Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Today is a lovely day"...: Mark Everett and parallel worlds

Thanks to the wonders of - say it quietly - a moderately well functioning Freeview box, we finally caught up with the absolute gem "Parallel Worlds, parallel lives" - a BBC4 programme on Mark Everett of the Eels and his father, Hugh Everett III, who developed the parallel world theory. As a topic that I love in Science Fiction, and as a musician I have several albums by, this combined the best of all worlds in one show.

Nicely reviewed by doyen Nancy, it was a really charming piece of work. It even drew Cloud away from resolving problems with his laptop for the hour (he spent the first 30 mins in the doorway hovering to leave before saying "fuck it" and sitting down). It was also very watchable by non-scientists. I certainly felt much better informed about physics and quantum mechanics by the end, and that is no mean feat!

If you get chance to see it on a repeat, do watch it.

Disneyland and being grateful

Joe said "For those of you that have never been to Disneyland (are there people like that?)..."

Hmm. Well, I have never been to Disneyland, and nor frankly do I have any desire to. Not sure I even did as a kid!

I hate rides (I get dizzy) and I'm not best thrilled with crowds. So (1) never been and (2) no desire either!

Still, in the spirit of Joe's post and three things to be thankful for in the midst of a REALLY trying week at work:

I am grateful for
1) having a man I love to put up with me and love me in return

2) friends who mean the world to me

3) a job that just sometimes I can possibly believe I am good at and that makes a difference. Though the inner Eeyore in me also feels very beleagured at work at present...

4) [because the last one became a moan] that our builders are supposed to be starting on our house on Monday... demolition and chaos here we come...! But the result should be spiffy!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Description of Torchwood over at TV Scoop

This had me howling with laughter:

We'll get burglaries, abnormal deaths, scenes of torture and claustrophobia... but of course, this being Torchwood, it all feels like a B-Movie full of schlock and mwhahahaing... not that there's anything wrong with that. Torchwood is Doctor Who's little Emo brother listening to pretend punk music really loudly.

Blink on the Nebula list

I knew it was on the long shortlist (I think), but this morning the news confirmed that Steven Moffatt has been nominated for the screenplay for Blink.

The script for the 2007 Doctor Who episode "Blink" by Steven Moffat has been nominated for a Nebula Award. The Nebula Awards are awarded yearly by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) for the best science fiction written in the previous two years, using a system of "rolling eligibility". Moffat was nominated last year for his script for "The Girl in the Fireplace", but lost to the Hayao Miyazaki animated film "Howl's Moving Castle".

This year, the other nominees for Best Script are the screenplays for the films "Children of Men", "The Prestige", "Pan's Labrynth" and "V for Vendetta"; an episode of the television anthology "Masters of Science Fiction" written by Harlan Ellison; and an episode of the fan-produced Internet series "Star Trek: The New Voyages".

(Thanks to Alex Frazer-Harrison.)
Go Steven!!!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Primeval 2:2 quick responses

Ah, sigh. I got to watch this on my own yesterday as Cloudy Neil has a thing about worms. He wasn't best keen to watch which meant I could fully indulge in sofa climbing and sympathetic drooling for poor Nick Cutter.

With plenty of intensely brooding confused Cutter staring at Claudia/Jenny, action hero adventure Cutter in the office with the suck-you-to-death worms (how exactly did they kill people btw? Stupid questions will be asked...), wet Cutter under the sprinklers, and heartbroken Cutter on Jenny/Claudia's doorstep... well, I was in clover for the hour.

Sorry, but rational criticism got completely suspended (though I was on the ball enough to spot something of an explanation for the vanishing cleaner we noted last week. And does anyone else not trust Caroline Steel?)

BTW though, on the back of other debates about how ITV categorise and promote shows like Primeval it's interesting to note that from ITV's own website they had a link to a fan site by Jon Donni... who has now gotten so hacked off at ITV pulling even 20 sec video clips off the web that he is closing down the fan site. OUCH! As phrased on the site (before it disappears):
"All the promises of exclusive images and videos from Helen Lawrence, never materialised.

All the promises from the ITV publicity guys on facebook, never materialised."
Good job I've never really used any other site than the Douglas Henshall fansite isn't it?! But it does seem a shame given that the ITV site itself is hardly a model of spectacularness... Promotion this time around seems a tad lacklustre and really only bolstered by the toys and book merchandise out/due out... Come on ITV: surely you can do better than this?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's Freeview, but not as you know it...

So, long-term readers here will know that I have frequently growled about Freeview after some disastrous experiments with it and complaints from neighbours that they too struggled to get it to work. If you visit MediumRob with any regularity, you'll have heard me moan in the comments boxes there possibly even MORE often.

Anyway, last week decided to give it another try.

We set up the box and with some trepidation scanned for the channels (bear in mind please that the tests you are advised to do via teletext ALL came up blooming fine).

What did we find?

Channels whose sound/picture synchonisation made the dubbing of spaghetti westerns (e.g. Django*) look like they had been made with on-site sound by the actual performing actors, that made one weep in desperation for the children's TV classics of our youth such as Heidi and The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, that made Anime material seem perfectly aligned with (US) English phrasing...

In short, it was enough to make me want to pull my eyes out. With the sight of Stuart Maconie's mouth moving a couple of seconds out of sync with his words, this wasn't a slight slippage: this was a full blown Duelling Cavalier moment - "yes, yes, yes!" "no, no, no!"

Like poor quality sound recordings [something causing me especial grief with the Rullsenberg construction of home compilations] and the wrong aspect ratio on film/tv broadcasts and DVDs, out of sync sound makes me feel like someone is drilling my teeth whilst dragging nails down a blackboard.

It wasn't a good night.

Last night we tried again. This time the sound was largely okay - so we can now watch BBC4 and More4. Great.

Except I discovered in searching the channels the chance to see Last of the Time Lords again on BBC3 (call me crazy for wanting to watch it but, you know, its Who!).

... what did we find?

Out of sync sound?

NO, much 'better' than that.

This time it was full-on pixelating picture, crackling sound (I think I heard two halves of two sentences of dialogue from the whole ep) and frequent complete breakdown in image.

Five US is the same.

Pants: the two channels I may occasionally want to watch for indulgence (Who on BBC3 and all those Five imports I love on FiveUS) and neither work AT ALL.


We're going to get a new TV aeriel it is now decided for sure.

In the meantime we have Freeview, but not as most people would know it.

* I am tempted to defend Django for being such rollicking OTT bonkersness despite it's truly awful tone...

Primeval 2.2 coming up and...

... the nice people at the Dreamwatch site give me a lovely Henshall interview to enjoy in advance. How kind of them!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Belated 'lunch' postings: depressing US political crap...

God, this post enraged and depressed me. I know that the worst of right wing commentary in the US gets a way disproportionate amount of attention, but that this stuff is out there and so consumed...

All we can do is hope that the critical commentary on it and good plain humanity lets people see such nastiness as the scumbaggery racism that it truly is.

Linda Grant and me have something in common

Via Normblog profile.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)?
It really saddens me that it is looking increasingly unlikely that I will ever live in a large doorman apartment overlooking Central Park, a cab's ride or even a walk from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Barneys.

"When Bobby Fischer's plane (plane, plane) touches the ground..."

"...He'll take those Russian boys and play them out of town.."

I spotted via Scottish Patient that Bobby Fischer has died.

I now have "Cue Fanfare" by Prefab Sprout running through my head.

Norm reveals two of his ten selected Novelists for the current poll

Well, Norm's selection of Anne Tyler will definitely please a good friend of mine who wrote her PhD on Tyler...


I took a brief quiz on The Golden Compass website (ta Lisette!) and found my Daemon response was that as I was "modest, spontaneous, solitrary, inquisitive and a leader." I was therefore matched with a fox Daemon - by the name of Remis.

Think it suits me? Am I fixed as a fox???
Check this URL to tell me if so...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

SFX magazine Feb 2008 issue 166 - did anyone just hear me squee?

Primeval as the lead feature in SFX Feb 2008 issue!

Primeval POSTERS: a double sided 'how do I decide' with the team on one side and holy heck of hotness Dougie Henshall with fighting creatures on the other!

I think I have fainted and gone to squee-land.

Did someone hear my pleas for some nice things to happen to me following a start to the year that has so far included TWO bouts of illness?

Seems so! Hurrah!!

(I need to scan to get some pics of this but Woo-Hoo! Take my word for how excited I am!)

First thoughts on Torchwood mark II


What I liked: Captain Jack is more like the Jack we knew and loved from Doctor Who. The team seem to have a bit more purpose to them. I thought Ianto especially had been well developed - the Jack/Ianto 'relationship' being better handled (did I get a sense of there being some fan-fic awareness on some of these elements?) The introduction of Spike Captain John was promising (and the trailer for the remainder of the season makes it clear there is more of him to come). I loved, loved LOVED the Star Wars reference. It was generally more exciting and much funnier. There was enough cross-over to Doctor Who to bring some smiles without it being too over-done. Nice.

From the only review I have read so far over at TV Scoop (I await the others...):
They missed a trick though, with those cargo containers. Having started the "homage" theme with the Obi-Wan message, they could easily have revisited this while they were looking for Gwen. Opening up one of the empty containers to find a Peter Petrelli look-alike in there, chained up without his shirt. "Oh, sorry," they'd have said coyly, and shut him back up again.
Hee hee hee...

Still needing work: the music got a bit overwrought at moments. The blowfish didn't really work - though it was a tad amusing (the shoot-out was a bit overstretched at the start).

You know what, I hardly even noticed the Chibnall-ness of the episode. I have higher hopes all round...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Favourite (English language) Novelists: an agonised Normblog poll response

Gah, choosing 'favourite' English language novelists is tough.

For a start, there are all those writers who fall more easily into the category of short story writers: with some heartbreak this means no place for Dorothy Parker.

Next were my thoughts on how many books someone had to have written (as novels) to count: for example, I adore and regularly re-read Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves. I hardly know if he has written more novels -- checking up there is The Whalestoe Letters (an adjunct piece related to one of the House of Leaves narratives) and more recently Only Revolutions (which I haven't read). His debut is certainly a favourite novel, but does he count as a favourite novelist on the basis of a single text? What about Mark Gatiss, whose two Lucifer Box novels have proved so enjoyable? What about the likes of Robertson Davies? A Canadian author, his Cornish Trilogy on art, myth and academia brought me to friendship with the lovely Rita (soon after I had finished reading it, we were on a plane together and I couldn't help but spot she was reading the same book... a Transatlantic friendship was born). But I haven't had chance to follow up on more of his writings - could this fondly re-read trilogy of novels allow me to include him?

And what about friends, whose novel writings I have loved and enjoy re-reading? Clare Sudbery and Marie Phillips could easily claim a place on a similar 'favourite novels' list and I so love their writing styles that it seems churlish to feel so ambivalent about whether they would 'qualify'...

I have to admit that despite reading plenty of fiction by women, I was a tad mortified by the (gender) imbalance of my eventual list. Sure, plenty of favourite women authors were excluded on the grounds of them being short story or essay or memoir writers. But I can almost hear the cries of horror at their being no Edith Wharton (though I did really enjoy The Custom of the Country), no Virginia Woolf (I have to proclaim in honesty that I am not awful fond of her writing beyond her essays), and - waits in terror for the real backlash - no Jane Austen... certainly I have enjoyed some of each of their works, but favourites? My favourite Austen is Northanger Abbey and though I have liked and admired her other works I don't think I can honestly say I would choose her writings above certain others as 'favourites'.

I toyed with Charlotte Bronte (and in the end compromised by a certain inclusion on the final list in honour of Jane Eyre). I pondered on included Toni Morrison for Beloved, a work that still astonishes me on each re-reading. I considered the (over?-)prolific but facsinating Joyce Carol Oates. Though not re-read recently I also fondly recalled Marge Piercy whose works I continue to recommend. And what of Angela Carter, whose shorter works and non-fiction are my favourites of her writings (though The Passion of the New Eve is a novel I often re-read)?

Mind, in thinking of the women I excluded I also thought hard about all the male authors who I may like and admire but whose work doesn't necessarily make me 'sing', bring me to delight or make me feel anything much beyond a disengaged awe. Pynchon, Updike, DeLilo, Ellroy (though I do like selected of Ellroy's works)... none of these really 'touch' me to think of them as favourite no matter how much/little I may read of their works. As you well know, despite many attempts and even requirements (I really should have read more for my PhD), I remain disenchanted by the prose of Henry James excepting Daisy Miller an early-ish shorter work and - funnily - The Golden Bowl (his finale). Phillip Roth I admire more, but I really have to be in the mood for his writing as much as certain friends of mine rave continuously over his works (and whom I love to hear conversing about him). I feel similarly about Paul Auster (and again I will duck from the firing of friends in their rage) - I can truly admire and be enthralled, but favourite? Alisdair Gray is an acquired taste for sure and I do like his works a good deal - but would be take a place on my list?? What of the frothy, safe-on-his-writing-patch, flights of Kinky Friedman?? What of Ian Rankin? (and yes, Alex, I know that George Pelacanos hasn't got mentioned here but so far I have read too little of his works to properly comment -- though if the majesterial 'The Wire' counted as novels his contributions would surely be in with a shout...)

As the list I finally chose felt frothy enough I reluctantly dropped Eoin Colfer, despite being so addicted to the lovely Artemis Fowl works (and others by this enjoyable author). I also thought long and hard about ommitting George Orwell, despite 1984 and Animal Farm. Again, it came down to what I liked the writing for and it was chiefly the essays despite the influential power of those two key works.

After all that the final list came out as follows: it feels very arbitrary, but also a reasonable reflection of recent or continuous reads. And barring one selection, there is limited doubt that each can lay claim to the role of novelist. Tommorrow, as ever I may have changed my mind about several of my inclusions and exclusions...

In alphabetical order:
Kelley Armstrong - though her most recent works have fallen a little from the heights hit by Bitten, her writings remain fun and great page-turners. I thoroughly enjoy her writing style and her characters.

Lawrence Block - the Matt Scudder novels are amongst my most favourite series of novels in the crime genre. Wonderful.

Christopher Brookmyre - for being just the most wickedly hilarious writer of Scottish based narratives

Charles Dickens - shockingly I think my only heavyweight author, but for his overall oeuvre and the pleasures his works have provided he had to have a place

Arthur Conan Doyle - the one I felt most ambiguous about including, but he is too much a favourite writer to exclude

Jasper Fforde - after a long promotion via friends I have recently gotten into this most enjoyable author. And The Eyre Affair seemed to make up for my excluding poor Charlotte Bronte.

Neil Gaiman - though still best known for his graphic novel opus The Sandman (10 volumes, count 'em), Gaiman is such a fine writer of the novel form that he truly warranted a place here.

Alison Lurie - it took me a long while to realise when I first started reading Lurie's works (a) how old she was and (b) when many of them were written. Some may say they are 'of their period(s)' but I have always found them enjoyable portrayals of the world into which I can slip.

Phillip Pullman - if he had only written The Dark Materials trilogy, that would be sufficient despite all my previously raised caveats for choosing. That the Sally Lockhart novels are so fine makes his work a treasure.

Dorothy L Sayers - she's probably almost totally out of fashion now, and some of her characterisations are less than comfortable for modern readers. But there is a verve to her Wimsey novels that never fails to draw me in.
[apologies for the decrease in provided links - my tummy rumbled for food!!!]

The Library, The Resource Centre and the Internet: learning (in Higher Education)

Damn Blogger / internet wouldn't let me save... GRR.

I am writing in response to Norm on libraries and Norm's link to Magnus Linklater.

I will come back to this...

Best fit for religion?

On the back of EineKleineRob's results, I did this rather odd quiz... I'm not entirely sure I understood HOW to answer the questions since I feel quite strongly about issues like abortion etc but since I don't really have a belief system it scarcely seemed relevant to demand 'mine' followed certain agree/disagree line...


My Results:

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Non-theist (87%)
3. Unitarian Universalism (87%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (65%)
5. Liberal Quakers (59%)
6. Mainline - Liberal Christian Protestants (44%)
7. Neo-Pagan (43%)
8. New Age (24%)
9. Bahai (20%)
10. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (20%)
11. Eastern Orthodox (20%)
12. Hinduism (20%)
13. Islam (20%)
14. Jainism (20%)
15. Mahayana Buddhism (20%)
16. Orthodox Judaism (20%)
17. Orthodox Quaker (20%)
18. Reform Judaism (20%)
19. Roman Catholic (20%)
20. Sikhism (20%)
21. Taoism (19%)
22. Mainline - Conservative Christian Protestant (17%)
23. Seventh Day Adventist (14%)
24. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (12%)
25. Jehovah's Witness (12%)
26. New Thought (12%)
27. Scientology (12%)

I am rather amused that Scientology came so low down (its the Anti-Cruise signal in me...) and that 12 of the 27 (around 1/3 of the answers) all came in at 20%. Only 5 came above the 50% empathy level as well...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mars Hill on Newsnight

Woah! that felt a bit odd.

Turn over to Newsnight and there is yet another story about Peter Hain and the scandal of the donations and declarations.

"That's...!" I point wildly at the TV as the caption comes up with Paul Burgin's name...

I have to say there is still something rather thrilling - if odd - about seeing people you know talking on current affairs programmes!

New Normblog Poll: favourite English language novelists

Go, choose yours, submit them by email to the Norm.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Anna's TV Scoop interview with Stephen Mangan

Gosh, this was very thrilling to read wasn't it? One of our gang getting a star interview! Nothing less than we'd expect as we all know and love our Anna, but it was a real delight to read her interview with such a name as SM.

Still best known from Green Wing, he's now the star of Never Better.

I think one of my favourite bits from the interview was where Stephen mentioned a friend who couldn't bear too watch The Office because "it's too much like real life. He just finds it unbearable". I think there is a lot of truth in that for me - it actually prevented it being felt as funny because frankly it just hurt to see semi-reality. The other, of course, is where you can almost FEEL Anna's glee at Stephen talking enthusiastically about The Mighty Boosh with her (I have a vision of her punching the air with glee as she talked to him about that). Especially when the topic shifts to characters attracting the ladies...

Noel just seems to be someone who just attracts the ladies... what is it with them? People like him and Julian Rhind-Tutt! It's the long hair, isn't it?!

TVS: I prefer Julian to be honest... Julian Barratt I mean!!SM: Oh right, well that's good because Julian Rhind-Tutt just gets the ladies flocking to him. It's just sickening...

TVS: I'm a Stephen Mangan fan, personally.
SM: laughs Thank you.
Go read the interview by Anna with Stephen Mangan either at Theatre is Life, or at TV Scoop.

Chances are...

Norm writes that it was sheer luck/chance that directed him to study PPE rather than Law when he arrived at Oxford.

Whilst the plan had been to do law, bumping into someone who told him they were studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics! - "That's everything I'm really interested in" the Norm responded, "I'd far rather do that than Law!" - changed Norm's direction. Yay say all of us to that brilliant switch.

Norm raises an interesting point as part of that recited anecdote: some may worry that the current system of education forces young people to be more directed in their studies and their life options. Is there less room for serendipitous chance? Norm says not, since all the planning in the world cannot prevent "the chance encounter, the change of mind, the learning from experience that you're not where you want to be. Possibility and accident will upset every plan or structure."

I am all for believing in a curious mix of deterministic what-will-be-will-be and there-is-no-fate-but-what-we-make. Sometimes life has a very strange way of making the inevitable happen against our expectations or intentions, yet we can still MAKE certain things happen if we want them enough (yeah, I'm a bundle of contradictions). Thing is that Norm clearly had an overwhelming interest in Philosophy, Politics and Economics over and above any interest or committment to the Law. Otherwise he would not have been able to make his response to the friend already on PPE. Would he, could he, have found himself drifting to those areas even if he was already studying Law? Quite possibly. Would he have ended up in a totally different place in his life without that chance encounter directing him to change degree courses? I think the most honest answer is we don't know. He may well have ended up somewhere totally different - a lawyer in a different setting even a different country. But if it wasn't THAT chance encounter that sent him in the PPE and academia direction, might it have been another chance encounter or experience? It could well have been. Endless possibilities and finite options are for Timelords to know and wrestle with perhaps.

Anyway, to return to Norm's challenge against the idea that over-planning limits the possibilities for serendipity for today's youth, I think there is something in Lisa Belkin's piece. It is that if so much of today's youth is channelled, directed, taught more rigourously solely to meet exam criteria, with a purpose to a specific calling/career, then the options of there being sufficient people who may present the alternative, the chance encounter for another point of view, are surely diminished. Life won't be without the possibilities of chance, but there may well be fewer enough possibilities. Ambition, clarity, purpose: all these are highly valued. They are the bedrock of dreaded league tables and achievement targets. They are at the root of PhDs being increasingly less a finding out and learning, changing, evolving piece of research and more a finite, completeable pre-defined project of writing.

We need wrong turns to make us who we truly are and can be, to take delight in possibilities and learning. I'm no great risk taker, but even I know the benefit of the wrong turn, the experience, the idea that we are made by the complete sum of our experiences and not just a selected, planned out few. If everyone else around you, if getting onto the ladder at all, increasingly depends on the certainty with which you plan, organise and pursue goals and objectives, then surely there are likely to be fewer opportunities to change direction and follow the serendipitous encounter. Because there will be fewer people making such serendipitous journeys themselves.

And that is surely a saddening thought.

Primeval Series 2 - a completely personal view

Marie liked it - even if she was viewing it between flips with The One and Only (me, I was full on concentration).

What do you think I thought?

That wasn't hard was it?!

If someone had said to me a few years ago that one of the actors I most love and have followed for many years would be on my TV in a prime-time slot on a Saturday I would scarcely have believed them.* Sure, Henshall deserved the success, but this level of public profile and familiarity? Whoah: that's just awesome.

Primeval Season 1, as you know, started as it meant to go on and settled in to being rather HAWT enjoyable and even thrilling fun. You could say that the presence of Douglas Henshall as Nick Cutter created an unbalanced view for me, but heck I don't care. There is always something wonderfully wry, charming, attentive, charismatic and thoughtful about his portrayals - and Cutter is no different (with an extra dose of academic-forced-to-be-heroic on top: always appealing for me!)

Anyway, less of Cutter - sigh (only in the sense of I have to write a review). If you haven't seen s1 but are intending to catch up, or want to watch s2 but haven't gotten around to last night's episode, then sorry folks but there are ***SPOILERS*** in this review FOR THE STORY SO FAR.

Characters (excluding Nick Cutter):
Last year, I really hated Ben Miller's character - perhaps rewatching s1 so often on the DVD has tempered that reaction but I certainly groaned less often in response to his characterisation (which is admittedly still a tad one-dimensional). Perhaps with the changes wrought by Cutter's re-emergence from the anomoly into... well, something which thus far is at least subtely different, the James Lester figure came across trying less hard to be the pantomime villain. Still the most rubbish character though. Shame, as I'm rather fond of Ben Miller as a comedian/actor.

It was also a pity that Abby had so little to do this episode - dammit boys/girls, you didn't even get to see her in her panties this time (or out of them). I do hope they're not going to diminish her active contributions to the team - but I am intrigued how much they will have changed of her background / experience / purpose in this alt.verse.

Stephen continues to be something of a cipher: last season he was clearly the admiring foil to Cutter (heck, he so wanted to be him - or with him if you follow the slash writings! - that he'd even shagged Helen, Cutter's errant wife). This year, following that revelation of adultery, there's a more begrudging and wary spark between them. I did like the touch about the tranquilizer gun not going off for each of them...

For me the most improved character was Connor: in s1 he was a more simplistic comic character. Resident geek in unrequited lust for Abby, he could hardly compete with the stoic macho/metro sexuality of Stephen. This year, I liked the fact that the show's team seem to have beefed up how Cutter (semi-reluctantly) likes having him around. I loved that it was Connor who makes the the first step to believing the possibility that the world has changed [it probably comes from watching all that sci-fi] and that Cutter isn't entirely mad. From last year's first episode to this year's Connor seems the one who has been rounded out the best.

So what of the changes and newbies? Claudia Brown has been erased by the paradoxes of the s1 finale anomoly trip: the actress is back, but as a new character. This kinda makes sense. If I have one reservation about it, it's this: poor Lucy Brown having to wear that GOD-AWFUL amount of eye-make-up! Blimey, what did she do to piss the show team off that they put her into that level of we-have-to-make-her-look-totally-different make-up?! Claudia was efficient but soft at the edges. Jenny Lewis looks like a refugee from a bad 80s band. She'll probably not even immediately fall for Cutter. Pah: that shows how much of a rubbish character she'll be... [Actually, I'm being prejudicially harsh there: I think its rather smart what they've done since it avoids the issue of Nick and Claudia getting together and any possible reaction from Helen-back-in-the-anomoly-Cutter. After all, the fan-fiction will more than compensate for the what-might-have-been narratives of Nick and Claudia]

Oliver Leek - Lester's right hand man - is a new character completely. As he is played by the genius that is Karl Theobald from Green Wing, we're currently prepared to forgive him a lot. Even the fact that he's pretty certain to turn out to be evil (or at least on the side of Helen Cutter...)

Helen, at present, isn't back. But since gorgeous Juliet remains in the titles we can reasonably assume she will be. Personally, I'm scarcely forgiving her for taking up with Stephen (or was she perversely relishing how Stephen was really thinking about Nick?) and thinking that spending 8 years away from Nick Cutter was a nice thing to do. Bitca.

Rating last year: 3.5/5
Rating for S2: 3.8/5 - still work to do, but better. Not quite a 4 mind, as Cutter remains the most nuanced character in the show (a factor I feel is not unconnected to the quality of the actor portraying him).

Character - Nick Cutter:
Still frayed as a perfect character, but Henshall makes it work. Add in the blue eyes, quirky clothing (come on: that Arthur Daley beige coat at the end suited him but made me smirk something wicked!), nice arse... [yes, I am shallow] AND the accent... sigh. Nick Cutter is still the best thing about the programme.
Rating last year: 4.5/5
Rating for S2: 4.7/5 - because he's back dammit, he's back.

Last year saw some howlingly clunky lines and duff decisions on the early direction of the show. This year, they seem to have fixed a fair bit of the worst parts. This probably reflects that as the show developed last year it DID find its feet a bit more in structuring its narratives. Sure, they had to have the fill-in-the-gaps story section at the start of the episode for late-comers or those who haven't watched the DVDs repeatedly since last season (ahem). But overall there was a consistent quality of tension and delight in the story structure. Still some weird blanks in the storyline mind - they missed a trick having the team find the bloodied handprints of the eaten security guard, and the throat attacked cleaner would have been better handled. The idea of using the intereference on radios as a tracking mechanism for when/where the anomolies appear was brilliant and elegant solution to how Helen could know when they appeared. Not sure Marie caught that in her channel hopping, but that was a really nicely handled bit of the epiosode. It will be interesting to see how the series progresses with slightly different participants on board this time around (e.g. Paul Cornell...)

Rating last year: 2/5
Rating for S2: 3.4/5 - perhaps I'm feeling more sympathetic.

The fact remains that all effects date really quickly. As I said last year "That's why you need good character, direction, script and substance. You need those to help you suspend the disbelief that comes into play in fantasy TV/film." There is no getting away from the fact that this show just does not get the movie level budget that is thrown at NewWho etc. I still like the anomoly imagery itself: I can certainly agree with Cutter that it never fails to impress. In long shot - and this year even in some of the close ups - the monsters/dinos did look good. Generally they kept them moving faster, and as Marie said, when Daddy dino ate the human-throat-gashing-baby-dino in one smart mouthful, that was fabulous. It's a shame that they couldn't afford more extras for additional ramp up the tension - it also begs the question why they really need a PR person to quash public concern if there are hardly ever any public about to be eaten... Still, they had to find something for Jenny-not-Claudia-Brown-with-extra-rubbish-overloaded-eye-make-up-Lewis to do... And in terms of locations, the chasing in the car-park was especially neat...


Sorry, I drifted slightly there at the wholely indulgent delight I took in Nick Cutter's glance over the shoulder saying "chase me". Shudder.

And I'm back.

Rating last year (pre-suspension of disbelief and in some dodgy mid-shots): 3/5 - rising (once suspension kicks in) to 4/5
Rating for S2: overall 4/5 - apart from some dodgy stunt double shots [still, this dogs many series and given that I've just been laughing my head off at how bad the stunt doubling remained on Angel right through to its final season I'm prepared to overlook that matter]

A bit less on the pop cheese soundtrack this year? Either way, I noticed it less. Good thing?
Rating last year: 3.5/5
Rating for S2: 3.5/5 - though more because I paid less mind to it, so maybe it was a tad less OTT.

Other issues:
This is one for this year, but can I just say I felt like BITING MY HANDS OFF WITH AGONY every f-ing time that shite awful parody of the show comes on to promote f-ing Haven Holidays either side of the Ad breaks. Roll on the DVD.

Overall rating last year (excluding Dr Cutter): 3.5/5
Overall rating for S2 (excluding Dr Cutter): 3.8/5 - as long as I block from my mind those awful sponsored ads...

Overall rating last year (including Dr Cutter): 4/5
Overall rating for S2 (including Dr Cutter): 4.2/5 - still some work to do to hit full on perfection, but this remains a highly enjoyable romp of primetime tv. My blue eyed boy is back and I can't ask for more than that.

SIX more weeks to go! Yippee!

* A certain raffish youth hailing from a similar part of Scotland may have got a Saturday night slot first, but lovely DH with his intensity and talent stole my heart first. I'm just lucky enough that with Primeval and Doctor Who I now get a rolling provision of loveliness on winter-spring Saturday evenings to charm me...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My new favourite website: TV Tropes Wiki

Via Electric Dragon in the comments at MediumRob's place, I got sucked into this site: TV Tropes Wiki. Opening with a gem on Viewer Friendly Interfaces, the warning that you can lose hours on this site is likely to hold true...!

Much to chuckle over and great if you fancy a kind of TV Trope bingo for watching certain programmes (I think pretty much everything is covered...)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

BBC 4, Troubled Diva and the brilliance of pop music decades

Of course, there are few original ideas under the sun, but still...

Remember Mike's excellent "Which Decade is Top for Pops"?

Now spot the difference with BBC4's new Pop on Trial....

Mike's handling it well, all things considered!

The Stage's Primeval Preview

There's a rather spiffy preview over at The Stage: TV Today by Mark Wright.

Am getting quite excited about Saturday now! The delicious prospect of more weeks/weekends in the company of Douglas Henshall and co is certainly making me happy!

All about an Shuffle-me meme

Via Stu_N

The rules-
1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

Why so close

The Old Castle


The Town Where Time Stood Still

Luna Park

We Used To vacation

The Bugle Sounds Again

Time Has Told Me

Own Man

WHAT IS 2 + 2?
The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions

Roll Over Beethoven


Machine Drug

The Year of the Leopard

Under Your Spell

If You Know By Now

Give My Love to Kevin

Prison Grove


So Young Still

Mrs Meggary
Ah, lists: you know how I love a list!

Cloud reckons he saw Douglas Henshall in London last night...

Sigh: and here I am stuck in Nottingham on my own having to have my lunch at 11am because I have allowed myself to get my lunchtimes booked up with students...

Barack Obama: wow, guess that all the hoo-ha was a little on the jump-the-gun side...

A turn-up for the media expectation?

Yesterday predicted Obama "soaring progress", a tip hot on the heels of Monday's expectation that Clinton was "braced for defeat" and Sunday's description that she was "wounded".

Seems that the 4 days were more than enough to "turn things around" for Clinton...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cats Vs Kids

Bet you've all seen this but two days on it is STILL making me laugh...

Clare and Ally: how a relationship should work

Each looks after the other, if needed the house and if existing the sprogs.

Isn't being good to each other how relationships should work? Regardless of sex/gender?

Ally is fabulous - as indeed is Clare, but the fact that his actions stir specific comment and praise shows the residual problems of gender stereotyping...

Primeval returns in one week's time...!


Primeval! Back on Saturday 12 January! 7pm! Yippee!

Can I just say then, in case George is tempted to similar actions as he was on Christmas Day*, there will be no responding to phone calls or texts whilst the show is on. Sorry.

* the lovely G thought it was spiffing fun to text as the theme tune for Doctor Who started up on Christmas Day a message saying "Tee hee, I am so tempted to phone you right now!" to which my quick reply was "F right off hon: 8pm!"

Friday, January 04, 2008

Things I have done and not done

Well, the obvious one is the serious amount of NOT BLOGGING (for which I have already made my apologies).

Still, on a more optimistic note, I have...

  • been to Oxford for the day and visited the WONDERFUL Pieminister stall in the covered market. Hot pie - I had wild mushrooms and asparagus - layered on mash potato, with minted mushy peas on top and with a red wine 'groovy'. We also had a book splurge. So shoot us.

    And I bought the David Tennant calendar for the year. Hey, a girl needs treats.

  • read lots and lots of books - two Jasper Fforde books, two Lawrence Blocks, "A Metropolitan Murder" and The Dante Club. All frothy and quick reads.

    A longer read was Martin Millar's latest "Lonely Werewolf Girl": I cannot recommend it highly enough. Totally good fun. A transvestite wolf. Addiction to laudenum. Violence. Thwarted love. Teenage angst. Pop, punk and rock music. A Fire Queen who has flaming fits about clothes and worrying that the other elements will mock her wearing out of date clothes. It's very funny and very exciting. A very fine read.

  • been listening to music - we've moved the stereo into the front room and have now properly set it up there. This is encouraging us to listen to more radio and music sat on the sofa and reading (hence the books). This has included such delights as a CD of Lee Hyla featuring bird-song. Oddest experience though was listening to Bob Dylan's Radio Theme Hour Xmas special. Figgy Pudding recipes anyone?!

  • saw "It's a Wonderful Life" at a small cinema and everyone spontaneously cheered and clapped at the end. Sniff.

  • watched some TV - you know what, against the run of opinion, we LIKED the Extras Christmas Special (particularly the cross-show joke with George Michael going off to record Catherine Tate's special)

  • watched Doctor Who: this comes into a separate category of delight. They chucked a film budget at "Voyage of the Damned" and there was a lot to like about it. Plenty of death and destruction. Some very comical Bruckheimer moments. The Timelord speech (I have no shame in delighting how it made me punch the air). Earthonomics. Sinister angels (though could have done without them lifting Saviour Doctor... sheesh, would RTD PLEASE get over the God-Complex he has allocated to the new series Doctor). Brilliant gold gleaming dazzling stuff.

    Mind, it WAS a bit of a sugar/carb-rush Who: thoroughly enjoyable at the time but fading a little too fast for my real pleasure. Still, the Who dominance was entrenched in the house when Cloud alerted me to them re-screening "The Runaway Bride". (You can tell I wasn't fully with it since I had TOTALLY missed seeing that in the schedules). I think I enjoyed TRB even more this time around. And I'm sorry, whether you're a Rose-fan or not, you have to admit that Tennant nails the choke of "Her name was Rose" with such finesse. With Cloud's passion for red-heads and a fancy for Tate, I suspect that S4 will still get some excitement in this house.
Things I have not done:

  • been online to do much more than read emails or to clear out bloglines - and even that was irregularly. So most of my promised posts have not (yet? ever?) emerged: I still owe a year-long music round up and a review of "A Hawk and A Hacksaw" to Music is Our Hot Hot Sex, as well as a summary of the London trip with pictures and much more besides. This past term has been too busy, too tiring, too... ah, stuff it. I apologised already.

  • been able to fully catch up with forums, LJ and fan-fiction. Similar to above, but with the result that I now feel totally out of touch with what is going on and have resigned myself to always being very behind with long-running narratives. SOME people have seriously active fiction bunnies in their heads!

    I'm still apologising aren't I...?

  • been able to keep up with commenting and cheering fellow bloggers. Heck, Behind The Sofa is closing to revamp! Medium Rob is considering abandoning/scaling back the blog! What is the world coming to?! Is it my fault??? [NB I'm not THAT egotistical that I think it's down to me, but i can't help but feel I haven't been there for everyone as much as I would have liked to be...Yes, I spotted it: I haven't stopped apologising...]

  • made CDs for a very long while. Meh. I did try over Xmas and I realised that a chief problem is less that the CDs won't load up or be created and more that the playing facility on the computer is basically FUBAR. Still, it isn't perfect and made CDs are still playing a bit cranky on other players. Meh.

    And then my printer bosted and now won't print. I can't even make my fancy-Dan covers for the damn things anymore! GRRRR!

  • re-synced my iPod since I first loaded it up.... oh, did I not say? Neilie Cloud bought me an iPod ... it is making me VERY happy.

So, despite all my gloom and apologies, even my "things I have not done" has been able to end on a happy note.

Happy New Year peeps. I'll try to do better.

Post-Xmas meme from EineKleineRob

Via EineKleineRob

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

Blimey. Not off to a good start here: I rarely manage any packaging at all! (This is as a result of having VERY few people to buy pressies for...)

2. Real tree or Artificial?

Artificial, in red tinsel. We bought it for my dad before he died...

3. When do you put up the tree?

Depends. When I was a kid it was always at least 2 weeks before Xmas. This year it was Christmas Eve...

4. When do you take the tree down?

January 6th.

5. Do you like egg nog?

You are insane, right?

6. Favourite gift received as a child?

Depends on definition of 'child': I was wicked pleased with an acoustic guitar aged 15, but I think I best loved a soft doll my mum made for me aged about 7

7. Do you have a nativity scene?


8. Hardest person to buy for?

Not sure, since I have so few people to buy for.

9. Easiest person to buy for?

Neil (since he gets the lions share of presents purchased

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

Increasingly email cards out of environmental concern (aka too busy and ill and idle to manage to post in time!)

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
It's nice to open something, but really tough to look excited about some stuff.
Mostly well intentioned people keen to buy me 'something' would have been better off having donated to charity. God, I sound so horrid!

12. Favorite Christmas movie?

It's A Wonderful Life, of course... or possibly Gremlins!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

When I see something I think suitable. But too early in the year and it generally gets given to them before Xmas. Once December strikes, pretty much everything goes into the pressie store for sorting later (even purchases for ourselves).

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

Never - but some did go to charity shops.

15. Favorite thing to eat/drink at Christmas?

Food wise whatever we fancy (some good stuffing is always nice) and I do like some sparkling Cava

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?

Coloured - pretty!

17. Favourite Christmas song?

I'm pretty fond of Greg Lake's "I Believe in Father Christmas" since it is one of the songs I remember so fondly from my youth: I was especially struck by the lyrics, but I did love its music too (now, I know where it was pilfered from!). But of course the Pogues "Fairytale of New York" is in close competition - stunningly, I really didn't 'get' Fairytale until some years later. Now it reduces me to tears when I dance to it with Neil: "I kept them with me babe, I put them with my own, can't make it all alone, I built my dreams around you..." sue sobbing.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?

Home please. After years of Christmas Eve and Christmas period travels across the Midlands to/from Shropshire and Nottingham to satisfy family I haven't missed trains and buses over this period of the year since we have been able to stay put. Course, next year provisionally its Xmas in high summer...

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?

I wish I could say yes. Come Prancer, come Dancer, come Donner and Blitzen, come... bugger, nope, sorry. Does Rudolph count?

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

Angel, made by me at school

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning of Christmas?

Christmas morning, after breakfast.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?

The bloody postal dates...

23. Favourite ornament theme or colour?

Huh? Hotch-potch! It's a total colour free-for-all on our tree and decorations front...

24. Favourite for Christmas dinner?

Roast veg. More than enough to feed four for the two of us. Nice veg gravy. No meat. usually too full for pudding!

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?

Same as every year: for Neil to get the concept of surprise doesn't work if you phone me and say "do you want X?"

26. Who is most likely to respond to this?

(EineKleineRob: I did it!) I doubt anyone will bother.... look how late I was!

27. Who is least likely to respond to this?

I think I answered that!

28. Shopping...Mall or on-line?

I'll go with indie shops and a bit of online ordering.

29. Do you decorate outside for Christmas or just inside (or at all?)

You're not shocked when I say no outside lights are you...

Well, that was quite fun. And an excuse to post.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


If I say I have been laid low with this since the start of 2008, will you forgive me?

I felt so crappy I set up a blog to apologise.

No I won't be using it regularly instead of trying to post here.

I seriously suck.