"Essential Songs About Wheat"

"The World’s 25 Most Colorful Exit Signs

10 Essential Songs About Wheat

4 Inspiring Lance Bass Quotations

11 Political Lessons We Learned From Gilmore Girls

16 Beautiful Photos From Underneath a Bed"
In a genius move, Buzzfeed have made many of them real, including the one about the Gilmore Girls [via].


Music  Why do nobody tell me?  WHY DIDN'T ANYBODY TELL ME !?!  There I was having a quiet morning, bit of blogging, bit of reading, bit of cereal and meanwhile, WHY DIDN'T ANYBODY TELL ME !?!

"Siobhan: People seem to say it in that order quite naturally. It seems to roll off the tongue like that.
Keisha: Mutya, can I just say something? I found a link the other day which I really want to show you. It’s a clip of you when you’re 16 and they ask you why we came up with the name ‘Sugababes’. And you go: “Well we had to have a band name because we couldn’t have people just calling us Mutya, Keisha, Siobhan.” (Everyone laughs) Amazing! It’s so cute. It’s when you were innocent.
Mutya: I’m still innocent!"
This news has been knocking around for nearly twenty-four hours.  WHY DIDN'T ANYBODY TELL ME !?!  Not that it isn't nice to discover something for myself for a change.

The new website is here. I like the name. It explains who they are and can be easily be acronymed to MKS, which brings plenty of commercial potential what with that also being the acronym used by Marks & Sparks on the stock market and this maker of instruments. Admittedly not their kind of instruments, but still.

Apparently they're in that order because it sounds the best.  Let's look at the other choices next to each other:

1. Siobhan Keisha Mutya
2. Siobhan Mutya Keisha
3. Keisha Siobhan Mutya
4. Keisha Mutya Siobhan
5. Mutya Siobhan Keisha


6. Mutya Keisha Siobhan.

I actually prefer 2.  It has slightly more rhythm and a sense of history in that it's the order in which the girls managed to escape the "Sugababes".  But Mutya Keisha Siobhan it is and the quest is the quest.

Look at them:

There are also other photos of them in shot together.

Their first interview, fittingly for PopJustice (given their sterling work in keeping the dream alive), covers most of the bases.  Mutya's talking to Keisha, Keisha talking to Siobhan and Siobhan and Mutya are still talking to each other.

Of course, none of this matters unless the music's any good. The problem with the All Saints reunion was that the tracks were so unlike their original sound and horrendously generic as to render the project pointless.  MKS haven't recorded together since they were 16.

PopJustice has heard some of the new material and says that it's "officially ‘not shit'" which is a good sign.  A very good sign.  Oh my.

"philosophically there is a connection"

About Because sometimes its easier to post things in lists, here are some things I've discovered this week:

Some people don't know about Liverpool Direct.

Actually more clearly people in Liverpool don't know what the council's capable of. This sprang from a conversation about traffic lights at Ignite on Wednesday night when I began a verbal dissertation about traffic management. People don't seem to know that you can report such things to the local council, that phoning Liverpool Direct is something they could imagine doing.

The council's website is a encyclopedia of local information from when schools are open to where the local parks are, but more importantly for our purposes has plenty of places for reporting things like potholes, flytipping and broken street lights.  There's a search box and helpful a-z list.  If what you want isn't there, you can also phone the main council number of 0151-233-3000 and they'll point you in the right direction.

There's a Starbucks at Mann Island.

Yesterday I undertook this old Guardian walk around the city centre and amid the chaos of the dotted line on the map not matching the directions in place, I still as always managed to see things I didn't know about like the Londonesque gift shop on North John Street, the Bang & Olufsen on Castle Street (which I thought was entirely new but opened ten years ago).  There's also a Starbucks in the Mann Island complex which has been open since December.

The reason its hidden from view is because as a franchise, it's only recently been listed on the  official app and website and has to fight for recognition since its essentially in competition with real Starbucks.  Even though to all intents and purposes it is a real Starbucks and in some ways feels more like the Starbucks of old, less corporate somehow, than some of the others in the city.  Curious.

People have never seen Sneakers.

Also at Ignite I met a man in computer security who'd never seen the film Sneakers even though his job is, albeit with about twenty years of technological advancement and less spy tech is somewhat similar, breaking into people's places to make sure he can't break into their places.  Neither of the people I spoke to knew who Dr. Werner Brandes was or the catchphrase, "Too Many Secrets".

Glancing at the trailer, the film has less to do with the sort of computer security he might have been talking about, but philosophically there is a connection. Its about access to data. The modern equivalent with Sneakers would be more about dozens of people sitting at keyboards trying to break through digital quagmires rather than circumventing heat sensors.  Either way, see Sneakers.  It's the best film you've never seen.

People don't know about The Guardian's digital strategy.

Following a Scandinavian model, The Guardian now pre-plans thirty-percent of its content seven days in advance.  As editor Alan Rusbridger explains in this Neiman's interview, they've realised that a proportion of what we call "news" is fairly predictable and doesn't need to be thrown together the night before, things like profiles and analysis.  To save on costs, it's easier to have this stuff on the shelf and ready to be polished.

We now have a fun fair:

This turned up in the field outside out home in the past couple of days. The Sky Rider plays the theme from Star Wars when it starts. Which is amazing the first time ...

"massive overpayments for menial services"

Links Because sometimes I've not much more to add:

Paul Mason notices the parallels in Shakespeare and Middleton's Timon of Athens with contemporary finances:
"Timon – like Lehman Brothers – goes bust because of what appears as a liquidity crisis. But, as with Lehman, this masks a deeper collapse. Once Timon can no longer supply his social network with gallery openings, soft-porn ballet and massive overpayments for menial services, his social value is zero. Which makes the play's revival as a satire on London in 2012 all the more relevant. Shakespeare had grasped something about the crisis of his time that some politicians and economists are still not prepared to confront about ours."

Andrew Collins on idealism and the death of the working classes:
"This is a government who has nothing but contempt for what used to be called – by sixth formers – the “proletariat.” I’m glad that the phrase “working class” is now being replaced in common parlance by “working people”, as you don’t need to work in a mine or a factory to qualify for the stratum of society least cared for by the government, and it’s nothing to do with class any more. What they’re pulling off here is something underhand and insidious, whose subtleties of method are gradually wearing away. This is the Prolocaust."

Photos from inside the desolate Fortress Wapping:
"Up the sixth floor via one of the remaining working lifts to where The Sun was put together and potentially the most garish wallpaper ever invented. Understandable, but imagine walking along a corridor like this every day. [...] The executive offices where Rebekah Brooks worked. She had her walk-in wardrobe in the corner. James Murdoch worked next door in a slightly posher office – more notable for having a load of coving added to the ceiling."


Month three and the great Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who crossover

Comics Sigh. Month three and the great Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who crossover continues to disappoint. Perhaps I’m expecting too much of twenty-two pages with roughly five panels a page which is tiny in comparison to the narrative real estate available to the BBC Books novelists I’m reading at the moment (half way through The Adventuress of Henrietta Street, yes, indeed). But despite the gorgeous splash page that heralds this issue with its impressionistic vista of the Enterprise dwarfed by a joint Borg/Cyberman armada everything just feels a bit … oh I don’t know ... boring?  Spoilers ahead, as usual.

As with the previous two issues it’s an "episode" of two halves, or rather two quarters and a half. The two quarters are the 24th century sections that top and tail the instalment in which the Enterprise crew and the Doctor discover the alliance we readers already found about in the prologue, quickly get out of dodge, mask themselves in the old stand-by of a nebula and then find that mysteriously both the ship’s computer and the Doctor’s big brain have a record of an earlier mission of the original Enterprise under Kirk in which they encountered the Cybermen, explaining the cover.

In other words, after just a couple of pages together, the main players in this grand narrative are already being sidelined to make way for a comic within a comic with a whole bunch of new characters on a different, if connected mission. This doesn’t feel like a well-structured story. It feels like teasing. It feels like the writers have decided they want to do some cool things and are now scrabbling around look for a plot. It’s also repetitious. Within a couple of frames in the last issue we knew the Doctor was making new memories and now we have a whole flashback to prove the point.

The other half of the issue is that much heralded flashback and as ever it commits the crime of wasting the cover. I mean look at that cover! Kirk surrounded by Cybermen, screaming as he's crushed to death, the Fourth Doctor and Spock dashing to his rescue. Wouldn’t you want to start the flashback at that moment or at least close to it and move on from there? The Time Lord and that Enterprise crew already well acquainted and we’re watching the end of a mission ala Rose, picking up exposition as we go along.

Instead, we’re greeted with a fairly pedestrian four pages of rote classic Trek, of Kirk, Spock, Bones and Scott investigating a mysteriously uncommunicative archaeological dig, bumping into the Fourth Doctor as they try to open a door, the inevitable cyber-invasion, some shenanigans with a sonic screwdriver then this Doctor nips off and err, that’s it. There’s a funny moment when Spock chemically deconstructs a jelly baby, but the Fourth Doctor seems more like a Kraal android than the real thing and it’s all so disappointingly by the numbers.

The most interesting thing about this section is the artwork which in contrast with J.K. Woodward's painterly boards are rendered in a more standard comics line drawing style reminiscent of Trek's animated series. Apparently the artists here originally worked on IDW's Star Trek: Year Four series which has its own metatexual interest and their rendering of the Cybermen in cool blue works well, their Tom an apparent homage to Dave Gibbons (forever reprinted by IDW). If only the script was up to the task.

Gaah. Like I said, it could be that I’m expecting too much, but I’m concurrently reading IDW’s film spin-off series which after a couple of stuttery issues which essentially retold some classic episodes with just a few changes now has a definite spring to it, with colourful dialogue and zingy pacing that, thanks in large part to the epic characterisation of Simon Pegg’s rendition of Scotty actually feels more in the spirit of Doctor Who despite being Star Trek through and through. This month they’re doing tribbles and the final pages of mayhem are hilarious.

This just, it sits there. Perhaps it's the characters, perhaps there are too many characters. Once again Rory and Amy barely make an appearance and indeed they’re vaguely scribbled into the back of the Enterprise bridge on one frame of the second page before the flashback. There’s more of them afterwards but they’re still just sort of standing around, they’re not vital presences. Unless as Allyn agrees, Rory really is assimilated later on, the writers are going to have to work some to convince me this all wouldn’t be working just as well without them.

Perhaps it’s the expected syndrome of being a Who more than a Trek fan and wanting the Doctor to be the definitive protagonist. At this point, A Matter of Time’s Berlinghoff Rasmussen had more narrative agency. Perhaps next issue it’ll switch about again and we’ll see the important encounter set-up in the cliffhanger from his point of view, he’ll take charge of the story. But to be honest it’ll just be good if something actually happens. Because we’re three issues in and we’ve barely had enough proper narrative to fit a typical instalment from Doctor Who Magazine.
Elsewhere I've reviewed David Tennant on Hamlet which has obvious Who related interest.

Shakespeare Uncovered: David Tennant on Hamlet

The story so far: Shakespeare Uncovered is a series of six introductions to plays introduced by leading actors and directors produced in association with the Globe theatre. The highlights have included Joely Richardson magically covered in snow during her first visit to the recreation of Shakespeare’s playhouse and discovering during Trevor Nunn’s exposition on The Tempest that there’s a recreation of Blackfriars in Staunton, Virginia. Less appealing is Sir Derek Jacobi’s ten minute detor into authorship madness during an otherwise informative introduction to Richard II and Ethan Hawke subtly damaging a First Folio by stroking his finger across a page and knocking out an existing burn mark leaving a hole, the text on the next page now clearly visible.

Now we reach David Tennant on Hamlet and although I’m biased the best of the episodes. Focusing on Hamlet’s struggle with his mission and his own mortality, David gallops through the story from the ramparts to “the rest is silence” aided by a number of fellow actors, academics and as he wanders about in the bridging cutaways the architecture of Stratford-upon-Avon and the Southbank, struggling with the question of why the play is still considered the pinnacle of English literature, the one secular text which continues to enthral and inform us as much as holy texts if not more so. But again, I would say that, I’m biased. Yet as Ben Whishaw notes for six months after playing Hamlet in 2004 he found himself applying all of life’s big questions and presumably some of the small ones to the play, recalling the text over and over. I do that too.

Utilising a synopsis of the play as a spine for observation is a fairly typical approach (cf, Imagine ... Being Hamlet and Playing the Dane, the inspiration for this blog), questioning the action at key points, with contributors providing their experiences of playing the part or analysing them. Because Hamlet is so thematically rich the producers have had to make similar decisions to a company producing the play so the focus is very much on the domestic elements, with little to nothing on the politics of Elsinore and Denmark, the succession.  Fortinbras is cut. Lost too are Rosencrantz and Guidenstern other than the fact of their existence so nothing on the implications of their murder. “England” is generally glossed over. This is all about Hamlet’s personal j-word and those who’ve chosen to follow him.

All of which is perfectly understandable actually since entire books have been written about all of them, and there’s just an hour to play about with. It’s natural that you’d want to concentrate on the icons, whilst hinting at what lies beyond, the feigned madness, the implications of the willow scene that sort of thing. That’s especially true of the section shot at the Novell Theatre in which Michael Dobson offers a potted history of the closet scene which glanced towards Freud and also explains how Hamlet’s sometimes inappropriate attitude to his mother developed. Some productions almost treat the action in two discrete sections but as David notes there’s something very uneasy about Hamlet being so obsessed with Gertrude’s sex life with Polonius’s cadaver close by.

There are some unexpected inclusions. As with some of the other episodes, David was given the opportunity to see original copies of the text, in this case at the British Library and crucially all three versions including their copy of Q1 (one of only two in the world), comparing and contrasting the different versions of the big speeches and stage directions, discussing with curator of Early British Literature, Tim Pye the source of this earlier version. It’s worth noting that one of the potential weaknesses of the documentary is when David rhetorically asks who created this extraordinary character and where he came, we're not told about the Ur-Hamlet or Saxo Grammaticus but (admittedly touchingly) Shakespeare’s family and the death of Hamnet, which was also an influence on Twelfth Night in a very similar sequence in the Joely Richardson episode, one of the few occasions when the original source of a piece hasn’t been expounded upon.

Indeed, David has an impressively full participation, the episode’s presentation echoing his earlier presenter led episode of Doctor Who Confidential, “Do You Remember the First Time?” in which like this, he shared his affection for a much loved character whilst wearing a brown jacket. Then he visited the hallowed ground of Studio 8 of television centre, here it’s King Edwards Grammar Schoo, Shakespeare's school. Then he interviewed fellow fans like Steven Moffat and here we see him joshing over old reviews with David Warner and comparing approaches to the character with Jude Law.  At least in terms of the language of television, my favourite interview might be with Simon Russell Beale who (like Whishaw) has appeared in nearly all of the episodes in interviews clearly shot all together and so it seems here until David asks a follow up question and camera whip-pans in his direction. Beale himself almost startled to suddenly have his fellow actor sitting there.

Like that Confidential, this features dozens of illustrative clips though interestingly limited to Olivier directing himself, Zeffirelli directing Gibson and understandably Doran directing Tennant. An early trip through the RSC shop with David indicates other versions are available, but these three are interesting choices in that they’re not traditional renderings of the text, Olivier adding some, Zeffirelli deleting practically everything and Doran shuffling the order of the scenes. Odd that we should have the Warner interview but not the clips of his RSC appearance seen elsewhere. As with the other episodes, the emphasis instead is on newly filmed sections performed by the Globe’s cast with Jack Farthing (pictured below) cutting a youthful, lonely figure in a near empty theatre during “To Be Or Not To Be..” and Tom Lawrence later a teary Horatio as his prince dies.

As well as David greeting Andrei Tchaikovsky's skull again (pictured) the most poignant section for me is right at the very end, when he’s pondering what the part means to him and startling it resonates with comments he made when he left Doctor Who. Indeed just for a moment (thanks to a reference to filming), I wondered which role he’s actually talking about:
"In the end, there’s just no other character like him. […] I remember on the last day of filming thinking, “I’m so proud to have done that. I’m so pleased that’s something I got to do. And now I will never go there again.” And there was a huge relief to that. It was like having a weight lifted off your shoulders. And then, where are we now? Three years on… I do find myself, I catch myself, slightly fantasising about doing it again, going back there and seeing what that would feel like. But … that way madness quite literally lies.”
Fiftieth anniversary next year then.

[Assuming I haven't spoiled it too much for you, David Tennant on Hamlet is available on the iPlayer until 26th July.]

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh in the North East

"what Hitchcock demanded his art should be"

Film The BFI has a new website which seems to include the posting of more articles from Sight and Sound Magazine including this piece by silent soundtrack supremo Neil Brand on scoring Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail which has just been rereleased a newly restored format:
"In my own mind, at least, I have ‘worked with Hitchcock’. The Blackmail score I composed in 2008, and which I am performing again in London this month, may have arrived late for the party, but I hope that, in composing it, I have consciously emulated what Hitchcock demanded his art should be – pure cinema. My inspirations were three-fold: first, the film itself, which speaks volumes with every shot; next, such understanding as I could manage of Hitchcock himself from interviews, biographies and his other movies – this, to me, was particularly important; finally, there’s the ‘Hitchcock score’ which – despite the fact that he worked with numerous composers during his sound career – undoubtedly exists as a style in itself."
Perhaps the definition of a auteur should be that their work is easily identifiable through visuals and editing, no matter who the photographer is or the editor.  Everyone else is a collaborator.  A hack.

“brilliant and masterful”

Film In a thunderously readable piece for Slate, Stephen Harrigan describes his career writing generally made-for-tv movies. Some publisher should commission him to write a book length version. It could be another Adventures in the Screentrade. He was, for example, the writer on the film Robert Altman was working on when he died, essentially Touch the Truck: The Movie:
"I had more fun working with Altman than I’d ever had with anyone. I sent in the final draft on a November day in 2006 and got a call from him a few days later. I’d never heard him so revved up. The script, he said, was “brilliant and masterful”—which I knew meant he would take even more delight in completely ignoring it when the movie went into production. Among the actors who had agreed to play the people competing for the Nissan pick-up, he told me, were Meryl Steep, Hillary Swank, Billy Bob Thornton, Jack Black, Chris Rock, John C. Reilly, and Steve Buscemi. Filming would begin in three months."
Look at that cast. Look at what we lost.

Grimm Reality.

Books Once of upon a time there was a human being and the human being was amongst many other things a Doctor Who fan.  This particular Doctor Who fan was on a quest to read all the novels about the Eighth Doctor character which he’d spent the best part of seven years to complete and he was nearing his goal.  At this precise moment on the table in front of his computer keyboard was the latest book, whose punning title, Grimm Reality, indicated content, the story of the time the Doctor and his friends found themselves trapped on a planet in which wishes came true, desires were fulfilled and fairy tales were reality.

As his fingers danced across his keyboard, this human being wondered if he would be able to continue to write in the mock quasi-storybook style which he’d chosen to utilise.  He cracked his knuckles together and then typed that he’d cracked his knuckles together and asked himself an important question which he wasn’t sure how to render in this writing form.  Had he enjoyed the book?  He shrugged and took a deep breath then typed that he’d done same.  Then he decided that in fact no, this third person was creeping him out, was clouding his ability to have a coherent thought and he’d need to stop at the end of this sentence.

Because frankly if you thought all that was difficult, you should try following Grimm Reality, a real raggletaggle of a book, clever in concept, enchanting to read in some chunks but thanks to its premise entirely impossible to decipher in others.  It’s one of those occasions when an idea that has enough energy to power a typical length Doctor Who story, either forty-five minutes on television or a couple of hours on audio finds itself stretched to breaking point when applied to the classic BBC Books model of two hundred and seventy six pages.  A decent editor could probably turn this into a hilarious couple of hundred.

The aforementioned premise brings to mind The Scarlett Empress and indeed many of that book’s discussions about grand narratives and shifting realities in relation to the Doctor Who franchise are continued here.  Structured in the classic Who format of splitting the TARDIS team up into their own stories, all three find themselves in their own miniature folk tales, the unreality about them forcing them to undertake quests, become what amounts to a Disney princess and undertake more quests all but one of which are bravely constructed for the purposes of the novel, a kind of Proppian melange of princes, princesses, ogres, gnomes, magical horses and wishfulling boxes.

The opening hundred or so pages are a blast, as city girl Anji finds herself in the Cinderella-like aspic of serving not just two but six demanding sisters her life plagued by a magical box which will grant everyone but her with wishes, time and reality bending around her making the job of cleaning and sewing all the more harder.  Meanwhile the Doctor and Fitz plunge into the woods (sorry) on their own mini-adventures with various travelling companions exploring the world, narrative strands stretching in a way which recalls Steve Parkhouse’s Sixth Doctor classics for Doctor Who Magazine and latterly Big Finish’s The Doomwood Curse.

Such adventures are cross cut with some broad sci-fi adventures as joint groups of aliens and humans are hoping to plunder the world for much needed resources.  Deliberately butting against the rest of the story it’s fairly obvious from the start what their ultimate participation will be (especially if you’ve seen some key filmic texts) (deletes pun which would have been a spoiler) and if anything its these pretty generic bits of shipboard adventure (however important it is that they’re pretty generic bits of shipboard adventure) which drag out a bit too long, despite one faction of the aliens apparently looking like hippos (RTD would love that).

But as the book progresses, everything becomes a bit smushy as the requirements for stretching the concept out to the length of a novel finally work against the ability to read the thing.  The dozens of characters and subplots and as the authors work to keep them all in play and resolve them whilst simultaneously poetically conceptualising the walls of reality toppling in on itself, it becomes impracticable in places to remember who everyone is and what their goals are, as there’s little room for recaps, or expositional reminders.  The authors are clearly challenging the reader and this reader failed to keep up.

Not since the boldy experimental excesses of Alien Bodies or Bucher-Jones’s own The Taking of Planet 5 has a world been so impossible to imagine as technobabble topples onto technobabble and made-up words and concepts clash together.  The idea is clearly to bewilder the reader with cosmic powers, structuralizing surrealism, but in a sense, at least for me, the relentlessness torrent of underformed narrative sunk my ability to understand everything.  I like being bewildered, I’m a big fan of Elizabethan/Jacobean theatre.  But there were moments when reading this, I had to put the book down, have a rest and go and do something else.  I don’t like that.

This is the second book in a row which includes magic as a force and one of the problems with the book is perhaps that unlike The City of the Dead which treated voodoo with a nod and a wink in relation to Clarke's law then moved on, Grimm Reality spends a fair amount its pagination explaining why magic exists within that universe to the point that it probably takes the fun out of it.  It's the fine line nuWho increasingly straggles, where part of the fun is waiting for the alien explanation for werewolves, vampires and witches but that rarely becomes the point of the story in the same way as Grimm Reality.

It's only when everything returns to first principles, the Doctor, his companions, the central storyline that everything snaps back into place and the last thirty pages are a joy.  There’s a Adamsy moment in the wrap up about the intergalactic consequences which is sublime and short pep talk between the Time Lord and a Shreckalike Ogre with an infatuation for Anji that judges perfectly the romantic side of the Doctor and this Doctor in particular.  The epilogue is gut wrenching.  All which makes fighting through everything else just about worthwhile.  Or was that the point?

"did he give the plot away again?"

Film The Guardian's posted a review of The Dark Knight Rises by Xan Brookes. I've not read it. Not because I don't want to -- I'm dying to know if Nolan's done it again. But as ever before wading in I skipped to the comments, in this case the six pages of comments complaining about the number of spoilers in the review, and decided to give it a miss. There are people in their also giving a sterling defence of the reviewers art wondering what actually does or not constitute a spoilers including fellow reviewer Catherine Shoad who suggests that nothing in the review does give away the plot and welcoming someone to email them afterwards to tell them if they did feel spoilt in the end.

I do think the point here is the difference between saying what the film's about, the basic plot and actually offering a synopsis and The Guardian time and again does fall into the latter category in the lengthier pieces. When I write I'm careful to have a look at the synopsis supplied by the film/television/audio company and stick with that. If there's nothing then clearly the film/tv show/cd's best enjoyed without knowing any of those and although the job's harder it's more worthwhile in the long run because you don't then end up with six pages of comments complaining about spoilers.

The problem with the approach taken here is that it then leaves the viewer waiting for plot points/character beats/incidents to happen, to an extent that's trailer syndrome, but it's also true of these reviews. One of the best reviews I've ever seen was the elliptical three pager for Inception which appeared in Empire Magazine which said practically nothing about the plot, explained nothing and yet left the reader with enough information about whether this was the instant classic it was. All three of The Guardian's reviews (which I've just checked) within paragraphs explain everything which happens in the first hour and I'd argue pretty damaging to people's enjoyment because they give away the reveal of Cottiad's involvement.

The Observer's Philip French is pretty notorious now. He is a great reviewer, Mark Kermode says so. He's literate, clever, always finds a new angle (his The Iron Lady review opens with a quote from Longfellow) and when he's really firing you always come away having learned something. But after you've seen the film. As one commenter says underneath his go at Inception "did he give the plot away again?" The final paragraph of his Ghost Protocol is a classic of the form as he tells us the location of the coda which if you remember ruins one of the major plotlines.  Plotwise The Artist is purposefully simplistic and if you read French's review beforehand you'd be ready for everything which happens.

Updated 18/07/2012 I offer Time Out and Lovefilm for examples of how to review the new Batman without giving away any honking great plot-spoilers.

Updated 23/07/2012  Seen it and Xan Brooks's review is indeed a spoilery synopsis that describes most of the plot.  It lack details but I'd certainly disagree with Catherine Shoad that it doesn't give away necessary plot points.  I'd say it ruins at least three surprises and though there are plenty more, I don't see it as the reviewers' job to simply didactically tell us what's in a film, rather to tell us if its any good.

Here's Kermode's review in comparison, which gives away nearly nothing whilst simultaneously says loads of useful things, not least to underscore its magnificence.

Even he says something which somewhat spoils the ending. Not in a detrimental way, and just in passing, but if you've got my kind of brain it may play on your mind.

As for my review.  Like I said.  It's magnificent.  That will do.

Well, that was wrong.

TV I've updated that old post about exactly when Doctor Who will be broadcast next and it's lengthy enough to warrant giving its own post. I'd speculated previously that the next fourteen episodes would be pivoted over Christmas between December and into February.

Well, that was wrong. Much as it was last year, the s7's being broken up again. There's a preview screening of the opening episode at the BFI Southbank on August 14, followed by another at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, which takes place from August 23 to August 25 which indicates the premiere will be imminent and Matt's suggested at ComicCon it'll be "some time in August" so presumably within days of the EITF.

Checking the calender, that would put the broadcast on Saturday August 25th as treat before all the kids go back to school which seems really odd consider its high summer. The more obvious option would be to leave it until the 1st or 8th September, but given the proximity of those preview screenings and not wanting the episodes to feel old before broadcast, I'm going to still my neck out and say s7 of DW will screen 25th August.

Finally. Of course none of this is over. We'll have five episodes across September then a gap, which is nice because it gives Amy & Rory a decent send off and gives Jenna a proper opening, with all the pre-advertising, hype and interviews in time for Christmas (plus a handy chronological gap for future spin-offs to fit in) then presumably another gap before the broadcast of the bottom eight of s7.

Here's something to keep us busy in the meantime:

The Sunday Seven.
Simon A. Forward.

How did you become a novelist?

Sheer dogged persistence and determination. It's like throwing a lot of darts at a dartboard, except in this case it was Doctor Who novel submissions at Virgin Publishing, then BBC Books. Eventually, editor Steve Cole finally relented and gave me a slot in the short story collection, More Short Trips, and I think when he handed over the reins to Justin Richards he also passed on two or three of my novel proposals, one of which - Drift - impressed Justin sufficiently to offer me the commission. So I guess in a sense I got lucky, but while luck's involved, it's more a case of seeking out or generating as many opportunities as you can for yourself. Writing, of course, plus the willingness to peddle your wares. And if it's an uphill struggle, peddle faster.

What was your inspiration for Evil UnLtd?

With the greatest of respect for Star Trek fans, I'm afraid to say it was Star Trek: The Next Generation that triggered the initial light bulb in my head. I found it all just way too bland - a bit beige, as someone described it. Basically, I went from that to thinking how much better it would be if the crew boldly going and discovering new civilisations etc weren't so bound up by rules about being nice to everyone. Within seconds of that thought, my imagination presented me with a vivid cast of characters and that was pretty much it. Of course, there's Doctor Who, Star Wars, Hitch-Hikers and a host of other influences that helped slow-bake the recipe over the years leading up to that point, but that's how Evil was born.

What was the trickiest element to achieve?

Without doubt the trickiest part is in the promotion, just getting the word out there that Evil UnLtd exists. It's a huge hurdle. But as far as the storytelling side goes, I tend to find that writing one book generates ideas for the next and so on. So plots are generally easy, especially when you know your characters inside out - they tend to take over and drive the thing forward, even if it's on a collision course with something you hadn't planned for. The big challenge is to be funny - that's the gauntlet you slap yourself with every time you sit down to write. But I operate a simple rule - don't try to be funny. If it starts feeling like work, leave it alone and work on something else for a while. It means the Evil books have to develop at their own rate, but (so far at least) between breaks what tends to happen is you end up on a roll for good stretches at a time. So the characters and story provide the momentum and - you hope - the laughs just arise naturally along the way.

Of everything you've done what have you been most pleased with?

Hmm. There are a couple of unpublished works that would compete healthily for that spot, but I'll let you know about those when they've won over a commissioning editor. In terms of published works the honour would probably go to Drift. It's not my most accomplished novel, but it has a special place in my heart as my first, and there were people who read that - who weren't into Doctor Who at all - who enjoyed it as 'more than just a Doctor Who novel' and there were a couple of readers from New Hampshire who commended my depiction of their state in winter, despite my never having been there. So that was a powerful combination that did wonders for my writerly self-doubts.

Since I haven't read your Eighth Doctor novel yet (so no spoilers!) can I ask if there's one story you're surprised the television series hasn't tackled and how you'd write it?

Ah, Emotional Chemistry, yes, that's all about - no, don't worry, I won't spoil it. As for other Doctor Who stories, there are a number of ideas I'm holding onto on the off-chance I ever get to write for the series again (in book form at least!) but I don't know if I'm surprised the show hasn't done them as they're a bit off-beat. As a throwaway example, look at Dreamtime - I'm sure there's a (better) modern Who adventure centring around Aboriginal mythology. On the other hand, Uluru in space is no stranger than traveling on the back of a giant space whale really, which has been done. I guess, as a Russophile, I'd be tempted to go with the Russian revolution, something about the Romanoffs, Anastasia perhaps. Or the Master impersonating Lenin on that sealed train returning to his mother country with some plan to change history. That or a Doctor Who/Muppets crossover. The licensing would be prohibitive, but it'd be fun and a good tonic after the doom and gloom of a Russian adventure.

Who’s your favourite novelist?

Elmore Leonard, I'd say. It's not that he wrote my favourite novel - that would be Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. He doesn't even write science fiction, which ought to qualify as my favourite genre. But he's the most consistent and prolific author whose works keep drawing me back for more. The plots won't necessarily blow you away, but he has a gift for snappy dialogue and equally snappy prose, and, above all, character. I love the way his characters drive the narrative and that's probably as influential on me as anything else.

What stops you from feeling listless?

That's a particularly good question, because the 'great British summer' has been in danger of inducing a bad case of listlessness lately. This afternoon, for instance, drying off after a particularly damp, grey day, I stuck a Doctor Who DVD in the player and sat back to enjoy some comfort telly. Sometimes I need something a bit more active and engaging, and for that either a video game (usually something with an involving storyline) or a spot of lively music will often snap me out of it. I also live in this great place a stone's throw from the beach so a walk along the seafront is great, but then I rarely feel listless on a sunny day. Although I'm currently having trouble remembering back that far.

Simon A. Forward's Evil UnLtd is out now for Amazon Kindle.