Christmas Links #8

Fake Elf News: The Goofy Game Everyone Thought Was Spyware:
"How Elf Bowling, the incredibly popular viral game from 1999, gained an unfounded, false reputation as a piece of malware and spyware."

'A Christmas Story': 35 reasons why we still love the holiday classic, 35 years later:
"Get out your ridiculous pink bunny onesies: Nov. 18 marks 35 years since "A Christmas Story" premiered in theaters. To help celebrate, we've done something that should earn a major award: We've rounded up 35 reasons why the holiday film about a boy who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas is still worth watching."

14 Queer Christmas anthems to fill you with festive cheer:
"Christmas time is QUEER! Glitter, tinsels, fairies: could there BE a queerer time of the year?!"

Turkey reprieve: one in 12 dream of meat-free Christmas dinner:
"UK supermarkets expand their vegan and vegetarian ranges as flexitarian trend grows."

Moose Accidentally Rings Doorbell With Butt:
"Like me in an Anthropologie, not realizing the dimensions of my own posterior and therefore backing into a large display full of felt Christmas ornaments, a moose was recently caught on TV accidentally ringing a doorbell with his butt in Anchorage, Alaska."

'Anna And The Apocalypse': The Scottish Zombie Christmas High School Musical:
"Anna and the Apocalypse is a [checks notes] Scottish zombie Christmas high school musical."

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Final Kensington Palace Christmas Tree Has Been Unveiled:
"This is the last holiday season the royals will spend in Nottingham Cottage."

Hundreds of Santas descend on London for a good Claus:
"You wait all year for Santa, and then hundreds come all at once."

Christmas Links #7

How To Decorate For Christmas If You Don't Have Space For A Tree:
"Put out your lights and ornaments without having to drag in a Christmas tree."

A ranking of 100 — yes, 100 — Christmas songs:
"I am so tired."

Mariah Carey’s Christmas Album Is the Only Thing That Will Never Suck:
"Some people say life is short, but actually, life is long."

The Netflix Christmas Movie Cinematic Universe Is Here:
"With A Christmas Prince, The Princess Switch, and The Holiday Calendar, Netflix is coming for all your holiday comfort viewing."

How drunk can you get on Christmas food? I breathalysed myself to find out:
"A recent report claims certain seasonal scran can push consumers over the drink-driving limit. But which food? And how drunk are we talking? One writer sacrifices an afternoon to find out."

Watch Lost 1973 Elton John Performance of ‘Step Into Christmas’:
"Elton John was at the absolute pinnacle of his fame when he appeared on the Gilbert O’Sullivan Show in late 1973 to perform his new holiday song “Step Into Christmas.” The clip was placed into the ITV archives after the initial airing and presumed lost forever, but it was recently discovered and is available to watch above."

Why my kids aren't getting toys for Christmas:
"We take Christmas very seriously at our house. So seriously that we put up no decorations until late on Dec. 24 and leave everything in place until after Candlemas on Feb. 2."

Sweary Doctor Who and other classic BBC bloopers to air this Christmas:
"Tom Baker, Judi Dench and Noel Edmonds will all needs their mouths washed out with soap."

Christmas Links #6

Christmas Dinner Rocketed To International Space Station:
"Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the tradition dinner, even in space."

Shock CCTV shows disturbing footage of drunk passengers falling off platforms:
"Network Rail has released the video to warn against excessive drinking this Christmas."

For disabled children in poverty, this Christmas is straight out of Dickens:
"Thanks to government austerity, 40% of disabled children are now so poor that they’re going without presents."

The cost of real Christmas trees is on the rise — thanks to millennials:
"As supply is down and demand is up, Christmas trees are becoming more expensive."

Tyler Perry pays off more than $430,000 in layaways ahead of Christmas:
"Tyler Perry is spreading holiday cheer in his city of Atlanta."

Making your own distinctive gifts for Christmas – archive, 1922:
"Most women when choosing a present would prefer to give something distinctive but are deterred by the knowledge of their own slender purses and the fact that originality invariably commands a steep price."

It being December, hundreds of thousands of words are being written to encourage us to enjoy the festive season by spending money:
"A lot of these words are febrile brandspeak, a lot of the phrasing is teeth-grinding hyperbole and a lot of featured claims are deliberately over-egged. But sometimes the author goes one step too far, assumes too much about their audience and shamelessly lies. [...]Here are 20 excessively presumptuous examples published in the last week, taken from London-based websites which publicise events and experiences. Most of the examples aren't from the website you're thinking of, before you jump to any conclusions."

Teaching my sons this Christmas that home isn’t just a place you visit. It’s a feeling.
"White lights, in yellowing plastic candle stands, will be taped to window sills. Jingle bells hung from the back of the front doorknob, too ugly to display but too festive to leave in a box, will welcome guests. The tree will be fatter than it is tall. Carefully preserved Mr. and Mrs. Claus ornaments will perch on the uppermost branches, their jolly faces adding warmth to the evergreen needles. The living room will feel dark and it will be hot. It’s always hot at my parents' house on Christmas Eve. Everyone crowds in the living room because there really isn’t anywhere else to go. (Except downstairs, but the kids will have taken over, and none of the adults will join them for fear of missing something.)"

Christmas Links #5

6 simple ways to have a more eco-friendly Christmas:
"From DIY tree decorations to opting for reusable gift wrap, small changes should be part of your festive planning this year."

24 facts about Christmas in the Tudor period:
"Count down to Christmas with our Tudor advent calendar! Every day until Christmas Eve, Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke will be revealing one fact about Christmas in the Tudor period."

Save Money on Your Christmas Tree by Asking for a Dud:
"Christmas trees are wonderful and cozy and festive, but they’re also damn expensive, at a time of year when most of us are already struggling not to blow our budgets."

20 Things All Early-’00s Teens Desperately Wanted For Christmas:
"Back when all you wanted Santa to bring you was a boombox that played burned CDs."

Best Christmas ever with over 100 BBC iPlayer box sets:
"BBC iPlayer has presents for everyone this Christmas, with a cracking selection of new shows and more than 100 box sets available at the click of a button."

40 years later: One couple’s Christmas tree grows from 6 foot to 52 feet becoming a tourist attraction:
"One couple’s Christmas tree in Worcestershire is a little bit special."

Van Driver Takes Driving Home For Christmas To A Whole New Level, With Giant Tree On The Roof:
"Don't try this at home."

Stop Ruining Your Christmas Cookies! Follow These Tips to Better Baking:
"Here are a few pointers on making the perfect cookies this holiday season."

How to survive Christmas with your family: LGBT style:
"How do you stay relaxed with your loved ones over Christmas?"

Satanic Sculpture Installed At Illinois Statehouse, Just In Time For The Holidays:
"In the Illinois Capitol rotunda this month, several traditions are being celebrated. There's a Nativity scene for Christmas, a menorah for Hanukkah, and then something a little different: an arm holding an apple, with a snake coiled around it."

Taste test: With more of us than ever reaching into our freezer for Christmas dinner, we try out a selection of supermarket frozen options:
"THERE are so many options for Christmas dinner in supermarkets’ frozen aisles."

12 Christmas Movies That Completely Flopped (And 13 That Were Massive Hits):
"Every December, millions of families around the country like to sit down and watch a Christmas movie. It's a way of spending time together, while also doing something to get into the mood of the season. For many, heading out to the cinema on Christmas itself is an annual tradition. December 25th is actually one of the biggest movie-going days of the year, believe it or not. There are, of course, also dozens of holiday films available on DVD and Blu-ray. Some cable channels even run 24-hour marathons."

Yorkshire school that 'cancelled Christmas' reinstates it after hundreds of letters:
"Lady Lumley’s school told students the festive season had become ‘commercialised’."

Christmas Links #4

Dean Cain’s Christmas movies: an (almost) definitive guide:
"One-time Superman Dean Cain has made lots of Christmas movies, mainly with dogs in them..."

Jess Glynne, Rita Ora, Clean Bandit and George Ezra revealed as part of Top Of The Pops Christmas and New Year specials:
"Top of the Pops - the biggest pop party on TV - announced the line-up for the two Christmas Day and New Year’s specials hitting BBC One screens this festive period, hosted by Fearne Cotton and BBC Radio 1’s Clara Amfo."

How to choose the best Christmas tree:
"A Brooklyn Christmas tree salesman shares his tips and tricks for selecting the best one on the lot."

Vintage 1930s Woolworths Christmas tree auctioned:
"One of the first mass-produced Christmas trees will be auctioned after staying in one family for 80 years."

'Most festive pub' in UK displays 97 Christmas trees, 21,500 holiday lights on its 3-story facade:
"The Churchill Arms' 3-story display of nearly 100 trees and more than 21,500 Christmas lights in London has earned it the title of "most festive pub" in the United Kingdom."

Rebels with a cause (Percelle Ascott & Mandip Gill):
"We are helping to raise money and awareness for Shelter because the work they do to help those in need is amazing."

Christmas Links #3

John Lewis: Christmas comes a week early as advent calendar sold at store gets days horribly wrong:
"Customers who opened the 2 December door today were surprised to be told that the Big Day was not in fact on the 25th, but on the 18th."

Should we stop listening to these Christmas songs?
"Baby, It's Cold Outside is one of those Christmas songs that's about as traditional as mince pies."

Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' is the best modern Christmas song:
"Maybe she's a “diva,” but Mariah Carey is also truly excellent at capturing sentiment in song."

Unwrapping new Christmas music:
"From Blues, to Pop to a music power couple, there is a bounty of new Christmas music to make the season festive."

Laura Dern, Issa Rae to Star in HBO Series About Cabbage Patch Doll Riots:
"Issa Rae (Insecure) and Laura Dern (Big Little Lies) will executive-produce and star in an HBO limited series based on real-life riots that started when there weren’t enough Cabbage Patch Kids dolls to go around, our sister site Deadline reports."

In Praise of ‘Krampus’: Celebrating the Pinnacle Anti-Christmas Film:
"Michael Dougherty’s descent into the Christmas season, Krampus, opens with a particularly potent scene that mines an array of familiar feelings we’ve all become accustomed to experiencing during the holidays: ennui, anxiety, rage and, most importantly, utter dread. During a slo-mo shot, a mob of blood-thirsty holiday shoppers take over a department store to the tune of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” while mouths foam and fists fly. It’s an important sequence that sets up the entire message of the fittingly horror film — that Christmas is a horror show all by itself, and that no matter what, we will never, ever, be able to escape it."

The 12 midi dresses of Christmas:
"From the office do to Boxing Day drinks, there’s a midi for that ..."

Two Minneapolis police officers on leave after Christmas tree decorations deemed 'racist':
"The tree was ornamented with Flamin' Hot Funyuns, a pack of Newport cigarettes, a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen drink cup and police tape."

19 Christmas DIY Projects That Are Both Easy And Adorable:
"'Tis the season to get crafty."

It Takes You Away.

TV "Zagreus sits inside your head. Zagreus lives among the dead. Zagreus sees you in your bed. And eats you when you're sleeping." I don't know about you but those are the words which flickered through my head on hearing the Doctor talk about her grandma's fairy tale about the Scaramucci or whatever it was called (Jodie seemed to have great fun wrapping her chops around whatever was written in the script).  For the casuals, Zagreus turned up the second season of Big Finish Eighth Doctor stories, a result of the Time Lord absorbing a shed load of anti-time and becoming the epitome of a Gallifreyan bogeyman.  Eventually he trapped himself in a divergent dimension without causality in order to protect the Whoniverse.  He then spent a couple of years oscillating between fairly standard adventures and the kind of surreal whimsy the actual television show broadcast tonight.  Some of it was quite good.

For a few brief moments, It Takes You Away seemed like it was going to become a full blown homage to that controversial story arc to the point that the Kro'ka and Rassilon might turn up attempting to use the portal to go home (sorry casuals), but instead it's more clearly influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky, most notably his adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, and Jean Cocteau's Orphee which has previous having been a key source for Stephen Gallagher when writing Warrior's Gate (along with La Belle et La Bette).  Like Solaris (see also the Soderbergh remake), our travelers are enticed into remaining in the alt.verse by convincing recreations of the recently deceased.  Like Orphee, a mirror is the means of entering the alternative dimension in which those loved ones reside.  Not sure about the significance of the moths (The Duke of Burgandy?) but the big red torch could be a reference to Lamorisse's The Red Balloon.

Good evening.  As you can see I'm back.  There will be a review of The Witchfinders during my shiny disc rewatch (although every episode now seems to have been set for permanent residency on the iPlayer so ... shrug.gif ... might be sooner) but I'm in much more comfortable territory with an episode about mirror universes and small rubber frogs as the big bad.  If the shot of Dogbolter's cousin raising its tiny hand to banish the Doctor from its solopsistic matrix isn't the image of the series, then I still haven't read enough Paul Magrs novels (which is actually true, I still haven't experienced Verdigris).  But yes, it's the second of December, BBC One have already adopted their Christmas idents and I'm feeling much more chipper.  Much chipperer.  Chipperly?  Positively peart.  Anyway, the early broadcast means I might be able to finish this at a reasonable hour so I'd best get on.

This season continues its geographic diversity with a trip to Norway.  Not having seen much Scandi-noir outside Forbrydelsen or Män som hatar kvinnor, I don't know the extent to which director Jamie Childs replicates the mis-en-scene of those shows, but it certainly feels authentic with its blue washed colour timing and simple camera movements.  Both actors Christian Rubeck and Lisa Stocke are both Norwegian and appeared in the types of shows imported by BBC Four for a Saturday night broadcast.  Perhaps more interesting is Stocke, who looks under-utilised when we discover she's a graduate of LIPA, was in the original cast of Mamma Mia, the voice of Elsa in the Norgwegian dub of Frozen and has been a contestant on 4-stjerners middag (Four Star Meal), the local version of Come Dine With Me, which ditches members of the public in favour of celebrities.  Cue showreel.  Since it is nearly Christmas, here she is singing The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth as part of a charity campaign:

I'd be "drite seg ut" if I didn't note that this isn't the first occasion the revival has visited Norway's lovely crinkly edges, with the anomaly that allowed Tenth and Rose to interface located at Dårlig Ulv Stranden, fifty miles out from Bergen in Pete's World.  Perhaps that's also the source of the interface between these worlds, the walls between different realities especially thin across the fjords.  You can imagine in about five years Big Finish'll produce a boxed set which ties both of these stories together, along with the shaft in Torchwood's Miracle Day and it'll all be revealed to be a result of Kermit's plastic pen friend.  I joke, but honestly however much truthiness Jennifer Saunders offered on Have I Got News For You ("Actually, Doctor Who will probably be busy delivering its lecture on colonialism and the collapse of the British Empire. Probably worth missing that."), there's always a tiny metal munching alien or a universe sized consciousness which manifests itself as an amphibian in the next episode.

This is still Doctor Who, through and through.  Ed Hime's script is even structured like an old two parter.  Pause the iPlayer version at twenty odd minutes and we find the potent reveal of Erik's wife, which while not life threatening for the Doctor etc, would be a potent choice at Big Finish.  Plus Jodie's now entirely comfortable in the character's skin and the writers and director are unafraid to play up her eccentricities.  Only the Doctor would be more interested in chewing dirt than taking in the view.  Where once the Doctor was a mad man in a box, now she's just a nutter.  They've also gained confidence in allowing her to carrying a two hander, something rare in this iteration, and there are shades of Eleventh in The Rings of Arkanoid as she faces the Solitract and offers her history as a trade to save others.  But whereas she was then all fire and fury, now she confronts Fredo with peace and compassion.

Speaking of which, as Doctor Who itself has illustrated in the past, the return of a deceased spouse can lead to potent, emotional choices.  But unlike Pete Tyler and Danny Pink, here Grace is a manifestation of Graham's memory, a near idealised version of her, someone who is everything he remembers her being which is an incredibly cruel choice for the antagonist.  Bradley is incredibly strong in these scenes, his face wretched, underplaying the re-surfacing of his grief and fighting his want to believe.  Sharon D Clarke also makes the important choice of making the distinction to make the recreation of his wife colourless, motion going, presenting just enough personality to draw Graham in, but not so much that audience doesn't dismiss its own cynicism, underscores by the Doctor, about these sirens of time.

Ed Hime's another interesting choice as a writer.  Chibbers has largely ignored the choice in previous administrations of selecting showrunners from other dramas to write scripts, preferring those with perhaps less experience of television and/or perhaps more used to working in a writer's room.  According to his agency website, his only previous TV experience is a couple of episodes from latter day Skins, his other credits mainly found in radio drama and theatre.  If he's a fan, and there's enough in here to suggest he is, it's amazing the audio drama wing of the franchise haven't snapped him up already.  When and if there is a new series, will Chibbers retain these writers or give others a chance?  We're not quite back to the eighties approach of commissioning writers with little to no experience of television, but it is still gratifying that we're looking beyond other successful series to keep the narrative engine running.

In previous years, the penultimate episode was often the tipping point into the finale's hi-jinks so it really is quite odd that we go in there with little or no idea about what to expect.  My guess is it'll be like last stories of yore in none regeneration years in which we have an epic story without much in the way of lasting consequences - we know that the whole TARDIS team survives in time for the festive special.  But I still have a nagging suspicion Chibbers will pull a fast one and it'll be revealed that there has been a story arc running right through the year hidden in plain sight, the Room 237 nature of which will blow our minds.  Something related to most of the villains surviving the episodes, the TARDIS being a bit skittish about were it deposits her passengers or something the Doctor hasn't been saying in order to keep her friends safe.  Either way, ten episodes might be the perfect number for a Netflix MARVEL series but it's not been enough for this season of Doctor Who.

Christmas Links #2

The Box Of Delights (Original Television Soundtrack) Roger Limb and The BBC Radiophonic Workshop:
"Included on this CD release is the delightful original theme, Victor Hely-Hutchinson's Carol Symphony: Andante quasi lento e cantabile performed by the Pro Arte Orchestra."

How to make your last name plural this Christmas season:
"Nothing quells my Christmas cheer as quickly as a stray apostrophe. Every year they assault me."

Movie Advent #1: ‘The Apartment’:
"‘Y’see, I have this little problem with my apartment …’ With these words, CC ‘Bud’ Baxter, played with ineffable charm by Jack Lemmon, introduces the setup of one of the bleakest, and somehow funniest, of all festive films. It’s a concept borrowed from another film, a famous weepie. When director Billy Wilder saw David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945), the borrowed flat where the lovers meet caught his eye, and his imagination. ‘What about the poor schnook who has to crawl into the still-warm bed of the lovers?’ he scribbled in his notebook. CC is that ‘poor schnook’ and The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960) is a film that emphasises the value of home, family, love and marriage – all suitable themes for the festive season – by depicting their absence. That’s why it’s essential viewing, Christmas-wise."

Watch out, Santa! I’m ready for the annual Hanukah v Christmas faith-off:
"It’s hard to convince your kids to care about Jewish holidays when their other parent is opening advent calendars."

Caught Our Eyes: Tapping Out a Giant Message:
"In the era before the development of social media, how did you get a big message across? Type it out on a giant typewriter!"

At last, a partner for the Snowman who has melted hearts for 40 years:
"Illustrators including Quentin Blake and Shirley Hughes celebrate the Raymond Briggs Christmas classic – and one adds a touch of romance."

17 Kiddos From Your Favorite Christmas Movies And What They Look Like Now: