[Major spoiler] BBC One's ten-second trailer for Voyage of the Damned rather explains something about how The Titanic is involved. Looks amazing.

Review 2007: All Roads Lead Home

Kat Herzog on Minnesota

About a week before a visit to my native Minnesota, the road fell into the river.

Most news outlets called it a bridge collapse, but nobody I know ever thought of that stretch of 35W as anything more than a bit of highway that happened to run over the Mississippi River. It's indistinguishable to me from any other part of the highway. It was one of those anonymous capillaries that are part of the vast roadway circulatory system that usually gets you where you need to go with a minimum of fuss.

Being a thousand miles away, it wasn't quite breaking news on network television, and even if it had been, I was at the computer. I read about it right after it was posted to Metafilter, which is, for better or worse, how big news usually finds it way to me. A sucker-punch, a minor black wave of nauseating anxiety washing over my vision, and then I was on the phone. My family was fine, my sister and brother-in-law in verklempt trances in front of the television. One friend was unaccounted for, and repeated hysterical messages ("Even if you are at the bottom of the Mississippi River... you've got to call me back!") to her voice mail were finally answered a few hours later when she checked her messages.

One of my sister's coworkers was among the missing and later -- weeks later -- confirmed dead.

I absorb trauma easily, and this blow so close to home added one more entry on my List Of Things To Daydream About In A Highly Paranoid Fashion. I play The Highway Collapse in my head as I drive along the roadways. The sight of even the most slightly shabby concrete will trigger it. My mind's eye sees the road shudder slightly, the asphalt rolling in an unlikely gentle wave, cracks open, steel girders groan as they buckle, the cars in front of mine fall in a cascade of rubble, airborne and silent for a moment before everything roars in a crunching crush.

I snap back fully to reality, to the reassuring pace of rush hour, to the present view of cars and streetlights, before my car slides off into nothing.

Kat writes Geeky Sweet Nothings.

Click here to find out more about this review of 2007, read previous posts and learn about contributing yourself.

"Sometimes I look in the mirror and I'm not sure it's me looking back." -- Niki, 'Heroes'

Elsewhere My review of Heroes has been posted at Off The Telly. No matter what everyone else has said, despite some slightly overripe dialogue it was a perfectly satisfying conclusion to the series. I'm really going to miss my weekly effort to guess the strength of Claire's lip gloss and why Niki is spelt with one K.

"The qualification piquing my interest, before Barrowman walked over and groped her tits."

TV [Spoilers if you're not careful, especially paragraphs two to four of linked article]

Graham from Off The Telly was at the now legendary Torchwood Season Two launch at the weekend and had a very candid interview with Mr. Barrowman about the fan reaction to the first series and how the production went during the second year. In particularly, see the quote at the bottom of the post. Eek.

Review 2007: Home

Andrea Dowling on Liverpool

I love my city, it has so much to offer and so much more than just the Beatles. Its 800 years old this year and its history is fascinating, and not just our dark history like the Slave Trade, which is a blot on our humanity.

It used to have a small pool running right through it and its own beach and lots of sand. Then as things progress it changed dramatically.

Massive Tall Ships came sailing down the blue ribbon of the Mersey, she was as clear as crystal then. The ships where wooden in structure and had huge white sails. Many a Naval Officer set out to sea from Liverpool, including the very famous William McMaster Murdoch First Officer of the Titanic.

Which brings us to that beautiful stripy sandstone building on the Dock Road, facing the magnificent Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Building. That is where White Star started its journey in that humble building that now stands waiting for someone to buy it and turn it into flats.

Liverpool was formed, developed and enriched by the Shipping Industry. It lived and breathed and pumped the heart of our City. My Grand father used to go down to the Docks every morning, very early to see if he could get work on a ship. If he couldn't he had to sign on at the dole office so that he could take food home to his wife and her many children.

The one thing I love about Liverpool is that so many historic buildings have been restored to their finer glory. St Georges Hall, our Museums, our Docks have been salvaged like old wrecked ships and brought back to their finer days.

Yet that's not all that Liverpool has to offer, that makes my home so unique, so rich in beauty. Its the people of Liverpool, the native scouser's the people who where either born and bred here or arrived from Ireland and made Liverpool their home. Through every hardship that Liverpool has thrown at these wonderful people, they always manage to smile. To band together in sorrow and tears, to unite as one as a public voice for the people who have been hurt in tragedy.

I saw it in peoples hearts and smiles and the team colours and the songs of Football Fans when we lost so many people in the Hillsborough tragedy. Liverton and Everpool they sang, and tears made the river rise up higher.

When little Jamie lost his life once again the City came together as a family. All supporting Jamies family. This summer they did it again, they united once more in grief. First we tied up yellow ribbons for the safe return of Madeline McCann and then we wore purple ribbons in memory and honour of Rhys Jones.

That's what is unique about my home, that's what makes me proud to say I live in Liverpool. Hearts as Golden as the Setting Sun on the Anglican Cathedral. Heads held high as Paddy's Wigwams Crown which you can see from Prescot Town.

God Bless Liverpool and all who sail to her and live under the protective wings of our Liver Birds, each one of us makes this City what it is a pool of life.

Andrea Dowling writes about Liverpool City.

Click here to find out more about this review of 2007, read previous posts and learn about contributing yourself.

"All right! They're spiders from Mars! You happy!" -- Chris, 'Eight Legged Freaks'

Art If think a giant race track in the middle of Wembley Stadium looks weird, how about a giant spider web across the Albert Dock?

"McRomance. Want some fries with that shake?" -- Frank, 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'

Film James MacDowell writes poignantly for Alternate Takes about happy endings in films and how actually they're all different and in some aren't as uplifting as they first seem. On Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: "This ending is, in the context of Hollywood cinema, rather extraordinary. The conclusion depicts a united romantic couple embarking on a relationship (as is usually considered the norm for a romantic ‘happy ending’), but it also explicitly states that its characters’ subsequent relationship will likely finally fail for the same reasons as it did the first time. Formally speaking, the ‘happy ending’ - as commonly defined - is certainly present: the couple have fallen in love, are about to begin a relationship, and are framed in a moment of shared bliss in the film’s final frames. Indeed, there is even a mini version of ‘the run’ - that familiar romantic comedy moment at which one half of the couple realises they are in love, and runs (or at least travels) to tell the other how (s)he feels. However, the list of things that will likely go wrong for the couple, and the following “okay”s that signal that they also accepts the likelihood of the affair’s eventual failure, makes this ending entirely unlike any other Hollywood ‘happy ending’ I have come across."

"We apologise to those guests who have waited patiently in past years to get protest leaflets signed..." -- Charles Thomson

Art It was somewhat inevitable that Mark Wallinger would win the Turner Prize even though Zarina Bhimji is clearly better. It's supposed to be for a career's work, his was the showiest of the pieces. Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckists art group thinks we should have boycotted it altogether: "It is desperately necessary to upgrade the standards of the prize which has steadily degraded into increasing blandness. What is needed is someone whose manic personality is guaranteed to give some zest to proceedings by doing all the wrong things. We suggest possibly Billy Childish (Co-founder, now ex-, Stuckist), who is incapable of not speaking his mind, and Stella Vine (another former Stuckist) who is well known as the loosest cannon since the Battle of Trafalgar. However, we understand the natural reluctance of the Tate to nominate people who paint pictures for a prize named after a painter."

Review 2007: Home

Andrew Boyd on Canberra

I grew up in Canberra, capital city of Australia. In recent years I've not thought of myself as a Canberran - too many tourists with those distinctive blue and white ACT plates behaving badly to give us anything other than a bad name. Canberra drivers are aggressive (whereas I am assertive), they are small-minded and petty (whereas I have a keen eye for detail and expect fellow motorists to be courteous and respectful of the road rules). You get the picture.

I think that the time has come for me to embrace my Canberran-ness. I did spend nearly 15 years in government service, so I can't really see the shame in being part of a government town. I've lived in this town for at least 35 of my 42 years - and while I've tried living elsewhere, I always seem to come back here.

I helped to raise my children here and near here. I fell in love here for the first time as a young man, and have recently fallen in love again here. I've bought houses here, rented here. I have family here.

Coming back to Canberra is coming home (despite the best efforts of QANTAS to make air travel to or from here unbearable).

I love the vibrancy of Spring here and the many colours of Autumn here. The seasons are really in-your-face - when it is hot in Summer, it is really hot, and when it is cold in Winter, the breath catches in your chest - it is really cold.

The popular conception of Canberra outside the nation's capital is a bit negative - the rest of Australia is often slinging mud at us because federal parliament is here and the newsfolk invariably start bad political news with "...and in Canberra today...". The trick is, guys, that whoever you vote for, a politician gets in - and for the 11 years of the previous regime I was able to keep saying "whoever it is, we probably didn't vote for them" (because Canberra has been a fairly safe Labour seat for around 35 years).

I am Canberran.

Andrew Boyd writes On Blogging Australia.

Click here to find out more about this review of 2007, read previous posts and learn about contributing yourself.

Review 2007: Home

Kat Herzog on Baltimore

Good Morning, Baltimore!

It was big news when the latest incarnation of Hairspray was released this summer, with Baltimore fawning over their Pope Of Trash.

I love this about Baltimore, and about John Waters. He deftly skewers this city with such love, and while the bowdlerized Broadway and Hollywood Hairsprays don't quite have that loving touch of smut that all Waters films have, they at least wink at what they've hidden behind the family-friendly songs and scripts.

John Waters' Pecker was my Baltimore Orientation, prescribed a few months before I moved here. And that was a good thing, because I pictured a city of boarded-up drug dens and, more or less, every plot line from Homicide: Life On The Street. That's not to say that Baltimore isn't like that from time to time, neighborhood to neighborhood, but, for the most part, it's alright. The people were voted the ugliest in the country a couple years ago, but I see a lot of kindness and good humor beneath the shabbiness and trashiness. (Ask me if my car gets vandalized again, and I may have a colder perspective.) They call it Charm City, but it's probably not really the sort of charm you're thinking of. It's a little smellier than that:
What does the city of Baltimore mean to you and what sets it apart from the rest of the country?
John Waters: The city of Baltimore is home to me. I've always made movies about what the Chamber of Commerce tried to hide and I always joke that they should put out a bumper sticker saying, "Come to Baltimore and be shocked" and they did about five years ago. I guess they've given up and realized that we have to celebrate the weirdness of the city.
I think that Baltimore understands that. When he filmed A Dirty Shame in my neighborhood not too long after I moved in, people fought over the suggestively trimmed set-dressing topiaries. Fought over, as in: they wanted the penis-shaped shrubbery in their front yard. I can't think of a place that has as much of a sense of humor about itself.

One must have at least an abstract fondness for vermin to call Baltimore home. I don't know if I truly understood that before that afternoon in the cool dark theatre, with my popcorn and my Raisinets, the opening sequence capturing Baltimore through and through, filling my heart with warm pride, the same sort of buzzy, humming feeling usually achieved through greeting-card commercials and holiday songs. Except for the fact that my heart was joyfully bursting, tears welling in my eyes, at the sight of John Waters's split-second cameo as the flasher next door.

Kat writes Geeky Sweet Nothings.

Click here to find out more about this review of 2007, read previous posts and learn about contributing yourself.

"I might as well say, right from the jump; it wasn't my usual kind of job" -- Hannah, Geraldine Brooks's 'People of the Book'

Books Geraldine Brooks's last book, March, was a Pulitzer prizewinner and found itself in Richard and Judy's Book Club reaching both ends of the critical spectrum. In that work, Brooks celebrated Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women, a childhood favourite of hers, by presenting the parallel story of the March family's absent father fighting in the American Civil War. The historical evocation of literature continues in Brooks's new novel, People of the Book, which describes the investigations by Hannah, an Australian rare book expert into the Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish sacred text which has survived for just over five centuries through wars and inquisitions.

The structure of the book is somewhat similar to Vincent Ward's luminous film The Red Violin, in which the titular instrument's life from ancient creation to contemporary auction was described through an intricate flashback structure, with near short films presenting the various owners of the violin. As Hannah discovers items stuck between the leaves and in the binding of the book, the action changes to the period in history where the book enveloped them from a priest during the inquisition to a museum working in Bosnia during the second world war. Linking these stories is a sense of a work of art forever being saved for future generations even when its Jewish religious utility conflicts with the prevailing theology of the time.

At times, this is an extraordinarily detailed text, keeping the reader aware of the sounds, images and particularly smells in an environment. One of the best scenes in the book occurs when Hannah comes into contact with the Haggadah for the first time, as pages are given over to putting the reader in the position of this privileged expert forensically turning the pages making us understand what she's expecting and also surprises her; the sense of the scent and feel of the pages is so clear that to the extent that we could imagine the new book we're reading the description from has similar properties. The author is careful to modulate this however and it's frequently the case that when scenes are set against a modern backdrop, the dialogue is more fluid and expository.

The problem is that although the Haggadah is an intriguing object, the structure of the novel, which is essentially an anthology with Hannah's story, told in the first person, weaving in and out, leads to a certain lack of impetus which despite everything makes it quite an arduous read. There's a repetitiveness to the Australian's discover of a new property - an insect wing or a wine stain and then the appearance of a story which explains how it got there. The intent could have been to mirror these ancient manuscripts which would feature a range of stories and ideas, some which only tangentially tie together, and perhaps it does work on the level of a short story collection with a connecting tissue. But Hannah's character is so attractively drawn, and the novel so comfortable amidst her observations, that it's a pity Brooks couldn't have found a way to present the whole story of the people of the book in her words.

Melon Farmer

TV SFX Magazine's blog offers a couple of Torchwood related posts which suggest two slight change of direction for the series:

The first is that there's to be a pre-watershed version of the show with altered dialogue and the implication of things which you wouldn't want your kids seeing. Since it appears to have been decided before filming, it might be quite as obvious as when Channel 4 took their scissors to the likes of Angel and Alias, often leading to episodes becoming fairly incoherent.

The second change is that it might be quite good
. There's lots of talk about more humour and the team having more affection for one another and only failing because the foe is overwhelming not because they're incompetent which all sounds good. You can get away with a lot if what your doing is a bit funny.

Review 2007: Home

Jennyfer Star on Stockholm

I could easily give 2007 a really bad review, but I´m not going to. Even though my life has been turned upside down (yes, litterary) I have learned how to see things from the bright side and to finally make lemonade of all those damn lemons.

Let me tell you a story:

Once there was a girl, so young and restless, ready to take over the world. She was a singing bird, but no nightingale. More like a crow with her hoarse voice and rocking style. She loved every inch of the rock n roll life style, but after a few years she started to fall apart. The drugs, the booze and the touring seemed to tear her down even though she didn´t want it to. She wanted so badly to love it and keep doing it forever. But one day she realized that forever wouldn´t last that long if she didn´t stop makin mischief.

After being off drugs a few years, she thought she was safe. She could still do the rockin and rollin, but it wasn't the same anymore. With sobriety comes maturity and with maturity comes pressure and stress. And our young girl couldn´t take the press of being the leader, the mature teacher and the arranger of everything. So in the first couple of months in the year of 2007 she quit her band, left her boyfriend, quit her job and her therapy sessions and became a solo artist on a sick leave.

The young girl is me as you may have figured out. I am still pretty young and pretty restless, but I´m also pretty tired of the whole thing. In the beginning of the year my home became my shelter. I got hit by the worst depression of my life and I just couldn´t go outside the door. Just when I thought things were getting better and I started to go out to meet people, I got drugged in a bar and I was back on square one again. The anxiety and the panic attacks just hit me like a lightning from above. I felt awful. Every day I was cramping and vomiting of the anxiety. And yet again I was bound to be enslaved in my home. This time it didn´t feel like a shelter at all. It felt like a prison. I didn´t want to be in this downward spiral again.

Four months has passed now since that incident in a well known rock club in Stockholm. I feel so much better now. I´m starting to take care of myself and my home. I have to make it feel comfortable and cosy, not like a grey cell on death row. (Okey, I admit, my apartment has never looked grey, it´s all pink.. But anyhow, a metaphor).

So what has Jennyfer Star learned this year? I have learned that I´m better off doin what I want but in MY way. I have learned to see the beautiful things in my life, and focus on them instead of all the misery and pain. This has lead me to being a more positive person, something I never thought I even WANTED to be. I guess there is a hope for everyone. You just have to believe in it yourself, even if no one else does it.

Jennyfer Star's official website and myspace page including blog.

Click here to find out more about this review of 2007, read previous posts and learn about contributing yourself.

Review 2007: Home

Angshuman Das on Mumbai

Home is different from house. When we say home, it encompasses feeling and warmth; it is more than a mere house, which essentially means a shelter. Therefore, the word home is often used as an uncountable noun without any article or adjective.

When I look back at the year, I find that the most important development that has happened to my home and neighborhood is change of location: I moved in the middle of the year. I moved from a Calcutta neighborbood to a Mumbai suburb. This move has been a techtonic shift for me.

The overwhelming feeling has been of dislocation. I am not sure yet whether I have settled, whether I like my new dwelling, or whether I would like to make Mumbai my home for the rest of my life. I am listless and clueless. It's as though I have lost my mooring, yet I don't know my destination.

From a familiar environment, I moved to a new place. I had lived in Calcutta for several years. I had been born in Calcutta, known as a center of art and culture -- and squalor. Calcutta is also a breeding ground of Indian communist and Marxist thought, the capital of a state ruled by the Left Front government, an alliance of communist and Left-leaning parties.

Mumbai, on the other hand, is India's financial and glamor capital. The world's largest movie industry, Bollywood, thrives in Mumbai. It has a great seafront, the skyline from Marine Drive, the main boulevard along the sea, looking like New York's.

Incidentally, both cities are compared with New York -- Calcutta is similar to New York as a center of arts and culture; Mumbai is similar as a center of high finance, glamor, and round-the-clock activity. Mumbai has been called the city that never sleeps. (That's true. At 1'O clock on a Saturday morning, you will find bumper-to-bumper traffic.)

Mumbai has its charms, but, again, is it home? Is it my home? My life is peaceful in Navi Mumbai, a "satellite township" that one needs to cross a bridge over the sea to access. I commute by train -- Mumbai has a giant local rail network that ferries passengers by millions each day.

I am one of those millions, eking out a living from a job in a management consulting company that advises corporations how to make more money and grow their businesses. I should be happy, for Mumbai has been called the city of opportunities.

Yet, I don't know what I feel. Is it ambivalence? Is it incomprehension, or nostalgia for my ealier home? I have no idea. I am lost. This year my home itself has moved, unsettling me.

Angshuman's blog is Cooking in Calcutta.

Click here to find out more about this review of 2007, read previous posts and learn about contributing yourself.

The photo of Mumbai is from flickr and used via a Creative Commons License.