren't simply lip service, that they run throughout the entire length of the series. Plus to reveal that some of the male cast of The Good Wife are appearing. We knew about Alan Cumming thanks to his blabber mouth, but Chris Noth apparently playing the Chris Noth character Chris Noth always plays? Is Julie Hesmondhalgh playing an older version of this Doctor? What would this tribute to the future cast of this series have looked like in previous years? Imagine An Unearthly Child ending with close-ups of Alan Wheatley, Mark Eden, Francis De Wolf, Margot Van der Burgh and Ronald Pickup.

Anyway, it's three and a half hours since broadcast and I'm still on a high. This dopey old fairy tale is back and I'm helpless to its charms and I'm glancing at my stockpile of novels and Big Finish audios with renewed interest. Unless the next nine episodes are utter rubbish, Doctor Who's done it again, renewed itself, refuelled and kept the engine running for at least another couple of series. Can we please keep to some kind of proper production schedule this time and actually have a new series for a few years running?  Even if it is on a Sunday?

The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe.

Books  The Claire Foy interview I wrote about the other day is an example of how the notion of "celebrity" has the illusion of being far more inclusive than ever.  There's plenty about Foy's life which isn't mentioned, but this window into her mental health makes her more approachable, more authentic.  Plus its an image she has some control over, which as Sarah Chuchwell's book demonstrates has not always been the case with young actors.  Even before her death, Marilyn Monroe had become a myth or legend and even though she gave numerous interviews in her life, the sense of who she was gained a mythology which only increased in volume after her untimely death.  Churchwell's book is a comparative study of the various biographies, fictionalised or researched, a vast river of text running down an opaque mountain from writers who all arrogantly assume that they know who the real Monroe was and the extent to which Norma Jean regenerated into the blonde bombshell.

The key take away is that no one really knows who she was, because no one external of a person really can.  But her predominantly male biographers salivating over the details of her career and private life rarely agree on the simplest items, from her birth name to whether she had an affair with one or both of the Kennedy brothers and ultimately if her death was accidental overdose, suicide or murder.  Employing a rorschach test containing rumour, eyewitness accounts and written materials, these writers, some over many years and numerous editions, presume to apply their own expectations and biases on the actress's life, even to the point of attempting to guess her psychological state of mind at important moments, how she "must" have been.  They pretty much all seem to agree that Monroe was a facade, a protective shield for a broken personality within.

Churchwell has none of it, offering a three dimension portrait of the star through critiquing the work of others.  All of the writers are taken to task for their sometimes quite sinister approaches the actor's life, point out how assertions and what's publicly known simply doesn't fit the conjecture they're presenting as fact.  Much of what they apparently say about Monroe fundamentally removes her humanity, that she was incapable of existing outside the orbit of men or pills, that her so-called "good" film performances were the product of her co-stars or director.  Except as the writer demonstrates much of the time Monroe was simply fighting to retain her own agency as a performer, her greatest successes happening when she's at her most relaxed, creative and autonomous rather than when, just like her biographers, she was being remodeled through another's expectations.

Everything wrong gonna be alright.

About It's a new month. Say hello to New Zealand singer October.

Here's one of her singles. It's a bit of a contemporary banger. She's on Facebook. It's the new MySpace.

I still have anxiety.

Life Looking across the infrequent posts here, it seems as though this has become some kind of weird health blog. But I have been trying to take care of myself despite the world falling to pieces around us for all the reasons I've been melting down about via RTs on Twitter. But, hey, Doctor Who's back next week and so Sunday nights (such a brilliant choice) at least will be about trying to work out if this new epoch is any good over eight to ten paragraphs.

For now though, let's talk about anxiety again because it is a weird thing to talk about, to describe.  As I sit writing this, there's a pecular stiffness in my stomach which rarely goes away and the constant beat of my drumming heart.  Walking to work this morning, this stomach ache became almost overwhelming, even worse than it does when I wake up each morning, my ears leaning in to the new series of Serial as I plod along seeking something to distract me from the pain.

Every now and then, though, I'll see someone in the public eye talk themselves about this toxic intermix between the mental and physical effects.  Kristen Bell was one of the first whose symptoms I recognised and now Claire Foy's given an interview to The Guardian which also encapsulated the sheer illogic of it and the associated lack of control.
“When you have anxiety, you have anxiety about – I don’t know – crossing the road,” she says. “The thing about it is, it’s not related to anything that would seem logical. It’s purely about that feeling in the pit of your stomach, and the feeling that you can’t, because you’re ‘this’ or you’re ‘that’. It’s my mind working at a thousand beats a second, and running away with a thought.”
The original causes of this anxiety for which I have my suspicions but can't specifically say were the reason, more like a cocktail of events, are rarely the spark for the panic attacks, or at least the mild form of such you get on medication.  As Foy says, its the constant worry about everything, your future, how you'll cope if there isn't an end to this.

Not being able to have caffeine, visiting the beverage isle in a supermarket can be super difficult because it reminds me of what I can't have, the variety of flavours.  I had a meltdown in the local Tesco one afternoon in front of the coffee I used to love because of the anxiety like a perpetual motion machine of the mind, the existence of the anxiety becoming a cause of the anxiety.
What thoughts? Foy answers briskly, brushing her hand in the air: “It’s lots of thoughts about how shit I am.”

Looking back, she’s come to think it started as a form of self-protection. “It was a tool to survive, definitely. To try to hold on to everything. To try to feel safe.” She describes an endless series of anticipations and second-guesses. If this happens, what then? And what then? And what then? “If I knew a day was going to be ruined by anxiety, that was good in a way, because it meant I knew what was going to happen.”

I ask whether a career in acting has made this worse or better. “Oh, God.” She laughs. “It definitely magnified when I started doing this. Exploded. Yeah.”
One of my problems is I can't stop. If anxiety is hitting me on a day, I try to still have the day as normal however shit it's going to be, rather than just stepping back and letting it take its course. Clearly sometimes that makes it worse, but frankly I don't know what else to do. I want to act normal, as though none of this is happening, but I really should just relax sometimes. I'm trying my best. I just feel like I don't want to have too many lost days.

Foy continues:
"Before she leaves, I ask her how the anxiety is today. “It’s plateaued,” she says. “All your shit – and everybody has shit – it doesn’t go away. It’s still there, but I guess I don’t believe it so much any more. I used to think that this was my lot in life, to be anxious. And that I would struggle and struggle and struggle with it, and that it would make me quite miserable, and that I’d always be restricted.

“But now I’m able to disassociate myself from it more. I know that it’s just something I have – and that I can take care of myself.”
I have days like that. When it is just something in the background, either because I'm managing to distract myself with work or a tourist attraction in a different city and I think I can deal with it. But then there are days or moments when the gloom descends and I just ask, as she says, if this is me now and then I become nostalgic for the version of me which existed before 2014 who was sort of depressed sometimes but didn't have this constant physical reaction.

She's seeing a therapist and I know, I know, that's what I need to do.  Have known all along.  But it's just getting there not least because of the choice between an NHS waiting list or bankrupting myself by going privately.  As you can imagine the sense of that decision is a real source of anxiety.  Huh.

I do not have Cancer.

Life After my initial diagnosis of Oral Lichen Planus (visit here for the full horrors) (or not), when it was noted that it could lead to cancer with a one in a thousand chance over ten years, I would be lying if I didn't admit to fixating on that somewhat. More than the fact my tongue has a white streak down the middle or that sometimes it tingles.  However minimal the chances, it's sat at the back of my mind that perhaps, on top of the anxiety and everything else, I'd end up having to deal with yet another huge thing. Not that my immune system mounting an attack against cells of the oral mucous membranes isn't something which won't effect my lifestyle for years to come.

Today was results day and after navigating a minor panic in the waiting room, the assigned dental consultant, who it transpired I went to school with, just like my doctor and the pharmacist I go to, was quick to reveal that my recent biopsy had simply confirmed the initial diagnosis.  He did explain diplomatically that there was the potential for "abnormal cells" to develop in the future but that nothing was evident right now.  He prescribed a phosphate based mouth wash for occasions when my mouth was feeling irregular.  Then after some chit chat about who we remembered from school, which was, as he said, thirty odd years ago, I returned to the wild.

But I still felt discombobulated for much of the rest of the afternoon.  Fortunately I wasn't working, just food shopping.  When you've lived with a thought, however minor, for a while, it takes time to psychologically adjust to the new information.  I'm fine, it's fine.  My body's at war with itself and I'll probably be having appointments on a six monthly basis to check for developments over the least a few years if not longer, but I'm back to the baseline anxiety, the constant background thrum, rather than the expectation that my quality of life is going to be severely limited, at least more than it is now.  Apart from anything else, I'm blogging again and personal blogging at that.  It's 2018 and everything old is new again.

Instant Crema.

Life Something I often mention when describing my anxiety disorder is how I can't drink grapefruit juice, alcohol or caffeine. With grapefruit, it's because it decreases the ability of the gut to process sertraline (or zoloft if you're in the US) my drug of prescription. Alcohol increases the side effects of the drug, such as drowsiness, dizziness and co-ordination problems (some of which I already suffer from). Caffeine's side effects include irregular heartbeat, chronic insomnia, loss of appetite, heart palpitations, fatigue and facial discoloration if too much is taken.  Essentially, you feel like the anxiety increases ten fold.

Caffeine is the worst omission.  Caffeine used to be my pick me up, just as it is for everyone but even before I began the tablets I realised that it was increasing the anxiety symptoms, so I stopped.  Every now and then I'd experiment with drinking some in moderation, even since I've been taking sertraline, and it never goes well, especially the withdrawal symptoms after I've realised it's not doing me any good.  There have been many half jars or bags of coffee which have gone uncompleted, sat in the cupboard on the expectation that I'll be able to go back there again only for them to be disposed of when I finally realise that there's no hope.

Which leaves me with extremely limited options in terms of liquid refreshment.  Soft drinks and fruit juices in general are tricky - too much sugar and a sugar rush can - you guess it ...  So I'm stuck with coarse tasting sugar-free options.  I'll buy a pack of caffeine-free diet coke now and it's fine, but it doesn't taste like coke  One of the most realistic elements of the Channel 4 drama National Treasure is that the protagonist's broken daughter, played Andrea Riseborough indicates that with all the drugs she's taking for her depression and anxiety, she has to "pretty much stick with water" (I'm paraphrasing).  That's an element which is often poorly illustrated in drama.

Which leaves me persevering with decaffeinated teas and coffees.  In my heart of hearts I know they're a sham.  The whole point of caffeine is the lift, the pick me up, but these substances provide neither.  At best they're a different taste in the mouth, but all the while I have to try and block out the knowledge that really they're just hot, brown water in varying degrees of bitterness.  The tea can still be refreshing.  But the coffee is usually a disappointing exercise with all the pleasure of watching a panned and scanned VHS release of the Star Wars "special" editions, the image not just having been chopped off on both sides but visually mutilated.  I mean, yes, it's Star Wars but do you really need to see it like that?

Nevertheless, caffeine free options allow me to at least feel like I'm still part of that society, to visit a coffee shop and sit with other people, enjoy the atmosphere.  Except, and I'm burying the led here, through a series of choices by the coffee companies and shops, those of us who're stuck in this predicament are quietly being discriminated against in various ways.  I appreciate that it's politically dodgy to be throwing the D word around like this, since there are people who are being D worded against much more destructively and structurally within society, but nevertheless, if you're caffeine free, you find yourself being treated differently to other coffee consumers and it's all to do with economies of scale.

First niggle.  The surcharge.  Coffee shops don't sell as much caffeine-free coffee, and it costs more to make, so they'll slap on anywhere between ten or twenty pence onto the price of a cup.  The ground floor cafe at FACT in Liverpool did exactly this last time I was there and Caffe Nero do this too.  While I appreciate its effectively a different substance, if as a consumer you're drinking this sort of because you have to not because you have a choice, even though you do have a choice, you could not drink coffee but you see what I mean, its something else to add to the list of things my anxiety is doing to me or working against me.  Ten or twenty pence isn't a lot of money, but when people who don't have our, or my problems are charged less it's, well it's a bit disappointing.

But then there's the instant coffee problem, the companies who don't provide filtered decaff coffee and instead charge the same price for a watery cup of instant Kenco decaff, because it's always instant Kenco decaff in the little green sachets.  IKEA, Easy Coffee, Virgin Trains and as I discovered this past couple of days, Premier Inn do exactly this and it's galling not least because the Kenco decaff is awful, not just brown, bitter liquid but acid indigestion inducing too.  The argument against is that it would mean having to have another coffee machine filled with decaff beans but if that's the case, simply charge less for the instant coffee, half would be fine.  But don't go to the trouble of advertising the benefits of your caffeinated coffee if you're then going to push this garbage on the rest of us.

Quick sidebar on tea: that's just as rubbish, if not moreso because these companies and indeed almost everywhere else just simply don't have caffeine free black teas.  In most cases they provide a dozen fruit teas, usually Twinings, all of which ultimately taste the same once brewed.  Or Green Teas, which sertaline users are also asked to avoid because "the combination can increase the risk of bleeding".  I've now reached the stage were I simply carry my own tea bags around with me, sparked by attended the Liverpool Biennial press launch and finding no decaff options but hot water.  Which meant I was at least able to have a couple of cups of Earl Grey with my breakfast at the Premiere Inn in Manchester this morning.

But it's not as though there aren't alternatives.  Visiting HOME to see BlackKklansman this lunchtime, I ordered a small coffee and the cafe bar had a grinder on stand-by and produced a very tasty beverage for the same price as the usge.  Starbucks has a whole extra machine in every branch I've visited, even franchises, and again the price is the same and it tastes pretty good if you remember to ask them not to fill the cup to the top.  If it has to be instant, there are better options than Kenco.  I swear by Littles, which both smells and tastes like ground coffee and even has that unicorn of flavoured options.  I took a jar of the Chocolate Caramel with me to Manchester which was a lifesaver in my bedroom, where the tea and coffee making facilities were predictably limited.

If all of this sounds like a self indulgent wallow, which it is, the Mental Health Foundation says that in 2013, there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK, a statistic which a bit old but pretty startling in a population of just six times that.  A fair percentage of those souls will be on sertraline and in the same predicament as me, not to mention those with other conditions and women in pregnancy, all of us getting the shit end of the stick when it comes to beverages.  I'm not sure what. if anything can be done about this, or indeed if its worth anyone's while trying to change minds.  Business decisions are business decisions, but its a craw sticker for those of us who're on the other end of those business decisions.

Nothing Scarier.

TV  Ever since I heard Jon Pertwee say, “There’s nothing more alarming than coming home and finding a Yeti on your loo in Tooting Bec ..." I've been curious about what it was about the place that made it seem the epitome of the ordinary British location in which the sight of a giant fury robot trying to push through a control sphere would seem out of the ordinary, the jarring mix of the fantastical and parochial.  No Yetis found, but I did buy a copy of Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World in a charity shop on Tooting High Street.

Tooting Bec itself is indeed deeply average with shopping streets leading off from an intersection where the tube station has been built, in the configuration just as described by Reyner Banham in his 1964 history of the commuter belt, A City Crowned With Green (which is on the iplayer here). One street which heads of towards "main" Tooting is populated with Asian shops, another is filled with hipster cafes and another leads to a giant Argos and Tesco Express.  In other words, Jon knew exactly what he was doing when he chose this place for his oft repeated phrase.

In case you're wondering, I did indeed go to the toilet in Tooting Bec.  I was bursting having held on since a preceding saunter around Clapham.  Obviously Jon was referring to someone's own toilet, an escapade I couldn't simulate, but I did find a welcoming pub.  Fortunately, the Great Intelligence was not hiding a minion in the stall.  But I did feel somewhat attacked because there wasn't any toilet paper once I'd completed my mission.  Fortunately I had some wet wipes with me, the real world equivalent of a sonic screwdriver, so I was OK.  On the way out, I discretely mentioned the lack of the paper at the bar.  What a hero.

"Oh my goodness!"

Life I was nearly knocked over this morning.

Close to work there's a box junction with a zebra crossing on each side. It was raining so I had my hood up, I was listening to Rachel Maddow's podcast and looking up the lights were red, the man was green so I began walking.

Not out of nowhere, because it never is, it's always from somewhere, I felt something graze my chest and an explanation, "Oh my goodness!"

Turning, I saw a cyclist racing forward down the road. He turned his head and gave me a dirty look before continuing his way.

The anxiety descended once I'd reached the other side of the road. Before then I might have shouted after him, "The lights were red, ." Before that I probably gave him the automatic British apology.

There's no doubt in my mind I was in the right.  He'd run the light, unlike the many cars stacked up at the junction.  The lights were red, the man was green.

Plus he wasn't wearing a helmet, or any kind of protection, just jeans and a pullover and with that velocity, in the reality were he did crash into me, a serious injury probably ensued.  Except in the reality where miraculously no injury occurred because there are infinite realities and every possibility imaginable.

In this reality, I'm sure that he was litigating all of this himself and the reasons I was in the wrong.  I didn't look left and right before I crossing, not paying attention to where I was walking, neither of which I deny not that either should have mattered given that he was the one who ran the red light.

But I did love that his key expression of surprise was "Oh my goodness!"  Having attempted quite unsuccessfully not to swear lately, he at least has my admiration for that.

By the time I reached work, my anxiety had mellowed again, which isn't to say I didn't relish telling the first work colleagues I saw about all of the above.

“I cannot tell you how ashamed I am”

About Yes. Indeed. You have me Clickhole:
“I cannot tell you how ashamed I am,” Tafferty wrote in the latest entry on his blog, The Tafferty Take, where he writes about a variety of subjects for an audience consisting of mostly friends and family. “People were counting on me to inform them about my favourite hiking trails in the area and how Liz is doing at her new job, and I let them down. There is no excuse for what I’ve done.”
As you will have noticed I've managed to post every day since Saturday.  I'll beat this yet [via].

Sunday Girl.

TV As you will have heard, Doctor Who is shifting to Sunday nights this year, beginning on the 7th October, in about a month. Let's talk about the Pros and Cons.


- Avoids the Strictly Come Dancing vortex of variable time slots as the dance contest contracts, five or ten minutes for each contestant who leaves in a given week, so Jodie's first year won't have to cope with being broadcast perilously close to the watershed as happened in Pete's opening season.

- People are more likely to be watching television on a Sunday night. Between Countryfile, the Antiques Roadshow and the 9pm drama slot, Sunday night has become a big ratings evening which also gives Doctor Who a much better chance of retaining the same weekly timeslot, 7pm with any luck, so people will know where to look.

- It's as brave a move as introducing Who to Saturdays back in 2005.  For a while that heralded other dramas in the same timeslot, Robin Hood and Merlin of a similar ilk, although it's been somewhat marooned since then.  Shifting to Sunday brings back an early evening drama timeslot which hasn't been in place for ages.


- Doctor Who has been Saturday night for so many years that it might be tricky for some people to adjust.  I mean apart from when it was mid-week during the Davison years when it actually received some of its highest ratings. Oh.

- We usually have a roast on a Sunday night.  No roasts for ten weeks if I want to keep with the transmission time.

- Having to write the reviews on a Sunday night.  My Sunday night reviews are almost always rubbish.

So really there isn't a downside to this.  Shrug.  Now can we please have a timeslot?

Things We Lost In The Fire.

Museums The Atlantic offers examples of the artifacts which will have been destroyed in the fire at the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro. It's heartbreaking:
"The museum also was home to an irreplaceable collection of pterosaurs—flying reptiles that soared over the dinosaurs’ heads. Brazil was something of a “heaven for pterosaurs,” and the discovery of spectacular creatures like Tapejara, Tupandactylus, and Tupuxuara, with their marvelously complete skeletons and improbably ornate crests, helped to reshape our understanding of these animals. “We may have lost dozens of the best preserved pterosaurs in the world,” said paleontologist Mark Witton. “There really is no collection comparable ... We find them elsewhere in the world, but the quality of the Brazilian material is remarkable.”"
The effect the destruction of this number of holotypes to research and history is incalculable.  What this underscores for me is how we much we still treat the museums of the world as independent bodies at the mercy of their own governments rather than as one entire global collection. 

If the Brazillian government were unwilling to fund the site properly it should have been the responsibility of other museums with larger pockets and philanthropists to carry out the necessary work in order to prevent this kind of tragedy.

The Such Stuff Podcast.

Shakespeare Shakespeare's Globe has launched a fortnightly podcast about his works and how they're tackling the plays with behind the scenes interviews around various themes. This isn't a side project - its being produced in conjunction with Globe Education and artistic director Michelle Terry is participating. Here's the first episode synopsis:
Episode 1: The Missing Women
In the first ever episode of Such Stuff we’ll be asking: why is it so important to reclaim the untold stories of women from history?

Emilia Bassano was a poet, writer, feminist and contemporary of Shakespeare, and until recently, her contribution to the literary canon was largely forgotten. Now she is the subject of a new play, Emilia, and the Emilias that appear throughout Shakespeare’s work have underpinned the entire summer season.

Is she the dark lady of the sonnets? Was she the inspiration for the Emilias in Othello and The Winter’s Tale? We explore what we do and don’t know about the real Emilia Bassano with Research Fellow Dr Will Tosh and go behind the scenes with writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and director Nicole Charles on new play Emilia, which takes an imaginative leap from the evidence of her life and tells an extraordinary story.

We’ll also be taking a look at imbalances off of our stages, and speaking to Emma Caplan of Band of Mothers about the missing women in our workforces.

And finally, Kate Pankhurst, author of bestselling Fantastically Great Women Who Made History, chats to us about why young children - girls and boys! - need more stories of women from history.
There's a genuine sense now that the Globe has regained its sense of purpose and returned to its earlier mission statements.

It's Good To Talk.

Life Back in February 2009, when Twitter was civil, everyone pretty much agreed on things and people actually didn't mind meeting each other in public, the first Twestival was organised at the Leaf Cafe on Parliament Street in Liverpool. I posted a full report back then and the key theme was that, with the exception of people who came as a group of work colleagues, it was an opportunity for a group of near total strangers to natter awkwardly with each other and perhaps make some friends.  What made all this easier was that we had a commonality, a social network, which meant we at least had an opening topic.

The Guardian reports that in Vienna and some other places, events are being organised in which the only commonality seems to be that they're all human beings. Coffeehouse Conversations, which sounds like a mid-noughties PBS podcast, offers the chance for a group of locals and some "outsiders" (holiday makers and the like) to meet and have intimate conversations for two hours in the hopes of fostering understanding between people from different backgrounds:
"Since March 2013 Quinn has hosted a monthly meetup at a coffeehouse in the city, pairing residents and outsiders for an evening of traditional food, drink and challenging one-on-one conversation. The premise is like speed dating, except participants spend the whole two hours with the same person, forcing them to push past small talk, and there’s no explicit matchmaking intent – though, Quinn says, it has resulted in three marriages."
What attracts me to this model is that the conversations are between two people. I'm impossibly bad in group situations, usually quiet and watching rather than participating. I much prefer one-to-one situations, especially when there isn't an motive other than to just talk. 


TV "I'm in my wedding dress. It doesn't have pockets. Who has pockets? Have you ever seen a bride with pockets? When I went to my fitting at Chez Alison, the one thing I forgot to say is give me pockets!" -- Donna Noble, "Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride

This seems immensely practical, especially since it gives you somewhere to put your hands, keep some tissues, hand wipes or even a phone, which is what the Doctor's asking her about when she gives him this rant.

"The legendary Lucie Miller - chav extraordinaire"

Audio Well, yes, I was half right.

Lucie Miller returns!

Set during the original run, it's a boxed set of four new adventures with some of the best writers from that series returning:

The Dalek Trap by Nicholas Briggs
The Revolution Game by Alice Cavender
The House on the Edge of Chaos by Eddie Robson
Island of the Fendahl by Alan Barnes

As Scott Handcock points out, Big Finish spends much of its time slotting new adventures in for old Doctor/Companion pairings, so why not within its own continuity?  Wow.

August is Gone.

About New month, new logo bar and so for fans of Scandipop, its ...

Petra Marklund, better known as September.

She reached no 5 in the UK Pop Charts in 2008 with Cry for You:

The Other Side of the Wind.

Film This is an incredibly significant moment. When it was announced that Netflix would be funding the completion of the final film by Orson Welles, something he was unable to achieve himself during his own lifetime, I was very excited but cautious. Welles projects have been notorious in the torture with which they come to fruition and The Other Side of the Wind seemed like a pipedream.

Here it is, the first trailer and it looks magnificent. If the editing of the trailer is a guide, it's very much akin to late era Welles, especially F For Fake. Hopefully the good will can stretch to finishing some of his other projects especially The Deep which seems to have been incredibly close to completion from what I've read. 

And apart from all this, its simply going to pop up on the internet on the 2nd November to watch, no tortuous hope that it'll receive a UK cinema release or buying a blu-ray from the US hoping it'll be multi-region.  I suppose the big irony is that it seems like a picture all about film as a celluloid medium yet its delivery will by anything but.

What does someone on your street think about something?

Online I've long known that it's possible to use a wildcard search on Tweetdeck to fill a column with a stream of everything on Twitter at a given moment or at least as much as the API can handle to update with. But only today did I notice that you can combine this with a location search to essentially see what people are tweeting in your local area, as close as a 100m.

Within the "location" box you can search for your own city or locale.  When the map shifts close, change the radio to 100m and then shift the map to where you live and click.  The circle shifts to exactly where you live.  Change the radius to 1km and you have a stream of tweets from people who have their location turned on.

For my part that just means people visiting Sefton Park which could be exciting on an event day.  But I've increased the radius to 10km and turned on "verified users only" to limit things a bit which means I have a constantly updating news wire about Liverpool and a few of the surrounding areas.  Which isn't to say that opening it up to anyone isn't an entertaining free for all.

There are probably journalistically useful ways of utilising this.  If there's a major event happening you could choose the locale then narrow the radius until you're very close, so long as you have a rough idea of the area and patience with the map as it floats around in the tiny window.  Eurovision night should be a hoot ...