Christmas Links #17

Links  It's in 2018 that the wheels really came off the annual review.  Work commitments meant I had to balance this and that so Review 2018 consisted of just two posts listing my ten worst and least favourite films of that year.  

In hindsight I can't really argue with the choices although of the top ten, I've only revisited Spider-Man, Molly's Game and Annihilation since.  But every year brings new delights and introductions to unseen old favourites so who has the time?

Perhaps there should have been space in the top ten for Black Panther, I was obviously trying to promote some of the less seen films that year and Anchor and Hope, the lesbian narrowboat romance was certainly that.  

The Square was clearly picked as the favourite because I was still cross about the sharp decline in the quality of the Liverpool Biennial.  With a new creative team, the 2021 edition was a slight return to form.

The bottom ten still makes me shiver, especially The Snowman and not just because of the amount of ice on screen.  Folding Ideas has since posted avideo explaining the problems with the edit and I'd rather rewatch that than the film itself.

Disney Finally Fixes Their 30-Year Mistake:
"Disney finally fixes their 30-year mistake with the addition of a lost scene to The Muppet Christmas Carol. But how does this lost scene improve the entire film?"

"Despite the cost of living crisis, Kirkby has come together to spread Christmas joy."

"Scottish Ministers have sided with objectors, and against the council, in a long-running planning wrangle over plans to permanently close off a short stretch of a Kirkwall street."

"It’s 10 days until the dread day, when most of London shuts down — for Christmas Day, but a few hardy venues will open for the visitors stuck in the centre of town and with nothing else to do."

"What to do in New York on Christmas Day if you don’t celebrate Christmas."

"Every year, photographers and Photoshop artists come together to bring the magic of the holidays to sick children across the world."

"Here’s how to keep calm around the dinner table this year with our advice expert’s guide to defusing festive feuds."

"An unsigned singer said it was "magical" to hear her Christmas song played on BBC Radio 2."

"It's a countdown of sweet new recipes!"

"Bovril has been a long-standing match-day favourite, heating the terraces up and down the country on a cold winter’s day, but now Stockport County is aiming to fill the stands of Edgeley Park with festive cheer, creating the nation’s first Christmas dinner in a cup."

Christmas Links #16

Links  On the 4th December 2017, I put out a statement which began " The short version is - there won't be a Review 2017 this year" and goes on to explain that I'd been too busy with work (true) to be able to arrange anything.  Then in a moment reminiscent of Doctor Who returning to television after Mark Campbell boldly said in the introduction to the Pocket Essentials about the series that this wouldn't happen, I filled the period between Christmas and New Year with a review of the year.  The categories seem quite random.  No favourite books, music or what have you. So ...

My favourite film scene of that year was Wonder Woman battling the bullets in across no man's land.  My favourite company was Cinema Paradiso and still is now that they've decided to increase the number of discs they're sending out across accounts to help navigate the postal strikes.  My favourite Doctor Who story of that year was All Hands on Deck, Eddie Robson's brilliant Short Trip about how Susan joined the Time War.   My favourite podcast was Rachel Maddow.  My favourite TV moment was the twist at the end of the first series of The Good Place

"The nation’s seasonal publishing and gifting tradition nourishes its unique literary culture."

"They have everything they could ever want, except for a cheap snow globe."

"Londoners get an extra present - free travel on Christmas Day.  For the first time, Christmas day bus and tube fares are scrapped thanks to a seasonal gesture by London Transport.  This clip from BBC News was originally broadcast on 25 December 1978."

"Move to see restitution of 116 historical objects taken by British during the sacking of Benin in 1897."

"Don’t just re-heat your leftovers – turn them into delicious new dishes…"

"When @BBCBreakfast went to an outside broadcast at the absolute worst time."

"Elves are meant to be supporting players in the story of Christmas, but in the 21st century, they’ve stolen the show."

"According to Government guidance, you must be present or ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Gibraltar during the qualifying week to get a Christmas bonus."

"Whether you fancy a heartwarming carol with Elvis or the story of a yuletide drug dealer from OutKast, there’s a festive album for you in our rundown of the best ever."

A Spotify Playlist.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1931.

Part of the history of the BBC is the programmes themselves and so as well as archival material about how the corporation was formed and lives, this history will also include examples of programmes found in other archives.  We start slowly here with a transcript of a talk by J. Maynard Keynes subsequently published in The Listener (and reproduced online at the linked fabulously retro) website.  Believe me, this is just the start.

The life of Ludwig Blattner, the inventor of the Blattnerphone (pictured above with Ellen Terry) was magic and tragic.  Born in Germany,  he ran La Scala cinema in Wallasey between 1912-1914.  He spent the Great War in an internment camp then ironically created the technology which allowed the BBC to record Chamberlain's announcement of the outbreak of WW2.  But in October 1935, he hung himself at the Elstree Country Club and didn't live to see its application.

Find a long article about the Blattnerphone below.  There's also a film from the Pathe Archive, a British Instructional Films Production made in conjunction with the BBC which has numerous shots of Broadcasting House just about ready for the official opening including the old main entrance but without the Prospero and Ariel statue above the door.  Broadcasting was still based at Savoy Hill, although that was soon to change.


"Excerpts from their broadcast of Thursday 29th January 1931.  These recordings, which feature four numbers, were made on early home recording equipment and cut on 6" double-sided metal discs. They were recorded from the radio during Jack Payne's broadcast on the BBC National Programme which started at 10.30pm and ended at midnight. The London Regional Programme carried the same broadcast from 10.35pm."

"The recording presented here was made on an aluminium disc and is not of very good quality. Added to which, it was obviously a busy night at the Piccadilly Hotel, judging by the background noise from the clientele. However, after a rough start, the sound quality gradually improves, particularly after the first minute, when it is clearer and free of crackles."

"A British Instructional Films Production made with the co-operation of the British Broadcasting Corporation. A film about the standardisation of the English Language."

"This article was written as a radio talk for a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) series on unemployment (Keynes's talk was the second in the series, delivered in 11 January, 1931).  It was first published with the title "The Problem of Unemployment II"  in The Listener, 14 January 1931, p.46-47.  It was re-titled "Saving and Spending" for the 1931 Essays in Persuasion."
[History of Economics][BBC Programme Index]

Behind The Scenes

Lengthy text feature about the metal recording device invented by Ludwig Blattner which was first hired/adopted by the BBC in 1931 and allowed the recording of radio programmes reliably for the first time.

 "Now Pathetone presents one of the BBC's most popular Broadcasters - Albert Sandler and his Park Lane Hotel Orchestra - Filmed at the Park Lane Hotel."

"When BBC secretary Marie Slocombe was told to clear out a pile of old records in the late 1930s, she was dismayed to find items featuring the voices of George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill and GK Chesterton among those lying on the floor. In this programme, radio historian Sean Street reflects on how Marie Slocombe's decision to keep and organise those early recordings laid the foundations for the BBC's archive, now one of the most significant broadcast collections in the world."
[BBC Archive][BBC Programme Index]

"The past year has again been one of steady and continuous progress, as is witnessed by the increase in the number of wireless receiving licenses issued."

With the opening of the Scottish Regional Transmitter at Westerglen, near Falkirk, 1932 will see the addition of another instalment of the new plan of high-power transmission.
[World Radio History]

Christmas Links #15

Links  It was pretty much agreed at the time that 2016 was a rubbish year, what with the situation at home and abroad (little did we know it was but an appetizer for what was to come).  So as an alternative and to highlight that it wasn't all bad, I created a single post listing "216 Good Things Which Happened in 2016" selected by me and contributors to the blog old and new via Eloni's Birdcage.  Now it's a nostalgia capsule reminding us of things like Lindsay Lohan live tweeting the Brexit vote and this giant pyramid of bowling balls.

"Candace Cameron Bure wants to put the Christ back into Christmas movies, but she’s not really following through."

"What did viewers make of the BBC's Christmas television offering for 1979? Barry Took reveals all.  This clip is from Points of View."

"Magdalene students threw a college Christmas tree into the nearby River Cam after a JCR bop."

"Virgin Atlantic has unveiled details of its inflight Christmas menu, available on selected flights from December 24-26."
"The cheeky chappy displays his bum in nativity scenes across Spain each Christmas."

"Most Britons would be pleased to receive socks, underwear or deodorant this Christmas."

"Two more deluxe coconut gateaux winged their way to me this year, without any begging. Evidence if ever it was needed of Cruise’s very hectic year."

"The Christmas lights display in a Borders village has been saved at the 11th hour."

Christmas Links #14

Links  It's seven years ago and the weekly "My Favourite Film of ..." posts are in full swing (expect a catch-up in June 2027 starting on the tenth anniversary of the last post).  

So for Review 2015, I asked people to write about when and how they saw some of their favourite and not so favourite films.  

Mags wrote about seeing Fatal Attraction dozens of times while she worked as an usher just for one moment,   Kat talked about seeing The Empire Strikes Back with her Dad when it was originally released,  Annette's first experience of seeing the ending to My Girl,  Tim's visit to an illicit screening of A Clockwork Orange,  Marc on finally seeing Casablanca at St Luke's Church in Liverpool and firstly (in order of posting) Diane on the inclusivity of a Sex and the City audience.

Now, on with the show....

"‘We used real wolves for the Roman camp part. They were meant to be attacking – but they kept running away with their tails between their legs’"

"Dozens of tractors covered in fairy lights took to the Ribble Valley roads at the weekend as an annual charity tractor run returned."

"The Christmas events will run during the school holidays."

"Four families who parked in Lancaster for free to do Christmas shopping had to pay to get out after returning to the car park to find it locked."

Snow scene (1998)
"Konnie Huq makes a Christmas snow scene, under the watchful eye of the returning veteran Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding. No pressure, Konnie."

"I'm not a bot is exactly what a bot would say." [via]

"Twitter timelines seem to have been flooded by hateful accounts, prompting Ann Moody to have to make some tough decisions."

"The end of the year was a time for fasting, feasting and poking fun at the status quo."

"Monica Hudson said she has to be very careful pruning, since mistakes take longer to grow out for trees living in pots."

"BBC Radio 1 reveals further 29 new presenters taking over the station this festive season."

Christmas Links #13

Links  Review 2014 was the last of the old school annual reviews.  Inspired by the famous scene from City Slickers, I asked a group of guest bloggers to write about the "one thing" they think everyone should know about.  The idea was to make it as open as possible and essentially give everyone carte blanche to talk about pretty much anything they wanted to.  

Oh boy did people reply, with nearly thirty posts that year.  Sometimes it was cultural event, a film release or book.  In some cases it was something which happened in someone's own life, a wide spectrum of romance and weddings.  I wrote about why I don't drink, declaring myself "fine" almost exactly a year before my first full on panic attack and the ensuing anxiety which meant I wouldn't be fine again.

But perhaps most poignantly for me is the entry written by the late Sarah Hughes perhaps best known for her recaps and other television writing on The Guardian's website.  She wrote rather brilliantly about how television can create a connection with a place, a sense of belonging and how it wasn't until she settled into the change of idiom on screen that she felt like she'd properly settled in from her time abroad.  RIP.

"A 101-year-old woman who had always wanted a large pine tree outside her window to be lit for Christmas has had her wish granted."

Meghan and Harry’s documentary has hit the raw nerve of tabloid prejudice:
"David Olusoga: I was an interviewee in the Netflix series. The scale and fury of the backlash to the comments on race and royals is revelatory."

"Christmas doesn’t look the same for everyone. Some families hang up some tinsel and call it a day, some pull out all the stops, and some don’t celebrate it at all."

"A: Yes, that's what it is."

"Some mums and dads said their children were left questioning if Santa is real, with one saying his 'beard was falling off'."

"Houseplant experts how to prune a Christmas cactus to keep their size in check and to encourage more flowers."

"If it includes gravy, let’s face it, we Yorkshire folk will lap it up. Be it a pie, a Sunday roast, or a Christmas dinner – the latter of which Yorkshire might well be responsible for (at least, as we know it)."

"For me, the holiday season brings feelings of anxiety and inadequacy rather than holiday cheer."

"Remember The Singing Dogs? It was a band made up of dogs, and all the songs were spliced-together dog barks. The group's Christmas song, "Jingle Bells," hit the top of Billboard's Christmas Singles chart in 1972. But don't be fooled—The Singing Dogs' Christmas album is far from the quirkiest piece of holiday music out there."

"Sumptuous costume dramas can provide a much-needed escape in troubling times, but if you’re tired of the usual assortment of airless parlours, manicured lawns, and straight-laced suitors, there is an alternative: a subset of films that play with our expectations of the genre."

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1930.

National multi-channel broadcasting came to the BBC in 1930 with the launch of the BBC National Programme, which replaced the experimental station 5XX and the BBC Regional Programme which replaced numerous earlier BBC location stations including 2LO.  

Although the audiences they were catering for weren't much different, the National offered by speech and classical music (and so akin to Radios 3 and 4) while the Regional concentrated on dance music and what we'd not call easy listen (sort of Radios 1 and 2 if you squint).  

Eventually they'd both be subsumed into the Home Service, two days before the outbreak of the Second World War.

The Man with the Flower in his Mouth

"This is a re-creation of one of the earliest television plays pioneered by Baird. Written by Pirandello (pictured), The Man With the Flower in his Mouth, was broadcast live from 133 Long Acre, London, on the 14 July 1930. The re-creation was made by television staff at the former Inner London Education Authority for use at a stand at the Ideal Home Exhibition in 1967."
[BBC Clips]

"When television broadcasts over the BBC finally launched on 30 September 1929, a problem remained. There was only one transmitter available. For six months, the Baird studios were forced to broadcast video and sound alternately at two-minute intervals."
[Baird Television]

"Review gets the original crew back together to film Pirandello's The Man with a Flower in his Mouth."
[BBC Archive]


What seems like the opening five minutes and closing five minutes of a BBC Radio drama from 1930 released on 78s.
[Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music 78rpm collection][BBC Programme Index]

Behind The Scenes

"Sometimes all the news doesn't fit because it's too small."

The BBC Symphony Orchestra had its first concert in 1930.  For the Radio Times Annual 1954, Sir Malcolm Sargent was asked to write about conducting the group and his part in their history.

"Nicholas Kenyon explores early music at the BBC in the 1930s."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"The past year has been one of rapid and continuous progress.  Two of the chief features of this development are the National Lectures and other important addresses, and the creation of a great orchestra which has been received with widespread approval."

"The year 1931 will see the inauguration of the new alternatives services for the North of England through the twin-wave Regional transmitter at Slaithwaite, new Huddersfield."
[World Radio History]

Christmas Links #12

Links  Thanks to the 50th anniversary and my fan gene being at its most bulbous, for much of 2013 this blog was dedicated to all things Doctor Who with weekly blog posts writing around various stories, one for each year (expect another ten later next year covering the Capaldi and Whittaker years) and days links to various things tangentially linked to those stories (and other stuff).  

So as a change, Review 2013 was called Not The Doctor and dedicated to some things I'd enjoyed over the previous twelve months and other whatsits, one of the few occasions when the annual review on this blog was an actual annual review.  It ended with the Alanis Morrissette song which was the rather obvious reference point.  

There's the usual whiff of desperation as I'm trying to fill every day with something even to the point of finally putting my (until then) one proper piece of fan fiction, the Buffy/ Friends/ Dawsons/ MSCL/ Northern Exposure/ Quantum Leap/ X-Files/ DS9/ Voyager crossover everyone has been hankering for in which most of the characters discover they're fictional and Dawson pirates Star Wars.

As is the case with blogs of some longevity, there are pieces in here I'd completely forgotten about, like transcribing a Cornwallis essay, On Revolution, which is thought to have influenced Hamlet and singing in a Karoke Shower at Birmingham Library.  None of which means I didn't review that year's Doctor Who Christmas special.  You can probably guess what I did with the title.

"Q: My husband of thirty years died last year, and this will be my second Christmas without him. Last year was awful, and even though family were supportive, I’m dreading Christmas this year and feeling anxious just thinking about it. I’m worried people think I should be over it by now, I think I should be over it - and I don’t want to ruin everyone’s day. Should I still be struggling?"

"Take the stress out of festivities by figuring out what means most to you, and discover your own new traditions along the way…"

"More people are hiring festive essentials this year, to stretch finances during the cost of living crisis, and be more sustainable."

"As the beloved film turns 30, Brian Henson lifts the lid on the challenges he faced on set, collaborating with Disney and the When Love Is Gone saga."

"Batman, Barbie, and more unlikely folks who needed three spirits, time travel, and a holiday lesson."

Christmas gaming (1973)
"Raymond Baxter demonstrates the latest in Christmas gift technology - the games console.  This clip is from Tomorrow's World."

[Emulated] "The Magnavox Odyssey was the first home video game console, predating the Atari Pong home consoles by three years. The Odyssey was designed by Ralph Baer, who had a working prototype finished by 1968. This prototype is affectionately known as the "Brown Box" to classic video game hobbyists."

"Some Christmas hits might feel like they've been around forever - but are they more recent than you think?"

"About a 100 tractors decorated in festive lighting will parade through villages and towns in the Midlands.  The annual Christmas parade heads through North Warwickshire, Nuneaton, Bedworth and Hinckley in a bid to raise money for three local charities."

"Throughout the mid-20th century, shopping centers across the United States featured an unusual Christmas tradition: kiddie monorail rides. In this video we’ll identify as many of these rides as I could find, explore where and when they were built, and discuss who was responsible for manufacturing them."

Christmas Links #11

Links  Rather by luck rather than design, on the tenth anniversary of the annual reviews, Review 2012 was a celebration of the blog with call backs to old writing projects and lists, wrap-ups of things I'd enjoyed that year and basically anything I could think of which could fit within the loose title of "The Projects".  In the spirit of some of those posts, here's a list of links with a few comments on each:

Still I think, the last Biennial I've genuinely loved mostly because of the absolute brilliance of having the late and very lamented City States section in the old post sorting office on Copperas Hill, about the only building in the city capable of housing a giant pillow the size of several buses.  The 2016 Biennial had its moments, but I think I enjoyed finding funny places to put my little plastic TARDIS.

In which I post the contents of an assignment from my Information Studies degree.  At the time a bit of reticence about people being confronted with a younger version of themselves on YouTube led to me only posted clips of the original video without the voxpops but eventually I realised how unlikely it was that these random strangers would stumble upon the thing, so I posted the complete version which currently has 39 views.  You can add to them if you want to see what the 19 year old version of me looks like.

To this day I haven't eaten another one.

Back when I still idolised this egotistical shit, I spent a year watching my way through his projects to date. 

Although I retired the blog years ago, the Hamlet project is still theoretically on-going.  Here's the most recent post about Michelle Terry from 2020.  I really need to do some catch-up.

A survey of the various productions I watched in year when there were a lot of them about, especially on the BBC, thanks London 2012 Cultural festival.

Let's not.

One of the benefits of following Ingmar Bergman's example and watching a film nearly every day (him during the spring and summer, me all year round) means I plough through a lot of product.  In 2012, that was the Sight and Sound list, the films of Anne Hathaway and awards contenders.

In which I try to remember what other films I watched that year without the benefit of Letterboxd, then completely fail to make a top ten.

A return to a month long project from 2007 in which I reviewed series of movies many of which still haven't received the recognition they deserve then added a new recommendation.  Ten years later, here's another one: The Kid Detective, an unofficial sequel to The Mysteries of Encyclopedia Brown books, in which Adam Brody plays a PI who was a renowned child investigator until he "failed" on a case and is still living with the consequences.

A return to a month long project from 2008 in which I reviewed series of songs and albums many of which still haven't received the recognition they deserve then added a new recommendation.  Ten years later, here's another one: Finally Out of P.E. by Brie Larson, a pretty good, sub-Swift pop album and a song called Ugly, the backing track for which sounds like a yassified version of the Sugababes song with the same title.

Which are their own little time capsule.  Some of the prediction have since come to pass, although it took a while.

That took slightly longer than I anticipated (like most of the writing on this blog for the past twenty-odd years) but here, later than usual but as promised are today's ten Christmas Links.

How one town’s terrible Christmas tree captured the mood of a weary nation:
"It’s not every day that your hometown’s Christmas tree goes viral and makes international headlines. You might think that it would be a point of pride. “We did it, baby! We’re on the map!” you might be expected to exclaim. Alas, not in this instance."

"Enjoy a live look inside the South Dakota capitol building rotunda with its beautifully decorated Christmas trees."

"James Burke immerses himself in the modern, intensely manly world of male cosmetics.  This clip is from Tomorrow's World."

"In traditional festive legend and popular culture, Santa Claus's reindeer are said to pull a sleigh through the night sky to help Santa Claus deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve."

"A large nativity crib in a cathedral has been thatched by members of the same two families every year since it was first created in 1960.  The 10ftx12ft (3mx3.7m) crib is built in Truro Cathedral each Christmas."

"She escaped a tough childhood to become an Oscar-winning star. Now she’s on a mission to rescue country singer Tammy Wynette from decades of feminist dismissal."

"Make venison tourtière, maple ham and sugar pie from Vancouver-based chef J-C Poirier's cookbook debut."

"Christmas parties in financial services aren't what they were. Long ago, banks shamelessly spent huge amounts of money indulging staff. Then came the financial crisis."

"Christmas is, of course, a time for giving – but it is also unfortunately a time of enormous waste. In fact, an estimated £140 million worth of Christmas presents are returned each year in the UK alone, with many of them eventually ending up in landfill."