Blog! Zoe Margolis writes movingly about her blogging experiences for The Observer:
But women have needs, and eventually I ended up bedding a series of Z-list (OK, perhaps M-list) celebrities who approached me through the blog and who I knew wouldn't spill the beans, due to our shared desire for privacy. Hotels were obtained, condoms procured, and an author, a rock star and a TV personality were all ticked off my nonexistent list. The excitement and novelty of these secret trysts soon wore off though; I began to realise that I did need external validation from someone - but of the emotional sort. The aftermath of losing my anonymity had left me feeling fragile: I needed to curl up in someone's arms, not just shag them senseless.
Good to know she's getting her life back together.
Life As I've recently tweeted I'm currently having an issue with back pain. It began last night just before I went out and today it was excruciating. I think it's just general stiffness from sitting down instead of walking around a lot recently which is my fault but I don't think its anything more serious than that. It's felt a bit better in the past couple of hours but that could just be the Ibuprofen kicking in.

What it does mean is that I'm not in much of a mood to actually very much more than ironically lying down and watching a lot of sport. Excellent day at the pool, though it's a shame that one of my ones to watch James Goddard couldn't have got a better shot in the pool -- but he was rather stuck in the final with Michael Phelps so didn't really stand a chance. Still, another Olympic final in any career is no mean feat. Still Canoeist Lucy Wainright to go in the K1 500 beginning on Tuesday.

Candle & Coffee Cup

Candle & Coffee Cup

Took this photo at The Tavern on Smithdown Road last night. I like The Tavern -- it's the perfect place to go if you just want to have a chat about something; it's part bar, part restaurant which means the coffee is always freshly made and the piped music, usually blues or jazz, is never too loud. Plus as you can see it relies on candle light which means that you can feel as though your words are disappearing into the darkness.

'This seems like a job for me...'

"But really, would you really want to do that to yourself, really?"

Body-Mod: Elf Ears
Yes really, and there's no denying that the effect is beautiful and strange. But really, would you really want to do that to yourself, really?

John Oliver analyses Fox News
To an extent this is like shooting fish in a teacup, but Oliver does manage to land a few good shots including the material about the change in editorial policy depending upon who's in the White House.

Soapy Scenes
Jane Espenson visits a soap set. The actual production methods still seem to resemble the BBC drama department from the fifties through to the late eighties.

Bravo, Gustavo
Indeed, last night's Prom was one of the best of the season. I've not been writing about this season much because I'm sorry to admit I haven't been enjoying it as much as last year. Too much Messian and a general lack of really passionate music as far as my ears can tell. Well, there's always this I suppose!

I can't be the only one surely?

TV In the event, BBC Three's new Spooks: Code 9 wasn’t as awful as the pre-broadcast previews suggestions. It's not perfect -- the derivative nature of the material and being a pointless spin-off saw to that, but considering its bastard origin, after a few initial hiccups it turned into a half-decent piece of Orwell-lite, Whedon-lite entertainment with a half decent plot arc and some neat characterisation. It didn’t open well -- the too swift description of the catastrophe (which was very ironic in the light of the recent think tank announcement) then smash straight into spy craft with lots of quick cutting and shouting and pop culture reference was particularly dated and Joanne Frogatt seemed unsure how to pitch her performance at the leader Hannah, to the point of being irresistibly annoying.

But once she got the bullet (the unexpected death being a well worn Spooks tradition begun in fine style when Lisa Faulkner saw the wrong end of a chip pan), the mis-en-scene calmed down and set about defining the real ensemble and telling a proper story with long scenes full of acting. This isn’t an awful idea -- recent graduates and their fellow hoodlums working for the security services in a time of crisis and in the end, establishing the status quo up front rather than having an apocalyptic first episode added a much needed sense of mystery as the audience attempted to catch up on the intervening history. If it's possible, the series seems to have an even stronger political agenda than the main channel version, speculating on the lengths the security services would go to in protecting society, with civil libertarians becoming terrorists to get their point across.

It makes a change to have the maths geek in charge rather than at the bottom of the pecking order trying to prove to his boss how clever he is, and smart to make him the opposite of one Harry Pearce who seems to know everyone. As far as we can tell Charlie doesn’t know anyone and has to rely on his more connected deputy Rachel to do some of the dirty work. Some of the best scenes are between these two as the former quietly asks the latter for advise away from the hearing of the rest of the gang. Of course for us Doctor Who fans it’s interesting to see what Georgia Moffat did next after playing the Doctor’s daughter though saddled with a horrifyingly unconvincing character name (Kylie Roman) and bizarre red wig (that not her natural hair colour is it) she’s yet to really shine (apart from offering an admirable right hook at the start of the first episode).

The plots are typical Spooks fare except on a smaller scale -- discover who the shooter/bomber/traitor is and stop them. But because these agents lack experience their mistakes mean that the outcome isn't completely certain and as we saw they may not save the day. This neatly sidesteps the perennial problem of the parent series where the apparently very experienced adults drop a hundred IQ points in order for the plot to move forward. Setting the series in a fiction city and blurring the geography also means the audience is on the back foot even if the place is clearly being filmed in the oh so real Leeds. It’s actually easy enough to assume all this is happening in a different timeline to the other show, simply trading on the name, and format. The trick for the series, just four more episodes to go, will be in keeping the element of surprise and attempting to be different enough from its parent series.
Elsewhere Father Time is awesome.
I'm not much of a fan, but even I grinned at this:


Father Time.

FathertimeFather Time is awesome.  When the BBC held The Big Read in 2003 to find the nation's favourite books, I was unabashed in voting for this novel in the online section of the poll.  Partly this is because spin-off novels tend to be ignored in such things as though its entirely impossible that they might be considered in the same breath as other literature even though, as SFX’s recent articles have uncovered its often more difficult to write within a shared universe than one of your own choosing, but mostly because as I said, it's awesome.

In the end I was quite disappointed if unsurprised that my probably solitary vote did not lead to Parkin’s book receiving the advocate treatment with Paul McGann or whoever telling us in their allotted twenty minutes exactly why Father Time is awesome and so by way of a substitute I thought I’d offer my reasons instead and since this will involve spoiling a great deal of the book, you’ll have to click the link to read the rest.  If you don’t want to spoil the surprises all I’ll say is that this isn’t just one of the best of the Eighth Doctor novels, but one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time.  Period…

It’s quite surprising at the opening of the first chapter to find the author writing in the first person, like someone telling a story to us, consciously putting themselves into the narrative.
Even at its most experimental, the usual process in Doctor Who is for the author to make themselves subservient to the storytelling, rather like the invisible editing style of old Hollywood.  Parkin is far more indie in his approach, quite comfortable in digressing into irrelevant little bits of character and description which, whilst not moving the plot forward, provide the kind of atmosphere which can sometimes be lacking.  He’s using the format the best of its advantage, often nonchalantly changing the point of view mid-scene often in ways which heighten both tension and comedy.  But -- and this is important -- it's never self-indulgent.  When he notices that the story is most important, he instigates a more traditionalist style and lets that take precedence.  Not once does it seem like he's simply falling into reinterpreting some familiar tropes.  At the release of the film There Will Be Blood, critic Mark Kermode described it as rewriting the language of cinema as you watch.  In Father Time, Lance Parkin rewrites the language of Doctor Who as you read.

The book is set in three time periods, at the beginning middle and end of the eighties, and it’s the first time we can really see the amnesiac Eighth Doctor develop over a sweeping period and I think it's the longest continuous period the Doctor's effectively involved in one story (he comes and goes in things like The Ark).  The plot is fairly well described on the back of the book -- after helping to repel an alien invasion, the Doctor adopts an orphan, Miranda, who’s not of this world and may be of his and we see how he deals with fatherhood.  Parkin’s backdrop is very much of the period, and the story takes place in a far more realistic setting than we’re used to.  This is Thatcher’s Britain and the Doctor notices that the best way to protect his new daughter is to become a yuppie and take advantage of his skills in the prevailing financial upsurge.  It’s the Whoniverse equivalent of Stephen Poliakov’s drama Friends and Crocodiles as we see the decade unfold around the time lord with him coasting its advantages and disadvantages, advising businesses on how to improve themselves so that he can purchase his own very big (secure) house in the country.

Pop culture references abound, most of them knowing and most of them right.  Having grown up in that decade I grinned at mentions of everything from Star Wars to Star Trek to Buck Rogers via Phil Collins.  He also wraps them into the context for the story.  One of the alien invaders at the opening is clearly supposed to be the transformer Bumblebee and the close of the novel is set on the Starship Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) by another name.  When reflecting back on the decade its really this that I remember and not the political situation -- these are things which you sort of pick up later in life at college or watching documentaries on BBC Four.  The novel effectively a quasi-historical Doctor Who story unafraid to set itself with a time period when the show was actually on the air and not simply produce a  nostalgia and comics fabrication ala Remembrance of the Daleks or Ashes To Ashes -- this is exactly what Britain was like at the time

I managed to write in relatively glowing terms about a certain episode from the recent series of Doctor Who though in a minxian manoeuvre I failed to mention Father Time and also the fact that Lance Parkin not only went there first, he did a much better job of it.  Watching the Doctor build a relationship with Miranda over a decade makes his attachment to her a far more realistic proposition which means when he does admit that fatherly love for her it's heart wrenching.  It also allows Miranda to develop, from tweeny to teenager to young adult,
smarter than he friends yet going through the same growing pains.  She’s also funny and a mirror image of her Dad, often seeing relationships as source of discovery more than anything else.  There’s a wonderful moment when she’s in a clinch with a boy and has to decide if blushing would be too much -- she can actually control those emotions and wonders which of them she should be deploying at that moment.  It's unfair to make the comparison, but much of the attraction of Jenny was Georgia Moffatt's, um, performance, whereas Miranda is dimensionally transcendental (sorry!).

Having helped originate the character in The Dying Days, it’s no surprise that Parkin should be able to recreate the man so intelligently.  What is surprising is how the Doctor suddenly seems to have had his balls handed back to him, after spending the past four or five novels essentially being carried along by events.  Much of this is because he’s not trying to defend the Earth especially -- all of his motives are about protecting Miranda and through this he becomes the hero we’ve all loved once again.  Sure there are cherishable Doctorish moments, such as when he constructs a sonic suitcase which he hopes to miniaturise some day and offers to explain later when something seems like it would take too long to explain.  He’s at his best when taking down the aforementioned transformer, he also pushes aside assassins from the future, and in a master stroke, when she’s captured and orbiting the Earth in a warship, steals a space shuttle so that he can go and meet and then, in a move which seems like the ‘I’m coming to get you speech…’ from Bad Wolf times a hundred somehow manages to take over the warship using just the sound of his voice.  As I said, awesome.

We also finally get an idea of what its been like to have been living on the planet unaging for a century.  We hear what happened when he woke up on the train carriage a century before and exactly why he hasn’t really become involved in world affairs even though as he muses he could have made it a better place.  Elements of all of the previous novels are mentioned, including that reference to Claudia from The Stranger who we discover he met in 1976 when as he puts it “spending some time with a … friend” the cheeky pause telling you everything you ever need to know about that relationship should you never want to read about it on the page.  Then, just as you think everything has settled down, he goes to visit Betty from Casualties of War in hospital and in a heartbreaking moment we realise that he’s kept in touch with her across the years and through her has realised that he can’t be of Earth because he hasn’t made the same ties as she has and that Miranda is his attempt to do just that.

I’ve come this far without mentioning the real companion of the story or his adversaries.  Debbie Castle is Miranda’s teacher who eventually after losing her husband moves in with the Doctor.  The nature of their relationship is generally hinted at though the impression is that she's very much fallen into the companion and their sparring is similar to the Doctor/Donna mode and like Tate’s character we see her develop emotionally across the novel from being in thrall to an abusive husband to becoming a confident, intelligent person and it’s a tragedy that events mean that she can’t continue past the end of this novel, especially since she is the most rounded of the characters we‘ve seen in the Earth arc.  At the time of publication there was a, now sadly deleted, article at the BBC website which suggested what a set visit would be like if Father Time was being filmed.  It suggested Minnie Driver would play Debbie, which is a perfect fit.

The alien adversaries from the future don’t want to destroy the Earth.  They simply want to find and kill Miranda for the sins of her parents, more specifically her father and his genocidal tendencies (it's since been hinted by Parkin that he father might indeed be the Doctor, but some future incarnation of him).  They’re grim because they want to kill a young girl and that’s more than enough.  After the initial flurry of activity, which features a couple
called the Hunters, not quite human with the verbal wit of the Hale and Pace characters The Management (in a good way if there is one), they’re stripped back to Ferran, a young buck who wants to love Miranda as much as he wants to kill her.  By the end of the book he’s grown up and totally mad, yet for a while he’s also rather sympathetic and as nervous as boys often are when trying to talk to girls.  His conquest is based on love rather than property which makes it a very potent change, even if by the end he turns into the kind of raving loon which is usually needed at the epic conclusion of such stories.

I’ve noted in previous reviews how various elements and scene look like dry runs for the new series and like The Dying Days, Father Time also seems like its been carefully stripmined for ideas.  Though Miranda’s journey has elements of Jenny’s story hotwired into them, most of the time its individual moments which seem slightly familiar, though the biggest comes in the closing moments when one of the pilot of the very bug ship muses as he sees the Doctor face fill the view screen:  “The Pilot had heard legends of the Doctor - everyone had: how he’d destroyed planets, how he’d wiped out whole intelligent species, how he’d brought darkness to the universe, how he travelled through time and space wiping out his enemies and turning those he abducted into monsters and terrorists.”  Sound familiar?

I suspect I’ve ultimately failed in the above to really explain why this is such an awesome book.  It’s not so much the brilliance of these individual elements but the fact that they’re all interacting in the same story.  Throughout you’re acutely aware that the writer having become so thoroughly conscious of the mythology that he’s able to ignore most of it and produce something that’s both nothing like any Doctor Who novel you’ve ever read and yet have Doctor Who running right through it.  It’s intangible and impossible to really put your finger on why Father Time should be more successful than most other stories except
that throughout you feel as though it all means something, you’re never bored, that nothing looks like a perfunctory scene to get you to the next bit and that one every page there’s a moment which has you grinning or even laughing out loud.

At time of publication it must have seemed revolutionary, with this very emotional version of the time lord risking everything to save one person, someone he loves, and yet to an extent that what we’ve now been seeing week in and out on a Saturday night.  Then, just as the book should be slowing down, there’s a scene which acts almost as one of those mid-season trailer suggesting treats to come which also offers the Doctor that grain of hope he’s been waiting for -- that come 2001 many of the questions about himself and his place in the universe will be answered.  No wonder, in what turns out to be my favourite moment, when offered the find all of this information out about who he is and what his future holds via a giant futuristic library he decides that since he’s come this far to do that would be cheating.  In other words, no spoilers…

More on the mystery film reviewer

Film A quick update on yesterday's post: Caroline and Herb have been through the post-its and translated everything where possible. Thanks very much. I get the impression from their efforts that this is someone with a real sense of humour and also female, not just because of the handwriting but also their apparent love for Ethan Hawke.

There's also a stonking clue as to the writer's identity spotted by Herb. On the review for Exotica, our film fan says: "Discovered at Cegep with Serge Pallascio. A work of art, in my opinion." Herb, who's Canadian says "The Cegep mention leaves a big clue as to where the person is from. It's a post secondary part of the school system in Quebec. "

But here's where it gets really interesting: Serge Pallascio is a journalist, in Quebec, and according to this archive edition of the college newspaper from The University of British Columbia was arrested in 1970 during a governmental shut out. A bit more digging and we discover that he's still a freelancer variously writing for various magazines. Is he a friend of our mystery person or even a teacher who's also still writing on the side?

'Sarah Polley = Lucy M. Montgomery'

Bring It On, originally uploaded by feelinglistless.

I was passing through Oxfam today and found myself flicking through a film review book. This isn't something I'd usually do, since I've monogamously been reading the Time Out Film Guides for over a decade and although it's always good to have a second opinion, Time Out has always seemed to chime exactly with mine. But something drew me to The New York Times: The Best DVDs You've Never Seen, Just Missed or Almost Forgotten and I think it might have been, after looking at the back of the cover, because it was an American book which had somehow found itself deposited on Bold Street in Liverpool.

Glancing across the pages I discover just how curious it was. Sporadically, across the reviews are post-it notes, which seem to have been left there by the previous owner, sometimes in English, sometimes in French, offering pithy opinions or comments about each of the films. Picking a couple at random: Doug Lyman's Go attracts 'Sarah Polley = Lucy M. Montgomery', Dead Man Walking 'Intressment' and Bring It On 'Best DVD? OK! Ils font aucime discrimination!!! xxx' or something like that, the handwriting is often a bit unclear. It's wonderful and strange and mysterious and I've uploaded pictures of every single note to flickr so that you can read them yourself, and if you know some French, perhaps you could try and offer some translations in the comments there. I'd love to know what some of them actually say.

A boring post about what I was doing last night. And tonight for that matter.

Life At about 10:40 last night I screamed. Actually, it might have been more of a yelp, but I certainly came out in a cold sweat, and was saying the 'no' word over and over and wondering what the hell I should do. I, or rather my computer had been infected with this:
"BOGUS ALERTS pretending to have been sent from US TV news network CNN are spam that lures wibblers to over 1,000 hacked websites that are pushing fake, malware-infested Flash Player software, Internet security watchdogs have warned."
I'm ashamed to admit I was taken in. I was very tired having just watched the double bill of BBC Three's new show, Spooks: Code 9 (commentary soon), I clicked the link in the email, went to the bogus CNN site, clicked the download Flash link and within seconds, my wallpaper had turned blue, there was a scary warning in the middle and I was aperplectic.

I searched the web and found a fix and managed to delete everything it told me too, even entering the registry and deleting things there and though the scary wallpaper went and the wierd processes filled with strings of unfriendly characters were deleted, yet every time I went online, the connection would fire up and I'd be paranoid.

Such is my nerdiness I didn't sleep much last night, but today having spoken to someone with more of clue of what's going on with these computer whatsits than I do -- and searching Google News and discovering it's not just me in this I calmed down, the colliwobbles went and I realised two things:

(1) I bought half a terrabyte on Saturday. I can back up my files.
(2) It's about time I did a cold reinstall of Windows. As I think I indicated the other day, my computer is the digital equivalent of home -- it just keeps gathering stuff.

So that's what I did. Backed up what I needed and reinstalled the XP. Time consuming, but did let me sort out a few things, like removing the useless partition Dell had included and some of the other crapware that was preinstalled and I've never been able to do much with. It's also even faster. Yet it doesn't quite feel the same yet. Give it time.

It's Ninth Vs. Tenth

TV It's the multiple Doctor story we've all been hoping for. Well, not really, but as The Flick Filosopher MaryAnn notices, Chris & Dave acted together in Michael Winterbottom's miserablist film drama Jude. Also starring Dexter Fletcher and James Nesbitt, so it's really a Davies vs. Moffat casting orgy.

A boring post about hard disks.

Life Yesterday morning I meandered through the torrential rain and headed out to finally buy an external hard disk. When I originally bought this Dell PC, I had to do it with the budget I had at the time and ended up skimping on the disk space for a better processor and more memory. Twelve months later and the poor thing filled up with mainly music and photos and had slowed to a crawl Having shopped around for several months (I'm very thorough) I decided I wanted something big and that I didn't need it to be portable. In other words I wanted something like this, the Maxtor Basics 500GB External Hard Drive.

It's massive. I've copied all of the music and photos and a couple of other things on there and its only a quarter full, it's a seemingly bottomless pit, the storage equivalent of that hole which Indiana Jones had to walk across in The Last Crusade. There are larger -- a hundred pounds would have bought a terrabite, but I didn't want to be greedy, plus I had enough stress trying to justify spending sixty on something which simply to have somewhere else to store all of that girly music and soundtracks and podcasts. But there's no doubting that my desktop is faster, no longer grunting and wheezing as it attempts to work out exactly how I ended up with an S Club 7 Greatest Hits, something I'm not exactly clear about either.
Video I'm still trying to work out the best way to show video -- embed or link. Whilst I wrestle with that, take a look at this:

Despite having been put together by a fan of whoever this is, the mournful music renders it somewhat hilarious, like an Armando Ianucci spoof. She's not dead. Though according to a commenter at You Tube she is pregnant.
Elsewhere Superlambanana-on-and-on. My photographs are finally grouped at flickr. Hope you like them.
Sport Quick Olympic update. Archer Larry Godfrey went shooting on the first day of the championship finishing 34th on 657 points on the first day of the Men's individual (70m) ranking round. Since I've no real idea of how Archery scoring works, I can't tell you if that's normal, a good thing, or everything is lost.