A common joke being used in different ways?

TV Emma Bunton is soon to present a new talent show for Five, Don't Stop Believing, which is piggybacking on the Glee craze for collective harmonies. Here's the trailer:

Which is entertaining and features some amazing singing. Except there is something familiar about four chords (and these four chords in particular) being used to underscore all of these pop songs, and the way the harmonies fit together.

When watching this video from 05 January 2009, I'd also like you to take note of the first song Axis of Awesome mention:

Honest opinion. Coincidence? A common joke being used in different ways? Affectionate homage? Not really that similar and just my imagination?

This is the only other variation I can find on the theme, an Oasis piss take by Porcupine Tree, but it's not quite the same:

the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford

The Guardian hosts a mini-documentary about the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. Such a shame, though, that they can't have that and The Courtyard running at the same time. The town, ironically, has a paucity of theatres and would really benefit from more than one physical location for hosting touring companies.
Theatre The Guardian hosts a mini-documentary about the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. Such a shame, though, that they can't have that and The Courtyard running at the same time. The town, ironically, has a paucity of theatres and would really benefit from more than one physical location for hosting touring companies.

"turn any text into an interactive playlist" #spotify

Music Given my generally cynical demeanour lately, something has to be really, really impressive to inspire awe.

Hello, Playlistify.org

This Spotify playlist tool was mentioned here but mostly there at about March time because of its ability to convert itunes lists for Spotify making them shareable.

Look a bit closer and there is also something rather magical.

Visit Playlistify.org

Click the "bake your playlist" button.

This releases a box with a bunch of tabbing options at the top, brand names like iTunes, Last.fm, Spotify etc.

And cut and paste. Click that.

New box, more words:

"turn any text into an interactive playlist"

If you have a list of songs with artists names next to them as cleanly as possible, it searches for each one on Spotify and spits out a playlist at the end.

So, if there's a film you quite like, you can visit the imdb, find the soundtrack listing, clean it up a bit so that each line only has the track name and artist on it, plug it into Playlistify and a few minutes later a compilation is generated.

Like this one for Almost Famous.

As you can see it's not perfect (what is?). If it can't find the track or there are some quirks in the list it'll try to find the nearest option.

Cameron Crowe did not choose MC Bounds for his 70s rock opus, and in terms of this example, because the actual soundtrack itself isn't on Spotify, there is no Stillwater.

Now and then it'll choose a cover by session artists over the original, although in the case of the Fleetwood Mac track here, it's because for all the Mac music on Spotify, "Future Games" isn't part of the selection.

So some post-search editing is required if you care about such things.

From here we reach the a few stumbling blocks. Because there are always stumbling blocks.

Firstly, once the list has been generated it asks for a few details, title of list tags, description, which is fine, then location details and user name and a social network.

Then on the playlist page, the "open in Spotify" button doesn't open in Spotify. You have to create a playlist in the music player then copy and paste the track details over, which is bit fiddly.

But in comparison to having to search for each track separately which I did when I was curating some of these old playlists, that's as nothing.

Plus it seems to work even if you just type in any old thing, if you are worried about privacy and whatnot.

I generated this Now That's What I Call somewhat disappointing 42 playlist in about three minutes by copying over the tracks from the Wikipedia.

It even works for just lists of artists names, though as you can see the results are distinctly oddball.

Hours of fun, I'm sure you'll agree.

As River Song would say, spoilers ...

The Doctor Who finale explained with some wit, although I think most people are confused by the pre-destination paradoxes, especially the Doctor's process for getting himself out of the Pandorica.

the IMAX 3D experience at Odeon Liverpool One.

Film Tomorrow sees the launch of the IMAX 3D experience at Odeon Liverpool One and this morning I was invited to see a preview by the publicity company stage managing the opening few days. The email came via my Liverpool Blogs blog, which happens sometimes because of its proximity to the search terms "liverpool" and "blogs". It’s good that they’re reaching out to the social network, and quite exciting to be treated like a proper journalist, joined in the process by a Merseyside radio personality and someone from the local press, both of whom rushed off to talk about and write up what they saw.

I came home and finished painting the living room, which isn’t quite as glamorous.

If the idea was for me to offer some good word of mouth, it worked. As a film presentation and projection system this is amazing. A refit of one of the third floor auditoriums, the screen size has been increased to 9.7 high by 17.8 wide with stadium seating so that it’s almost impossible to be blocked by someone sitting in front of you (unless they have a very big head). The half hour spent in there were comfortable, with only the aisle based, under seat lighting providing a slight irritation, always twinkling brightly at the edge of vision.

The sound and picture quality are magnificent. We were presented with a showreel of some old and new content, mostly trailers for the likes of Batman Begins and 300 complete with the green band US MPAA ratings at the top. The clarity of the image is sometimes astounding, especially in the promo for Chris Nolan’s latest Inception, were the grain from the 35mm negative was perfectly visible, removing that slight stumbling block I’ve always had with digital projection experiences in the past (cf, Cornerhouse Manchester) which have always retained the slightly artificial quality of dvd.

The most astounding examples were of course in 3D; excerpts from a documentary about the Hubble telescope in which the edge of the satellite are at eye level, the train in Polar Express flying past your face in a way that makes you understand quite why that first audience that saw a similar locomotive projected by the Lumiere Brothers over a hundred years ago in L'Arrivée d'un train à La Ciotat. The sound quality is extraordinary, very detailed and realistic; the press release speaks of being able to hear a pin drop and I can believe it.

We were treated to a preview of Tron Legacy in which it seems the “real” world will be presented in 2D only entering the third dimension as Kevin Flynn’s son materialises within the game world, in much the same way as the Wizard of Oz flips from monochrome to colour when Dorothy and Toto aren’t in Kansas any more. I’ve always thought that 3D will only shift from gimmick or enhancement to art form when filmmakers begin to somehow produce stories that only work in that format and this could be the first indication of a shift in that direction.

After the screening whilst my journalistic colleagues were interviewing the Odeon’s manager, I inevitably asked instead to see the projection room. I met the technician/projectionist who spearheaded project to bring the system to Liverpool and he was positively evangelical, patiently answering my questions about how the films are stored (giant removable hard disks) and how the system works (two giant projectors that look like the kind of equipment Galactus might use for his holiday slides). His glee was infectious and only increased my excitement for seeing a complete “film” projected this way.

But, and this is a big but, and after being treated so well this morning I take no pleasure in saying this, it’s not IMAX, or at least it’s not the traditional projection IMAX format. As I surmised in my bonkers unsurprisingly unanswered email to the Odeon last week, no matter how large the screen, it doesn’t have the wrap around experience of the classic IMAX aspect ratio reaching to the ceiling and floor and filling the field of vision on either side as seen at the Manchester Filmworks, the BFI and the National Media Museum in Bradford.

Before the preview I put this to a gentleman who was introduced to me as knowing more about the technical side. As the projectionist would later, he talked about how IMAX was about the immersive experience and that was what they were interested in. I suggested that in fact that meant they were reconfiguring the IMAX name but that there would be people who knew (what I kept calling) “proper IMAX” but would be disappointed to discover that’s not what they were getting here and that perhaps they needed to make that clearer in the publicity.

I tried not to sound overwhelmingly negative since I was still looking forward to investigating this other system (always interjecting with “I don’t want to be a cynical sausage...", "I'm honestly trying not to be a cynical sausage..."), but having seen the new IMAX logo which had been added to the Odeon signs in the foyer, as a passionate film fan, I’m genuinely concerned that when the people of Liverpool greet this new way of seeing movies, that they’ll think they’re finally seeing a range of film made in the IMAX format (assuming they’ve heard of it before). They’re not. They’re seeing a range of films which in the main are made for an ordinary projection system that are being transferred to this other format.

That difference is also covered by the media fact sheet, which says “a major change of aspect ratio from the traditional ‘full-height’ 1.33 of 15 perforations 70mm film, to the 1.78 of their DMR system, which is more consistent with the general framing of Hollywood films.” Except, since “DMR” is Digital Media Remastering system that upscales a 35mm film, that change in format means that the image quality, however detailed, could actually still be inferior to the original IMAX which has more information in the original print, unless like some sections of Inception they're shot in at least 65mm.

The FAQ also asks itself about the key difference between this IMAX auditorium and the one in Manchester, and answers by talking about crystal clear imagines and the special audio system when in fact its that watching a film here involves looking at a giant rectangle but there it's feeling as though your about to fall out of a helicopter into the Grand Canyon or whatever. I think about my own first jaw dropping experiences in Bradford in the 90s in which I felt like Jodie Foster in Contact ("they should have sent a poet"), my eyes agog at this strange new world, as penguins swam beneath the glaciers above my head.

Imagine this trailer projected on a screen the size of a three up, two down:

I brought up the problems last year in the US when people turned up for IMAX showings to find this system in place (which led to the Destroy Fake IMAX campaign), all he could offer was that yes, there had been criticism on some technical blogs. But journalists also wrote like this one which I’ve linked to before and lists the key differences. At length. With pictures. Roger Ebert also went over the topic in much greater detail and I’d direct you to his article too. As he says, “(IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond)’s problem appears to be that most people do foolishly persist in thinking of IMAX as the giant screen” when they’ve branched out further in the battle against home formats.

So Liverpool is still waiting for its first IMAX film projection system, but what it does have is a truly excellent new option for seeing Hollywood film releases, which admittedly has been well received in other areas. The first week will see Shrek Forever After and coming soon are Inception, Toy Story 3, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (partly voiced by Bernard Cribbins), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One) and the film which could be the game changer, Tron Legacy. I’m really looking forward to seeing most of those (yes, even Resident Evil, it’s a guilty pleasure) with only the price a potential barrier (£11.75 for adults).

Because, let’s be honest, despite my reservations about calling a spade a spade,  it’s probably just all about some pupils from a local school in a photo which was sent to me this afternoon by the PR company (because they were the first to see the system), on the edges of their seats and the rapt expression on their faces.  The boy on the left looks like he's going to be a film fan for life.

UPDATED 14/7/2010: For all my huffing and puffing above about screen areas, I've just discovered that the Odeon aren't using the proper IMAX screen they inherited (when they bought out UCI) at the Filmworks in Manchester to show proper IMAX films anyway. Boo. (see below)

Updated 02/08/2010 Haylay has been in touch with the Odeon regarding all of this and has sent me their response. She's agreed to let me publish her email to me below. All I've done is break up the central quote into small paragraphs for ease of reading (FYI we swapped emails after I saw a comment from her on Twitter):
"Hi Stuart

Thanks for the email (sorry its taken me so long to reply!)

Glad to hear that I'm not the only one who felt this way.

I emailed Odeon after I had been and thought you might be interested to read their response:

"I'm sorry to hear you feel you are disappointed with our new IMAX installation. I would like to assure you that the IMAX we have had fitted is a 'True IMAX' and was installed and tested by IMAX technicians from Canada.

Unfortunately Liverpool ONE was not designed for IMAX when built so we were limited on how large we could make the screen.

The IMAX we have is Digital IMAX which historically has a smaller screen than traditional IMAX as it is more difficult to enlarge a digital image to the size of older IMAX screens. With the digital age of cinema becoming more apparent you will find newer IMAX installations to be of similar size.

The IMAX experience is not just the screen size and the laser aligned sound it is the full process from filming on special IMAX cameras to enlarging each frame of film.

I do agree however that if you are sitting close to the front or far out on one of the sides the Immersive wrap effect is some what lost. We are current working hard with IMAX to see if there is any solution we can come to."

I'm guessing they have probably had a fair few emails about this!

As you had said in your email, the thing that's bad is that they are selling it as IMAX, and people expect IMAX to be the giant screen and wrap around shape.

Take Care,

Updated! 25/12/2011 Slashfilm have posted an FAQ which covers much the same ground but updates to include material about Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol and The Dark Knight Rises.

Interestingly our nearest proper IMAX screen at the Manchester Odeon in the Printworks has Ghost Protocol and the Batman preview which indicates that although they've installed Digital, they can still show floor to ceiling when necessary (Chris Nolan has indicated the preview could not be shown on faux-IMAX screens).

Watching all of Woody Allen's films in order: So Far.

Film Woody Allen recently gave an interview to The Paywall in which he gave his list of favourite films. Cinematical (and dozens of other blogs) have been good enough to pirate the content and repeat the hallowed six.

A few surprises -- Match Point not Annie Hall? I bet he still wants to burn the print of Manhattan. It's good to see Purple Rose is still there -- he's always said that was the one occasion when the film in his head was replicated in celluloid and it's good that he still has that conviction.

What few of the people commenting on the list have failed to mention - assuming they know - is that Woody hasn't rewatched any of his own films since they were released, so he doesn't have the same benefit of hindsight we have. These could simply be the films which he enjoyed making the most.

The list has been a cue for writers across the web to offer their own lists, usually their ten favourites. This Awards Daily selection is typical; all the films you'd expect plus the quirky oddball selection -- Another Woman in their case.

Inevitably I offer my own list in no particular order. I didn't think about this much, simply typing in the ten I wouldn't mind watching again right now (if it wasn't so late).
Annie Hall
Melinda and Melinda
Everyone Says I Love You
Hannah and Her Sisters
Radio Days
Take The Money and Run
Stardust Memories
Manhattan Murder Mystery
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The only stumble was Radio Days, which was almost Purple Rose about three times. I'm not sure which is my quirky oddball selection -- there are probably at least five candidates.

Watching all of Woody Allen's films in order: Whatever Works (2009)

Then Well, this was a surprise. Released nearly eighteen months ago in the US and having drifted around the world before reaching these shores, I’d given up on Whatever Works receiving a theatrical release, to the extent that for the purposes of this project I bought a copy of the blu-ray from the US on the assumption that it was region free (the “fact” of which had been heavily reported online). And it does play. Just long enough to put up a banner that says it won’t show the actual film on blu-ray players outside of the US. Which means that today, I saw a film for which I have a copy on my shelf already.

By co-incidence, Manchester’s Cornerhouse is showing Whatever Works alongside two films by directors clearly influenced by Woody Allen. Greenburg from Noah Baumbach who seems to be building a career out of remaking Interiors and the film I watched as the first part of a double bill Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give in which Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt play caustic Diane Keaton and Woody type characters and has Vicky Cristina’s Rebecca Hall and Melinda’s Amanda Peet. Like all of Holofcener’s film, it’s witty, tragic, thoughtful and about the guilt of privilege. Not unlike most of Woody's then too.

As ever this won't be a typical review, more of a poorly thought out first reaction which includes loads of spoilers. I know that won't be a problem for anyone outside of the UK.  But I'm still being cautious because this is a new release, so please do only read the following if you don't care either way.

Hello again.  Where was I?  Oh yes ...

Now Whatever Works is a treat, indeed the kind of rare treat which American film rarely offers these days. Yes, it’s raggedy in places, notably in its pacing, and there’s initially an eerie sense of Larry David trying to enforce his own style on words undoubtedly written for Woody himself, even if the director says he originally envisaged Zero Mostel from The Front, when he wrote it in the 1970s.

It's also often hilariously funny, though I’ll admit that it’s one of those later films which will only be of interest to his fans rather than passing trade, which seems to have been accepted by the studio who have replicated the US campaign and put Larry David front and centre on the poster rather than a shot of Evan Rachel Wood with barely anything on (which is her general repose in most of the film). For once, the poster indicates content, for better or worse.

The film certainly doesn’t deserve some of criticism that has been levelled at it, which I’m convinced would not have been had this been the first film by a promising director. The content of some of those reviews has been appalling, falling back on the old clichés of Woody telling a story about a May to December romance as though there’s something dirty about it (mentioning Soon-Yi in passing), or that it looks unfinished and under rehearsed (as though some of his earlier so-called classic films didn’t have those properties). Visiting Rotten Tomatoes with its 49% rating is like looking into the deep dark soul of the film reviewer.

Jason Solomans isn’t my favourite critic (I tend to think of him as the anti-Kermode), but he at least gave Whatever Works a glowing but balanced review in The Observer this past weekend making the point I have across much of this project that when critics talk about Woody’s “return to form” they miss the fact that he never lost it and that audiences may have been saying the same thing about Shakespeare because he didn’t ever quite better Hamlet.

Personally, the central thematic thread, that you should make the most of life and get love wherever you can, even if someone finds your choices socially unacceptable and that includes religion, hit me in the stomach. Allen’s trick is that however irascible and unpleasant David’s character Boris Yelnikoff is, forever calling himself a genius without much being able to demonstrate it, much of what he says is completely true.

We shouldn’t spend half our lives looking back on missed chances and poor choice and mistakes, we should just look to the now. Someone (bless them) has transcribed the longest and most perceptive speech for the IMDb’s memorable quotes page but much of it boils down to this later quote:
“That's why I can't say enough times, whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever works.”

If Woody did indeed resurrect an old 70s script, that also means that such criticism is being directed at work which originated in the very epoch they’re comparing it negatively to, the Interiors/Manhattan/Annie Hall axis. It’s not unknown for him to go back to work first created decades before – Manhattan Murder Mystery had its origins in Annie Hall and there was his Don’t Drink The Water remake. Certainly some elements, such as Patricia Clarkson’s enlightenment and drift into free love have a 70s ting to them, and the cd player in David’s apartment would be easily replaced by a vinyl turntable of the kind seen in Hannah and Her Sisters.

Knowing that the script has sat in a draw for a few decades, we can see how it’s subsequently influenced or been recycled in his later work. What is the central relationship between Boris and Melody but a more light hearted version of that between the misanthropic Frederick (Max Von Sydow) and Lee (Barbara Hershey) in Hannah and Her Sisters with the improvisational quality of the similar romance in Manhattan?

Characters have broken the fourth wall throughout his career, though admittedly not to the astoundingly metafictional excess seen here, with David commenting on the behaviour of the people in the auditorium, his eyes looking right through us. The unexpected arrival of the lingering matriarch crops up in Anything Else. Nothing is exactly the same, no repeated scenes, so I might simply be noticing familiar tropes, but it could demonstrate that no ideas are ever really lost.

To increase the sense that we’re in a mixed up crazy kinda wurld, Mark Kermode gave the film a poor review last Friday. He says he didn’t laugh once (and neither did the two other people in the screening) and suggested that Woody has lost his sense of place in relation to New York, giving the city a “tourists” view. Well, as Kermode might say, two things on this.

Firstly, the reason we get the tourist version of the city is that it's being seen through the eyes of newcomers – Melody first then later her mother. When the more domestic parts of the city are shown, it’s the city blocks that the reclusive Boris inhabits and refreshingly they’re not Katz’s or the familiar locations, but places which ordinary New Yorkers might go.

Secondly, back in my review of Melinda and Melinda I suggested that then Woody was completing his New York project, tying up loose thematic and auteur related ends ready for his European adventures by commemorating everything which had gone before. Oddly, even though this is a return to New York, nothing in Whatever Works dissuades me from that view, and not just because of its earlier provenance.

Not only is the use of locations jumbled, his previous musical rule of jazz for comedy and classical for drama is up the wall and in some places reversed (you can see what I mean from the soundtrack which is available on Spotify should you have the capacity). But in general because of all the southern visitors it is an outsider’s view of the city but unlike Kermode, I believe that it’s deliberate and was perhaps even heightened in the contemporary update of the script.

Structurally the film also very clearly changes tack half way through. The opening half is generally from Boris’s point of view, we’re granted flashbacks and given a blow-by-blow account of his life story and philosophical perspective. What we discover about in these early scenes about Evan Rachel Wood’s Melody is from their two-handers and his conversations with friends (apart from the one scene in which makes the date with the dog walker and goes on the failed date).

Then, about half way through, just after Boris replaces Melody's musical choice with Beethoven’s 5th, the story opens out not to just encompass her, but her mother’s story and later her father and with the few narrative important exceptions such as when he still talks to the viewer, we’re given the external view of Boris and what Melody thinks of their relationship, but because we’ve already had time to empathise with him, we're disappointed when she drifts away with Charles Brandon from The Tudors.

Actually, Henry Cavill has splashes of light humour as the dashing Englisher even if his character name, Randy, seems a bit misplaced. Indeed there isn't a terrible performance here, and though David threatens to overpower everyone if only in through sheer volume, Evan Rachel Wood (like Mira Sorvino before her) brings a genuine depth to a character who elsewhere might have simply been the blonde intellectual punching bag. Special mention too for Clarkson, who brings nuance to a figure who despite changing her entirely life's philosophy remains the same person at the core.

As this rush of late night words should indicate, Whatever Works was well worth the wait (cliché!). Aided by those wonderful performances and a shooting style very much geared towards the cinema (which is why I’m quite glad the blu-ray wouldn’t play in the end) it might not be one of Woody’s best films, but it’s certainly a piece I’d want to see again, if only to take in the nuances of some of Boris’s longer soliloquies which have a textual density rare seen in contemporary cinema.

Hopefully we won’t have to wait as long to see You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Unless I take a Spanish holiday. It’s out there in August …
Music The Guardian were all over Glastonbury reviewing as many acts as possible. Broken into subheadings, the best sections cover what we didn't hear about on TV -- the crowd reaction. This one from the Shakira review is typical:
Over on the Other Stage, the Cribs sneer: "I don't know why you're watching us when you could be watching Shakira." At which point, members of the audience think "Hmm, good point" and leg it over. There may be better ways to spend sunset on a Saturday than gyrating to Shakira with a cocktail in your hand, but watching the Cribs moan about "corporate indie" while serving it up isn't it.
Shakira is, of course, my favourite pop starlet.

Hamlet (Spinebreakers). Edited by Dr. G B Harrison.

Who's There?

Spine Breakers from the Puffin Books imprint is an online book community for teenagers between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, with editorial control and content produced by people from within that age group. Penguin are now using the initiative to publicise some classic books, Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, Jane Eyre and Hamlet giving each the trappings of a modern novel with a day-glo cover and a zeitgeisty quote on this back, in this case, David Tennant saying that it’s “Probably the most famous play there’s ever been.”


The motivation for choosing Hamlet (for which a review copy was supplied) is right there on the cover. Penguin are refreshingly taking the logical assumption from the first Folio as explained by Steve Roth in 'Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country' that based on evidence in the gravedigger scene, the Danish prince is a teenager, just sixteen years (and not thirty as theatrical tradition has it), which means that the play has a better chance of resonating with the target audience. So there he is, a fresh faced Justin Bieber lookalike, clutching Yorrik’s skull. The synopsis on the back emphasises this by describing Hamlet up-front as a “young prince”.

The Text

Open the cover, though, and after the title page we find a reprint of GB Harrison’s original Penguin edition from 1937 which I previously reviewed at this link under its other guise in the Penguin Popular Classic edition. Short of a whole new editorial, this is a fairly good choice because of its simple but detailed approach to Shakespeare’s biography and Elizabethan staging. In this context, the handy glossary at the back of the book also reads like the Urban Dictionary and included words which would be no less unusual in teen speak now: “drossy: scummy”, “fordo: destroy” and “milch: moist”.

How is it, my lord?

My few reservations about the text are carried over as well, if not moreso since in this context its more likely to find use in an educational context were the information being given to a student and what they believe could effect their exam marks. Plus, however lush the cover, this is still the repackaging of material which is available for five pounds less elsewhere. Nevertheless, the philosophy behind the Spine Breakers editions is to be applauded and I’m sure Harrison would be pleased to see his work still being used to help introduce Shakespeare to a new audience all of these years later.

Hamlet (Spinebreakers). Edited by Dr. G B Harrison. Published by Puffin Books. £6.99 paperback. ISBN: 9780141331836 (for which a review copy was supplied)

"Let me hear you cheer! Let me hear you roar!"

sounding like a bore.

Life Some of you may remember that I live on the edge of Sefton Park in Liverpool which means that I enjoy the best of both worlds, city living and wide open spaces.

Despite being in a flat, I’m still able to joke about having a garden, even if that garden is about ten acres. We pay host to all kinds of events; last week the Africa Oye festival filled the atmosphere, we enjoy food festivals and circuses and we’re soon to give the In The Night Garden tour somewhere to plonk their igloo.

As a municipal park, it also offers a haven to passing trade, a perfect sun trap for everyone else in the area and beyond. It’s what it’s there for.

What I hadn’t realised is the lack of respect many of these people have for the place.

Walking across the parade field area this lunchtime I found myself stepping onto the cumulative remains of an hour in the sun here, an evening out there. The ground is strewn with cigarette butts and beer cans, coat-hangers and plastic forks.

There are small oblong areas of charred grass where a barbecue has been, and indeed in some places, the actual disposable barbecue, presumably too hot to handle, which will take weeks to grow back if at all. Bits of paper. There are bins, and the bins fill up quickly, especially in hot weather.

At the risk of sounding like a bore, none of these visitors have thought to simply bag their detritus and take it home even though they often have cars with boots, the spaces that brought the mayhem in the first place.

The attitude is that it’s someone else’s problem, presumably the council’s, little understanding the process required to pick the litter from an acre or two, the man hours that they’re paying for, assuming they think at all.

Most of them probably aren't aware that park also recently been through an expensive renovation project which included the repair of the fields.

I was always brought up to put my litter in the bin, even now carrying empty bottles around in my bag for hours, perhaps even all the way home. Even if they were too, they seem to have forgotten.

It’s the heat making me ratty, I suppose, but I simply can’t understand the mentality.

I was asked up front the other day why I’ve become so cynical and amongst the panoply of reasons, this kind of tiny ignorance must be in there somewhere.

I know this sounds like the kind of letter sent to the Daily Mail or column written for them "professionally", of the kind I’d usually laugh at, that include phrases like "I simply can’t understand the mentality".

I also know that almost all of these litterers will be nice people.

I’m just asking for them to be just a little bit nicerer, just so that when I do want to go to the park myself to read a book, I’m able to find a patch of grass to stretch out without staining my trousers with charcoal.

The Big Bang.

TV Raggedy Doctor, raggedy final episode. I’ve been watching lots of productions of Hamlet lately and concurrently reading scraps of literary criticism, volumes of words devoted to whether he’s really mad, she was in on the murder of his Dad and oddly what religion they all are. Some of this is quite the most bonkers theorising you’re likely to see in print as each and every Phd tries to find something new to say about a four hundred year old play that everyone (well everyone who cares about literature, a progressively dwindling number) has already had an opinion about. Shakespeare was probably a genius because he knew his legacy wouldn’t just be built on the poetry of his plays but the collective head-scratching of his audience.

The days, weeks and hours leading up to The Big Bang have been like those four hundred years compressed into a much shorter time. Online, the minutiae of dialogue, narrative and since this is television, directorial choices, ploughed over and over. A feature of modern television obviously, but even in the Bad Wolf era, the Doigian attention to brainteasers wasn’t quite this intensive. The Big Bang had a lot to live up to, not just as a piece of Saturday night television watched by the millions not watching football or having a barbecue or both but as the solution to a three month old logic problem. I’m not about to end this paragraph comparing Steven Moffat to Shakespeare, but his methodology was certainly similar.

The brilliance of The Big Bang, and yes, it is brilliant, is that it manages to not only provide answers to some of those questions (that’s some) but also spin them into a emotional entertainment which unlike you what you might expect from the title, refused to give in to the tendency in these finales for massive space opera and offered instead a much smaller story which was ultimately about a girl and her childhood memories, about dreams and fairy tales, in which Moffat risked losing those viewers who focus on the literal and attempt to punch through something more profound. As the older Amy says when the Pandorica opens again, "OK kid, this is where it gets complicated."

Just before transmission, the rector of this parish tweeted that he was more nervous about this episode than the England match tomorrow and as it turned out Moffat split his story roughly down the middle, with Big Bang 2 as the narrative equivalent of oranges and an ear-bashing from Fabio Capello. Anyone expecting a monster mash will have been surprised to find Saturday night drama again audaciously being carried by little Caitlin Blackwood in an extended recreation of The Eleventh Hour, sans the Doctor and with the small and telling gesture that the stars haven’t just gone out this time – they never existed. A residue of race-memory is retained, not least by that well known cultist Richard Dawkins, who in the Russell T Davies version of this episode would have been back on screen pointing to a diagram of where in the void Alpha Centuri should be.

Few other cliffhanger resolutions have been like this, continuing to keep the audience guessing even after the main titles, but as Moffat said in last month’s parish newsletter, he was writing a script which attempted to be a sequel to all the episodes this season (with the exception of episode seven – so far) so you can understand why he might want to take his time. The reveal of this new universe (can a planet and not a proper sun be described as a universe?) was a masterclass in suggestion, with remnants such as the stone Daleks (like their cousins in Victory) from the old timeline anomalies in the new, the whole planet now a metaphor for the interior of Amy’s brain, with a history that doesn’t make sense and presumably since there’s no space exploration, any Star Trek or Star Wars (What’s a galaxy? Why build a spaceship if we’ve nowhere to go?).

As with Amy’s note in The Lodger and every other script Steven Moffat has written, the explicability of how these Mobius (no not Morbius) events are generated and resolved was again not fully explained and likely to be the most headache inducing (particularly for poor Blinovitch). The predestination paradoxes agogo used to explicate the break from the Pandorica and Amy’s resurrection are the stuff of the jail break in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and I can understand why someone might feel cheated by the inherent logic short circuit in the centre. Cheap tricks are not exactly new in Doctor Who. The fake Mona Lisas in City of Death for one thing, and Jonathan Morris’s novel Festival of Death is replete with them. Quite whether kids and some adults would have been able to follow all of the shifting about of time I’m not sure, though they must have loved the Doctor in a fez randomly carrying a mop.

Like the deus ex pandorica conclusion to the crackpot crack plot, Moffat gets away with his folly (at least for me) by ultimately turning both into quiet meditations on sacrifice. Amy’s boys both become myths in different ways to show their love for her and though we can argue whether the Doctor would have done the same no matter what sort of human she was, Pond, thanks to Karen Gillan’s consistently well judged performance (give or take a few line readings), is the kind of girl you would surrender yourself for. Her twin reactions to the story of how her boyfriend may have perished safeguarding the Pandorica over two millenia and the Doctor’s final words before he hurls himself into the smouldering TARDIS just demolished me; she’s almost a younger, female Cribbins. When Gillan cries, I do too. We await her cover version of Gossip Calypso with great interest.

From Amy’s resurrection to the whole universe. The Doctor’s steering of the Pandorica into the heart of the Tardis’s storm firstly brought to mind similar journey’s in Contact, Sunshine, The Abyss and more specifically 2001, a lone figure entering the unknown and like 2001, gaining the opportunity to become a viewer reviewing elements of his own lifetime, though Moffat sadly doesn’t take the opportunity to explain if timelords are loomed or born, there’s no star time-tot floating in the void. He does however resolve two of the big theories, of the multiple Doctor’s in Flesh and Stone and the non-dream sequence in The Eleventh Hour, Amelia’s long evening wait. Rare is it in Doctor Who that this kind of forward planning has been in evidence and so sensationally pulled off. This whole finale is nearly a homage to the inexplicable Dalek amongst the Roman battalion in Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox's Big Finish audio Seasons of Fear (which threw forward to Time of the Daleks later that season).

Matt Smith’s performance in this section and especially when he explains his existence to a sleeping Amelia was extraordinary. Once again we see the character’s years weighted on his shoulders and behind his eyes as he agrees with River’s suggestion that they’re all a fairy tale, distilling his existence to a poetic version of the key components, of the kind a small mind might be able to comprehend. He recalls the beginning of his own adventure, however long that was before An Unearthly Child (the jury is still out), his own life folding back on itself; given the number of times Billy has appeared this series, I almost expected him to break into chat about his grand daughter, kidnapped teachers and a junkyard, but unlike some authors we could mention, Moffat’s tasteful enough to keep to the essentials. Then before the Doctor finds himself watching another story with a hyperbolic title, he’s gone.

Finally we meet Amy’s family, the appearance of whom was rather spoiled by the BBC Three listing in the Radio Times. Like other elements of Amy’s character, the loss of memory, the runaway bride, ginger, Augustus and Tabetha recalled Donna’s parents, same kind of demographic group, yet more immediately likeable somehow, especially when her Dad said he needs a few moments to perfect his speech (never mind the Dahl reference, Augustus is played by the brilliantly named Halcro Johnston which might be the best actor’s name ever). It’s in these moments, Moffat’s groundwork on memory begins to pay off as like Gwyneth Paltrow at the close of Sliding Doors, this older Amy begins to remember the person she was in the other timeline. There is some glossing over such topics as to the extent she and her husband remember both remember their other existences, Rory in particular with two thousand years as her plastic pal who’s sort of fun to be with (if you want, not sure).

The Doctor’s re-emergence also neatly sidesteps the subject of how the Earth is a nice place to live without the troubles that befell it in Turn Left – Amy would have remembered him eventually and so he will have existed and so the Whoniverse is back to normal – moreso since it also corrected the bother created by the cracks. Such questions and answers simply didn’t occur to me during my sharp intake of breath on seeing River at the window, her TARDIS diary and Amy’s explanation of “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”. As with much of the rest of the episode, Moffat, aided by a beautiful sweeping push-in, is able to turn what should be inexplicable narrative sleight of hand into a beautiful character moment as Amy is able to confirm that she isn’t mad – even if the man in the top hat quite conclusively is. Look at the dancing.

Threading through this all of this is River Song, pointedly oscillating, like the Doctor himself between elucidator and enigma. We’re meant to believe that her moral compass is pointing more toward the Seventh Doctor than the present incarnation – though in one of the episode’s few logic missteps (few?), I don’t quite understand how having her do an Absolom Daak demonstrates that (unless it’s because the pepperpot wasn’t armed). Still, there is something rather chilling about seeing this remnant scream for mercy and Alex Kingston enjoying its misunderstanding of the role River has in the Doctor’s life, her eyes sparkling. At some point, her “spoilers” catchphrase will begin to tire, but you suspect that Moffat will, in a timely manner, judge when that will be, and some of the answers will begin to flow.

Because in order to keep us interested, still guessing, still theorising, oh the mysteries some of which, like Hamlet's listlessness, may never be "solved". We don’t know who was controlling the TARDIS, who’s voice is slithering “Silence will fall” or why, as the Doctor notes, his time machine exploded in the first place. We don’t know what happened to the ducks in the duck pond. A crack, perhaps, but given how often these potentially otherwise picayune anatidae have been mentioned, no explanation to their relevance was forthcoming. What of the machine in The Lodger? Perhaps most importantly, will Arthur Darvill be in the opening credits now that he appears to be a full companion? He’s certainly earned it, having been in more episodes than Moffat’s written, and turned Rory into a character who feels as significant as Amy. Unless he really does become nu-Who’s equivalent of South Park’s Kenny, always existing on the precipice between life and death, ready to take the bullet or neutron ray when an episode is requiring an emotional crescendo.

In my review of The Eleventh Hour, I said I was “enchanted, beguiled, cheering, laughing and clapping” and that’s been my state through most of this series (though to be fair when has it ever not been?). The only slightly bogus journey was the Chibnall Silurian two-parter and even that held together well enough on the strength of its dialogue, its direction and performances. There was no New Earth, no Planet of the Ood. Even Victory of the Daleks entertained me, though I know it’s not been universally praised because of (amongst other things) the new Dalek design. What Moffat has done is to somehow mix our collective childhood memory of Doctor Who (before it was tarnished through our adult cynicism via dvd) with the needs of modern television for an emotional luminance and hired a Doctor who is able to embody both. If nothing else, I think we can all agree that in Matt Smith is a replacement for the other fella who may well yet eclipse him (assuming he hasn’t already).
Elsewhere I've reviewed last night's extraordinary Doctor Who. I am now officially sick of the sound of my own writing style.