those changed about eight times

TV Speaking of nerdy obsessions, we Doctor Who fans can be fairly anal about, well, everything and of the issues which some of us can get very exercised about is the consistency of merchandising inlays and covers. This reaches back as far was when the VHS tapes were being released and over the course of about twenty years the inlays on those changed about eight times which meant that if you were storing the episodes in story order they were a patchwork, with the logo appearing horizontally and vertically, the title in small and large writing and ultimately the whole thing being redesigned anyway [see the photo at this ebay listing].

It's not that these things didn't match; seeing a range of films with all of their different title designs next to each other wasn't a problem. It's that these things look just slightly inconsistent, that they could look the same if someone had cared enough to put some thought into it. So far the dvd releases have been fairly consistent. Since the second release, all of them have had the name of the show is on the side with the title of a particular story and whichever actor's face appearing in a little white circle. That changed after the first set of stories out for no particular reason, so now it looks like Tom Baker is very pleased with whole era apart from The Robots of Death:

But that's about it. There was a mountain of controversy a couple of years ago though, when the releases were shifted over to a company called 2Entertain who quite rightly wanted to slap their logo on somewhere and chose the little randomly coloured spot at the bottom of the spine and then decided to change the shade of their logo from black to white not long afterwards, resulting in a pattern like this appearing on a collector's shelf over time:

That hasn't bothered me. I like things to have a history, I like change. But I imagine, even if I don't need to because there have been online discussions at length about this, that there are fans who sit at home staring at these these spines, unable to come to terms with the lack of perfection, taking the fact that these things don't match any more oh so very personally. If you search in the right places online you can find other fans who've scanned in these inlays, photoshopped out the 2E logo and made them available for printing and replacing.

Skip through to this month's Doctor Who dvds (the Dalek Boxset which featuring Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks for those who care). A label on the plastic wrapper suggested that a reversable inlay was a unique selling point. I expected that it would be some special design but looking overleaf and found an identical image. Except: this past few months the BBC's merchandising logo has changed -- where once BBC Audiobooks and whoever were content to simply slap the square logo on the front (as appears on the BBC website) lately it's been replaced a bright, square multi-coloured box with the proper logo in the middle.

I thought there might be trouble and sure enough it is splattered over the front of this dvd and more "importantly" the spine, replacing the original logo (see above). If the obsessive fan was irritated about the 2E thing, they'd be apoplectic about this:

But, if you look carefully on the back of the much vaunted reversible cover:

That's what I call fan service.

nerdy obsession

Art Bridget Riley, whose retrospective is currently playing at The Walker in Liverpool, talks about her inspiration:
"For the last 50 years, it has been my belief that as a modern artist you should make a contribution to the art of your time, if only a small one. When I was young, the situation was very different. Abstract painting hung like a mirage in the desert. The door had been pushed open by a small number of visionary artists – mainly Mondrian, Kandinsky, Malevich, Rodchenko. Although travelling by different routes, each had arrived at what was virtually a common core. Having discarded the figure and nature, what remained? Colour as colour itself, those simple shapes and forms that geometry and writing provided, and the material facts."
I continue to be impressed by the nerdy obsession of Riley (of course) even if I'm ultimately disappointed with the resulting paintings.

another pass of the robot dog's dialogue

TV New K-9 spin off trailer:

"Let's grab her and get our butts back through the portal."
"Agreed. Rapid transport of butts imperative."

No, not at all, no. That said, with the addition of John Leeson's voice and what sounds like another pass of the robot dog's dialogue, it's less insulting than the first draft. Still looks like a photocopy of The Sarah Jane Adventures though. That this already has twenty-six episodes in the can and SJA's had to take a budget cut for its third series to make twelve episodes demonstrates that world's axis turns at slightly the wrong angle. Perhaps I'm just bitter because I know I'm going to end up reviewing all twenty-six of those sodding episodes on Behind The Sofa.

"Most of my friends call me Big Phil..."


tip over

Film Even at this late stage in his career Alfred Hitchcock experimented with what’s possible and how the audience can be misled, especially in relation to narrative technique. Torn Curtain is essentially split into three sections. At first the story – of the wife (Julie Andrews) of a US scientist (Paul Newman) who discovers that he is defecting to the Soviet Union – is presented almost exclusively from her point of view which means that we’re as bewildered as she is. Then, when we find out why he’s gone over to the other side, that point of view switches to Newman so that the main exposition of the story can be revealed, with the last section joining them together on the usual dash through the countryside now that we understand what is at stake.

Hitchcock originally wanted to see Cary Grant and Eve Marie Saint to repeat their North by Northwest partnership for Torn Curtain, but Grant was nearing retirement and the studio all but forced him to go another way, so he was “stuck” with Newman and Andrews who were the two biggest film stars of the period. Predictably there was tension on set and in places it does seem to tip over onto the screen. Newman clearly wants to be giving one kind of performance but is self-consciously blasting himself elsewhere with Andrews taking some of the collateral damage. But it’s nearly impossible to imagine Grant in the farmhouse scene just as it’s exciting to see Andrews in one of her first straight dramatic roles almost acting him off the screen.

Flash 'conducting'

Music Guitar Hero, the Gustavo Dudamel edition. Flash 'conducting' fun.

new canal adjustment at the Pier Head

Liverpool Life Starman has just arrived in Liverpool having spent the past two or three months travelling up by canal boat from Ramsey in Cambridgeshire. He's blogged about the trip:
"This is a fascinating city - and a friendly one too. The friendliness is everywhere - we were puzzling over an informati0n board and someone came up and asked if they could help. Not only that, they also suggested a park we could take the dog for a walk.
Even the bus drivers are friendly - now that is unusual! We got on one to go to Sefton Park (beautiful spot with a stunning Palm House) and he pointed us to a quicker one instead. That driver let us off some of the fare because we didn't have the change. Later on the run he stopped early before one stop, hopped out of his cab, opened the door, lifted a little Indian girl's suitcase onto the pavement for her "save you walking back up the hill, luv"."
Has some amazing shots of the new canal adjustment at the Pier Head directly from the boat.

a teasy-tease-tease-tease

TV Flash Forward (which began in the UK last night) is a teasy-tease-tease-tease. Like Lost and Heroes and any number of similar shows, it’s retrofitted to draw the viewer in which questions and crypticism even though it will take weeks, months even years worth of episodes before anything is explained and even then it’ll inevitably be less interesting than what we have floating about our imaginations. But we fall for it (nearly) every time because these days it’s simply not enough to have a straightforward story, there has to be a twist and not everything can be revealed before the close of the episode.

It’s a good premise: everyone on earth somehow blacks out and sees what appears to be a vision of themselves six months in the future for just over two minutes. They’re then left to clean up a disaster stricken planet whilst trying to come to terms with this possible glimpse of their fate. One of the ongoing elements of the series will be each character’s revelation of what they saw in that future and how often they’re telling the truth (and I expect that even if the viewer if offered a glimpse of what they’re saying, it might not always be reliable).

The main criticism so far seems to be that the characters are fairly bland group of individuals though I think there’s method in that. I think that the producers, conscious of their far out premise are weaving an example of what I think William Goldman calls 'smuggling' -- it's doing something fairly complex but giving it all of the attributes of something simplistic. Lost began similarly with what seemed like a simply case of a plane wreck then slowly weaved in the time travel elements over time.

In other words, this looks like Grey's Anatomy crossed with 24, and everyone talks about the big concept like characters from those programmes, so that the big concept can work for a mainstream audience, following some fairly standard storytelling tropes to make the premise abundantly clear, something Dollhouse failed to do at the very beginning and paid for later. Plus Lost’s pilot was double the length of this and had more time to introduce the characters.

If Flash Foward indeed a show about time travel (though I don’t yet think that’s clear – see below), so far it looks like a pre-destination paradox -- the future events unspooling having been set in motion because the people are now aware of that future. It's co-created by Brannan Braga who was the go-to man for time travel stories in Star Trek from The Next Generation onwards. He wrote all kinds of flavours of time travel episodes including pre-destination paradoxes -- though more often than not whatever it was ended up being resolved via technobabble.

Taking all those issues and elements into account, I very much enjoyed it. It does have a sense of humour, especially in relation to the flashes and though I think it was hurt by having to cram so much plot into its opening forty-minutes left some of the character material a bit soapy and chiched, there was enough to suggest that there was more going on with that than meets the eye. It’s good cast too – pulling in Jack Davenport and Alex Kingston suggests the casting people are looking to be a bit imaginative than usual.

Some other theories that assume you’ve watched the thing and know what the hell I’m talking about:

- Sonya Walgar character we're led to believe is having an affair with Jack Davenport in the future. She played Sally in the US version of Coupling. Davenport was of course Steve in the UK version.

- There was a billboard for Oceanic, the airline in Lost on one of the billboards. Expect wild speculation that this is somehow a secret spin-off.

- There's scope for John Cho's FBI character to be lying. Though in this show, as I said, there’s scope for anybody to be lying, especially since some of the casting in the flashes is predetermined by the availability of actors. It's brave to have someone like Kingston since it assumes she'll not be busy when the story catches up. See also Amy Acker in Dollhouse who was weaved into the big storyline only to find work elsewhere when it looked like the show wasn’t going to be renewed and … oh dear.

- Given Braga's involvement there's nothing to stop alien involvement. Though the ghostly figure in the sports stadium brought to mind the angels in Wings of Desire/City of Angels. I wouldn’t rule out the metaphysical at this point.

- My assumption was that though they flashed forward and saw their future they couldn't impact upon it -- their mind sort of hung in there a bit like John Cusack at the end of Being John Malkovich. If they’re looking for a late season twist, it’s that some people could become lucid in those moments, then forgot.

- What if they didn't see their future? What if the bad guys triggered a mass, wildly consistent hallucination of a fictional future (something in the order of The Matrix) in order to make people's lives head off in a different direction towards a version of the future they want, so that certain of the population would be in positions and taking decisions they wouldn't have been otherwise (like having three FBI agents investigating this fictional future and not working on other cases) which the bad guys could then take advantage of the results for some nefarious reason.

- Assuming we did see the future, a gigantic twist would be if in just the first season the characters all caught up with it, the cliffhanger being, “What now?” or another flash to another six months in the future and that it’s a cyclical phenomena which can then be accounted for by the populace.

Finally, of course,

Who’s In It From Doctor Who?

Alex Kingston as Fiona Banks

Was River Song in Forest of the Dead/The Silence In The Library


Film Wonderful David Bordwell analysis of the work done to adapt Vikas Swarup’s 2005 novel Q & A into the film Slumdog Millionaire:
Beaufoy has sharpened the plot by giving Jamal a basic goal: to unite with Latika. The quiz episodes form a means to that end: the boy goes on the show because he knows she watches it. If told in chronological order, the quiz-show stretches would have come late in the film and become a fairly monotonous pendant to the romance plot. One of the many effects of the flashback arrangement is to give the subsidiary goal more prominence, creating a parallel track for the entire film to move along and arousing anomalous suspense. (We know the outcome, but how do we get there?)
Not much I can add other than another link to my own article about film adaptation written when I was an undergrad.

scene I've seen


Yes, this is quite surprising and probably one of the most in-spirit version of the scene I've seen [via]

some nouns and verbs

Film Here are some nouns and verbs I wasn't previously aware of:

Not safe for work, obviously, because of the swearing, unless you have very liberal employers. Outlaw might be one of the few dvds which shifts a few on the strength of the commentary alone. Peter Bradshaw, the recipient of much of their ire has responded, repeating his initial criticism of the film but also graciously heaping some praise on director Nick Love's latest, a remake of Alan Clarke's The Firm.

If you're looking another commentary in the same vein, have a listen to chat tracks for Kevin Smith's otherwise fairly innocuous Jersey Girl. One includes Jason Mewes, Jay to Smith's Silent Bob, (hilariously) explaining the drug related reasons why he isn't in the film. The other has Smith and Ben Affleck trying to account for the film's poor showing at the box office, naming and shaming a few critics in the process.

monkeys fall out

Books Brian Edwards, New Zealand author, believes that libraries, that's public libraries (and academic libraries I suppose) are promoting the left of copyrighted material with authors losing due payment for their work because one copy could be read by hundreds and hundreds of people. In other words, Sefton Park Library is like a real world Pirate Bay for books:
"But there’s a principle here: when one person buys a book and lends it to another person to read, they effectively become an accessory to theft. Their generous act amounts to little more than stealing the author’s work. When a public library buys a book and lends it to thousands of other people to read, it’s grand theft copyright and really no different from illegally downloading music or movies or copying CDs or DVDs on your computer."
Of course his argument breaks down because he studiously fails to mention academia as though there's any real difference. You can't say public libraries are evil without properly addressing all of the other varieties. Perhaps its because Edwards is a journalist who throughout his career will have needed to use some kind of library for research. Would he be pleased if every time he needed to look at a document he had to pay for the privilege? No. Which is clearly why he's trying to make the distinction.

You can enjoy a couple of dozen other people picking holes in his argument and Edwards's resulting righteous indignation in the comments to his post and where I found it at The Inquisitor. Don't get me wrong, I love it when writers rattle cages to see if the monkeys fall out and to an extent he isn't wrong. People do borrow books from libraries and read them for free rather than pick them up in libraries. Authors will lose some revenue as a result. But do we want to live in a world were people are deterred from reading because sometimes they can't afford to do it?