Predictions 2017.

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:

The Mutya Keisha Siobhan album is finally released.


Tim Supple announced as new creative director of Shakespeare's Globe.

No. But I'm very pleased with Michelle Terry as the alternative. Wow. Zero marks.

New female Doctor emerges at the end of the 2017 Who Christmas special.

Ding, ding, ding, ding. Also to point out that my prediction for 2016 of Moffat and Capaldi leaving was also true it just hadn't been announced yet so I'm retrospectively adding an extra half mark to last year's predictions. One mark here though.

Trump doesn't complete the year as President.


Brexit cancelled.


One mark. Which is pitiful. Any way, sod it, let's carry a couple of things forward. I still believe 2018 will be the corrective to all this madness.

Trump doesn't complete the year as President.

Brexit cancelled.

MCU based Fantastic Four film announced.

The Doctor Who omnirumour is true.

A new Shakespeare play discovered.

All of which sound as unlikely as the others ...

My Favourite Podcast of 2017.

Podcasts It's The Rachel Maddow Show. Which is probably a bit controversial considering the depth of real podcasting when this is really just the commercialess broadcast of the audio from a previous night's cable news programme. But my other regular jams have been FiveThirtyEight Politics, S-Town and the Kermode and Mayo film review and I've written quite enough about those already.  There was a brief dalliance with Biden's Briefing which is handy if for offering audio versions of essays from the New York Review of Books but is otherwise whatever happens to be on Bloomberg's front page that day.

Although Seth Myers, Sam Bee and John Oliver have been a useful way of keeping up with US politics, The Rachel Maddow Show has been the ideal way of digging deeper, especially the meticulous reporting of the Russia investigation which she's covering in a detail which I've not seen elsewhere as she highlights the work of the print and online media making connections between them.  But it's in a style which matches carefully thought through arguments or release of information with the just the correct level of cynicism.  Admittedly the mode sometimes trends towards a liberal Infowars, but replacing conspiracy with facts or at the very least solid reporting.

I usually listen walking to and from work and Maddow's discursive style works well on audio, often repeating information a couple of times for emphasis which is useful if you zone out because you're crossing the road or using the self-service checkout in Tesco.  If anything I've been listening too much; there can be repetition between days and listening to 225 minutes of this a week is time consuming not to mention anxiety inducing given the content.  So in 2018 I've decided to cut down a bit, try and catch up on my Big Finish backlog.  But you can bet I'll be back there for the major events.  Except of course in the current climate, what feel like major events happen every day.

Twice Upon a Time.

"Oh brilliant!"

TV Hey Jodie. There was a brief discussion between our brethren and sistren in our online parish the other day about the point at which a Doctor becomes the "current" incarnation.  Is it when they've begun their first full season or as soon as they step out of the wavy, ship destroying fires?  For me, it's as soon as they open their new eyes and run their tongue across their new teeth searching for cavities and any spin-off adventures which turn up between that moment and when the new version of the character is established should be considered as happening chronologically in the past, essentially missing adventures.  Capaldi will still be the face of the DWM comic until September but the current incarnation, the 13th (fifteenth) is Jodie Whittaker (even if when you ask Amazon's Alexa for an identification she's tell you everyone from Tim Roth to Joseph Gordon Levitt).

If any post regenerative moments exemplify this it's in this when Peter's tall, wirely frame is replaced by Jodie's shorter silhouette, emphasised by the fact that she's wearing a specially created version of the former incarnations "costume" rather than being stuffed into his old clothes (the ordering of which was one of the tip-offs that Capaldi was being replaced by somebody female).  But her attitude is immediately brighter, less weary, gleeful.  That expression, so excited, with its Tomalike boggly eyes and toothy grin as she cottons on to her reflection and change of gender is magic (assuming she's not just pleased that she's young again) and quite rightly become a viral .gif that'll soon replace the Capaldi dance from Flatline as the go-to expression of anticipation and glee.  She's my Doctor already in a way that Capaldi has never quite been - so much so I already have her poster on the wall above my desk.  Hey Jodie.  Wave.

Happy Christmas!  Sorry that this has taken a few days; my original plan was to postpone these opinions until the new year, but unlike last Christmas when I spent the entire week in bed and didn't end up writing about whatever was going on in The Return of Doctor Mysterio until the 7th January, a couple of people have given me a nudge and damn it I've kept thinking about the helpfully acronymed TUAT and decided that the last thing I wanted was to be spending New Year's Eve trying to reconcile my opinion of Moffat's treatment of the First Doctor and so just had to get this out of my system.  Not that I'll otherwise be doing something that exciting anyway.  It'll be the usual mix of a film and coverage of Hogmanay on BBC Alba,into midnight with some slowly sozzling villagers somewhere in the highlands.

Your opinion of Capaldi's closing installment will probably depend how you've felt about his entire era, if you've enjoyed every minute of it or like me felt it to be a wasted opportunity.  Numerous creative decisions have kept me at paws length so now it comes time for the twelfth Doctor to go its with the regret that we got to see so little of him in his purest form, without the agendas and bolted on mysteries of recent years.  Kevin Kline has talked about experiencing the irony of Hamlet's death when he played it because it's only in his dying moments that he realises that he would actually be a good king.  In TUAT, Capaldi's Doctor finally coalesces into the man who usually emerges from the post regenerative stupor at the start of the adventures and he's already in the process of deciding if he wants to regenerate again anyway.

Like much of his era, as a piece of television, not mention Doctor Who, it's just plain weird.  Moffat, having decided that one of the problems with the Doctor's regeneration episodes is that we know how it ends, decides to make the whole episode about that in a way which hasn't really been the case since the Watcher stalked the TARDIS crew in Logopolis.  Will he, won't he choose death?  We know he won't so in effect it becomes a narratively weaponised iteration of Tennant's farewell tour at the end of The End of Time with the slight modification that whereas that sullen unit didn't want to go, Capaldi's Doctor doesn't want to go on.  Like Tenth, he's able to visit a few old friends, salve his emotional conscience but all without actually having to fight a proper antagonist, gifted instead with a thematic device.

What is Moffat's obsession with the afterlife and the ability to make the population of the universe exist beyond?  In TUAT we're offered the benevolent antonym to Nethersphere in which the memories of the dead are stored elsewhere for the benefit of an alien race of the future which resemble the future evolutions of humanity which appear in AI and Interstellar.  When the Doctor discovers that there's nothing especially wrong in what they're doing, that they're effectively saving humanity albeit in the form of ghosts and memories he says he doesn't know what to do about that.  He's so used to being threatened by the aliens that he assumes, as do we thanks to the sinister what the glass Bill is shot, that they must be doing that too even though at no point do they exhibit that behavior.

Which is fine.  Moffat understands that Doctor Who is about doing something different with the format and formats within formats, and that having had three regenerations amid giant planetary battles designed to finish up long running story arcs, that having the character wander across a few sets chatting about the nature of being before deciding to proceed with the inevitable is a change of place and quiet fitting for an incarnation who's tended to rely on speechifying over action anyway.  It's just impossible not to see it for the production aberration it is, when a television network requires a Christmas episode but the actual story of the programme doesn't.  Jodie should naturally have emerged at the close of business on The Doctor Falls but Chibbers wasn't going to begin his tenure with a seasonal installment so here's Moffat marking time.

Perhaps it's fortunate the Capaldi was available to film this, otherwise we could have had the fiery headed version which almost appeared in the DWM comic strip.  In the run up to revival in 2005, Russell T Davies suggested the Eighth Doctor's regeneration into Ninth could appear in their pages.  The problem was due to publication issues it would have meant Ninth would have to have appeared in print before television, which wouldn't do, and also Destrii and various other story baggage would have to be resolved at a time when the magazine should quite rightly be in reboot mode and looking to the future.  Briefly the plan was to have a regenerative incarnation running around for a few issues, dropping of the companion and clearing the decks ready for Eccleston to emerge.  Fortunately cooler heads prevailed on and off the page.

You could argue that TUAT is  providing a bookend to the malevolent nutter who originally emerged in Deep Breath, suggesting that what we've been watching is the story of the Doctor entity relearning what it is to be have that title after being gifted a new regenerative cycle, his final, Bertrand Russell inspired speech, a feedback report on what he's learned.  Except it's never quite felt like that.  In this podcast interview with Toby Hadoke, Moffat admits that after the eighth year, Capaldi asked that he be allowed to play the Doctor rather than the Twelfth Doctor, the implication being that the variance from Matt Smith's interpretation had been too extreme, which accounts for why his performance and the writing in Last Christmas is much lighter on the needless sarcasm and heavier on the defence of humanity, and the Tennant-lite mode of more recent years.

Roping the First Doctor into all of this is, again weird.  For the first time in the show's history, the current incarnation of the Doctor has to share his regeneration with an earlier version.  The writer's motivation must be to show how far the Doctor's developed and especially this version.  Pretty much everything he criticises this interpretation of First for could be leveled at his season Eight self as though he's not only looking into his own deep past but also the relatively recent (depending on how many extra years you agree he's lived between The Caretaker and this episode whose acronym could accurately describe his behavior back then.  The Twelfth Doctor is finally a social justice warrior!   Well good, but he's been SJW for decades.  SJW is at the core of his being.  Thank goodness he's finally remembered that!

Except in order to create that contrast, Moffat seems to have decided that the First Doctor isn't an SJW at all, despite already being a somewhat ancient, time travelling magician in a box.  On the one hand, it's a similar approach Terry took in The Five Doctors, painting the earlier incarnations in broader strokes, emphasising their core attributes and letting the performance fill in the blanks.  Except that was before earlier episodes where readily available so when Hurndall rocked up suggesting Tegan make the tea, everyone was perfectly happy with it even though it also began with a clip of Hartnell.  Now we're in an age when entirely accurate new recreations are appearing across media consumed by all ages it's a shame to have this version which so right in some ways and wrong in others.

On first viewing, this First Doctor made me feel like a woke millennial watching a Carry On film.  Did he really just say that?  Hartnell's version would never say that.  On returning to it, those moments still feel bolted on amid sections which get the character quite correct, mainly due to David Bradley's well observed performance.  To an extent the variance is because the writer is forcing the character to have the kinds of self-reflexive conversations he simply didn't have in his own era, at least with someone else.  Sometimes he'd let the mask slip when he was alone in the TARDIS, notably at the end of The Massacre, but we certainly wouldn't have seen the existential chatter he has with glass Bill when he discovers the truth or with Twelfth in No Man's Land at the close of the episode.

But the chortling along with the Brigadier's ancestor and moaning about the cleanliness of the TARDIS is just wrong, I'm sorry, and does a disservice to the memory of the First Doctor, Hartnell and doesn't fit at all with who the man was in the final moments of The Tenth Planet.  What's the point in brilliantly dragging in clips and remounting lost scenes from the story not to mention recreating shots which now only exist in amateur telecine recorded by fans from the screen during broadcast if you're then going to bring in all of that petty business about the alcohol?  Admittedly, a potential justification is introduced in relation to him being in the process of regenerating which also explains the unusual shape of his face but yes, not pleased.

If all of these random comments suggest I'm pretty agnostic about the episode, you'd be right.  Like most of Moffat's festive specials since A Christmas Carol, it's fine and for the most part more enjoyable when watched after the day they're supposed to be designed for.  As ever he's more interested in exemplifying the melancholy aspect of the season, introducing the Christmas element here through the armistice and Mark Gattis's World War One Captain who partially exists to give the actor and writer a reason to participate in this final hoorah for the era and given his contribution to the franchise across the years from the early spin-off videos onward well earned.  You could probably swap him and the war out for another character without changing the story much, but we're also heading into the year of the hundredth centenary of the end of that war, so its probably as good a time as any to remind everyone of just how horrific it was.  Mark's performance is superb incidentally, one of his best ever.

Perhaps bringing back the one Good Dalek (apart from the good Daleks in the Justin Richards graphic novel and the first Eighth Doctor Time War boxed set) was about giving Nicholas Briggs a callback too (except it's unlikely that Chibbers won't be employing him in the future).  It is another look how far we've come moment but not an especially resonant one perhaps because Into The Dalek was the beginning of the rot in that season.  That the godawful line, "She's my carer - she cares so I don't have to ..." actually came from the Doctor's mouth and made it into a trailer was appalling so a reminder of that nonsense isn't especially welcome here.  Perhaps Me would have been a more logical return but Maisie Williams is probably off murdering Lannisters in Dubrovnik so unavailable for this.

Bill's back too, albeit as a sentient glass storage unit.  Perhaps her appearance is most troubling of all.  Is Bill is definitely dead now?  If she remembers being saved by Heather but nothing afterwards doesn't that mean that, since the memories are duplicated when people die, her resurrection ended prematurely pretty soon after the scene in The Doctor Falls?  Plus if she's died twice are there now two versions of her running around in the Testamony or was the later memory engram copied over the earlier one so Bill, if she's still Bill even if its just the memories of her, has effectively died three times now.  Plus like River Song, the essence of Bill Potts now exists in a massive database somewhere.  As I suggested earlier, what is it with Moffat (a) killing his companions but then (b) having them continue living anyway in some kind of altered state?

What about Clara?  Her appearance suggests she was plucked from the time stream at the moment of her death first by the Testamony then the Doctor and then the Testamony again presumably when it came time for her traveling with Me to end.  Of all the moments in the episode which nearly had me in tears it was the sound of Clara's theme and the Doctor's reaction to being given his memories of her back.  I liked Clara both as a concept and a character.  She was the one bearable element of year 8 and part of me wishes she'd stuck around until now.  I really do have to get around to watching Victoria even if to fantasize that we're watching the person who'll grow up to found the Torchwood Institute.

But the stand out elements of the episode is Murray Gold's final score in which he lets rip with a greatest hits compilation of re-interpretations of his music from across the entire past twelve years including all of the Doctor's themes with "Doomsday" making an appearance during the muti-Time Lord sit down on Villinguard (Moffat calling back to his first story writing for the series) and Flavia's chorus underscoring Jodie's first few moments taking us a deep dive right back into the RTD era.  Gold's creative contribution to the series has been incalculable and it just shows his ability that he's able to fuse his melodic legacy with the more percussive material of the late era to create something which commemorates and looks forward.  He'll be missed.

As will Moffat.  It seems important at the close of his era to indicate that for all the kinds of disputes only a fan could have with the franchise he's supposed to love, when Moffat hasn't become bogged down with the grind of putting out thirteen weeks of television a year, he's been one of the greatest Doctor Who writers of all time.  All of his contributions to the RTD era were classics.  Some of the material while he's been show runner has been more variable (as he's admitted himself), but the Matt Smith era broke internationally in a way the show hadn't before and it's to his credit that's continued through the Twelfth Doctor era and affirmed the future of the show in a way which we have to be grateful for.  Happy New Year!

My Favourite Doctor Who Story of 2017.

Franchise This has been a pretty good year for Doctor Who. The television series was OK depending on your tolerance for Nardole and Big Finish has gone from strength to strength, leaning in heavily to the Time War amongst other threads. Some might argue that there's probably a little bit too much being released but it's probably that they've realised that the Who audience is multifaceted now with fans likely to concentrate on a single element rather than try to listen to everything.  My rule is anything Eighth Doctor, bits of nuWho tie-ins and anything reduced to £2.99 in a sale.

My choice of the year is All Hands on Deck, Eddie Robson's Eighth Doctor Short Trip which I originally reviewed here.  In the missing adventure genre of taking care of some continuity business, it explains how the Doctor's granddaughter Susan became involved in the Time War and of everything I've read or seen this year, there are moments of this which are still fixed in my mind, especially the eventual encounter between the family members, which between Robson's writing and Ford's performance is incredibly poignant as the inevitable unfolds.

But more than that, if you're a fan of the Eighth Doctor, you also have to appreciate the lengths the writer goes to in making sure it fits within the continuity set up at Big Finish whilst still making it accessible to listeners who probably still thought the last time the Doctor remembers seeing Susan was through the TARDIS scanner on Earth after one of the Dalek invasions of Earth (the original you might say).  For an incarnation of the Time Lord whose mythology is in flux more than most, its great to see everything interconnecting for once.

My Favourite Company of 2017.

Film When Amazon finally assassinated Lovefilm, I was entirely bereft and unsure what I'd do in terms of seeing new film releases in a timely fashion. Having attempted the streaming only option for six months, it was apparent that relying on NowTV, Netflix, Amazon and even Mubi simply didn't provide the same coverage as dvds by post.

Luckily some quick googling around one desperate afternoon led me to Cinema Paradiso who had apparently been a main rival since around the time I originally signed up to ScreenSelect and within a couple of weeks I decided that I'd been backing the wrong service all these years and that Lovefilm closing had led me to a company with a much better catalogue and service.

Whereas giving the newest releases the highest priority on Lovefilm rarely guaranteed that they'd be sent that week, for the most part I've been receiving some dvds through Cinema Paradiso on the day after release, even what you'd imagine to be those with a high demand.  Apart from understandably at Christmas, turn around has been even faster than Lovefilm and now I'm not sure how I'd cope without them.

My Favourite Film Scene of 2017.

Film People have talked about crying during Wonder Woman's no man's land scene and I can understand why.  Metaphorically it symbolises just how strong all women have to be in society when faced with the patriarchal barrage.  In my life I've seen too many weak men manage brilliant women who don't get the credit for the work they do but keep fighting nonetheless.  Steve's look of awe is how we should all react to them.

What makes the scene for me is the certainty with which Diana steps into the firing line.  There's no fear, no doubt.  She knows what she's capable of and implements her strategy, and the film doesn't seek some facile reason for false jeopardy like being distracted by her emotional attachment to Steve.  Like so many non-fiction women, she compartmentalises and gets the job done.

The director Patty Jenkins had to put her foot down during production in order for it to actually happen in the face of a crew who didn't understand why it was being filmed because she wasn't specifically fighting anyone.  Which is pretty ironic considering what the scene potentially represents.  If you want to know why some films turn out rubbish, it's because the people making them often don't understand what they're about.  Thank god Patty and Gal did.

Christmas Links #25

New York's vanishing shops and storefronts: 'It's not Amazon, it's rent':
"Vacant storefronts are becoming more noticeable in the capital of consumption, as small retailers are being pushed out by wealthy investors."

Merry Christmas from the six 'Santas' of Siberia:
"Seasonal greetings to all parts of the world marking Christmas Day on 25 December, even though we have to wait a little longer!"

Fan reactions to Empire Strikes Back as divisive as The Last Jedi reactions:
"Starlog was the premiere science fiction magazine of the 1980s, originally covering Star Trek and growing to encompass all of sci-fi. Its May 1980 issue published a letters column giving fans an outlet to praise or criticize Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. Luckily for us, has a collection of Starlog issues to give us a glimpse into reactions to the film."

When Cancer Tried to Ruin Christmas, Taylor Swift Came Through in a Big Way…
"I would like to tell you a wonderful story about my friend and someone I do not know…Taylor Swift."

Meet The People You Probably Didn't Realise Will Be Working On Christmas Day:
"From forensic nurses and zookeepers to funeral directors and football groundspeople, there will be people from all walks of life clocking in over the festive period."

BBC News Review 2017:
"Looking back on the year 2017."

Christmas Links #24

How to cope with a solo Christmas? Relish every moment:
"I have had many big family Christmases and, no question, they can be wonderful. But throughout my 20s I often chose to do Christmas on my own."

The Medieval Origins of the Christmas Carol:
"Most people today think of a carol as any song or hymn related to Christmas. In its origins, it is something both more and less specific than this. It is derived from the Old French word carole, referring to a round of dancers, singing and holding hands."

'Mum suggested under the ironing board': where are you sleeping this Christmas?
"If you’re heading home for the holidays, will your bed be in the junk room, with the dog or in your childhood bedroom (with novelty duvet cover)?"

BBC celebrities we said goodbye to in 2017:
"As 2017 draws to a close we remember some of the actors, presenters, writers and comedians who have graced the BBC with their talents, but sadly died during the year."

Why We Kiss Under Mistletoe And Toast With Eggnog:

"Whether it's hanging lights, baking dozens of cookie variations or just enjoying the plants, holidays are full of traditions. But like with any tradition, sometimes you've been doing it so long that you don't know why."

Christmas Links #23

I love vlogmas – it celebrates the banality and familiarity of Christmas:
"The Youtubers’ Christmas tradition is a chance to turn off your brain and relax."

‘…a strange story of spirits, and worth reading indeed’
"What could be more cosily festive than settling down after a good Christmas dinner to listen to a ghost story as darkness falls outside? This Christmas Day will mark 350 years exactly since Samuel Pepys did just that, his wife Elizabeth reading to him the strange tale of a ghostly drummer said to have haunted a family home in Wiltshire a few years previously."

Christmas in London: then and now – in pictures:
"Photographer Christopher Ratcliffe has digitally merged the past with the present in a series of festive images. From sandbags in Selfridges in 1939 to Santa Claus at a Holborn bus stop in 1960, the photos deftly connect the old with the new."

Lechon is the world’s most delicious Christmas tradition:
"One of the most convincing arguments that Filipinos have mastered the roast pig, or lechon, is its skin: brick red and so immensely crunchy it crackles between your teeth like you were chewing glass."

The Gift of Loneliness A single woman’s secret to surviving the holiday season alone:
"It is time, finally, to tell the story of “The Bag of Shame.”"

Christmas Links #22

A tale of Christmas past from the Today in Parliament archives:
"In January 2002, the late Lord St John of Fawsley, the Conservative former cabinet minister, Norman St John Stevas, complained about the state of the Christmas cards produced by the House of Lords. From the archives of BBC Radio 4's Today in Parliament."

All the Shit You Have to Deal with as a Muslim During Christmas:
"Is Christmas haram?"

The surprising story of the Christmas card:
"There are 27 boxes of Christmas cards in the John Johnson Collection and a further 7 of Christmas cards: trade. Christmas cards are also represented in our Albums, notably in a Jonathan King stock book, a S. Hildersheimer & Co. sample album (1880-81), and in a beautiful Hildesheimer & Faulkner competition album (1881-1882). This post aims to contextualise some of these cards."

What's It Like Living On A Houseboat At Christmas?
"There is something majestic about London's waterways. The force of industry meets the awesome power of nature, winding through our city like a brackish circulatory system. More than 10,000 Londoners call this aquatic complex home, from the leafy River Brent to the smokestack Limehouse Cut."

Yippee ki-yay, turkey plucker … how Die Hard became a classic Christmas movie:

"It’s not about Christmas, seldom shown at Christmas, and Bruce Willis’s vest isn’t red with fur trim – but this action blast is as essential as tinsel and telly."

Christmas Links #21

'Like a toilet brush': anger in Rome over city's lacklustre Christmas tree:
"Tree has been dubbed ‘spelacchio’, meaning bald or mangy, after it lost most of its pine needles."

The Story Behind the Music of The Muppet Christmas Carol:
"“You know you’re an alcoholic when you misplace a decade,” says songwriter Paul Williams. “And, essentially, the ’80s were gone for me.”"

Win This Game by Never Hearing Wham's 'Last Christmas':
"Today I spent one hour playing the game called Whamageddon."

#MeToo movement has been in the making for decades: 'Bitch Doctrine' author Laurie Penny:
"On 4 November 2016, Laurie Penny handed in the manuscript for Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults to her publishers. It was a collection of the many columns the British journalist-author had written over the years, preceded by an original introduction. Less than a week later, [editorial omission due to boycott] was elected 45th President of the United States, and Penny took the manuscript back."

Soul Music: O Holy Night:
""O' Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining..." and so begins the gentle carol of reflection that has touched the lives of listeners around the world."

The Christmas specials they should have made!
"Call The Midwife? By all means Call The Midwife. Open All Hours? Okay. But what about all the other deserving shows over the years that never received a well-deserved Christmas special? Good question! And so TV Cream asked its friends on Twitter to spitball ideas for festive episodes of favourite shows. Here are some of our favourite pitches…"

Christmas Links #20

Lights fantastic: Christmas decorations around the UK:
"Whoever said less is more couldn’t have had Christmas in mind as these festively festooned homes around the country prove."

Twice Upon A Time - Media Pack:
"With just one week to go until the world gets to see the final moments of the Twelfth Doctor in Twice Upon A Time, the BBC has released a wealth of promotional material, including interviews with the main cast. "

Have a Creepy Little Christmas with These Unsettling Victorian Cards:
"Anthropomorphic cats, murderous frogs, and insects dancing by the moonlight aren’t exactly part of our Christmas card tradition today." [via]

Goodish Bye:
"As the credits rolled on episode 7 last Tuesday, the continuity announcer said that... the series would be concluding next week - and added, "and it'll be an emotional show as it'll be the last ever one of the series."

From Taboo to Mindhunter: how TV drama washed away toxic masculinity:
"They were tarnished – but they were real. Like bad boy Tom Hardy in Taboo, men dug deeper to become more fragile and tormented in the best shows of 2017."

Christmas Links #19

The childhood gift we always wanted – would it change our lives today?
"We asked writers and readers to share memories of the present they could never convince their parents to get them. How would they feel when the Guardian delivered those elusive gifts decades later?"

The Royal Family Wishes You a Very Color-Coordinated Christmas:
"On Monday morning, Kate Middleton and Prince William released their Christmas card photo — a truly color-coordinated (and adorable) family portrait with their two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte."

Bizarre bids for Christmas Number 1:
"Weird and wonderful (but mainly weird) tracks that tried their luck in the Christmas Number 1 race."

World's smallest Christmas card 200 million times smaller than a stamp:
"The world's smallest Christmas card has been created by British scientists - 200 million times smaller than a stamp."

Bangor Winter Wonderland cancelled after complaints:

"A Christmas event in County Down has been cancelled after organisers apologised that it had "fallen way short of our expectations"."

Christmas Links #18

Christmas tree cutters' labor fight shines light on holiday season's forgotten workers:
"In the mountains of North Carolina, low-wage workers scored a hard-earned victory on safety and pay – but Republicans in the state are retaliating."

Why you won't be doing your last-minute Christmas shopping at The Entertainer this year:
"If you rely on this store for a quick toy shop on Christmas Eve, you won't be doing this time - but there is a nice reason."

The author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland gave this beautiful edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to his illustrator for Christmas:
"‘Tis the season when gift-giving looms large in the mind… what to get that special someone/your mother-in-law/your hunting club buddies/the friend who illustrated your best-selling book? We’ve already offered a few Shakespeare-themed suggestions here on Shakespeare and Beyond, but here’s a find from the Folger vault to inspire you!"

Christmas without Christians: how do we celebrate in a secular age?
"Just 15 per cent of people now consider themselves to be members of the Church of England."

The brothers whose rare disease means they'll never eat Christmas dinner:
"They can't eat meat, eggs, dairy, bread, or milk chocolate - which makes this time of year extra challenging."

Christmas Links #17

A golden touch for The Scapegoat:
"As one of the most recognisable works from the Lady Lever Art Gallery’s collection and among William Holman Hunt’s most famous paintings The Scapegoat often attracts a lot of attention. In art gallery circles this results in frequent requests to loan the painting for exhibitions across the world. It is our role at National Museums Liverpool to ensure above all that artworks are accessible to as many people as possible, and that they are preserved for generations to come to enjoy as we do today."

Meet The Man Making The Plan To Feed 200 Homeless People At Euston Station On Christmas Day A Reality:
"Jon Glackin from Streets Kitchen is cooking up an epic Christmas feast."

'Dreadful' mince pies and macho monkfish – a history of TV's Christmas cookery:
"Where once the tradition was for instructional recipes and meagre treats, now it is lavish escapism and, of course, Nigella. So, what does this say about society?"

Derek Jameson - Do They Mean Us?/ Yes Virginia There Is A Santa Claus:
"I'm really not a morning person. If you're going to try to start a conversation with me in the morning, especially before caffeine, it's best to keep it a bit light, humorous and convivial. Don't bark orders at me. Don't get on a soapbox about something in the newspaper. Don't be loud. It's DAWN outside, goddamn you, we're not in a nightclub at two in the morning. I feel delicate."

Christmas across US Mexico border:
"A Christmas service was held over the US-Mexico border, commemorating Posada Without Borders."

Christmas Links #16

The Most Earth-Shattering Local Newspaper Stories Of 2017:
"Have you lost your teeth?"

Eight reasons to love reindeer (even more!)
"As Brett Westwood discovers in Radio 4’s Natural Histories, their role as beast of burden for Father Christmas isn’t the only reason to love reindeer."

No Miracles Here: Emotional Labour at Christmas:
"If Christmas is a time for sharing, then what’s the deal with emotional labour?"

Richard Burton's Christmas Story:
"All Richie wants for Christmas is a toy farm – simple. But the world is complicated, disturbing. Happily, he gets more than he bargained for!"

RU alt-right, hun? Spare a thought this Christmas for Britain’s political unholy trinity:
"Unloved, unwanted and with no lucrative media jobs to go to, Nigel Farage, Milo Yiannopoulos and Katie Hopkins are sure to be finding this time of year particularly difficult."

The Beatles’ Christmas Records: A Feat of Fan Appreciation and Devotion:
"The band recorded a season's greetings message yearly."

Black Teen's Gift From Girlfriend's Family Sparks Racial Backlash:
"Duke said her parents wanted to gift Hunter a car because he's a "genuine and caring person""

Christmas Links #15

Liberace’s Little-Known Cookbook:
“Food and music are the two best things in life.”

Airbus A380 draws giant Christmas tree over Germany:
"An Airbus pilot in Germany has delivered an early festive present by tracing the outline of an enormous Christmas tree during a test flight."

You asked for it so here it is: Christmas With The Hammonds:

"JEAN ANDERSON as Mary Hammond, PATRICK O'CONNELL as Edward Hammond, RICHARD EASTON as Brian Hammond, ROBIN CHADWICK as David Hammond, JENNIFER WILSON as Jennifer Hammond, DEREK BENFIELD as Bill Riley, MARGARET ASHCROFT as Gwen Riley, COLIN BAKER as Paul Merroney, LIZA GODDARD as April Merroney and KATE O'MARA as Jane Maxwell." [via]

This Christmas, don't give books to non-readers:
"For bibliophiles, it is tempting to buy books as presents to ‘fix’ people who don’t read – but this is snobbery of the worst kind."

“A wheelchair in the grotto just doesn’t work”: when children are excluded at Christmas:
"New research finds tens of thousands of children with disabilities will be turned away from a Christmas activity. We hear from parents struggling this year."

Seasonal deliveries: hay on a sleigh and milk from Ma (1960):
"There’s hay for horses in Welshpool snow, and more is used in springtime round chilly lambs, when mothers’ milk is flowing for the new-borns."

‘Greatest Showman’ Cast to Perform Live Trailer During Fox’s ‘A Christmas Story’ Musical:
"Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Zendaya are all participating in a one-of-a-kind marketing experiment from 20th Century Fox, staging a live trailer for their new musical “The Greatest Showman.”"

Has Christmas dinner had its day?
"Zoe Williams and Henry Dimbleby argue over whether Christmas dinner is a grand old tradition—or a bland meal that should be relegated to the past."

Christmas Links #14

2017 National Film Registry Is More Than a 'Field of Dreams':
"Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today announced the 2017 selections to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Selected for their cultural, historic and/or aesthetic importance, these 25 motion pictures range from an early film of the New York subway in 1905 and the musical biopic “La Bamba” to the holiday action thriller “Die Hard” and “The Goonies,” the adventure tale of a band of misfits."

Can Christmas music make you ill?
"It's thought that repeated exposure to seasonal songs can be bad for your brain, but is there any truth to the belief?"

‘Layaway angel’ pays for Christmas gift orders at Leominster toy store:
"A “layaway angel” paid off thousands of dollars of gift orders at a Toys R Us in Leominster Saturday, making the holiday season a little more joyful for about 35 local families, a company spokeswoman said."

what we’ve got here is… failure to communicate:
"Who’s done their Christmas list to Father Christmas yet? Have you sat down, put on a bit Band Aid, poured the sherry? Crayon poised to spell out in no uncertain terms what it is you want?"

Christmas at King’s College, Cambridge:
"Every Christmas Eve King’s College, Cambridge holds its famous annual ‘Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s.’ Andrew Hammond, Chaplain of King’s College, takes us behind the scenes of this year’s service."

Talking turkey: the best culinary hacks for Christmas dinner:
"Bake Off judge Prue Leith had said she freezes a stuffed bird to get ahead on the big day. Here are some other tips to stop you winging it on 25 December."

Christmas tree used to decorate sinkhole:
"No matter what part of Jackson you live in, you've experienced effects from the capital city's crumbling infrastructure. Residents in Belhaven are now showing their creativity in decorating one sinkhole for the Christmas season."

Christmas Links #13

Candy cane crisps, a brioche snow globe, and pudding smoothie: The ultimate Christmas lunchbreak guide:
"If, like the conscientious elves in the New Statesman office, you’re working until the bitter festive end, you’ll need a lot of high street Christmas food to get you through those long lunchbreaks. Here are our picks – and warnings."

18 Christmas Food Quirks That British People Don't Realise Are Weird:
"1. Buying a tub of Celebrations and stealing all your favourites before anyone else can have them."

Snow Ain’t the Only Thing White During Christmas, so I Give You the Top 10 Blackest Holiday TV Shows and Movies:
"My son Quinn loves Christmas. Like—he loves it in a watch-How the Grinch Stole Christmas-on-the-Fourth of July kind of way."

Gaumont’s French Christmas Comedy ‘Santa & Cie’ Set for Big Rollout in China:
"After smashing the French B.O. with an estimated €3.5 million in five days, Alain Chabat’s fantasy-filled Christmas comedy “Santa & Cie” will be getting a wide release in China on Dec. 15."

London Euston to become Christmas Day homeless shelter:
"London's Euston station will be turned into a shelter for the homeless on Christmas Day. The station concourse will be filled with decorations and tables set for a full festive dinner on 25 December. Rail workers and charity staff will serve food to 200 rough sleepers invited to the event."

C7 bulbs or C9s? How Christmas lights became a nerdy obsession:
"Adorning trees with electric lights has been common since the early 1900s. Whether you love them – or love complaining about your neighbours’ – this year their ubiquity and inventiveness has become undeniable."

Christmas Links #12

Maritime town may have inspired well-known Christmas carol:
"The sights and sounds of the holidays are everywhere, and as residents of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia embrace the spirit of the season, one Christmas classic is likely playing in the background."

Here’s a Video of President Obama Saying “Merry Christmas” Over and Over and Over:
"One of the more bizarre paranoias of modern U.S. political culture concerns the so-called War on Christmas, in which liberals are alleged to seek the elimination of Christianity from the public sphere via a political-correctness campaign against (among other things) the phrase Merry Christmas. Liberals won't let you say Merry Christmas, it is believed, because they look down their noses at Christians and/or are too sensitive to the potential hurt feelings of minority groups like Jews and Muslims."

Where To Find Vegan Christmas Sandwiches On The High Street:
"More than half a million people in the UK now follow a vegan diet and retailers are finally cottoning on to the fact that there’s more to Christmas than turkey."

The 30 Weirdest Christmas Songs:
"Christmas songs are pretty fucking weird by definition. Whether praising the infant Jesus or celebrating the sounds, smells, and/or meteorological trends of late December in the Western Hemisphere, Christmas songs tend to warp our reception through simple repetition alone. Who among us hasn’t wanted to tear out their hair at the umpteenth dental-office rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Jingle Bells,” or even Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”?"

What’s It Like to Wear the Big Red Suit?
"If a child asks me if I’m the real Santa, I usually ask, “What do you think?” This sort of puts them on the spot, because they don’t want to say I’m not the real Santa and jeopardize their wish list."

Christmas Links #11

Christmas celebrations fuel huge public demand for new carols:
"As many as 300 new carols have been written this year, the result of enduring public affection and a boom in competitions and commissions from choirs, churches, schools and broadcasters."

Fanny Cradock Cooks for Christmas is on the BBC iPlayer.
"A collection of traditional recipes, together with Fanny's practical know-how, make for a successful Christmas."

How you can have a cooking-free Christmas:
"The company Cook prepares frozen ready meals at its kitchen in Kent and you can buy Christmas lunch for two for £35. Or for 12 people it's £175. Last year they sold 18,000 prepared turkeys and this year they expect to sell a third more. Pam Keene runs their shop in Tunbridge."

How To Not Spoil Your Kids This Christmas:
"Holidays mean one thing to many kids: presents. You've probably heard a parent of young children say something along the lines of: "It's all worth it to see their smiling faces.""

Why Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” is the most addictive holiday song ever:
"It’s that time again! Mariah-Christmas is upon us, and it doesn’t care if you observe the holiday in the Judeo-Christian-ugly-sweater way. Or in the agnostic-consumer tradition. Or if you’re just trying to buy groceries in a store with a PA system."

Christmas Links #10

Mr. Dickens First Reading:
"Mr. DICKENS gave his first reading in NewYork last evening at Steinway Hall. The hall was filled, of course, but, thanks to the admirablo arrangements, it was not crowded nor made in the least uncomfortable by the pressure of those who were unprovided with tickets for seats." (from: NYT, December 10, 1867)

30 years of Fairytale of New York: 10 true tales behind the Pogues' Christmas favourite:
"For 30 years the bells have been “ringing out” for one of our favourite Christmas songs. Ironically, it is anything but warm and fuzzy. We all know the lyrics to the beloved Fairytale of New York, but how much do you know about the song and its legacy?"

I’m easy to buy for, just put the Christmas presents of my teenage years on repeat:
"Christmas again. Shopping again. Trying to fill up a stocking again. I wonder when I’ll stop doing these for the kids. Not for many years, I suspect. Not till the shops have run out of mini bottles of nail polish, and glittery false eyelashes, and bath plugs in the shape of an actual pug. Yes, I’ve been looking at the “stocking filler” suggestions again, which are only partially helpful, but not as completely insane as the “gifts for men” lists."

31 Awesome Gifts Every Early-'90s Girl Wanted For Christmas:
"1. This Barbie Corvette that would totally allow you to drive around your neighborhood while talking on the ~cool~ carphone."

'A Christmas miracle': heavy snow falls in southern Texas for first time in years:
"Snowfall has blanketed parts of the Deep South, including southern Texas, delighting schoolchildren and knocking out power to thousands."

Christmas Links #9

Starbucks Christmas Tree Frappuccino Doesn't Taste Like Melted Tinsel!
"I would like to start by saying that my Christmas Tree Frappuccino did not look like the header photo and I laughed really loudly when the barista handed it to me, causing her to giggle as well."

Fake pants seized in Christmas crackdown on counterfeits:
"Border officials have seized £1.5m worth of counterfeit Calvin Klein pants, along with fake Dyson fans, Superdry hoodies and Nike shoes. The authorities are using the hauls to highlight the risk of buying cut-price, substandard counterfeits at Christmas."

This Guy Covered His House With 100,000 Christmas Lights:
"Let it gooooo."

The Christmas Wreath:
"Christmas went all through our two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. It was one of my mother’s House Rules. She hung felt stockings inside the front door and lined the hallway with quilled-paper Santas, candy canes, and dolls. Our artificial tree bulged outward from one corner of the living room, its not-quite-forest-green branches weighted ridiculously with lights and tinsel and garland and ornaments. There was plastic mistletoe above the entrance to the kitchen, which doubled as the studio where my mother built a gingerbread house every year."

Scousers' amazing response to shopkeeper's Christmas plea:
"A struggling Liverpool shopkeeper made a heartfelt plea for shoppers to buy local this Christmas - and Scousers responded in an amazing way."

10 Great Christmas-Adjacent Movies That Aren’t Die Hard:
"Whenever we discuss our favorite Christmas movies, there’s always that one guy (and it’s always a guy) who chimes in, “What about Die Hard?” In fact, I’m sure that someone in the comment section of this article will say something like, “Dude, you forgot Die Hard!”"

Christmas Links #8

2017 Christmas Chocolate Collection:
[Editor's note: Annual appeal to buy selection boxes for homeless children in Liverpool. The link gives some explanation. You can donate here.]

Why I’m not going to any Christmas parties this year:
"There’s a warm, festive glow in the air right now. End-of-year bonuses lie just around the corner while bosses take their feet ever so slightly off the pedal. Shops have their Yuletide tunes on loop, and there’s chocolate literally everywhere."

12 Docs of Christmas:
"Everyone has their favorite Christmas movies, but rarely are they of the documentary kind. Maybe that’s because most nonfiction films involving the holiday and its iconography are downright depressing. There’s not much of a story in real people having a merry Christmas. So, the interest is in unfortunate circumstances, like foreclosure and death. But there are a few feel-good and at least matter-of-fact docs about the holiday."

The Depressing Reality of Nonfiction Christmas Movies:
"There is a good reason why documentaries set at Christmas are so depressing. Not all, but many nonfiction films focus on problems, issues, tragedies, and unfortunate situations and circumstances that would be bad enough on their own but are heightened in devastation when the holidays are involved." [alternative take]

Holiday decorations gone wild: Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer carcass?
"During the holidays you’re most likely to see cute Santa decorations or beautifully lit trees, but in the Bywater neighborhood in New Orleans there’s a home with something a little different."

Steven Moffat interviewed by Graham Kibble-White for TV Choice:
"It’s the end of an era. On Christmas Day, Peter Capaldi’s Doctor will regenerate into the character’s 13th incarnation, to be played by Jodie Whitaker. But he’s not the only person leaving the show. The story also marks the departure of showrunner Steven Moffat, who’s been in the role since 2009. TV Choice caught up with him to look ahead to the upcoming special, Twice Upon A Time, in which the Twelfth Doctor meets the First, and to look back at his time steering the Tardis..."

Gary Bainbridge explains why Die Hard is a Christmas film:
"A FEW years ago I wrote a column about the Christmas film Elf in which I explained in painstaking if compelling detail why I thought it wasn’t any good. That done, I gave it the inflammatory headline “Why You Are Wrong To Like The Film Elf”."

Christmas Links #7

TIME Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers.
"Movie stars are supposedly nothing like you and me. They're svelte, glamorous, self-­possessed. They wear dresses we can't afford and live in houses we can only dream of. Yet it turns out that—in the most painful and personal ways—movie stars are more like you and me than we ever knew."

Finishing touches to Murillo:
"The practical treatment of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s altarpiece Virgin and Child in Glory (1673) finished in August, marking the end of a year-long major conservation project, which you can track in my previous blog posts." [editor's note: The painting is returning to The Walker Art Gallery after restoration.]

Bone fragment could 'belong to Santa':
"A fragment of bone said to belong to the fourth-century saint who inspired the story of Santa Claus could indeed be from the legend himself, scientists have said."

Hour Children Holiday 2017 Wish List:
"Hour Children’s mission is to help incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their children successfully rejoin the community, reunify with their families, and build healthy, independent, and secure lives. To accomplish this, Hour Children provides compassionate and comprehensive services and encourages all to live and interact with dignity and respect."

20 Christmas Truths That No One Denies:
"1) Multicolored lights are superior to white lights for tree decorating purpose."

What time is The Miniaturist on TV this Christmas?
"Romola Garai and Anya Taylor-Joy star in this unusual period drama, adapted from Jessie Burton's critically-acclaimed novel."

10 For Christmas:
"Bearing festive gifts from past genre shows, Mark Clapham ranks his favourite Christmas episodes, sensibly avoiding Doctor Who, which could have a top 10 of its own."

Majority of Christmas toy catalogues play to gender stereotypes, study finds:

"With the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) introducing new rules to crackdown on gender stereotypes in advertising and the likes of Unilever making bold changes to improve the way women are portrayed in its ads, the marketing industry has shown it is open to change. [...]
However, a new study from Let Toys Be Toys, shows this year’s Christmas catalogues are still a long way from avoiding gender stereotyping children."

10 great indie Christmas films:
"When it comes to Christmas time, much of our Yuletide viewing can tend towards overfamiliar and sentimental classics: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Holiday Inn (1942), White Christmas (1954) and the like. Even raucous comedies like Bad Santa (2003) can lose some of their edge through repeated viewing."

Christmas Links #6

John Byrne painting features on first minister's Christmas card:
"A painting by artist and writer John Byrne will feature on the first minister's Christmas card this year."

The Great Expedition (1959):
"Two young children skip school to do their Christmas shopping on Oxford Street."

These Are Four Toys That "Grinch Bots" Ruined This Christmas:
"Cyber bots are buying up some of the most popular holiday toys and selling them on third party sites for hundreds to thousands of dollars, according to Senator Charles Schumer's office."

Giant baubles, Moz the Monster and brussels sprouts: retailers’ Christmas window displays:
"As the festive season gets into full swing, we take a look at retailers’ flagship stores in London to see how shop windows are being used to attract seasonal shoppers in the capital."

Cara Delevingne’s Perfect Christmas:
"Just before hosting her megawatt Burberry Christmas party, the supermodel and actress sat down with Vogue to talk about how to do the festive season Delevingne style."

Christmas Links #5

How a Tweet About a Gay, Black Santa Turned Into a Children's Book:
"The plot of Santa’s Husband seems like it’s reverse-engineered from a homophobic racist’s nightmare. The story itself is the very innocent and sweet (and true, according to the book) tale of Santa and his husband and their life together, complimented by detailed and playful watercolor illustrations."

32 Things Guaranteed To Happen In The Office During Christmas:
"There's always one person in the office who is way too enthusiastic about Christmas far too early."

The Most Spectacular Designer Christmas Trees To See This Season:
"The holiday season is officially upon us, kicking into high gear as soon as the last of the Thanksgiving plates were cleared and shoppers bundled up to camp outside a Best Buy for $50 off a flatscreen. Though the Christmas carols have long begun creeping through the radio waves and holiday décor put out for sale as early as September, we believe that the festivities truly begin only once we've set out to pick out our Christmas trees."

Police: Squirrel blamed for vandalizing Christmas lights:
"It was a squirrel that nearly stole Christmas in a New Jersey town."

Cyrpus: Sophia Patsalides Gets Festive With "Here For Christmas"
"Junior Eurovision may be over for another year, but with Christmas right around the corner we’re staying wide-eyed and bushy-tailed."

Gwen Stefani's Christmas album: "Every year after you die you get to be revisited"
"Gwen tells Chris (Evens) about making her new album, You Make It Feel Like Christmas."

10 Best Christmas Hip-Hop Songs, Ranked:
"From the Temptations’ “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” to John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” to Oscar Peterson’s “White Christmas,” black folks have contributed to the sonic landscape of the Christmas holiday in unforgettable fashion."

A childhood memory of 'nicest gift' prompts festive cheer:
"'Tis the season to be giving and just as we plan presents for loved ones, we also remember the gifts we've received and sometimes it's the smallest things which make the biggest memories of all."

Pasteles, a Puerto Rican Tradition, Have a Special Savor Now:
"After Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, it took two weeks for Harry Franqui-Rivera to reach his 76-year-old mother, Amelia, by phone at her home on the island’s west coast. [...] When he did, Mr. Franqui-Rivera, a history professor at Bloomfield College in New Jersey, found that her main concern wasn’t the lack of electricity or running water. It was the loss of her Christmas pasteles."

Cake-Flavored Pepsi Coming To Japan:
"In Japan, Christmas is typically celebrated with a cake. Pepsi is celebrating it with a limited edition release called “Christmas Cola.”"

My childhood Christmas by Conchita Wurst, Carlos Acosta, Oti Mabuse and more:

"Forget turkey, crackers and carols. Oti Mabuse has a barbecue on the beach, Alma hits the sauna, Sofie Hagen hunts for a marzipan pig and Conchita Wurst hides from Krampus the horned monster."

Review 2017:
A Statement.

About The short version is - there won't be a Review 2017 this year.

Here's the extended naval gazing.

Every Frame A Painting is a superb YouTube video essay series considering various aspects of filmmaking from a quasi-academic perspective. You might remember them from such works as Vancouver Never Plays Itself and Edgar Wright - How To Do Visual Comedy. Their last video The MARVEL Symphonic Universe was released over a year ago despite them having a very regular output until that point.

Yesterday they announced, to the surprise of only a few people, that they've stopped work on the series, putting out what amounts to the script for an imaginary installment in which they explain the pleasures of making the series and the trials, notably trying to make a series which is visually interesting whilst working within YouTube's restrictive copyright robots.

They explain that various freelance projects and other work has meant they simply don't have the time to conceive, edit, research or produce good work and so they've decided that actually they've produced an excellent body of work, that nothing lasts forever and nor should it and it's time to get on with their lives.  With over a million views for most videos, the channels passing hasn't gone unnoticed.

Which has inspired me to come clean about Review 2017, both to you and myself.  There will be no Review 2017.  For the first time since 2003, this blog will not have an end of year review, at least not the expansive, collaborative endeavour which I know some of you have looked forward to year on year.  None.  The Opinion Engine has finally run down.

It's for much the same reason as the EFAP people.  I haven't had the time to think of a theme, let alone begin the admin process of putting out invites for potential contributors or simply throwing something together myself.  I've been busy with work and more interested in relaxing in the spaces between, watching a few films, that sort of thing, than spending much more time in front of a computer.

I did try to do something with the 642 project, bringing in elements of this year into the pieces, but given that I'm also giving that stupid nonsense the push due to the increasing esoteric and non-PC suggestions (and general sense of it becoming a trial rather than a fun diversion), that wasn't going to work.  Plus half hearted.  A stop gap.  A hope that something will come good.  Nothing ever does under those circumstances.

A rerun of the 2016 positivity list was considered, but let's face it 2017 has been rough, the fire to last year's frying pan and even if 2018, fingers crossed, will be the corrective, many of us are just exhausted by the whole business.  Some nice things have happened (Hey Jodie!) but mainly its been a like trudging through British Home Stores half an hour before it closing forever still unable to find anything to buy.

Perhaps I'll knock together a listicle of cultural things I've liked in the week between Christmas and New Year, but since that will actually be about 2017 which has rarely been the point of these reviews, it'll be little more than a placeholder.  So enjoy the Christmas Links instead as my way of marking the closing of the year and we'll see what happens in 2018.

Christmas Links #4

Have Yourself a Very '70s Christmas Dinner:
"Succulent golden turkey enveloped in aspic, the finest of brussels sprouts shaped in a mold, more of the finest brussels sprouts scattered on a rigid bed of noodles, and the creamiest of cheese sauces, a rich, creamy blue-cheese mousse, and a snowman cake that would scare even the toughest of your aunts. Such are the dishes that Christmas dreams are made of."

Tofu turkey with all the trimmings? Britain carves out a meat-free Christmas
"Forget about the Christmas nut roast – those who don’t eat meat are going to be spoilt for choice on 25 December as Britain’s supermarkets roll out their biggest range of festive vegan and vegetarian food to date."

How Dickens's A Christmas Carol was almost called something else:
"You might not know this but A Christmas Carol almost didn't get published and was almost called something else..."

London's Christmas Fairs:
"If Christmas shopping is getting you down, why not spend your money at a holly-bedecked plywood chalet instead? London has several festive market clusters, so I've been to six, ensuring that my Scroogier readers don't have to."

Dreading Christmas with the inlaws. Help me make sense of my situation:
"I am chronically ill in a mixed-race relationship. My in laws are nice enough, but boss me around a bit regarding my illness and in general are purveyors of outdated simplistic notions of people from developing countries."

The Best Movies That Are Kind Of About Christmas:

"You find yourself at a party where everyone is talking about favorite Christmas movies. Sure, you could say “Elf,” which you know in the deep ventricles of your cold and bitter heart is an uplifting film that inspires you annually. But instead, you go for the classic: “Oh, my favorite Christmas movie is ‘Die Hard.’”"

You are being held at gunpoint, and your assailant says you have 10 seconds to make him/her change their mind about shooting you. What do you say?

642 "I know you want to test what you said during the election campaign but do you really think all of your supporters would remain on-board? Also given the jurisdiction I can't imagine that you wouldn't be arrested no matter what office you hold."

Christmas Links #3

A New Jersey Mall Built an Amazing A Christmas Story Display for Santa Photos:
"When you’re around 10 years old, you do everything you possibly can to avoid the Santa Claus display at your local mall. But not if you live in Cherry Hill, NJ, because the mall there built a Santa display that’s a perfect miniature replica of Ralphie Parker’s house from A Christmas Story—leg lamp and all."

Santa's on his way: Tate Britain goes all flash with Christmas display:
"When reindeer start flashing and galloping across suburbia it can provoke bouts of furious competitive lighting. It remains to be seen whether MI6, just across the Thames in London, will break out in a blizzard of snowflakes and sleigh bells once the spooks see what Tate Britain has done."

I Tried A Diet Without Sugar, Gluten, And Dairy For Three Months:

"Hi, I'm Michelle! I just turned 40 last month and run operations at BuzzFeed. I'm a competitive athlete and eat healthily, besides a weakness for cookies."

Family says huge Christmas display may end after complaints:
"The Connecticut Post reports the Halliwell family's huge decorative display in Fairfield drew about 30,000 visitors last holiday season, not counting those who drove by without stopping. The Halliwells have been putting up the display for 18 years.."

President Kennedy Discusses Peace at 1962 Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony:

"Only a couple months after Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy discusses Peace on Earth."

The woman/man across from you at a cafe or cubicle: What did she or he dream last night?

642 A large bang wakes me up and I glance over at my phone and I realise I forgot to set the alarm and I'm running late for work.

I rush through the toilet, bathroom and kitchen not really having time for a cup of tea and some toast but eating them anyway.

Then run out of the house into the street, except it isn't my street, it's a street which I sometimes have in my dreams which is a mix of things I must have seen on television or lived in at university.

As I get to the bus stop the bus is driving away.

It's then I realise I'm feeling a bit cold and that as is so often the case in my dreams I'm completely naked and everyone is looking at me.

I try to use my limbs to try and cover myself up and start running back towards home but it's not there any more.

I run to the next street and then the next but my house isn't there.

So I decide to run towards work, but the street gives way to a city I don't recognise.

I see another bus, but again I can't get on.

Then I hear the sound of a horse slowing down next to me and looking up see Gal Gadot smiling at me.

But it's not the actress, it's actually Wonder Woman from the film.

"I have you" she says and puts her arm out towards me smiling.

I grab her hand and she pulls me onto the back of the horse behind her and I tightly  hold of her waist with both hands and we're off galloping through the streets between cars, and it's a wide boulevard like you'd find in a large city but the streets are empty. 

Then there's another loud noise and the "scene" changes and I'm standing in a muddy battlefield.

I hear gunshots and I start to run forward with a shield in hand and I'm not just with Wonder Woman now, I am Wonder Woman in the scene from the film, being showered in a hail of bullets determined to get to the other side.

I can't tell if I look like her, but I feel powerful and I have her armour and boots on.

I run and run and run and eventually reach the other trench, but its not filled with Germans but the people I work with and they're all looking at me because I'm naked again and that's when my alarm woke me up.

Christmas Links #2

Why The Apartment is the greatest Christmas film of all time:
"The Apartment is the perfect Christmas film. Not Christmas as we'd like it to be – roaring fires, jingle bells, snow – but Christmas as it is in reality. Sometimes joyful, sometimes mundane, sometimes lonely. The holiday season has always offered introspection: we hope for a moment of thankfulness, but life in its strange cruelty can, for some, feel like the knife is only being dug deeper, as hard as we may try to stifle the prospect."

Geeks Vs Loneliness: counting Christmas blessings:
"Cards on the table - I’m a Bah Humbug kind of person. Christmas comes but once a year for which I am thankful. This year it appears to be having a four month gestation period. The slush factor kicks in right about the time The X Factor raises its many hydra-ed head. And with it comes the ants of anxiety."

‘Last Christmas’ is the greatest Christmas song, so I made a 25-minute long version:
"No matter how much fun Christmas Day is this year, it will be a day tinged with sadness, for it will mark the first anniversary of the death of George Michael."

Deck the Halls with Vince Guaraldi:
"It’s that time of year. Most holiday Muzak seems to do little more than contaminate the air, but Vince Guaraldi’s contribution remains comparatively fresh. The four best tracks from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” are in steady rotation. Guaraldi’s cover of “O Tannenbaum” is simple and “jazzy”; the slightly bland “Skating” offers rolling thirds in waltz time; “Christmas Time Is Here” is an excellent song given extra character by a children’s chorus. This is all good enough music, but there’s no doubt that the headliner is one of the most famous piano pieces of all time, “Linus and Lucy.”"

Santa’s Grotto for Dogs returns to Norwich this Christmas:
"Calling all dog owners! Here’s your chance to get your pet well and truly into the festive spirit this winter."

Derby cordoned-off Christmas tree 'an embarrassment':
"A large cordon placed around a city's Christmas tree for "public safety" has been criticised for looking "horrible"."

Derby Christmas tree 'exclusion zone' was 'over cautious', council says:
"A council has admitted it was "over cautious" when it installed a widely-ridiculed cordon around a Christmas tree for public safety."