The Conservative Manifesto 2010.

Politics As I've just mentioned on social media, I bloody love an election, especially a UK election. The chance for four-six weeks of empty righteous indignation in the face of specious political chicanery, the powerless ridiculousness of shouting at a press who're even more nakedly partisan than usual and living in a safe seat where it doesn't really matter how I vote because the same party will win again. Once you've decided to vote Green whatever happens because of climate change and their leader was nice to you on Twitter once you can pretty much let rip. I await the manifestos with a mixture of great and no interest.

But here's something which has been bugging me for five years. Here is the cover of the Tory party manifesto in 2010:

Apart from the hollow bullshit of "we're all in this together" and "the big society" and the rest of the fiction inside its pages, I've always remembered this cover because and here it is, that text looks misaligned to me.

Speaking as someone who's spent years trying to decide how to space the text in titles to blog posts before realising the process of finding the right place to put a "br" tag is ultimately futile, the weighting in the legend seems ill chosen and I've often wondered how it ended up that way.

If it had been me, I would have written:


or indeed


which seems even more balanced.

It's the same on the interior title page so Lynton Crosby's predecessors have to have chosen that design even though it looks like something which has been slapped on at the end rather like a student might on a report or dissertation five minutes before its due to be handed in, seconds before its comes bursting from a campus printer.

My guess is that they wanted to emphasise "join" in the reading to bunged it before "government".

But it's also closer to the margin than the outside edge on the pdf though I suspect that's just to do with making sure there's enough of a margin on the hardcopy even it would look utterly stupid if someone decided to print it out (I'll let you fill in the rest of that sentiment).

The slogan also has editorial problems outside of its meaning.

Why simply "invitation to join" not "an invitation to join" or "the invitation to join"?

Why Britain and not Great Britain?  I did wonder why not the United Kingdom for a while, though the Wikipedia set me straight.  Why seek support in a place where you have no sway.  Not that it's stopped the SNP this time.

None of the covers of the manifestos in that year were any good.  Labour had purple children in piece of screen printed socialist realism, the UKIPs had meaningless clip art, the Lib Dems looks like a junior school work book and the Greens this strange lower case italicised motif.

But none of them stuck in the memory like that damned Tory monstrosity.

"basketball-scene mannequin double of Michael J Fox from Teen Wolf"

Film Dazed & Confused visits a movie props auction. It's not exactly a ship of dreams:
"Premiere Props isn’t Sotheby’s: that much is apparent from the moment we step into the warehouse. Throughout the building, black curtains have been hung from ceiling to floor to hide clutter, but the debris that pokes through is surreal. An already sold, basketball-scene mannequin double of Michael J Fox from Teen Wolf faces the wall next to the copy machine like a punished wolfling. A box stacked high up in the lofted storage area reads “Indiana Joenes and the Tempel of Doom” (sic).

"In the back room area, a preview of the auction’s secondary items lies in chaotic disorder inside a display case. This is where things get really weird. Mundane objects jostle with important fragments of film history: a random jewel box from the set of the TV show Friends sits cramped next to a dragon maquette by legendary effects designer Ray Harryhausen from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). Plastic bagels from Seinfeld rub up against a 105H shell MI mortar round projectile from the insignificant Johnny Depp vehicle Transcendence (2014)."

Dazzle Ferry.

Art At 9:30 this morning I was stood at the ferry terminal at the Pier Head in Liverpool for the press launch (literally in this case) of Everybody Razzle Dazzle, or what's otherwise known at the Dazzle Ferry, Sir Peter Blake's new dayglo design for Snow Drop one of the boats which commonly shifts commuters across the Mersey in the morning and tourists for much of the rest of the day.  Unlike some people there for whom its a daily means of transport, the last time I ferried across the Mersey (got there in the end) was for the Doctor Who exhibition at Spaceport in Seacombe in 2006 (review) (this happened later that same day) so I was more than a little excited about this short cruise.

The ship itself is very pretty.  I've always been a fan of visual chaos, of apparently otherwise relatively formal objects becoming canvases for patterns and shapes and colours.  That's why I like Sinta Tantra's work so much, why I much prefer it when otherwise blandly corporate vehicles are covered in sponsorship and advertising.  In his design, Blake applies some of the iconic symbols which have appeared in his art since the 60s, the target shapes and green/red/yellow/blue check whilst applying the wavy lines which are more traditionally part of Norman Wilkinson's original dazzle ship design.  Wouldn't Liverpool be a much jollier place to live if we let artists run creative riot like this on the surfaces of our buses?

After speeches we eventually embarked for a quick trip around the Mersey.  Living where I do, I have a permanent view of the Wirral side of the river so this was a welcome chance to see it from a different perspective.  Back in 2006, I was able to see the place where I do live but recent developments, especially the arena have blocked those views.  But it's still visually thrilling the mix of old and new architecture, the various towers contrasting with one another, distracting enough that there wasn't really time to see the display on board about the original dazzle ships and this particular project.  Snow Drop will look like this until the end of December 2016, so there's plenty of time to go back and have another look.

Soup Safari #19: Cream of Carrot at Chester Cathedral Refectory.

Lunch. £4.95. Chester Cathedral, 12 Abbey Square, Chester, Cheshire West and Chester CH1 2HU. Phone:01244 500964. Website.

My Favourite Film of 2002.

Film Much as I love Kissing Jessica Stein, and I love Kissing Jessica Stein, across time I have begun to wonder how its viewed in the LGBT community. After Ellen gave it a retro-review in 2008 and the four participants seemed in general ok with it with a few reservations.

Talks Collection:
Hadley Freeman.

Journalism Hadley Freeman's one of my favourite Guardian writers, offering the "Ask Hadley" style advice column on a Monday (after having been a fashion editor there), Lost in Showbiz sometimes on a Friday and newsier pieces in between.

Firstly, here she is at The Cambridge Union Society proposing the motion, "This House Believes that Fashion is Elitist".

Even though she read English Literature at Oxford, her connection with their boat rivals is through taking her A-Levels at The Cambridge Centre for Sixth-form Studies which she returned to recently for a Q&A. Spot the moment when she calmly explains to a questioner that "freelance" doesn't actually mean who work for free.

One of her books is Be Awesome: Modern Life For Modern Ladies and here she is reading from it at Book Slam.

Freeman's other book is The Meaning of Sunglasses: A Guide to (Almost) All Things Fashionable and here she is being interviewed about it:

To Jewish Book Week, were Hadley interviewed Deborah Treisman, the fiction editor of The New Yorker:

JBW 2015 - Deborah Triesman and Hadley Freeman from Jewish Book Week on Vimeo.

She's also appeared in a number of videos at The Guardian website interviewing various film luminaries.


TV It's the end of the month and as ever the always useful New On Netflix UK is collating new additions to the streaming service's database which on this occasion includes Residue, a three part sci-fi genre series starring Natalia Tena, best known as Osha in Game of Thrones (Walder's friend) (well, ok, Hodor's friend). The rest of the cast is a selection of character actors from GoT and Who and the like.  It's written by John Harrison from the Dune tv mini-series and I was entirely intrigued because it doesn't seem like something which has been on television already.

That's because it hasn't.  Residue was created without a broadcaster attached utilising an indie film funding model.  As TBI explains, Matador Television produced the series on-speck hoping to sell the rights to broadcasters or if that fails as a film.  It is self contained apparently but they're hoping that if it's a success for international sales to allow for a second, longer series.  Content distribution has previously handled their films which is presumably one of the reasons it's now turned up on Netflix.

Is this something new or has television been independently produced in this space for a while and we've actually been seeing this stuff on terrestrial tv already but with us assuming it was a channel commission?  Is television like this also being produced but going unseen in a similar situation to the glut of films which were produced and shelved during the initial glut of lottery funding?  What especially interesting is that its three one hours which don't easily lend themselves to commercial stations (unless alternative edits have been produced).

My General Election 2015 Prediction.

Politics Here we go then:

Let's see shall we. The whole fixed term parliament thing makes this extremely messy. A month to go ...


Music Daphne & Celeste are back then and is customary there are the relevant reintroduction interviews with interested media parties. Firstly PopJustice where they talk about what happened just after the band split up, or rather stopped singing some of the most disturbing pop lyrics ever written:
"What did you do when you knew the band was over?
Karen: Well we both went home. Celeste was in New Jersey at the time and I was in New York. What was interesting was that Daphne & Celeste were never released in the US, so we had these two lives. At home we just had regular lives. When we first got back we both got back into acting and doing what we were doing before we were in the pop band.
Celeste: It was weird. It was like we’d auditioned for this gig, and we’d booked it. And it was kind of like we just, for better or worse, just went on to the next gig. We just continued.
Karen: We did go back a couple of times – like we did a show at G-A-Y once. And what I loved was that whenever that would happen we’d just perform the same three songs.
And The Guardian where they recall the Reading Festival 2000:
"They might have put a brave face on things, but being a target for mass booing and urine-filled missiles must have been a bruising experience. “Honestly?” says Cruz. “Our biggest fear at the time was that we would get on the stage and no one would come. We thought everyone would protest and go off and see bands they actually liked.”

"DiConcetto found the whole thing surreal: “Backstage, Slipknot and Rage Against the Machine were coming up to us and telling us how hardcore we were – how they wouldn’t have stayed out there. It was definitely the best thing we did, our crowning achievement.”
As both interviews stress, D&C were years ahead of their time and also strangely timeless. If they were to be released now they'd be megahits especially after the controversy generated by the lyrics. The new song takes a few listens to really makes sense and the promo certainly helps to explain intent. Like those earlier songs it doesn't really sound like anything in release now, not that I'm an expert, but again I don't know what the appetite is for it.  But I do like the cover.

With Charley Pollard: Series Two.

There's no way to really launch into this other than to say, I've seen Paul McGann.  In person.  I noticed his voice first which is why I turned my head and saw him, sitting in a cafe with another person.  I gave him a glance then carried on walking, as is always the case with my idols.  Of course what I really wanted to do was approach him and say,
but it's not really my thing.  They're just people in the end and probably tire of being stopped as they go about their business by some random jerk with a TARDIS complex.  But yes, the first Doctor I've seen in real life is the Eight and this makes me extremely happy.  Plus it was on the eve of nuWho's tenth birthday.  For goodness sake.

It's impossible to really say exactly which parts of the wilderness years directly influenced the revival but this second season must be pretty high in the miasma of material given that three of its authors would then be most of the non-RTD writers on the first series and oddly in the same order as their material appeared here.  I'll touch on some of the more direct echoes below, but it's worth also noticing (because I ran out of space in that paragraph) that the motives of the Daleks are roughly the same here as they are in Journey's End.  But there's also the sense of the various stories tying in with one another in way which don't really pay off until later, with the final two stories almost acting like a two-part season finale, with many of the mysteries of the series tied up in the first installment before heading off into a thematically connected second part.  As with the comics and novels, the Eighth Doctor is serialised.

Invaders from Mars

Of course one of the results of the new series was that when some writers transitioned from the spin-off material into the television series and with the exception of the odd story of an annual didn't return.  Invaders from Mars is an example of the kind of multi-layered, fun material Mark Gatiss couldn't produce later in quite the same way, though it's worth noting that it's a tribute to the audio medium in much the same way that The Unquiet Dead demonstrated a love of fiction and The Idiot's Lantern commemorated television.  Hilariously starry cast, with Simon Pegg and Jessica (Stevenson) Hynes in key roles before they'd also appear on the television series making this one of the audios I'd often point to when selling them to friends, "It's got the actors from Spaced" in it.  Visit here for my anecdote about meeting Simon at the launch of his Orson Welles book at FACT.

The Chimes of Midnight

There's no doubt The Chimes of Midnight remains a stone-cold classic (though oddly only as I write this sentence do I notice the resonance of the title in relation to the story which came before it).  If Doctor Who Magazine's periodic votes were inclusive enough to feature spin-off material, there's no doubt this would be in the top ten.  Apart from the amazing twists and hilarious jokes, it's a muscular, surprisingly avant-guard scripting from Rob Shearman, that glances towards the theatre of the absurd, making it one of the franchises more literary entries.  But on this listen it's also more obvious to see its potential influences on The Doctor's Wife in relation to its antagonist.  Lennox Greaves's performance as the house sounds disconcertingly like Michael Sheen.  That Shearman hasn't returned to the television series since Dalek is a great loss.  Imagine him writing for Capaldi.  Imagine that.

Seasons of Fear

Meanwhile, Seasons of Fear is the entire Moffat era in microcosm even to the point of having the Doctor shout "geronimo" as he leaps from the TARDIS into certain doom.  The storyline prefigures The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang with its destruction of all of time and space by an external force and the Doctor having to bounce around trying to find a way of changing things back by breaking the rules of time.  But there's also the random appearance of a thing which is caused by another thing which happens in a future story that seems like a continuity error or just a red herring and the reveals at the end which again are part of a tapestry of storylines which will come to a head in the series finale.  Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox's dialogue really crackles, with Paul and India's performances up to the challenge coming as close as the plays have some so far to the kind of romping screwball relationship of 4th and Romana in Season 17.

Embrace the Darkness

Nick Briggs's Embrace the Darkness has had an odd life subsequent to its release.  I remember some of the reviews being a bit sniffy especially because of the conclusion which offers the relatively rare option of there being no real danger and the Doctor actually being the reason everything could potentially go to shit.  But there are some immensely spooky elements of body horror and some reveals which could only work on audio.  Much is always said about how Doctor Who's primarily a television format, but its real genius is that it can bend itself to other media just as successfully.  I remember first listening to this late at night in actual darkness because I sensed the content would lend itself to that and though large speakers so that I really felt like was in the space with the characters almost eaves dropping on what was happening.  If ever theres a story which would lend itself to being presented as an art installation or an "experience" it's this.


Solitaire was, perhaps purposefully given the title, the solitary entry for the Eighth Doctor in Big Finish's Companion Chronicle series and true to form when it comes to these sorts of intrusions breaks their usual semi-audiobook format with a full blooded two handed audio drama pitting Charley against the Celestial Toymaker with India holding her own against the onslaught of David Bailey's full on, classic Doctor Who foe performance, never subtle, always mesmerising (if you see what I mean given that this is audio).  The first script from John "Only Connect" Dorney is suitably creepy and as with many of stories season two utilises the medium to provide a few twists in this case because the characters are ignorant of parts of their surroundings because Charley's the one with amnesia for a change.  Two other points of interest: the puppet on the cover is real, David Bailey hadn't actually seen The Celestial Toymaker at time of recording ....

Living Legend

Originally mounted to the cover of the 40th anniversary issue of Doctor Who Magazine (or there abouts) but now available to download free, Living Legend is their stalwart comics writer Scott Grey's only Eighth Doctor audio and as the cover suggests transposes the manic fun of the strip onto the audio Eighth and Charley.  The TARDIS team stumbles into one of the saddest alien invasions ever recorded and simply seem to have some fun with it, like Mickey Bricks and the team from Hustle when they've spotted a really easy mark.  With just half an hour to play about with there's never really a sense of jeopardy but that really this is about epic bantz and the bantz are indeed epic.  India's on particularly storming mood as Charley pretends to be a Time Lady and the Doctor's superior, her usual haughtiness turned up to infinity when faced with the stupidity of the alien.  Not a bad place to start if you've never heard an Eighth Doctor audio before.  Plus football!

The Time of the Daleks

Of all the audios, I've never been quite able to decide just how much I like The Time of the Daleks perhaps because in having so much to do it does seem to quite be able to focus on one thing.  It's the first time the audio Eighth meets the pepperpots, but it's also the final installment in a cross range narrative begun in the Fifth Doctor story The Mutant Phase and on top of that it's the first time the franchise has really attempted Doctor Who does Shakespeare.  Usually reliable Justin Richards's notion of having the Daleks reading mashed up piece of the canon is a sound one, the creepiness of unusual phrases filtered through a ring modulator ala Evil of the Daleks later reappearing in Victory of the Daleks, but there's almost too much going, the narrative never quite managing to fix on one thing to the point that Charley in particular doesn't have an awful lot do than be dragged along by events.


Finally, the Doctor tells a companion he loves them.  People always seem to reference Doomsday in relation to this, even the BBC's own Twitter feed's been at it, but 10th never did say the words to Rose.  Eighth does.  True it'  in a friendship sense, but to hear the Doctor say those words and to have Charley repeat them back to him is magnetic and emotional in one of the most intense scenes ever, the Doctor pointing a gun directly at her (and no let's not).  When I heard this the first time, walking along Great Charlotte Street (no really) in town towards the bus home in 2002, I cried.  Of everything in this series which points to nuWho, Alan Barnes's Neverland predicts the approach to the season finale, the intricate string of events which could lead to the destruction of the universe which is ultimately really about the mortality of the Doctor or his companions.  The cliffhanger still has the power to shock.  Thank god, I don't have to wait eighteen months for the resolution this time...

Tree Tables.

Design A company in Derbyshire is growing furniture, bending and crafting trees so that they become tables and chairs:
“When you look at it from a manufacturing point of view and from a design point of view, it actually makes total sense. Why would you grow trees, chop them down with all the faff? Why don’t you just grow the shape you want and it is eminently scalable? You can make thousands of these in the same way as you can make 10, but each one is unique,” said Munro.

The idea for the method came when he was working as a gardener in California and making furniture from washed-up driftwood on the side. He recalled how a bonsai tree his mother had when he was a child outgrew itself to resemble a throne. “Why do we need to bring all of these things together – chop the trees down, make them small, stick them back together again. We can just start from growing the tree from the beginning.”
Tremendous amount of faff for something which most of us won't be able to afford. But the resulting pieces should be ravishing. Find above the inevitable TEDx talk from the Gavin Munro, the founder.