Reference I'm surprised to find that there is a Wikipedia entry about H2G2. I'm equally stunned to discover that there is equally an entry at H2G2 about the Wikipedia ...


Design Tim Murtaugh investigates MSN's website and find it lacking when it comes to complying with browsers which aren't Internet Explorer.


TV Blisteringly good potted personal history of the BBC with a particular emphasis on how market forces have shaped the corporation: "When my father, Barrie Edgar, joined the BBC in 1946, its television service consisted of two studios at Alexandra Palace, and two outside broadcast units. Rising quickly from studio manager to the rank of outside broadcast producer, he spent his early years, in London and then in Birmingham, producing anything and everything: from seaside summer shows and circuses to race meetings and general election counts, from Muffin the Mule to the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral. Rejecting a good financial offer to move to ITV in 1955, he saw many of his programmes hived off from outside broadcasts to specialised (and centralised) BBC departments; over the years, he lost the King?s College Christmas carols to Music, Songs of Praise to Religion and Come Dancing to London. He spent the last years of his 33-year BBC career producing a programme that might have seemed a broadcasting backwater, but which anticipated the trend towards the lifestyle shows that have dominated BBC2 for ten years: Gardeners? World."

4 shame.

Film I posted this yesterday, then thought better of it. The Fantastic Four film is bad. Really bad. Not that I've seen it. But with reviews like these I don't think I'll want to. 4 shame.

Live 8

Live 8 It's not often I link to something I can't actually use myself. But for anyone with broadband -- here is a collection of Live 8 performances in handy download format. Big files, big big files. [via]


Life What a difference a day makes. Two photos of the same person at posted Troubled Diva which perfectly capture the mood of the country, but particular in London over the past two days.
Updated An anonymous commentor (why stay anonymous?) has asked for my source that these images are of the same person. I take your point, I was going with what I observed rather than something I'd read. But they are remarkably similar ...

Live 8

Live 8 Just to show I sometimes follow through ...


{Your Email to the BBC}

{Comment Type:} question
{Date:} 07 July 2005
{Name:} Stuart Ian Burns
I just wondered if BBC Four would be showing the Live 8 show which was at The Eden Project in a similar format to the Philly rerun which turned up on BBC Three on Sunday. I'm seeing tantalising glimpses on the highlight shows, the marvellous Mariza tonight for example, and it would be a real shame not to be able to see more of it. Not having satellite I wasn't able to view using the interactive option on the day.


{Our Reply:}

Dear Stuart Ian Burns

Thank you for taking the time to contact the BBC. We have no plans to show the Eden Project concert. Although you may be interested on our upcoming Africa Live programme featuring many leading african artists. For more information click on this link:

Kind regards,

BBC Four Website Team


(sigh) Oh well ....

Model Train Set & Totem.

Books  Doctor Who as short prose has had a long history.  The first original stories published were in the short form, in the first Doctor Who annual with Bill Hartnell on the cover.  Over the years in the annuals and in anthologies they've been the perfect way of exploring an aspect of the adventure or characters in a way which simply wouldn't fit into the 'normal' format of the tv series.  They're often experimental or in some cases allow for the ironing out of the various continuity errors which have cropped up during the history of the series.  I'm sure there's one out there attempting to rationalise UNIT dating -- good luck.  Honestly, some of my favourite stories ever have been just eight pages long.

In Model Train Set [from: Short Trips (1998)] The Doctor finishes the work of an earlier incarnation on a toy railway working weaving around the floor of the TARDIS.  He gives an intelligence to tiny model people and sets them to work building and operating a train service, with stations and passengers on an endless commute back to were they started.  It's a wonderfully simple but beautifully crafted story.  Writer Jonathan Blum brings a slightly biblical tinge to some of the passages, even at one stage offering 'And the Doctor looked at the model train set and saw it was good.'  There are some lovely details: some of the passengers resemble his past selves; the track weaves through book cases; the technical aspects of the trains themselves.

Totem [from: More Short Trips (1999)] is even more enigmatic   We find out little about the time, although the place is Funchal, Madiera.  Tara Samms slowly drips the information out and leaves much of what we find to our own interpretation.  This tells a story of a Senora Panstedas, a lonely woman who's lost her husband and son who is visited by a man called John who offers to work her deserted farm for her, with eggs for breakfast his only payment.

The most telling moment in here is when Senora Panstedas overhears John talking to someone in the dark.  The desciptions of the sounds and the dialogue seem to indicate that The Eighth Doctor is talking to Seventh with the latter trying to persuade him to carry on whatever mission he'd set down (we aren't sure how he's appearing -- is it himself or a manifestation?  That the Senora can hear the conversation muddies things slightly).  Seventh berates Eighth for getting his hands dirty and bloody:

'Calluses won't hide the blood on your hands.  Let others do the work for you.'
'Why?  When I should be doing it myself?'
'You are the champion of -'
'I am The Doctor.'
'You can't just ...'
'I am the Doctor.  No other.'

Most chronologies place these two stories between The Dying Days and Vampire Science.  I had assumed it was because The Doctor was travelling alone after dropping off Bernice.  But thematically they feel very similar.  I like the idea that in these tales he's actually pottering about coming to terms with who he was and deciding who he has become before carrying on his big adventure in time.  For all his heroism in The Dying Days, he seemed particularly tricky around Bernice because she'd known what he was like before his latest change.  In both of these short stories he doesn't feel like a whole person yet as though he's searching for some kind of contentment, either in creating his own little world or bringing light to someone elses.  I think they're probably responding to what was happening in the Virgin New Adventures.

My inclinging is that The Seventh Doctor became a very dark person and did some unspeakable things in the name of being 'Time's Champion'.  The exchange with him in Totem is the beginning of the end of the new Doctor's time with the Senora because he's won the argument by being a different person who's willing to wade in himself to do what must be done (something we also see at the end of Model Train Set).  As he unearths her husband's body, the indication is that he's contented at doing something genuinely good, laid to rest the ghosts of his past self and is ready to continue his life's adventure with renewed vigour.  He's not only brought closure for her, but also to himself.

Take care.

Life I'm watching the victims and witnesses to the bombs on the news, the haunted expressions of people who can't believe the things they've seen in the places they live, travel and work. Take care everyone.


Blog! Going Underground has been covering today's events:
"It's been a long and tiring day and I've only been blogging it and listening to radio and watching TV. Just spent the last hour and a half watching TV reports. Some really harrowing viewing including a guy who was on a motorbike behind the bus that was blown up - his mobile phone pictures were horrific."
Metafilter have also been doing there thing but the servers been up and down.

Live 8

Live 8 A reporter on Channel 4 News earlier said that she felt that momentum which had been built up around tomorrow's G8 discussions regarding Africa have dissipated in the face of today's events because each of the leaders is looking across at the safety of their own capital cities. There is a determination for the prime minister to be back in town for tomorrow, and no matter what I might think of the man and his approach to internal politics, his is a noble quest, assuming he's prepared take things to their history making conclusion.

I could feel the momentum watching the final Live 8 concert in Edinburgh last night. The BBC's coverage was better this time -- more of the campaigning and lobbying mixed in with the music -- something which was really missing on Saturday and risked making that a vacuous experience. Of the two I think I enjoyed this more -- there was more of atmosphere -- people seemed to really feel that they could be a force for change, from the musicians and actors appearing to the people in the crowd. Plus Edith Bowman is a half-decent presenter and there wasn't anything funnier that watching her interview George Clooney. I haven't see googly eyes like that since Jamie Gertz in the Diet Coke break ads.

But from a musical point of view, the performances were more coherent. This was a big crowd and close, but the musicians weren't overwhelmed, with only the Sugababes looking small and delicate in the massive space. It was about interesting juxtapositions, so Jamie Cullum accompanied Natasha Beddingfield, Bob Geldof and Campino, Will Young joined James Brown, Bono backed up The Corrs and Midge Ure offered a heartfelt Vienna with Eddie Izzard noodling away on the piano.

But there were loads of what you could call Radio Gaga moments (and that included Chris Evens turning up and busking his way through the chorus to the Queen song). Peter Kay almost played The Carpenter's Top of the World on panpipes which led to the crowd waving their arms in the air in perfect unison; Bono talking about what had happened when he and Bob met with the G8 leaders ('We don't play golf in U2'), Annie Lennox's entire set. You won't see the like of this again, or for quite some time.

I'm just watching one of the nightly best of shows which is really illuminating. Did you know Mariza played The Eden Project? Good gracious that was a world music ghetto. Any chance that BBC Four might run the whole of that show one day? I htink I'll go off and email them and ask them.


Life I stood with the crowd in Clayton Square Liverpool at lunchtime watching the events unfold on the big screen. Some people had their mouth open, others muttered about terrorism, a group of teenagers giggled and chatted until stopping stunned as confirmatory text appeared in the middle of the BBC News broadcast. Seven explosions in London. Six tube stations and one bus. Two confirmed dead. Possible terrorist connection. I heard the teens read the text outloud in disbelief.

My eyes flickered across the ticker at the bottom of the screen, then I saw the words I really didn't want to see 'Prime Minister leaves G8'. I'm watching his helicopter leave Gleneagles tonight and as the gravle skips away from the undercarriage I can see that the terrorists suceeded in one of their aims. To stop life in its tracks momentarily, blur the expectation of what is to come.

There I stood in the square watching television, eager to know what was happening, scared about what it meant for all of us, instead of doing all the things I'd planned to do at lunchtime. I won't be watching the film I'd planned to tonight. I'm not in the mood. My dvd rental company Screenselect have seen fit to send me Napoleon Dynamite, and although I know it's only a title, it doesn't feel appropriate.

The Doctor Dances Some More

TV A quick snippet from this month's SFX magazine that I haven't seen anywhere else. In a slightly random move, Charles Dance turned up for the press screening of The Parting Of The Ways. The magazine suggests that he might be a future candidate for The Master, which would be fabulous really. Except aren't all the timelords supposed to be gone except for The Doctor? But hold on ... he hasn't really been a timelord for years. He's been inhabiting the forms of other beings. Oooh interesting ...

The Dying Days.

Books  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes!  This is better.  Much better.  This is the Doctor Who I know, funny, exciting, thoughtful, beautiful.  The minute The Doctor appeared and said "Sorry I'm late - you wouldn't believe state of the traffic around the Horsehead Nebula..." my eyes widened and I knew I was in safe hands.  But before the enthusing starts I wanted to remind everyone that you can enjoy this adventure too - it's at the BBC website for goodness sake, here.  Just what the license fee is for.  I might keep missing out on the next BBC book along, Vampire Science on ebay (at this rate I'll be reviewing the synopsis) and don't even get me started on Legacy of the Daleks, but here is the first really great Eighth Doctor book absolutely free.

Since the novel is available and I want everyone to read it, I'll try to be relatively spoiler free this time.  Online, the book is accompanied by a running commentary from the author, Lance Parkin, which highlights moments and fills in references for the unfamiliar.  In the introduction he explains that being the final book in the New Adventures range he had to commemorate that series but also look to the future both of The Doctor in the BBC range and also of companion Bernice in her own series of books.  Falling between those stools it's easy to argue that actually it's as much of a continuity fest as The Eight Doctors.  But unlike that book, those references to past stories don't drive the plot and anything really important is explained in short, clear, crisp style.  There is also a devil may care attitude and a particularly shocking moment in the middle you really won't believe, but that just adds to the sense of fun.

Parkin uses the most traditional of stories upon which to build complexity.  Ice Warriors invade the Earth.  You can tell that much from the cover.  I think you can already see their first mistake.  The second mistake was picking the time when The Doctor happens to be in the neighbourhood and Bernice Summerfield an alien expert from the future.  Really what were they thinking?  The actual meat of their plans, the usual hokum about wiping out the human race is theoretically the weakest part of the script, but it's not really the writer Lance Parkin's fault - in fact it was probably by design so that he could mix the traditional with the experimental - as usual it's not about what happens, so much as how it happens.

After the simplicity of Terrence Dick's prose it's with shock and awe I'm faced with Parkin's writing.  In my review of Dick's book I was able to list particular moments I enjoyed because they stood out amid the dreck.  Here every scene is like that.  He's not afraid to let his characters just talk, interact, and be in the space.  There are scenes which are entirely filmic, in the reception at a space centre, for example, were you could imagine a steadycam spinning around the characters as they flow through the crowd.  But he's also able to hold the attention when the story isn't moving forward and its all about creating mood and tension.  Remember the one good bit on that Pescaton's LP when Tom describes the deserted London.  There are whole sections just like that here.  There are sections which I've gone back and read over once I've finished the book just so that I can enjoy the detail (and now and then spot something I missed first time around).

The one aspect I'd been really afraid of was that New Adventures continuity.  I've only read a couple of those and I don't really know the landscape.  I know that The Doctor was a much darker character prone to controlling situations and that he had a mission approach to adventure (particularly obvious in Russell T Davies' Damaged Goods, the book we all read when we found out he was going to be writing the new series).  They are around, but I found most of them perfectly understandable.  When it's revealed that Seventh and friends have visited the future of some of these characters its used to express the madness of the web of time than anything else.

The biggest hangover, Bernice, is an elegantly written character.  I understand she'd always been written for Emma Thompson (before the audio actress Lisa Bowerman gave her vocal form) and you can hear her voice behind every word.  You can see why Seventh would want her along - she'd be perfect at filling in his spot when he has to go off the rails to get the job done.  For various reasons she becomes the focus of the story and carries it off amiably.  Cleverly though she's not simply a substitute.  Whereas some things just happen for the timelord, she always has to take the long, human route.  There is some excellent chemistry with Eighth though, a more believable chemistry than he had with Grace because there's more level playing field intellectually.  In some places she even fills in for his lapses of judgment, helping rather than the coping with him in the way the American was doing.  Some of the novel's key moments are played out through her own diary entries.  It's challenging, but gives the reader an extra level of understanding as the story unfolds, and in some cases a useful historical context.

It helps that this is the Eighth Doctor we know.  Already in '97 Parkin defines the character.  Unlike the BBC opener you can absolutely hear McGann say these words.  Here also, more than the last two books, is it important to see the differences between Eighth and Seventh.  I've ready enough of the Virgin New Adventures to know that Seventh was a much darker incarnation often resorting to the methods of his enemies to get from A to B.  There is a lovely moment here when Bernice looks into the face of her old friend and realizes that he doesn't have a plan, the master manipulator she'd known and despised at times is gone.  I wonder if the perfect way to express the differences would be that whilst Seventh thinks ahead and carries an umbrella around with him all the time to stop the rain, Eighth would just get wet.  When he gives that umbrella to Bernice it's an entirely symbolic gesture, the resting of the man he used to be.

It's contemporary Earth, there are aliens involved, why wouldn't The Brigadier and UNIT put in an appearance?  Somehow it manages to be a transitional organization, exactly how you would expect it to be between the tv story Battlefield, and the Big Finish audios.  The retired Alistair in particular comes across very well in this story, a much more rounded character than he's prone to be written.  At no point for example does he say, "Good chaps all of them." "Five rounds rapid." or "I need to call Whitehall."  He's also a husband, with Doris becoming a more three dimensional character.  Something which is established here is that he's mellowed to The Doctor's appearances now and hardly ever expects them to be in chronological order.  Although since it means Alistair has met Eighth and knows what he looks like, making a mess of Big Finish's audio Minuet in Hell which is set a few years later which hinged on him not know what he looked like (although I bet there's a retro-continuity story knocking around somewhere which takes care of that).

It's actually pretty amazing to see how influential this book has been on all the nu-Who which comes after it, and not just in the characterization of The Doctor.  You know this new and innovative tv series which has just been playing on BBC these past three months and thrilling millions because of its contemporary feeling?  The Dying Days was doing it all eight years ago.  There are scenes which feel exactly like they do in the new series, from alien space craft landing in London, to The Doctor facing up to his demons and the chemistry with his companions.  Inevitably Aliens In London is structurally very similar, but there are odd moments too when I thought - this is just like when that happened in that episode ... then again it could be just that the book responds to the same archetypes of the classic show as the new series.   It  manages to use much the same justification for the fact that Britain is constantly under attack from aliens but each time it seems like first contact to the populace - which also helpfully explains why the appearance of the Slitheen in 2006 is any kind of a surprise and the newspapers weren't printing 'More aliens - yawn!' type headlines.

Something which the new series hasn't approached yet, but this story attacks head on is the presentation of events in a contemporary Britain but also one set within a particular universe.  Pop culture references illuminate the year in the way a historical might.  Appropriate famous people appear (and there is a shocking moment when one of them dies) and become involved in the narrative in a way which couldn't happen on screen (although there is an Andrew Marr-esque moment right at the beginning).  They mingle with the fictional characters and have active roles too.  To drop some spoilers my three favourite moments are when we're at a reception and we find out that Richard Dawkins is there with his wife (I wonder who that could be), The Doctor shares a joke with Jeremy Paxman, and an American reporter is interviewing Bernard Quatermass and Patrick Moore about the chances of life on other planets.  This being the Whoniverse guess who's right?

It's a shame to see Bernice leave at the end - commercial overtaking artistic concerns.  I hope the BBC books manage to sneak in a few cheeky references to her now and then.  This is that last of the non-BBC material I'll probably end up reading and I'm worried that none of it is going to be this good - certainly if the first few emulate The Eight Doctors its going to be a bit of a slog, worsened by the fact that I've seen how good it can be.  My feeling is The new Doctor hasn't quite gotten into his stride yet, not quite sure who he is.  We'll see what happens in Vampire Science (if I ever get to read it).  And perhaps I'll also find out were Sam went.  I can't imagine she's been hiding in the TARDIS for this whole adventure.

I'm getting that Saturday feeling again ...

This So-Called Life

TV Still yet to see the final episode, but the BBC are to revisit This Life, 10 years on. "Egg." "Milly." "Eeeegg." "Milly." "Miles." "Wha?" Any chance this could be a crossover with a certain other show about life and we could see Anna lushing all over Brian Krakow? Or is that too disturbing?

From Paula to Rupert to Missy E

TV Part 2 of Off The Telly's history of Have I Got News For You. More memories:
"The Hislop-Yates argument - in which guest Gordon Kennedy was a bamboozled spectator and Merton a peacemaker - has prompted many points of view. The consensus was that as Yates went into the programme with bad PR from her marriage dissolution and beau-pleasing surgery, she had it coming. The truth may not be far from that, and she didn't help matters by ferociously protesting Deayton's claim that, according to her publication, she had her surgery after meeting Hutchence. Hislop's touch paper was lit: "You mean the book's rubbish? Well I know that, but ..." She had already asked him to "stop being unkind" while also admitting both she and Hutchence would smack photographers taking pictures if they weren't from the right organisation, thus prompting Hislop's subsequent mention of two "black eyes". This led Merton to exclaim: "Who's going to get two black eyes? You're not going jogging are you?"
Yet again I say -- complete season boxsets soon please ... OTT also features an interview with Ron Roker, who wrote the music for the original Rupert The Bear tv series:
"I was a songwriter and record producer signed to Welbeck Music, the publishing arm of ATV, when in 1969, I was asked to come up with a song for the first ever series about Rupert. As a child, I had always received the books for Christmas from my Gran every year, so I obviously knew and loved these beautifully illustrated stories and all the characters from Nutwood, as much as many kids did in those post-war years. So, together with my old pal Len Beadle (alias Frank Weston), we wrote the Rupert song as the theme for the show, never knowing if it would even be released. After we had finished, Len suggested his wife Jackie Lee, who had been a singer with him in the vocal group The Raindrops, should perform it. I agreed, because not only was Jackie a fabulous vocalist, she had that something extra that not all female singers have, a "Doris Day" smile in her voice. She was perfect and her performance proved it."
"Rupert ... Rupert The Bear! Everyone come and join ... in all of his games...."

Live 8

Live 8 Saw the whole of the Philadelphia gig last night on BBC Three -- I believe we had a more complete presentation than appeared in the US. I can't claim to have loved all the music I heard, but the Dave Matthews Band were excellent, as were Maroon 5 and Will Smith's energy continues to amaze -- even I cheered when I heard that Jazzy Jeff had briefly been re-united with the Fresh Prince. For some reason I only had really one emotional moment all weekend. Funnily enough it wasn't during the rerun of the Ethopia clip followed by the reveal of the survivor (something Bob Geldoff also did during the recording of Band Aid this time as we saw in the video). It was during Sarah Mclaughlin's set in Philly. I've heard Angel lots of times, but for some reason during the chorus:

"In the arms of the angel
fly away from here
from this dark cold hotel room
and the endlessness that you feel
you are pulled from the wreckage
of your silent reverie
you're in the arms of the angel
may you find some comfort here."

I cried.

Good grief it's doing it to me now as I write. I'm not sure why. I'll have to think about it. I really am looking for answers everywhere at the moment.

Live 8

Live 8 In all my Ross-baiting on Saturday, I forgot to mention the supremely subversive moment at teatime on BBC One when Snoop Dog appeared. I'm not a fan (mostly because of certain things he said one night on The Word -- I have a long memory). The conversation in our house went something like.
"I hate Snoop Dog."
"What's he doing on in primetime. With all the swearing."
"There is lots of swearing in his music. They always record a clean version or else dub it out in the mix. It's an odd time to slot him in."
We listen for a while.
"Did he just swear?"
"He just said the f-word ... there it is. And again. Hold on he just said shit. And MF."
We wait for the set to be pulled from broadcast.
"This is crap."
"Yes it is. But listen to that. I can't believe this is going out on Saturday night, primetime."*
"It's become normalised."
"Bad language."
"Yes, but I'm not complaining ... it's just so radical ..."

In the event the BBC received just under 400 complaints. I wonder how many of those were from people who were watching Madonna and Razorlight. Those were the gratuitous -- Snoop Dog's were in the context of his music and actually on audible if you were looking for them. I'm not sure how the beeb could have handled it -- anything from a delay to beeping might have been thought of as censorship. I suppose a strong language guide could have been made before hand, although that has certain other implications. They probably did what they needed to -- let it go and weather the flack using the 'live event -- anything could happen' clause.

The complaint log is peanuts in comparison to the 10 million which tuned in to watch the show (although I suspect if you factor in the radio listenership the overall audience for the show could be considered much higher). Does this mean that swearing is less shocking than it used to be, or that the audience for the event were less sensitive to the effects? It's funny that as soon as it started happening we knew that someone would complain.

* Which is a phrase I've probably used every week since the end of March for some reason.

Live 8

Live 8 Stevie Wonder still has it doesn't he? 'Here I am -- signed, sealed delivered' I really am yours....

Live 8

Live 8 Maroon 5 just covered Neil Young's 'Rockin' In The Free World'. That was excellent!

Live 8

Live 8 This coverage isn't just heavily edited, it's bare bones. Sarah McLachlan's been cut down to one song 'Angel', dueting with Josh Groban (with crackly sound quality). I'd take this over Robbie William's pluralised effort any day. Lovely.