Christmas Links #13

25 Horror Christmas Movies Ranked From Worst To Best According To Rotten Tomatoes:
"For anyone who's more into dreadful frights than silent nights."

Video shows SUV mowing down home's Christmas decorations, blindsiding 12-foot snowman:
"Police are searching for the driver of an SUV seen plowing through Christmas decorations in front of an Indiana home."

Flashback: Band Aid Raises Millions With ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’:
"The single, released in the United Kingdom on December 3rd, 1984, was crafted to “touch people’s heartstrings and to loosen the purse strings”"

Shaun the Sheep Pullover:
"This jumper is worked in pieces with the image on the front worked from the chart using the intarsia method. Treat your little ones to a special treat this Christmas with this cosy jumper, knitted in real British wool."

Meet the godfathers of the Christmas carol:
"Everyone knows Silent Night, but contemporary carols are still being written. We meet two of the UK's most popular composers, John Rutter and Bob Chilcott."

South Western Railway strikes planned for Christmas week:
"Staff at South Western Railway (SWR) are to hold two more strikes in Christmas week on 27 and 31 December."

Foul-mouthed Santa horrifies parents:
"Organizers of a Christmas event have apologized to outraged parents after a fire alarm reportedly prompted Santa Claus to burst out of his grotto, rip off his beard and scream at children to "get the f**k out."

Christmas Links #12

The beauty of the Christmas Bird Count:
"The ash tree I'm anchored to is laced with poison ivy vines, one as thick as my arm. The childhood adage, don't be a dope, don't touch the rope, is loud in my mind because although I'm no "dope" I'm definitely touching the rope — the ash is the only thing keeping me from falling into the icy creek below."

'A beacon in the dark of winter': the Christmas songs that shaped us:
"From singing Mariah Carey with drag queens in the desert to being driven mad by the Asda playlist, Guardian writers share their most poignant festive music memories."

Mum spits in face of Christmas elf in Stockton shopping centre:
"The woman lost her temper when told she could not take her child into the grotto in Stockton-on-Tees because she did not have a booking, police said."

Meet the 'Yule Lads,' Troll Brothers Who Terrorize Icelandic Children for Christmas:
"Hey, your husbands went to Iceland!"

35 Awesome Toys Every '80s Girl Wanted For Christmas:
"Let's be honest, you still want that Glitter N' Gold Jem doll."

Christmas Links #11

Rochdale bongs replace Big Ben on BBC Radio 4 at Christmas:
"The traditional Big Ben bongs on BBC Radio 4 will be replaced by bells from Rochdale town hall on Christmas Eve."

How one man's quest to spread Christmas cheer led to a miserable four-year war with his neighborhood:
"When Jeremy Morris smiles — or otherwise bares his teeth — you can see his braces: red on top, green on bottom, his pearly whites dressed in Christmas colours."

Why I'm not doing Elf on the Shelf - and you don't have to either:
"It's the one Christmas tradition I just can’t embrace no matter how hard I try."

Darlene Love: My 5 Favorite Christmas Songs:
"The powerful voice behind “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on the holiday classics she loves to sing most."

All I want for Christmas is a toy catalogue:
"I’m one of those nostalgic Gen-Xers who remembers lying on my stomach, legs crossed at the ankles, poring over the Sears Wish Book every Christmas. I’d circle the Lil’ Lady Buggy, Barbie Dreamhouse, Sweet Tears baby doll, then present my list to the Santa at the local VFW."

‘Hardest time of the year’: the students who will spend Christmas alone:
"When university halls empty as students flock to their families, care leavers face a different festive season."

A world without ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ is a world I don’t want to live in:
"For anyone born after 1994, imagining a world without ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’ is a near impossible task – not least because its absence could potentially ruin one of the best festive films made since its release."

Your Worst Ever Christmas Party Stories: 'I Ended Up In A&E Wearing My Boss's Coat':
"Featuring booze, sex, tears and, well, more booze.🍾"

18 Christmas Facts That You Didn't Know You Wanted To Know:
"Santa was once as powerful as Thanos."

How to See This Year's 'Christmas Comet' and Geminid Meteor Shower:
"If you can brave the cold long enough to find a clear patch of night sky, you can watch two bright astronomical phenomena this December: the 46P/Wirtanen “Christmas comet” and the Geminid meteor shower."

Christmas Links #10

Where to try out Christmas traditions from around the world in London:
"Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can get a little repetitive."

Elegant Christmas Shopping in London 1989:
"A 1989 guide to Christmas shopping in London’s finest department stores from Barbara McMahon of ‘Head to Toe’."

There will be a heritage bus service in London on Christmas Day:
"On the day when tubes, trains, buses and even cable cars go to sleep, there will one bus company offering a very special Christmas Day service."

Bloxwich Christmas decorations woman stuck in ceiling:
"A woman was left feeling a bit Claus-trophobic when she fell through the ceiling while getting her Christmas decorations from the loft."

“Sand Nativity” and Christmas tree of St. Peter’s Square unveiled:
"The Nativity scene in sand and the Christmas tree in the middle of St. Peter’s Square in Rome were inaugurated during a ceremony in the evening of November 7."

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.

TV During the revival we've become accustomed to big, brash season finales filled with massive cosmological shenanigans, giant emotional storylines, companion departures, deaths and resurrections and a sense of bowing up the season which has come before.  In keeping with the rest of this series which has largely been about presenting redux of the original twenty-six years, it's fitting that The Battle of the Who In The What Now? is more subdued than we're used to, with armies living and dying off screen, a tiny guest cast with epic back stories, a resolution involving someone pressing a few buttons in the TARDIS, a shouty returning antagonist and a long introductory walk through a quarry.

Except of course, the New Year's Day episode is clearly going to be the more traditional finale and will seem as much after all this has been uploaded to Netflix for posterity (and presumably the shiny disc box set).  Battles across time, explosions involving soldiers flying through the air and whoever the Doctor's referring to at the end of the trailer, who we're all assuming will be the Daleks but given the way this series is going, might as well be some new monster we haven't met before.  Big Finish granted, I've always been drawn to the idea of being introduced to some fully formed arch nemesis for the Doctor who she's apparently fought against for centuries in the mode of a Terry Nation creation but we just haven't had an onscreen adventure with yet.

Setting the usual expectations aside, how'd it go?  It was fine.  As Liz Myles said on Twitter earlier, this has been a "very warm, comfortable, cosy series of Doctor Who" and this "finale" is the epitome of that.  Perhaps in the edgier Moffat version, Graham would have shot Tim Shaw stone dead and caused a schism in the TARDIS team, but despite Bradley's understated anger that was never going to happen.  This is an iteration of the show designed for Sunday nights with a more subversive rather than overt edginess, one closer to Tom Baker's description of his run: "The smallest child terrified behind a sofa or under a cushion, and the next one up laughing at him, and the elder one saying 'sh, I want to listen', and the parents saying 'isn't this enjoyable'."

Indeed Tom would certainly recognize a few elements from his era.  The stealing and compacting of celestial bodies ala The Pirate Planet.  A previous decision coming back to haunt the Doctor leading to the fostering of a false religion and untold horrors on complete strangers as per The Face of Evil.  Ancient beings of immense power led astray from The Deadly Assassin (I appreciate that last one is a bit tenuous).  Essentially its the resolution of a season long project to bring the show back into some kind of manageable state of lower expectations.  A more expensive episode might have had cutaways to the planet as the pink ray enveloped it, but we've probably seen enough shots of bewildered people looking towards the sky already.

Instead, we have a Doctor who's compelling because of what she doesn't say.  The BBC uploaded the "dome new man goes sauntering away.." cafe scene from The End of Time to YouTube recently, which is beautifully acted all round but you simply can't imagine Jodie playing through with Graham because she doesn't articulate in that way.  Even on discovering the pain she's potentially caused in not ending Tim Shaw on Earth and sending him half way across the galaxy, it's underplayed and all in her eyes, rather than simply adding to some nihilistic angst as might have been the case with more recent incarnations.  She's on a singular mission to help people, as best she can, her own emotions be damned.

But she's also not one for righteous fury.  Again, her male counterparts might have treated Tim Shaw with greater contempt especially given that he's even more genocidal than Solomon from Chibbers's previous Dinosaurs on a Spaceship whom the Eleventh Doctor was quite happy to make explode (a move I was cross and curious about back in the day).  But she's adamant that Graham doesn't kill his nemesis because of what it would do to him, which is also a contrast to his reaction to how Amy dealt with Madam Kovarian, albeit an alternative version.  She trusts that he'll do the right thing, to such a degree that despite her storming confrontation with Tim, the Doctor's more interested in reversing the results of his experiments and happy to leave the boys to deal with the other problem.

She's also pretty sexless.  Given the flirtatiousness of 10th, 11th and let's be honest 12th, 13th has barely looked sideways at another person, male or female.  Yaz seems to have the most potential, but even then the only whiff we've had of that ship was her mother's confusion as to the nature of their friendship.  Asking to remain with the Doctor during the danger tonight was more to do with the usual "I want to stay with you" than hanky-panky.  Should this change?  If more recent incarnations have been allowed to kiss seemingly anyone with less pulses than them, from royal mistresses to Hollywood actresses, why shouldn't this incarnation?  Dunno.

Either way, we've finally reached the end (or middle) of the casting trailer with Phyllis Logan, Percelle Ascott and Mark Addy, both of whom, like the actor Kevin Eldon last week, feel like they should have been in Who before but a pleasure to finally have them here (although granted Eldon played Antimony in Death Comes To Time but does that count?  Honestly?).  Logan and Addy in particular demonstrated their depth of experience offering acres of lived history within the short screen time - we could absolutely believe the former could have lived thousands of years.  Perhaps they'll bump into Captain Jack or Me as they visit the galaxy and swap immortality tales.

So that's everything over bar another hour on New Year's Day.  It's been a season without any particularly rubbish episodes and only a couple of stone cold classics, probably Rosa and It Take You Away.  The latter is probably my favourite thanks to its gonzo ending which revealed that the receiver of the Doctor's emotional farewell, so intriguing in the trailer, turned out to be a rubber frog.  If I've a request for the future, now that we know that everyone's going to survive Resolution would be more Yaz.  Mandip Gill's felt slightly under utilised and that's something which should be corrected.  Oh and some returning monsters.  I think we've earned a  Cyberman stand off.  Happy Christmas.

Christmas Links #9

Customer 'disgusted' after Yodel delivery man was caught chucking a Christmas parcel down driveway:
"Our neighbour thought 'why doesn’t he just knock on our door?!'"

6 Festive Melted Cheese Recipes For Christmas:
"Molten cheese makes for the ultimate Christmas comfort food, whether for a special Christmas Eve feast or on those lazy days between Boxing day and New Year."

Garden centre donates festive fir to light up Ottery this Christmas:
"Christmas spirit has already sprung in Ottery following the donation of a festive fir by Otter Garden Centre."

Scottish farmer sued for £2 million after he ‘spoiled huge crop of Christmas trees’:
"A Scots farmer is being sued for two million pounds damages over claims that he spoiled a huge crop of Christmas trees."

Woman has more than 400 Christmas trees set up in her house:
"Shelly Botcher has never found a Christmas tree she didn’t like, and she has never thrown one away."

Restaurant Gift Cards Are the Best Christmas Present Ever.
"Here’s Why I Think So."

Share This Beautiful Icelandic Tradition With Your Family This Christmas:
"Icelanders give books to each other on Christmas Eve, go to bed early and spend the night reading."

Man opens Christmas gift from high school sweetheart 48 years after breakup:
"A man in Canada is finally opening a gift he received from an ex-girlfriend 48 years ago."

Christmas Links #8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Links #7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Links #6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Links #5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Links #4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Links #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Takes You Away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Links #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Links #1

Don’t F with me at Christmas:
"The song is the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York. Of course it is. But there’s a problem – actually, there are several but, in typical style, only one’s causing an issue at the moment. It’s a word. An F-word. No, not that one. You know the one. It comes at 2 minutes and 22 seconds into the song and is sung, with gusto, by the much-missed Kirsty MacColl. The word is “faggot”."

Here are the 10 most annoying Christmas songs of all time:
"Why do pop artists have to get involved with Christmas?"

Christmas Number 1 2018: The contenders revealed:
"Who's in line to claim the coveted Christmas Number 1 in 2018? We reveal all..."

From waiting lists to unboxing: the bizarre world of beauty Advent calendars:
"Forget chocolate – this year brands including Nars, Glossybox and Mac are counting down to Christmas with cosmetics. But are they really worth the (often hefty) pricetag?"

Smithfield’s Christmas Eve meat auction returns for 2018:
"Good news for meat lovers and lovers of a meaty bargain as the exceptionally good fun Christmas Eve auction will return to Smithfield this year."

Can I Find Someone Who Loves Christmas More Than Me? A Festive Investigation:
"Meet Jack Monroe, 'Mr Christmas' and Advent Alexa."

18 Tragic Christmas Designs That Deserve To Be Loudly Booed:
"Who approved of these?!"

The Lantern Sleeper.

Life If you've been trying to travel up Lime Street in Liverpool by foot or vehicle the past few years, you will have found it pretty difficult thanks to the demolition of the various old buildings on the station side of the street between the two large pubs including The Futurist cinema.

In their place a different edifice has been raised, a colourfully lit office, retail and residential opportunity called The Lantern which includes a new Premier Inn, walking distance from the other Premier Inn on Hanover Street but more convenient for Lime Street Station.

Last night I slept there, wanting to get away for a night but not wanting to get away too far much as I did in Manchester in September.  So armed with some literature, my toothbrush and a change of clothes, I walked there yesterday lunch time and booked in at 2pm.

As you can imagine, the "Have you come far?" conversation at the check-in desk went off the rails fairly quickly because frankly how do you explain that you simply want to go somewhere with a comfy bed and some peace and quiet so you can read a book and just give your anxious mind a rest?

I did not get much piece and quiet and initially my anxious mind did not rest.  Not long after being in the room, I noticed a constant wooshing sound.  I assumed it was the air conditioner on the blink so I visited the desk and asked if that was the case.

They said yes and that they'd turn it to "auto".  Ten minutes later and the noise was still there, thrumming away in the background.  Another visit to the desk and they said they'd turn it off.  Nope still there.  Another visit downstairs to be told that it definitely had been turned off.

For a further half an hour the noise was still there, loudly niggling away at me.  By this point I wondering if I'm being unreasonable, but I remember how silent the previous Lenny Henry endorsed rooms I'd slept in had been so decided to not let it go.  Elsa.

Another visit downstairs led to different staff member visiting the actual room and I showed him the grill the noise was coming from.  Lifting it to one side, we saw the big black box it was coming from.  We both stopped and listen.  He said he'd investigate.

He investigated, discovering that these grills are in every room and that the box we can see is the air conditioning system shifting the air through the building.  It's an access point and there is no way to turn it off.  I bothered to record the noise to you can experience it yourself:

I considered just going home, asking for a refund and said so.  He explained that I'd have to put a complaint with head office in to get a refund but that if I decided to stay he'd make sure I received a complimentary breakfast.  I stayed and eventually managed to tune the noise out for the most part.

How does this happen?  Who designs a hotel in which the aircon system is this audibly intrusive notably when there is advertising throughout the room indicating that their key selling point is a comfortable, unobtrusive night's sleep?

But no, this hummed away right through the night, while I was initially trying to get to sleep and then around six hours later when I got up to go to the loo.  I'd like to blame it for my usual dream about nakedly running around a fictional town looking for my clothes, but that's just my anxiety.

Which isn't to say the visit was awful.  It wasn't.  This was the view from my window:

Which is not something I thought would ever happen, being able to see the goings on in Lime Street from above, albeit on a Monday night when not much is happening anyway.  Seeing familiar landmarks from unusual angles is always exciting.  See also the view from my breakfast booth:

For the uninitiated, that's Lime Street Station.

Plus I did manage to read a whole book, the Black Archive edition about the TV Movie with the Pertwee logo which does indeed manage to find something new to say, despite the Gary Russell paperback, the complete history and the various shiny disc releases.

And I had a bath for the first time in about ten years even if it was too small for me to fit my whole body in and ended up bobbing backwards and forwards.  Showers are fine, but this was luxurious and the most relaxing moment of the visit.

The Witchfinders.

TV Sigh. Much as I enjoyed The Witchfinders, I can't quite summon up the imagination tonight to offer an opinion over eight paragraphs, so if you don't mind, I'll leave this for now and go and take care of myself. Think of me as Jacqueline Hill during the fourth and fifth episodes of The Sensorites. Perhaps I'll come back to it.  Just so that you haven't wasted a click, here's an excellent primer from BBC History about James I's obsession:
"James’s obsession with witchcraft can be traced back to his childhood. The violent death of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, seems to have inspired a dark fascination with magic. His Highness told me her death was visible in Scotland before it did really happen,” related Sir John Harington many years later, being, as he said, “spoken of in secret by those whose power of sight presented to them a bloody head dancing in the air”."
A lecture about witchcraft in general from Professor Wrightson at Yale University:

And a fascinatingly anonymous three column website about the Pendle Witches:
"During the sixteenth century whole districts in some parts of Lancashire seemed contaminated with the presence of witches; men and beasts were supposed to languish under their charm, and the delusion which preyed alike on the learned and the vulgar did not allow any family to suppose that they were beyond the reach of the witch's power."
See you next week.


TV There's little doubt that automation has devastated the organic workforce of the country. Little by little from supermarkets to banks to factories to call centres, companies turning us collectively into Victor Meldrews, replacing people with machines or at least putting the onus of a task on to the customer rather than someone employed to provide assistance.  In my own industry, and no I'm still not going to tell you what it is, what was once a profession even at a customer service level has transmuted into something rather more basic, more about being available if the machines break down or modifying the let's say product, so that it can be used within the automation on a less frictionless basis.

Jobs which would previously have been available to people with for whatever reason less qualification no longer exist but unfortunately this isn't being recognised by governments, notably ours, with a benefits system designed to penalise those who can't find work rather than offer them a helping hand, which assumes that people are lazy rather than being in a position were the jobs they might have done or have done just simply aren't available.  My Mum worked on a check out starting in the mid-90s for about ten or fifteen years to help us keep above water money wise, years after she would otherwise have joined the workforce and I fear that position simply wouldn't have been available now, at least with the security she had.

Kerblam! suggests that in the future, we'll end up introducing people quota, that we'll artificially force companies to employ humans even in jobs which could just as easily be automated.  This does not seem unrealistic although it's more likely that companies will simply end up with a proportionally smaller workforce to maintain the machines, keep things running smoothly.  That's already the case in some industries, especially for tasks which require something more complex than a simple algorithm like ad-hoc shelf packing or selling a mortgage or asking for the dispatch of emergency services (although in truth both of the last two are already being achieved via an app or website).

In that way you can understand why Charlie (played by Leo Flannigan who looks like a young Chris Addision) would freak out about this and want to make people scared of the technology enough that they might try and slow progress even if we can't agree with his terrorism.  From a certain perspective, we could be at a tipping point were a techno-dystopia is in our future, perhaps not with human androids of some description but at least with rectangular screens willing to fulfill our every whim with even less friction than we have now.  Within a few years, we'll essentially have a machine with a HAL-9000 AI in every room.

But Pete "bluray booklet" McTighe's Kerblam! breaks from Doctor Who's usually more Luddite positions.  In general, technology is a bad thing in this franchise with the Daleks and especially the Cybermen designed as cautionary tales of how technology could sap us of our humanity.  In the modern era, stories as diverse as the Silence in the Library, Girl in the Fireplace, The Rebel Flesh, The Girl Who Waited, The Bells of Saint John, Mummy on the Orient Express, Sleep No More and countless others have been about how technologies designed to protect humans can go bad when we're not paying attention or misunderstand its application.

Kerblam! is on the side of technology.  The central thesis is that Kerblam! works and people are happy to receive the parcels and within the limits of the slightly totalitarian androids, the workforce is generally pretty upbeat.  Like Robots of Death, it's deliberate sabotage which causes the system to break and it's that system which somehow knew to send a message to the Doctor asking for help, even if it failed to reach her a couple of incarnations later than expected.  The fez moment is adorable.  Along with the reference to The Unicorn and the Wasp, its good to see the show referencing its recent past more obliquely.

But then, curiously, in the closing moments, we're told that essentially Charlie succeeded in his aims and that the company is returning to a majority human workforce, which seen as a win by everyone.  On the one hand, yes, it means the company will employ more people but on the other it sends the message that terrorism, even if its defeated, still wins.  Oh and the Doctor goes from admonishing Ryan and Graham for being robophobic when they remark on how creepy they are to blowing up an entire conscripted army of them, albeit with the best of intentions.  Perhaps its this confusion within its central these which ultimately makes me like rather than love this episode.

Plus there's the unrealism of how the workforce is portrayed.  Despite the warnings about productivity, the actual work is portrayed as being really quite leisurely with the guest artists able to stop and have chats with nothing so much as a repeated warning.  Places like Amazon would not have allowed their workers to fall behind and the processes seemed to designed more to provide the closing surprise rather than offer a realistic portrayal of the job.  What kind of business loosely wraps the parcels in bubble wrap, stuffs it in an identically shaped box and then sends it out into the ether?  What if the product is larger than these standard limits?

Which isn't to say there isn't plenty to like, especially the banter between the main characters who're now very comfortable in the their roles, the chemistry flowing.  Structurally we are very much in 60s territory, with Ryan and Yasmin fulfilling the Ian and Barbara or more closely Jamie and Zoe positions of peeling off from the Doctor in order to explore the environment or sent on a mission.  A four part version of this story would have had more cutaways to the management, extra co-workers to be interacted with and more stressing on the cliffhanger moments like being discovered in the office going through files or one of the Kerblam! robots menacing Graham.

Perhaps I am beginning to miss the Doctor as a more interior being.  On only a couple of occasions this season have we had an intimate moment with her, most notably when she greeted her new TARDIS for the first time.  Although it's fun to return to the more runabout nature of the classic series, it's interesting that the Doctor hasn't been put in a position where she's had to properly question the nature of her being.  I appreciate that I've recently congratulated the show for not returning to the existential angst of previous years, but they really have to be careful that she doesn't simply turn into an expositional teacher figure.

That said the supporting characters have gained some more depth than in recent years.  You'll remember me rolling my eyes at the one dimensional approach to humanity in the likes of Smile, whereas the Kerblam! humans were given just enough back story and personality for us to genuinely feel something upon their demise, especially Dan the picker, gone too soon and killed off-screen.  This seems to have been Lee Mack's first dramatic role and although there's only a wafer thin difference between this and his Not Going Out character, the moments when he spoke of his daughter was genuinely effective.  The idea of taking on a meater part doesn't seem that far fetched.

Other than that, there isn't really much more to say after a first viewing.  Some Who stories are like that.  They're enjoyable for the period you're watching them and then you're ready for the next with the obvious suspicion that they'll gain significance in the future within the unfolding text.  The model seems to be that the more immediately "important" pieces in this season are the historicals and next week we're placing a female Doctor within a suspicious, misogynistic period and it appears when James I was at his most paranoid.  Do you think she's mention having been married to his predecessor?

And we still don't know anything.

Film One of my favourite writers has died. I think most of us would be able to sort the books we've enjoyed onto three metaphoric boxes. Those which we'll read once then move on, those we like enough to keep on the shelf and return to now and then and those books which have a profound effect on who they are. William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade is in the third category for me.  My love of movies can probably be traced backwards to reading that book.  My interest in film studies was founded in those pages which led to doing the MA a decade ago.  But most importantly my understanding that creativity and problem solving go hand in hand, that writing is most often about setting yourself a task and finding the most imaginative way of achieving it and also that you can take that approach with life in general.

It's a book more spoken about than read I suspect.  One of its key themes, "Nobody knows anything" is parroted a lot by people who rarely know the context. The full quotes is "Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess—and, if you're lucky, an educated one."  In other words, nothing is a sure thing but you can certainly have a hunch.  More often than not, especially in the realm of blockbusters, those releasing pictures know that they either have a resilient classic on their hands which will stand the test of time or some piece of shit which they can make a fast buck on.  The makers of Black Panther had a hunch that it would do ok, if not necessarily the stellar numbers which ensued judging by the marketing campaign.  The makers of Fan4stic knew they has some prime horseshit and let it die.

Honestly you should read this book next.  The anecdotes are worth it and there are plenty in there which haven't still done the rounds as well as those which have, about the making of All The President's Men (the clashes with Redford, Berstein and Ephron) and Marathon Man ("My dear boy, why don't you just try acting?").  But there's also clear instructional material on writing screenplays, how to construct a narrative and how to deal with source material in adaptation, that whatever it is should be dealt with as raw material rather than some holy scripture.  That film is a different media to print and attempting to do a direct adaptation does a disservice to both.  The chapter on A Bridge Too Far alone is an incredible resource as Goldman explains how he chose the various stories and then set about working out how they'd be crosscut across the film, making the most of what was sure to be an incredibly starry cast.

His other books are all just as entertaining in varying degrees but I have a soft spot for his collected writing for the likes of Premiere Magazine about specific Oscar years in which he dissects the contenders, such as noticing that framing structure in Saving Private Ryan is utter nonsense because it's from Ryan's point of view which means the film ends with some of the key emotional threads unresolved.  I remember reading these on their original publication and thrilling at window they offered on how the needs of production impacts on the writing process and his sheer honesty.  His most recent film credits have been as a script doctor on a diverse range of projects and you can usually tell that there was a moment when everything fell into place and then the director began to ignore Goldman's advice.

Of all his films, All The President's Men is still my favourite.  As Screentrade explains, not everything which appears on screen is his but the overall structure and much of the dialogue survives.  His approach was to show the audience what they don't know.  For example, that there were two break-ins at the Watergate, the first successfully planted the listening devices and it's the bundling of the second visit, shown in the film, which led to them being caught.  He also decided that the public were all too aware of the back half of the Woodstein story and Nixon's resignation so he concentrated on writing about the parts people didn't know as well, essentially ending his film half way through the book at a moment of failure.  In that way he could show that you can't succeed unless you make a few mistakes along the way.  RIP.

"right wing onanism"

Politics Just a quick note before midnight. As you will have noticed, we're finally here, the Brexit proposal draft has been published and as predicted by anyone with half an eye on human nature and the other one on having watched politics their whole lives, it's a complete and utter shitshow. Pretty much everyone I spoke to on the 24th June 2016 knew that whatever was agreed would neither please the brexitiers who want to be out completely, the foolish remainers who want to "respect the result" but still want in on the customs union and free movement and essentially staying as a member of the EU in all but actuality and the rest of us who simply just want to remain.

As was outlined last year in this brilliant New York Review of Books piece (Biden's Briefing has an audio version for those of us outside the paywall) the Irish border question is difficult, difficult, lemon, difficult.  The new document's approach is to have the UK in the customs union to varying degrees in order to keep the Irish border check free.  Except it means the Northern Irish would have much more favourable terms than the rest of the UK which the Scottish aren't too pleased about, and presumably the Welsh although no one ever bothers to go and ask them.  There isn't a way to get around this which doesn't involve putting a dagger into the Good Friday agreement. 

This has cheesed off the DUP who're reportedly, according to this Torygraph person, threatening to pull out of the confidence and supply agreement which is keeping this Government in power unless Theresa May stops being leader of the Tories and so Prime Minister.  Except whoever takes over the job. and god knows who that'll be, won't be able to magically offer something different, some dynamic innovation.  Whatever else is agreed, the Irish border question will still remain and how to allow the Northern Irish to retain duel citizenship if they want to.  There'll be plenty of back and forth and eventually we'll be back to exactly what happened today.

The only option in the end will be to either crash out without a deal and so there'll be a hard border in Ireland and a successive risk to the Good Friday Agreement along with the rest of us just having whatever Premier Foods are stockpiling to eat or we'll remain with some excuse related to it being for the good of the country, probably with a second referendum in order to provide some legitimacy.  Two or three years of right wing onanism, tens of millions of pounds spent not to mention all of the journalism hours expended and we'll be back to where we were three years ago, UKIP on the rise due to ignorant racists wanting to stem the tide of multiculturalism and the rest of us rolling are eyes and enjoying all of the benefits being a member of the EU offers.

"Sitting here stressing at 2:30am, about how fast the year can go."

TV Doctor Who Magazine has confirmed what we all knew anyway. This year's Doctor Who Christmas Special isn't. It'll be shown on New Years Day instead as per The End of Time Part Two.  Petitions have apparently started and there's been some backlash from fans who've become accustomed to having an episode to watch each December 25th, I'm quite happy about it.  There are few reasons why I wouldn't watch Doctor Who live which meant that I'd end up structuring my day around whenever the BBC had decided to broadcast the programme and this year it won't matter.  Plus its one less festive offering the next time we binge rewatch the series.  About 10% of the episodes since the revival have been broadcast on Christmas Day.

The apparent reason is that Chibbers couldn't think of Christmas related idea which hasn't been done yet since the show returned, although that's patently untrue.  There hasn't been a riff on the nativity for one.  This needn't involve the TARDIS pitching up in Bethlehem - it could be about the Doctor and friends protecting a primary school which is holding their annual nativity.  Plus as the Feast of Steven shows, it doesn't have to be about Christmas, it could be just something different to the usual run of the series, which is pretty much what The Husbands of River Song is, for better or worse, barring the teaser.  My guess, assuming the series is broadcast next year, that it'll come roaring back on Christmas Day with much connected ballyhoo.

Anyway, since I don't have any more to say on this topic, here are the proper Sugababes singing New Year in Christmas hats, recorded in 2013.  Those vocals, those vocals.
Mutya Keisha Siobhan (Sugababes- New Year LOVE Advent 2013) from Mutya Keisha Siobhan on Vimeo.