Christmas Links #23

Last Christmas scores Christmas number one, beating Sam Ryder and Mariah Carey:
"Wham!'s Last Christmas has been crowned this year's Christmas number one, 39 years after it was first released."

"Christmas trees without the dreaded needle drop? Researchers are growing them now."

"The pair talk training, festive traditions and bringing joy and happiness to people at home on Christmas Day."

"A ghost story for Christmas."

"From festive TV to presents and food, Guardian correspondents round up Christmas traditions across the continent."

"In Gulatingslova, the law of the Gulathing law province in Norway, there are strict rules for the brewing of ale before Christmas."

"Nigella's recipes from her 2023 BBC Christmas Special are inspired by local ingredients from both the Dutch and Indonesian culinary cultures of Amsterdam, creating dishes that are both simple and celebratory to make our Christmas deliciously do-able and joyous!"

"The British Medical Journal’s Christmas edition publishes sincere research about zany topics."

"Christmas 2023 could be America's least snow-covered in at least 20 years. Meteorologists consider a white Christmas one in which there is at least one inch of snow on the ground Christmas morning."

"From IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE to ELF, I've curated a collection of scripts that should inject some holiday spirit into your screenwriting education."

Christmas Links #22

Mystery of Raphael masterpiece may have been solved by Bradford-made AI:
"Algorithm concludes most of Madonna della Rosa was by renaissance master – but not the face of Joseph."

"This week: some notable Christmases, and some festive maps. But first: sorry, I’m going to get soppy on you."

"It is a much loved festive film - and for one cinema It's a Wonderful Life is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving."

"Maria Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" has been the soundtrack of the holiday season for nearly 30 years.  Why has this song become a rare modern Christmas hit?"

"We continue our countdown of your picks for the greatest Christmas comic tales with the new (and award-winning) Christmas origin of Ace the Bat-Hound."

"Birmingham prison was opened in 1849, prior to that criminals were sent to Warwick to suffer their punishment."

"With roots dating back to the 13th century, Gryla is not to be messed with."

"Hotel prices and tourism numbers are up as New York City goes through its first holiday season with new rules that ban nearly all Airbnbs and other short-term rentals."

"Whether you’re spending the festive period by yourself or with people that don’t make you feel seen or supported, Christmas can be a time that exacerbates feelings of loneliness. Here’s what you can do to ease them."

"As the sun sets on the narrow streets of Africa’s largest informal settlement, children hurry to change from daily clothes into pointe shoes and other ballet gear."

Christmas Links #21

"When I started this set of articles about flash frames, right back at the beginning of the year, I never thought it would end up taking five parts to tell this story properly. In particular, I never really wanted to get into the nitty gritty of endless Young Ones repeats."

"Researchers suspect euphoria and intimacy of season may be behind spike in cases."

"Christmas has finally come home: In a sweet, new YouTube video, Darlene Love reunites with David Letterman and Paul Shaffer for the first time in nine years to resume a longtime holiday tradition that capped off the Christmas episodes of Letterman’s late night talk shows for 28 years."

"Between all the new gadgets being opened, video games being downloaded, and Premier League matches to watch, the UK's broadband networks will be under extreme pressure to deliver over the festive period."

Mickey, Disney, and the Public Domain: a 95-year Love Triangle:
"On January 1, 2024, after almost a century of copyright protection, Mickey Mouse, or at least a version of Mickey Mouse, will enter the public domain. The first movies in which the iconic mouse appeared – Steamboat Willie and the silent version of Plane Crazy – were made in 1928 and works from that year go into the public domain in the United States on New Year’s Day 2024."

"A former church in Ohio houses what's believed to be the world's largest privately owned collection of Christmas movie memorabilia."

"A popular "Santa's letterbox" in Coventry has been stolen and the owner has called for it to be returned."

"So I can now say that I’ve seen Santa with Muscles. That was not a thing I could have said two days ago. It was a better time, then. A more innocent time. I reflect sadly on what I’ve lost in the interim. Brain cells, certainly. A bit of sanity (And you all know the kinds of movies I indulge in. I have none to spare). The will to live."

"And other strange evergreen decor evolutions, from retro-kitsch to glow-in-the-dark."

"The day after Christmas, my family gathered around a bare branch stuck into the sand of a Cape Cod beach with boxes of stale crackers, cereal, and pretzels to celebrate what my mom had dubbed “Seagull Day.”"

Christmas Links #20

"The Victorian era was not as dusty and monochrome as we think; a new exhibition and a research project, Chromotope, explores a wave of chemical breakthroughs that brought colour to the people."

"It’s the most ... romantic time of the year?"

"Thieves have stolen the lights from a Christmas tree, leaving a village heartbroken."

"Elaborate food boards may not be practical, but some say that's not the point."

"A children’s Christmas party in Belfast with lots of fancy goodies and balloons."

"Crazy expensive dried citrus, cheap sh*t, a system of waste and compost as a natural fertiliser and political act...but is compost also spiritually nourishing?"

"If holiday music seems designed in a lab to get stuck on repeat inside your head for all of December, well, it kind of isall of December, well, it kind of is."

"At a recent NOAA workshop, another participant gifted all of us these wonderful “hard hat” float ornaments. The perfect blend of nerdy oceanography and 3-D printing."

"For astronomers peering into the depths of the universe, Christmas came a little early this year."

Christmas Links #19

"Analysis: many Christmas babies have traditionally carried a key sign throughout their lives of when they were born in the form of their name."

"Here's a selection of mildly-concerning vintage Christmas meals that you can make yourself this holiday season. With so many food items to choose from, it can be overwhelming to make up your mind."

"In this video, I connected some christmas electric toys to the WANPTEK DC power supply using wires. I continuously applied increasing voltage to the toys, starting from 5V and going up to 30V."

"The early music ensemble of the Folger Shakespeare Library offered a compelling Christmas program at St. Mark’s Episcopal."

"Dozens of runners dressed as Santa have raced along a beach to try to catch a Christmas pudding."

"At the outbreak of war in 1939, the BBC evacuated its newly-formed Radio Drama Company of actors, led by Val Gielgud, to Worcestershire."

"Brilliant festive photographs recently unearthed from our archives."

"The most popular Christmas movies seem to come primarily from the Forties."

"Professor complains that show’s Oxbridge bias is even more pronounced in Christmas specials and calls for public debate."

"The 68th Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Malmö, Sweden in May 2024."

Categorical Imperative (Short Trips: Monsters)

Prose  The TARDIS Wiki page for Simon Guerrier's story is quite the thing, explaining as it does the background of the Kantian philosophy which underpins events, whether the murder of a baby who will go on to destroy a planet is justifiable, basically should be kill Hitler?  Told mostly from Sarah Jane's point of view, we see all of the Doctor's incarnation up until that point attend the child's funeral, each on a mission to knife the thing in its crib with the Fourth Doctor brooding in the corner, biding his time.  As ever it's the Eighth Doctor who does the heavy lifting.  We know that the Time Lord can't do it, it's not in his nature, so it's a question of what he can do to nudge history in a different direction.  Big Finish's Short Trips anthologies were often, quite, quite weird.

Placement:  Charley's here, so the gap between the first two seasons.

The Glass Princess (Short Trips: The Muses)

Prose  Does the Doctor have a celestial Google Calendar which pings him through the incarnations to return to certain places and catch up with whoever's there?  The Glass Princess offers another example of this cross (re)generational story, as an event which happens during the Hartnell years, the poisoning of a young princess, becomes a mission as he returns throughout his life so he can wake her up now and then, for a few hours, so that her parents can spend time with her until she's the only one left of her civilisation.  It's a similar effort to A Christmas Carol, with birthdays in for the 25th December and a group effort rather than just Eleventh.

The Eighth Doctor appears in the final scene, leading the girl towards her final moments.  It is, as you might expect, horrendously sad and it's through his words the writer, Paul Leonard, articulates another element of the Moffat era, seven years earlier, that it's just a fairy tale, an articulation of Sleeping Beauty with the Time Lord in the role of the Prince.  But honestly the section which really punched me in the gut is the moment when the Seventh Doctor gifts her a small blue badge in the shape of a boat which has been passed on by Ace who says she doesn't need it any more: "She said to tell you that you had deserved it. It's a badge really, not a brooch. It's only given to people who are very special. Very brave."

Placement: Outrageously, I think I'm going to retcon this in the Time War era, in the period when he's dealing with unfinished business.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1988.

History provides context.  Back on the 23rd May 1988, when I saw the Six O'Clock News being disrupted by protestors and watched the same incident subsequently repeated as part of the TV Hell theme night, I probably found it quite amusing, seeing these newsreaders trying to do their job as potential mayhem was happening off camera.  As a proud BBC fan I no doubt applauded the professionalism of Sue Lawley in continuing to present the programme even as she gave a nervous side eye to the woman who had chained herself to the news desk with her co-presenter Nick Witchell sat on another.

Now I understand of course the reason for the protest.  Section 28 or Clause 28 was a legislative designation for a series of laws across Britain that prohibited the "promotion of homosexuality" by local authorities.  Much like similar laws being passed in the United States right now, its broad, unfocused nature was an existential threat to the LGBT community of the time, as support and counselling groups were forced to close and schools could no longer teach children about a whole group in society, with numerous Conservative MPs using homophobic language to justify their actions.  It became law on the 24th May, the day after the news protest.

Which means and as this BBC Stories piece demonstrates those protestors were incredibly courageous.  As Booan Temple describes, broadcasters simply didn't understand the impact this was going to have on LGBT people and so their only recourse seemed to be to try and get on television themselves and nationally.  It worked.  The invasion itself became a news story on the Nine O'Clock News and although the coverage in the newspapers afterwards was predictably homophobic and it ultimately didn't change how the vote went, it did at least give some comfort to any gays and especially lesbians watching that someone understood what they were going through and were willing to fight for them.

Section 28

"Section 28 of the Local Government Act passed into law on May 24th 1988. But Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government had under-estimated our communities’ determination to resist this legislation at every possible opportunity."
[Gay in the 80s]

"It's exactly 17 years since the anti-gay legislation was finally repealed by parliament in 2003."

"Section 28 of the Local Government Bill prohibits the "promotion of homosexuality". Concerned about its effect upon the arts, and fearing for its implications on a wider scale, actor Ian McKellen questions the purpose and logic of the Bill. Newspaper editor Peregrine Worsthorne argues for the Bill in this forthright discussion."
[BBC Archive]

"Kilroy (1986-2004), BBC One’s weekday discussion programme, covered the topic of the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in schools in the wake of the Section 28."
Featuring Sir Ian McKellen.
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]


"A Schools Television series presented by Carol Vorderman. This encouraged schools to experiment in various specific ways."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]

"A series of ten programmes about computers in society, with Fred Harris."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]

"Description of Dunmow Flitch Trials, where couples compete for a side of bacon by showing themselves to be the most happily married. Features extracts from Trial Ceremony, including verdict and sentence, and interviews with judges, candidates, counsel, and jurors. This was originally broadcast on BBC Essex on 12 June 1988."
[Essex Record Office]

"Keith Floyd continues his culinary trek with a visit to East Anglia. He looks forward to dinner and the prospect of Norfolk Dumplings, he makes potted shrimps and tastes brown shrimps. He then cooks scallops with chef Robert Harrison."
[BBC Rewind]

"BBC Radio 4 series in which Michael Charlton traces the emergence of Zimbabwe as an independent country in 1979."
[Imperial War Museum][BBC Programme Index]

"Nelson Mandela Concert at Wembley Stadium Celebrating His 70th Birthday: Harry Belafonte, Jonathan Butler, Tracy Chapman, Joe Crocker, Jazz."

"Richard Taylor was serving as a military police subaltern in Korea. Near to his tent they were interrogating prisoners - and sometimes they tortured them.  That was the start of a lifelong concern about torture."
[Richard Taylor][BBC Programme Index]



"Phillip Schofield, the first Broom Cupboard inhabitant, presents the programme that allows young viewers to give their opinions on TV shows."
[BBC Archive]

Three part history of the youth strand.
[Off The Telly]

"Representatives of Telegael, a joint RTÉ-Udras venture for dubbing TV programmes into Irish, visit the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Wales in Cardiff, to explore possibilities for co-productions."

"In this episode of The Reunion, Sue MacGregor gathers together the founding members of Comic Relief [...] On the back of the Red Nose idea came the first ever Red Nose Day TV extravaganza in 1988 - an event which would bring together comedy and charity like never before on live national TV."

"The BBC’s head of comedy said it would only work if there was a sofa. We said spaceships don’t have sofas – and he said it won’t work then."
[The Guardian]

"Sometimes, if I put on my magenta-tinted spectacles, I think that the most fun I ever had with Red Dwarf was in 1994. That was the very first time I watched the series, and indeed the very first time the show had been repeated from the beginning at all. So I could blithely enjoy the show without being troubled by what other people thought of it… or specifically, what the writers thought of it."
[Dirty Feed]

"Neighbours star Stefan Dennis, who plays Paul Robinson, visits Belfast. Reporter: Paul Clark."
[BBC Rewind]

"In this extract, Richard Attree develops music for the BBC schools radio series Popalong, using a state-of-the-art computer system, while Peter Howell puts the hum into hummingbirds for Wildlife On One: Birds of the Sun God."
[BBC Archive]

This BBC audience reaction report was one of the first nails in Doctor Who's coffin in the late eighties…
[Gen of Deek]

"The alcoholic and Godless wife of a vicar, a curtain-twitching meddler who finds happiness in prison and a timid suburban housewife who falls in love with a murderer. Three of 12 seemingly remarkable yet ordinary characters who made up Alan Bennett's two series of ground-breaking TV monologues."[BBC Sounds]


"Broadcast journalists from Belfast travel to London today to join protest at House of Commons against home secretary's Sinn Fein broadcasting ban; while in Belfast journalists and senior editors held news conference to highlight campaign for review of measures. Reporter: Iain Webster."
[BBC Rewind]

Christmas Links #18

How to avoid food poisoning this Christmas – and the dreaded freezer burn:
Successfully storing and cooking your Christmas meat is just the beginning. Freezing your leftovers without ruining them is almost as vital.

"Here are some creepy AF Krampus cards from Christmas past. These cards, part of a genre called "Krampuskarten", are far from your run of the mill Hallmark holiday cards."

"A project from an anti-discrimination creative arts organization pairs LGBTQ+ youth in need of help with donors willing to give it."

"This tradition melds literary and holiday pleasures into a single event."

"In the latest TV Legends Revealed, find out whether How the Grinch Stole Christmas originally had a bank commercial mixed into the iconic special."

"Have you been dreaming of a white Christmas? Well, the chance of that dream becoming reality may be increasing - but only for some."

"It was something of a Christmas ritual at Hunter S. Thompson’s Colorado cabin, Owl Farm."

"The Homemade Eggnog Recipe from Mount Vernon (and the Story Behind It)."

"John O’Donnell has been enjoying receiving Christmas cards for the first time in his life."

"But how many gifts?"

The Turn of the Screw (Big Finish Short Trips).

Audio  Woo, this is something for the completists.  In his role as Charlie Sato from the UNIT vault, Yee Jee Tso from the TV Movie reports on meeting the Eighth Doctor while the Time Lord tracking down one of his errant sonic screwdrivers which is about to be used by aliens to open a door to another dimension.  The Doctor's driving around in his Volkswagen Beetle from the EDAs, presumably before it was destroyed and he traded off the remains to the Faction Paradox.  It's a fun little adventure with a few kisses to the past of the franchise and the future for this Doctor.

Placement:  During the EDAs perhaps?  The Radio Times gap?

Klein's Story (Survival of the Fittest)

Audio  Klein's Story dates from the period in the late 00s when Big Finish's monthly range, in an effort to make them feel snappier like the TV series, were split between a single episode story followed by a three-parter and this fills in the blanks on a narrative I've not otherwise heard related to an alternative timeline were, it seems, the Seventh Doctor and Ace accidentally caused the Third Reich to win World War II.  It's rather like a companion chronicle or Short Trip with the (former?) Nazi relating how she managed to get her hands on a TARDIS.

In the course of events she meets that timeline's Eighth Doctor who's using the alias Johann Schmidt after having regenerated from Seventh who was gunned down whilst evading capture, his TARDIS already confiscated.  In his dialogue, Paul McGann affects an ever so slight German accent but he's still the man he'd become in the main timeline, albeit following the plans set in motion by his previous self to rectify the cause of events which he (spoiler warning!) succeeds in doing whilst simultaneous helping political prisoners evade the Nazis.  The Doctor hates fascists, no matter the timeline.

Placement:  The newly renamed "Alternative Eighth Doctors".

Christmas Links #17

Bye-bye booze! Five ways to have a fun, fabulous, totally dry Christmas:
"Many people want to enjoy the festivities without drinking – but come up against relentless pressure. Here is how to resist temptation."

"A print-only recipe of mine from back in the day. First published in the Bury Free Press (and editions) Christmas section, December 2018."

"A family in Kentucky had a surprise when a baby owl was discovered nestled in their Christmas tree - the bird had gone unnoticed for several days."

"In November 1996, my parents took my brother and me to the city that neighbored our small town to do some shopping, a task I loathed."

"Tim Burton’s superhero classic is Christmas rom-com you don’t realize is a Christmas movie or a rom-com."

"A former cashier who filed the suit claims she quit her job after reporting the revelry and enduring threats and vandalism."

"It doesn’t matter how you try to buy that next console, movie, toy, or meal, it’s all bad."

"Baphomet is a pagan idol, and I fail to see how it is scarier than the Johnson's outdoor Christmas decor, which features Santa Claus landing a helicopter atop an inflatable manger scene."

"How a whip-wielding butcher became St. Nick’s sidekick."

"Are you muddling through somehow or hanging a shining star upon the highest bough?"