Jon Stewart's speech at the Rally For Sanity.

Politics The Guardian has a live blog of the day, but this final speech probably covers everything and much of what he says is becoming just as relevant in the UK as it is now in the US. Just a pity the people he's trying to communicate to aren't and won't have been listening.  Huffington has a transcript.

Liverpool Biennial 2010: Marianna Mørkøre and Rannvá Káradóttir's Magma in the Nordic Pavillion as part of City States in the NOVAS Contemporary Urban Centre.

Contemporary Urban Centre

Art When it first opened/began broadcasting, Channel 4, faced with the twin dilemma of a charter obligation to service minority interests and fill hours of television with a tiny budget, offered a far more eclectic set of programmes than we're used to now.  As anyone who's watched the rather good Adam and Joe survey will know that included some fairly way out material, the likes of Naked Yoga, Laurie Anderson and Countdown with its rumoured Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain broadcast in the same timeslot as our generation's version, Grand Designs.

I wasn't old enough to appreciate any of this of course, watching Moonlighting and Dallas on the other side instead.  I've often wondered what my reaction would be and I hope and expect it would something akin to the enthusiasm with which I greeted Marianna Mørkøre and Rannvá Káradóttir's Magma, a five minute short film exploring minimalist movement projected behind a screen in the Nordic Pavilion (more of a room hidden at the back of one of the exhibition spaces) which was a mix of "Oh wow" and "Oh this must have been what it was like to see O Superman for the first time" and "I can't wait to see what else they've done."

This trailer offers just a flavour of what is one of my favourite pieces of the Biennial.  In Magma, a group of girls portray what might be futuristic nuns lost on a kind of manic retreat in the wilderness (or the Faroe Islands) taking part in a ritual that looks like it has the capacity to shake the foundations of the planet.  After a time, some kind of initiation ceremony takes place, perhaps suggesting the moment when a girl becomes a woman, but it's not clear.   Nothing's clear, but for once, because the imagery is so mesmerising both in terms of editing and lighting, I don't care, I just let it wash over me.

Just the sort of thing to fill the gap between Ken Loach's latest Film on 4 and Club X, alongside a rerun of some ancient Bunuel/Dali effort defaced by a red triangle in the corner of the screen.  Shot on 8mm, featuring dancers in strange costumes against a barren landscape and employing haphazard editing, a less intended reference point is the behind the scenes footage and production stills that appear in the extras on Doctor Who dvds, perhaps for some lost 60s Troughton, featuring some cousins of the Drahvins ready to fight off an attack by the Yeti, a suitably stimulated Fraser Hines just off camera waiting for the end of the rehearsal.

Until 30th November.

Liverpool Biennial 2010: Me at number 22.

About In other news, Creative Tourism's latest top 25 UK Arts & Culture Blogs list is out and "I'm" still there, holding on at number 22, something I can only attribute to all the Biennial coverage since there are plenty of better blogs than "me" on there.

Other local interest: Ella's Run Paint Run Run, Ian & Minako's Art in Liverpool and The FACT Blog. Congratulations to them.
Elsewhere I've failed to do justice to this week's The Sarah Jane Adventures. I know that's an outrageously long post title, but it seemed appropriate somehow, especially since Mum said today it was her favourite Beatles song.

Death of the Doctor.

TV The Green Death was broadcast before I was born, Jo Grant leaving the Doctor before I was even conceived. Yet seeing Katy Manning clumsily burst through the doors on the fake funeral presided over by the Buzzie, Dizzie, Ziggy and Flaps from The Jungle Book, I'm still filled to the brim with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, giggling at the sight of this older version of the girl who broke Mike Yates’s heart now breaking a vase, words spilling out of her like the Doctor himself with post-regenerative verbal diarriah, a young endogenous mix of her own husband and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles at her side.

Jo If nothing else, Death of the Doctor is a successful demonstration of the power of merchandising, the ability of the videos then dvds, novels and audios to keep a character alive, pickled in amber at the age she was when she originally appeared in the programme and making her important and much loved even to those of us whose first identifiable memory of the programme is Leela and K9 tracking through a corridor in some story or other (The Sun Makers?) so that when she does re-emerge “baked” our hearts leap on greeting an old friend.

Still waiting for my own Doctor Who girl so that we can make some, I don’t know what Jo’s significance is for any children watching; it’s a few year since School Reunion and even though that story will probably still be present to them for much the same reason Timelash is unfortunately to us, it’s not a bad idea that a new set of youngsters discovering the franchise for the first time should be introduced to the concept that the Doctor had a different face and companions and history before the new married couple, that same story should be roughly retold from a slightly different perspective, with some different chaps with wings.

My guess is that at least initially a lot of this material will head on over their heads except for the useful information that Amy and Rory are on a honeymoon whilst this adventure is going on, the youngsters giggling instead at the Muppet vultures and hiss at another dodgy authority figure whilst the adults are enjoying a meditation on memory, of old and new adventures, of finding a stimulating place in the world even after you’ve done what could have been the most exciting thing in your life. In this script, Russell T Davies proves that it’s possible to write for both age groups without resorting to dated Terminator references.

And both adults and kids can agree that Matt Smith’s version of the Doctor has now clicked, the actor inhabiting the skin of the character with supreme confidence, the weight of a millennia travel gathered across his shoulders. What we have here is (along with the climax to his first series) evidence that he’s clearly consolidated his approach, so much so that in places (aided it has to be said by a writer who’s clearly enjoying the opportunity to write for a Doctor he didn’t initiate) he almost manages to unseat the title character from her own series. When Matt suggested in a recent DWM interview: “You’ve got to bed into this part. I’m going to get better. I’m going to push the part to its limit”, he wasn't lying.

So well does he capture the mix of dottiness and sober reflection and fiery danger at the heart of the timelord, that it's almost impossible to tell how accurate Davies’s dialogue is in relation to the Eleventh Doctor; rather like Paul McGann reading Tom’s previously abandoned words for the audio Shada, Smith's able to make the words his own. Davies could just as well be giving him the full Tennant and I’m not sure would noticed. Not that it stops the ticks of relevant previous Doctors from seeping through, a Tenth like growl when faced with a decision in an air duct, a quite Pertweesque “yes” in agreement at the relief of a still living Smith and Jones in a lead lined coffin.

With so much else happening, it’s also a pleasure to see the kids being given to emotional weightlifting too; whilst some might find it difficult to care for the plight of a teenager travelling the world as part of a family tree that seems to have an abundance of disposable income, albeit aiding worthy causes, there must be children watching who for various reasons have also been farmed off to older relatives losing contact with their parents. With Davies offering a rare occasion when Haresh isn't simple straight man and genuine father figure to Rani, the writer's big theme in this secondary storyline that parents are good, something most of us can agree with.

Death of the Doctor is, then, one of the few occasions, blue little man group accepted, when Sarah Jane Adventures genuinely aspires to be more than programme just for children. Sam Watt’s music brings an epic quality to a story, which like some of the best classic Who, is ultimately told in about three rooms, a corridor, some ducting and a quarry. Ashley Way’s direction favours the close-up, all the better to capture the obvious chemistry between Lis and Katy born from years spent on the convention circuit together, the former graciously seceding the focus for a couple of weeks to a fellow actress reliving her youth.

In the final scene, Davies offers his equivalent of God's Final Message to His Creation, retconning the thematic undercurrent begun in the first season of nu-Who of the Doctor’s positive effect on the people he touches, essentially clearing up the grey skies, brushing off the clouds and cheering up a range of classic companions, taking off the gloomy mask of tragedy fitted on them by spin-off authors in the wilderness years, at least the ones still alive on Earth in whatever year this season of SJA is set in (sorry Dodo) which for some of us was rather more potent than the Doctor’s apparent publicity baiting new regenerative cycle.

On first inspection this seems like the writer disregarding even criticising the very merchandising that gave his returning character the life and relevance which made this story psychologically intelligible to most of us of a certain other age. But in fact, he’s been rather more sensitive. Glance through the relevant wikia pages and we discover that with the exception of Ace, whose timeline is a mess anyway, he’s simply adding to their on-going stories and in the case of Ben and Polly inadvertently offering a third act happy ending to love story told across decades via short fiction in the style of When Harry Met Sally. In other words, returning me to the merchandise that led me to this story in the first place.

Next Week: Challenge of the Gobots.

"the majority of their royalties"

Music Well, thank goodness for that. Spotify have finally decided to reveal how much cash they're handing over to rights holders and the figures are really rather good. As Music Ally reports they've passed on 40m euros in revenue since the October 2008 launch with three quarters of that in this past year, user sign-ups having grown sharply with a general increase in awareness and a clearer pricing policy. Oh and:
"in several European countries, Spotify is now making more money for rightsholders than Apple’s iTunes Store, according to label sources"
Indeed there are some artists in Sweden who now receive the majority of their royalties from Spotify. I predicted nearly two years ago that Spotify would help to change the way we listen music. Now it seems that is has.

Liverpool Biennial 2010: Social Media Cafe at 52 Renshaw Street.

Social Media Cafe Liverpool - the art one

Liverpool Life One of the many successes in this year's Biennial is the increase in their presence across the range of social media employing it as a promotional tool, both to mass publicise events and exhibitions and as a promotional tool to allow people to interact with a festival, which in previous years has had a tendency to be a bit monolithic and distant, on a more personal basis, the pinnacle an offline ARG game across the streets of Liverpool.

The process of this strategy was described in some detail in the first talk of the latest Social Media Cafe, held last night at the information centre for the Biennial, in an area tucked just behind some sheds, very public yet also somewhat private. Head of marketing for the Biennial Antony Pickthall and mastermind of the strategy Alistair Beech unfolded across a range of slides how the audience has responded in kind with exponential increases in followers and genuine engagement.

The result, at least for me, has been that the Biennial has felt like a genuine festival something ongoing across the three months, unlike some previous years when, after the initial opening weekend's burst of excitement for most of us punters everything has died down a little (although I'm willing to accept it could also be because I've worked at it -- perhaps festivals are like relationships -- if you want to be rewarded you need to put in the commitment).

All of the talks shared this artistic theme. Peter Goodbody explained the history of the FAB Collective, the group of Liverpool photographers whose work I've previously enthused about, which at its heart, like the Social Media Cafe itself and all of these events, shows how the web allows people to gather under-common interests virtually (oh what did we do before flickr?) before taking that interaction to this so-called real world and the ensuing problems which can sometimes occur when that interaction goes back online again.

The final introduction was from Adeyinka Olushonde to the FENG office suite which is being employed at the back and for the Liverpool Arts Regenerataion Consortium's online map and calender website, which is being used to promote participatory arts programmes throughout the North West and to track were council investment is actually going. The plan, all being well, from what I understood, is that it'll eventually expand to cover all the arts and sport, anything cultural which brings people together.

Update: Alistair Houghton of the Daily Post, who's rather handy with shorthand, has a longer, more detailed review that includes quotes from the speakers.

"Which order? Which?"

TV(ish) Renewed interest in the 8.0 model of the Doctor played by Paul McGann fuelled by the re-release of his one and only television appearance and the announcement of a new costume - see above - have led some (well some people, well one person on the Gallifrey Base discussion board) to look at his appearances, in the comics, in the books, in the audio adventures and wonder. "Which order? Which?"

A search online leads to a range of opinions and chronologies, many chronologies.

Glance through those and you'll find many ingenious ways they've found for the various often contradictory series to intersect, entirely ignoring such things as character development and that any shared-universe fiction will contradict itself no matter what happens (I'm looking at you Lucas).

Since I know that people do Google these things and because I won't be available for Biennial review duty today (this is one I prepared earlier), I thought I'd bore the majority and interest the few by offering the order in which I think 8.0's adventures can be enjoyed with the inevitable justifications beneath which with any luck won't include many spoilers.

1 The TV Movie

Which is inevitable. Can't be helped.

2 The Eight Doctors by Terrance Dicks

The first of the BBC Books which follows on directly from the TV Movie.

3 The Dying Days by Lance Parkin

Bit of a controversial one this. The last novel published by Virgin Books before the BBC revoked their license, it's also the only one to star the Eighth Doctor. Has to go here, but because it's from a different publishing company and it's retrospectively explained that his new companion Sam has been left at a Greenpeace rally. He's gone for three years part of which is spent on ...

4 The Radio Times comic strips

Usually forgotten but important since his companions return in one of the ...

5 The rest of the BBC Books

All of them in order.

6 The Doctor Who Magazine comics

All of them in order.

7 The Big Finish Audios

All of them in order.

Which seems simple enough.

Except, for various reasons some fans like to think that the comics and audios happen in the three year gap we've just discussed. Not least because the version of his home planet Gallifrey which appears in both is rather different to the one which develops in the books.

Except, coincidentally both the books and comics ended in similar circumstances in the wake of the new series with most of their plotlines resolved and the Doctor and his companions heading off into an unknown future.

Which means that there's nothing to say that at some point between the close of the books and the start of the comics, and the close of the comics and the start of the books some event or other might have caused the changes to be rolled back, the Doctor left travelling alone again ready for the next set of adventures to start.

Thank goodness DWM didn't follow through with the original plan of showing the regeneration.

And having the audios last, from the first, Storm Warning, through to the latest season means that we fans of 8.0 can enjoy a series of ongoing adventures which are edging ever closer to another time war (there are several) and the events of the new series, still filling in a gap, but one which ends in a story which can only be written in our heads.

Plus it means, after all the fanfare, that we then also don't have explain why at some point he's changed his costume back.

Oh and the various short stories and comic flashbacks fitted in whenever it seems like they should be. There's not the room here for that.

Now, wasn't that interesting?

Liverpool Biennial 2010: Future Movements, part of City States in the NOVAS Contemporary Urban Centre.

Future Movements, part of City States in the NOVAS Contemporary Urban Centre.

Art  Something which I've often wondered about and some of this Biennial has put into sharp focus, is if, like so many other art forms, exhibitions have an optimal duration.  In other words, if some exhibitions demand a stroll or some a glance and if, when we get this wrong we're doing the work a disservice.  Does some work only fall apart if we dawdle too long over it, think too long about it and in contrast the work which must be experienced over a longer period is misunderstood because we lack the patience or time to dedicate to it?

Other than the obvious, a greater understanding of what it’s like to live in contemporary Jerusalem, the Future Movements section of City States seems also designed to demonstrate the latter, that some art takes time.  I spent just over an hour strolling about this small room, letting each video and audio piece play for its full duration.  As other visitors stepped through briefly, I was uncertain if they were really getting the most from the work, if they could really say they’d seen the exhibition. In seeking the instant cultural hit, they missed everything.

Certainly if they simply glimpsed Boucha Khalidi’s Mapping Journey #3, all they’d see is a video of a map with a pen scrawling across it. But absorb the subtitles and the story of the artist and they’d discover as I did, that he was describing the journey from Ramallah to Jerusalem to see his girlfriend before and after the blockade, in which what was once a fifteen minute car trip has become an epic trail through remote villages and hills so as to avoid checkpoints, a Michael Winterbottom road movie in three minutes.

What would the dozen or so people who opened the curtain at the doorway to the pitch black room in which I sat and listened to Jakob Jakonsen’s The Ramallan Lecture have made of the scene? Me on the floor (no chairs) listening intently as an actress, Marina Vismidt spun out across fifteen minutes these vignettes of life by the Danish artist, visiting friends, navigating the streets, being hassled by a stranger about the infamous cartoons, punctuated now and then by illustrative photographs lit up briefly on the walls.

Over and over, light would flood in from the doorway, I’d lock eyes with a visitor and then the curtain would close. The effect wasn’t unlike a live version of that Silas Fong piece in the basement and each time I hoped someone would join me and we could share the experience. No one did.  If I was a paranoid person, I might assume it was something to do with me and my scary features, but it's most likely that they simply didn't have the time.  Well, the text of the piece is available here (and far more besides).

Which is fine, except, once the visitor has realised the satire at the heart of Anna Brogan's How Long Is A Piece Of String 2001-10 which employs maps of the world to express the implications of the Israeli separation wall, all of the prints seem to be making the same point and its time to move on.  Similarly, the sensory overload of Bassel Abbas and Ruanne Abou Rahme's Contingency 2010 with its mirrored walls, white noise and LED displays barking orders recreating life in Ramallah demands a short sharp shock.

Perhaps it's that the work dictates our approach and we need to be attuned to that or that it's up to the artist or connected information to indicate the optimum length of time they think is required to consume a piece of art.  Two minutes for Larissa Sanour's A Space Exodus (2009) in which she shoots herself, Defying Gravity-style on the first Palestinian moon mission, longer for Jaws Al Malhi's Tower of Babel Revisited 2009 panoramic shot of Jerusalem, the wall winding through.

Whatever.  In the basement later, just before visiting Zone East, I heard an invigilator enthusing about the Future Movement exhibition to a colleague.  "I just didn't know this was happening..." she said meekly, "...I just didn't."  None of us really can.  What I do know, is that in offering an emotional rather than a purely factual response to the situation, I potentially learnt as much in this couple of hours about these cities and their contemporary problems than a dozen news reports.

Until 28th November.

Liverpool Biennial 2010: Elish Culley's An Element of Curiosity at Studio2 and John Hoyland at 3345 in the Parr Street Studios.

Parr Street Studios.  Which includes Studio2 and 3345.

Art Since I'm still sniffling after being poorly ill/feeling sorry for myself for four days/man flu I hope you won't mind my brevity in considering Parr Street Studios, especially since the exhibition which was at the 3345 bar upstair, a selection of John Hoyland's abstract paintings, finished a week ago. This Google search offers a flavour of what you missed and Hoyland was interviewed on The Culture Show last year.

Other exhibitions continue at the 3345. Check press for details.

On the ground floor, at Studio2, is An Element of Curiosity, a collection of photographs by Elish Culley collected over the past five years. Photography, especially wildlife photography, always works best on a larger scale and Culley's splash their colour across A3, including a rather good shot of some cows grazing against a hill and sky picked out in primary colours.

Until 30 Nov.
Elsewhere I've reviewed last week's The Sarah Jane Adventures about which I found very few good things to say. If I wasn't quite so tired I might even have been a bit angry about it.