Predictions 2019.

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:

Trump doesn't complete the year as President.

No. Zero marks.

Brexit cancelled.

No, very much not. Zero marks.

The BBC launches a pay monthly archival streaming service in the UK.

Does Britbox count? Maybe? On Boxing Day it uploaded all of surviving Doctor Who from the sometimes classic era, so I guess? One mark.

Arriva Click expands.

Technically?  Although it's still only in South Liverpool and one other place, Leicester at the moment, they've been adding dozens of buses.  I'm giving myself this half.

I'll lose a couple of stone in weight.

Sadly not. Indeed since my hernia operation I've put a couple of pounds on. Zero marks.

1 and half out of 5. Which is about average. I'm staying out of politics.

Right then. Come at me 2020 if you dare.

The Sugababes releases a whole new album.

A commercial technology is developed to algorithmically convert standard definition material to high definition quality.

The Doctor Who Omnirumour turns out to be true, almost all episodes returned.

Piers Morgan sacked.

The Arden Shakespeare Series Three publishes Arden of Faversham.

Review 2010s:

Life  Here are ten items I could quite manage to fit anywhere else, some websites, video channels and other web adjacent real world things which have proved invaluable over the past ten years.  It's not exhaustive and at least one entry is here just because it's cool and has a philosophical resonance.  Some housekeeping while I'm here to fill up the rest of the paragraph.  Tomorrow's entry will be the usual dumpster fire that is my annual predictions and then it'll be back on the Doctor Who review treadmill.  I had planned to finally knock out eight paragraphs about The Witchfinders but life has intervened.  Some time next year hopefully.  Anyway, on with the show.

Bob Dylan - Like A Rolling Stone Interactive Video.

Uploaded to publicise the release of a big boxset of Dylan's albums, we're presented with dozens of television channels and programmes in various genres in which every participant is miming Dylan's song.  But amazingly, there are no loops.  Every single stream covers the song from start to finish often in quite sophisticated ways, and sometimes through existing shows like The Price is Right or Marc Maron's sitcom, so it's possible to spend hours on the site just watching your way through everything.  I just wish there was a way to choose a particular stream from the off.  Who knows what we're missing in the opening moments [link].

Cinema Paradiso.

When Amazon closed their flavour of Lovefilm in 2017, I was bereft.  Thank god for Cinema Paradiso which opened at roughly the same time it turned out was the better service all along.  Carrying, it would appear, almost every dvd released in this country, this has been a fantastic replacement with even Network's catalogue having recently been added.  Most weeks I'll get the newest films on the day of release and if it wasn't for their original releases and distribution, I would have cancelled Netflix in favour of it ages ago.  Now here's the inevitable link to their referral programme with its one month of free dvds.


My first encounter with the Haim sisters was during the BBC's coverage of Glastonbury 2014, which was about the time I finally had access to unlimited broadband so went mad watching every stream.  Their half hour set was fascinating enough for me to head straight to Spotify and listen to the whole album and that's pretty much were my musical taste disappeared off to for the next five years.  Bits of that set are still nefariously available on YouTube along with bits of their set from a year earlier and I can relive the experience.  What is she doing with her mouth?  Why is the sound quality so dull?  Why is she so off key?  Yet why am I enjoying this so much? [official website]

Arriva Click.

As I discovered earlier in the year, Liverpool Royal Hospital is a geographically difficult place to visit from home or indeed anywhere if you're using public transport especially if you're visiting with relatives who aren't so hot on their feet any more.  Yes, taxis, but they can prove expensive.  Which is why the Arrive Click service was so invaluable, taking us from door to door via an app at a fraction of the cost.  They're also immensely wheelchair accessible and the drivers are all incredibly friendly no matter the long hours they must work.  Yes, I have a code for that too.  Install the app and enter stuart3e6 in the obvious place.  We both get £7.50 credit for the trouble.

Zinc Tablets

On the list of things which happened to me this decade was contracting oral lichen planus, which when spoken sounds like an incantation from the Underworld movies, but is actually a tongue and gum inflammation which causes white rashes all over the place and a 1 in 1000 chance in ten years of developing mouth cancer. It's caused by a genetic disorder around some white blood cells and described to me as my immune system being at war with itself. One of the side effects can be a zinc deficiency so every morning I have to take zinc tablets to paper over the gaps.

Which has had interesting side effect. Touching wood as I type this, I haven't been sick since I began taking them. For years I've been felled by colds and man flu for days and weeks but recently even when all around are contracting theirs and blaming it on me, I've steered clear. This is apparently not a coincidence. It can be a "cure" for cold if taken early enough. If I do feel a bit run down, it barely lasts an hour or two and I'm all ok.  So I've learnt that zinc tablets are an excellent way of keeping disease at bay.

Radio Garden.

Radio Garden is magic.  It's a way of accessing thousands of internet radio streams across the world through a graphical representation of the Earth.  Hover over an old holiday destination or a city you're curious about and all of the local services roll out before you.  Twenty seven pages worth in New York, fifty-one in Paris.  Originally created to coincide with an exhibition at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and recently turned into a company by one of its developers Jonathan Puckey, long may it continue [listen here].

Box of Broadcasts.

Yes, again.  But this is one of the best websites around.  Available to anyone with an academic log-in who's institution has subscribed (which is most of them), Box of Broadcasts is a massive streaming database of everything broadcast on terrestrial television and radio since about 2006, all the films, comedy, drama, documentaries, everything.  Added to that is a range of archival stuff requested for upload by staff and students, as well as anything the BBC's broadcast about Shakespeare, productions and the like.  For academic purposes only of course, but we're all learning about everything, all the time, aren't we? [visit]

Dirty Feed.

Begun on the January 1st 2010, John Hoare's blog has found a niche as the place to go for the miscellaneous detail of pop culture, most often 80s BBC sitcoms, such things as highlighting the differences between broadcast and video release versions of Hi-Di-Hi or most recently how the Doctor at Large series provided John Cleese with a testing ground for ideas which would eventually end up in the DNA of Fawlty Towers.  One masterwork is this biographical piece about working as the TX at Channel 5 over a twenty-four hour period which really sheds light on the numerous errors and problems which can occur on any television channel [visit].

The Internet Archive.

Did I say these were all going to be websites you'd never heard of?  But more than any other resource, the Internet Archive continues to be a force for good despite its dubious interpretation of copyright laws.  Whole runs of defunct favourite magazines of the past like Zzap! 64 and Smash Hits, abandoned software runnable in the browser and other dead media like this VHS vault.  Look at this beautiful 1907 volume about Liverpool or biography of Shakespeare by Sir Walter Raleigh.  This collective effort to preserve our cultural history must be protected.

All The Stations.

Bit of a late entry but also proof that sometimes YouTube's algorithms are a good thing.  In 2017, Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe spent the summer visiting all of the Network Rail stations across Great Britain, funded by Kickstarter and producing four or five videos a week about the trip.  In October this year, I binged the lot, watching them travel the length and breadth of the country and showing that the railways are one of our most important resources and need to be protected and expanded.  Informative, funny and often poignant, this is top-end comfort viewing thanks to Vicki and Geoff's genial company and a general sense that so long as we can get around, it'll be all right in the end [visit].

Review 2010s:

Books As you know I'm not much of a reader thanks to the sheer effort it takes me to get through even a single chapter. But every year I try and so have been able to cobble together a list of ten books so as not to break the format of these decadal review posts, although I haven't managed to pin them down to a book per year so the middle of the 2010s is pretty fallow.  There are numerous older classics which I got around to this decade but here are a few items which were actually published in the past ten years [along with links as to somewhere you can buy the relevant volume].

Liverpool: Walks Through History by David Lewis

Originally published in 2004, this newer edition seemed to have few revisions which only made it more fascinating as I worked my way through its various strolls through the city as I compared the text to the new post-2008 actualities.    But as a wise local once said, "the more the world is changing, the more it stays the same."  Most of us townies probably don't know as much about the city's history as we think we do, and there were few richer experiences than walking the pathways of the old Overhead Railway [buy].

Different for Girls: A girl's own true-life adventures in pop by Louise Wener

Incredibly frank and hilarious window into the Brit Pop era from arguably one of its most undervalued proponents.  Except Wener is brutally honest about the bands limitations and why Sleeper never did manage to reach the heights of Oasis and Blur (although arguably this had as much to do with sexism within the industry as the actual quality of the records).  If you're in the mood for  "a think piece about a mid-level band struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom", this is it [buy].

Off The Telly: The Best Bits of the British TV Website 1999-2009

Seems only fair to include at least one survey of the previous decade here.  The web of the noughties feels like a very different place and here's a time capsule of the kinds of television writing which happened in the period before YouTube became the main outlet for amateur reviews.  Most of the people featured here have gone on to work for professional publications.  God, I miss writing for these guys and I've entirely forgiven the editors for no including any of my writing between these pages.  It's all archived on this blog anyway [buy].

Touched by an Angel by Jonathan Morris

Given the amount of Doctor Who I've watched, read and heard this decade, it seems unfair to keep harping on about this single story but very little of that material has had the kind of visceral effect that listening to the audiobook version of Morris's book had on me back in 2011.  It's one of those occasions when a spin-off novel transcends its form and deserves to be considered alongside the so-called more important works of the decade.  Even if reading Who novels isn't usually your sort of thing, if think you'll enjoy the Louise Wener book, you'll probably like this too [via].

The Art Museum

Although my monthly visits to London have scratched my itch for see world class masterpieces of the kind which rarely reach Liverpool, it's still a huge proposition to see some of the world's treasures and although you simply can't replace the experience of seeing a painting with a photograph and a small one at that, it's nevertheless still hugely bracing to be able to compare and contrast objects from across the world in numerous venues all on one page [via].

Scala Cinema, 1978-1993 by Jane Giles

On the face of it, this is just a working history of a repertory cinema, a record of the films it presented in its multiple venues through reproductions of its monthly fliers, of most interest to those who spent that decade and a half within its walls.  But it's also a record of a time lost, when the only way to see these films was on the big screen and sometimes through a print which was barely holding itself together as it passed through a projector.  It's also a cultural history as the Scala offered a haven for people in sub-cultures and lifestyles otherwise shunned by the rest of society [via].

William Shakespeare and Others: Collaborative Plays. Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen

Thanks to computer analysis, the authorship of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries was in even greater flux this decade so that we've finally been able to test whether some of the plays erroneously included in the later editions of the Folio have any elements of his writing within.  This edition's discussion notes offer much detail on who actually authored the likes of Locrine and The London Prodigal and finally ties up whether Arden of Faversham should be included in the canon.  Which it should [via].

The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition: The Complete Works.

This was the other approach, to take a completists view and attempt to construct a hard chronology of Shakespeare's writing, including the plays and fragments of plays that he is agreed to have written in their correct place alongside entries for his lost plays like Cardenio and Love's Labour's Won.  It also faces up to centuries of dogma about who wrote or rather rewrote some of the texts which appeared in the First Folio, a text which yes, preserved many plays which we would have lost but nevertheless had a shoddy approach to representing authorship [via].

Why I'm No Longer Talking About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Growing up, Eddo-Lodge found that much of the teaching about black history was from a US perspective and the much of her book is about righting that oversight and providing a fulsome and detailed of the UK experience across fifty-six pages offering some balance with a tour of the international slave trade, the windrush, the 80s riots and Stephen Lawrence.  The country continues to be in the grip of structural racism with a patronising attitude to criticism because the people making the decisions have really lived the experience [via].

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

A monumental work which has the potential to change cultural consciousness, this is endless paragraphs and chapters of pointing out just how male-centric all aspects of society are, from the health service and research, through the world of work, right through to the devices we hold in our hands.  The author's audiobook reading was minutes of intense listening punctuated by my audible curses as I realised just how blind I'd been to even the toilet problem.  Hopefully by 2030 this will look like a quant artifact of a bygone era.  Right now, it's vital [via].

Review 2010s:

TV  If anything the 2010s were the year when I receded further from watching television as a linear broadcast model to a streaming affair.  Much of my watching, especially in the bottom half of the decade has been through iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime, NowTV and notably YouTube, which thanks to its ability to deliver content covering very specific interests and from abroad makes it unbeatable and addictive.  About the only "live" television I've watched recently has been political, debates and hearings on both sides of the atlantic, through BBC Parliament and C-Span.  That explains why so many of the programmes I've chosen did not necessarily debut through an aerial, cable or satellite dish.

The Virtual Revolution

The decade opened with a series that offered opposing views on the potential for the internet.  Led by Aleks Krotoski. The Virtual Revolution offered great optimism as it traced the history of online culture until that point, revealing the origins of social media and how it had shaped revolutions in the decade before.  The original version of the website include the programme's entire source material, interviews and linking shots so viewers could mash-up their own version.  A year later, Adam Curtis's All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace proposed that on the contrary, amongst many other things, humanity has become a slave to technology and a gestalt content editor.  In truth, as the ensuing decade showed, we've become something in between.

The Hour

Twenty-eleven was a big year for future Doctor Who Romola Garai with The Crimson Petal and White and The Hour putting her at the forefront of the BBC drama, a Golden Globe nomination the result of the latter.  Like Party Animals and the like before it, this was British television attempting to offer something other than the same old tired genres, succeeding brilliantly but not finding enough viewers interested in watching this kind of drama to justify its existence.  At which point the very viewers who failed to watch it then complained about seeing the same old tired genres.  My continuing suspicion is that this would have been perfect for the 9 o'clock drama slot on BBC One.  Writer Abi Morgan has apparently been shopping around a sequel since 2018.  Good luck with that.

The London Olympics

With everything which has happened since, was this the last occasion the nation was united about anything?  Yes, the 2016 Olympics were popular, but a lot of that happened at weird times of the day, whereas the London Games were all in prime time, so much so that the final night's presentation of the swimming contest fell over onto the red button channel.  This was probably the last time I committed myself totally to a live sporting event, somehow contriving to watch all but two of the British gold medals won live and only because those two, Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott in the canoe double and Luke Campbell the boxing bantamweight because they clashed with gold hopes elsewhere.

The Night of the Doctor

Doctor Who's second decade since the revival has had variable fortunes and to be honest not really been able to live up to the peak of the 50th anniversary, for which the Capaldi years often felt like a long hangover from the aftershow party.  But for fans of a wilderness years vintage, nothing will quite match turning to the iPlayer or YouTube at lunch time on the 14th November to be greeted with a new television episode for the Eighth Doctor in which we finally discovered the circumstances of his regeneration and that they didn't lead directly into Rose.  You can see the extent of my subsequent fangasm in the review I spent that afternoon writing (posted here), not quite able to get over the now hilariously out of date Big Finish references (Tamsin but not Liv or Bliss?) (poor Liv and Bliss).

BBC Genome

The project to scan to turn the Radio Times into a massive database containing broadcast details for every BBC channel and programme in the past century seemed like a myth and impossible and yet in 2014 here it was available to the public for the first time.  Initially it just seemed like an excellent way to see easily what was being broadcast at the time of your birth (Nationwide) but has since had a profound effect on how we think about broadcasting, especially in an archive sense, wondering why some shows have become forgotten while others emerge on streaming services over and over again.  Links back to the BBC website, to clips and full programme are also allowing us to see glimpses of that history, beginning fittingly with a talk by The Time Machine author HG WellsSoon to be updated with details since 2009 and a new look that more closely resembles the BBC's old programme pages.

Agent Carter

MARVEL on television was full stream ahead in 2015, with Daredevil on Netflix, another series of Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter which despite a slightly muddled second series, is still one of the best examples of how the recently disbanded MARVEL Television could experiment with formats and tones which the films didn't quite have the confidence to attempt ... yet.  But it was also a victim of the fractured nature of how these series are licenced, with FOX Television on Sky snapping it up when Channel 4 passed, despite it being part of the wider narrative of that year's SHIELD, with a flashback cameo from Hayley Atwell in that series to boot.  Now that MARVEL Studios have taken over the television wing everything will all be in one convenient place.  Plus.


Yes, yes, I know, booorinnng.  But even by 2019 standards, 2016 was a terrible, terrible year and Fleabag was one of the bright spots.  Although the elements weren't completely new - Clandestine Bandersnatch broke the fourth wall just as conspiratorially if more homicidally as The Hollow Crown's Richard III in the same year, Pheobe Waller-Bridge's title character implicated us in her behaviour whilst also drawing us into her tragedy.  Having subsequently read the text of the original play, it's possible to see how skillfully she opened it out to the a full six episodes, adding dimension to supporting characters who were otherwise just voices off stage.

The Good Place

The Good Place is special.  Like All Along The Watch Tower or The Red Wedding, at the close of the its first season it upends the viewers expectations of the kind of show they're watching by apparently throwing out its entire premise.  The effect is rather like if the characters in FRIENDS got to the end of the first season and were seen to wake up in suspended animation chambers and we discovered they were actually on a deep space mission and the sitcom New York we'd been watching was a simulation.  Ross and Rachel were already married, Chandler and Joey were fuck buddies and Phoebe was the Captain.  Or something.  The Good Place should be seen as one of the pinnacles of its form.  God knows how they're framing it in academia.

Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema

The decade opened with The Story of Film: An Odyssey, Mark Cousins's meandering event series covering the history of cinema for Sight and Sound readers which arguably led to the flourish of online film essays from the likes of Every Frame a Painting and Nerdwriter1 making accessible the film studies classes I spent nearly ten grand attending in the mid-noughties.  Imagine my surprise at the close of the 2010s when Kermode pops up providing what amounts to a pretty coherent investigation of different film genres, the topic of my MA dissertation, even if (I don't think) he ever used the words semantic or syntactic.  More episodes coming next year apparently.  Good.

Prince Andrew and the Epstein Scandal: The Newsnight Interview

Watching the recent restoration of Monty Python's Flying Circus reveals how much of the television landscape, which they spent half the series saturising, consisted of lengthy interviews of the kind which most people would expect to find on podcasts now.  But what this special Newsnight (and the various interviews during the election campaign) demonstrated is that with a forensic, well researched interviewer like Emily Maitlis and a fascinating subject, there are still acres of drama in watching two people sat in a room talking.  Andrew did not need to give this interview.  Afterwards he was apparently punching the air due to what he thought was a success.  The time in between was utterly riveting and the best drama on television this year (that isn't Watchmen).

Review 2010s:

Film Boiling a whole decade's worth of film watching to just ten items is a nonsense but let's do it anyway. In the middle of the decade, I posted a weekly non-review of a favourite film in each year across a whole century, but that stopped with the 2014 installment so really the following is about providing some closure to that project, bringing the choices up to date. But unlike most of that other list, I don't really have enough perspective to say that these really are my favourite films of those years and even as I write this introductory paragraph I'm regretting a couple of the choices, but as a barometer of the kinds of films I've enjoyed in the 2010s, this as good as any.


Christopher Nolan has consistently been one of the most interesting directors of the past ten years, but that's true of his entire career.  With Inception he demonstrates, just as the Wachowski sisters did ten years earlier with The Matrix that it's entirely possible to produce a film with all the excitement of a typical summer action blockbuster but with the intelligence and weight and beauty of a Tarkovsky film.  Inception's storytelling structure expects much its audience, running across genres and narrative threads in a way which tests our concentration and imagination.  Arguably there have been numerous films since which have attempted the same trick.  Many of them are in this list.  Both Dunkirk and Interstellar would have been here too if this decade hadn't been overstuff with so many great films.  But there was something about Inception which felt fresh and a harbinger for a really exciting decade to come.

Chalet Girl

Chalet Girl was 2011's secret classic.  I suspected at the time the teenage version of me would have judged it the year’s best.  Well, now I'm forty-five and I'm still saying it was.  It's essentially a British take on the Mary-Kate and Ashley cultural tourism series, but throughout exploding expectations of the genre by making the bitchy blonde rival the best friend, putting the handsome suitor at the epicentre of a discussion on class politics and hiring Bill Bailey to play an emotionally crippled Dad. But the key success is Felicity Jones as the eponymous service worker who uncannily appropriates in her tiny form some of Katherine Hepburn’s verve, timing and just general weirdness, taking full advantage of a script which is drenched in buckets full of cynicism and still able to look just plain cute in a ski coat against the snow. It's just a shame the typically mishandled advertising campaign and critical reaction put everyone else off.

Cabin in the Woods

Does Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's film count considering that it sat on the shelf since the decade before? Well, since most of us didn't get to see it in the meantime, enough time in fact for Chris Hemsworth to play Thor and become a major star, then it probably does. If most of the films in this list share one element, it's that they're endlessly rewatchable because you like spending time with the characters, even the evil science guys due to them being endlessly adorable despite their nefarious aims.  But it also shares the element of trusting the intelligence of the audience by confronting us immediately with what would have been the twist at the first act break in lesser works and balancing the various story elements.  There's an argument for this being the best thing Whedon's written outside of the special episodes of Buffy.


Here's another one.  Gravity also straddles the divide between blockbuster and art film.  Amid the heart stopping action sequences, there are moments of sheer awe as we see our blue bauble home drift by in the background and Bullock's character simply stops and watches with us.  An incredible artistic achievement, almost every scene in Alfonso Cuaron film is computer generated, with moments in which the only organic element is Sandra Bullock or George Clooney's face.  This photorealistic animation would reach its most recent apogee in the remake of The Lion King, but whereas that sapped the emotion from scenes as the animals faces failed to emote in any meaningful way, Cuaron remembers that the best way to bridge the uncanny valley is the give the audience something they can relate to.  Arguably has the best final shot of the decade too.

Stories We Tell

There's been a recent vogue for film documentaries with a major narrative shattering twist in the middle (Three Identical Strangers, Searching for Sugarman) and Stories We Tell has one of the strongest. Sarah Polley reflects backwards on her own life tracking the story of the relationship between herself and her father through her career to the point that afterwards we can remember the huge, life shattering moments which occured when she was shooting particular films, notably during the little seen but actually pretty good Mr Nobody.  Few films of this genre have been quite this raw and emotionally open.  IndieWire interviewed Polley about its legacy back in July.  Although later in the decade Polley would write and produce the superb Netflix series Alias Grace, she's not directed since.  Hopefully this will change.


Bought for distribution at Sundance by Netflix in the time before such projects would be labeled as "Originals" and provided with the associated publicity and so ironically causing unfortunate obscurity, Jennifer Phang’s indie wonder Advantageous glimpses a dystopian future in which an older woman is given the choice of losing a job which guarantees her child’s future, or sacrificing her own identity.  Tense, impressionistic, refreshing and warm filmmaking.  It's still available on Netflix all of these years later and although it's just possible I've inflated its quality in my memory, it still feels like an important commentary on how non-western cultures are co-opted and modified outside of their native countries.  See also the Hollywood remake of Ghost in the Shell.


You could argue that I have a very samey taste in films, and you'd be right, since this is another with a female lead within a piece of contemplative sci-fi.  Rewatching Arrival recently, I was struck by just how upfront its message of international co-operation was in a year when such things seemed impossible and still do a couple of years later.  But like Amy Adams's character, I remain hopeful despite knowing that the future is already to some degree set.  In that film its because of the laws of physics and alien technology, in our world the weakness of righteous nuance in the face of simplistic but effective messaging.  But a pendulum always swings back, and it still will however long it takes (assuming the everything doesn't blow up in the meantime).


Even more than some years, 2017 was an incredible year for film and I could have chosen a dozen different films to be marked up in bold above this paragraph. For a few seconds each it would have been Get Out or mother!, Anchor and Hope or Ocean's 8. Wonder Woman! But there was just something incredibly odd and charming about Colossal which somehow managed to be a seemingly indie budget relationship film and a monster mash in a way which didn't quite happen with Godzilla a couple of years later.  Anne Hathaway at her most charming, Jason Sudeikis at his most punchable and incredibly rewatchable.

The Square

The film which made me think again about contemporary art and really rather ruined the entirely unconnected Liverpool Biennial for me later that year (to the point that I didn't even review it on here).  The performances are extraordinary, especially from Claes Bang, the gallery curator with a far too high opinion of himself and a A1 demonstration of white men failing upwards. He's the sort of chap I've been either tried to be or fight with all my heart not to be across the years depending on the social circles I was wanting to join (eventually giving in to Groucho's maxim). Some reviews have suggested the wallet related subplot is the weakest element, but it offers a glimpse of how some people, despite what's being professed through the artworks are unable to appreciate the mechanics of the world outside their tiny spheres of influence.

Avengers: Endgame

Yes, I know. But having dodged featuring an MCU film anywhere else on this list, it seems only fair to put its near season finale at the bottom. Arguably Infinity War is the more substantial and experimental installment and selecting Endgame is a bit like saying Best of the Both World pt 2 is the better half of that Star Trek story, but the Russo brothers somehow managed to bring the curtain down on a decade worth of storytelling across multiple films in a satisfying way which also suggested future potential.  MARVEL apparently have everything mapped out until at least 2026.  So there's still plenty of time for the Beyonder to appear.

Boxing Day Links.

Why is it called Boxing Day?
"Boxing Day got its name when Queen Victoria was on the throne in the 1800s and has nothing to do with the sport of boxing."

Sovereignty and subversion in King Lear:
"Professor Kiernan Ryan argues that the subversive spirit of King Lear remains as powerful as ever, four centuries after it was first performed."

Malls after midnight on Christmas Eve: 'It’s like an out-of-body experience':
"For almost two decades, Australian stores have hosted all-night shopping events in the lead-up to Christmas. Perhaps that’s why being in a mall at 2am feels surprisingly normal."

Christmas leftovers recipes:
"Use up your Christmas dinner leftovers, including turkey and all the trimmings. From stir-fries to pies, these recipes are packed with festive flavour."

Batman Returns: The Christmas Movie We Deserve:
"In which a savior is born and dies for our sins."

The Official Doctor Who Annual 2020.

Books Can we talk briefly about this year's Doctor Who Annual? It certainly looks the part, although we could quibble about the font which is a bit too 1980s futro, although it makes a change from Helvetica.

When the second revival annual was published for Christmas 2007, it contained a reprint of a comic strip from the second issue of Doctor Who Adventures.

Russell T Davies was furious and said later that he made sure that all future annuals under his watch would contain original content.  I'll find a citation for this when it isn't Christmas.

Although the annuals have been of variable quality in the meantime, it's still true that they've stuck to this approach, with 2019 offering a stupendous comic strip with cameos from all the old Doctors.

Scroll through to this year's book and we get a basic synopsis of each of the episodes from the last series, which kids will have already watched endlessly, a couple of pages of puzzles and some text stories, except both the text stories, however nicely illustrated are reprints.

A chapter from David Solomons' The Secret in Vault 13 and one of the stories from Twelve Angels Weeping by Dave Rudden both of which are over a year old which means a young fan may already have received them under the tree last Christmas.

If this was me I'd be somewhat disappointed, however nice the accompanying pictures.

But to make matters worse, both include small adverts for the books themselves which means that parents have shelled out £7.99 (RRP) for the printed equivalent of some free Kindle samples.

Imagine if the 1976 annual had included excerpts from the Genesis of the Daleks and Revenge of the Cybermen novelisations instead of The Sinister Sponge or The Hospitality on Hankus.

Are future fans likely to look back at this 2020 volume with such fond nostalgia?

How did this happen?

Was the commissioning budget for the book so low they couldn't afford to pay someone for new material.  I notice the book doesn't have any editorial credits which makes me wonder if it was created by someone outside of the usual Doctor Who editorial line.

With some much amazing Doctor Who fiction floating around now, it's sad to see what should be and is one of the flagship publications reduced to this poor relation of previous triumphs.

Happy Christmas!

Christmas (Day!) Links #25


Here's why there used to be so many Christmas Day weddings:
"Why did a lot of people get married on Christmas day in times gone by? The reason is not as romantic or festive as you might imagine."

A Shakespearian Christmas:
"Christmastime in ‘the days of yore’ (in this case, the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras) was quite different to the way that we celebrate it now."

Cardiff chippy staying open on Christmas Day to give free food to homeless people:
"A fish and chip shop in Cardiff is opening its doors on Christmas Day to provide free food for people who are homeless, older or vulnerable."

The strange story of the first and only Doctor Who Christmas special of the 20th century:
"Festive episodes of the series are a recent tradition, and going by their first attempt in 1965 it’s not hard to see why."

15 Japanese Christmas Traditions:
"Christmas is one of the most celebrated occasions around the world. Every country has their own way of celebrating the holiday, and Japan has some truly unique traditions when it comes to KURISUMASU (the Japanese pronunciation of Christmas)."

Christmas (Eve) Links #24

Conversation starters for Christmas Eve, with your phone:
"As the festive season gets into full swing, there are some pressing questions that only Siri can really help you with."

25 Best Christmas Eve Traditions to Make Lasting Memories With Your Family:
"There are tons of things to do while you wait for Santa!"

Every year on Christmas Eve, I face my rapist:
"Every year on Christmas Eve, my school friends from the rural Scottish village where I grew up get together at a local pub."

Commemorating A King's College Christmas Tradition:
"Every Christmas Eve at exactly 3 p.m., the Chapel of King's College in Cambridge, England plays A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols."

10 Forgotten Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials:
"If you're prone to picturing your favorite Christmas characters as stop-motion puppets, you can thank Rankin/Bass."

Why A Christmas Carol Is Required Reading at Starfleet Academy:
"Unsurprisingly, the answer has very little to do with Christmas!"

A Christmas Cavil:
"At Christmas time, non-Chris­tians are omitted from the psychic life of this country, and although this omission may be relatively harmless, it's anti-Jew, anti-Bud­dhist, and anti-Moslem."

Festivus Links.

How to celebrate Festivus in 5 easy steps:
"If you hate tinsel and love "Seinfeld," Festivus is already the perfect holiday for you."

A Life Cycle Approach to Comparing Galvanized Steel with Aluminium for Lighting Poles:
"Purchasers from public organizations increasingly use environmental impacts of products to inform their buying decisions. The EU Directive 2004/18/EC ‘Coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts’ allowed EU Member States to add sustainability criteria for awarding public projects."

Gay teenager shares mum’s ‘super secret’ meatloaf recipe as revenge for her ‘f**king abusive’ homophobia:
"A mother’s “secret” meatloaf recipe has been shared online – after she reportedly rejected her gay child."

Festivus: Readers’ top complaints about 2019 and 'those dang scooters’:
"Let the airing of grievances for 2019 begin. Here’s what annoyed you most."

The Guardian view on Taylor Swift’s fight for her rights: empowering a new generation of artists:
"In 2019, the American singer has helped change the balance of power between creators and the music industry."

Mum says 'miracle' £2.99 cleaner from Aldi removed huge make-up stains from carpet:
"A mum who easily removed spilt mascara stains from the carpet on her stairs with a £2.99 cleaner from Aldi has raved about the product online - but others added a word of caution."

10 Things You Never Knew About Festivus:
"Some fun facts for the rest of us about this not-so-made up holiday."

Christmas Links #23

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy: Santa.
"Why does Father Christmas wear red and white? It's not for the reason you may think. In an updated version of an episode from 2018, Tim Harford tells the story of Christmas and consumerism."

My Painful Quest to Find the Worst Christmas Movie Ever Made:
"From 'Homeless for the Holidays' to 'Christmas in Hollywood' to 'Ho Ho Nooooooo!!! It's Mr. Bill's Christmas Special!'"

Festive spirits restored as Cambs village given beautiful Christmas tree:
""It honestly made me cry when they said they had got one for us. I was so, so happy""

An ICU nurse reveals the one thing we should all remember this Christmas:
"Louise, 27, is an intensive care nurse who lives and works in London. Here, she tells Stylist what it’s like working in the ward at Christmas – and shares the powerful message we should all remember on the day, and beyond."

Slush, a love story: How a Christmas drink in a beef bucket won me over:
"It's a frozen concoction loved by thousands. And, yes, it's best made in an unusual container."

Christmas Links #22

The Secret Barrister: *** LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE-TWEET: THE RULES ***
"This lecture explores the Christmas classic Love Actually through the lens of English & Welsh law."

Is it going to snow in London this Christmas?
"It’s the big crimbo question. Rivalled only by ‘Is Santa Claus real?’ and ‘What even is eggnog?’, we’re all wondering whether it will snow on Christmas Day in London."

Family finds owl in Christmas tree after a week: 'He was hugging the trunk':
"The family had brought the tree to their home and decorated it before they spotted the bird, who initially didn’t want to leave."

Christmas Rocky Road:
"It’s not that I felt my usual Rocky Road Crunch Bars needed any improvement (though fiddling with recipes is one of life’s pleasures) but I thought they would benefit from some seasonal adjustment."

Charles Mingus’s Secret Eggnog Recipe Will Knock You on Your Ass:
"As a world-class jazz double bassist, composer and band leader, Charles Mingus is one of the most celebrated figures in American music."

Royal Family Christmas pudding photos: Five things to spot:
"Buckingham Palace has released two pictures of the Queen and other senior royals making Christmas puddings for charity."

Christmas Links #21

A Little Boy Thought This Muslim Accountant Was Santa And He's Played Along For Four Years:
"A heartwarming Christmas tale."

The challenges of conserving 20th century buildings:
"The work of a conservation architect is always challenging. Securing a building’s future, while staying sensitive to its aesthetic and working within its listed status, is an impressive juggling act."
[Editor's note: This is about the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool and includes an ingenious way they have for dealing with rainfall and leaky stained glass.]

'It's not for 10-year-olds': Guy Pearce on Steven Knight's adaptation of A Christmas Carol:
"Writer Steven Knight and actors Guy Pearce and Stephen Graham explain why their Christmas Carol will strike a chord with a modern audience."

The religious case for Christmas is well known. But there’s a scientific one too:
"Our urge to mark midwinter and celebrate the days growing longer precedes Christianity by thousands of years."

Nope, seeing Cats the musical will not help you understand Cats the movie:
"Three months into my freshman year of theater school, I found myself fake-laughing my way through a raucous parody of Cats—a show I had never actually seen, but one that was apparently being hilariously skewered based on the reactions of everyone around me."

Christmas card delivered to wrong address 5,200 miles away:
"A Christmas card thought to have been posted in south Wales to an address in Warwickshire has been delivered 5,200 miles away - in the United States."

Christmas Links #20

Archived: The Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy HyperCard Expanded Book:
"Phew! That title is quite the mouthful! It would have been longer if I’d included the author’s name (the late, great Douglas Adams, of course) and the publishing company (Voyager) but I figured I’d best truncate it."

Christmas Creamguide 2019: Week One:
"It’s the Christmas Creamguide and it’s the twentieth time we’ve done it! Maybe one day we’ll get good at it, but at least we haven’t put a holiday supplement in the middle of Christmas Day. As in previous years, it’s so big it arrives over two days, with TV, radio and a full film guide. Hope you enjoy it!"

A Merry Tudor Christmas with Lucy Worsley:
"Recreating festivities from Henry VIII's era, Lucy Worsley dresses, eats, drinks, sings and parties like it is 500 years ago - discovering long-lost traditions as well as familiar customs."

This Christmas I Won't Clam Up If My Kids Ask Where Their Grandparents Are:
"Sadness is a human emotion. I should allow my kids to experience it even when it's secondhand."

Cats is a baffling, humourless CGI nightmare—and the people deserve an explanation:
"If society is to move forward from this illogical disaster, we need nothing less than a full and frank inquiry."

Christmas Links #19

The seven most terrifying Christmas traditions around the world:
"Playful Christmas fun, or sinister, skin-crawling horror? You decide."

"The Environment Was Very Toxic": Nudity, a Graphic Photo and the Untold Story of Why Ruth Wilson Left 'The Affair':
"The actress shocked fans of her Showtime drama when she suddenly quit the role that earned her a Golden Globe, then said she wasn't allowed to say why. Now, insiders reveal a complex situation that involved complaints of a hostile work environment, Lena Dunham, and a director and showrunner who sparked a formal investigation."

Not just a Christmas movie: DIE HARD on the big screen:
"It’s been quite a fall season for UW–Madison film culture."

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!”"

“WHAT’RE YOU GONNA WEAR?” The Movies with the Most Iconic Going Out Looks, as Envisioned by the Artist Anna Bak-Kvapil:
"Stop it. Campaigning for canceling plans and staying in is—well—getting boring. We propose another ritual. The one where you arrive at your friend’s place and she isn’t ready...not even close."

Christmas Links #18

Christmas With BBC Records And Tapes:
"RESL124 Orville’s Song/I Didn’t – Keith Harris And Orville (December 1982)"

Born again: modernist design icons are given a new lease of life:
"While the hunger for new contemporary design continues, there is still something alluring about revisiting those lesser known chapters of 20th century design to uncover the stories of classic products and their creators."

The great vegan Christmas taste test: mains, desserts and party food:
"From root vegetables en croute to pigless blankets and festive jellies, vegans are spoilt for choice this Christmas. Just steer clear of the fake-meat roasting joints …"
[Editor's Note:  With a few exceptions, vegan food in supermarkets is unremittingly awful especially when it's trying to pretend to be meat.  Tonight I had the Spinach and Squash Lasagne from M&S and it was fine although the cheese was a bit sickly.  Full vegans, you have my sympathies.]

The Best Music Videos of 2019:
"Featuring bodybuilding, pole dancing, Terry Crews, John Early, and more Haim x Paul Thomas Anderson."

A brief history of the BBC Christmas Tapes:
"The BBC Christmas tapes make interesting, infuriating, amusing and depressing viewing… But are they any good?" [via LinkMachineGo]

UK weather: 70mph winds and rain to cause transport nightmare before Christmas:
"The Met Office is forecasting powerful gusts to develop across the South West, alongside heavy showers."

The 9 most commonly misheard Christmas carol lyrics:
"‘Joy to the World’, ‘12 Days of Christmas’ and ‘Deck the Halls’ have been found to be among the most misheard Christmas carols – and we can totally relate."

Christmas Links #17

Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas’ Is Finally No. 1, 25 Years Later:
"Although most pop fans probably assume it reached the milestone years or decades ago, Mariah Carey’s holiday staple “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is the No. 1 song in the country by official acclimation for the first time in its 25-year history, topping both the Rolling Stone songs chart and the Billboard Hot 100 this week."

The Terror Queue:
"These moderators help keep Google and YouTube free of violent extremism — and now some of them have PTSD."

Pre-Christmas shopping discounts 'could hit 50%':
"Sales discounts on clothing and products in the lead up to Christmas could be the biggest in almost ten years, according to one consultancy."

My grimly inappropriate boyfriend dumped me in the pub – I gave him his Christmas present anyway:
"I was 17. He was a thrillingly older twentysomething. I was heartbroken and drowned out the pain with Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine."

‘Star Trek: Picard’ Prepares For A Second Season With California Tax Credits:
"This shouldn’t surprise anyone that’s seen the outpouring of interest in the return of Jean-Luc Picard, Deadline is reporting that CBS has secured the California film tax credits for a second season of Star Trek: Picard."

You Might Be Surprised to Find These Christmas Markets Around the World:
"Sorry, Germany. You don’t hold the Rudolph nose on quintessential Christmas markets, as wonderful as yours are."

Christmas Links #16

Essex church hides 1,000 baby Jesus rocks 'to bring joy':
"A Baptist church has hidden 1,000 rocks painted with an image of the baby Jesus to "bring a little bit of joy" to their local community."

Christmas at the National Gallery:
"From putting up our 16ft Leonardo-inspired Christmas trees to celebrating the winter highlights in our collection, see how we're getting ready for Christmas."

5 Easier Ways to Water Your Christmas Tree:
"A decorated Christmas tree adds instant holiday cheer to any room—for a few days, at least."

‘SNL’ Spoofs Hallmark Channel’s Christmas Movies, Addresses Brides Kissing Ad Controversy:
"Two years after Saturday Night Live skewered Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movies in a cut-for-time sketch, NBC’s program this holiday season aired a new parody of Hallmark’s signature franchise."

Families get on board with fast, easy games for Christmas:
"Classics such as Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly make way for pick-up and go options such as Dobble and Bananagrams."

Christmas Links #15

Netflix's Christmas movie universe is the new MCU:
"Move over Avengers."

Longleat Safari Park chipmunks sent hundreds of socks:
"A wildlife park has been inundated after putting out an appeal for "chipmunk worthy socks" to help keep the rodents warm over Christmas."

10 of the UK’s best tiny theatres and cinemas:
"Audiences at these little independent theatres and cinemas can be sure of an intimate experience, especially in a venue on wheels that seats just eight."

James Frain on playing Spock’s dad and wearing the biggest fangs on True Blood:
"Can we go way back to the Walmart-baby movie? Your accent was spectacular in that."

Walmart Pulls Tasteful Sweater Depicting Santa at Bushwick Loft Party:
"A festive holiday sweater depicting a jolly Santa enjoying himself at a friend’s boyfriend’s podcast party in Bushwick has been removed from the Walmart Marketplace website."

Christmas Links #14

Ohio family brings Griswolds' Christmas house to life:
"For the past seven years, Greg Osterland has decorated his Ohio home with 25,000 lights. His goal? A real life version of the Griswolds' creation in the classic movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

Here’s a Kinda Genius, Kinda Evil Way People Are Gaming Spotify Playlists:
"It’s just the latest trick in a long history of hacking digital music services to promote your own songs."

Anjli Mohindra and Laura Fraser to guest star in Series 12!
"With less than one month to go until the TARDIS lands back on BBC One, television stars Anjli Mohindra and Laura Fraser are set to guest star in upcoming episodes of the new series!"

The 100 Memes That Defined The 2010s:
"From planking to VSCO girls."

Sandra Bullock became a rom-com star with a cozy love story about crushing loneliness:
"Lucy Moderatz (Sandra Bullock) spends her days behind a glass window in a Chicago Transit Authority booth and her nights home alone with her cat."

Global Christmas treats come to Seoul: At markets, European countries cook up their tastiest delicacies for the holidays:
"The Christmas spirit was in the air at the Seongbukcheon Fountain Square in central Seoul last weekend as people braved the freezing temperatures to queue for Czech goulash or Ukrainian varenyky."

Christmas Links #13

Jimi Hendrix cleared of blame for UK parakeet release:
"The rumour parakeets arrived in the UK when rock star Jimi Hendrix released a pair in London's Carnaby Street in the swinging 60s has finally been scotched."

Four Ingredient Christmas Cake, 16p:
"Christmas for me is a disparate and disorganised affair – zipping between various peoples houses, delivering a Small Boy to all the relatives that want to pinch his cheeks and ruffle his hair, like an exasperated sugar-high parcel."

Why can’t more than four people have a conversation at once?
"t’s called the “dinner party problem”: A table of four or fewer people may happily converse as one, but a party of five or more will splinter fairly quickly into separate conversations of two or three four people each. What is it about the number four?"

Alternative Christmas events in London:
"Looking for something different to the festive classics? Here are the most weird and wonderful events happening in London this Christmas."

Berlin’s rubbish collectors say give time not stuff this Christmas:
"Waste management firm suggests greener ways of celebrating festive season."

Why like Emma Watson, we're happy to be single at Christmas:
"From trips to Winter Wonderland to mistletoe kisses, the Christmas season can feel like it's all about relationships."

Where Christmas trees come from:
"Every year, millions of Americans purchase and decorate Christmas trees to ring in the holiday season."

Christmas Links #12

Bernie, Elizabeth, My Dad, and Me — or How To Not Kill Your Family This Christmas:
"My father is voting for Bernie Sanders. I am voting for Elizabeth Warren. He’s a 75 year-old, brilliant man, who pioneered early software for the railroad and never went to college, who was a police chaplain and still isn’t quite retired from being a deeply liberal Catholic Deacon. I’m a 38 year-old filmmaker who has a medical crisis at least once a month. The apple fell far, bounced, and bruised."

7 of the best cult Christmas films:
"When you're sick of watching 'Love Actually' try these under-the-radar picks."

Bob Dylan Reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”
“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”

Women Rule 2019 National Film Registry:
"‘Boys Don’t Cry,’ ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter,’ ‘Before Stonewall’ Among the Titles."

Officials Warn to Check Christmas Trees for Praying Mantis Eggs:
"Officials in Erie County, Ohio are warning of walnut-sized and shaped masses in trees."

Hundreds of dead birds found in mystery mass death:
"Hundreds of birds found dead on a north Wales road are to be tested to discover how they died."

Police say mystery mass bird death phenomenon may have happened before on the island:
"Reports suggest that this is the second time this has happened in exactly the same spot."

Meat? In dessert? Why I made a Christmas mince pie – with beef:
"A US website went viral this week after it confused mincemeat and ground beef in a recipe – but would the resulting dessert taste as bad as it sounds?"

Christmas Links #11

The Deep Sea:
"Made with ♥ by Neal Agarwal"

Christmas Lights Safety:
"We all love getting into the festive spirit, decorating our homes, putting up lights on our Christmas trees, around bannisters and even hanging them outside to share the Christmas cheer with our neighbours."

My starring role as Santa Claus:
"University taught me many things to prepare me for the life of a journalist."

The 36 Best Christmas Movies of All Time:
"There’s a difference between a Christmas movie and a movie that happens to be set at Christmastime."

Christmas Cat on a Robot Hoover #XmasLife
"Feel the festive cheer with our furry friend, and live your best Christmas life."

Expect family talks about climate change this Christmas? Take tips from Greta Thunberg:
"As bushfires rage and our cities lie shrouded in smoke, climate change is shaping as a likely topic of conversation at the family dinner table this Christmas."

N.J.’s Four Queens whiskey fuels boilo, a Christmas tradition in Pennsylvania’s coal country:
"The closest coal mine is more than 100 miles to the west, across the river and up into the hills of Northeastern Pennsylvania. But each year, just after Thanksgiving, a Central New Jersey distiller sees an enormous sales spike in one of its lesser-known products out in coal country."

Christmas Links #10

Christmas tree in western Japan with 51,626 message cards attached sets world record:
"A giant Christmas tree at an elementary school here in western Japan decorated with 51,626 message cards was recognized by Guinness World Records on Dec. 8 for having the highest number of notes attached to it."

Amazon Fire HD 10 review: still a top budget tablet:
"Faster processor, updated software and good screen make Amazon’s 10in hard to beat for £150."

How to Install the Google PlayStore in your Amazon Fire Tablet:
"See how you can install the Google PlayStore in your Amazon Fire tablet and control your smart home with it."

As London’s Tube Expands, So Does the Fight Over Its Map:
"It’s never been easy to design a map of the city’s underground transit network. But soon, critics say, legibility concerns will demand a new look."

Here are the weirdest and worst Christmas gifts of 2019:
"Vancouver Courier’s 15th annual Dreck the Halls gift guide to the unusual, strange and just plain wrong."

Christmas Links #9

Will It Snow In London This Christmas?
"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas... just like the ones I used to know."

Deep and crisp and vegan: now meat-free festive fare goes exotic:
"For years, a plant-based diet was seen as dull. But as more and more people embrace it, food stores are upping their game."

Fanny Cradock Cooks for Christmas:
"Fanny Cradock's recipes for a successful Christmas."

Borders towns see Christmas trees shrink by a third:
"Christmas trees put up at sites across the Borders have shrunk by a third compared to previous years."

Christmas tree of kegs lights up in New York:
"Genesee Brewery in Rochester, New York made a Keg Tree for the holidays out of 530 empty half barrel beer kegs."

Christmas Links #8

Lizzie and Tomas revisited:
"... Spoiler, but I predicted they would get married and… well, the reason there’s no review of the latest Blind Date today is because I am AT LIZZIE AND TOMAS’S WEDDING. I know. Amazing."

From cantatas to carols: the best classical Christmas albums of 2019:
"From small-scale Bach and Renaissance Spain to a poignant Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, there is festive uplift for all."

This 'underwhelming' roadside Christmas tree has delighted commuters for decades:
"'Some people talk about him being a little beacon as they drive home,' says Ed McHugh"

Devils chase children in Czech village's eerie Christmas custom:
"Masked devils march through the village, rattling their chains and clanking bells, going door-to-door to search for badly-behaved children."

Greg Davies switches on Christmas lights in Wem:
"He had one task and Shropshire-born comedian Greg Davies mastered it well when he performed the annual Wem Christmas Lights switch on."

37 Things That'll Make Late '90s Kids Say, "This Is How I Remember Christmastime!"
"It was a simple time, back when all you wanted was a Furby, Beanie Babies, and Old Navy Performance Fleece."

Christmas Links #7

The Nightmares Before (And After) Christmas:
"A Hobo’s Christmas (1987)"

'It shows a nicer way of life': meet the makers of the £100 viral Christmas ad:
"Hafod Hardware owners in Wales say simple message has struck a chord with viewers."

Taylor Swift’s Music Video for ‘Christmas Tree Farm’ Marks the Arrival of Swiftmas:
"The music video for “Christmas Tree Farm,” has premiered, marking the official beginning of the holiday season, and, of course, of Swift’s birthday month."

Someone Said Kim Kardashian's Christmas Ornaments Look Like Evil Tampons And It's Me, I'm Someone:
"Giant creepy dildos? Happy holidays!"

Christmas sweaters are adding to plastic pollution, environmental charity says:
"Most Christmas sweaters are made of plastic and are likely to contribute to plastic pollution in the world's oceans, an environmental charity has warned."

The Christmas Chronicles 2 Coming To Netflix – With Goldie Hawn As Mrs Claus:
"Last year Netflix gave us an instant contender for the all-time-great movie Santas in The Christmas Chronicles – a Chris Columbus-produced festive adventure movie that cast none other than Kurt Russell as the man with the, er, bulging sack. It was evidently a hit, because the streaming service has just announced a sequel – The Christmas Chronicles 2 – coming in 2020."

The 2010s Broke Our Sense Of Time:
"The rhythms of American life changed in the 2010s. How everything from TV to Trump to Instagram messed with your head just enough that time feels like it melted." [via]

Christmas Links #6

Caught in the crush: are our galleries now hopelessly overcrowded?
"Can you really appreciate art when you have to crane your neck, dodge elbows and wait for selfie-takers to move on? Irate gallery-goers in London and beyond tell us why they’re giving up."

Checkout Girl (Get Your Free Copy!):
"When an 83 year old woman dies, she’s not transported to heaven but taken on a detour back to her life shortly before she died. It’s the first time she has ever experienced a detour being the best part of a journey."

The Sounds of Spotify:
"Public Playlists."
[Editor's note: This seems to be the base account for all of the genre playlists on Spotify. The Sound of Everything has one track representing each and has 3,782 items.  I think I have a new obsession for 2019.]

Taylor Swift is dropping a new Christmas song:
"The star shared a video teasing a self-penned festive song written over the weekend. The song will be accompanied by a self-shot video, which will premiere on Good Morning America in the US."

December's Schedule:
"Pretend to work."

Christmas family strain:
"How many films have been made all about the stress of family life over the Christmas period? Quite a few. Many of these films are comedies, and most end with everyone enjoying their family Christmas. But the reason we find these films so funny, is because we can relate to that Christmas family stress all too easily."

Exit through the gift shop:
"With the festive season upon us, Apollo’s editors have picked out their favourite gifts from museum and gallery shops."

Trafalgar Square Christmas tree: 'Sparse' spruce ridiculed:
""Britain's most famous Christmas tree" has been branded a turkey over its "sparse" foliage and "anaemic" appearance."

Art of the State:
Grosvenor Museum.

Art For years, my annual Christmas shopping ritual was to visit Chester, Manchester, Southport, Formby and Cheshire Oaks.  But thanks to my monthly visits to London and each losing their distinctiveness, I've visited some of these places less and less.  But I've stuck with Chester which has tended to survive intact, dodging somewhat the destruction of the high street.  Not any more.  Rather like a more picturesque Stoke, large sections of the shopping areas are now filled with vacancies and businesses which have been in situ for decades have slowly disappeared.  Although some places have demolished old stock and started again, Chester doesn't have that option.  So what will they do about such places as the block of shops opposite the cathedral which used to house some wonderful jewelry and sweets?  All is not completely lost.  A new vinyl shop has opened just around the corner from here selling new releases and back catalogue at premium prices but how long will that survive?

Access To Collection.

The Museum is open Monday to Saturday 10.30am–5pm, 1pm-4pm on Sundays.  The Grosvenor hasn't changed much since my visit for the last project over ten years ago. The paintings are still displayed between the three areas, the lecture theatre, stairwell and room on the first floor. There hasn't been a significant rehang, although the lecture theatre now contains work by more contemporary local artists, a rather strange portrait of HRH The Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester by Tom Wood has been given pride of place in the main display room (he "re-opened" the museum after refurbishment in 1992) and the still fabulous depictions of workers at Williams & Williams, purveyors of cast iron window frames have been moved to the help yourself tea room in the ground floor of the adjoining 22 Castle Street, a National Trust-style recreation of a 17th century home (currently decorated with trees and tinsel ready for Christmas).

Collection Focus.

Painted and acquired since my original visit, Francis Mullen's Ferris Wheel, Chester, Christmas 2010 captures the town in its ideal state, snow on the ground, grey skies, winter clothing, ancient buildings behind the city wall and lighting and an incongruous object.  Somehow, I'd completely forgotten that the wheel had been in place at the beginning of the decade, but this isn't an imagined scene.  Here's a photograph of a similar scene from an angle behind the spire of St Mary's ChurchHere's how Chester News covered the announcement of the event.  Mullen himself donated the painting to the Museum in 2013 and he goes into some depth on his methodology in this interview which also includes a brief biography.  This is his only painting on the Art UK website.  Most recently around Christmas time, this is how I imagine Chester will be, which is why I keep returning each year despite my increasing levels of disappointment and probably still will.