Nihilistic Saturday Links.

Mirna Abdulaal: "It is easy to see the buzz expressions “mental health” and “ways to cope with stress/anxiety” appear regularly on social media, but it’s even harder to directly interact with someone who struggles from anxiety."

UK surge in post-Christmas returns reveals dark side of online shopping boom:
Sarah Butler: "Returns process thought to cost firms about £7bn a year and weigh heavily on companies’ carbon footprints"

Phoebe Barton: "Half marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks and fun runs - there's something for everyone."

Julian Mark: "Passengers on a Canadian charter flight danced, drank alcohol and vaped as they made their way from Montreal to Cancún, Mexico, the day before New Year’s Eve. Video footage of the rave-like atmosphere made its way onto social media, and the images of maskless travelers partying in the air amid surging coronavirus cases sparked broad condemnation."

Ryan Gajewski: "The actor will reprise his role as Batman in the upcoming film 'The Flash.'"

BBC News:  "BBC correspondent Laura Trevelyan got caught in a snow drift while filming in Washington DC on Monday and had "snow" way out."

News Desk (AFP): "A herd of goats grazing on a London city farm are getting their teeth into hundreds of unwanted Christmas trees donated by residents in a fundraising drive."

Sheelah Kolhatkar:  "Since its installation, the sculpture, by Kristen Visbal, has been mired in legal disputes and claims of “fake corporate feminism.” New York City will soon decide its fate."

Laurian Clemence: "As we welcome in another year, and reflect on the turbulent one that’s passed, the existential words of Professor Stephen Hawking are as poignant as ever: “Remember to look up at the stars, and not down at your feet.”"

Nigel Andrews:  "... revisits his interviews with Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen and Debbie Reynolds to tell the story of how they created Hollywood’s most enduring musical."

Across The Omniverse.

Film  Having given it the requisite few weeks, let's briefly talk about the magnificent Spider-Man: No Way Home and how it fits within the MCU's general "multiverse" system.  Numerous tweets, blog posts and video essays have suggested that there's a continuity error between the appearance of the other two Spiders and various villains and what was established in Loki (and Agents of SHIELD for that matter) something which presumably be explained in Doctor Strange's Multiverse of Madness.

But the structure of how these fictional universes fit together has already been well established in both the MARVEL and DC continuities and indeed the Marvel Database has a whole page explaining how these things are nested which I'm about to regurgitate in relation to how it works in this new live action version and once you have it fixed in your head you can see how the whole notion of "canonicity" in relation to "things happening in fictional universes" is absolute nonsense.  That everything is canon(ical).

This nested structure breaks down as follows:


An infinite collection of all fictional universes ever.  As the Marvel article lists,  "not only Marvel Comics, but also DC Comics, Image, Dark Horse, Wildstorm, Archie, Harvey, Shueisha, Boom Studios, Rebellion, Dynamite, IDW, Graphic India, Derby Pop, Vertigo, Oni Press, Udon, Valiant, and every universe ever mentioned or seen".  Basically, this is everything.  Every film, tv show, comic, advert, every piece of fiction ever created.  The DC version of the article is a bit more exclusive because of course it is.

To keep things simple, I'm only going to refer to how this works for the MCU.  


This is were the jargon becomes a bit confused and why what appears on screen is more complicated.  What seemed to happen at the close of Loki is the creation of a multiverse but its implied that all the individual universes must be branches of the main MCU timeline.  Except the universes which feature in the Spiderverse (including the animations) are wildly divergent to the point of not having their own Avengers and Peters fighting solo.  Not to mention wherever Venom is coming and going from.

That's because Loki isn't about creating the multiverse.  The multiverse already existed and contains all of the different live action MARVEL film series, all existing within their own continuity.  Roughly speaking:

The Raimi Spider-Man
The Webb Spider-Man
All of the different universes in the Spider-verse film
The Tim Story Fantastic Four
The Josh Trank Fantastic Four and arguably Deadpool
The OG X-Men and/or the First Class X-Men
Whatever was happening with mutants on TV and/or Logan
The Blade films
The Ghost Rider films

What we saw in No Way Home was the top three of these connecting together and hopefully in Doctor Strange's Multiverse of Madness a few more of them giving us a cameo.  The Sony Spider-verses aren't alternative versions of the MCU, they are their own distinct universes that happen to share some similarities with each other but are wildly different in other ways, not unlike the Bondiverse and now potentially have their own branches thanks to the events in No Way Home.


This is a single nested continuity which itself can contain numerous alternative realities.  But they're all variations on a much similar theme and their own history or continuity can be changed and its the variations in one of these which we watch being created in Loki and What If? with the various characters oblivious to the other timelines nested within their greater multiverse.  There can be an infinite number of timelines within these universes with all the Kangs which could look like a "multiverse" when viewed from inside, if you're not aware that other "universes" exist, that there's more than a sacred timeline.

At least that's how I rationalise it, although its possible DS's MoM won't view it that way or at least present it in those terms although it'll be possible to retroactively apply it to this structure anyway.  

Loki (the series) has already thrown a spanner in the works by not presenting us with lots of Loki that all look like Tom Hiddleston and could have emerged from places as significantly divergent as the Spider-verse but the show makes it clear that they're all the result of anomalies in this single timeline that they've had to trim, work the Time Variance Agency is presumably doing without an awareness that there are universes out there in which the laws of Time are wildly different anyway.

But how does Agents of SHIELD fit into this?  The timey-wimey direction the show takes in its latter seasons has been used as a reason to exclude it from the MCU even though with all of the various movie crossovers in which it literally set up storylines in much the same way as the Disney+ originated series.

Except it fits perfectly into the events of Loki.  Due to how its main character is resurrected, that show happens in 2012 as per MCU chronology.  So when SHIELD's adventures diverge and the timeline changes, they're creating or at least part of an alternate reality which can now exist because of Sylvie's actions and which they can travel back from in the final episodes to the main MCU leaving Deke behind (and the episode is sneakily vague on how that works in relation to the snap).

Reading back through that it looks like absolutely gobbledygook but I've had it rattling around in my head for weeks and its good to get it written down.  But it also makes it easier to understand how a particular fictional universe fits within a much wider narrative context.  I've simplified things a bit here, but obviously you'd include all of the various MARVEL comics universes in alongside the ones listed above and try to figure out how the spider-verse in the comics connects the film and the version which originated in the cartoon.

All of which said, my suspicion is that there are more levels to this and that you could make a clearer distinction between universes and timelines.  Oh god, now I'm trying to explain how this works in relation to the DCU and that's a whole other multiverse of madness.

Orthodox Christmas Links.

Aleksandar Brezar:  "Mostar’s rich skyline, with mosques and Catholic church towers peeking out above buildings and set against an imposing mountain range, now once again features the towers of an elegant Orthodox church — perched on a hill above the city’s eastern side — after it was destroyed during the brutal war in the city almost 30 years ago."

Maddie Capron: "As you take down holiday lights, you may want to be mindful of deer and other animals."

Lee Grimsditch: "The shopping centre opened in 1989 and faced fierce opposition from conservationists who wanted to preserve the city's Georgian heritage."

How Jessica Simpson Almost Lost Her Name:
Stephanie Clifford/Eliza Ronalds- Hannon: "The pop star’s billion-dollar fashion brand fell into the hands of the wrong company. After a two-year battle, she finally bought it back."

Simon Hattenstone: "The actor opens up about her queer years with Derek Jarman and her latest clutch of films, and reveals her plans for a career change. And all while taking her five spaniels for a walk."

"A multi-institutional resource documenting Shakespeare in his own time."

Big Finish: "Brigadier Winifred Bambera returns to the UNIT front line in her own brand new series of full-cast audio dramas from Big Finish Productions."

Mark Brown:  "Neil Cole’s Museum of Classic Sci-Fi, hosted in cellar of his Allendale townhouse, holds costumes and props from numerous TV classics."

Chris Peterson: "Back in February of 2021, we told you about Todd Spann, the Indianapolis-based science fiction super fan who created a Star Trek set in his basement. The project took more than three years to complete. Nearly a year later, Spann made use of his creation, releasing a new short film based on Star Trek and filmed entirely on location at his home in Indiana."

Proper Twelfth Night Links.

Emma Beddington: "Yes, comfort and joy is nice. But there are some seasonal trappings I am glad to see the back of."

Elizabeth A. Harris: "Filippo Bernardini, an Italian citizen who worked in publishing, was charged with wire fraud and identity theft for a scheme that prosecutors said affected hundreds of people over five or more years."

Reeves Wiedeman/Lila Shapiro: "For years, a mysterious figure has been stealing books before their release. Is it espionage? Revenge? Or a complete waste of time?"

Diamond Geezer: "Just before Christmas I published a simple infographic summarising the sequence of lockdown restrictions over the last two years... a brief monthly snapshot of fluctuating curbs on freedom."

Jim Waterson: "Nathan Dane spent six years honing his version of the BBC’s defunct text-based information service."

Chris Velazco/Tatum Hunter : "The consumer electronics trade show salutes 2022 with some of the strangest technologies we’ve seen in a while. Here are the highlights."

Rob Beschizza: "... this Sony demo video from 1990, then, is an uncanny thing: the technology and image detail we register as a 21st-century experience but with the lighting, style and vibe at least a decade older."

Rivka Galchen: "Access to information only goes so far to explain the curious link between secrets and those who tell them."

BBC News: "The series commemorates the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, marking her 70 years on the throne."

Lesley Goldberg/Alex Weprin: "Local TV giant Nexstar is said to be among the suitors for the broadcast network."

Echoes of Extinction (Time Lord Victorious).

Audio  Having finally collected almost all the different parts of Time Lord Victorious, the BBC's cross platform merchandising palooza which began in 2020, I've started working through them in narrative order as per the list I put together this time last year.  Although we covered the most of the McGann releases already (and it'll be fun to hear how they fit properly into the thing), Echoes of Extinction is his first appearance in the story, but was the last of the releases to emerge, thanks to COVID-19 shutting down its distribution potential for months thanks to it originating on vinyl.  Fortunately there was also a download.

The Doctor lands in a very slight riff on Beauty and the Beast, fighting against a genocidal psychic entity which holds the surviving member of a race hostage, her only other companion a robot butler.  At only half an hour, long enough to fill one side of a vinyl album, not too much happens and Alfie Shaw's script seems mostly to act as set up for the next episode featuring the Tenth Doctor which takes place after the core Time Lord Victorious shenanigans so I won't be listening to for a while.  

Perhaps the most exciting thing is the Eighth Doctor saying he's trying to get to the opening night of the Braxiatel Collection, which after its brief mention in City of Death now has a giant footprint in the spin-off media within a few sentences of the Shadow Proclamation which doesn't get more Nu Who.  As ever, this incarnation straddles across the mythological mish-mash of the franchise.  Placement:  Almost by default, this is now the first story of the Time War era.

Twelfth Night Links.

Gary Bainbridge: "I’m now selling some absolutely tremendous food-related greetings cards through the portal Thortful under the brand name Cheerful Sheep."

Errol Laborde: "True New Orleanians never have to worry about post-Christmas letdown. That’s because, to most of the world, the the day that is the twelfth and final day of Christmas is recognized locally as Twelfth Night, the first day of the Carnival season."

BBC News: "A man tried to destroy a Banksy mural after hearing it was being moved from Wales to England, a court heard."

Caitlin Flanagan: "How could I have succumbed to this common, embarrassing habit that just about everyone on Earth knows is a scourge?"

"The former NatWest Bank (in Liverpool) closed its doors in 2017."

Guy Lodge: "As awards season heats up, there are a number of deserving performers who haven’t been making the cut."

Daniel Victor: "The word game has gone from dozens of players to hundreds of thousands in a few months. It was created by a software engineer in Brooklyn for his partner."

Mona Khalifeh: "ET's Nischelle Turner spoke to Chastain ahead of the release of her new action film, The 355, where she ensured that her female co-stars -- Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, Fan Bingbing and Diane Kruger -- were all compensated both equally and fairly, something she's done on previous projects."

"Survival — of books, and of the rare-book business itself — is a particular art. Grace Flynn: Alongside Monet paintings, rare books and manuscripts ranging from first edition religious texts to Leonardo da Vinci’s notes are considered some of the most prized collectibles in the world."

Sydney Page: "Casey Holihan and her husband, John Noe, had been stranded on Interstate 95 in Virginia for about 16 hours when they got an idea."

Scottish Bank Holiday Links.

Stephen Woolley: "Hart gave me my first break in the industry and stood out as a beacon of hope for those who followed."

Public Domain Review: "On the chime of midnight last night, as many of us welcomed in — by booze-fuelled countdown or bliss of sleep — the start of a new year, the public domain had a special moment too, welcoming in many thousands more works into its ever-growing expanse, including Winnie The Pooh, poems by Dorothy Parker, and Franz Kafka’s The Castle."

Matt Haughey: "In early 2011, at the Webstock conference in Wellington, New Zealand, my new friend Jeremy Keith was on stage talking about the impermanence of the web and the ephemeral nature of our work and over drinks afterwards together we came up with a quick challenge for a Long Bet."

David Vetter: "Netflix’s Don’t Look Up, which released on Christmas Eve, is not a subtle movie. It is a brash, absurdist satire about the incapability of our political and media classes to respond appropriately to impending, world-ending disaster." [via]

Probably Charlie Brooker: "Philomena Cunk's latest landmark mockumentary series Cunk On Earth will see the long-awaited return of pioneering documentary-maker Philomena Cunk on her most ambitious quest to date; venturing right up humanity to find out who we are, how we got here and what was the point.  Cunk on Earth will see the long-awaited return of pioneering documentary-maker Philomena Cunk on her most ambitious quest to date; venturing right up humanity to find out who we are, how we got here and what was the point."

Sharanya Hrishikesh: "... many women were not impressed. They saw it as a mere gimmick, and a deeply offensive one at that, claiming to break down the very thing it's built upon: the male gaze."

Claire Potter: "In 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed that Americans celebrate the Christmas season by counting birds instead of hunting them, and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count was born."

Taylor Telford: "The company cuts off support for the once-beloved cellphone and status symbol, a casualty of the rise of the touch screen."

Cal Newport: "We need fewer things to work on. Starting now."

Darcel Rockett: "If it’s been said once, it’s been said many times. There’s just something about Chicago — you just have to see the number of former/native members of our community making moves in other cities and venues, including those helming some of the country’s notable archives at institutions in Washington, D.C."

Another Bank Holiday Monday Links.

BBC Media Centre:  "The work sits on a BBC 100 website which also features an interactive year-by-year timeline covering key moments in the BBC’s first 100 years."

Andrea Stone: "From transforming the study of early humans to working to save the elephants, “he was a force to be reckoned with.”"

Michael Hogan: "The journalist behind those ‘explainer’ videos on seeing his No 10 Christmas party video go viral, being a drum’n’bass DJ and wearing ‘an awful lot’ of blue."

Brendon Connelly: "2021’s mystery TV run the gamut of tones, from cosy to caustic. Here’s a quick survey of some of the better mystery series that puzzled armchair detectives over 12 months, including one solid gold masterpiece and plenty of other gems that were sadly overlooked. That’s the magic of VOD – they don’t need to stay overlooked forever."

Odi O'Malley: "Welcome to '¡Elígeme! ”, The section of the website in which we pay tribute to those album tracks that had enough value to be singles, but were replaced by other releases, sometimes better, on other more debatable occasions."
[Editor's note: Translation of a really good article on a Spanish pop website.]

Waiyee Yip:  ""Do I not deserve to be Chinese just because I have small eyes?"  That is what Chinese model Cai Niangniang wrote in a recent impassioned social media post, after old pictures of her went viral for all the wrong reasons."

"La Befana, which coincides with the feast of the Epiphany on 6 January, is an annual public holiday across Italy."

Alex Hess: "Armageddon once delivered thrills and megabucks spectacle. Now it’s the unnerving backdrop for satires and family drama."

Juliet Elperin: "TONGASS NATIONAL FOREST, Alaska — The Sitka spruce soaring more than 180 feet skyward has stood on this spot on Prince of Wales Island for centuries. While fierce winds have contorted the towering trunks of its neighbors, the spruce’s trunk is ramrod straight. Standing apart from the rest of the canopy, it ascends to the height of a 17-story building."

Serina Sandhu: "The social historian also believes ‘we’re missing a real trick in the way we’re teaching history’, adding that is should focus more on human beings."

Ordinary Sunday Links.

Kristin Thompson: "Our regular readers know that this annual series began as a simple salute to 1917, the year in which the basic norms of the classical Hollywood cinema definitively gelled. Starting in 2008,  it became the “The 10 best films of …” list. It has stood in for the year-end ten-best lists which critics and reviewers feel obligated to concoct but which we avoid."

Washington Post Editorial Board: "As the world enters 2022, public libraries are emerging as one of the bright spots — literally."

Vanessa Thorpe: "A new book recounts one woman’s struggle to find looted art – and then convince a major museum to give it back."

Naomi Fry: "The British socialite, who has been convicted of conspiring with her late partner, Jeffrey Epstein, to groom minors for sexual abuse, continues to act like she has nothing to be ashamed of."

Robin Brown: "'The pub is your life — you don’t run it, it runs you'"

Alan Weston: "The cultural attraction in Prescot will complete the "Shakespearian triangle"."

Josh Price: "Y LANFA Powysland Museum is looking to decipher a letter sent from the frontline of the First World War."

Big Finish: "Big Finish’s range of full cast Second Doctor Adventures gets a brand new start in 2022, but we’ll be meeting him sooner than expected."

Andrew Scourfield: "The shared religious and cultural history of Wales and Ireland is being celebrated with two pilgrimage routes in each nation."

Syeda Khaula Saad: "Sex has always been my source of comfort."