Review 2012: The Projects:
The Hamlet Weblog:
35 John Duttine.

Elsewhere My side project has reached another milestone as I've met my thirty-fifth Hamlet, and as ever I've somehow been surprised by what I've heard. As is customary, anything about Hamlet stays on The Hamlet Weblog, but you can read all about Mr Duttine's interpretation here.

35 John Duttine

Hamlet played by John Duttine.
Directed by Gordon House.

The BBC’s Research and Development group has built a prototype which puts the BBC World Service on the web, making over seventy thousand programmes from the past sixty years available to listen to here. Still in closed testing, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given access (which might be able to ask for too via the details on their blog) and have spent the past few weeks in an agog state, boggling at the mass of programming at my finger tips on hundreds of topics across dozens of genres.

Of course my first search was the Hamlet, of course it was, and apart from documentaries, magazine shows and reviews, sure enough there is at least one production, this production. Originally broadcast in two hour long episodes on Sunday 4th and Tuesday 6th September 1983, adapted for radio by Colin Davis, directed by Gordon House, as you can see starred raffish John Duttine in the title role (his appearance in Day of the Triffids is pictured) and what a privilege to have been given the opportunity to listen.

At first, as audio Hamlets go, it seems superficially orthodox. The sound design is basic and period, with echoes for the interior of the castle, harsh winds for the exterior, scene changes are punctuated by some jingly atonal tubular bells and noodling on a pipe organ, Cyril Shaps’s Polonius is a typically bumbling old buffer with little room for a military mind (no Reynoldo scene) with Hamlet Snr played by famous voiceover artist John Westbook to give the character some spooky gravitas.

Except all the while us listeners, if we’re familiar with the play, notice that Davis in his adaptation experimenting somewhat with the structure of the text and in reducing it to fit the timeslot is making some interesting character-based decision, especially in relation to Hamlet. There’s nothing online at all that I can see about the production, which is a shame because I’d love to know the extent to which the adaptation was done in collaboration with the director and actors or if these are Davis’s alone.

After the Ghost, Davis cuts the swearing scene (“Sweeearrr…”) so to add some time for Hamlet to be off stage (off mic) transposes the introduction of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (in what amounts to their longest scene) with Ophelia’s description to her father of Hamlet’s visit which then leads almost directly into Polonius explaining to the King and Queen that their son is mad and the plan that become the nunnery scene later.

Except, and this is where is becomes really interesting, Davis also cuts the Fishmonger which offers a clue as to how he, the director and Duttine view their Hamlet. In losing Fishmonger, we lose the wilder metaphoric excesses of the characters’ “mania” or “faux-mania” and this is repeated when Claudius asks the prince where he’s placed Polonius’s body and he tells him directly, no convocation of politic worms are e'en at him.

This is one of those sane Hamlets you hear about and rarely played. Or rather this is a Hamlet who seems entirely in control of his faculties and whose madness isn’t a mental illness, but anger. He’s an even more sinister and cruel in places than Peter Vaughn’s Claudius, a figure much more representative of the blandness of evil, only really showing emotion and inconstancy during the prayer scene. When Hamlet’s confronting his mother in the closet, we’re not sure if he won’t do her in as well.

Yet there’s still a constant element of doubt as to whether he’s faking these mood swings too, it’s not just controlled anger. Duttine's is a very public “To Be…”, watched by Polonius and Claudius with Ophelia evidently in proximity but when he spies her, his “Soft you now! The fair Ophelia!” so often played as a way of attracting her attention is internalised, as though he’s realised what he’s about to do, what he must do because he’s being watched, and doesn’t like it. Which suggests these choices have to have been collaborative to some extent.

All of which said, presumably dependent on the timeslot and utility, this is still a Hamlet which includes the greatest hits, from Polonius’s advice through to all of Hamlet’s speeches with the exception of “to the manner born” even to the point of including Fortinbras and his Captain, textually missing in action up until that point, so that “How all occasions do inform against me” can be included with some logic (even if the warring army arguably appears from nowhere in much the same way Laertes does at the end of the Welles adaptation).

The break in story occurs just before an all male Mousetrap, as Polonius agrees that Hamlet should be sent to England and Claudius says “It shall be so. / Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go.” It’s an unusual point, especially given the day between the broadcast of the episodes, but it does mean that episode two begins with the ear catching spectacle of the play, which while rushed through, also underscores the aspect of theatricality and “play” inherent in the story.

The climax is pretty traditional, even if the sword fight is pretty swift and Osric is retained, though Fortinbras’s reappearance at the close jars with the perfectly tender way in which David Horovitch’s stalwart Horatio says, “Good night, sweet prince” which feels like the emotional conclusion of this production, though the mood is retained somewhat by the suitably processional music composed by Bernard Shaw (not George).

There's plenty more Shakespeare in the World Service prototype, along with rare productions of Early Modern Drama, though it's worth noting that it's still relatively populist in its choices, there's no Arden of Faversham or anything by Philip Massinger.  But plenty of Marlowe.  Not that I've the time to listen to any of it.  But at least I found the Hamlet.  At least I did that.

Tenth Planet.

Space  Last year, the so-called tenth planet discovered in 2005, Makemake made a rare visible appearance and the findings of astronomers were recently published.  Don't get too excited.  It lacks something:
"The astronomers detected a sudden drop in starlight when Makemake’s occultation began, as if someone had suddenly switched the star to a lower wattage rather than dialing down a stellar dimmer switch. The sharpness of the occultation suggested that the dwarf planet lacks a significant global atmosphere, which would lend a fuzzy edge to its shadow. "If the decrease is abrupt, you see that there is not an atmosphere," says study co-author Noemi Pinilla-Alonso, a postdoctoral planetary scientist at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. By contrast, when Pluto passes in front of a star, "the decrease is gradual, which shows that there is an atmosphere."

The films Dustin Hoffman didn't make.

Film Hoffman has an interview in today's The Guardian in which he offers a ballsy list of films he turned down:
"Yes. Yes, that's another demon. I've turned down some wonderful projects." For example? "You wanna list?" And he starts counting them out. Not the movies he didn't make, just those he regrets not making. "Ingmar Bergman, The Touch, because my first wife was pregnant and didn't want to leave her obstetrician in New York to go to Sweden." Is that really why he turned Bergman down? "Oh. I've always had great rationalisations. They rarely are the truth. You can find reasons not to do anything." Back to the list: "Close Encounters. Spielberg says I've turned him down more than any other actor. We finally did Hook together." Blimey, you could have chosen a better Spielberg film. "I just finally had to say yes! I'm glad I did it. So there's Close Encounters, the one about slaves and a love story Richard Dreyfuss did, and Schindler." Who would he have played in that? "Oh, Ben Kingsley's role." I tell him I'd have preferred to have seen him as Schindler's accountant. "I wish you'd tell him that." He laughs. "Yes, call him up now. Sir Ben!"
Funnily enough other than the Bergman, there isn't one of those in which the subsequent actor wasn't perfect for the role.  But then, I expect, we're heading into the discussional hinterland of the extent to which the best actors inhabit a role to such an extent that it's impossible to see another actor playing it.  Also, I love Hook.

Kim Wilde sings Merry Christmas on the Tube.

WHO 50: 1966:
The Tenth Planet.

TV  One of the discussion points for the 50th anniversary special is whether we’ll finally see the regeneration between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors, from Paul McGann to Christopher Eccleston.

Apart from the fact this would require the casting of two actors who aren’t currently playing the Doctor and some kind of tricksy flashback structure to incorporate such a scene into the story and for Steven Moffat to think that it’s a good idea, it would also spoil one of the great new mysteries of the revived series.

It also ignores the fact that, to an extent, we can’t see the series’ first regeneration either.

We could once.  Indeed we did, at least those of us who are old enough.

On 29th October 1966, BBC One broadcast the regeneration of William Hartnell into Patrick Troughton.

Except since then, the tapes have been wiped and through a strange coincidence, neither that episode or the following one still exist the BBC’s archive, partly because episode four of The Tenth Planet was one of the least sold internationally so there were less copies lying around.

Not that this helped Marco Polo much.

Bits of it do survive.  A clip was utilised in an episode of Blue Peter.  The BBC kept that episode of Blue Peter.  We also have a short silent cine recording from episode one of Power of the Daleks so we can at least see Patrick’s first grin.

They were edited together and tacked onto the reconstruction of The Tenth Planet that was released on VHS at the turn of the millenium, along with the audio from some off-air recordings.

But it’s not the same, because it never could be.

Rather than film a regeneration which doesn’t need to be seen, perhaps the better way to celebrate the 50th would be for us to somehow find a regeneration which should.

You never know.

"Let's play liiionnns!"

Introductory Story.

Physics Leofranc Holford-Strevens's The History of Time: A Very Short Introduction has been given a preview chapter at the OUP's website in pdf format:
"The most fundamental unit of time-measurement is in most societies the period of the earth’s rotation round the sun, which is normally known as the day. Unfortunately this word and its equivalents in other languages are ambiguous: other meaningsapart, they may denote either the light period (daytime) as opposed to the night, or the combination of daytime and night. In some cultures, this combination is termed the night, as it used to be by Celtic and Germanic peoples, who measured the length of journeys or campaigns by the periods of inaction during darkness; this practice – to which we still revert when booking a hotel – survives in the English word ‘fortnight’, meaning 14 nights (formerly too in ‘sennight’, meaning a week). Nevertheless, the prevailing word is ‘day’."

Your Paintings completed.

Art Something of a national artistic milestone:
"Today the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) and the BBC completed their hugely ambitious project to put online the United Kingdom’s entire collection of oil paintings in public ownership. This makes the UK the first country in the world to give such access to its national collection of paintings. In total, 3,217 venues across the UK have participated in the project and 211,861 paintings are now on the Your Paintings website."
Which includes Manchester Art Gallery now too, and the World of Glass.

Review 2012: The Projects:
Joss Whedon.

TV  Earlier in the year, perhaps Easter time, perhaps before, I embarked on rewatching all of the television series on which Joss Whedon has had overall creative control (Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse) in preparation for finally seeing The Avengers (Assemble) on its blu-ray release. Watching the original unaired Buffy presentation with the wrong Willow and Stephen Tobolowsky as Principal Flutie, it’s not completely clear that Whedon would go on to produce some of the best loved television series of all time. But slowly after a few episodes, the series built its own unique identity, addiction set and here Whedon is over a decade later as the director of the biggest film of all time and I am attempting to review all of them in three paragraphs each.

My expected appreciation curve for Buffy: The Vampire Slayer was that after a barnstorming first three seasons, the show would become a rather patchier affair in which individual piece of classic television usually written and directed by Whedon himself (Hush, The Body, Once More With Feeling) provided a scaffold for less compelling overall story arcs and baddies, with the Nerd Trio in Season Six, and Season Six actually the nadir. Some of which is true, but watched in concentrated form, its notable how even the worst episodes (Beer Bad, Doublemeat Palace) still contain some cracking dialogue and characterisation or a subplot which manages to utilise the horror genre as a metaphore for the human condition.

Indeed, notably it’s at its weakest when pandering to the fans. The interminable love triangle between the slayer and her two vampires, as well as prefiguring Twilight is often about as interesting, especially in the latter stages when Buffy and Spike are throwing each other against the supporting walls of houses. Whedon’s work excels only when he’s cruel, replacing Angel with a figure who’s the exact opposite but arguably more likeable and killing Tara, breaking up one of the great television romances. Even Dawn, the previously non-existent sister for Buffy manages to sidestep the Scrappy-Doo potential by not making her a Potential, just a normal kid that Buffy must learn to protect eventually by letting go.

If something weakens the show latterly it is the shift away from the core group and it’s only when the Buffy returns to the school and the Scoobys it finds its centre of gravity again. What I wasn’t prepared for was choosing Anya as my favourite character thanks to Emma Caulfield’s fearlessly layered performance. If there’s a tragedy in the ensuing comics, it’s that Anya’s not still in there, saying the things no one dares to. Watching again I was reminded too that the demon in one of the show’s worst episodes, Hell’s Bells, in which Xander witlessly leaves Anya at the alter has my name, or at least in his original human form.  If only it had been Conversations with Dead People or some such.

If I say that Angel’s my least favourite of Whedon’s series, it’s because creatively it’s the least certain (which is quite something considering the first five episodes of Dollhouse). The premise is excellent, the atoning vampire helping the helpless, but as the series continues, perhaps for budgetary reasons, the show finds its story playing out across just a few sets and the sense of a metropolis in which the supernatural intermingles is replaced with the kind of narrative navel gazing which can become quite old pretty quickly. Which it does, until the middle seasons in which most of the characters are unlikeable and there’s an apocalypse too many played out across the foyer of a hotel which becomes greyer as time goes on.

Borrowing this viewing order from the web I worked through Angel and Buffy enmeshed together and it is noteworthy how often a story element from one series is so seamlessly passed to another, either through mystical amulets or characters like Faith, unrelated story arcs running in parallel yet able to resonate, like the flashbackpalooze of Fool for Love and Darla with its moments in which the same events are viewed from the viewpoints of characters from different series. Only by watching both together are we able to see the dramatic character development in Cordelia and Wesley, even if arguably in the former case its pissed up a wall by the old stand-by of demonic possession and wilful blindness of the other characters.  How could they not know it wasn't her?

Remarkably Angel the series is at its best when it’s at its dopiest, when Angel the character’s dancing, Wesley’s drunk or Fred’s being kick-ass. But also when it’s willing to take risks with those characters like a testing ground for the moral ambiguity which would be the lifeblood of Dollhouse. When Angel locks a group of lawyers in a basement knowing it will mean certain death at the fangs of his historical cohorts it’s all the more shocking because it’s the so-called lighter version of the character and not his utterly evil Angelus form. Like Buffy it’s also in the closing stages that the show becomes watchable again, when it largely ditches the story arcs and returns to a largely stand alone format.

It’s also remarkable that while making both of these series Whedon was also able to produce what’s arguably his greatest achievement, the fourteen episodes of Firefly. Buffy’s Buffy of course, but of all Whedon’s shows, its his space western which from the opening episodes has the most likeable characters, simultaneously unbelievable yet plausible reality and dynamite storytelling. Like all of his series, it’s also rich with language, but unlike the others actively challenges the listener’s ears requiring multiple viewings for us to completely understand every conversation (and being versed in Chinese) and is refreshingly lacking in pop culture references, beyond visual and narrative influences.  Cancellation came too soon.  I would gladly have sacrificed Angel's later seasons for more of this.  Except Smile Time.

Except, like My So-Called Life and others, its brevity makes it all the more precious not least because unlike other series it was never left to go off the boil or repeat itself. There are few clunkers with only Shindig ever spoken of as being sub-par even though it’s a master class for Nathan Fillion’s comic timing and Jewel Staite’s general adorableness. The final episode, Objects in Space is the highlight with its poetic imagery and dialogue and a star-making (or should have been) performance from Summer Glau. If the show hadn’t had the benefit of its film spin-off Serenity to somewhat close out its storyline, the final shot of River’s jack becoming a planet would have still been perfect.

If we hadn’t been gifted the film what would the latter seasons be like? I always imagine Christina Hendricks’s con artist joining the crew just before she would have taken the Mad Men gig and presumably the story of Summer would have been a constant undercurrent. We would have discovered who Shepherd Book really was and what Inara had in her syringe. Zoe and Wash would have had kids or divorced. Simon and Kaylee would have married and Mal would remain stoic through out. In my darkest moments I even imagine a season five shocker of Serenity being destroyed leaving the crew alone on a planet, the rest of the season a battle to gain a new ship, Serenity II. But the show could never be that dark somehow.

Unlike Dollhouse which is all about the darkness. Lacking the linguistic ingenuity of Firefly but even more network interference, this is perhaps creatively Whedon’s most troubled show but certainly his thematically and intellectually most rewarding. Hobbled from the off by Fox’s prudity in relation to what the Dollhouse was made for, it is still able by the close of its second season to tell an exciting and narratively self contained story which somehow manages to even make its notoriously shaky first five episodes a benefit. From a show without a protagonist it became a show with multiple protagonists and all of them played by Eliza Dushku, even if arguably all of them are also Faith with “wicked kung fu moves”.

Ironically its in these latter stages that the show finds what would have been a network pleasing premise at the beginning which would also have had just as many interesting things to say on the nature of identity. Imagine instead if the show had begun with Echo accidentally absorbing all of those personalities and skills able to switch between them as the mission requires. Those first five episodes might have played out in much the same way but with added benefit of a central character w could immediately cheer for especially if she was hiding her condition from Adelle and the rest of the Dollhouse. A bit Alias perhaps but that’s no bad thing and certainly more coherent than the unaired pilot included on the dvd.

But the bravery of the series is that ultimately none of its characters are really heroes. With the exception of some of the dolls, all of them have a morally ambiguous core, even Echo as she usurps her body's former occupant, and it’s a rare occasion when an entire series is filled with characters we love to hate, something not even Galactica achieved. It’s like a Shakespearean problem play, twenty-six episodes of tragicomedy ultimately topped off with a hopeful apocalypse. That Topher, the best character, is arguably the architect of that apocalypse demonstrates the risks the show was taking in its birth on network television. That it was still given the opportunity to complete its story is a testament not just to Joss’s fans but also their buying power when faced with the completed box set.

So having watched nearly fifteen years worth of television in just over six months I can absolutely see why Whedon inspires in us such devotion. His ability to create characters within ensembles all of which could be capable of starring in their own shows and sometimes do, consistently wanting to challenge the audience and self critical enough to know when he’s not succeeded, but also with such an utter love for his own material, rarely showing a that’ll do attitude to what’s being produced in his name. When his shows almost fall apart in someone else’s hand, its often because he’s creating perfection elsewhere. Lord knows what’ll happen now that he’s in control of the Marvel universe. Now, I’ll be in my bunk.

[Clarification: Yes, this is a lazy repost of something from back in September.  But back in September I didn't know Review 2012 was going to be precisely about this kind of displacement activity and so it seemed fitting to add it to flow here too.  Sorry if you read the whole thing with a slight feeling of deja vu.]

Eames Lounge Chair.

The Shalka Doctor returns.

TV As a special Christmas treat, sometime Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell is hosting a new adventure, by L M Myles, for his animated Ninth Doctor as played by Richard E Grant:
"A soft, cooing sound woke Alison: of pair of grey birds perched at the end of her bed, watching her with their beady, black eyes.
"Hello," said Alison.
One of the birds cocked its head. "Coo," it said."
Scream of the Shalka is still available on the BBC website, as is the one other follow-up story. It's two now.

Review 2012: The Projects:
The List:
7. Eat a Hostess Twinkie.

Food The last thing I expected during my annual Christmas visit to Manchester was to eat a Hostess Twinkie.

Perhaps I should offer some background so that you can understand the magnitude of that statement.

My first exposure to comics, or rather American comic books, were random issues bought for me from a market stall in Speke, the place in Liverpool where I was originally brought up.

This would have been the early eighties and in those days instead of recycling, out of date magazines and comics were sold through these market stalls without their covers, though often the comics still did.

I still have some old Doctor Who monthlies and magazines from that period and it’s from here, as a treat, my Mum would buy me issues from all the superhero greats. She’d give them as a surprise in restaurants to keep me quiet along with copies of Fun-To-Do, the kids colouring and craft magazine.

Somewhere in the midst of these comics there would always be a curious one page strip, usually featuring a completely different character, which always ended with them enjoying or at least extolling the virtues of something called a Hostess Twinkie.

To my young, impressionable eyes, these seemed like exciting, exotic treats. If they were nice enough for Peter Parker to share with his Aunt May, they must be something extra specially, special.

Imagine my disappointment when I asked for some from my Mum, and she’d not only never heard of them, but when she asked at the local Fine Fair, they hadn’t either.

I showed her the comic for identification. This just simply wasn’t something which was sold in Speke in the 1980s. I think she bought be some Cadburys Chocolate Animal biscuits instead, digestives in the shape of lions, elephants and monkeys.  Exciting but not the same.

Then as I began watching Hollywood films, I noticed Twinkies were referenced relatively frequently. The one which made the most impression then was from Ghostbusters, Egon describing the mayhem within their ghost containment unit:

“Well, let's say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area. Based on this morning's sample, it would be a Twinkie... thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds.”

He was waving a Twinkie around as said this and it still retained that element of mystery. I knew and understood that all it was really was a sponge cake with some sort of cream in the middle, but its unavailability only increased its mystique.

Some day, I told myself, when I go to America, one of my first experiences will be eating a Twinkie, priority one probably, above visiting the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.

Time marched on. Even as the pop culture references piled up, I resigned myself to never eating a Twinkie. In Die Hard when Bruce Willis eats a “thousand year old” one. In Zombieland when they become one of the characters primary missions because of the expiry date.

Then, in real world that expiry date gained unforeseen importance.

When Hostess entered administration in November, I realised that even if I ever did manage to cross the Atlantic, I’d have to make do a the statue and the building.

Then, oh then, I visited Manchester.

Americandy is a small chain of shops recently opened, in Exchange Square, at Picadilly and in Kings Street which is the outlet I visited.

Just out of curiosity. Both the Harvey Nicks pop-up and Central Perk in Liverpool sell American sweets but I wondered just how much variety a shop which sells this sort of confectionery might have, how detailed their purchasing.

Sure enough most of the brands on sale have already penetrated the UK marketplace, though the options available are slightly different. Plus I haven’t seen Lucky Charms anywhere else. But that’s just a cereal.

I approached the counter. I already knew the answer before asking so I framed the question according.

”I don’t suppose you have Hostess Twinkies?” I was already backing away on the expectation of a negative answer.

“Yes. They’re in the basket over there.”

I think I may have jumped for joy. I think I may have said “Really?” then “Really?!?” again.

At this point the basket took on a mythic significance. Like the ark of the covenant or a holy grail. Sure enough, Hostess Twinkies. £3. I didn’t hesitate.

Back at the counter, I put the precious object on the counter. I just kept looking at and looking at it. It seemed to so small, its significance magnified by three decades of covetousness.

Finally I’d be discovering what it was that caused the Penguin to hypnotise a delivery man simply so that he could hoard his delivery of the sponges to Gotham City.

“The company’s gone into receivership.” I said, passing the time, but really just trying to keep my mind on the transaction.

“That’s why they’re £3," she said, "They used to be £1.50.”

I grinned. I took my change. I picked up the Twinkie, turning it over in my hand as I walked out of the shop. The top was golden and curved at the edges. On the flat bottom I could now see the holes where the cream is syringed or poured into the centre.

After a nanosecond of wondering if I should take it home with me, I began to unwrap it, my hands shaking.

I took a bite. As expected, it really is just some very nice sponge cake with fake cream, a substance not unlike the material which appears in a Cadbury’s Mini-Roll, probably the same substance, jammed unevenly in the middle.

But I savoured. Oh how I savoured.

I stood in an alleyway opposite a stall selling French winter clothing, leaning against the wall and eating this Twinkie as slowly as a Twinkie has probably ever been eaten.

Then it was gone.

After a thirty-year wait, I’d eaten a Twinkie, and you could say in the nick of time. They’re still being made by a company under license in Canada, and although they’re about the same, under the same recipe, the bakery’s in Montreal and they’re not being made by Hostess.

Now whenever I see those films which mention them, I’ll understand what they’re talking about, I’ll have the memory of the taste, or the version of the memory of the taste which integrates all of the hopes and dreams inherent within the eating of it.

The next thing I did was phone my mother and tell her, described the taste, described the purchase, reminded her of the comics she used to buy me. She seemed pleased, in that bewildered way my parents often are when I’m telling them about some new, fool adventure.

What I didn’t do was go back and buy another. Having had one, I wanted to keep it special. Plus I knew I was having a strudel with custard later in the afternoon and I’m watching my weight.

But as you can see I've kept the wrapper for a bit.  It still as bit of the sponge on it, fragrant with the smell of what's now in my stomach.

The Christmas Market was as fun as it usually is, with Zippy dressed as Santa sitting on the Town Hall overseeing everything.

There’s an exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery of sculptural work created just with paper, including a forest, an extraordinary machine and a film in which the imagery comes to life directly from its pages in silhouettes.

There’s also an amazing exhibition at the John Rylands Library about Anthony Burgess and his work with Stanley Kubrick on the making of A Clockwork Orange, which includes Kubrick’s own letter to Burgess explaining his reasons for not adapting the author’s book about Napoleon and the actual white sculptural phallus brandished by Malcolm McDowell in the film.

Yet, throughout, all I could think about, and I kept saying to myself was, “I’ve eaten a Twinkie.”  I've eaten a Twinkie.

7. Eat a Hostess Twinkie.


Space  There is a theory that the asteroid belt was the product of a notional "fifth" planet which existed between the orbits of Mars and Jupter until a cataclysm led to its destruction.
"Theories regarding the formation of the asteroid belt from the destruction of a hypothetical fifth planet are today collectively referred to as the "disruption theory". This theory states that there was once a major planetary member of the solar system circulating in the present gap between Mars and Jupiter, which was variously destroyed when:

it veered too close to Jupiter and was torn apart by the gas giant's powerful gravity.
it was struck by another large celestial body.
it was destroyed by a hypothetical brown dwarf, the companion star to the Sun known as Nemesis.
it was shattered by some internal catastrophe.
The planet is most often called Phaeton. But sometimes Astra.

Review 2002 review:

Volunteering at the Commonwealth Games.
My computer was broken throughout the games and this looks like an attempt to make up for and it really does, from the description of the atmosphere, the anticipation, to expressing one of the few moments in my life when I’ve felt contented within a group and my growing admiration for netball (see above), which is still in place. With money an object the only way that I could have volunteered for the London Olympics would have been the football at Old Trafford, but with little certainty about working patterns and knowing that I might actually want to watch the games, I didn’t apply. That’s still the dichotomy of this kind of volunteering, that you’ll end up missing whatever event your volunteering for.

Visiting Paris.
This was the first time I’d been abroad in over a decade and the last time I left the country, barring visits to Cardiff and Belfast, money always being an object. Which means that even after ten years, those three days remain vivid despite having spent most of them in agony due to wearing the wrong shoes. Sitting in that cafĂ© is probably my favourite memory. My plan was to move to Paris if I hadn’t been accepted onto my MA course and recently I’ve wondered if that might not have been the better option however unrealistic it seems now. But that was in 2005 when everything seemed possible and we had little clue of the financial canonball which was about the blow a hole in the wall of all our hopes.

The Death of Buffy.
Not my greatest three paragraphs by any means, but a decent reminder that for all the many amazing stories in subsequent seasons and comics, emotionally Buffy’s character arc completed at the close of her show’s fifth year. Rewatching the entire series in 2012 in conjunction with all of Joss Whedon’s other television work, while it’s impossible to say he peaked in this first five years, it’s certainly the longest sustained period of quality, even taking into account the shakier, college years elements of the fourth season. Now we await his SHIELD adaptation, and the extent to which his auteurism will infect the next phase of The Avengers films. If his first film is any indication, he may be on a roll again.

The transient nature of the internet, and the decline in the amateur blogosphere means that most of these sites have closed. From the highlighted five only John still has Sore Eyes and Boing Boing bounces. In Passing just has a text basic page suggesting it will be back up in 2008 (archive image). There’s more of a to do in the links at the bottom and I still read most of them, though the Gawker in that moment was far more New York centric and Cameron Crowe hadn’t made Elizabethtown (thank goodness We Bought A Zoo suggested a potential return to form). Supermodels Are Lonelier Than You Think! seems quite quaint now in comparison to the gossip blogs ten years later, though for the life of me I can’t imagine why I was reading it then anyway.

Five lists of five things I also loved
I have no memory of reading Mark Lawson’s The Battle for Room Service: Journeys to All the Safe Places, though I did meet him twice in the intervening years. Rescue Me with Sally Philips is still an underrated gem. My attempt to look cool in the list of music is entirely counteracted by not having listened to most of them since. Three out of the five websites are still posting, with the contents of OffTheTelly still online (thank goodness). The interesting thing about this first five predictions is that three of them eventually came to pass, but fortunately for some of humanity but unfortunately for everyone it’s neither of the bottom two. But notice: Buffy, Doctor Who and Shakespeare. Twas forever thus.


Nature  Cape Cod Online has photos of a rescue last week by officials at Sandy Neck Beach Park of cold-stunned turtles that were stranded on the beach:
"Over the course of the entire day, more than 24 turtles were rescued from different beaches on the Cape in Brewster, Dennis and West Barnstable."
The whole event lasted for four days and stretched right across the cape as the turtles lost navigation and couldn't find a way around the tip of the Cape as they swam south for Winter.

Review 2002 review:
Film & Music.

Shallow Hal / Gosford Park / Kissing Jessica SteinChanging Lanes / Baise-Moi
These weren’t my favourite five films of 2002, just those whose reviews I thought were worth reposting.  Of the five, it’s Kissing Jessica Stein I keep returning to, because of the characters, because of the atmosphere and because it’s hilarious.  Next along is probably Gosford Park, though we last spent time together while I researching my MA dissertation in 2005 when I was trying to decide if it was a hyperlink film or just a simple ensemble film and how it compared to Robert Altman’s other experiments with huge casts and improvisation.  Shallow Hal’s the only film on the list I haven’t returned to, though it reminds me I need to get around to watching Dumb & Dumber one of these days.

Jarvis Cocker
Jarvis covering Rolf is still a seminal light entertainment moment, though since then he’s been very busy indeed all things considered.  There’s his musical collaborations with Richard X, Charlotte Gainborg and Nancy Sinatra, contributions to a Harry Potter soundtrack, film cameos, and his radio show on 6Music.  If Jarvis is still best known still to a certain portion of his audience for what’s described as the “BRIT Awards incident” when he stormed the stage during Michael Jackson’s surreally messianic performance of Earthsong, my favourite memory will always be watching him talking to the moon and stars at the V96 festival in Birkenhead, an otherwise rowdy audience transfixed by the moment.

Late Junction
As this entry says, Late Junction did indeed lead me to attending evening classes in World Music, its history and apparatus.  I suppose like any personal fad, like French New Wave later, it seeped into my general appreciation of culture.  There’s something invigorating about submerging yourself in a single interest for a time, becoming an expert of sorts and although your interest fades as something else temps you away, it’ll still be there at the back of your mind or as is the case my music collection which was injected with dozens and dozens of rough guides to so called “world music” which were on offer at HMV during just the right period.  Of all of them, I still return to the France related cds.  Unsurprisingly.

Isn’t that awful?  Not that Tatu video which is the perfect synergy of catchy pop song and unrepentant titillation but this leery post which disproves the rule that this blog was always better when it first began.  The Altman anecdote is true, the memory is still vivid, as is the rest of it I suppose, but the paradoxical mix of prudery and prurience is simply embarrassing even if thematically it manages to mention similar faux-sapphic endeavours.  Perhaps that indicates I was being ironic, but given that I can’t even remember writing the thing, just as I can’t remember writing most of this blog, I’m unwilling to give the younger version of me the benefit of the doubt, especially since he forced me to watch all six seasons of Lost.

The UN Concert to celebrate the giving of the Nobel Peace Prize (or something like that)
Reading through that oddball collection of stars it doesn’t seem any less bonkers than the various ceremonies at year’s Olympics and with some of the same acts.  Looking at the video, it's even worse than I remember.  The UN Peace Prize Concerts now have their own website.  In 2011 it was co-hosted by Helen Mirren and Rosario Dawson and featured amongst others Evanescence, David Grey, Janelle Monae and Ellie Goulding.  This year its Sarah Jessica Parker and Gerard Butler introducing Jennifer Hudson and Kylie though its fair to say the linguistic variety of the acts has increased over time.  Sadly I’m going to miss it live because Sky Arts have the rights but luckily there is a YouTube channel, where we can also enjoy 2010’s performances from Florence Welch and Barry Manilow.

Everything Else
Or, the stuff he should have been writing about.  Was Jade Goody going to be releasing a single?  John Major had an affair with Edwina Curry?!?  What striking about this is how clued in I appear to be.  Lord knows how.  I stopped being interested in the lifestyles of the sometimes rich and relatively famous years ago, apart from politicians, journalists and royalty unless Marina Hyde or Hadley Freeman are writing The Guardian’s Lost in Showbiz column and I certainly watch far less music related television even Later …  I tried listening to NOW 83 the other day most of which was new to me.  There are only about five decent tracks and one of those is Stooche’s cover of TLC’s Waterfalls, because it’s practically a rerecord.

Tomorrow: Blogs and Blogging.


Geology  ArsTechnical reports that new software which brings hugely detailed geological images to schools and amateur rock enthusiasts:
"Geologists were among the educators who were trained and then unleashed on the world as voracious GigaPanners. Ron Schott, who teaches at Bakersfield College in California, has been sharing his experiences with GigaPan through his blog. Schott had been exploring better ways to help students visualize geologic concepts, and GigaPan has fit the bill. “In the classroom, students exploring a GigaPan can experience a joy of discovery that just isn't there in a traditional static photograph,” he told Ars.

"Callan Bentley, an assistant professor at Northern Virginia Community College and fellow geoblogger, shares that view. “I think the key aspect of a GigaPan is that it is a single medium which combines both detail and context. The result is that viewers/users can start with the literal ‘big picture’ (zoomed-out) context, then let their natural instincts guide them to explore for detail in select portions of the image (zoomed-in),” he wrote."
There's an example of their work at Ars and the detailing is stunning.

Review 2002 review:


People Review 2002 ran right through Christmas week of that year from the 24th to New Years Eve and mostly consisted of a fairly standard retrospective listing people, then moments, then films then everything else, what I thought were the notable cultural highlights of the year. Now that this blog has some longevity (roll on the 15th birthday), I’m in a position to look back a whole decade to the person I was then writing that first review and what I was blogging about. I didn’t realise they’d be annual until two years later when I was working on my third, though as we’ll see in two years, that wasn’t just a December project. Here begins what I hope will be an annual review of annual reviews to go along with the usual annual review. Here follows a review of Review 2002. A post at a time.  With illustrative clips.

Paula Radcliffe
My comments about Radcliffe’s run in the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 could be repeated almost word for word about Mo Farrah’s performance at the London Olympics 2012, except that of course he was able to execute his entire strategy in both of his races whereas as you can see Paula wavered a bit just to add some excitement. In the event due to injury, Radcliffe herself was unable to have similar Olympic glory, her only next major gold medal in the Marathon at the World Championships in 2005. Nevertheless when she pulled out of the London with a foot injury, it was major news story, at least until the gold rush began in earnest. She still hasn’t officially retired so you never know.

Peter Jackson
For some reason I assumed The Hobbit began its release schedule next year, which made the posters and trailers a nice surprise. This is being written before the release date of course, so we don’t know if Jackson has “done a Lucas” or been able to recreate the magic. Because The Lord of the Rings is magic, timeless and everything you’d hope a fantasy film to be. When rewatching the extended versions earlier this year, it was with a sense of nostalgia and not a little sadness.  I cried through the closing credits of Return of the King when it was originally released, seemed so full of hope and with a plan. Now I’m entirely hopeless and have no plan at all so I cried again but for entirely different reasons.

Avril Lavigne
This lengthy evisceration of the first few seconds of the promo for Lavigne’s Complicated is entire justified but as is probably apparent from the closing few lines masked a deep admiration for the singer. Across the four albums released in the ensuing decade, she’s demonstrated that it is possible for popstrells to retain some longevity without wavering from formula, and still produce some decent singles, unlike say, Alanis Morissette who some considered to be her notional forerunner and has slowly driven off the creative cliff. I’d probably rather listen to the several dozen regional variations of Avril’s Girlfriend than Alanis’s Havoc and Bright Lights which takes her approach to making lists to a whole new level of tedium.

Mark Kermode
Ah Kermode. This was the year I discovered Kermode and I’m still listening ten years later. His approach has probably influenced my Doctor Who review more than anything else, especially since, if recent experience is a barometer, I’ve entirely forgotten how to review films, which is a bit unhelpful considered I have a film studies degree (though in fairness I was trying to be nice). Now that my connection to film release schedules has been all but cut, I generally tune into his Friday radio show because of the Grumpy Old Men like chemistry with Simon Mayo, though it’s impossible to really judge who is Walter Mattheu and who Jack Lemmon. I suppose it depends which of those has the flappiest hands.

Trinny Woodall
This before she appeared in Who as a psychotic android. Her selection then was pure lust, probably, the whole rest of the paragraph designed to fill the space that would have otherwise been filled with a photograph. Her wikipedia entry is fascinating, charting the slow decline of their UK televisual careers leading to much international travel, ending with the sentence, “a close friend of Elizabeth Hurley, Woodall agreed to perform a sangeet dance at the Hindu wedding celebrations of Hurley and Arun Nayar in March 2007, dancing with Hurley and six others, including Janet Street-Porter.” She subsequently wrote a column for the tabloid that shall not be named which makes her persona non grata to me now. Sad. #justiceforthe96

Tomorrow: Film and Music in 2002.