even the animation

Elsewhere My review of Doctor Who's Dreamland which I enjoyed immensely, even the animation.


TV There’s something moderately disconcerting about watching a new Doctor Who episode for the first time on a Saturday morning. Right day, right season (depending upon your opinion of these kinds of things) just at completely the wrong hour, totally missing the day long anticipation that comes with a tea time transmission. I ended up with the 10am showing because I lacked the patience for trying to follow the timings of the episodic version on the red button service and my limited mobile internet package simply couldn’t have taken the strain of the chunky bandwidth sapping web edition. But this is a cartoon, and it’s probably (on reflection) about right that it should be in this time slot – it served The Infinite Quest quite well the other year and changes our expectations as to content. Dreamland would have been simply incongruous in the tea time slot though there was enough to entertain adults, not least the Die Hard references …

Televisual Who has been unsurprisingly reticent about setting itself in the big country and most often it has been with a format that aped an established Hollywood format like westerns (The Gunfighters), silents (The Feast of Steven), the TV movie (failed sci-fi tv pilots) and gangster films (Daleks In Manhattan). Though the spin-offs have redressed the balance somewhat, it's perhaps because the show’s essential Englishness, that which makes it unique amongst genre franchises, is tied to heavily to it's parochialness. Planetary colonies are established predominantly by the British, aliens tend to threaten London and the expectation that audience are less willing to empathise if the human plight is over there, despite something like Independence Day grossed nearly £10 million in the UK alone – though even that had a UK radio spin-off with the classic scene of Sir Patrick Moore duffing up one of the aliens, big Willie-style ("Either I'm concussed, or I'm watching Patrick Moore fistfighting with an extraterrestrial!"). Even global threats are envisioned through an anglophile prism.

So what would seem like the hugest narrative magnet, Area 51, has gone largely untapped with only a mention in Dalek and the early BBC Missing Adventure novel The Devil Goblins from Neptune actually spending time within its walls (the Doctor clearly having forgotten this earlier visit when he had Pertwee’s face, probably during one of the eighth Doctor’s many amnesiatic episodes, it’s all canon etc), presumably because UNIT and now Torchwood serve much the same function. In attempt to redress the balance, Phil Ford’s script drops the Doctor into a pot pourri of 50s b-movie tropes from the all important greys to giant insect predators and marries them to the kind of US military types who lined their tanks up to give Klaatu a talking to In The Day The Earth Stood Still and then fragrances them further with a smattering of cold war paranoia (“The reds? Manchester United?”) and contemporary horror references (Alien, Aliens, stopping just short of a McGann fan pleasing reference).

After his less than stellar adventures with Sarah Jane but excellent collaboration with Mr Davies on The Water of Mars I was quite nervous to hear what Phil Ford would do with a solo adventure. Well, he certainly didn't "nuke the fridge". Presumably because of the requirements of the short episode format, the story rattles along, shifting from one end of the desert to another, taking in all of the locales you might expect from these studio quickies, from empty diners to abandoned towns that might have been part of the studio backlot to the rocky interior of “Dreamland” Ford is clearly understands his subject and he’s very comfortable writing for animation (I’ve heard good things about his Captain Scarlet revival), knowing that often simplicity is the key. There’s a sense of wonder here which is sometimes absent from his Sarah Jane adventures.

Grey Within that, Ford layers elements more associated with Doctor Who; a huge interplanetary battle underpinning a small terrestrial skirmish, the seeming mcguffin that turns out to be the solution, and the Doctor’s expectation that entire races never deserve annihilation, no matter how blood-thirsty, because they may have the capacity for change, including a useful contrast of the infamous “Have I that right?” scene. Some might argue that the Tenth Doctor’s motto is “no second chances” but in this instance he appears to have seen the Viperox’s future and knows that peaceful intentions lay ahead. Though on the surface Ford’s script seemed entirely superficial, as the story blasted onward, he manages to subtly and sometimes not so subtly smuggle in quite weighty thematic material.

Otherwise the format seems to restrict Ford’s characterisation though that doesn't hamper the actors too much, most of them rising to the challenge. The greys, Rivesh and Seruba are the most sympathetic and depthful and played by with heartfelt ease by Lisa “Bernice” Bowerman. David Warner brings a certain pantomime brilliance to Lord Azlok and Stuart Milligan is perfectly gruff as Stark but it seems a shame to have Clarke Peters from The Wire and only give him about three lines (well, at least it means I can finally unify an old joke from movie blog Ultra Culture and my own rip-off of it). It’s also obviously a very good thing indeed to finally see Georgia Moffat’s name in the titles (albeit not playing the character we’d like her to be playing), but neither she or Tim Howar have much to do beyond the some old school question asking companionism as waitress Cassie and her friend Jimmy Stalkingwolf. A few good jokes here, cliffhanger solving escapades there from the former, bit of social commentary from the latter.

Having said that, Fords presentation of the Doctor is perfect, capturing the expressive nature of his bluff and shade and the element of bluff which was a feature of Tenth in his first series before some of the gloom which developed in the wake of Doomsday, more like the version that turns up for the novels and the comic strips, tuned closer to the Adventures comic and IDW standalones than Magazine and IDW mini-series perhaps but certainly more complex than Battles In Time (I’ve probably thought about this too much haven’t I?). As with his turn in Sarah Jane Adventures, Tennant relishes the chance to return to some of that unforced lightness and I like the jokes! Most often the humour in the series develops from the Doctor’s anomalousness within a given situation and sarcastic word play; one liners are more a Clyde Langer thing (or Spider-man for that matter). Yet here they are and utterly tittersome. “Some have greatness and some have crates thrust upon them!” Hah!

Cassie Because Dreamland works so well as piece of storytelling, the animation seems slightly beside the point which (with apologies to bloggers Paul, Will and David, who detailed the technological efforts involved) is exactly as it should be. But if can't go without comment that look of special project #2 (again with apologies) especially in relation to the human figures is by no means perfect. Often very stiff, the Tenth Doctor’s face, so expressive and animated in real life, despite the brave attempt as stylisation often resembles Howdy-Doody or Johnny Cab from Total Recall with haemorrhoids, the rest often also very stiff when called upon to move about, with the glacial Cassie coming off worst. But like The Infinite Quest before it, when the “camera” is focused on the landscape, on the aliens, on the vehicles, Dreamland is often very beautiful, resembling the painterly poster art used to advertise those b-movies or a 2000 AD strip with the crated storage facility clearly influenced by Michael Pangrazio’s matt painting at the close of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Considering this has been a gap year in series terms, the production team have worked very hard to make sure Doctor Who still had a very strong presence. From the Matt Smith announcement attracting high viewing figures to the stunning Torchwood: Children of Earth and the mostly enjoyable Sarah Jane Adventures there’s still been plenty to keep us entertained with some of the spin-off material, old and new school worthy enough to stand alongside the best of what the tv series has had to offer with special mentions for Trevor Baxendale’s novel Prisoner of the Daleks, Paul Magrs’s Hornet’s Nest and Reza from the second season of 24 seemingly telling the world Patterson Joseph was going to be the new Doctor even though he wasn’t. In terms of the specials, Planet of the Dead disappointed some (not me, ello Michelle) as did amazingly Waters of Mars (generally idiots who don’t deserve their televisions), but this has been a very good year for the franchise which has been topped off nicely by Dreamland and special project #3, the Chrimbo ident, which makes me giddy.

Next time: Izzy-wizzy, let’s get busy.

[Dreamland is actually still online and available through the clips pages. Here are the links:

Episode One
Episode Two
Episode Three
Episode Four
Episode Five
Episode Six

also a commentary track with Phil Ford and Gary Russell.]

The Noughties: Credit

“No credit to anyone!” is the sign that greeted me at the newsagents on my way to work last weekend. As far as I can gather it’s a new addition to the front of the till, though knowing my approach to spatial awareness, it could have been there for years. The sign is a reaction no doubt to those customers who are forever saying “I’ll pay you next time I’m in” or “Put it on my account” not really understanding that their payment is part of a chain which ultimately leads back to a supplier or the supplier who supplies the supplier, who wants to be paid and that someone, presumably the newsagent will eventually be left out of pocket if they don’t stump up the cash. Which they obviously haven’t because otherwise there wouldn't be any need for the sign.

The Noughties: Vampires.

About Sometimes I think the whole decade in fiction has been about vampires. The decade began with the final embers of Buffy and has concluded with the Twiglet phenomena. As Bella Swan's story continues to hold us in its grip, I as a tribute thought I'd reveal the following. In the late 90s when I still thought I could make a living as a script writer, I turned out a treatment for a vampire script. I can't remember why, or what it was for, but it does have its moments, most of them written by someone else originally. Not that such things have stopped Stephanie Meyer. Just add plaid.

The Dracula Murderer


Stuart Ian Burns

The Characters

Helen Goodfellow is a Samantha Mathis / Helena Baxendale-type. Early-twenties. She was a normal school girl until a vampire went on the rampage in her school and killed all of her friends, and her mother, who was visiting the principal / head teacher about her grades. She didn't have much of a home life - her parents were divorced, her father had disappeared. Her way of coping is to fall into a world of her own. She began to research vampires, reading all of the books she could, watched all of the movies she could get her hands on, and documentaries, and eventually began to uncover a number of strange serial murders which fit the Vampire M.O. No one really believing that vampires exist, she now travels the world investigating these murders and more often than not uncovering a vampire responsible. The whole enterprise is slowly sapping her mentally and physically, so it is lucky that this seems to be her final hunt.

Isaac Story is a George Clooney / Hugh Laurie-type. Early-thirties. He is returning home for the first time in many years because his mother is close to death and he is hoping to make a reconciliation with her. She gave him an interesting childhood, with her unusual behavior at times. He left for University as soon as he could, and has not had much contact since. When he left, he didn't tell the girlfriend he had been with for years, even though she had stood by him through all of his mother's moods. Although he knows he was a bastard to her is hoping to see her again.

Jennifer Ryman was Isaac's girlfriend. She is a Janine Garafalo / Helena Bonham-Carter type. Early-thirties. She now works at a city bar as she attempts to work her way through University.

Elaine Story is Isaac's mother. She spends much of the story in sick bed. She is dying because she is a vampire who has abstained from drinking blood for many years, trying to see the error of her ways, after leaving her son Isaac to bring himself up much of his teenage life, because she would be out many late nights feeding her need. Abstaining has slowly debilitated her, however, and she is slowly beginning to feel new urges.

The Synopsis

Helen stands on a railway platform. She looks at her watch. There is silence.

Isaac stands on the step in the open door way of a subway train. He tells Jennifer that he is 'so sorry.' She smiles sympathetically at him. 'I know.' she says, and passionately gives him a goodbye kiss. The doors close between them. The train is empty. Isaac goes and sits down.

Jennifer looks on sadly as the train leaves the station.

The train reaches Helen's platform. The doors open and she enters. She sits opposite Isaac. They simply sit staring at each other. "Its time," Helen says. He bows his head, the scene shifts to ..

... a typical rainy day in the city. Elaine Story lies at home, dying in her sickbed, her only comforts are Television, a home help / nurse who patronises her, and the view, through tinted windows, of a nearby building were a child is dancing in the rain. A medical monitor beeps her continued existence. The child runs in when he feels her staring at him, after sensing something uncomfortable. The nurse is on the phone:

'I'm so sorry to hear that. Alright. Bye.' she says. She puts the phone down and turns to Elaine, and tells her that her son will be slightly later because of traffic. Elaine does not move. She keeps staring out of the window.

Isaac Story is in his stationary car on a rain swept road. He puts the receiver down on his car phone, having just spoken to the nurse. He sighs and puts on the radio. Bill Wither's 'Lovely Day' plays. He turns the tuner on the radio to someone concerned with the drought, saying that at least its raining. Isaac clicks it off in disgust. A rare gap in the traffic appears and he begins to drive to catch up with the car in front.

Helen Goodfellow stands in the rain. She is very soggy. She carries all kinds of bags, one of which has large patches all over it demonstrating all of the places she has been. She has been trying for the past hour to hitch-hike, unsuccessfully. Although she has done this before, it is a bad day. Then, a car stops and window winds down.

Helen runs over. This is Isaac's car. He asks were she is going. She says its ..... He tells her he is going the same way, and to a chorus of honking horns, she gets her bags into the back of the car, and herself in the front seat. As they drive along, they engage it what they believe to be small talk, to pass the time, beginning with the weather and how long she had been standing there. There are many nervous pauses. As they drive, he tells her about going home to see his mother, about how sick she is. She tells him her cover story - about looking for her father to tell him that her mother has died. They find a common ground about losing their respective mother's before they can say all of the things they want to say. She tells him that she hopes he will get there in time. He asks her if she has been to all of the places on her bag. She tells him that her search seems to be process of elimination. He doesn't believe her, somehow, but doesn't think that he has any right to press the matter to a complete stranger. If she is lying, she will have her reasons.

Elaine's curtains are drawn now. The rain has stopped, and the sun has come out, so the room is still quite bright. She watches television, some soap opera. She is not interested. Rather than simply changing the channel, she simply stares at the channel changer / remote control. She does not blink. The light in the room is dimmed, slightly, as a cloud passes before the sun. Elaine smiles slightly. There is a relief in her eyes.

Isaac's car stops outside a youth hostel, is getting dark now. He helps Helen out with her many bags and they say their goodbyes. Isaac watches her go, still with a feeling that something was left unsaid by him. We follow Helen into the hostel. There is a slight spring in her step as she looks around the slightly cramped entrance hall.

The nurse opens the front door to the flat, to reveal Isaac carrying a quite bedraggled bunch of flowers. He introduces himself. It is dark outside. We next see him sitting on the edge of his mother's bed. She is sitting up now, drinking coffee. The nurse is replacing an I.V. He tells her that he is sorry he didn't come back sooner. She tells him that he couldn't be because he would have made the effort. He nods his head, in recognition of this truth. The nurse swears loudly. Isaac is concerned. She has cut herself. As he sees if she is alright, Elaine begins to sweat visibly, her eyes fixed on the wound like a puppy's eyes fixed on the hand of its owner clutching a favourite ball. They notice the sweating, and believe it to be because the I.V. isn't in place.

Helen leaves a cinema alone. She walks through town, glancing furtively from side to side. She is in the middle of the club district. Loud, beating music plays from clubs and pubs in the locale. Before her are a couple, enjoying a night out. She watches them half jealous. The beat becomes louder and louder sounding more and more like a heart-beat. The couple before her stop and begin to kiss. She halts in her tracks, reminded of something. The guy begins to kiss the girls neck. The beating becomes louder, until ... ... the landscape changes to become a scene from Helen's childhood. The heart beating is hers, as she watches a man with huge fangs bite hard into her mother's neck. She screams and runs down the street, and from a distance watches the Vampire begin to drink heavily from her mother's body. Her instinct is to look for help, but is paralysed with fear and unable to do anything ...

... we return to the older Helen, she turns herself from the couple and puts her hand out, quickly jumping into a cab.

Isaac has left his mother for a few hours, and has decided to find a bar. The place is quite plush. As he enters, one of the bar-girls clocks him and tries to hide. Realising she has been spotted, Jennifer Ryman decides not be rude and greets him at the bar, and asks him what he would like. He tells her, that he wants his favourite, and she pours him a Vodka. He asks her how she has been - and what she is still doing working at this bar. She tells him that she is trying to pay her way through college. They are the same age, so there has obviously been some water under the bridge. He tells her about his law degree, about the partnership offer he has had. He asks her when her shift ends. At this, she releases her pent up anger and asks him what the hell he is doing here. He tells that he wants to apologise. She begins to wash the bar with a cloth. He tells her that in all these years, he couldn't stop thinking about her. She stops cleaning for a second. He tells her that he wishes he had spent the past ten years, wondering what life could have been like if he had actually told her he was leaving, instead of taking off the way he did. She looks up at him ...

... and suddenly we see the younger Jennifer. She is smiling. We here Isaac telling her that he loves her, but there is something he has to tell her. She is quizzical, there is nothing good he could possibly say in this serious voice of his. He tells there that he has had some bad news. Alison, his sister, her best friend has been found dead. That they are having problems finding out the cause of death. Her face fills with grief ...

... we return to the older Jennifer. She tells him to return at half-past eleven.

Isaac and Jenny sit in a cafe drinking coffee. They have obviously been here a while, because a waitress arrives and gives them a refill. Isaac tells her it is nice coffee. The waitress smiles, half-disbelieving him. Jenny tells him that he doesn't change - theirs was obviously not the most monogamous relationship. He smiles at her, bitter-sweetly. There is a pregnant pause. She sips her coffee, he looks out of the window. He tells her that they have to talk about it. She tells him that there is nothing to talk about. He left when she needed him most, when his mother needed him most. That his way of dealing with it, hurt all of the people he was closest to. He tells that it was the last straw, that everything took over him, that he didn't have the strength to wait another year for University, that the opportunity to leave was there and he took. That it wasn't that easy for him. She tells him how selfish his decision was. Tells him that she rebounded with some complete bastard who used and abused her, then left her with ... a child, so he shouldn't tell her about how hard it was to deal with Alison's death, and the way she died. She gets up. She is late - she expects her baby-sitter to quit when she returns. He tells her he wants to see her again. 'What's the point?' She asks.

Elaine awakens. It's morning. The nurse is already here. She tells her that the IV needs replacing. 'What's the point?' Elaine asks.

Helen is at the library. She yawns, glancing at the clock on the wall, which tells her it is only nine-thirty in the morning. This isn't the large cavernous place one would expect. It is dank, dark and doesn't look like it has been decorated since at least the seventies. She sits at a table, a huge book in front of her. It is a bound copy of the local paper. We see the headline, 'Local girl dies mysteriously'. Then, headline after headline, 'Alison Story Murder - still no clues', (the name seems familiar but she doesn't think anything of it) 'Swimmer's death linked to Alison Story murder', 'Fourth murder, Community in mourning', 'Eighth victim claimed', culminating in the headline. 'No new clues to the identity of The Dracula Murderer.' We see Helen with a hand-written list of names, looking through a phone-book, finding telephone numbers. We see her on a pay phone, 'no ... no, I understand,' she says as she puts the phone down. We see her making a different call - 'I can be there in half an hour. Thankyou.'

We see Jennifer, she sits relating her story to Helen, who has obviously found her because of a comments she made to the paper. She tells her that Alison had been such a nice girl, impossible to fault. How tragic it had all been. About the media attention. We see Helen's face as she remembers ...

... she is being interviewed by some reporter, who is milking what happened for all it is worth. It must have been very hard for you, he says. How did you cope? He asks her many pointed questions - type which shouldn't be asked to someone who has just lost her mother and friends in a horrific way. He asks her what happened to her father. Helen tells him that she hasn't seen or heard from him, and that she would like to get in touch ... ... we shift back to Jennifer, who describes what happened when the media disappeared. Helen asks her if she had any support from her boyfriend, Alison's brother. No, Jenny says pointedly. Helen asks her if she can get in touch with him. Jenny tells her that he can be found at his mother's place, she supposes ...

... we are back in the carriage with Isaac and Helen. She asks him if Jennifer understood. He says that he told her as much as he could, but that it was hard for her, but she agreed to what they had asked for. He says that she said that she has forgiven him, although he isn't so sure. He asks her how she knew. She tells him she had done this long enough to have seen the signs....

... it is late afternoon. The doorbell of Elaine's flat rings and Isaac answers it. He opens the door and we see Helen standing there. 'It's you ...' she says. 'Hello,' he smiles.

Isaac sits with Jennifer in the Kitchen. Isaac is describing that he took it very badly. 'That's why you left.' Helen deduces. She asks she can meet his mother.

They enter Elaine' bedroom. She is sleeping. Isaac tells her that the doctors could not find out what was wrong with her. Helen looks at her closely then swears loudly. 'Get out,' she screams. 'What?' Isaac does not understand what is happening. Helen begins to chant loudly in some European-language. Elaine awakens suddenly, her eyes opening wide. As she chants, Helen reaches into her bag and produces a cross. Elaine convulses. Not really knowing what has gone on, Isaac tries to fight Helen. She fights him off. Elaine begins to transform, fangs appearing in her teeth, her ears elongating, her hair growing longer. The room suddenly fills with rushing wind, the fabric of clothes and bed linen waving heavily. Helen shrills her chanting louder. There is chaos. She pulls out the a stake. There is shadow across her face ...

... We return to the frightened teenager watching a Vampire devouring her mother. We watch her glance around, looking for something. She pulls a rung from a wooden fence, and approaches the vampire. With all of the courage she can find, she hits it around the head. The vampire falls backwards to the floor. Helen raises the rung ready to plunge it into the vampire, and for a brief moment ...

... we flash forward to older Helen, in the same position, as she plunges the steak into Elaine ...

... then we return to the younger Helen, as that Vampire reels with pain, then falls limp. Helen watches its features change into that of a human. 'Daddy?' she screams in utter disbelief, as his body begins to disappear ...

... and Elaine's body does the same. There is calm is calm in her bedroom. No sound, except for the slow, dark beep of the medical scanner signalling her death. Helen and Isaac stand there, looking at the stained, empty bed. Isaac is stunned. Helen boughs her head in prayer, as the scene shifts ...

... back to the subway carriage. Isaac asks Helen if this is the only option. There is another option, she says. They wait till a certain age, and without warning, they transform and the hunger begins, and they would kill someone they are close to. And when all of the death has ended, someone like her will arrive and they will die anyway. At least this way he might go to wherever with a clean slate, and she could not think of the idea that she would become what her father was. He sighs. He asks her if she brought it. She tells him she did and reaching into her bag produces the steak she used to kill his mother. He breathes deeply and begins to chant. The scene shifts between the two of them chanting loudly, then the chanting continuing as they hold crosses, and finally as they stand opposite each other in the isle of the train as each lift their steaks and begin to plunge them into their opposite hearts. The scene cuts to black.

We see quite a handsome guy sitting in the living room of quite a comfortable looking apartment, reading quite a think hardback book. He turns a page. A child appears and tells him that mummy said that if he doesn't come now they will go without him. Alright, he says. Then Jennifer puts her head around the door and re-iterates. Alright, he repeats and stands up, throwing the book back onto the couch. For the first time, we see the title - 'The Dracula Murderer' by Jennifer Ryman.

on the subject of gay marriage

Politics Sorry, one final video today. But this is too good not to share. It's New York State Sen. Diane Savino's on the subject of a gay marriage bill.

If this was a feature film, the room would be standing to applaud at the end of that as James Newton Howard's celebratory chords crashed in. Sadly this is the real world and the bill was opposed 38 to 24. As Dennis DiClaudio notes at Indecision Forever: "I would love to hear a single argument, one-tenth as cogent as that, in opposition to marriage equality."

taH pagh taHbe'

Shakespeare And of course I've checked my copy of The Klingon Hamlet (Pocket Books, 2000) and he is indeed playing the text as translated by the "Klingon Language Institute" or Nick Nicholas and Andrew Strader and not just making it up as he goes along. It's not a bad performance. I'm just not sure an actual Klingon would play it that way, with the crying. Worf cried, but he was adopted by human parents. Have I said too much?

taH pagh taHbe'

And of course I've checked my copy of The Klingon Hamlet (Pocket Books, 2000) and he is indeed playing the text as translated by the "Klingon Language Institute" or Nick Nicholas and Andrew Strader and not just making it up as he goes along. It's not a bad performance. I'm just not sure an actual Klingon would play it that way, with the crying. Worf cried, but he was adopted by human parents. Have I said too much?

Opus Arte Advent Calendar

Opera Oh yes. I've just been sent the following email which I know you'll find interesting:
"This email in particular is regarding the Royal Opera House and Opus Arte, their multi-platform arts production and distribution company. In short, Opus Arte bring opera, dance, oratorio and theatre to the cinema and across a range of digital formats, for all to enjoy.

This Christmas they are bringing The Nutcracker to the cinema screen in high-definition recording from the Royal Opera House itself, so those that might not be able to make the show, can see it across the country.

For this they’ve made a great digital advent calendar for The Nutcracker, which, once you’ve entered your details, gives you a short clip of the opera on a daily basis, and a little bit of info. Entertaining and fun at the same time.

We thought, because of your obvious like for culture and the arts, you’d enjoy the calendar and might think that others would enjoy it too. It’s live here:


So, please feel free to let your readers know about it, as I said, the ROH are trying to help people who might not be able to enjoy the experience of the opera live, have an experience of their own.
I do like these online advent calendars; they're welcome change from the usual religious or Dickensian examples you find in shops. I've set up a .bat file on my desktop so that I can open them on mass each morning to enjoy their treats. So far it looks like this:
"@echo off
start iexplore.exe -new http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/s4/features/adventurecalendar/
start iexplore.exe -new http://www.echoarena.com/competitions/index.asp
start iexplore.exe -new http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/online/advent/
start iexplore.exe -new http://sca.lib.liv.ac.uk/collections/highlights/h0912calendar/h0912adventcalendar.htm
start iexplore.exe -new http://www.dorsetcereals.co.uk/advent-calendar
start iexplore.exe -new http://www.opusarte-adventcalendar.com/
Now I've added this Opus Arts example so that I can enjoy a burst of dancing or singing too.

garage stepped

News This is David Young, father of Oliver Young one of the sailors freed by Iran this morning. As I watched him being the doorstepped (or rather garage stepped) on BBC News, I thought he looked a bit familiar:

Here's why:

"It's a show about time travel."

At around midnight last night ...

TV At around midnight last night, the analogue television signal at Winter Hill was turned off for the final time. On ITV1, it happened during quirky cop show In Plain Sight, cutting Mary McCormack off mid-sentence and at a rather inopportune moment:

Review 2009: Subjectively Speaking

In which I talk to @tempestuous about her chosen subject of films. It was probably the longest conversation either of us had attempted on Twitter and was a largely successful experiment. Pity I did my usual and strayed off into auteur theory which meant the following exchange lasted two whole hours. For clarity, I've removed everything from each tweet but our names so that you can at least tell who is speaking ...

On the subject of films.

@tempestuous Ha! Yes, what timing! I sure am. How are you?

@feelinglistless Fine thanks. Are you ready, Baltimore? I SAID ARE YOU READY, BALTIMORE?

@tempestuous I'm the one who gets to do the interrogating! So it's more like -- LIVERPOOL! At the ready?!

@feelinglistless I thought it was the other way around, but I'm game. Let's go. What will we be talking about?

@tempestuous Okay! I am going to talk to you about movies.

@feelinglistless Excellent.

@tempestuous LOL is it that way around? Hold on, since I am now choking on my iced tea. I am ill-prepared!

@feelinglistless Don't worry. We'll just talk and I'll probably end up doing most of it anyway.
@feelinglistless So what did you want to ask me?

@tempestuous My original thought was to throw a few of my favorite movies out to you, and let you tell me your quick opinion on them.

@feelinglistless Short pithy opinions coming up.

@tempestuous It's interesting, because beside one-off little notes here and there, I've never actually had a Tweetversation before.

@feelinglistless That's what I wanted to try. See if Twitter works like a chatroom, because that's what it looks like if you're using a client.

@tempestuous It's actually slightly frustrating and leads my brain to questions like the ones my non-Twitter friends ask: Why not IM?
@tempestuous But anyway, I spent a little while thinking about the movies that I am forcibly compelled to watch whenever they are on tv
@tempestuous First up: a movie I have actually more or less memorized: A Room With A View, 1985, I'm sure you've heard of it.

@feelinglistless I have. Merchant Ivory. Arguably Helena Bonham Carter's most normal performance.

@tempestuous Most normal, save for her ""hyperactive eyebrows,"" as I believe Tim Burton has said of that particular performance"
@tempestuous She's one of those actors I'll see in anything - literally anything - but it's the film's over-the-top charm that gets me

@feelinglistless Hah, true. But what's interesting about A Room With A View is that it really brought Merchant Ivory into the mainstream.
@feelinglistless It was their most commercial film up until that point. But they made many great films before that. The Bostonians, Heat & Dust

@tempestuous Have you seen Shakespeare-Wallah?

@feelinglistless I haven't! It's on my list of films I'm saving because I know they're good and I don't want to see all the good films now.

@tempestuous I found it charming in a completely different way than their later movies, sort of rough-edged and strange.

@feelinglistless A lot of their early films are like that. The general perception of M/I is of these perfect little costume dramas when ...
@feelinglistless ... their earlier work is more akin to third cinema, more interested in the Ismail Merchant's cultural heritage.

@tempestuous Yes exactly! It's quite a revelation if you're tuning in for the corsets and the posh accents!
@tempestuous And I could go on for ages about the Prawer Jhabvala / EM Forster relationship

@feelinglistless Which sort of dogged the rest of their career. Unless Emma Thompson turned up wearing a straw hat, people stayed away.

@tempestuous I could go on and one, but I'll throw out another of my memorized / will laugh hysterically EVERY time films...
@tempestuous And I may really hit against some cultural differences here, but... Pee-wee's Big Adventure!
@tempestuous (If going from Merchant-Ivory to Pee-wee isn't a 360... I don't know what is)

@feelinglistless Never seen it. Haven't seen any of the Pee Wee Herman films. He's not a huge cultural figure in the UK

@tempestuous Okay, you should see it... maybe not for Pee-wee, but for Tim Burton.
@tempestuous Unless, of course, you're not a Burton fan, in which case... you might find the whole thing even more annoying
@tempestuous That's one of those films that I'm not sure will translate if you didn't see it an early age. Like The Goonies.

@feelinglistless That's my fear. But it's true I can be a bit vanilla about Tim Burton's films. I think Big Fish is one of his best films ...
@feelinglistless Which I know is a controversial opinion.

@tempestuous I loved Big Fish - thought it was like his silly/dark early themes were distilled into something dark and poignant

@feelinglistless It's also markedly less stylised which is what stopped me from enjoying Sweeney Todd.
@feelinglistless But the story structure really appealed to me and I always cry at the end when the giant wanders into shot.

@tempestuous I thought Sweeney was his return to awesomeness. I felt burnt by Planet of the Apes and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
@tempestuous BUT... I'm massively biased with my love of the original music and Helena Bonham Carter's free pass to do anything

@feelinglistless My reaction to Burton is rather skewed. The wilder his gothic excesses are, the less engaged I am.

@tempestuous I'm really curious to know what you'd think of Pee-wee, then. It's a ridiculous movie but it's done with such heart

@feelinglistless It's a bit like Martin Scorcese. I love everything Scorcese's done, apart from Goodfellas. It's a contradiction.

@tempestuous I just rewatched Goodfellas when it was on cable... yeah, not my favorite, and I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to him

@feelinglistless I much prefer Casino.
@feelinglistless The Last Temptation of Christ is clearly the best of the Jesus films. Life Lessons the best film about an artist's muse.

@tempestuous I have not seen Life Lessons! I'll have to add it to the queue!

@feelinglistless Careful, it's one of the three short films that make up "New York Stories" along with one of Woody Allen's best too.

@tempestuous What do you think of the Coen Brothers?

@feelinglistless I can only stand about 50% of the Coens's films. Again, it's stylistic issues keeping me from being able to completely engage.
@feelinglistless Typically my favourites are The Hudsucker Proxy and Intollerable Cruelty, which were slated by the critics.

@tempestuous Two of my favorites, but I have a soft spot for the super-stylized ones. Have you heard any buzz about A Serious Man yet?

@feelinglistless Mark Kermode said that he can't understand the audience appreciation its getting considering its about at Coenian as they get.
@feelinglistless I think what links Burton and the Coens and number of these directors is that they're trying to deliberately bring a --
@feelinglistless -- sensibility that other directors, international directors predominantly, just *have* and that rubs me up the wrong way.

@tempestuous So you think it's a sort of manufactured sensibility, then? It doesn't feel like it comes naturally.

@feelinglistless Exactly. There's being deliberately different, then being deliberately obtuse. Wes Anderson's films seem more heartfelt

@tempestuous From the moment you see the typeface in the opening credits, you know you're in his world
@tempestuous One of the reasons I find Anderson's films so appealing is that they are so seamlessly stylized

@feelinglistless Whereas in a Coen Bros film they're trying to be stylised AND appeal to as wide an audience as possible. It doesn't work for me

@tempestuous I guess I'm less cynical about the Coens and Burton. I'm also just a snobbier-than-usual casual viewer, not a critic!
@tempestuous I thought the Coen's Burn After Reading was astonishingly wicked commentary on the intelligence of the general audience
@tempestuous Like they took what seemed like a movie that would have mass-appeal and completely turned it all upside down and inside out

@feelinglistless Exactly. I loved it for that. Oh and the moment when suddenly the whole thing falls apart and it just sort of ends.
@ tempestuous And it's perfectly structured because it should be when that character heads off into their climactic success.

@tempestuous Really sticking it to the people who just thought Clooney and Pitt were there to put on a jolly laugh-riot of a film
@tempestuous And that brought back fond memories of living in Minnesota when Fargo came out. The ignorant were terrified by the violence
@tempestuous And there was all sorts of outraged ""We do not really sound like that!"" fussing over the accents.
@tempestuous There's some similar train of thought to living in Baltimore and seeing John Waters' films
@tempestuous And the train is sort of passing my NaNoWriMo-addled brain by...

@feelinglistless Only seen Serial Mom. But you have to understand that the distribution of his films in the UK has been very limited

@tempestuous So what do you think about using Twitter to have a conversation?

@feelinglistless It's very tricky. The problem is update rates and the mismatch between devices. Sometimes we're talking over each other ...

Lost In Pulp Fiction

TV Ever wonder what Masterchef would look like in Japan if they employed the set designer from Pushing Daisies and invited Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino to judge the food. Wonder no longer:

It's lost in Pulp Fiction. Oh how we laugh at how The One Show randomly asks the likes of Zac Ephron or Liza Minelli what they think of the UK government's policy on a asylum seekers, credit card fraud, the red squirrel population or cheese. That looks entirely sane compared to this.

smaller intimate sites

Commerce As an addendum to the Borders obituary (for want of a better description), Neil said in the comments:
"I wonder if you can put a price on the simple pleasure of wandering the shop and browsing through the books? [...] I used to do that on my day off sometimes, or on my way home from work, just losing myself for an hour or two before coming away with a book, or discovering something I had never heard of."
I was immediately reminded of my old idea for rebranding the library service which boiled down to:
"Sure libraries should transform -- they should become bookshops were they ask you to bring the items back after three weeks. What I'm wondering is why some branch libraries don't adopt the model of having smaller intimate sites on the city centre high street with a format similar to Waterstones -- or in reality closer to a posh used bookstore -- were people can pop in whilst they're shopping or during their lunch break and borrow a few books. Ideally the stock would be arranged in a similar format to bookshops too with the fiction in an author a-z and subject headings were necessary. No internet access. No library catalogues (except with the staff behind the counter). And a decent coffee shop. And lovely pine flooring."
With empty shops opening up in city centres and on retail parks, many of which already have the fixtures installed (!), this is the perfect opportunity for the libary service to move in and take advantage of the situation.

the carnage befalling

Commerce Entering Borders at Speke Retail Park felt somewhere between attending a funeral and looting a shop after the apocalypse. In the Starbucks up above a baby was crying and the shelves were half empty, the closing down sale having begun yesterday. The similarities with the Woolworths wind-up are stark; unlikely stock filling the shelves, everything in disarray, understandably sullen looking staff members mixed with temporary workers appointed by the liquidators who when asked don't know where anything is. Even the sale signage in use is exactly the same.

But even as I searched the stock looking for bargains, the reason the chain is closing became all the more apparent. Everything is 20% off the recommended retail price, or in the case of films and music, as per the label. The problem is that even with this saving, Borders still can't beat Amazon and other online retailers for price, especially with travel cost factored in. I came away with Edge of Darkness and Zeffrelli's Taming of the Shrew on dvd and a Gimble.

Added together with my bus fair, I would have saved two pounds and half the morning if I'd simply order these on-line when I got up. Which I wouldn't, of course, because they were impulse buys, but if a Borders purchase can't be attractive without the smell of nostalgia what hope did it have under normal trading? If all of this wasn't bad enough, because their website had been withdrawn. I noticed a staff member had ironically had to consult Amazon for product information (the website's back up now in what looks like an older version).

Within the Speke store there's also a Game, Paperchase and the coffee shop, all still trading as normal, their staff looking across balefully at the carnage befalling the rest of the shop floor. As time moves on, I'm sure they'll become weary of the public wondering why their merchandise isn't discounted as well. What will happen to them when Borders closes its doors, will they be redistributed to other parts of the company or lose their jobs? Or will these healthy chains simply expand into the rest of the shop like a parasitic fungus growing to fill the shell of its dead host?


Shakespeare We can only imagine what this 2007 technologically aware production of Measure for Measure would have been like in the Twitter age:
"The most effective evidence that ISF's Measure for Measure is set in today's electronic age is that the characters carried Blackberries and cell phones. Lucio, for example, conveyed information about the Duke's supposed journeys because he was able to pull it up on his Blackberry. He used his internet connection to inform the Duke (disguised as the Friar) of his [the Duke's] own "travels": "Some say he is with the emperor of Russia" (3.2.85). Lucio also used his Blackberry to snap a picture of Mariana at her unveiling in the final scene. More chillingly, his Blackberry showed Isabella confirmation that her brother had been scheduled for execution (1.4.73-4)."
"Oh knows, he's closin de brothels. What'll I do now? #angelofail"