What Is A Weblog? A Proposal.

Life Just over, my god, fifteen years ago, a friend introduced me to a book publishers who were looking for someone to write an introduction to weblogs.  The remit from them wasn't very well defined so although on reflection they might have been looking for more of a "how to" book, I offered a general overview of the, urk, blogosphere of that moment with interviews and anecdotes.

For years I've thought that just the short proposal had survived, which was already posted here back in 2016, but in the process of sorting through my hard drives, I've found the complete document, with overview, chapter breakdown and complete first chapter.  I haven't looked at this in years obviously, but still below in all of its unvarnished glory.

Obviously, it's a full on Proustion nostalgia serum injected directly into the veins. For all of us who try to intermittently keep things going, this whole world has gone now. Almost all of the blogs listed have gone, many years past either because the writers got on with their lives or simply moved to another media, probably YouTube or Twitter. Seems fitting that I should put it up here, just a year off this blog's twentieth birthday.

A chronological list of available Royal Shakespeare Company productions and where to watch them.



Theatre is ephemeral.  Records often exist. There will be programmes. Costumes kept in archives along with photographs, annotated scripts, director's notes.  But outside of the publication of the text, it's mostly fleeting, an experience between actors and audiences which mostly lives on in the memories of participants, for better or worse.

Some productions survive.  Quite often they'll be recorded by the company or theatre either on audio or video, usually with a camera filming the whole stage from a fixed point, available for future academics and practitioners to view at the theatre or connected building.  The National Video Archive of Performance contains plenty of those.

Increasingly, though, national theatres including the National Theatre are filming their productions for a commercial audience, either through cinema projection or DVD release or both.  During the lockdown many of these recordings have been made available for free or a small donation and there are now streaming subscription services containing dozens of past shows.

Britbox have recently made twenty-five of the recent RSC Live presentations available alongside their television archive for £5.99 a month and I thought it would be useful or interesting to watch them in their original seasons and recreate the thematic connections, the experience of turning up in Stratford-Upon-Avon and looking at the poster outside.  Which necessitated making a list.

Then I wondered what other Shakespeare productions across the years are available in some form or other, outside of their archived audio or video, whole shows and also excerpts either in compilation releases or television documentaries.  How much of the RSC's bard history is available to the general public either filmed in theatre or reproduced in a studio setting?

Plenty and not much.  As you'll see, from this chronology I've created over the past week, people with academic credentials have access to a number of mid-twentieth century productions recorded for BBC television through Box of Broadcasts (and the BBC Shakespeare Archive Resource).  Outside of that there are a few other similar studio bound reproductions, usually starring Sir Ian McKellen.

There are also excerpts, snatches of productions or whole acts and the sources for these are included below (records or documentaries), although I've excluded the particular Act or Scene numbers to keep the list relatively simple to read, but that's usually a click away.  The link in each title will take you to a production profile which may contain photographs.

Where possible I've also linked to somewhere you can actually watch or see these plays, either right then or through subscriptions and purchases.  There is further archive material on the RSC website, the Birthplace Trust archive (which was invaluable in compiling this list), the RSC's YouTube channel begun in 2010 and the exhibition pages at Google Arts & Culture.

A Thousand Observations on Film Art.

Film The utterly superb, Observations on film art, by film theorists Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell has reached its thousandth post. Authors of Film Art: An Introduction, the book which helped shepherd me through university and especially my dissertation, they began writing digitally in order to provide an adjunct to the limited page limit of the book. But it also allowed them to apply the principles to new releases.  The blog has since gone on to encompass all aspects of film culture, with festival reviews and offer annual reviews of films released a century ago.

Is Taylor Swift gay?



Music As I let the new Swift album roll over me in waves, I've been seeking wild interpretations of the lyrics. Come on board this Vulture deep dive into into the song betty and what Taylor might be saying about herself (sorry about the pure click bate in the title, Twitter clickers). As with the best conspiracy theories / literary criticism, there's plenty in here which seems plausible and even a mike-drop moment in relation to Karlie Kloss.  Is it true?  Perhaps like Shakespeare's "sonnets", we'll never truly know, and that's ok.  It's not really any of our business.
[Related: The Untold Story of Rebekah Harkness, the source for "the last great american dynasty"]

Dan Martin RIP.

TV The NME reports that journalist and screenwriter Dan Martin has died, he was 41. The cause of death has not been made public. That NME article demonstrates how much he was adored in the music community, but it's weekly Doctor Who review in The Guardian for which I knew him best, which he began writing at the start of the Matt Smith era in 2010 and although I didn't agree with everything he wrote, because what would be the point if we all thought the same thing, his was always the review I went to first after completing my own screed to see what I'd missed.  As Anna says of her self, he was an important part of my love for Doctor Who.  He also wrote this survey of the wreckage surrounding Torchwood's Miracle Day, which is all to the good.

"Oh I won't have it. I'm going to fight it until the bitter end."

TV BBC Archive has posted another massive collection of clips, Eccentrics, enthusiasts and other characters, featuring the kinds of people who these days are setting fire to 5G masts and holding rallies against not wearing a mask in a shop. The title quote is from a blanketed deerstalker who's dead against lamp posts, bless him. Or how about from when Panorama was more like The One Show directed by Bela Tarr, as a farther and son craftsmen discuss the various economic merits of the busts they manufacture.

Death of a Fandom.



TV Yes, I know Taylor Beyonced an album last night (or Faux Beyonce since there were only lyric videos and it was announced a few hours before), but I've only just noticed Jenny Nicholson posted one of her rare videos three days ago and been watching that instead (folklore will come later). In The Last Bronycon: a fandom autopsy, Jenny defenestrations the My Little Pony fandom, from its weird origins, to its psycho-sexual elements and its downfall in a way which makes it palatable and relatable for outsiders.

As a member of another fandom or two, there's plenty in here which feels incredibly similar: about entryism into an existing fandom; the toxicity of gatekeeping; the weirder excesses of fandoms of fandoms and the hierarchies; bad faith outsiders trying to make a profit from the fandom; licensees misunderstanding the origins of the fandom and what makes it tick and how the actual reason the fandom exists, the product itself, becomes buried or besides the point in the face of point scoring or internal grudges.

Due to the origins of Bronyism and the kinds of people it attracted, even posting this video feels like an act of bravery, especially considering some of the revelations within in which she talks about how she's added to the toxicity herself. But the comments underneath, some four thousand so far, are overwhelming positive and questioning and hopeful. If nothing else, some of it indirectly explains why Equestria Girls exists and you'll never look at a body pillow in the same way again.

The tricks to make yourself effortlessly charming.

Life This old BBC article from 2017 bubbled up to the surface of my pocket recommendations and although some of it feels like hogwash, I did find myself nodding along with swathes. The key problem I've seen is when your attempts at charm click over into creepiness. When someone is asking just too many questions and getting just a little bit too close, causing your skin to crawl.  Although that's obviously become less of a problem lately.
[Related: ‘Remember to smile with your eyes’: how to stay safe and look great in a face mask.]

Emojipedia.

Social Media The Empojipedia is a Rosetta stone of digital symbolic communication, showing how various software companies has bent their house style around various emojis. For things like "grinning face" the variations aren't too huge, but the more complex the picture being communication, the greater the variance. This array of unicorns. These athletes. A housing estate.

Drawing speed.



Art Local Liverpool artist Colette Lilley has opened a YouTube channel to showcase her skills through time-lapse photography. Her introductory video is above and you can visit the channel here.  Incredible.

"Who is the most-famous person you have a photo with?"

Life This tweet meme has been knocking around for a few days and I haven't had an answer. As a rule, I've tended to avoid meeting people of note on the basis that I like not knowing if they're a div or not. It's one of the reasons I've also sworn off Doctor Who conventions and watching most celebrity interviews unless they're on-point.

There is a shot from Speke Carnival in the late 70s of the baby version of me and Buzby, British Telecom's big yellow marketing bird, but that probably doesn't count, but the closest I could think of is this, taken by a security guard at the BBC's New Broadcasting House a couple of years ago when you could still just wander into reception off the street:



The t-shirt was entirely coincidental.  Does an inanimate object count if its portrayed as being somewhat sentient in a television programme?  Probably not, but at least it can't disappoint you in real life.

"Why couldn't it be that day?"

Film 'The world is in a state of turmoil': why time-loop movies resonate in 2020. Short piece from The Guardian about how time loop movies resonate in the current situation, which talks the screenwriters and directors of all the greats, like Groundhog Day, Happy Death Day and See You Tomorrow. When I first brought an Alexa, I set it to wake me up with I've Got You Babe. That stopped being funny relatively quickly.

Richard II in New York.

Theatre Because Shakespeare in the Park is cancelled this year, WNYC in New Tork have recorded a radio version and it's available to download here. Cast includes Lupita Nyong’o, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Merritt Janson and Phylicia Rashad.

Romola on Directing.



Film It would be remiss of me not to notice that while Romola Garai waits to play the fourteenth Doctor (or whatever - who knows how many incarnations there have been at this point), she's been directing a horror film, the really creepy trailer for which is above. Here's a short interview with Romola about directing with a "you don't look like the type who's into horror films" guy:



The film was at Sundance, so there are plenty of interviews and panels around.







Leonard Maltin!

Also a few written interviews:

Sundance 2020 Interview: Romola Garai on the Horrors You Can’t Shake with “Amulet”

‘Amulet’ Filmmakers Reveal the Secrets of Blood Effects: You Blow Into a Tube

‘Amulet’ Helmer Romola Garai Was Inspired By The Move Of “Female Filmmakers Into The Genre Space” – Sundance Studio

Sundance 2020 Women Directors: Meet Romola Garai – “Amulet”

From Dirty Dancing 2 To Director — Romola Garai’s Horror Movie Is Headed To Sundance

Eye roll on the final headline.  Not that I'm watching or reading any of them right now - I'll wait until after I've seen the thing.  But wow, this is really quite something.

Be Kind Rewind.



Video  Few YouTube channels come nicher than Be Kind Rewind which investigates the winners of the best actress categories at the Oscars, using this moment of success to talk about the film making business at that time, why the particular actress may have won that award, gender politics and race and a whole lot more besides.

BKR only posts once a month. These are authored, researched essays.  But I've learnt more about film history from these videos than many other sources.  Plus its great for seeing clips of films which time has forgotten.  Her most recent video is the longest yet, about the "feud" between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, debunking Ryan Murphy's tv series as a sham and lies.

The Sixteenth Book I've Read This Year.



Books Mark Kermode recommended this after an interview on the film review show when all Richard Dreyfus wanted to talk about was what a shit Michael Cimino had been rather than publicise his new release.  It's stunning a stunning memoir covering the production of all the films on the cover plus Convoy, The Wicker Man and The Man Who Fell To Earth.  Not just a string of showbiz annecdotes (all of which are incredibly funny and illuminating), it demonstrates in detail the role of the producer in putting together packages to sell to studios and working on set day-to-day to keep the production moving on budget and schedule.  Essential.

Ebi Obegbuna's Wind Verses Polygamy.

TV Earl Cameron and a lost play. John Wyver writes extensively about the lost recording of writer Ebi Obegbuna's play Wind Verses Polygamy.  I wonder at what point our cultural attitude to television changed from it being thought of as being just as ephemeral as theatre because it was rarely repeated and being disgusted that such items are no longer available in the archive.  When the BBC began its retention policy?  When the first domestic VHS recorders were produced?  The first commercial video tapes making some of this material available and therefore leading us to wonder what could be made available?

Thandie Newton on everything.

Film In Conversation: Thandie Newton.  Astonishingly frank interview in which she describes what was tantamount to abuse on the set of Crash, being fucked around by the racist producer of Rogue and bow she nearly had the Lucy Liu role in Charlie's Angels but the producers wanted her to be more stereo-typically "African-American".

Rethinking the Film Canon.

Film Rethinking the Film Canon. Important essay on how the so-called film canon was originally shaped by white voices.  The canon became frozen some time in the past century even though there are dozens of films which are worthy of consideration in the same breath as Kane or (god forbid) Nation.  It'll be genuinely interesting to see how much the Sight and Sound list changes in 2022 with the prevalence of streaming services and hopefully a greater diversity of voices involved.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.



Language Watching the above episode of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man I discovered just how offensive to some the term "African American" can be. It's used as a blanket description for those who also may have their heritage elsewhere, such as the Caribbean and those who don't identify with being African because that heritage was stripped from them because of slavery. But I also see that it's a way of "othering" because White people in the US are rarely referred to as Euro-American, for example.  In news and police reports, suspects are often called White or African American, which is ridiculous.  So the least offensive term is Black, which seems to be what we use in the UK now for the most part.

The Juror's Story (Short Trips: Repercussions)

Prose A clever, funny story even if I'm not completely on-board with the conclusion (spoiler alert). A riff on 12 Good Men starring all of the Doctor's incarnations up until then banding together to save one of their own.  It's told from the point of view of one of the jurors who's slowly manipulated by these various Doctors dropping in across time until he reaches the same conclusion they do, or have to, about the accused and his actions. In which case you might then wonder why he has to be pulled out of time as happens at the close of the story. If it's because he now believes there to werewolves in the world, then considering what else is common knowledge that seems a bit unfortunate. If it's because the Doctors have weakened the web of time and he's at the epicenter of the distortion, that makes the Doctor no better than the Weeping Angels. Doctor Who in the early zeros was a weird, weird place.
Placement: Early. In the Greenpeace gap for old times sake.

The Time Lord's Story (Short Trips: Repercussions)

Prose What a pleasure. Set directly after the Big Finish version of Shada, this has the Doctor and K9 investigating genetic skulduggery on Gallifrey in which (spoiler alert) we discover a renegade time lord is attempting to give his race infinite regenerations using vampire blood. Back in 2004 this must have seemed like an utterly bizarre notion, the usual mad scientist fare for the Doctor to step in on. Now we can enjoy the irony of a character who unknowingly already has that ability stopping someone from triggering it in everyone else.  Genuinely this could be one of my favourite Eighth Doctor stories.  Iain McLaughlin & Claire Bartlett catch his voice and action perfectly, President Romana is at peak haughtiness and one off companion and proto-Osgood fan girl Tianna leaps off the page.  But it's also a classic romp, with running and screwball ratatat and feels much longer than its twenty-odd pages, in a good way.
Placement: After Shada (Shaaadaaaa!).

Repercussions... (Short Trips: Repercussions).

Prose Gary Russell's Repercussions sits very badly with me, for some reason. The Doctor is a time/space event with a personality and even in his Eighth incarnation he's made some wildly questionable decisions.  But the idea that he has an airship in a time loop for hiding people who's existence could mess up history often because a mistake he's initially made is awful however many of them "understand" why he did it. Never cruel or cowardly?  This is both.  I know that this is largely a Chaucerian framing device for this Short Trip, it also doesn't make much sense that this early in their travels Charley would discover all of this and then still be OK with being with the Doctor and spend half of her visit in this pocketverse justifying his actions.  It's also that he's apparently been doing this through various incarnations and she might still be at it for all we know.  Is this where Aramu disappeared off to when he was attacked on the beach in Praxeus?  Gary also implies that Grant Markham and Sam Jones have also been stashed here (this was in the period when Big Finish was distancing itself from the continuity in the novels).  Hopefully this is one of the things which was wiped out during the Time War because, jeez.
Placement: Just after Swords of Orion.

Lockdown Links #14



New On Streaming Services:

Little Joe which was released theatrically just before the lockdown, is now available on the BFI Player, both stand alone and Amazon Prime flavours. It's fine, unless you know a tiny area around Hope Street, Myrtle Street and Catherine Street in Liverpool as you spend the whole film shaking your head at the wonky geography. The Foresight Centre is not a school. Is it supposed to be set in Liverpool? No one has an accent despite the shots of the Everyman, down Duke Street towards the Liver Buildings and the interior of the Philharmonic Pub. It's really quite unsettling.

In some ways the how Little Joe is filmed and the substance reminds me of a Liverpool Biennial commission. Without the dramatic elements, if it was just the shots of people tending the flowers, you could imagine it projected on a wall at FACT. That's a complement. Other than that it's a creepy attempt to redo Star Trek's This Side of Paradise in a cold, metropolitan setting.

Netflix's Homemade is a series of short films made in lockdown by major directors and stars. Features Ladj Ly, Paolo Sorrentino, Rachel Morrison, Pablo Larrain, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kristen Stewart and Gurinder Chadha:

Staged, the new sitcom starring the Tenth Doctor and and the man RTD and Moffat joked about taking over the role in the Forest of the Dead podcast commentary is on the iPlayer in full and utterly beguiling.  In my head canon it's set in the same satirical universe as The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

The Color of Time, a 2012 art piece about Pulitzer Prize winner C.K. Williams directed by twelve film students at New York University featuring Jessica Chastain and Mila Kunis has turned up on Amazon Prime under the UK title Forever Love and advertising which makes it look like a romcom.  It is not.

Britbox now has a selection of archive episodes from World In Action. The selection seems to be based tangentially with current affairs. There's a piece from '89 about three journalists racing across London using different types of transport and from '92 about twenty people applying for jobs at Manchester City Council.

Links:

What If Moviegoing Is No Longer Fun? The Frightening Realities of COVID-19 Exhibition:
Indiewire on the practicalities of cinema going pre-vaccine. "Movie theaters are made for escape, but that’s a tough proposition if they look like a death trap."

A Decade of Sun:
NASA timelapse of Sol revolving over a ten year period.

Was Penny Lane really named after the slave merchant James Penny?
Incredibly detailed exploration on how Penny Lane was named and where the myth of its connection to the slave owner spread from.

The Observer view on the inept and dangerous handling of the easing of lockdown:
The Observer's Editorial about the mishandled easing of the lockdown. Key sentence: "Social distancing now designated at “one metre plus” had predictably collapsed to one metre minus." People are trusting a government which persistently lies.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK:
If you want to keep an eye on UK Coronavirus disease 2019 cases/deaths, they're available on this page at gov.uk.

Jesus Christ, Just Wear a Face Mask!
Metafilter user 109 has had enough of your anti-mask bullshit. I agree. Any time I leave the flat I wear a mask and gloves, even just to visit the front door of the block to pick up a Deliveroo order.  It's a tiny inconvenience and if we were all doing it, could save many lives.

The Time Ball (The Many Lives of Doctor Who).

Comics Published as "issue 0" of a new run of stories about The Thirteenth Doctor by Titan Comics, this pulls together tales about each of the Doctor's incarnations including War around the theme of the number thirteen, all written by Richard Dinnick, Who spin-off veteran and illustrated by a variety of artists.  Some stories are more substantial than others, the writer often selecting less obvious TARDIS teams, so Ben, Polly and Jamie with Second, Sarah Jane with Third and the crews in Titan's own Eighth, Tenth and Eleventh series.

Which means we have another short adventure for Eighth and Josephine Day, on this occasion trying to send an alien who's been captured by the British Zoological Society in 1833 back to her ship.  As with most of the stories in the book, we're witnessing the final moments of the action, with the pace of a Doctor Who Adventures installment, but it's just enough to remind me how interesting this team is and how much a further run of stories would be appreciated.  The Eighth Doctor just seems so happy here, which has been a rarity in his portrayal lately.

Placement:  Before The Lost Dimension apparently.

We Can't Stop What's Coming (The Target Storybook).

Prose Whenever these multi-Doctor anthologies are announced, it's always with the curiosity of how they'll deal with Eighth. For most of the time, it's a generic Doctor in what has to be an early adventure or most recently it's the Time War. But every now and then, there's a unicorn. Colour me amazed on opening The Target Storybook to find a missing adventure for Eighth, Fitz and Trix.  You can imagine my awe at having read said adventure and realised that it could be set after The Gallifrey Chronicles and prefigure the arms race that has become a key factor in the Time War. I mean really.  Thank goodness there are shortages due to the lock down or I might have ended up in hospital due to the amount squee seeping out of my various orifices.

Published a whole fourteen years after this TARDIS crew's last adventure which ended on a cliffhanger, goodness knows what children and young adults made of this if they'd picked it up due to Jodie Whittaker's face on the cover (along with all of the Doctor's other incarnations - and Adric for some reason) (yes, I know, Matthew Waterhouse has written the Fifth Doctor bit).  The writer, Steve Cole (old EDA show runner and editor of this anthology) makes few concessions to the reader in explaining who Fitz and Trix are, even their appearance, with the former narrating half the story in the first person.  Perhaps some kids are wondering which television series featured this crew.  Or there are others seeking out their other adventures online and god knows what they'll make of Sometime Never ...

This being the literary equivalent of meeting some old friends on a train platform just long enough to say "Hello" and "Whatcha doin?" before you go your separate ways, it's a pretty simply story about time paradoxes, although Steve doesn't go completely down the rabbit hole and start throwing words like "faction" around.  That would be silly.  It's an immensely brutal story, which fits neatly with the novels of that period just before Cardiff steered the franchise back to its family roots with Trix's sadism in particular accurately portrayed.  Then after a couple of dozen pages, they're gone again, back into literary history.
Placement: There's isn't anything to really indicate where this happens in the latter stages of the EDAs but I'm adding it after The Gallifrey Chronicles anyway.

Notre Dame du Temps (Short Trips: Companions)

Prose Anji! The Seventh Doctor on his way to San Francisco! Amnesiac Eighth Doctor! City of Death! Published in April 2003, around the time of both the release of an official Ninth Doctor story and the announcement of an even more official one, it's tempting to see Notre Dame du Temp as a reminder of the rich mythology developed during the wilderness years in a moment went it was possible that these new series would reboot it all.  Except, the BBC Books series still had a couple of years to go.  This is from the same month Reckless Engineering was published and features elements which were continuity right then.  How was that possible?  I'm also intrigued to know who the writer is.  This is Nick Clarke's single Doctor Who contribution and yet this as accurate a depiction of that period and characters as you'll find.  It has to be a pen name surely?
Placement: Since the focus of the timeline is the Eighth Doctor himself, based on his cameo I've placed it just before Camera Obscura, when he gets his other heart back.

Femme Fatale (BBC More Short Trips)

Prose Paul Magrs' nostalgic throwback to the 60s has itself, twenty years on, become a bit of a nostalgic throwback.  Published three years on from the TV Movie, two years before the Big Finish audios, right in the thickets of the wilderness years with the franchise continuing to entertain its smallest audience ever in print and comic form.  For some reason, I entirely neglected to either read or review Femme Fatale at the start of this project fifteen years ago and so here we are, in the old review format, filling in a gap.

It's a culture shock to be back in the "With Sam" years, somewhere between The Scarlet Empress and Interference when the storytelling mode was often experimental and writers had license to produce stories with shattered timelines and unreliable narrators.  Magrs' story is the finale to an anthology which includes stories told in the format of a police statement, a second Doctor story set during season 6B and a prologue to The Romans from the Hartnell era about the budding romance between Barbara and Ian and how they came by the house.

Femme Fatale's Bayesian narrative presents a series of events around the attempted murder of Andy Warhol and expects the reader to cobble together what actually happened.  There are multiple versions of the Eighth Doctor and Sam Jones some of which are in Iris Wildthyme's own "biography", in the Doctor's rewrite of that text, a reimagining of Doctor Who reminiscent of Steed and Mrs Peel which could be either of the former and straight storytelling.  It's the kind of writing which is rarely sanctioned by Bristol now.

God, it's good.  Iris is in her full Barbarella bloom (making this prequel to The Blue Angel) and the writing evokes the freewheeling structure of Mary Harron's film I Shot Andy Warhol making it impossible not to see Lili Taylor in the Valerie Solanas.  Plus, let's be honest, it's a Doctor Who story about the shooting of Andy Warhol which is something you don't read every day.  I mean you could read it every day but I think even Paul would agree there are plenty of other stories in the world.

Placement: Most timelines put it between Beltempest and The Face Eater.