Totem Pole.

Education Or rather the Colomendy totem pole which is now at World Museum Liverpool:
"Do you recognise this totem pole?

It was made by teacher Ken James and pupils from Sefton Park Secondary School in the 1960s and soon became a well-known feature of Colomendy Centre for Outdoor Education, in North Wales.

For generations of Liverpool children, Colomendy has been an essential part of their childhoods."
It was only a part of my childhood because I knew other kids went there. After a quick glance around online, I think I may have found an eyewitness account of the making of the totem pole at this old BBC page.  Over to Bob T:
"I remember doing lots of projects for the place making bird boxes, we even made a totem pole at school out of a telegraph pole and placing it at the entrance to Colomendy. We made the flag pole in a workshop there and I made the button on the top the first time I'd ever used a spoke shave. We even re-fenced the weather station. No wonder the then boss Mr Farquerson, like us being there!"

too good for Twitter

Web This US vs th3m post is so majestic it's too good for Twitter - and so - the 25 Twitter people you’ll regret meeting at a tweet-up. It's basically everyone:
"Person who says, “Yes I read that” whenever you say anything, because they already know everything about you from Twitter, and makes it impossible to get chat going."
Yes, indeed.

WHO 50: 2012:
The Curse of Clyde Langer.

TV The home release of series five of The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2012 brought to an end what many would agree is one of the great legacies of the main show’s revival, an often brilliant adventure series that manages to introduce the youngest of younglings, perhaps those too young for the Saturday night programme to the world of Doctor Who.

If you profess to be a fan of the franchise but haven’t watched then do it as soon as possible, especially the later series when the show’s scripts and storytelling confidence increase exponentially, reaching its apogee in these final two seasons, filmed together just before Lis Sladen’s untimely death.  That can't help giving these episodes a tragic edge outside of what's on screen.

The atypical The Empty Planet is arguably its greatest instalment, a kind of John Wyndham story for kids, but it’s The Curse of Clyde Langer which sums up what the show was at its best, a kind of socially conscious Grange Hill in a fantasy setting. Here’s my original review in tribute because it says everything I might now anyway:

"Clyde discovers homelessness" should be the most problematical story concept in the history of The Sarah Jane Adventures, but it’s perhaps a compliment to the production team that a premise which elsewhere might have seemed facile and exploitative didn’t create any sense of concern when The Curse of Clyde Langer was announced. This is a show which in the past has sensitively covered such other difficult topics as Alzheimer's and absentee fathers and one which continues to have sense of duty to it’s young audience to treat them with respect. While it’s true that this was a more sanitised version of homelessness than might fill a post-watershed slab of grimness on BBC Three or a Comic Relief film, there was enough content between the lines for inquiring minds to fill in some of the blanks. Or decide they didn’t want to.

Writer Phil Ford’s mechanism for throwing Clyde onto the streets is the genus of SJA story in which an alien or alien artefact causes reality or awareness of reality to bend around a particular character, arguably first seen and very effectively in Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? On this occasion for all the utilisation of alien totem poles, the sudden alienation of Clyde to friends and family is especially shocking and anyone who has seen those post-watershed slabs of grimness on BBC Three or Comic Relief films or you even real life, cleverly mirrored what can happen in some cases when people become homeless, the perception that everyone they know has turned their back on them, that their lives would be better without them, and the disappointing element of pride involved.

The ever presence of a person’s name in the modern world is one of the reasons this blog’s been relatively monosyllabic in subject lately, but the curse of not being able to be too personal on a personal blog has nothing on what Clyde had to endure.* Daniel Anthony is up to the challenge of switching from the light version of the character to one who appreciated the gravity of his situation. The contorted faces of Sarah Jane, his mother and Rani helped to convince us of that hopelessness, Anjli’s Bambi-like eyes shifting into some other level of viciousness which suggests she’d be perfect as a future incarnation of her Whoniverse namesake. Tommy’s absence left Daniel selling Luke’s rejection which he succeeds with quite well, and implies Sarah Jane’s first surrogate, more susceptible to the curse, is also more human than Sky.

What followed was not as raw as miserablist Cinema du look classics like Les Amants du Pont-Neuf or even So-Called Angels, the Christmas episode of My So-Called Life in which Rickie is homophobically kicked out of his house, no Julianna Hatfield hiding around a corner ready to busk her way into our broken hearts. But it is at least sensitive enough to leave the investigation of the fantasy plot elements with newcomer Sky and simply allow Clyde to tour the lifestyle with his new friend “Ellie”, even playing on our expectations slightly with talk of the legendary Night Dragon suggesting a Fisher King-like confrontation, budget permitting. But arguably Clyde is fighting an even greater demon – his capacity to retain his sense of self amid a situation in which even his own name could lead to his destruction.

It would be interesting to know what research writer Phil Ford undertook before writing these scenes, but what is clever about them is that by keeping the focus on a single character he is able to imply so much more at the margins. Certainly the ambiguity of the experience “Ellie” had been through before saving Clyde from the rain suggested all kinds of horrors, as did the intelligent underplaying of Lily Loveless (from RTD favourite Skins). With the exception of a single too on the nose line from Sarah Jane (a touch of the Tasha Yars in TNG’s Symbiosis), this was very good at showing the fragility of our lives, how any of us could let the situation go too far if we’re not careful.

Some might argue that “Ellie” was sprinkled too heavily with the manic pixie dream girl dust. But it’s always important for us to remember that SJA is made for a younger audience and there are compliance issues in bringing in the more hardcore "issues" like prostitution or drug abuse. Emotions here have always been painted in broad strokes and only rarely has a character been portrayed with moral ambiguity. It’s important for “Ellie” to be a romantic, likeable figure for the central themes of the episode to be put forward and Ford et al are also to be applauded for not including the obvious scene in which “Ellie” learns Clyde’s real name and turns against him. Making us love her also deepens our understanding of Langer’s loss at the end, knowing that in leaving her, he’s taking some more of her hope with him.

Many lovely moments then. As Paul Thomas Anderson (and The X-Files) have demonstrated there's nothing more amusing than amphibious life falling from the sky and the shot of a school yard full of fish is an excellent start. Sky trying to keep her electric personality under control. The camp-fire scene (see above) in which Clyde is forced to burn his comic book in order to keep him and "Ellie" warm, romance blossoming in the embers. The casting of distinguished stage actor Ewart James Walters as the wise homeless man at the end explaining the disappearance of "Ellie" to Clyde. I last saw him as Hymen in As You Like It at Shakespeare's Globe a couple of years ago fulfilling a similar function of gaining our immediate attention through his curiously deep voice and looming height.

As expected, as Sky, Sinead Michael’s ably relaxing into the role of filling in for Luke who in similar stories was usually the person who’s alien make-up was unaffected by whatever’s befallen the gang. As expected too, the brotherly friendship scenes between Clyde and Luke have now transmuted into sisterly conversations at school with the sweet moment over school dinners. It’s a pity we won’t ever enjoy the scenes in which Sky tries to integrate with the other kids, not really understanding anything they’re saying. Never mind Mels, Sky’s also an unearthly child redux, and we’re really going to miss the episodes when Haresh exasperatedly attempts to put her on the academic straight and narrow.

Then the tears. The sense of loss. A more melodramatic version of this story would have not have just turned Sarah Jane and co away from Clyde but made him their antagonist outright, chasing him down like some common Weevil. Instead, they mourn even if they know not what for. Tears of grief. That’s more dramatic somehow because it’s about Sky’s ability to persuade her new Mum and friend to change their mind, overcome their mental conditioning, about discovering the source of those tears. That’s another, still more subliminal message about realising who your loved ones are and cherishing them. Remembering them. That can’t have been an easy few hours on set. Lots of hugs. It’s a triply difficult scene to watch now too, for obvious reasons. The Doctor Who Magazine tribute is out next week.

Once again we’re left with the disappointment that a show this entertaining, that’s reached the zenith of its powers can’t be made any longer. The Sarah Jane Adventures continues to be branded as just a kids show even by Doctor Who fans, and especially fans without kids. I don’t have kids but even I can still see it for the show that it is, still being made with the care that seemed to desert some of its creators when they made the US-based series that followed. True, I’ve been critical of it myself in the past, and especially Phil Ford’s writing, but he’s delivered his best script here and that needs to be said. One story to go and it’s by Gareth Roberts and reports suggest it’s the show going out on a high. Well good. It deserves to.

* I have no idea what this is referring to. I genuinely can’t remember. Funny. Probably a perception filter. Biodampener. Something like that. Mr Smith, I need you…


"Your memories"

"Described as "a freakish Halloween party", Led Zeppelin celebrate the UK launch of their Swan Song record label at Chislehurst Caves in Kent. Strippers, magicians, fire-eaters entertained guests which included: Roy Harper, label mates Bad Company and The Pretty Things, along with an assortment of press."

"Widely credited as the man who was the first magician to mainstream magic on television, Mr. Mark Wilson is our guest on ths edition of the Magic Newswire's "Spirit of Magic" podcast. This is the first of a multi-part interview that we'll be producing with Mark's help exploring his career, thoughts, ideas an philosophies as they relate to magic, both on television and on stage."

"Anyway, the Night (of the Blood-Stalker) in question takes place in Tomb of Dracula #25, by the unparalleled team of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, and you could make a pretty good case for it being the single best issue of the run. It’s a pretty good place to start if you’re new to the series, too. Like most Bronze Age Marvel Comics, Tomb of Dracula was wrapped up in all these long, soap-operatic plots, except that things were complicated more than a little bit by the book starting with a different idea than it ended up with."

War of the Freebees.

Radio I'm not sure how long it will be available for but LA Theatre Works currently have a freebee offer on their remake of Orson Welles's War of the Worlds featuring the amassed casts of Star Trek. Everything you need to know is in this tweet:

Jennifer Lawrence is blue again.

Film You will have seen this already, it's the trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past. My impression? What it's been all along - that Singer has been tasked with rebooting Fox's X-verse and will be using some storyline of history having gone wrong to undo the mess that's been created since X2, with this potentially being the "war" and "things" which were being set up on X2 rather than whatever was going on in X3. It's interesting that most of the "future" X-people's footage seems to be all on the same set which could indicate that they're either only in framing footage or that the "First Class" generation still have the majority of the material, though by the looks of things Wolverine's the protagonist and his story takes precedent.

"Of course, what is the worst that could happen?"

Philosophy The Guardian's Status Update series interrogates Mike Godwin, of Godwin's Law, the "rule" that states an argument is automatically lost if one side frivolously invokes Hitler, Nazi Germany, or the Holocaust. Turns out, as expected, he's just a normal guy:
What was your worst day ever?

I have a number of worst days, but probably the very worst, especially in terms of long-lasting impact, was when I was 15 and hit by a car while bicycling in my hometown, Houston. My front teeth were knocked out, and the teeth on each side were shattered. I ended up having emergency root canals after which the teeth were reimplanted.

My father was in the room with me during the procedure, holding my hand – I squeezed his hand (because the pain was so intense) so hard that I bruised it. These days, those teeth have all been replaced by dental implants. Much better.

AudioGo UK entering administration.

Commerce Essentially I'm posting this up here because I thought it would be a much bigger story, but judging by Google News, it's been covered by the local press, but AudioGo, the BBC's primary audio release stream has entered administration.

The payment system on the website hasn't been working for a few weeks which seemed to be because of technical difficulties but now it looks like it could have been something else.

As late as last week, Rachel Josephson, AudioGO's head of marketing and sales was telling The Bookseller, "There is a considerable amount of interest in AudioGO and we are hopeful of achieving a swift resolution. Protecting and respecting the rights of everyone that we work with is uppermost in our considerations and we are grateful for the fantastic support we have received from our colleagues throughout the industry."

But yesterday she told The Bath Chronicle, "Unfortunately, we were not able to conclude negotiations with a potential buyer. There will be significant redundancies made on Thursday this week.”

The US operation is now pointing users to Downpour, AudioGo US having been sold back to its founders Blackstone.

The UK site looks much as it has for weeks, offering its inventory but no way to pay.

My first thought is for employees especially those who have been and are involved in all the Doctor Who releases over the years, notably the missing episodes, and in making so much of the BBC's content available at such cheap prices. If the company can't be saved, I hope they're able to find decent employment and can look after themselves.

The next thought is what will happen to all of that. Audible's the closest rival in the UK market, but perhaps Big Finish will take on the license to produce straight Doctor Who audiobooks and indeed it's worth asking what happens to the material which has already been prepared for release.  From what I can gather this isn't just the sales wing but the entire operation.

But it is worth asking again: why isn't this a much bigger story especially on Who websites, in the wider press due to the BBC connection?  Odd.

Updated 30/10/2013 The BBC News website finally has the closure of AudioGo. In the local news section pretty unheralded.

Singing Towers of Darillium.

Architecture Or how about the Singing Tower in Bok Tower Gardens in Florida?
"Looking up at the 205-foot neo-Gothic and art deco Singing Tower carillon is an experience like no other. Designed by famed architect Milton B. Medary and ornately crafted by noted stone sculptor Lee Lawrie, the Tower houses one of the world’s finest carillons. Concerts from the 60-bell carillon at 1 and 3 p.m. fill the Gardens daily."
And how! Here's a tour of the tower commissioned by the venue itself which includes interviews with musicians who've played the building.

As ever, there are hundreds of witness videos on YouTube.

Elizabeth Wurtzel on Lou Reed.

Film The Scandinavian dvd version my completist gene bought (before it turned up on Netflix) sits there looking at me, or rather Christina Ricci's nude body does, but my loyalty to Elizabeth Wurtzel stops me from watching it. And yet ...
"... he performed “Perfect Day” in the film version of my book Prozac Nation, which was not necessarily the best use of his time. Oh, well. It made sense as a plot turn in the movie, because the first thing I ever wrote for The Harvard Crimson, in October of my freshman year, was a record review of a career retrospective of his, and that essay won me the 1985 Rolling Stone College Journalism Award. From there I started writing music journalism for the ultimate magazine to write for at the time. So I suppose I owe him one and then some."
No, actually, nothing short of Elizabeth Wurtzel herself telling me to watch the Prozac Nation film would make me watch the Prozac Nation film. And yet...


Meteorology Clacton Pier helter-skelter blown down as storm hits Essex:
"The helter-skelter at Clacton Pier has blown down after Essex was hit by strong winds.

Tendring District Council said it collapsed early in the morning, but the structure had not fallen into the sea.

Eyewitness Chris Woodley said the slide appeared to have fallen on to the amusement arcade and the rollercoaster looked like it was "breaking up".

The pier's owner is at the scene assessing the damage, but did not wish to comment."
Stay safe out there today. Please.


Ordinance The Verge reports that CBS reports that New York City is planning to replace all of its street lighting with LEDs by 2017:
"New York City is transitioning its 250,000 street lights to energy-efficient LEDs in an upgrade that should be completed by 2017. CBS reports that Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the time frame today, noting that the upgraded lights will save city taxpayers around $14 million a year once the transition is complete. The savings are two-fold: LEDs consume less power than their high-pressure sodium counterparts, resulting in around $6 million in savings, and they also have a much longer lifespan, lasting up to 20 years. Current street lights last an average of just six years, Bloomberg said."
Does anyone know how many LEDs there are on Liverpool's streets? Might this be something we should be looking towards if the potential savings are this impressive?

The Wisdom of Lou Reed.

"I don't know anyone in New York who doesn't say 'I'm leaving'. I've been thinking of leaving New York for... uh... thirty-five years now." -- Lou Reed, Blue in the Face.

Music For all his albums, especially Metal Machine Music, this is my favourite Lou Reed moment, his improvisational involvement in Wayne Wang and Paul Auster's film Blue In The Face, which was knocked together over a weekend after they'd completed shooting on their much more considered film, Smoke, utilising the same sets.  He appears throughout the film offering counterpoint to the action and this hopeful YouTuber has edited all his pieces together.


Music The Houston Chronicle interviews euphonium player Matt Stephens, who's been selected to join the band for Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City:
"Stephens said he practices a hour or more each day. He joined band when he was in sixth grade.
"I was just a music person," he said. "Band was what I wanted to do."
He said he tried playing several instruments, but not one felt right until he picked up the euphonium.
"It just fit me," Stephens said.
He plans on playing the instrument for life - even though he said he will major in accounting or finance in college. He hopes to attend Sam Houston State University next year.
When he is not in school, Stephens works in a bowling alley and also bowls competitively.
"I spend most of my time aside from the band hall at the bowling alley," he said. "I just like to bowl."
But music is what drives him.
"If I'm ever feeling down, I just pick up an instrument and start playing," Stephens said."
YouTube has plenty of videos of Matt and the rest of the band in action.