Look downwards.


I wanted to try out the new Blogger image hosting and thought I'd show you what my desktop wallpaper looks like this week. It's a well known celebrity.

Live 8

Live 8 I'm still here by the way. Great finale really, with 'Hey Jude' having the desired effect. Just hope it does the job. Can't wait to see what happens in Edinburgh over the next couple of days. Currently watching the heavily edited pre-record of Philadelphia, which gave me the opportunity to see Mum meet the Kysor Chiefs: "He'd better be careful he doesn't fall over..."
[updated: Yes alright ... Kaiser Chiefs ... but it's late ...]

The Seventh Doctor

Books I've never read the New Adventures and so ... just joking. But I have discovered this post at Outpost Gallifrey which reveals that someone is reading their way through from Timewyrm: Genesys to Lungbarrow so I don't have to. Good luck to Sutekh's Gift of Milk, although I don't think they'll need it -- they're reading those things much quicker than I am ...

Live 8

Live 8 I love that Pink Floyd were just as chilled and cerebral as we remember them being... ooh the finale ...

Live 8

Live 8 'And now ladies and gentlemen, the penultimate act of the night. The Spice Girls!' Yeeah! 'What? The Who?' Ooooh ...

Live 8

Live 8 I don't like Peter Kaye much either, but why would you turn away from 200,000 people singing Amerillo to interview George Michael? Sorry Jo but we don't care that he's touring ...

Live 8

Live 8 No Robbie, not all the crowd know the chorus to 'Feel' without prompting. Funny that. Now how about singing a song yourself rather than leaving it to someone else.
[Disclaimer: I don't like Robbie Williams too much. I think you probably noticed. It's the whole ego thing. Plus -- Fern Cotton!?!]

Don't you think.

Music The Wikipedia has an excellent discussion of ironic or lack of nature of Alanis Morissette song 'Ironic':
"Some of those familiar with the song and the usage debate invoke Morissette's name in reference either to the sloppy usage, or to the subtly self-referential usage of the word ironic. It remains to be seen whether phrases such as "Morissettian irony" will enter the common lexicon."
I always sing 'It's like meeting the girl of my dreams and meeting her beautiful wife....'

Live 8

Live 8 As always Suw makes a lot of sense ... hey look, it's Sting ...

Live 8

Life Wasn't Joss Stone amazing? Entirely unphased by the massive and tired crowd she even went to the lengths of introducing us to the backing band. It really has been an excellent day even if the Beeb's It was fun actually hearing from Peaches Geldof for the first time ('Have you met anyone interesting back stage?' 'I met my sister Pixie...') and Will Smith showing himself up to be a great orator (no laughing about him wanting to be the president anymore).

Life 8

Life 8 No Ricky Gervaise. Telling 205,000 people you won't do the dance isn't going to work. Yes, you are their monkey.

Live 8

Live 8 We finally get to see some of the Eden Project and World Music and they cut away to hear some more about Jeremy Clarkson's slipped disc and what Neil Morrisey is thinking. This BBC tv presentation really isn't really about the music is it?

Live 8

Live 8 Look, it's not that I've had a sense of humour bypass, and lord knows music is not be beyond satire or reproach, but which twonk thought Jonathan Ross was the man to introduce this event? Dido and Youssou N'Dour give a great performance of Seven Seconds in one of the highlights of the show and he comes on at the end with -- 'I thought it went on a bit too long at the end.' Who cares what you think? You're not funny and your hair's too long.

Live 8

Live 8 It might have been 2 o'clock in London, but at about 1:20 Bono managed the first nob gag of the day. Jo Whiley asked him about how he made his entrance at Live Aid. He said that it was by helicopter, and he could see the headlines. "U2 go down on Noel Edmund's chopper." The real joy was his realisation half way through that he was live on BBC Two on a Saturday afternoon but that he'd already committed himself with Jo joining in at the end to lessen the impact. Priceless. Ooh look -- Coldplay are on ...


Film Woody Allen's in the country again filming his fall project 2006 (talk about forward planning). Someone at flickr has photos of the set with shots of Scarlett Johansson during a coffee break.

Are we live?

Music Forty-five minutes to go before Live 8 and I'm wierdly looking forward to it even though it'd probably be more fun watching one of the other ones. Moscow have Aha and the Pet Shop Boys on the same bill. We have Snoop Dog. Somehow Dido is playing London and Paris, busy woman. Just noticed that the Technocrati site is higher than the official in a Google search for Live 8.


Politics Make Poverty History.

Born in the ...

Law When I was at university, at the dawn of the new age, when the internet was young, I was always frustrated by the number of US-based sites which seemed to be stifling everywhere else and generating talk and issues in places were it was irrelevant. It's still an issue, and lately the coverage of the Grokster trial has been a wierd sight, especially since, as Ben reminds us, it was only in the US...


Art and Photography Optical Illusions etc is an exploration of fantastic images, from pavement drawings which appear to be in real space, to the discover that the tower in Pisa isn't leaning -- it's all the buildings around it. [via]

A ... B .... C ...

Life I'm feeling much better about things. I now have both a plan A and a plan B. Plan C would be good but let's not rush things...

The Eight Doctors.

Books  Crumbs.  It's ironic that Gary Russell one of the great original Doctor Who authors was given the tv movie to novelise while Terrance Dicks renowned for adapting seven part Pertwee stories into 144 pages wrote the introductory book in the Eighth Doctor series.  Gary didn't seem entirely comfortable with his job working as hard as he could to produce something as distinct from its source as possible.  Here Terrance works extremely hard to create something which might as well be an anniversary episode on paper.  It's a sows ear, but a golden one.

Keep your head down, there are spoilers ahead.

But really -- what was anyone thinking when they decided that this was the perfect way to introduce this version of The Doctor to original fiction.  Imagine if in Rose, Billie had been saved from Hendricks and then within moments Chris had buggered off round the universe meeting all of his other selves before turning up in the last five minutes to finish off the Autons and chase her into the TARDIS.  Doesn't sound gripping or a great way to introduce the story to new fans does it?

Well that's what happens in The Eight Doctors.

Eighth has amnesia thrust upon him again in the opening pages as a last revenge gesture from the recently bested Master.  Then some unseen hand decides to drop the TARDIS in Totters Lane (no really) were he literally bumps into Sam a pupil of Coal Hill School (yes really), exciting new companion material who is being chased by Baz.  Who believes that she's ratted him out to the cops for all of his drug dealing.  After some misunderstandings, The Doctor somehow finds himself standing in the middle of I M Foreman's junk yard with a carrier back full of drugs, ready for the police to turn up and arrest him.  Yes, it's the first half Christmas episode, The Feast of Steven for The Bill generation.  But really which audience is this being written for?

Which is a question I kept coming back to as the book continued.  After a literal jail break The Doctor (after short trip in the TARDIS) turns up in 100,000 BC.  Where he meets The First Doctor just as he's about to knock that caveman's head in with a rock.  Time freezes and the two Doctors have a debate about the ends justifying the means, during which Eighth is given some of his memory back by First.  Time starts again and First decides that he's not a cold blooded killer after all.  And the rest of the book continues in that vein.  Eighth pops in at some critical moment in another incarnation's life, regaining some of his marbles and helping that particular Doctor with whatever crisis they're having.  It's basically Quantum Leap with The Doctor bouncing around in his own lifetime.  He tends to pop in close to a regeneration -- the big exception being an intervention with The Fifth just after The Five Doctors (cute).

It's more of an anthology than a proper story.  In some adventures, the Eighth Doctor has only marginal interaction (The Third Doctor story) -- in others he's integral because some other force is trying to stop from breaking another law of time.  The characterisation of each individual past Doctor is almost perfect, each sounding and feeling exactly like their tv counterpart.  And most of these interludes fits within the mood of each era.  I like that in each segment that version is described at The Doctor until the new one intervenes and they become The Fourth Doctor in the text just to make the distinction.  I'm not sure though that Sylvester McCoy would be too happy at his version being described as 'an unimpressive figure ....small, dark and not particularly handsome'.  Ouch.

The main problem is the characterisation of The Eighth Doctor.  We still don't really know who he is.  At the very start he comes across as an early version of Star Trek's Data and as the novel progresses he drifts wildly between Casanova and Ford Prefect, finishing up as John Culshaw doing his Tom Baker impression.  It's probably not Terrance's fault -- with only the TV movie to work from The Doctor is bound to come across as randomly here as he did there.  The trouble is (and this might with hindsight) it just doesn't sound like Paul McGann could say much of this dialogue -- well alright he could -- but it wouldn't sound or look 'right'.  He spends much of the book kissing the hand or cheek of all the women he meets, from Jo Grant through Romana II and even Tegan.  Not blaming him, but were the Grace kiss was romantic this just seems creepy.  You could imagine Tegan in particular saying 'Thank god you never do things like that...' to a bemused Peter Davison.

Then on top of all that there's Gallifrey.  That Seal of Rassilon on the cover of the book says it all really.  I've never had the aversion to The Doctor's homeworld that some have.  I'm really enjoying the Dynasty in space that is the Big Finish audios.  But a big old slab of the action takes place there and not all of it is entirely understandable.  As The Doctor drifts through the story we meet Timelords past and present, two Presidents and even dear old Borusa.  Some have regenerated recently others have stayed the same (Terrance seems very keen that we know this).  Every time we spend an interlude there, it drags the story down and you feel as though you want to skip a few pages to what looks like a good bit with a Rastan Robot.

The trouble for the contemporary reader is -- it's not about anything -- there don't seem to be any big themes at play.  Not every story has to be about Iraq and I know it's meant to be a romp, but it lacks a sophistication some of us have become used to.  I know that's an unfair way of treating things, but when a drashig is loose on the Eye of Orion or there are two Sixth Doctor running around you know that its too shallow for its two hundred and eighty pages.

Everything which is right and wrong with the book happens during the Seventh Doctor portion.  This Doctor sits in the TARDIS bored out of his wits with a bit of a mid-life crisis needling away at him.  He decides that he could either turn up at some planet and pick up a random sentient life form for a companion or go off and find his own excitement.  So takes himself to Metebelis III for another round with the Giant Spider.  Meanwhile, The Master, still getting over being half cat is in retreat learning all about how to become a worm.  Eighth turns up to cuts Seventh down from a web and they have time to share a cuppa.  In these closing moments we realise that the book is a both a prequel and sequel to The One With The Pertwee Logo.  The Godfather Part II of Doctor Who if you like.  But yet again we find ourselves clearing out a shed load of continuity when we should be enjoying Eighth's first adventure proper.

Time after time though, just as things start to flag, a golden moment happens to keep the interest.  The Delgado version of The Master hitchiking to Devil's End.  The Fourth Doctor trying to fight off vampires.  The Eighth Doctor going to the worst pub on Gallifrey and getting rat-arsed so that he can get on the good side of the locals.  In the end I found it very difficult to dislike something this bonkers.

It's just a shame that we spend so little time introducing the new companion Sam.  To be honest, there's only a hairs breath between her and Rose -- both are from the cruddier ends of London, and neither are too put out by the appearance of the TARDIS or the alieness of The Doctor.  There's even a moment when she runs into the time machine just as it's dematerialising.  I think I like her but it's too early to tell.  But it's good to see, after all the messing about in the history of the show, at there end we're left with the architypes -- one timelord, one companion (usually a girl) and a galaxy to explore.  Job done.  But what a wierd way of getting there.

Make the milk go ...

Food Kellogs launch new breakfast cereal with a name that has other, erm, connotations:
"The marketing monkeys behind the innocuous little chocolatey Kelloggs' Coco Pops thought they were on safe ground when they launched Coco Rocks, the exciting new jungle-inspired spin-off of the cereal. Unfortunately for them, they don't seem to have done their research among the highways, byways and alleyways of London's drug dens."
Article includes a handy list of other dubious product names. Japanese soft drink called Mucos?

"And it's open from 10 until about half twelve..."

TV In a wierd move for all concerned, Richard Bacon and Denise Van Outen have been signed to present This Morning during the summer. I wonder if they'll resurrect Wonga ...

Closest thing to cryzee

Music Singer Barb Jungr frets that that maturity and individuality have all put disappear in new music:
"Dido and Katie Melua exemplify this model for endless replicants of a thread of breathy vocalising. Soul sisters gyrate on MTV cunningly sounding wildly improvisational and yet curiously indistinguishable from one another. Where is the new Aretha? The new Ella or Billie? Well, I'd hazard a guess that the young Aretha wouldn't have got past the door of any of the major record companies today. They wouldn't know what to do with her. Whatever one now thinks of Donna Summer, it's curious to note that when she was singing her early disco hits, she always sounded like Donna Summer. When she teamed up with Stock, Aitken and Waterman, she just sounded like anybody else on their roster; they managed to expunge the sex even from Donna Summer - hell, that's some achievement!"
It's actually quite difficult to follow her argument, and although I can see some of her points, I wildly disagree with the contention that the blanding out of vocal styles is still going on, especially in the wierd lumping together of Dido and Melua. Whilst I'm not a fan of the latter I would say that there is as much of a difference between her and the unmentioned Norah Jones as can be -- they're different classes of vocal performance.

Not here, no not Firefox

Firefox Why should it be so surprising that the Firefox browser is popular enough to inspire a news story at the BBC about how the general lack of compliance in the UK? Funnily enough though this problem hasn't really cropped up for me ... [via]

Beefy bacon

Elsewhere I was eating a bacon butty this evening and I was wondering why beef isn't traditionally cut that thinly and cooked in the same way.

Monkey, monkey, monkey ...

Reference Hey look I'm getting technical. Here is an excellent Greasemonkey script for the Firefox which turns major terms on a web page into links to entries at the Wikipedia. It's not perfect -- it picks out things which aren't proper search terms as all -- but does make some articles and writing more ledgible. This is how I always expected hypetext to be like. [via]

What more?

Elsewhere Just in case you're wondering what else I've been doing.

Doctor Who.

Books Something particularly worrying as I set off on this adventure is the number of spoilers I'm going to end up dodging. These books started publishing a year short of a decade ago and I already have a good idea of what happens in key novels. I suppose the real fun is going to be the joining up of dots and meeting the characters.

Its refreshing, then, to start with a book which is already spoilt because I've seen the film its based on so many times. I had desperately wanted to try and read this first novel as though I'd never seen the film and try to write about it in that way. But that's impossible. Once you know the source material well enough, it's difficult to divorce your feelings about it from any kind of adaptation. All of the same problems I have with the story still exist on the printed page -- like the title -- is it just called Doctor Who or The Television Movie or The Enemy Within (or the TV Movie with the Pertwee logo?). I've plummed for what's on the cover even though it looks a bit wrong. Why - oh - didn't they stick something up on the screen to save us the bother?

I've always thought of Gary Russell as a very underated writer. He's built a reputation for being the guy you hire when you want a good meat and potato perfectly fine Who adventure without any exotic experimentalism. But actually it's about what's in there in between the lines. During he opening pages of the book, Russell explains that he 'wrote speedily from an excellent script, but with precious little visual reference ... changes to the script took place throughout the filming and so portions of this version may differ from what we all see on screen.' So actually in reading it's difficult to see how many of the differences are of Russell's own making or due to script changes. Which is a shame, because there are many new moments which I'd love to give Russell credit for.

The TARDIS becomes an even more infinite space. The cloister room is a cathedral standing on a massive plain an internal building within the ship. The Eighth Doctor carries his predecessor's hat throughout the adventure a constant reminder of change, popping it on Grace's head as she leaves him at the end. The security guards at the New Year's Eve party are given their own little storyline injecting some humanity to what's at stake. But most excitingly, we're told The Seventh Doctor covertly enters Skaro and sneaks off with The Master's remains, which is the great action sequence and it's a shame the novel doesn't have the time to tell us more about it.

There are also more interpretative moments when Gary's looked at the script and tried to extrapolate some intent or indeed place them within the more familiar Who setting. I never had a problem with that kiss at the end -- for me it's about The Doctor enjoying the moment. Here, to some fans relief, Grace kisses him and we don't hear what his reaction to the gesture is. The Eye of Harmony at the centre of the time machine is a facimile of the actual eye on Gallifrey, with all of the TARDISes linked to that central power source. The Doctor's half humanity is hit head on and becomes an intergral part of the story. I'm wondering if in the novels to come this is going to be built on or quietly forgotten. It seems odd that this story is still considered canon, and such a big premise change hasn't been mention often elsewhere.

But this is a story of two Doctors. Doesn't the Seventh get an ignominious end? For what was (until that point) the most long lived incarnation in multiple media he isn't really given the death he deserves. He carelessly lets The Master out, leading to a crashlanding, before blundering out of the TARDIS in the middle of a gun battle. Hardly the master manipulator we've come to expect. He's closer here to the man who appeared the the Hulk Comic strips than the one who dragged Ace through Ghost Light.

Without foreknowledge it would be difficult to get a handle on this new Doctor. He comes across more as a greatest hits, a selection of ticks, than a rounded personality. He's certainly the most romantic and poetic since the Fourth and is more reactive than pro-active, blundering into situations then looking for a way out. Perhaps conditioning from the new tv series has led me to expect something more, a depth which wasn't there before, perhaps a hint of guilt at what his predecessor had been up to. He's just too blanded out, as though the writers (the original writers) don't want to give to much of a character at this early stage in case they change their mind later.

The problem is that The Doctor isn't the strongest character in the book -- Grace is. As the action unfolds, she's the wit, fulfilling many of the roles the timelord would in a traditional adventure. Much of the time though she just seems to be there to be as American as possible as a contrast to the Doctor's Englishness. But she would have good companion potential because she points out all of the things that the audience would be thinking so that the timelord can be different -- much like Rose and Jack in the new series.

Good example: At one point they somehow manage to capture a gun from a cop. But The Doctor throws it away because he doesn't do guns, and when Grace suggests they could have used it as a deterent he asks her if she could actually fire the thing (the fact that the gun is still loaded when he chucks it and could be picked up and used by someone else isn't explored). I'll be interested as I leap headfirst into the run of books to see why they decided to go with another best friend for The Doctor (assuming it wasn't just to do with the rights to the character). I think it's more likely because she was an American audiences way into a very British institution which becomes pointless when your audience is British anyway.

The other so-called companion, Chang-Lee spends most of the adventure with The Master and doesn't come across well at all. He feels like a one-hit-wonder of a character his arc well and truly told -- not actually stupid just offering poor judgement in the face of a bit of money and flamboyance.

But the real imbalance comes from The Master. An awful lot of time is spent with the character and arguably we get a better idea of who he is over The Doctor which just increases the latter's apparent ineffectualness (I mean we're introduced to the TARDIS interior by the mortal enemy -- controversial, experimental or just plain awful?). He just isn't himself. The whole point is that he's The Doctor's equal, except evil. But his desperation to nab his rivals form has given him a meatheadedness which is only partially given weight by the adaptation -- the character has obviously been written to fit Eric Robert's inflections. But since this is a possession rather than a regeneration. He might as well be some other character. He's monologuing all over the place try to convince Chang-Lee to help him. Why? Surely it'd be quicker to head off to the nearest university and hypnotise the nearest Scientist. Eventually at the end of the story (and I don't remember hearing this one on the tv) 'I am The Master, you will obey me.' But you're not really convinced it will work.

Overall though the story lacks an umph. It foreshadows Rose, in that The Doctor is captured and its up to the companion to save him because we don't really understand what the fuss is about the tension disipates. The Doctor fighting an alien army beats him having a shouting match with someone in a cathedral any day. The threat here is just too abstract.

As I look at the stack of novels ahead, even with the regeneration this does not feel like the start of an adventure. Fatally it wraps up with too many loose ends. A bookend rather than the start of something new. At the end of the novel The Doctor says to the TARDIS, 'Well old girl, I don't know where I've just selected, but let's hope it takes us somewhere interesting, unusual and exciting. Or at least. somewhere that does a decent pot of tea.' Which is hardly the most exhilarating mission -- all he needs to do is drop the TARDIS off in Albert Square and he's already been there.


Life I've taken a hiatus from talking about life lately, because unfortunately there hasn't been that much to write about (or that I can write about which is a slightly different thing). I've slipped back into the routine, which is my way of getting through those stretches between doing interesting things. Bored? Yes. But I always say that it's good to see the odd bad film now and them because it makes the really great films even better. Life's probably like that. If there are enough tedious times, the exciting moments are even more extraordinary.


People Anna Pickard remembers Richard Whiteley:
"Richard himself quite often looked shocked and surprised when he managed to think of a word longer than his socially-awkward contestants, or solved the number puzzle all on his own, and would smile a smile of the genuinely proud, while Carol looked on patiently, as if she'd come up with the same answer several minutes before, and had now mentally moved on to creating a new type of clean fuel in the few seconds before she'd be called upon to perform another stunning act of braininess.

He was, apparently, a lot cleverer than he let on.
Somewhere in heaven tonight, Richard is presenting a special episode of Countdown in which Shakespeare is playing against Pythagorus with Samuel Johnson in dictionary corner.

I've been told I should leave the stage ..

Music I was really disappointed with the BBC's coverage of Glastonbury. There seemed to be an abundant concentration on the main two stages at the expense of the smaller ones were the really exciting things were happening. Did you know KT Tunstall was there? I only found out after reading a line up. Why all the blokey guitar bands which all seemed to merge into each other after a while? What was the guy from Primal Scream on?

The Eighth Doctor.

TV He's back. And it's about time ...

I can't really understand what it was like for Doctor Who fans in 1996 when the television movie was broadcast. I would imagine the feeling were very different to those of the past few years -- a new television adventure, made by someone else, without the guarantee of a new series afterwards. Excitement with a slight twing of disappointment. The discussions must have been heated as some said 'We should be happy with what we got...' and others saying 'But it could be so much more...' I think the decision had already been made that there wouldn't be a new series even before the erzatz pilot had been broadcast over here and it didn't matter how many viewers it got.

I don't really know because I wasn't there. I only returned to Doctor Who relatively recently, after a visit to the late Llangollen exhibition in the late nineties, posing with Bessie and buying a copy of The Keeper of Traken of all things on video. The really magic moment came in that shop when the clerk put his head forward and as though he was giving me the greatest secret ever said 'It's coming back you know -- they're making a new series.' To this day I'm not quite sure what this was, but for that moment it was the most exciting thing ever. I think it was possibly the Big Finish audios and perhaps he'd been reading about them Doctor Who Magazine earlier that day. But for those few moments I thought I had some hidden knowledge and I decided that I wanted to be there for it. So I went to WH Smith the next day bought my first issue of the magazine of my adulthood (the one with Tom Baker riding a penny farthing on the cover) and things spiralled happily out of control from there.

The biggest surprise was how active the 'franchise' was. For a series no longer on television there were audio releases and novels. It was bewildering really and I wasn't sure were to begin. I took the necessary step of concentrating on the tv episodes via the UK Gold repeats there were enough of those to tide me over until I could actually afford to follow the new releases. I eventually started to nibble away at some of the past doctor novels and Virgin New Adventures, listened to some of the audios, such was the random nature of following the show then.

One thing stuck out -- the BBC Eighth Doctor novels. This continuation looked exciting and interesting from the odd spoiler I'd picked up -- but this was three or four years in, and there seemed to be far too much continuity to get a handle on. I borrowed The Space Age from the library and ended up putting it down after about twenty pages. I had no idea what was happening. It was going to be a shame to miss a whole incarnation. Then Big Finish came to rescue and started publishing the Eighth Doctor audios and for me it felt like the first proper series I could experience on a regular basis. Loved them. So when the seasonal releases of those ended last year, even though I was excited about the new series they left a void. The funny thing about Doctor Who fans is that they tend to get quite attached to the one Doctor. They'll watch, read, listen to anything if it's there, but only Bill, Pat, Jon, Tom, Pete, Col or Sylv is their favourite. Paul's my favourite, which is why it continues to be odd that I haven't read the novels, especially when I hear they're such an impressive body of work. It's about time I did that. So...

I'm going to read the Eighth Doctor's written adventures from the TV Movie novelisation to The Gallifrey Chronicles in order. Writing here about what I find. With the apologies to Doctor Who magazine's Time Team for nicking their idea. I want this to be about discovery, a whole set of stories I don't know and can experience much like this new series, my own trip of a lifetime. And to add a bit of excitement I'm making a promise that I'll finish them by the time the second series starts on television -- which is interesting because we don't quite know when that will be. Yes I know it would be an even greater feat to complete by the time of the Christmas special but I'm not as fast a reader as I'd like to be. I just hope I'm not trying to plough through The Gallifrey Chronicles on the first Saturday of that second series.

It's 1996 again. He's back. And it's about time ...