Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Predictions.

That Day We reach the time when I assess how well I predicted the ups and downs of the year and look forward to the next. Here we go again:

Lab/Lib coalition in the UK by the end of the year.

No, in a very real, profound sense of being wrong. If anything the Con/Lib coalition has become stronger, even to the point that a figure like Sarah Teather's had enough of it. No marks.

Paul McGann in Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary television special.

Paul McGann in the prequel to Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary television special. As with the Sugababes last year, this was the joke entry which turned out to be sort of true and actually true since Paul McGann was in The Day of the Doctor albeit, oddly, in archive footage. So one mark. N'yer.

BBC announces new complete works of Shakespeare.

Nooo and indeed I think there was even less televised theatre on the BBC this year than last which is saying something.  No marks.

Andrew Stanton hired to direct Star Wars. Aaron Sorkin works on script in some capacity.

JJ Abrams hired to direct Star Wars.  Probably writing most of the script too.  Stanton's directing Finding Dory, the Nemo sequel and Sorkin's making good use of his time on The Newsroom.  No marks.

Liverpool artist wins Turner Prize.

French artist wins Turner Prize.  No marks.

One out of five this year and only because I was somewhat loose with my interpretations.  Seems fitting that it's the Doctor Who one which turned up trumps though.

Right then, for next year let's see if I can be even more specific.

A Lovefilm app launches on the Roku 3.

The Mutya Keisha Siobhan album is finally released.

Stella Creasy is promoted.

Moffat announces he's leaving at the end of the next series of Doctor Who.  Gatiss takes over.

Time is a Great Dealer.

Well ish.  The last one is from a postcard on my wall and essentially all I'm asking is for next year to be profoundly brilliant.  The rest is about me daring fate to be wrong.  Or putting the jinx on some people.  Either all.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Not The Doctor by Alanis Morissette.

Music Not The Doctor isn't my favourite track on Jagged Little Pill and it's probably not yours. Less showy than All I Really Want, less controversial than either version of You Oughta Know and less worthy of midnight drunken discussion than Ironic ("That's not ironic!" "Yes it is! I often need a knife and all I can find in the kitchen drawer are spoons. I mean you can butter the toast with the handle but it's not ideal..."). Plus it's another list, one of several hundred which Alanis would set to music across her career (Under Rug Swept begins with a track called 21 Things I Want In A Lover and good god do we hear them all). But it does have two key elements going for it. It has a really rather amazing hook of the kind Mike Oldfield would be proud of, four acoustic guitar notes rotating from top to bottom, between A and E which the rest of the melody hangs off, and acts as the engine that motors the rest of the song through the end. There's also the rather caustic lyrics in which protagonist is essentially saying to her man, no look, man, sort yourself out, I'm not your mother, I'm not your everything. Find your own way to exist as a person, I'm not in this relationship simply to be your nursemaid. Clearly it's about a real person, it's autobiographical and it's raw, and not that surprising considering what happened to her in the run up to recording the album and when the lyrics were written (see here).  All in all considering what else was apparently recorded in the Jagged Little Pill sessions (hello Superstar Wonderful WeirdosDeath Of Cinderella and the impressively noodly No Avalon), it's well worth another listen.

I don't want to be the filler if the void is solely yours
I don't want to be your glass of single malt whiskey
Hidden in the bottom drawer
I don't want to be a bandage if the wound is not mine
Lend me some fresh air
I don't want to be adored for what I merely represent to you
I don't want to be your babysitter
You're a very big boy now
I don't want to be your mother
I didn't carry you in my womb for nine months
Show me the back door

Visiting hours are 9 to 5 and if I show up at 10 past 6
Well I already know that you'd find some way to sneak me in and oh
Mind the empty bottle with the holes along the bottom
You see it's too much to ask for and I am not the doctor

I don't want to be the sweeper of the egg shells that you walk upon
And I don't want to be your other half, I believe that 1 and 1 make 2
I don't want to be your food or the light from the fridge on your face
At midnight, hey
What are you hungry for
I don't want to be the glue that holds your pieces together
I don't want to be your idol
See this pedestal is high and I'm afraid of heights
I don't want to be lived through
A vicarious occasion
Please open the window

Visiting hours are 9 to 5 and if I show up at 10 past 6
Well I already know that you'd find some way to sneak me in and oh
Mind the empty bottle with the holes along the bottom
You see it's too much to ask for and I am not the doctor

I don't want to live on someday when my motto is last week
I don't want to be responsible for your fractured heart
And it's wounded beat
I don't want to be a substitute for the smoke you've been inhaling
What do you thank me
What do you thank me for

Visiting hours are 9 to 5 and if I show up at 10 past 6
Well I already know that you'd find some way to sneak me in and oh
Mind the empty bottle with the holes along the bottom
You see it's too much to ask for and I am not the doctor

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Neil Brand's Sound of Cinema: The Music that Made the Movies.

TV For about three weeks in September, film music expert Neil Brand bestrode the BBC's schedules like a colossus, as every network offered programmes celebrating film music, turning up everywhere from Radio 3, actually mostly Radio 3 to Radio 4, to The One Show to well everywhere offering his thorough knowledge of everything from Disney musicals to the John Williams via Bernard Hermann. The programmes themselves were glorious with their composer interviews, most especially Vangelis as he deconstructed exactly how he's able to produce such unique sounds and Brand visiting various locations and archives with a clear sense of excitement as he was able to run his fingers across the original notations or visit a studio's scoring stage. The three programmes are only available in the illicit places you'd expect, but the BBC's own websites still contain a wealth of material, from extended interviews with contributors, 6 Music's various slots including a whole programme about David Arnold, Brand's own genre based discussions for The Film Programme and his podcast series on a similar themeIn Tune's Sound of Cinema podcastsRadio 3's conversations with Directors and Film Composers, Composer of the Week episodes about British Film Music and the Golden Age of Hollywood. As a variation on a theme, here are five of my favourite pieces of film music, three themed around Brand's programmes and two others. See if you can work out which one is my ring tone (don't phone, it's just for fun).

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Spacecraft: Apollo 11 - Men On The Moon.

Space NASA's Spacecraft: Apollo 11 - Men On The Moon boxed set (which I finally watched this year) gathers together all of the relevant footage of the moment when man finally landed on the moon, something we discovered this year, China is working towards replicating (far more than appears on NASA STI YouTube channel). From the construction of the spacecraft to it returning safely to Earth, the dvds include all of the television tests and proper broadcasts too and from the moon and the whole of the moon walks in real time, from multiple angles including a 16mm camera fixed to the top of the Eagle. It's one thing to see the edited highlights of this mission, quite another to watch the astronauts attempting to mix their media commitments with scientific experiments during the brief time they have on our satellite, slightly drunk on the whole experience of standing on another world.  Some of the footage is entirely unwatchable, especially during camera tests as the astronauts shift the camera around the cabin so that images become an abstract mess and you have to remind constantly remind yourself, that this abstract mess was being broadcast from space to the earth in 1969.  Plus if the lunar landing was faked by Stanley Kubrick (or whoever) why would they bother with any of this?  Why is so much of the material on the moon random chatter and high technical conversations about the implications of how the samples of rock are being gathered and where they should be stored?  Why all the administration?  The best moments on the surface are perhaps when the film and video footage are intercut with the iconic colour stills photographs just as they're being taken, the grainy silhouette suddenly brought into sharp focus.  It's impossible not to feel a sense of awe at what was achieved and could be achieved again.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Streaming Theatre.

Theatre Another by-product of our getting unlimited broadband in the house has been a less tentative approach to see what exactly is available to watch online, and not just from official channels like One of the surprises is the mass of amateur and semi-professional theatre productions available to stream through various video services, as companies that might otherwise have filmed their work then put the tape on a shelf have uploaded such things online for posterity.  Search Vimeo for both spellings of "theatre" or "theater" and sorting by duration reveals some not safe for work material from the Center for Sex and Culture in California (you have been warned) but also a California Institute of the Arts production of Measure for Measure, or the first two rare treats embedded below, Thomas Middleton's A Mad World My Masters and John Marston's The Dutch Courtesan in excellent productions from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television in York.  YouTube's search is less hospitable but its catalogue much larger.  Fancy some Sophocles?  Here's Jesse Eisenberg in a rehearsed reading of Philoctetes at the now defunct Philoctetes Center in New York. Or Boston University which seems to be working their way around Early Modern Drama - Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair's below too, filmed albeit as so many of these productions are, from a single camera at the back.  The best strategy is just to dive in - there are plenty of professional productions too.

A Mad World My Masters from TFTV_York on Vimeo.

The Dutch Courtesan dir Michael Cordner from TFTV_York on Vimeo.

Review 2013: The Doctor:
The Time of the Doctor.

TV Happy Boxing Day! Well there we are then, it’s all over for another year and all that's left to pick up the pieces and move on. If NORAD’s tracked Santa across the planet in the lead up to Christmas, Twitter’s been trailing the fan reaction to The Time of Doctor just as successfully as each country received its festive broadcast and its fair to say the reaction has been a bit mixed, and quite often within the same person. I know because that person is me. For a proportion of the story I was somewhat delighted but as the narrative span towards its inevitable conclusion, I began to detect my internal production monologue intoning, its sonorous voice disrupting my enjoyment of what was on screen until by the end, it distracted me to such a degree that as the credits rolled, I sighed and said “Goodbye Matt”, and then “Oh dear.”

My internal production monologue is a bit like the production subtitles on dvds, except instead of Martin Wiggins or someone offering facts about weather conditions on location, scheduling problems and why Pertwee looks a bit peaky in a given scene, it begins to question exactly why the present production team decided to do this or that. Samples from last night’s performance include: “What’s with all the Rose references? That’s the stand in Powell Estate. The severed head of an enemy plugged into the TARDIS as a navigational tool.” “Isn’t using a monologue over this a bit risky? Isn’t that having a distancing effect especially since we don’t recognise the voice?” “Monoid!” “Oh right, so the material in The Ultimate Guide was shot at the same time as this.” “The Rings of Akhaten music now?”

During Matt’s regeneration scene it was pretty much shouting: “Fish fingers and custard. Oh bless. So we’re going to be seeing visions of the Eleventh Doctor’s past. Bet Caitlin Blackwood’s back for it. Oh look there – no hold on that’s not Caitlin. Well obviously, because she’s probably a bit older now, so no that’s not the first face the Doctor saw with that face. But that little actress looks nothing like Caitlin, which is why they keep hiding her face. That’s distracting and even more so since we saw actual Caitlin in the flashback when the crack was revealed. Why didn’t that just use Caitlin? I mean she is a bit older now, but we probably would have accepted it. Was she busy? There could have been a line, something about getting older, “Everything looks older to me now” that sort of thing. Oh Karen’s back. Sob. I miss her…”

Which is pretty much where I was when Matt was giving his final speech, worrying about why Caitlin Blackwood had been replaced, which is probably why I was a little bit under-whelmed (and poor Caitlin's spent most of Boxing Day telling people why it wasn't her on Twitter). But in all honesty I was a little bit under-whelmed by the whole thing but in no way should this be seen a criticism of the writer Steven Moffat particularly, because as had also been pointed out on Twitter there’s been a lot of The Time of the Doctor being used to make pretty personal attacks on a writer who clearly loves Doctor Who to the point of “Monoid!” and that sort of thing and its his love of the show which led him to write The Time of the Doctor in which he decided as he always does to try something to new, to strive to produce the unexpected. Sometimes that leads to Blink. Sometimes that leads to this.

Quite often, too often for my own good, this internal production monologue begins muttering because I know I’m going to write one of these things afterwards, but that also means it’s a decent barometer of just how good a story is because it’s entirely silenced, just as it was during The Day of the Doctor (which I’m still not reviewing) when it only really piped as it tried to understand exactly what all the Gallifrey business was at the end. The inverse reaction to this Christmas episode on Twitter in comparison to the 50th anniversary special not to mention The Night of the Doctor has been the very definition of “how quickly they forget”. Though to be fair, I don’t think any of us would assume that the best regeneration episode of the year wouldn’t be the one for the Eleventh Doctor.

Anyway, after giving twelve or so hours for the rest of my brain think about it, here’s what I think my internal production monologue didn’t quite understand last night. One of the elements of Doctor Who, at least since The Rescue, is that for all the companion’s position as the audience’s point of view character, the Doctor has been the protagonist and that’s been true of nuWho and particularly true of the Smith era, and especially true of this year’s episodes as he went about unravelling the mystery of the impossible girl and The Time of the Doctor is arguably at its best right at the beginning when it’s about Doctor and Wilson, sorry, Handles, investigating the mystery of the planet, what you could call for want of a better description, the more traditional Who elements, the running around and talking quickly in the hopes that something presents itself.

Except, also right from the beginning, right from the moment Tasha Lem’s voiceover begins, we’re distanced from the action, at one remove because everything which we’ve absorbed about the grammar of film and television tells us that we’re watching events in the past tense, which have already happened, which pulls us right out of the now. This isn’t anything new of course, and Doomsday was supposed to tell the story of, as she tells us, when Rose died. Except because it’s Rose, we’re ok with it and accept it as a kind of trailer for future events, the flash page of a comic book adventure. But because this isn’t a voice we recognise and because it’s poetic and full of mythic portent, just like The Hungry Earth before it, we’re put in a frame of mind which says that we’re watching the then rather than the right now.

Such things are purposeful creative decisions, and Moffat perhaps had in mind to give his story some weight. But given that this is a regeneration story it already has weight because regeneration stories always do. But then Moffat adds an extra level of distancing by telling the story from Clara’s point of view, by making her the protagonist rather than the Doctor. Structurally the piece is quite similar to The Parting of the Ways, with Clara worried about a Doctor who’s deposited her back on Earth for safety while he fights his battles in the future. Except in that episode, the cross cutting between the two still kept the Doctor to the fore including the heart stopping moment when it because apparent that he’s lied to Rose about being able to save day when he really can’t, a beat which is also repeated here.

Except, crucially, when we do see the Doctor on Trenzalore, he still doesn’t have narrative agency because Tasha Lem’s describing events and everything happens in montage and we’re still seeing the then rather than the now and as he gets older, the aging, and the reaction to the aging slowly shifts to Clara to the point that when the Doctor finally goes from being big space Gandalf, to old, basement Bilbo Baggins, it’s revealed to us through Clara’s eyes. Perhaps Moffat has in mind to create a bookend to An Unearthly Child, to have a frail old Doctor being discovered through the companion’s point of view with the companion as properly the protagonist again after all these years, but as an audience we’re left trying to fill in the blanks of the Doctor’s new past when we should be paying attention to be present.

But, I suspect, our subliminal dissatisfaction runs even deeper than that. When Clara visits in the Doctor’s middle age, information that the Time Lord has already discovered, like who the Silents and Silence are, why his TARDIS exploded, essentially all of the mysteries of the past three years are simply described to him, her and us anticlimactically across a table, which is, quite frankly, in terms of narrative closure, awful. Moffat forgets at this crucial moment that as an audience, however corny it might be, we need the catharsis of the watching the Doctor’s reaction to these revelations however much they might feel like old news to the writer, who’s more interested in dropping in the shocks and surprises of the Dalek trap and giving the Doctor another opportunity to kiss one of his friends and it’s that dissatisfaction which is what I think killed the episode stone dead last night.

There is also the Lost syndrome, of having built a set of mysteries which couldn’t really satisfactorily be paid off and perhaps Moffat realised this and decided it was best to give them simple answers then move on. It’s a choice, I suppose. As is often the case in this era, I’ll be interested to see how this effects the rewatching of previous stories when these were just massive questions. Lost is pretty much unwatchable now for just this reason but I don’t think The Big Bang will be simply because there’s too much other fun stuff happening as well. Same with The God Complex, though I think I much preferred not knowing what was in the Doctor’s room rather now knowing that it’s one of the “cracks”. One of the best things about The End of Time is that we still don’t know who Claire Bloom was playing. Random mysteries are great.

Such a shame. Some of this is outside the writer’s control because of the absence of Amy Pond. Structurally, since this is the final degree of a three year arc which began in The Eleventh Hour, it should be Amy Pond and to some extent Rory who are here at this final end and the Clara material is Moffat dealing with similar issues that J Michael Straczynski had when cast members, notably Michael O'Hare and Claudia Christian upped and left Babylon 5, in having to transfer their participation in the storyline to another character. If Karen could somehow have been engaged to be in the episode for longer it might have worked, there’s then the problem of giving Clara something relevant to do that’s also fresh and new and mores to the point not unfair to Jenna Coleman.

Some would see it as a benefit, having this character who doesn’t understand the action that went before able to ask the relevant questions for all the people who apparently only watch the show on Christmas Day, which at this point doesn’t seem like nearly enough to warrant it that much. Plus I’ve heard reports of people having to spend the whole thing explaining it to their relatives anyway despite Clara’s narrative intervention. It's just that when she sees the fish custard it means nothing to her and although Jenna does her best with it, she’s unable to give quite the look of recognition it requires, because she's not Karen Gillan playing Amy Pond.

There were other niggles. Linked into the distancing effect is wondering about the extent to which Christmas is a real town. It’s clearly not supposed to be a magical, unchanging place like the Planet Albert in the Eighth Doctor novel Grimm Reality. The population has generations, aging around the Doctor. But it doesn’t develop, the Doctor’s benevolence and the threat of invasion apparently keeping it in cultural and socio-economic stasis but also oddly thriving because there are still people walking around at the end despite successive invasions. Though to be fair said invasions weren’t as spectacular as they might be, the dramatic dictators “idea” and “budget” forever staging coups against one another, though the wooden Cyberman is a brilliant idea. More of that please.

Anyway with all that in mind, it was a pretty dark comedown after an otherwise very good Christmas Day. Then I woke up this morning (dur-dur-dur-dur-dum) and watched it again first thing on the iPlayer and like the second spoonful of Alpen blueberry flavoured porridge in a pot which I had for breakfast (just add water), it was much more enjoyable second time around, now that I knew what to expect, all of its virtues in crystal clear HD with its crunch bits of dried apple (or as is the case with the iPlayer the annoying logo in the corner of something which was obviously recorded while it went out rather than uploaded directly from the broadcast master and for the life of me I don’t know why some programmes are off-air and some others aren’t) (perhaps it’s the powdered milk).

If Moffat still doesn’t quite seem to know how to deal with the post-arc Clara, he is at least going about the business of giving her such things as a family that doesn’t just exist in flashback and isn't about her being a nanny and there’s some interesting business here, as we’re introduced to another couple of generations of the Oswald family, and her relationship with her grandmother is especially fractious, since she seems to some extent have decided to fill in the gap left by her mother, offering boyfriend suggestions and the like. This could just be local colour though. Unlike Davies, Moffat isn’t much in the business of building up the parts of his companion’s family and it’s unlikely that we’ll see Capaldi’s Doctor’s contrasting approaches to domesticity as we saw in The Christmas Invasion.

Moffat and the design team also had in mind to show the contrast between a twenty-first century Christmas and the version that appears in the Bruegel paintings which sometimes appear on the classier cards blu-tacked to bookshelves and fireplaces of the modern household, Clara’s family meal in bright, albeit grey snowless daylight, the Doctor’s final years played out against endless, frosted darkness. Perhaps it should have swapped titles with The Night of the Doctor. There’s also something quite melancholy about how in The Christmas Invasion, dinner around the table is all celebration and giggles, whereas here its arguments and tears, the former full of life, this a synthetic experience, an almost ritualistic experience for all concerned. The reality is probably somewhere in between I fear.

Jenna's performance is remarkable too given the material.  She's  funny, smart and clockwork in her timing and able to somehow play the emotional rollercoaster of watching her friend grow old and die and subtly changing her chemistry with him over the course of a Christmas meal. It’s also important in the rush to dismiss how her scenes played out not to ignore just how fabulous Orla Brady is as Tasha Lem, even if like Clara her character’s relationship with the Doctor mainly makes her seem like she was created to deal with the absence of another character, in this case River Song. She’s not, having River in that position would have been weird, but she’s written as much the same character, especially in relation to how she amorously reactions to the Doctor, simultaneously wanting to love him and destroy him.

But of course this is Matthew’s final adventure and as has been so often the case in the darkest corners of the past few years he elevated the material and was, well, he was, doing his best with the only vaguely amusing nudity stuff, clearly loving the wig stuff (wasn’t the final scene with Karen essentially about two people acting with semi-bald heads?) before really storming through to the dismount and the metafictional loss of his bow tie. As even David Tennant’s admitted, Smith has been the show’s biggest asset over the past few years, perhaps even the reason it broke North America and like Tennant, you almost wish that they could simply continue making adventures for him even after he’s regenerated. There’s always just been something about his face, even when obscured by latex, in which you just know he’s the Doctor and it’ll all be fine.

As regeneration scene go this is a bit of a mix of the old and new. Like The Tenth Planet his regeneration comes about because his body is dying of old age, but it is also because of a selfless sacrifice, albeit one drawn out across centuries, defending Christmas even when he could simply jump into his TARDIS and go. Like the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, he is visited by echoes of his past, Amy the new Adric, I suppose. Like the Eighth Doctor it’s a regeneration which brings him into some new physical territory in this case a whole new regenerative cycle and like Ninth, his companion looked on dumbstruck, and like Tenth, like Captain Jack, she is entirely appreciative of the change that is to come. Like some of those, but unlike Tenth the second time around, he is absolutely content with finally going.

His final speech is sheer poetry, good enough to put in an upmarket Christmas cracker. Here it is in full. “It’s started. I can’t stop it now, this is just the reset. A whole new regeneration cycle. Taking a bit longer. Just breaking it in. It all just disappears doesn’t it, everything you are gone in a moment like breath on a mirror? Any moment now, he’s a comin’ … The Doctor …. And I always will be. But times change and so must I. Amelia! The first face this face saw. We all change when you think about it. We are all different people all through our lives and that’s ok, you gotta keep moving so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.” Then his actual final line. “Hey.” Sob again.

Just as Twitter’s tracked the global viewing audience, it’s also been tracking people who’ve watched it again and like me, seen its virtues the second time around, how like so much of the Doctor Who we’ve disliked the first time around, we’ve watched again and loved. Like I always say, Who is still amazing even when it’s rubbish, and much of The Time of the Doctor is amazing. Of the future? We’ve barely begun with Capaldi but already I’m detecting a bit of Tom about him, especially in that shot when the TARDIS spins out of control and his hand seems to grasp towards us rather like this publicity shot from City of Death. He’s keeping his accent which is all to the good too. Doctor Who’s moving on, it’s regenerating and I for one can’t wait, whoever’s in charge, both on and off screen. Good night, raggedy man.

Updated 01/01/14! I've since written almost as much again about the regeneration and the mechanics thereof. Which you can read here.

Watching and listening to all of televised Doctor Who in order: The Eleventh Doctor.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: The Wes Anderson Collection.

Film The Wes Anderson Collection is a new book from the writer and critic Matt Zoller Seitz and illustrator Eric Anderson which tells the story of the film maker Wes Anderson through a collection of essays, interviews, diagrams and reproductions of archival materials from his films. There are excerpts from the book at Variety and at Vulture (what looks like the entire chapter about The Royal Tannenbaums).  The accompany the publication Seitz posted a series of short documentaries to his blog at in which he deconstructs each of the films, highlighting what he believes to be the important elements, tracking developments in Anderson's style and noting footnotable items like cameos and film references.  Unafraid to be critical and notice when the films haven't quite gelled with the public, they nonetheless capture the essence of one of the singular voices in cinema, whilst simultaneous capturing some of that style in their use of font, editing and music. Watching them over some soup before attending work over a couple of weeks in October reminded me of why I went to film school in the first place and how much I wish I was still there.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: The BBC's World Service.

Radio This year I began listening to the BBC's World Service in earnest and it is for no other reason than because of Radio 4's You and Yours and The Archers, but I'm very pleased that I did. Not really being a fan of music radio, I've had Radio 4 turned in on the pod stereo in the kitchen for years and throughout those years I've sighed because I've known that at some of the times I've tended to be in the kitchen, at lunchtime heating soup or making a sandwich or after dinner when washing the dishes, that I'd end up listening to You and Yours or The Archers, both acquired tastes which I haven't acquired, or an eerie silence punctuated by the ping of the microwave or the splosh of the dishwater. Finally, in June I ordered a digital radio, and in ironic mood but entirely cognizant of the implications, this horrendously kitch union jack Pure radio and it's been tuned to the BBC's World Service ever since.  As you might expect, there's a sense of looking over a garden wall onto someone else's lawn, but in this case the wall is an ocean and the garden another continent.  Now You and Yours has been replaced by Outlook which gathers amazing stories and interviews from across the globe (for example this extraordinary tale about how a man, lost on a train in Mumbai and separated from his family at the age of six was able to track down his mum 20 years later thanks to the faded tattoo on his arm).  Instead of The Archers, I now have The Newsroom, which given its subject matter, humanity, also has a storyline of some longevity, but takes time to present some context and covers stories on a much grander scale than Ambridge, wars and revolutions and diplomacy.  The service calls itself "the world's radio station" and that's no more true than World Have Your Say in which people from all over the globe in its various worlds all chime in on a topic by phone or social media, or else a correspondent takes to the streets with a microphone and speaks to the people at the centre of a story live, which in the aftermath of the Philippine typhoon included areas which hadn't yet been touched by aid and allowed families to voice appeals from inside and outside the effected areas for help and comfort.  Which sounds voyeuristic, but this is mostly about reminding me that it's all happening out there, right now.

BBC Red Amber Green HD Mpeg 4 from Ratchet Films on Vimeo.

BBC World News: The World's Newsroom Launch from Ratchet Films on Vimeo.

BBC Global News Ltd: Live The Story from Ratchet Films on Vimeo.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: My Year In Films.

Film As you know when it comes these "reviews of the year" and creating a list of my favourite films, it's a pointless exercise because I've usually only been inside a cinema once or twice and always desperately behind in catching up with everything via rental delivery services. This year, the films I saw inside the cinema were Star Trek: Into Darkness, which is entertaining while it's on but entirely falls apart in hindsight, Thor: The Dark World, which is just as good as the first film and continues the MARVEL experiment in fine style and Gravity, of which I think I've said enough already. Overall, I think I've been fairly lucky. My last roughly twelve months of watching films have been filled with transcendent moments. Kylie's song in Holy Motors - and indeed Holy Motors. The surprising narrative gearchange in Looper. The Perks of Being a Wallflower which was this years film I wished I'd watched before becoming gripped by the cynicism of age. Ruby Sparks which caught me at just the right time. Lincoln's introduction in the film Lincoln as the iconic monument which has been a comfort to so many film protagonists gained flesh and became a protagonist himself. The selflessness and support of the filmmaker in 5 Broken Cameras. Paul Bettany's multilayered performance in Margin Call, making us feel sorry for a banker. Salmon Fishing In The Yemen for being, at heart, an old fashioned romance but with a melancholy ending. Moonrise Kingdom for being, at heart, an old fashioned romance but with a happy ending. The Amazing Spider-Man for being the Spider-man I remember loving as a child. The tree scene in The Kid with a Bike. At least The Bourne Legacy tried to do something and Rachel Weisz is brilliant. She's always brilliant. That scene in A Field in England (Reece Shearsmith's a better actor than he gives himself credit for). That scene in Les Miserables (and all the parodies). The whole of Pitch Perfect. Most of Friends With Kids, which was sold as a Bridesmaids follow-up even though it really isn't despite having much the same cast. Oh and special mention for The Host which is also being unfairly treated in the years worst lists despite being a really, excellent piece of post-millennium sci-fi with a really quite remarkably pessimistic outlook. If only it had been successful enough to be granted the pointless sequel.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: The Art of the Pop Video.

Art Back in February, FACT Liverpool's exhibition, The Art of the Pop Video displayed itself on flatscreens throughout the various gallery spaces. My original review is here. In the months since, thanks to the list which was supplied in the galleries I've been catch up on the videos I missed and been thinking about the promos I would choose if I was curating the exhibition, keeping within the original categories. Find the results posted below. They're a mix of biographical detail and utter desperation as you can see from the rather limited musical range and the inclusion of Enya where she is. FACT still has explanations for the categories on its website.

History 1

Directed by Chris Langman (1988).

History 2

Directed by Unknown (1988).


Directed by Monkeehub (2005).


Directed by Jake Nava (2008).

The Wilderness Downtown

Directed by Jonathan Demme & Ted Demme (1994).

The Dancing of Politics

Directed by Schmoyoho (2008).


Directed by Various (2002-2005).

The Conquest of Film

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (1999).

The Conquest of Art

Directed by Michael Geoghegan (1988).

The Music Video in Art

Directed by Laurie Anderson (1981).

Bonus Round

Directed by Eric Slatkin.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Spiral Productions's animation of Robbie Burns's Tam o'Shanter.

That Day In January we celebrated Burns Night as usual with haggis, tats, neeps and whiskey but not a reading from Robbie's work, which for some reason always remains on the shelf. I'm not sure why. Perhaps sharing a surname is enough for us. I was only reminded of this at the other end of the year when attending the Museum Association conference and visiting the stand of Spiral Productions who produce digital media for exhibitions and museums, including this superb animation of Tam o'Shanter for the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, Scotland. Narrated in full voice by the actor Brian Cox (though I would of course like to hear a Professor Brian Cox version), it reminds me of Ralph Bakshi's animated version of Lord of the Rings, which also mixed silhouettes and animation with live action and didn't stint on the more gruesome aspects of a tale.  The images are broad and striking which is presumably what's required in a museum space were to extent they're their own advertisement, enticing the visitor to step over and watch the whole poem all of the way through.  The Spiral website has a portfolio of other work produced for the museum including this kids game inspired by the Burns poem.

Tam o'Shanter from Spiral Productions on Vimeo.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Awards Watch.

Film A few years ago, I began watching all of the films nominated for awards at various ceremonies (Oscars, Globes, Cannes) and in the end of year lists of some magazines (Empire, Sight & Sound). Unable to decide much of the time what was worth seeing, I'd decided to let the consensus decide for me and for the most part this was a good thing mixing the spectacular with the worthy and filtering out the utter rubbish that I might have subjected myself to if I'd simply decided to stick with box office top tens and that sort of thing. With that in mind I then began to cast my eye backwards to earlier years and wondered what I might have missed and so then decided that once I'd finished off the latest films I'd begin work on those films I'd missed beforehand, working backwards. Which again worked well, initially. Spreadsheets were created, films were added to Lovefilm lists and after a couple of weeks of administration delving through the IMDb and Wikipedia I was set. Then I began work, or let's face it "work", watching everything nominated in a given year before moving on to the next, then the next and the next.  Which was fine and for the most part I was having a good time and much of the time found myself, as I'd hoped, in front of the kinds of films I wouldn't necessarily have otherwise chosen to watch.  But then of course the problem was I also found myself in front of the kinds of films I wouldn't necessarily have otherwise chosen to watch.  A quest is a quest, I felt like I needed to see everything and so for every enthralling documentary about climate change, I'd end up seeing some crass, racist or misogynistic supposed comedy or for every exciting docu-drama set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany ended up clockwatching half way through some three hour Ukrainian drall about a man who loses his wife but gains a tractor (or some such).  At a certain point, though whole thing became a, well, drag.  Granted that was at about the time of my hernia, but that had nothing to do with reaching the very edge of forgetting why I like cinema.  I wondered briefly if this was how some film critics felt and why so many of them become cynical and twisted and seemingly unable to appreciate the simple pleasures that cinema has at its core.  So I stopped.  If the subsequent medical operation taught me anything it's that life's too short to spend three hours of it watching an Ukrainian drall about a man who loses his wife but gains a tractor if I'm not enjoying it (enjoying in the loose sense of being at least intellectually stimulated) and that actually it's ok just to go with my own instinct and just watch what looks good even if that is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (which isn't nearly as bad as you've heard).  That it's ok to be entertained, that not everything in life has to be about educating myself.  Those same magazines helped, as did online efforts like Cinema Sins in reminding what I've always liked about film, the intertextuality and the shared experience.  I archived the spreadsheets, deleted the Lovefilm lists, and began adding the kinds of films I'd like to watch and also making a pact with myself that if I did decided to see all of something, it would be finite or only include a few examples.  I recently worked through about ten films set in 1963, finally seeing Dirty Dancing, Mermaids and Driving Miss Daisy in the process. Plus rewatching Tarkovsky's genre entries like Solaris and Stalker.  Above all I'm enjoying myself and enjoying cinema again.

The New York Times's Hamlet in 15 seconds competition.

In the past few months, The New York Times has been tasking high school students with creating short performances of fragments of Hamlet through Instagram's video service.

Now they've posted some of the results having received over five hundred entries.
With only 15 seconds and the small field of vision offered on Instagram, capturing an elaborately staged scene from “Hamlet” is a technical challenge. But some students found ways to make the most of the format.

Emma Anderson, who plans to graduate from Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in California in 2016, used an iPhone and text messaging to help deliver Hamlet’s lines about the “special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” Lit up only by the light of her iPhone in her bedroom, she said she found making the video less challenging than adapting Shakespeare’s writing to the 15-second format of Instagram video.

“The most difficult part was picking the line,” she said. “I think finding the right line for that span of 15 seconds was a very important thing.”

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: The Silence before the Bongs.

Radio Last year, in 2012, as though you need a reminder, The Guardian's Martin Wainwright wrote a piece decrying Radio 4's commitment to listeners outside London and especially in the North. In the comments I noted (and reposted on this blog) that one of the reasons I listen to Radio 4 is because it has nothing to do with where I live, for the escapism and wistful reminder that there is a life elsewhere. That's something which has become increasingly important this year with everything which has been going on, especially as I said back then, the atmospheric pause at the end of PM (usually with Eddie Mair) just before the bongs of Big Ben heralding the Six O'Clock News.  Listen closely enough, pay attention, and you can hear the noise of the traffic in Parliament Square.  For me, there are few things as transportative and suffused with memories, especially of a happy time spent there a couple of years ago with a good friend eating lunch.  At the time of originally posting I remember receiving a sarcastic comment on Twitter suggesting that if that really was the case, that I should just move there which I ignored because I was being nice and loyal but which I should have answered by noting that I would love to move there if I could afford to and if I knew that the job was secure and satisfying.  But in the meantime, there's nothing wrong, I think, in trying to imagine what that impossible existence would be like, even though I know the version I watch unfolding online on blogs and in Twitter streams is idealised and not real either.   That there's nothing wrong in aspiring to have that impossible existence myself.  Maybe next year.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Chagall's America Windows

Art  After visiting TATE Liverpool’s superb Chagall: Modern Master exhibition in June, I quickly set about listening to as much material as I could about the artist, much of which was now entirely fascinating the context of having seen plenty of his most famous work. The San Diego Museum of Art has this lecture from Bella Meyer, the granddaughter of French artist Marc Chagall, who offers her take on flower bouquets in her grandfather's work. But my favourite new discovery was the America Windows at The Art Institute of Chicago, which were donated by the artist in 1977 and which have since been made famous because of their appearance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (it’s where Ferris and Sloan kiss during the museum montage). They have recently been restored and reinstalled in the new modern wing of the Institute.  They have a moonlit, dream like quality and contain images symbolising Chicago and its commitment to the arts in the 60s and 70s, fostered under Mayor Richard J. Daley to whom they were dedicated.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: My Fan Fiction.

TV Back in the late 90s when I didn't have this blog as a distraction, I was under the delusion I could write fiction and after reading many, many My So-Called Life continuation scripts decided it was about time I attempted to write my own. Me being me, and not being able to decide on anything, I chose to simply crossover what were all of my favourite tv shows of the time and some more. Looking back through what's here it's about what you'd expect. This isn't the first time I've eluded to this epic on the blog, but it is the first time I'm posting the whole damn thing, with all the fragments and whatnot having been inspired by Dr Brooke Magnanti's defense of the form. Here's an illustrative graphic which should give some indication of what's to come.

star-trek voyager borged

Yes, indeed.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Travels with Matsui.

Music Back in 2002, when I was commuting to Manchester and back for the job at the RBS call centre, I began a series on this blog called Travels with Matsui in which I'd listen to an album I'd usually borrowed from the city centre library which was near work, listen to it on the train ride home, on a Matsui portable cd player and then write a review with a particular structure. Beginning with Britney's Baby One More Time, it's a series which lasted all of about nine posts, only about six of them fulfilling the initial promise and premise. It's also a project I entirely forgot about last year when the annual review was about projects, so I thought I'd cover it this year instead. The conditions are almost exactly the same, except that I'm sitting at a desk rather than a train, the Matsui cd player is long gone and replaced with Spotify and the choice has been made by listeners of that music service since I'm going to be writing about the track that is, at time of writing (which was a couple of weeks ago) the most listened to on the service in the UK. It's ...

Bastille - Of The Night

What? The Wikipedia tells me (and you now) Bastille "are an English rock band formed in London in 2010. Bastille began as a solo project by singer-songwriter Dan Smith, who later decided to form a band. The four-piece consists of members Daniel Smith, Chris Wood, William Farquarson and Kyle Simmons. The name of the band derives from Bastille Day – an event celebrated on Daniel Smith's birthday, 14 July." The only reason I've heard of them is from hearing them mentioned in the NOW advert which features incessantly whenever you watched the VEVO YouTube channel on a television during the Summer for what having done some "research" turns out to be Pompeii. I know nothing about contemporary music. I only know that Lily Allen sings the music on the John Lewis advert because she sent me an email about it. Or her PR did. The one with the animals. I get a lot of emails from PRs about music. Let this be a lesson to them. I quite like Pompeii. Or I think I do. Or it could simply that having heard the same thirty seconds on the NOW advert, I've been subconsciously convinced I do. They also have a song called Laura Palmer which I'm less impressed with because it doesn't seem to have much to do with Twin Peaks.

First impressions? That we now live in the world where Corona's Rhythm of the Night, I song which I didn't really understand when it was released because I was still listening to Debbie Gibson tunes and shit and now recognise as a minor masterpiece of Eurodance, has two relatively popular cover versions. One, by Eurovision's Cascada sounds like it's by Eurovision's Cascada. This other doesn't exactly begin well with its too posh pronunciation of "dancer" ("dorncer"), uncertain baseline and listless vocals. But the methodology is different. The Corona is designed as a dancefloor filler. This sounds more like the kind of thing people in cars might listen to whilst riding around the city after the clubs have shut and the night's over. There's a nihilistic quality which the promo director has latched on to with some visuals that presumably mean it's banned from the daytime music stations, not that such things matter in the digital age.

Touched? Not especially. At most this feels like a b-side and I can't understand exactly why it's quite so popular, but like I said, I don't know anything about music, but having heard it a couple of times for the purposes of writing this, I'm not especially interested in listening to it again.

Lasting impressions? That I wish it was a cover version of DeBarge's Rhythm of the Night. That would have been quite something in this style.

Keep, dump or sell? Sell. Something this popular is bound to have a resale value. Except of course I streamed it so I don't own it anyway.  Oh and no one buys anything like this second hand any more.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: The A-Z of TV Hell.

TV Back when BBC Two was any good, before, to be fair, BBC Four came along and stole its thunder, every other week it would have a theme night often curated by the Arena strand and one of the best was TV Hell, which included a rerun of Triangle, a documentary about the Eurovision Song Contest, something called Disastermind which was a kind of pre-internet supercut interspersed with talking heads from the victims and the first broadcast of the pilot episode of "Mainly for Men" a late night men's lifestyle magazine programme made in 1969 which looked forward to the lad mag boom of the 1980s, coming across as a kind of televisual GQ. The night opened with The A-Z of TV Hell, most which like everything else from that night has illicitly been uploaded to YouTube. A clip show in a very traditional sense, some of the material has become achingly familiar because of its subsequent appearance on lesser clip shows who sometimes look like they've merely borrowed the VT. It's Bio-Dimbleby sitting at a desk fidgeting with his pen during a live broadcast of Panorama in which all the film and video has gone. There's Desmond Leslie punching Bernard Levin. The Sex Pistols on Windy. But there's also plenty which is still under the radar like Churchill's People, the twenty-six part fictionalisation of British history all videotaped in a studio with no budget, or Open Door which gave alternative voices half an hour of television to do what they wanted with and ended up one week with a man in a gorilla costume holding a placard and Club X, a weekly late-night live slot broadcast on Channel Four from a real night club which included performance art and music so loud none of the microphones would work, along with Minipops which in the light of recent revelations/confirmations is even more uncomfortable to watch.  All televisual horror stories to be sure, but as you continue watching twenty years later something else becomes apparent.  Apart from actually wanting to watch some of this television now, especially Churchill's People which looks glorious, it's the sheer diversity of programming which was on offer at the time, a diversity so broad that it was capable of producing some of this stuff on top of the classics and the devil may care attitude to try new things and to risk failure.  The twelve-year-old version of Mark Lawson who appears as expert witness here might be cynical about Sin on Sunday, but there was always the possibility it might have worked and in hindsight you can't even imagine someone at ITV now not only having the creativity to even think of that, let alone put it out in a slot which is currently occupied by a rerun of The X-Factor from the night before.  Plus, say what you like about Triangle but it's a hundred times more inventive than running Casualty and not-Casualty in weekly slots across the entire year.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Public Art Collections in North West England:
Tabley House.

Art Some projects continue. As I suspected, Knutsford’s Tabley House wasn’t one of the easiest of the venues in Edward Morris’s survey of Public Art Collections in North-West England. Actually getting to Knutsford was easy, change at Chester, about two and half hours on trains. But having failed to the bare minimum of research about how to get to Tabley House once in the area, beyond tweeting to make sure they were open, I did of course get lost in the town ending up in front of the entrance to Tatton Park (which I still have to visit so will be going back to Knutsford again). After visiting the tourist information centre and quite rightly corrected on my pronunciation of Tabley (rhymes with tablet rather than table), I was told that there wasn’t a bus service and pointed in the direction of Knutsford Road and a subsequent forty-five minute walk (which in Liverpool terms would be twice around Sefton Park, I think), not including the grounds themselves which probably added another ten or fifteen minutes. Thank goodness we had a relatively mild October.

Hello, Tabley House. As both Edward’s book and the available souvenir catalogue explain, Tabley House and grounds have a relatively complicated ownership history, but the most important figure in its history is Sir John Leicester (1762-1827) who inherited the house from his father and from the small acorns of a few family portraits and paintings of the surrounding landscapes became one of the first and arguably most important patron of British art in that period, Saachi of his time, if you will. As Edward describes, it’s his influence which meant many museums and art galleries were ultimately set up, his example leading local merchants into developing their collections, albeit most often for more philanthropically public reasons. Only after many years and decades did some of the work Leicester amassed become available for public viewing but I’m getting ahead of things a bit. But suffice to say, Leicester is by some degree, one of the reasons I’m writing this paragraph and still doing this project.

Lancaster’s key decision from which everything else flowed was that after doing the much in vogue grand tour of Europe, rather than following the lead of his contemporaries buying in lots of foreign art, he decided to promote British art instead. His entire collection of, as Edward lists “landscapes, history paintings and scenes from history and everyday life” was by British painters and on top of that he built on the existing collection of landscapes and family portraits by engaging artists like Reynolds, Gainsborough, Romney and others to produce some more of those. One of the paintings on display right now is Turner’s image of Tabley’s grounds on a Windy Day. Listening to the volunteer invigilators describing the period, it’s almost as though the house was constantly filled with visiting artists, like some pre-Victorian version of Andy Warhol’s Warehouse. Except with rolling countryside and architecture attractive enough to appear in the remake of The Forsyte Saga (which this did).

Unfortunately what's still in the house is a shadow of what this collection must have been like. As well as Tabley, Leicester owned a house in London and other properties and as it was described to me, he’d spent so much money amassing the collection, the estate in so much debt, that the whole lot ended up being sold on to cover costs. Then a couple of centuries later, in 1975, when Colonel John Leicester Warren, the final person in the Leicester line died, ownership was passed to Manchester University when it became a school and when that closed to a Health Care Trust on the understand that the first floor would be preserved for public visitors and that’s essentially where it is now. Much of the house is a nursing home apart from a suite of rooms which have been restored to reflect what they may have been like when Leicester lived there, but thanks to a series of buy backs and academic research by the university, with all of the original furniture and original paintings.

But the quest is the quest, and so like Edward, my interest in the place was mainly in the collection on public display, and, well, it is what it is. It’s mainly a collection of landscapes and family portraits, a couple painted by notable names, the aforementioned Turner, some by followers of those notable names and others by schools and unknown painters. The point, I suppose, is that like other such properties, this isn’t an art gallery, to some extent it’s a way of visiting history and seeing how the peoples of the past, or at the wealthy peoples of the past perceived themselves and captured their own history. Now, through the magic of Your Paintings, you can browse the collection yourself and as you can see, the best examples are when the artist has stepped out of the expected genres, norms and expectations produced something which has an aesthetic transferability outside of its function of capturing the likeness of a relative or building, of simply adding to a scrapbook in architectural form.

Yet it’s a measure of Leicester as a collector that he strove to find the best representations of his relatives. Having commissioned this full length portrait of his wife Georgina from Thomas Lawrence, he was reportedly disappointed with the formulaic nature of the composition, which is indeed pretty artificial and so instead went to William Owen to produce this much more naturalistic and fresh image that’s full of life. What the digital image can’t quite capture is the translucence of the fabric and how Georgina seems to almost float against the landscape which depicts the grounds of Tabley rather than simply some clouds as was the case in the earlier picture. That’s generally the case across the collection, that it’s the more contemporary images rather than classical recreations that stand out and I’m sure if you were to put the collection in chronological order you could see how tastes have changed over time, how the symbolism of the past gave way to the realism, with Leicester at the tipping point.

Which isn’t to say fantasy doesn’t have its place. There’s John Martin’s startling epic The Destruction of Herculaneum and Pompeii in which horrific fire of the gods rains down on a humanity which was ill prepared. There’s Thomas Danby’s The Raft featuring nameless souls exhausted by whichever calamity has befallen then looking towards an uncertain future. There’s Charles Robert Leslie’s scene from The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry Fuseli dynamic portrayal of Friar Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which Leicester apparently bought back into his collection because it had originally been in his family when he was a youngster and reminded him of his childhood, though he spent much of his time in Ireland when it was on display in this house.  But from personal experience I can say that it’s not unusual to prize a possession for its sentimental value even if its almost impossible to look at because of all the memories it evokes or captures. Plus this particular Friar Puck is pretty sinister, with his hood and little bell.

Ultimately I came away from the house with the impression of Leicester as a relatively ambiguous figure though as the curator on duty explained when I brought this up, he was really just a product of his time, he was nothing unusual in his treatment of debtors, employees or servants, some of whom were only allowed into the house in The Octagon room with its forbidding reliefs of farm implements on the ceiling. He might well be an art collector and lover but that didn’t stop him from having his personal portrait painted, overpainted and repainted as he gained honours and increased his rank and station. But there’s one display in the house which is scary. It’s of the security measures he had in place to deter trespassers. I’ll leave you with the accompanying notice (which I wrote out in long hand due to the no photography rule and I hope is accurate as I attempt to read my own handwriting in typing it up) and believe me when I tell you that the implements mentioned in block capitals are just as a horrific as they sound:

Whereas fish of various kinds have been latterly poached and stolen by evil disposed persons, from the waters in Tabley Park, and such evil practices are still continued. This is there for to give notice STRONG MAN TRAPS to be constantly set on the edges of the waters and on the shallows. And also for the protection of his GAME, which was latterly much poached and destroyed, to direct SPRING GUNS to be constantly set in his woods and (undecipherable) within and near the park; and he hereby offers a reward of Ten Guineas to be immediately to any person apprehending or giving information that such poachers or evil disposed persons, or any one of more of them may be brought to justice. – Tabley Park, July 3rd 1818.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Katy Perry: Part of Me.

Music During my hernia recovery I gave into temptation and began a Netflix subscription and quickly decided that I'd end up watching the kinds of things I wouldn't dream of adding to my Lovefilm dvd list.  Katy Perry: Part of Me fitted the bill and was I pleasantly surprised. No, fascinated. Not having much enjoyed anything to do with Katy Perry for ages other than her similarity to Zooey Deschanel, earlier in the year for cultural studies reasons watch her videography via YouTube stretching right back into her Katy Hudson years and boggled at how someone who began as a promising Alanis Morissette type singer ended up diving headlong into pop, how the earlier material wasn't deemed commercial enough even though there was an obvious through line. Katy Perry: Part of Me filled in some of the blanks, and how, in what seems, for all the fact that it's ninety minute advert for Team Perry, a surprisingly raw, surprisingly revealing documentary that doesn't stint on the horrors of the entertainment industry and attempting to be continue being a real human being in the middle of all the demands that exist in taking on a persona that isn't you and having to perform that all day, every day.  By all accounts she seemed to work hard right from the beginning, tossed around like the proverbial hot potato between record companies that didn't know what to do with her even though they knew that she was well worth doing something with, then having to essentially start again and going with something else which luckily caught on.  But then, with each album release and diving straight into the tour which the film documents she continues to not seem to have much time for herself or indeed her staff for themselves, as the tour circles the globe and she's flying here there and everywhere every week to be with her then husband, who's not really shown doing the reverse (it's fair to say if this is a propaganda piece for Team Perry, it throws Team Brand's image under a bus).  There's also a certain amount of hero building as Katy, amid breezy greetings with fans in greenrooms, is shown in the middle of her marriage break up, entirely unable to even contemplate going on stage, pulling herself together and then heading out to greet the biggest crowd of her career before having to pretend to enjoy the chants of them venerating her lost marriage.  As a friend of mine said on Twitter, "That bit where she's in the pit and crying..." Gosh, yes.  Plus when she helps her sister to choose a wedding dress.  There's also less of her music in the piece than expected, few of her songs shown from beginning to end, the preference being to explain the literal nuts and bolts of constructing the sets and choreography.  One of the reviewers on Netflix says the film made her a Katy Perry fan.  I'm more cautious.  Some of her songs (which the documentary stresses she has a hand in) are lyrically ambiguous (you know the one in particular) and some of her non-singles lack originality and depth.  But damn if kids or any of us can find something empowering even if that something is Perry's Fireworks, that has to be good thing.  Certainly helped me to recover.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: The BBC's Witness.

Radio The BBC's Witness, broadcast daily on the World Service and weekly on Radio 4, is a ten minute interview or documentary slot which investigates an event in the news from a historical perspective or commemorates some anniversary utilising an eyewitness's account and archive audio.  Similar in style to The Reunion but with a much broader scope, a typical set of episodes can cover topics as diverse as far eastern revolutions, technological advances, media events or obituaries and are one of those programmes where it's impossible to do anything else during broadcast because you know it'll be one of the most enriching moments in the day.  Because it is one of my favourite radio programmes and because I'm also fascinated by historical juxtapositions, I'm currently in the process of compiling a list of all the programmes available on the BBC's website, which I think is all of them, and then putting them into chronological order (using a similar process to my dvds) (shiver).  The overall intention is then to post this list, either as a single post or most like a series of posts on this blog, in a similar style to the BBC 1963 series which inspired me to take this next step.  Work is monotonous because there's no automatic way of expunging the date data from the website or than raw text from the podcast pages on the show all setting (unless you know better), so I'm taking it slowly, but I think in the end it'll be a worthwhile and extremely useful was of accessing this material.  Find below one of the years I've already covered chosen not all at random because it's when I began senior school.


The Challenger disaster
In January 1986 a space shuttle launch went tragically wrong.

People Power in the Philippines
How four days of protests swept President Ferdinand Marcos from power in 1986.

The death of Olof Palme
On February 28 1986 the Swedish Prime Minister died.

Air attacks on Libya
It is almost 25 years since the US bombed Libya. Amongst those killed was Colonel Gaddafi's adopted daughter. But did the attacks strengthen his hold on power?  April 1986.

Pollard Spy Case
An American spy admits selling secrets to Israel. June 1986.

Chilean students set on fire
How soldiers attacked and set fire to two students during an anti government protest in Chile.  July 1986.

Cameroon's Lake Nyos Disaster
In August 1986 villagers in a remote region of Cameroon, near the Nigerian border, awoke to find hundreds of their friends and neighbours had died in the night. What had happened?

Ladysmith Black Mambazo
How working on Paul Simon's Graceland album turned the South African choir into global superstars.

Israel's Nuclear Secrets
In October 1986, Mordechai Vanunu revealed Israel's secret nuclear weapons programme to a British newspaper.

Andrei Sakharov
On December 23 1986 the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov was allowed to return home from internal exile. He was greeted by a huge crowd at a Moscow railway station.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Tatiana Maslany.

TV Orphan Black was my favourite new returning series of 2013, the BBC America/Three drama about the subjects of a cloning experiment attempting to deal with the who, what, when, where and how of their existence whilst dodging the police and shadowy organisation that made them. Created by John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, previous credited on the likes of Flash Forward and The Bridge, it's one of those series which doesn't seem to care at all about burning through story elements that other shows would have stretched out across a year and comedy at the expense of its own premise.  Its killer app (if it's possible to describe a person that way) is Tatiana Maslany. There have been plenty of other examples of actors playing multiple characters, notably recently the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, but the glory of Maslany's lead performance is that at a certain moment, some way into the second episode (aided in no small measure by the technical marvels outlined below and Kathryn Alexandre, her acting double), you forget that it isn't just one actress in all of these roles, the runaway, the soccer mom and the science student (and others) even when they're in the same room.  For each character, not just her voice, but her physicality changes and as the series continues you realise that you're watching what's become a ensemble show in which half the cast is one actor.  She's written a blog post about her process (and this spoilery video put out after the end of the first season) but it's probably not easily put into words.  What she demonstrates is that some actors are chameleons.

Review 2013: Not The Doctor: Sir William Cornwallis's On Resolution.

Books Sir William Cornwallis (ca. 1579 – 1614) was an early English essayist, the son of Sir Charles Cornwallis (died 1629) the courtier and diplomat and often confused with his uncle also Sir William Cornwallis Sr who was a sometime cohort of the playwright Ben Jonson. As the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes, Sir William Jr served in the earl of Essex's Irish campaign for which he was knighted on 5 August 1599. "Whether or not he was involved in Essex's rebellion" the dictionary notes, "he lived quietly for the rest of Queen Elizabeth's reign and was for a time in Edinburgh, where he introduced Sir Thomas Overbury to Robert Carr" (who then scandalously went on to become a favourite of James I).  My first encounter with Cornwallis was reading James Shapiro's superb biography of a year, 1599, which is when Shakespeare is thought by him to have written Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It and Hamlet. In his discussion of this latter play, Shapiro reproduces excerpts of Cornwallis's essays as part of a thesis that Hamlet's soliloquies aren't simply designed as psychological expositions, but as poetic versions of the trend at the time for paradoxical essays, also pioneered by John Donne and Sir Francis Bacon, the praising of misfortunes, that sort of thing. Cornwallis himself was heavily influenced by Montaigne in his methodology and Seneca in his ethics, though I admit that as I tumble towards the middle of this paragraph I'm reaching the end of my ability to sound knowledgable.  What I do know is that they're also exceedingly difficult to access so I thought I'd begin making them available in a version with modern spelling at least.  We begin with On Resolution, whose opening paragraph is difficult not to consider its words terms of the history of writing and reproduction, especially now and online and how we communicate with each other.  Plus there's the As You Like It resonance.  Jacques says "All the world's a stage..."  No, says Cornwallis, "The world is a book..."  The rest is quite difficult to follow but has some wonderful language in relation to how he feels about his fellows in court.  In content, I'm reminded of what Jeff Goldblum's character says in The Big Chill.

On Resolution.

The world is a book: the words and actions of men, commentaries, up that volume: The former like manuscripts, private: the latter common, like things printed.

None rightly understand this author: most go contrary: Some few according to probability: but the world of all is, the unsettled opinion, whole continual alteration makes him unprofitable to himself, and to others. So much have I, hated this giddy unconstantness, as I have been content to take knowledge of mean resolutions to prefer them before the other; yea to pity and admire them both together, and to end the viewing of that object with allowing the virtue of the level, if it had been well set. Truly I need no other example than mine own life, which endured continual troubles, while youth and folly governed my bark in the sea of changes. I still contradicted my own self, attempted nothing, but a languishing weariness possessed me before the end: but it was no matter, for unworthy were those thoughts, and intents, as they were unworthy of an untimely death, and to be interred in the mire of irresolution. In the end I found myself: I and my soul undertook to guide into a more wholesome air: I dare not say she hath kept promise really, but it was my own fault, yet in part she hath her motion, my own memory and books have done something: these last I am much bound to. Especially to Seneca and Plato, who have gotten this power over me (though they seldom make me do well), they oft time make me think well: they so wholly possess me, as I sometime resolve to mediate on nothing under Socrates Apologie.

Me thinks I am strong and able to encounter my affection, but hardly have my thoughts made an end of this gallant discourse, but in comes a wife, a friend, at whole sight my Armour of defence is broken, and I could weep with them, or be content to laugh at their trivial sports. After which I come again to see my promise broken, that challenge in cold blood makes me desperate, that were it not for the comfort of my youth, which gently gives me time, I should surely punish my inconsistency with great rigour.

Thus it is with me yet, and I am afraid of work, by comparing what there power these gentle disturbances have over me: I am afraid griefs and calamities would overthrow me: nay, I will not be afraid (since it is truth) to confess, that I am more troubled to think disasters should trouble me, then of themselves: yet I am sometimes persuaded not to mistrust myself, since I have already sated some store of crosses; but they are nothing; no not preparatives to that I may feel. Not leaving these thoughts thus, I begin to search into the inventory of my things esteemed and I find not that I have caused to love anything too preciously. I have a wife, and a very good one, I love her according to her deserts; but should she fall into anything except dishonesty (which her virtue and I know will defend her from) I would not weep if I could choose, not do anything more than stand the surer upon my guard to resist fortune: for wealth and her Appendices I know them not, not did I long for them veer, but I keep me from baseness, and to exercise Charity. For my parents, I owe them voluntarily that, which the laws of God and of Nature exact of all men, I do it without hypocrisy, or fear: yet should they loose their wealth, or their lives, I would neither tear me hair, nor melt into womanish exclamations. No, I know the revolutions of the world, they are no strange to be:

Omnia tempus edax depascitur, imnua carpit Nil infinit effe din.

I think nothing would more trouble me, then that they should loose their reputation: love that well, and it would grieve me sure to be prevented of that patrimony. For other friends (thanks be to God) I have but few, I would I could affirm the fame of my acquaintance. The cause, few have corrupted me; and out of my own choice, there are few that I hold worthy of that nearness. Some I have whom I hold so virtuous that they would be sorry to see me lament for any of their trials. Thus I have been content to hold you in mine own example the longer, as taking the opportunity of recording these honest thoughts whole, will I hope I shall better follow, since I have set my hand to their book: and I see no reason but I should be as careful of not breaking them, as common men are of a bond: the penalty is as much: the law to punish, and recover, lies open; the course of conscience with whom it is always term time.

To speak now of the contrary, it hath much moved me to see the strange alterations of men upon slight occasions, at the receipt of a letter, yea, before the reading, at a message, at news: I have been so charitable as to be sorry for them, for these intolerable bendings of theirs. There are others (but it is no matter, for they are commonly hawking, or dogging fellows) that hoping to return of some messenger employed before these worthy occasions have suffered great extremity between hope and feat and that time: at slight of the messenger, behold the height of disquietness and wherefore? Alas for a dog, or a hawke: believe me, a pitiful diseases, which in my opinion ought to be prayed for as earnestly, as one that is upon the point of taking his leave of his body. When Seneca writ the definition of hope, Spes nomen eft boni Incerti, I am sure he meant not that good this way.

Banish these gross perturbations, all noble spirits they are dangerous, and the enemies of resolution. I do not poetically deify resolve, neither do I set up a mark impossible to hit: no, it is in the power a low stature to wade hear without drowning: I speak of no impossibility, perhaps at the first some little difficulty: there belongs to the basket trades, and shall thy estimation be so tender hearted, as to refuse it so mean a price: beware of such covetousness, for it is worse than to love money. For misfortunes in general, methinks, should not be so near a kin to us, they are no part of us, we may stand without them. God hath given us bodies and souls separate from others, and hath tied neither lands nor treasures unto thee, they are no part of their building; we are worse than woman, if we cannot go without these habiliments and tricks: without question, it is a true sign of a maimed soul and a deformed body, to see lustre from these outward things. It is more base then to be out of countenance at a feast, if not graced by the hist. I am myself still, though the world were turned with the wrong side outward.

If I lose found in virtue, I will repent, not wash handkerchiefs in my tears. Man knows not himself until he hath tasted of both fortunes. Every milk-fop can endure to swim in hot baths; any man shows gloriously in pomp, and no marvel, for he feeds Flatterers, and they him: but to endure the most violent rides, and still swim aloft, he is the man. You shall find no man that dares go wet shod, but will protest in his ambition, how much he loves. Honour, what exploits, what famous acts he would do, if he had been born mighty: do you hear my friend? You are out of the way, if you think any other estate but your own capable, of true honour: the poorer, the better, the stronger your enemy, the more worthy your conquest: vanquish your own sick wishes, and desires, and the chariot of triumph belongs more truly to you, then to Caesar. I write thus, I think thus and I hope to do thus: but that blessed time is not yet come. Now to particularities.

In the outward habit, and in some act ions, I am not so precise. I like not to be bound to one, it becomes not secular men, it tastes of affectation and hypocrisy: it is taught, it comes too near singularity and a desire to be noted: for those things I would conform myself: I am not of their minds that tax Alexanders putting on the habit of the Persians. It was a politick intent, he joined them to him, by that yielding. For some actions, if they be not wholly vicious, humanity and good nature shall make me sociable. I will hawk with a falconer, hunt with hunters, talk of husbandry with the servants of thrift: be amorous with the Italian, and drink with Dutch man, Non ad Ebrietatem, fed as voluptatem: The fruit, you shall thereby win their loser, and you may that interest make them honest: A course neglected, but well-becoming a wife honest man. Your determination being not to put on their imperfections, but to make them perfect: So doth the grafter join good fuir to a crab slock: and this humility alters not the good, but makes whthat which is ill, good.

Some may wonder I have not yet touched the death of the chief. I though thinkest so, thou art a coward, for in my opinion all affections are more strong and though to some it is the chief instrument of fear, I think not so, though mistake it; it is past fear, for thou art sure of it. Thou art unreasonable, if thou wilt buy a thing and not pay for it: though boughtest life, and payest for it with death. The lapidary is not sorry when he hath gotten the rind, or bark of the jewel from what is precious. They boy is no otherwise, thou art never not, thou hast no virtue in thee, thou art not found until the cover of they perfection be withdrawn.

In truth at this time, though my face would hinder me from thought of Age, and so by course my lease might be long, yet I am not afraid to be put out of my farm: It is a dirty thing to dwell in, full of misty gross airs, and yet barren; I have been so vainglorious sometimes as to say so, when I have been answered by more year, that I would change that mind, when I grew older. I have searched into that speech, supposing there had bin some concealed mystery in it, but I could find none: then I thought they imagined my boldness, the effect of ignorance: if it be so, I shall love knowledge the worse while I live. To cure this disease in a woman, I would apply no other medicine but example: It is everybody’s case, the fortune of princes, as well as beggars, it is the fashion. To conclude, the first causer said it should be so: and if thou art not a heathen, thou wilt not mistrust his love. His wisdom ordained it, who is the fountain of understanding: Come then, Allons Alegrement. I have loved a creature that hath been the very picture of ignorance, for following the example of Socrates taking his poison. And Cicero whom I could never love, because he was a coward, won me at his death, with thrusting his neck out of the coach, to meet the sword of the executioner.

[With special thanks to James Smith and Matt Symonds for pointing me towards a transcribable copy online.]