Carrie Gracie on her first year in China.

Journalism China editor on a journey to reveal:
"For a self-confessed 'China obsessive', the role of the BBC's first China editor might have seemed like a dream job for Carrie Gracie. But the former News Channel presenter and Beijing bureau chief didn't exactly rush to apply when the post was first advertised last spring. In fact it took her until autumn 2013 to decide that she couldn't let this opportunity go by."

How do you cope?

Life Enough, enough now.

Well, no, actually there's never enough. I doesn't end ever. It just keeps going and going and going and, you get the idea, and it doesn't end and at this point will never end.

It's all become a bit overwhelming now and I don't know what to do about it.

I refer of course to everything, the everything in this case being everything. On the internet.

After years of dial-up and mobile internet with all of their relative limitations, last year, as you know, we finally received unlimited broadband internet and after years of dial-up and mobile internet with all of their relative limitations and knowing that I would, I've fallen all in my addictive personality pouring through the cracks. The devices. The services.

It's overwhelming and I've now reached the stage where I don't know what to do about it.

My Twitter legend says that I'm "Intensely interested in everything" and that's the problem. Apart from some sport, I really am. Always have been but it's now become especially acute.

Now that personality trait has come up against everything available. (Almost) everything. Whole avenues for that interest to go to. All of those films. All of that music. All of the books. Plus the infinite, infinite media. Articles, articles, articles.

That's just what's available to me right now across the various tabs I have open in Chrome, across Twitter and my RSS reader (which also happens to be gmail).

Then there are the backlogs, the hundreds of videos playlisted in Youtube, the links stored in Pocket or favourited in Twitter. Oh and whatever's been sent to Kindle. Plus all of those are part of another channel or website filled with other presumably equally interesting articles and in my mind I can see networks and trees of just stuff which all seems like it could be interesting, entertaining or educational.

All of which ignores everything in the real world I have sitting around the house waiting to be read/watched/listened to. Or broadcast on television. Or on the radio. Then available on catch-up.

I finally downloaded the Comixology app the other day. Just the free comics would take a solid week to read.

Here's another example. At the moment I've started watching my way through Alias again after having bought the boxed set in an HMV sale two years ago. I'm really enjoying it. But eight episodes in and I find myself wondering if I should be watching American Horror Story instead. Or House. Or ...

As you can imagine The Internet Archive is my intellectual and emotional Death Star.

So I have to ask...

How do you cope?

Plus on top of all this how do you find time to watch linear television? RTD's many series Cucumber, Banana and Tofu began this week. Two solid hours of programming a week for however many weeks. The reviews and word of mouth have been very good. But then I look at the pile of blu-rays I have unwatched, all of the content on the Netflix, the iPlayer, all the videos I've suggested I might "watch later" on Youtube and, well, everything else and I think do I want to? Do I need to?

Again I ask...

How do you cope?

My guess is I need to limit myself.  Try going back to my core interests.  But even core interests like Elizabethan theatre or film are endless, near infinite avenues to be pursued.  Plus its called limiting for a reason.  This Emily Gould piece about writing her first novel looks interesting, just as everything on Medium tends to look interesting.  But it's also really, really long, at least a half hour commitment.  Wouldn't that half hour be just as productively spent starting to read the introduction to the Oxford edition of Paradise Lost I was given at Christmas but is unread so far, or yesterday's long read in in The Guardian about Yakov Smirnoff or any one of the hundreds of pieces which sit unread in Pocket?

How do you cope?

I know what I potentially should do.  Scorch earth.  Delete all the bookmarks, the saved until laters, begin with a clean slate.  If I haven't read or watched or listened to something yet, I will never, it doesn't matter if I haven't seen that interview with DP/30 interview with costume designer Sandy Powell about The Young Victoria.  Or any of the many hundreds of interviews in the DP/30 channel.  But I want to.  I really, really want to.

How do you cope?

Please do tell.

"No studio would make a movie like this one at all"

Film Focus is key to the most subtly powerful moment in All The President’s Men:
"All The President’s Men tells the story of the Watergate investigation in ways that scarcely seem fathomable from today’s perspective. Most notably, the movie runs nearly two and a half hours, yet ends before Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) crack the case—in fact, it concludes on a note of defeat, immediately after they make a huge mistake that sets back their efforts enormously. No studio nowadays would even consider trusting the audience to know that a movie’s heroes will be vindicated at a later date. (No studio would make a movie like this one at all, arguably, but that’s a separate issue. The closest contemporary equivalent is Zodiac, and that’s at least punctuated by murders.)"


Film Nine years since its original release, eight years since I imported a copy from Sweden and reviewed it on the blog, five years since I watched it as part of my Woody Allen project and about a month or so since it saw it as part of #garaiwatch, Woody Allen's film Scoop is finally enjoying a UK dvd release on the 9th February (as spotted by Vodzilla).

Amazon have it for £10.25 which seems a bit steep now for the customary vanilla edition though it's a minor miracle that it even exists at all since it didn't receive a theatrical release (no matter what the IMDb says) and only seen two TV broadcasts late at night on the BBC.  An imported edition on blu-ray is also available for the same price.  I think it's Italian.

Any good?  I'll refer you to the reviews above.  It's not vintage Woody and it's certainly not Midnight in Paris, but for my money its the best of his British films and certainly worth seeing to spot all the cameos as high end character actors turning up for one line or as glorified background artists just so they can say they've been in a Woody Allen film.

My Favourite Film of 2012.

Film By 2012, I'd pretty much said goodbye to visiting the cinema on a regular basis.

Too costly, too many idiots in the audience, trusting the cinema with decent projection, and in the case of Picturehouse at FACT, toilets on a different floor to the screens leading to a mad, dangerous rush down concrete stairs if caught short in the middle of a film.

There were and still are exceptions and mainly these have to do with spoilers.

As we discussed the other day, I'm about as spoilerphobic as it's possible to be but luckily most films whose narratives aren't scaffolded by twists.

But some are and it's these films which tend to lead me back to the cinema.

Most of the time now that's MARVEL releases. Wasn't always like this. I watched the whole of phase one on blu-ray via Lovefilm. But SHIELD's narrative enmashing with the theatrical releases has meant I've needed to see them so as not to spoil the television series or vis-versa. Lord knows what happened for people who didn't see Captain America: The First Avenger before the television version.

The other kind are those which people are talking about a lot.

Cabin In The Woods was one of those.

Despite having sat on a shelf for a few years waiting for release, it was pretty clearly, pretty early that everything in the design of the pre-publicity was about making the sure the audience thought they were going to see one kind of film but end up with another.

Arguably it's the first time the poster was itself a spoiler, though cleverly you wouldn't realise just how much until you'd seen the film.

Which means I ended up in screen three of Picturehouse at FACT on the day it opened and was indeed caught short in the middle of the film so had to make the mad, dangerous rush down concrete stairs to the toilets on a different floor.

The experience was, well, average. Sitting on the front row because what used to be my usual seat was taken, I had to deal with that screen's acute problem of having the illumination from the Emergency Exit sign throwing itself across the bottom half of the right hand side of the screen ruining the blacks. Perhaps this has been fixed since.

Cabin in the Woods is Cabin in the Woods. If you've seen it you'll nod along sagely and agree that the once proposed sequel should never be spoken of again.

If you haven't I'm not about to spoil it for you, especially if you've managed to get this far.

That's why the title bar selection is as bland as bland could be.

Now it's time for you to start taking bets on 2011's choice...

The Flood (The Complete Eighth Doctor Comic Strips Volume Four).

Comics This is it then, the final selection of comics barring cameos and whatever plans US licensees Titan have for future publications. My copy of this graphic novel has the first page torn out. It was bought at the Barnardo's charity shop at the bottom of Church Road in Liverpool (near Penny Lane) for one pounds and I've always wondered how this wanton act of vandalism occurred. If you're at all interested in catching up yourself, all four are due to be reprinted I believe but they're still available at various prices on Amazon and if you're a recent convert and interested in the history of the show, look no further.  Big Finish rightly receives a lot of credit for influencing the past nearly ten years (ten years!) of stories, but its impossible not to read something like The Flood and watch the franchise being re-engineered for modern audiences in front of your eyes in comic art and speech bubbles.

Where Nobody Knows Your Name

Just the sort of story which the spin-off universe excels at because it can’t properly be justified in a television series with just thirteen episodes and a budget, this is a moment for the Doctor to stop for a moment and reflect on what it is that he does. Closing Time is the nearest equivalent perhaps, but that also shoehorned in a Cyberman threat, whereas this is just about the Doctor talking through his problems with a kindly innkeeper. At this distance, this surprise won’t resonate with everyone, but as writer Scott Grey mentions in his notes at the point when this appeared, fandom was a pretty closed shop in which all back references made sense without much coaching. Ironically the strip was published at the end of April 2003, at about the moment when announcement was about to come which would change everything.

The Nightmare Game

Being an only child and not having many interested friends, unlike the writers of this I wasn’t really exposed growing up to anything which wasn’t bought for me which generally consisted of odd issues of Spider-Man, Whizzer and Chips and whatever remained comics with the titles cut off the front covers were sold on Speke Market. Which is why until I read the notes for this I didn’t realise that there were more football comics than Roy of the Rovers so entirely missed most of the subtleties inherent in what’s being achieved (or not Hickman and Roberts are still unhappy about the third part). Still it’s good to see the franchise taking a rare retro-nostalgic visit to its own period of production pre-Cold War with a story which feels more like a precursor to Life on Mars. Plus the Doctor’s wearing a recreational fez on the first page!

The Power of Thoueris

Another one shot which feels like a pre-cursor to Doctor Who Adventures in which the Doctor already knows full well what the threat is as soon as it appears to that it can be dispatched within a few pages. It’s notable how structurally, despite the lack of pages, there’s still a need for a one-off companion, that even within the comic, the Doctor doesn’t simply use thought bubbles to convey information. But this also allows Scott Grey to stray into the show’s typical territory of portraying “god” as little more than aliens tumbling into Earth’s history at inopportune moments and he was well aware of the parallels with Pyramids of Mars even changing the name of the antagonist so as not to create inconsistencies within the mythology of the franchise (something Who doesn’t often care that much about).

The Curious Tale of Spring-Heeled Jack

Superb. Spoilers ahead so you’d best stop reading now I don’t have room for the usual textual buffer shenanigans. The companion twist got me, even in graphic novel form and is roughly what I assumed Clara would be. You could see how unsuspecting readers of the strip in 2003 might have assumed that the writers were developing a new companion for the Doctor, someone not unlike Charley, the TARDIS scene cementing the thought and I’d entirely forgotten it what with there being twelve whole years since I originally read this. Knowing the future doesn’t stop its potency either. Everything about CTofSHJ looks forward to the Paternoster Gang stories, right down to leaving a devilish defender at work in Victorian London, though that’s probably more to do with a Penny Dreadfuls and Doyle as joint sources than direct influence.

The Land of Happy Endings

During the wilderness years and beyond, plenty of ink was expended trying to rationalise the TV Comic strips within the mythology perhaps because they’re so beloved by old fans. The New Adventures suggested Dr Who was a creation of the Land of Fiction and here’s the comic strip with its theory that he’s having the adventures the Doctor dreams of having in comparison to the horrible reality of what he otherwise lives. Personally I’ve taken the same approach with them as everything else. You don’t need to explain them. Within the “mythology” they happened to a version of the Doctor in some version of the time stream, just as there’s been a human Dr Who too who looks like Peter Cushing. At a certain point he called himself Dr Who and had grandkids. Then "reality" changed and he didn’t.

Bad Blood

The fake-out story seems to have been used in all three spin-off media but not quite in the same way as here, where a story at first appears to be another one of the stand alones, in this case a celebrity historical about Sitting Bull and Custer and werewolves (a pitch which almost writes itself) as had been prevalent recently before dropping a dollop of the overall arc in towards the end of the second part. What’s impressive is that the script then doesn’t sideline either of the historical figures, making them central to the story and indeed somewhat the moment when Destrii is handed a first glimpse at redemption. This is of course in contrast to Let’s Kill Hitler which would later sideline its historical figure, the one which even features in the title, entirely on purpose, in a cupboard, just to be funny.

Sins of the Father

Because every fantasy franchise at some point ends up with a story called Sins of the Father. The difficult penultimate story doesn’t feel that way at all, which as I discovered with the novel To The Slaughter seems to an element of this format, the sense of being part of a continuing adventure even when a section of it is ending. The introduction of Destrii is problematic in these circumstances though. Rather like Ensign Ro in Star Trek and a dozen characters in The West Wing, a lot of energy is expended integrating her into the TARDIS crew even though she’ll ultimately only appear in one more story, albeit one which is ten episodes long and quite important in the development of the franchise ongoing. Perhaps at some point Big Finish could offer us a further adventure in audio form?

The Flood

Reader, I just sobbed. I was listening to the 50th Anniversary compilation while reading and wouldn’t you know but Murray’s Song of Freedom turned up during the final few pages and I was hit with a wave of emotion, remember what it was like to read these final pages in 2005 on the eve of the show returning to television, the sadness of Eighth’s tenure ending mixed the revolution in the air and well yes, there we are. When writing here in 2013 about the commercially heroic decision not to include the regeneration, little did I realise how important that would end up being in at the 50th when the War Doctor emerged. Because we know that if a regeneration for eighth to ninth had been shown in the comic, sanction by RTD, Moffat is too much of a fan to contradict it. Bye then Eighth, for now. I'll hear you again in Mary’s Story.

What is a spoiler?

Film Charlie "@ultraculture" Lynne's new documentary about 90s/00s teen films Beyond Clueless is in release. There's a trailer for it above. Lynne's given this interview to The Double Negative about it.

I'm really quite interested in seeing it, but reticent. Because of spoilers.

We've discussed spoilers before but my own approach to them has become increasingly hard line, which is difficult in our media saturated, blah, blah, publicity, blah world.

Essentially, since it's good to keep a barometer of these things, here's the point I've reached.

A spoiler is anything about a film. Pretty much. Yes, anything about a film.

Since it's entirely impossible not to know something about a film before watching it, I have to relent slightly.

My optimal state right now is that I'm happy to know the title, some of the stars, perhaps the director and whatever's on the poster. Oh and I may have heard Kermode's review months before but forgotten everything he said other than if he was positive. Oh and did it win an award?

If it's a mega franchise, the teaser trailer is just about fine because it's a disjointed group of images, a teaser, if you will.

Nothing beyond that if I can help it.

Here's why.

Over the years I've read dozens of articles and a few books about the experience of attending film festivals.  Each and every one of them talks about the excitement of sitting down in front of a film on what may be its first appearance in front of an audience.  Unless its been previewed, or shown to friends of the artists if its a small budget piece, that audience are the first eyes to see those images, the first ears to hear those sounds.

More often than not the film-goer in question will know little about what they're seeing.  The title, some of the stars, perhaps the director and whatever's on the poster.  Unlike the audience it may eventually see, that film-goer hasn't experienced the media saturated, blah, blah, publicity, blah world to come.  There might be some buzz but nothing much else.

I want that.  I love that.

It's also a backlash to what happened during my film degree all those years ago when many a film was spoilt by some piece of film criticism because in order to talk about a film you have to talk about the whole thing.

Also against the number of occasions in which I've absorbed the media saturated, blah, blah, publicity, blah world of a film which in the end became somewhat beside the point and ultimately a bit disappointing and empty.

So I avoid the full trailers.  And interviews unless they're print and I can skim.  Whole sections of Empire and Sight & Sound magazine go unread for months, especially the reviews. Oh hold on, add a star rating to the above list.  I'll glance at those at least.

As few preconceived notions as I can have before I watch a film, the better.

It's brilliant.

Of course I have my own prejudices and it doesn't mean I'll watch anything.  You can tell a surprising amount from a poster, for example if it's an Adam Sandler film in which he's trying to be funny rather than droll or if it looks like a "harrowing portrayal" of something.

Last night I Netflixed Draft Day, Kevin Costner's return to the sport film.  I knew it was about American Football and he was in it because that was what was on the poster and I remembered seeing his photograph on the review in Empire.

Even though I couldn't really follow the plot because there was little interest in hand holding anyone who doesn't already understand the vagaries of choosing a Quarterback for the NFL, I thoroughly enjoyed myself because the whole thing was a complete surprise including other cast members.  I even applauded when one of them appeared.

Like I said, it's brilliant

Which brings us back to Beyond Clueless.

The problem with Beyond Clueless is that it's a film about films and in order to talk about a film you have to talk about the whole thing which means there are bound to be films in there I haven't seen which will have the plot explained which is too much information.

My first reaction was to look at the IMDb to see if Lynne and his associates had uploaded a list of the films mentioned with a view to catching up with the films I haven't seen before watching the documentary.

They have and there's a lot of them.

Except in glancing at the list, I'm getting to see the films Lynne talks about in Beyond Clueless.  In other words, I'm spoiling Beyond Clueless's potential surprises by looking at a list of the films he mentions.

Which is a pickle.

Do I ...

(a)  Watch Beyond Clueless and hope to god that it doesn't spoil too many unseen films in the process


(b)  Watch all the films I haven't seen in this list and hope to god that it doesn't spoil Beyond Clueless in the process

No idea.  In the end I expect it'll be

(c)  Begin watching Beyond Clueless when it arrives on dvd or tv or wherever and shut it off at the first sign of trouble then go and watch some of the films on the list anyway.

Apart from American Pie Presents Band Camp which sounds rubbish.