Himalayan art.

Art  Eight tons of trash were removed from Everest during two expeditions this spring, which fifteen Nepalese artists have turned into a range of sculpture now on display in Kathmandu:
"In one of the works by painter and poet Sunita Rana, white shards of aluminium from drinks cans are fashioned into medals signifying the bravery of mountaineers, while black metal tent poles are transformed into a wind chime.

"In another, remains of a helicopter which crashed in 1974 while carrying food for Italian climbers are incorporated into an idol of the Hindu God Ganesh."

Ann Patchett on opening her own book shop.

Books  From The Atlantic.  Author Ann Patchett watched both of the bookshops in Nashville close due to pressures from elsewhere in the country despite both of the local stores apparently being profitable.  Against the perceived wisdom of the ninety-nine percent of the media which suggested that it's dying trade, Patchett has see that there is still a gap in the market and has decided to open her own independent spot:
"My act was on the road, and with every performance, I tweaked the script, hammering out the details as I proclaimed them to strangers: All things happen in a cycle, I explained—the little bookstore had succeeded and grown into a bigger bookstore. Seeing the potential for profit, the superstore chains rose up and crushed the independents, then Amazon rose up and crushed the superstore chains. Now that we could order any book at any hour without having to leave the screen in front of us, we realized what we had lost: the community center, the human interaction, the recommendation of a smart reader rather than a computer algorithm telling us what other shoppers had purchased. I promised whoever was listening that from those very ashes, the small independent bookstore would rise again."
I hope she's right. Then it won't just be the technology in You've Got Mail which will look dated, it'll be the business models too.

WHO 50: 1964:
Marco Polo.

TV  Every now and then an actor or director, journalist or academic says that one of the "missing" Doctor Who episodes, especially Marco Polo, “doesn’t exist” as though it’s entirely lost to history.

Sometimes in the extras on a dvd release.  Sometimes in Doctor Who Magazine.  Sometimes in the wider media.

Which is always disappointing, because they do exist, at least in some form, thanks to the tireless obsession of early fans making off-air recordings by cello-taping a microphone onto the speaker of a television during the original broadcast.

These multiple recordings have since been restored by Mark Ayres of the Doctor Who Restoration Team and released on cd with added narration by related cast member.  For Marco Polo, that’s William Russell.

That also to an extent means that these episodes have transcended television, afforded the benefits of radio and audio drama.

The version of Marco Polo which exists for me is in wide-screen with its director Waris Hussein afforded all the budget and technical innovation of a David Lean film, this despite the splinter which appears at the end of The Edge of Destruction, of Susan revealing the footprint in the snow, the photographic Plain of Pamir and the fake snow.

The title of the first episode “The Roof of the World” always gives me tingles and even some vertigo, especially with sense of wonder Russell gives it in his narration.

As Polo’s caravan ekes its way across the Gobi Desert (sic), it’s the golden wasteland, desolately glowing in Lawrence of Arabia I think of rather than the cramped silhouettes of the telesnaps photographed from the screen during broadcast.

When the TARDIS crew meet the mighty Kublai Khan, it’s in the technicolour high definition of the set photographs, Barry Newbury’s gorgeous sets reproduced with far greater clarity than the contemporary 405-line broadcasts would allow.

Perhaps it’s this version which I rank in my top five favourite Who stories of all time, though that’s also to do with Marco Polo’s epic scope, so atypical of the television series since, it’s atmosphere of strolling through deep time.

Disney were the first company to approach the BBC about adapting Doctor Who for the cinema.  But it wasn’t the Daleks which sparked their interest.  It was Marco Polo.

None of which is to suggest I wouldn’t be overjoyed if all seven episodes weren’t found next week in a Surrey basement or as is most likely the case given that the serial was sold to more countries in the 60s than any other, a Rangoon basement.

There’s a gap on the shelf where the dvd should be.

But to suggest it “doesn’t exist”, denies the efforts of our own imaginations.

"Without meat we go hungry. Without fire we die!"

Food Were Paleolithic humans vegetarians?  It's open to debate:
"Paleolithic vegetarianism, the idea that early humans were herbivores, rather than omnivores, has been debated for centuries all over the world. The diet of our early ancestors is a heavily-researched topic that raises several unanswered questions. Researchers have found evidence to support the idea of "subsisting or feeding on animal tissue" while other evidence has been found that indicates that herbivory was the diet of our early ancestors."

Jonathan Morris answers his critics.

Audio With my rewatch of all of tv Doctor Who up and running, I'll probably run even further behind with Big Finish's releases so I've not heard Johnny Morris's The Shadow Heart, but that hasn't stopped me enjoying the writer's reaction to some of the negative reviews. He doesn't name names, but he does explain how it's impossible to please everyone all of the time:
"So I must admit to being a little non-plussed by a review dismissing the whole story as a parody of Star Wars. Now, the customer is always right, if that’s how it came across to them then that’s entirely valid. All I can say is that wasn’t the intention. If anything, writing science-fiction, Star Wars is something you’re always trying to avoid, because it is so well-known, so iconic. But on the other hand, there’s the problem that by doing so you restrict your canvas; do you never include a scene set in an alien pub because Star Wars did that? Do you never include a snow planet because Star Wars did that? It’s an interesting problem; do you consciously avoid anything that’s been done in Star Wars, or do you pretend Star Wars never existed?"

Laurie Penny interviews Terry Pratchett.

Books In case you missed it, Laurie Penny's stunning interview with Terry Pratchett:
"It is at this point that he breaks into song. I don’t mean this figuratively. I mean that he calmly and decisively starts singing the old English folk tune “The Larks They Sang Melodious”. He has a good voice, a quavering baritone that has lost none of its strength, and he doesn’t give a damn that half of the cafĂ© has turned to look.

"Pratchett sings two whole verses. The song is full of firelight and longing and nostalgia for warmer, younger days, and if you half-close your eyes you could be sitting around a country fire, listening to some elderly relative tell you stories about love and death that are no less true for being ever so slightly made up. Except that that’s not where we are – we’re in a branch of Starbucks, drinking slightly stale tea, and “The Larks They Sang Melodious” was not written to be sung over piped-in Brazilian jazz."

Trap streets.

Cartography Cabinet Magazine gets lost in trap streets:
"Anecdotally, many cartographers relate the stories of deliberate errors introduced into maps to prove their provenance, from kinks in rivers and the addition of small buildings to exaggerated curves in roads and the systematic alteration of minor digits in geographic coordinates; nothing that would put the user off-track, but enough to make a map’s actual origin certain. Most of the time, such tricks are indistinguishable from errata, but across enough sheets or data points they form a pattern, and organizations such as the Ordnance Survey employ teams of experts to ferret them out in their competitors’ products.
There have been occasions when I've looked for a street, not found it, convinced myself that it didn't exist in the first place, then found it on the map I should have remembered to take with me in the first place.


Jon Ronson on writing.

Journalism I'm clearing out my RSS feeds. Ruthlessly. Unsubscribing from the uninspiring and shifting anything non-essential to Likes and Following on Facebook and Twitter so that I can dip in and out of the information stream. A thousand odd unread posts on Google Reader is simply unacceptable.

Part of the process is catching up on what's there from the beginning. Only now have I reached the 12th November and this pretty frank interview with Jon Ronson on the subject of his writing and this particular passage about attempting to write about the credit industry is especially useful:
"But I couldn't do it. I spent three months and I just couldn't do it. And the reason was because I kept on meeting people who worked in the credit industry and they were really boring. I couldn't make them light up the page. And, as I said in The Psychopath Test, if you want to get away with wielding true malevolent power, be boring. Journalists hate writing about boring people, because we want to look good, you know? So that was the most depressing one. To the extent that I would like get up in the morning—I've never really told this to anyone, but I'd get up in the morning, I'd go downstairs to breakfast and I'd, like, look at my cereal and burst into tears. And then I'd think, it's only like nine hours until I can sit down and watch TV. After three months of that, I was thinking, I'm actually getting depressed here. So I abandoned it. My editor in New York keeps reminding me that, if I'd carried on with the credit-card book, it would have come out exactly when the banks collapsed and everyone would have turned to me. But I just couldn't do it."
My attitude to writing has somewhat been that every topic has an angle. My reaction to this was initially that the interesting thing about these people is that are so boring. But the problem is of course, if you're using them as sources, who can't necessarily say as much on the page.

Films like The Inside Job and This American Life's work on the topic are able to simply show the people being boring and infer everything else.  We get the idea simply from their existence on screen.  Whereas Ronson would have been in the impossible position of attempting to communicate that on the page.

This is a useful reminder to me too.  I was writing something for the blog the other night, something for the end of the year, and I simply couldn't get something to work.  I knew what I wanted to say, and I worked at it, and worked at it, and even after throwing out all sense of coherence (cf) and style, I still couldn't get the paragraphs and sentences to fit together.

Eventually, after having had a break, eaten dinner and watched a film, I realised that the reason was that I didn't entirely believe in what I was saying, or rather I was trying to building on something of far less interest than the bigger picture, so I hacked away, a thousand words gone and the piece is much stronger without them.  You'll see, I hope.

I wasn't happy about it.  I saw it as a failure of sorts and a reminder of why I'm not a professional writer.  But it's good to see that someone of the calibre of Ronson doesn't just have those fears but also able to see through them, even at a risk to their own career.  I just need to be more relaxed overall, I think.

Tilda Swinton on creativity.

Art  Liverpool's 2012 Biennial closed this last weekend of course and I'll have plenty more to say about that in due time, but on of my favourite moments was in Doug Aitken's The Source, that loud confusing circular portacabin near Tate Liverpool, this interview with Tilda Swinton:

Almost like watching  a four minute remake of her friend Mark Cousins's The Story of Film: An Odyssey.


Fashion Grr, arrr, wrrr, brrrr:
"If Marc Ecko’s “Chewbacca” hoodie isn’t the coolest faux-fur jacket in the galaxy, then it’s certainly the geekiest. Part of larger lineup of Star Wars-inspired threads, the chocolate-fleece number even includes our favorite Wookie’s signature bandoleer utility belt."

Alicia Keys sings the Gummi Bears theme song.

Music On Jimmy Kimmel. Watch for the moment when the audience realises what's going on and aren't sure how respectful they should be given that Keys is giving the song all of her usual professionalism.

At university in the mid-nineties while visiting Huddersfield and flicking through a second-hand record shop near the railway station I found a cassette copy of a Disney charity compilation, For Our Children. I'll admit my purchase was motivated by being a Debbie Gibson completest, but having learnt something about music since then, I'm astounded by the contents now. Here's the track listing (with links as possible):

Give a little love / Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
This old man / Bob Dylan
Cushie Butterfield / Sting
Mary had a little lamb / Paul McCartney
The ballad of Davy Crockett / Stephen Bishop
Itsy bitsy spider / Little Richard
Chicken lips and lizard hips / Bruce Springsteen
Country feelin's / Brian Wilson
Blueberry pie / Bette Midler
The pacifier / Elton John
Getting to know you / James Taylor
Autumn to May / Ann and Nancy Wilson
Child of mine / Carole King
Tell me why / Pat Benatar
A medley of rhymes: man in the moon/Twinkle, twinkle, little star/Three blind mice/Hush little baby / Debbie Gibson
Blanket for a sail / Harry Nilsson
Good night, my love (pleasant dreams) / Paula Abdul
Gartan mother's lullaby/ Meryl Streep
Golden slumbers / Jackson Browne and Jennifer Warne
A child is born / Barbra Streisand.

Yes, that's Dylan perkily droning through This Old Man for ten verses.

I'm sure, even at the age of eighteen, this was the first time I'd encountered half of these performers. I also expect James Taylor singing Getting To Know You was as useful an introduction as any.  Research suggest subsequent releases had Seal singing Puff The Magic Dragon and Luther Vandross offering us his I Had A Hammer.

Disney must reissue all of these soon.

How to make films look amazing on your television.

Film  You've probably seen this already, but just in case, Prolost explains why your new tv ruins films:
"Most TVs have some preset modes deigned for different uses. There’s often a “Cinema” or “Movie” picture mode. Use it. It’s the best, easiest shortcut to setting up your new TV to be as inoffensive as possible. These modes will be quite subdued compared to the amped-up default settings, so chances are, when you first switch them on, you’ll experience a bit of that “wow, that sure is yellow” sensation that you get when you look back to the correct Inception frame after staring at the torch-mode one for a minute. Don’t worry, this will pass almost immediately."
It's true. I've been watching everything with amped up brightness and contrast for years, turn this on and although everything does seem a subdued initially, after that cinematography, even on dvds, suddenly looks all the more awesome.

I would add one correction.  On my LG, the "cinema" setting does default to "warm" mode, which does make everything look yellow.  Too yellow.  Black and white film and television is positively sepia which surely isn't want either Frank Capra or Waris Hussein wanted.

So I've gone in and changed that setting to neutral so that the white all look white again.  But other than, even Douglas McGrath's breathless 2002 adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby looks splendid, especially during the scenes at the Squeers school.

The Cave of Smalls.

Archaeology  Gawker (possibly) begins a round up of the week in caves:
"What kind of science news are you looking for today? Do you want to hear about ancient Greek murder caves? Korean unicorn caves? About those crazy little eyeless fish that swim around in silt-black underground lakes as if to say that eyes are for chumps? You're in luck; all of those things have been discovered this week."

The Crave of Skulls.

Art Richard Harris collects art thematically, specifically connected to momento mori, especially depictions of skeletons and skulls:
"While selling the prints at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, he came across a booth devoted to memento mori (literally, “Remember, you will die”) and was inspired to start a thematic collection. He was already interested in anatomy books, so began collecting mainly depictions of skeletons and skulls. What started as a fine art collection now includes ethnographic objects – the exhibition features a Mexican earthenware head dating from c1800-1200BC – ephemera and vernacular photographs. His “death collection” now has more than 1,500 objects, including some he has commissioned."

Shakespeare at the BBC: On The Road with Jonathan Miller.

This week's episode of the excellent Matthew Stadlen presented series from BBC News (which shares its tone with The South Bank Show or Omnibus) greets Jonathan Miller as he once again oversees King Lear, on this occasion for City Lit, the centre for adult learning, with, as you can see, plenty of rehearsal footage which highlights his directing style.

You can watch it here on the iPlayer for the next week.

Just so that there's something in this post when that expires or it's inevitably uploaded to YouTube, here's a link to Miller talking in general terms about directing Lear on Charlie Rose in 2004, also on YouTube.