Liverpool Biennial 2018:
Press Launch.

Art Good evening or rather morning since due to the usual embargo this isn't going to be posted until after 10pm tomorrow, after you've heard about Taco Bell. Probably around lunch time, just in case. Keep that in mind as we head into the thicket of tenses. This morning (see what I mean) offered the press launch of this year's Liverpool Biennial in the auspicious location of the Liverpool Playhouse.  These launches usually occasion in one of the forthcoming venues. 2014's was in the Old Blind School, 2012 at the Cunard Building.  I apparently missed out in 2016 - I expect I was working.  Either way, it made a change to be somewhere with proper seating rather than stackables and yes, indeed, the Playhouse is a venue this year.

Getting there wasn't uneventful.  For the past year I've pretty much walked everywhere but can never quite judge what's feasible or how long it'll take.  Sefton Park to the vicinity of the Playhouse is nearly fifty minutes but I was surprised to discover that it wasn't that great an effort.  I'm getting even fitter.  Eating Subway salads (no cheese or sauce) for lunch every day and drinking skimmed milk is probably helping too.  Even so, being on the pavement for that long meant I needed to toilet once I reached town and as most of us probably do, I took advantage of the facilities in the Met Quarter.  Until the fire alarm went off and I found myself trying to finish off with all alarms blaring and someone banging on the door.  It's still standing.  Probably a false alarm.

Somehow managed not to be the first person at the launch.  Met a couple of people I knew, recognised a few faces, but didn't really mingle.  Every now and then my anxiety disorder tips over into being a social anxiety disorder and so I sat and ate the cold croissants we'd been provided and sipped some water, decaff options for tea and coffee not having been provided.  I think I'm going to have to start carrying my own.  My wallet's big enough (literally, it's left a square wear mark on the outside of my jeans).  It just feels so austentatious, as though I'm trying to draw attention to myself.  I'm already the person to has some metal cutlery jangling about in his bag just in case.  But needs must.

Here's the explanation for this year's Biennial title from the press pack.
"The title for Beautiful world, where are you? derives from a 1788 poem by the German poet Friedrich Schiller, set to music by Austrian composer Franz Schubert in 1819. The years between the composition of Schiller’s poem and Schubert’s song saw great upheaval and profound change in Europe, from the French Revolution to the fall of the Napoleonic Empire. Today, the poem continues to reflect a world gripped by deep uncertainty. It can be seen as a lament but also as an invitation to reconsider our past, advancing a new sense of beauty that can be shared in a more equitable way."
Here's a link to the whole poem although it seems to be a different translation to the one for which the title of Biennial has developed.  Either way, as is often best on this occasion it feels loose enough to encompass whatever mayhem will be spread across the various venues chosen for this year, revealed to us on the massive screen shown above.  The usual suspects plus RIBA North, the Playhouse, Blackburne House and the Victoria Gallery & Museum.

Although it's difficult to tell at this early stage, the most interesting strand seems to the invites to indigenous peoples from across the world, many of whom seem to comment on commerce and possessions and how their belief systems fit into the modern world.  This also feeds into a decision to utilise the National Museum Liverpool collections, at the Walker and World Museum, finding works which fit within the theme and interact with other works due to be on display.

But the undoubted coup of this year's Biennial is the participation of Agnes Varda, only recently in Hollywood attending the Oscars having picked up an honorary fellowship.  Initially, I'd thought this would amount to resurrecting some old pieces, but she's participating fully developing new works especially for FACT and we were treated to an interview piece in which she giddily talked about the Biennial theme and the kinds of work she's going to be bringing.

Which is my take away from the launch.  In the past few Biennial, one of my disappointments has been the lack of new work in some venues, not seeing artists reacting specifically to Liverpool as much as was the case in the oughts.  But there seems to be more site specific work in the offering here and selecting work to fit the venue rather than the venue simply housing some stuff which could just as well be anywhere.  Fingers crossed.

The Liverpool Biennial's own website has more about the proposed programme here, with all of the artists, locations and other business.

Franchise Wars.

Food Yes, indeed, Liverpool is finally going to have a Taco Bell, which is opening at the bottom of Bold Street. For years the only frame of reference I had for Taco Bell was as a joke in Demolition Man which was deemed so obscure for international audiences that it was poorly ADRed to Pizza Hut in some versions:

The QuoDB offers dozens of other movie references and the general mood seems to be positive. Now I'll finally have a chance to fill in that gap in my knowledge of Americana.

Slow Tourism.

Art  How long do you usually spend visiting art galleries?  The pace with which I'm able to feel like I've confidently seen a collection has reduced as I've aged to the point that it's become impossible for me to see a venue without multiple visits.  If I'm in the right mood I can confidently spend days returning to the same collection and even then I never quite feel like I've given the work justice.  For that project, it took at least two days for me to see the Walker Art Gallery and even then I felt like I rushed around.  The best paintings demand that you spend time over them, teasing out their mimetic qualities over the long term. 

Which is why when in deciding to revisit the National Gallery after what must be a couple of decades, the notion that I might be able to see the place in a couple of days was fanciful at best.  This is one of the most important art collections in the world, every painting of either national or international importance.  There isn't any filler, and although there are leaflets available highlighting the eighty or some most sought after works, from what I've seen so far, that's like selecting some choice phrases from Shakespeare's canon.  Even at some of the my favourite other galleries, the quality just isn't this high.

And so, after talking an hour tottering about the first room of the Sainsbury Wing, I surrendered to the fact that I might well be spending the rest of the year not visiting London once a month, but rather the National Gallery.  If you'd told the younger version of me that his mid-life crisis incarnation would spend two hours just looking at various interpretations of the Madonna and Child and crucifixion, he'd probably wonder if Joey and Pacey would really spend the rest of their lives together finally having told Dawson to go away.  Even fifteen years ago I probably would have found the notion entirely tedious.  Not now.

Judging by the floorplan, I managed to see rooms 51, 58, 59, 60 and 66, although the wing is in flux with room closures, some of which don't seem to have been corrected on the online map.  Perhaps I did only see five rooms, but it feels like more.  One of the reasons I took my time, it took so long, was because I decided to listen to all of the audio explanations were available and nearly every item has a description or explanation read by a voice which sounds almost but not exactly like someone notable.  One of them may be Michael Sheen.  I think another could have been in Doctor Who.  There's apparently about fifty hours of this material.

Other than re-invigorating my interest in the history of art, what specifically did I draw from the visit?  That my new favourite artist is Carlo Crivelli, the Venetian painter from the 1450s.  His subject matter tends to be biblical, as was the mode of the time, but his style feels entirely like that of a high end comic book artist, bold lines with detailed colouring, with exquisitely graphic rather than attempted photo-realistic representations of the people (note he was a contemporary of Leonardo).  This Pridella is typical,   Zoom in and notice the detailing of the landscape, the walls and grass, like a book illustration.  But this all happened on egg tempera.

Meanwhile that what we venerate now as masterpieces of world art amounted to nothing more than expensive furniture, literally in the case of Botticelli's Venus and Mars which was either a headboard or the back board of day chest.  That it survived this long, this intact is a miracle, and probably had a lot to do with the habit in later centuries of hacking furniture apart and selling off the good bits.  Apparently there'll be more Botticelli on display when some of the galleries re-open in April after the refit.  I suspect I won't be leaving the Sainsbury wing any time soon.  On the days I'm in London at least. 

Portraits Of Port Sunlight.

Photography Friend of the blog Pete Carr, introduces photographs from his new exhibition at The Lyceum in Liverpool, peering behind the curtains of the houses in the village near Bebbington:
"Port Sunlight has an interesting mix of architecture. Every street is different. This house basically had a living room and a kitchen downstairs and yet from outside it looked spacious. But despite the awkward design, the owner loved two things: her kitchen and her garden, which her kitchen looks out onto."
[Double Negative]


TV Noticed by Matthew Purchase, a listing has turned up on Amazon for a blu-ray boxed set for Season 12 of Doctor Who, which would comprise Robot, The Ark in Space, The Sontaran Experiment, Genesis of the Daleks and Revenge of the Cybermen.  You can express your interest here and Amazon'll send you an email when it has a price.  The release date is early June.

Initially my reaction was a sigh, after having spent the best part of a decade or two purchasing everything on dvd.  What would be the point in having this standard definition television on blu-ray?  But, friends, look at the product description:
Tom Baker's acclaimed first season as the Fourth Doctor, originally aired in 1975/76. With his best friend Sarah Jane Smith and new companion Harry, the Doctor pits his wits against a giant robot, the insect Wirrn, Cybermen, Sontarans and Daleks!

Twenty episodes, specially restored for Blu-Ray and packed with new and old special features. Build your own archive of classic Doctor Who seasons with this six-disc special ‘limited edition packaging’ boxset.

Existing Extras
Existing bonus material from the original DVD’s

Brand New Bonus Features
Brand new one hour candid interview – ‘Tom Baker in conversation’
Behind The Sofa – classic clips from season 12 viewed by Tom Baker, Philip Hinchcliffe, Louise Jameson, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Sadie Miller.
New making-of documentaries for ‘The Sontaran Experiment’ and ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’
Optional brand new updated special effects for Revenge of the Cybermen
Genesis of the Daleks – omnibus movie version
The Tom Baker Years VHS release on disc for the first time
Production archive material and scripts from the BBC Archives
Some other archive treats to be announced
Whilst the idea that Genesis of the Daleks is being released again is beyond parody, the inclusion of the original omnibus broadcast and release is a useful addition for completists. But seeing The Tom Baker Years VHS (which has been out of circulation for decades) here is incredible news. As this compilation of just his reaction shots indicates, this is Baker gold:

But also there's the point that although you might imagine that there won't be that much of an increase in picture quality from the DVD, as the Shada release indicates, blu-ray provides the opportunity to see this material as close as odds to the original transmission tapes, not just better than when it was originally broadcast but as it coalesced in the BBC editing suite.

That product description seems to suggest that season boxes are now the way of the future and it'll be interesting to see how they deal with the 60s.  A conspiracy theorist might wonder if we're about to see a flood of new episode announcements but the chances are they'll be a mish mash of recons and animations.  Either way, the BBC have found a way to hoover up yet more of my money.
I slept during most of the afternoon today, something I haven't done without a manflu cause in years. But it was well worth staying up for this year's Oscars. Here's Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker on the experience of being in the room:
"The great masses of beautiful people started migrating into the Dolby Theatre for the ceremony after 4 p.m. The atmosphere was vibrating, anxious, hopeful. Life-size Oscars were stationed on each floor for people to pose with, and there were miniature bags of popcorn to eat. Underneath each seat in the theatre was a snack box, each with an illustration of one of the Best Picture nominees. (Mine, pleasingly, was “Get Out.”) On my right, someone said, “We all really need a fun night, to get away from politics for a little bit.” Behind me, another person said, “I hope Kimmel does a good job with #MeToo.” I fished out the gummy bears from my snack box and sat contentedly eating candy as the lights went down."

February receives its marching orders.

About This month's title bar visitor is the late March Fong Eu, the first Asian American woman ever elected to a state constitutional office in the United States, Secretary of State of California in 1974.

 In the photograph, she displays the gun which was used to shoot Bobby Kennedy, when the police files about his assassination were released to the public in 1988.

In February, this tribute was presented in the California state assembly:

Elizabeth Wurtzel on the opioid crisis:
"If I had not been in a 72-hour hold the first time I tried, it would not have happened. Of course, it never works the first time unless you aren’t an addict. Relapse is part of quitting. Only the resilient-as-all-get-out get through. I know a lot of people who died because they could not go on without heroin and they did too much or the wrong stuff. That is how you die. Dope-sick people who are desperate do something that kills them. You have to keep trying." [Time]


TV Good evening. I know I haven't been around much anymore, but some extra shifts at work and writers block have forced a certain lethargy in relation to this blog. Anxiety has led to me seeking passive routines, as it so often does, so I've been mainlining the From The Archive section of the BBC iPlayer and Lindsay Ellis's film essays during the day and watching a film every night after dinner and then some Doctor Who. I'm roughly half way through a rewatch of the Capaldi era (see this Twitter thread).

But you didn't come here for such scrutiny of the centriole.  Tonight we received the next step in my favourite franchise's regeneration, the release of the new logo and an even greater idea of the direction the show is heading under the stewardship of Captain Chris.  Find above the recently released animation designed to introduce the logo, although the YouTube thumbnail rather gives away the surprise.

My guess this is the opening chunk of the new title sequence, the TARDIS dodging through space creating the title before dodging onward into the usual tunnel or whatever.  You could imagine this being used when the show appears on commercial television as the advertising buffer and as a piece of visual theatre it has an epic quality which would work within a variety of settings in and of itself.

The official Who social media has also released what the logo might look like in merchandising situ or on posters, in this case what would work just well as a vinyl cover for the soundtrack album.  Notice that because 13th (15th) is mainly in silhouette we can't see what she's doing with her hands so still no idea about pockets.  The bum bag can't be the ultimate solution, can it?  Even if it is dimensionally transcendental?

That fanny pack really is a strange choice.  In her post-regenerative torpor will she be struggling with being a different gender and not knowing what to do with things?  Are we to expect that she'll try the bum bag, realise its stupid and simply add pockets to her costume realising that girls can have those too?  Or will she try out various luggage across the series.  Perplexed, Liverpool.

Speaking of Liverpool, this has probably been released because of the presentation at the Echo Arena this week at which its been revealed that the show won't be returning until October, which makes some sense given that its only ten episodes this time around and means that Strictly will be able to get its massively long opening episodes out of its system before Who launches.  No news on the potential Sunday move though.

Oh the logo?  I love it.  It feels very NOW! and doesn't conform to anything else we've had before which is as it should be and in a similar way to the taxi cab logo of the RTD era.  It is thin, but that should only mean that merchandisers will have to be more creative with how it appears on covers.  DWM has more recently had a flat colour behind the logo so they'll just need continue with that but with darker shades.

It also fits the latest trend of putting the company name above a franchise title and this placement reminds me especially of MARVEL Studios. The BBC have previously tended to drop it at the bottom of the frame of a title screen and its good to see this variation which you would hope could be applied to all programming with a bespoke logo.  Unless that's just for this launch.

The official website has also uploaded a wallpaper friendly version of the above image:

And what must be how the logo will appear in smaller spaces:

Which curiously would have been a perfectly fine variation on the circular BBC One ident before it was replaced with the current earthlings in their natural habitat selection we have now.  I do like how the line through the O somewhat resembles the circles around a planet and the H has an element of the alien script about it.  Not sure what a whole font based on this would look like.

In terms of logo hierarchy it's right up there.  I almost expected a return to the Pertwee logo from the TV Movie which I'll always covert due to it being from the time I became a fan.  But it's certainly better than the one from the Matt Smith era with the stupid DW Tardis shape in the middle.  Anyway, here go again.  Now I'm off to watch The Zygon Inversion.
Gemma Arterton's latest project as producer as well as actress, features Elizabeth Debicki as Virginia Woolf (stepping in for Romola Garai who was originally attached) (good lord). She's playing Vita Sackville-West. It's based on Eileen Atkins' play Vita & Virginia.
"While many accounts of Woolf turn towards her troubled later years, this film shows her at her most vibrant, according to Arterton. “She wrote such vivid stories, full of inspiration and energy and creativity and humour and wit,” she says. “I don’t know if we’ve seen that side, because the fascination with her is always the end of her life, which is sad, I think. They were only lovers for a small period of time, but they were great friends.”" [Screen Daly]
The Gallifrey One convention was this weekend and CNN attended, interviewing Chris Achilleos and various cosplayers. God I love this series. Still.

Monopoly Walk:
Old Kent Road, Whitechapel & Kings Cross Station.

Travel Yesterday during one of my monthly London trips, I began walking the Monopoly board, or rather the places listed in the Monopoly board as a reason to visit some of the less obvious places to visit in the city if you're a tourist. I've begun a Twitter thread for the occasion:

This won't be every month. If I discovered anything yesterday, it's that with time this precious and tickets to the capital still this expensive even at thirty odd pounds return I'm probably best concentrating on see the world's treasure houses rather than the inside of an Aldi in a different part of the country (they all look the same you know).

Mural depicting the History of Old Kent Road

The most delightful and unexpected surprise. On the corner of Old Kent Road and Peckham High Road is what was once the North Peckham Civic Centre when when it opened in 1966 included on its exterior walls a mural by artist Adam Kossowski depicting the history of Old Kent Road from its Roman origins through the the 1960s, from patricians to pearly kings and queens. I did take some photos but none of them are as good as those you can find on an average Google image search.  Historic England has a long entry about the murals and Exploring Southwark a tldr with more pictures.

The obvious surprise is how it's almost a pictorial depiction of Shakespeare's history plays with Henry V and the Jack Cade rebellion from Henry VI.  The Old Kent Road itself doesn't appear to have been mentioned in the Complete Works, but it does demonstrate that however run down it is now, at one point the road was a key thorough fair and a vital route in and out of the city.  That said, I did witness a rebellion in that Aldi because they'd run out of change and the staff weren't being allowed to go home because they were too busy and the next shift didn't start for hours.

The Whitechapel Gallery

Closed on Mondays.  But it was still nice to stand outside and look through the window.  They seem to be between exhibitions.  Elsewhere, I enjoyed a decent bowl of Lentil soup in the public library and found a blu-ray copy of Atomic Blonde for £3 in a charity shop so it wasn't a completely wasted journey.

Ffestiniog Railway

Currently on the concourse of Kings Cross Station, Ffestiniog Railway have installed two steam locomotives and a passenger carriage to publicise the destination. Ian Visits has a short piece about the, well, visit, with a shot of an engine being driven into place. As you can see I was very pleased to be there:

Ruth Wilson is about to take part in very a personal passion project.
"But in April, she finally begins filming a long dreamed of project: a drama for the BBC and PBS in America that will tell the story of her paternal grandparents. In Mrs Wilson, which is written by Anna Symon and directed by Richard Laxton, she will play her grandmother, Alice, who only discovered after his death that her husband, Alexander Wilson, was a bigamist. (After Alice’s death, Wilson’s father found out that Alexander, an MI6 officer who wrote spy novels, had in fact been married not twice, but four times; none of his wives and various children knew of one another.) “It has been such a long process,” she says. “Getting a committed answer from the BBC took a while. But that might be a good thing. We’ve had time to talk to everyone, to make sure they feel OK with it.”" [The Guardian]
Daniel Kaluuya played Barclay in Doctor Who's Planet of the Dead. Wow:
"For the best part of two years, Daniel Kaluuya has lived and worked in the US, where his elevation to fame – sudden, unexpected, by turns gratifying and alarming – has made him look differently on his native UK. “I think there’s more room in the US to create something and see what happens,” the 28-year-old says, while unwinding after a photoshoot in New York, where he is taking a break from LA awards shows. (A week after our meeting, Kaluuya is nominated for an Oscar for Get Out; the film was also nominated at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild awards.) “While in England, I feel, there’s The Way and if you don’t fit in with The Way, then you don’t fit in. A lot of people think their way is The Way. I think my way is a way. And you’re imposing your way on to my way, and I’m like: no way.” [The Guardian]
I want my CRT. The Verge offers a history of the tube television and the people attempting to preserve it.
"CRTs were once synonymous with television. By 1960, nearly 90 percent of American households had one. But at the turn of the millennium, their popularity rapidly decayed as LCD panels flooded the market. Even though CRTs comprised an estimated 85 percent of US television sales in 2003, analysts were already predicting the technology’s demise. In 2008, LCD panels outsold CRTs worldwide for the first time. Sony shut down its last manufacturing plants that same year, essentially abandoning its famous Trinitron CRT brand. By 2014, even stronghold markets like India were fading, with local manufacturers switching to flat-panel displays." [The Verge]
A selection of Soviet era Star Wars posters, few of which actually illustrate the films:
"Yuri Bokser and Alexander Chantsev created this poster, along with three others (all below), to commemorate the lifting of the ban. Some critics have described Star Wars as a ‘space Western’ but Bokser and Chantsev make visualised the idea. Perhaps they were just ahead of the curve, though – the bounty hunter Cad Bane wears the Star Wars’ version of a cowboy hat on the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series and there was a kind of horse-racing in The Last Jedi." [BBC]

The 231163 Diaries:
Colin Churcher.

Transport Colin Churcher has worked in and around the railways in the UK and Canada. He still keeps a diary in the form of a blog which can be seen here.

Everything he's ever written seems to be available on this website.

In 1963 Churcher was working as a Management Trainee on British Railways.

Saturday 23 November

I came home from Reading to Orpington by a novel route this morning. I caught the 09.45 steam train to Redhill. We left Guildford three minutes late at 10.54 and were three minutes late into Redhill at 11.49. We were hauled by a Southern 2-6-0 (I didn't get the number). The engine seemed to cope with the two coaches quite well but I think the service could be speeded up. The train was old Southern straight-sided coaching stock, one compartment and one saloon. At Redhill, the train reverses and forms the 12.11 to Tonbridge. We had another 2-6-0, a U class. I changed to the saloon coach which was extremely comfortable. What a difference. Before Redhill, the train was almost empty and very slow. After Redhill, it was packed with people standing and the service was much faster. The 2-6-0 really had to work hard to maintain the schedule. The driver was using a long cut-off and then notched her right up without any intermediate stages. This section of line is much flatter and we reached quite high speeds. At Tonbridge I caught the 13.14 electric train to Orpington which arrived at 13.35 - extremely good service. The weather was quite bright and I enjoyed the trip through the Surrey and Kent countryside.
Welcome essay from Mona Eltahawy about teaching girls how to rage:
"One day when I was four years old, a man stopped his car on the street under my family’s balcony, pulled his penis out of his pants and beckoned for me to come down. He did the same to my friend who had been talking to me from her family’s balcony across the street. I was so small that I needed a stool to see my friend from above the balcony railing. I was enraged. I waved my slipper at him to frighten him away." [NBC News]
Margot Robbie receives the Harmony Cousins treatment in The Guardian and she sounds like incredible company:
"When Robbie got her gig in Pan Am, which was broadcast for a few months before its cancellation in 2012, she found it “lonely. You were supposed to be all segregated into different departments, which felt weird. I remember knocking on other people’s doors and saying: ‘Uh, do you want to hang out?’ ” She liked the informal nooks where the runners and makeup deputies and third-rung assistant directors (the third ADs) killed time. “I don’t know, I was closer in age to them. They seemed more like my friends from back home.”" [The Guardian]
This Collider article repeats what I've been saying for years. Streaming is no substitute for a physical disk.
"I started collecting DVDs in my senior year of high school, and continued to collect them throughout college, which, in retrospect, was not the smartest idea since at the end of every school year I would have to pack up boxes and boxes of DVDs to either send home or store with family who lived near campus. And yet I don’t regret collecting these DVDs because it gave me a valuable resource and a way to dive into movies. The age of DVDs was a bit of a renaissance for film fans since A) we finally got our movies in the correct aspect ratio as opposed to the days of pan-and-scan on VHS; B) there could be a wealth of special features that sometimes functioned like film school in a box; and C) there was an easy way to share movies I loved with friends." [Collider]
My Two favourite non-fictional Rachels together at last.

The 23111963 Diaries:
A Country Diary.

Nature A Country Diary was first published in The Guardian in November 1906

For a few paragraphs those of us stuck in cities are provided with a window into rural areas and landscapes most of us can only imagine.

The column covering the weekend of the 23rd to 27th published on the 30th November is attributed to a writer E.D. and I'd welcome any help in identifying who that is.


Conway, November 27

Snow was reported on the higher parts of Denbigh moors some ten days ago but in the three days it had disappeared. The Snowdonia range, viewed from to of Bryn Euryn, has not yet been capped with snow or hail, nor has the frost blighted the gardens on this strip of the North West coast. One could say it has been a very mild autumn, and spring bulbs are already showing on my rockery and the beds around the lawn.  They include anemones and hyacinths, with bluebells well on the way.  There has been more rain and wind than average this November but this does not delay the bulbs.  In spite of the high winds odd sycamore trees still blaze with bright yellow, and gorse is now adding to the colour on the hills.

The gulls seem to enjoy the high winds, and their mastery of swooping flight is wonderful to watch.  This morning a few rooks joined the common and herring gulls in the fantastic flying exhibition.  They, too, seemed to be filled with the spirit of spring even before winter officially starts.  This feeling is underlined by the call of the great tit which has been sounding for the last week.  Maybe this coming winter will not be too bad, although fieldfare and redwing are still missing from their usual haunts.

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