Sunday, March 31, 2013

Beware the wi-fi: or "why didn't I realise what 'The Bells of St John' referred to? (Doctor Who season... ep 1)

It's back!

The Doctor is back!  And Clara is here (again!)

And why the HELL did I not realise what "The Bells of St John" would be referring to?

Ah yes?  I know why: I keep well away from indulging in "Spoilers"* I'm so spoiler-phobic that I don't even read most of DWM** until after I have seen the appropriate episodes.  I try to live for the surprise.

Oh and I can reiterate as stated previously, that since the disappointing series 5+6 Gavascon titles, the opening titles sequences have been getting more and more imaginative?  The colour-changing and increasingly sickly green ones for series 7 part 1, deteriorating as the episodes progressed to the doom of Amy and Rory was genius, and I'm LOVING the new titles which hark back to my youth with beautiful delight.


So: to the episode itself, which had plenty of whizz-bang action, a fair amount of cross-referencing pleasures for the nerds amongst us, and of course the spiffy Clara.

I have hopes for Clara: she's had her best introductions already of course (the Dalek! the governess!) so this episode had an impossibly high hurdle to climb over, but Clara still comes out swinging.

Okay, so I'd like them to tone down the sexy angle (bit tooooo flirty) but otherwise, I like that she's inquisitive without being too stupid.  Fractional things annoyed me: at least a line or action SHOWING the TARDIS doors shutting after the motorbike rides out would have been nice.  How much did the Shard pay to get to be in Doctor Who?  I hope it was a lot - generally the SFX were really nice looking this episode.  Oh yes, and good use of Celia Imrie as a HORRIBLE guest star.

Of course there is an irony in that trying to write this review I'm stuck with the internet connection (or rather lack thereof) from hell not-bloody-functioning-land.  And no I'm not using the bloody wi-fi.  Indeed, our wi-fi is secure but I do wonder if the neighbourhood net connections are not affected by stream-a-holics downloading gigabites of footage.

If I'm really lucky, they'd at least be streaming Doctor Who.

Hey ho.  Don't get lost in the Internet folks!

* On which note, I recently purchased the boxset of series 6 (The 'Silence' season, with Melody Pond and all that jazz), and I have to say REALLY enjoyed the little mini-episodes "Night and the Doctor")

* Doctor Who Magazine - and yes, note to self, I still don't have a bloody subscription.  Years of reading each month and yet I still don't save myself the money by getting a sub.  Truly am a numbskull.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Man Ray @ National Portrait Gallery London

I wasn't sure if we would have time but I was so glad we could fit in a trip to the NPG to see the Man Ray Portraits exhibition. It's a gem of a show and a total indulgence for me.

With images of all the Surrealists and other artists of the period, and of course my Peggy... well, we had to see the show.

This image was a TINY, tiny original print, and the shop-sold A2-ish sized poster version wasn't the greatest exposure/copy.  But it's Peggy.  And you know....  Well, I still love her even after writing my doctoral thesis on her.  You can see other images from the same sequence that Man Ray took if you search online for Man Ray Peggy Guggenheim.

Who'd have guessed...?!

Spring in my office


Well at least my students ensure there is SOME spring in the world.  A lovely spring scarf from one of my students, a new pet for my office (paperweight fish) and a BEAUTIFUL thank-you card.

I really love my job.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Watching Fringe (please no spoilers)

Neil bought me the boxset of S1-3 of Fringe ahead of my birthday in October, and we ended up devouring the episodes like a bunch of crazy sci-fi fans.

To say that the show has been a BIG hit in our house would be an understatement!  The problem is that I would love to write about it, but the shortened S5 doesn't come out on DVD til May in the UK and we're just starting s4 on DVD boxset.

This means that providing links is a NIGHTMARE.  If you haven't watched it I don't want to ruin it for you ("spoilers!" as someone once said, very often), and far too many searches online turn up links that spoil me.


Fringe is a series that didn't look like it would survive to a second season (it did), and then only just about got a third (though it got moved to the Friday night death slot - the slot that previously killed Firefly)...

Thankfully, even before season 3 finished, they granted it a season 4 --- and then, lo and behold, despite everything, a shortened season 5 got put out to round things off AND get the cherished 100 episodes for syndication.

What makes Fringe work?  Well, there are a few things.  But they mostly come down to one thing: John Noble's portrayal of Walter Bishop.

Suffice to say there aren't enough acting awards around to fully credit Noble and his portrayal of Walter Bishop, a brilliant scientist who has spent years in a psychiatric institution.  He is food obsessed, took/takes way too many drugs, has the most random approach to life and research, and develops a bond with his lab assistant Astrid (Jasika Nicole) which is utterly charming.  When he gets her name right, which isn't often, it warms the soul, and it warms just as much when he gets her name wrong (Astro is a frequent error).

Anyway.  It's a joy.  It's more than The X-Files, and way better than I thought Lost could ever be.  It's funny, clever, shocking, and affirming.  We love it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday - counting down to BeVox Choir performance

In three - count 'em! - weeks time I will be doing my second big gig with BeVox, the choir I joined last year.

Eek.  Music at the Minster will be a big performance, including our Les Mis medley (a highlight for me as I was gutted to have missed performing this before as the choir had previously done it before I joined!)

Anyone who can come along would be greatly welcomed.  Lots of stuff to polish before then but mightily looking forward to it!

Snowy train at moderate speed

Ah the view from our window. Quite arty eh Jams?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring-clean - it may be snowing outside...

... but inside it's sunny.

and bright.  Unlike the snowy scenes across the UK.  Today is 22nd March 2013.  No, we are not in the southern hemisphere getting an early autumn/winter blast...

Anyway: here's a new blogger template.  Just to convince you that the site is not dead yet!  And that the weather outside is FRIGHTFUL!

Neverwhere - Radio4

For those who have not yet indulged, and I count myself as one as yet because life is seriously getting in the way of everything at the moment (hence the brevity of FB over blogging), I wholeheartedly recommend listeing to Neverwhere which is available everywhere on the BBC Radio iPlayer.

Nevewhere had a longer opening play length piece and then subsquent episodes this week but will be available until next Friday (29 March).  Neverwhere has also had the full-on BBC treatment online.

The radio cast is a totally 'to die for' collection and makes the hapless TV production attempted in the 1990s seem rather forlorn.

Of course, to get the full dramatic impact, the book by Neil Gaiman is the place to start - and even the graphic novel version is worth a gander (though I know that is a divisive opinion).

But this dramatisation for radio is near perfect.  Great casting, Gaiman involved.  And with radio the perfect level of re-imagining in the listeners' heads in a way that the TV series could never quite capture.

A CD release please?  Pretty please BBC?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Blogging update: Galileo (RSC)

I'm being shamed in attempting to do more blogging.  And I appreciate it - really I do.

The Life of Galileo - RSC
We booked for this back in January and I was really pleased to get tickets as Brecht is one of our favourites and Ian McDiarmid has such a great voice and presence.

In light of the fact there was a new Pope being elected whilst we were in Stratford (we missed the news being announced before we entered the theatre), there was just something really apt about this engaging exploration of science and religion, about authority and compromise, about education and expectations. Thankfully someone checked their phone when I was waiting to leave the building at end of the play and announced 'there's a new Pope!' which was a good prompt for us to listen to the news on the way home!

The cast were great, especially McDiarmid, who really brings the awkward character of Galileo to life.  Mind, I could listen to him on stage forever.  Marvellous voice. People only knowing him from Star Wars doesn't do him justice, and I was really thrilled to have seen him on stage.

In a new translation by Mark Ravenhill (I'm not sure how much he went back to the German - I'm hoping someone can tell me that it WAS an actual translation), the play brings new life to this complex play which deals with politics, belief and exploration. It has an interesting history in terms of how Brecht himself rewrote it light of historical events, not least the collision of science and warfare post-Hiroshima.

I've enjoyed reading a number of pieces surrounding the play, not least this from the Science pages of the Guardian, and this review from the New Scientist. I had kept myself back from the reviews until we had seen the show (as I tend to try and do), they've mostly been good which is always nice.  Brecht is never JUST about what the play's subject ostensibly is, so they always seem to come up fresh.  There is just something about seeing a Brecht play that is always rewarding, though the version we saw of The Caucasian Chalk Circle was still a highpoint (even if I was lurgied on first attempt).

Of the reviews, I liked this one in the Guardian by usual suspect Michael Billington, though I would counter his claim that the linking passages didn't work in 'ye popular beat combo stylee'.  Billington can be a be of an old fart bless him.  We thought it an entirely appropriate Brechtian device, drawing attention to the nature of it being a play.

Jodie Mcnee has a thankless turn as Galileo's daughter - a role that doesn't really do anyone any favours.  But she is very good - as she was in Measure for Measure last year.  I picked up a copy of Dava Sobel's book to try and get a different perspective and I am looking forward to reading that.

Right - one blog post done.  I'll try and do another tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

So here's the thing...

I don't want to kill my blog. I love it. We have history. Memories. Connections. But....

You'll have spotted - Joe, thanks, I am looking at you - that unfortunately regular updates here are becoming sparse. Even though at my peak, my blogs would often be constituted by brief links and a witty note and not a lot more, for some reason doing them here has become near impossible. I've even found it increasingly difficult to do my longer review posts here. I just don't have the time and energy to write lengthy pieces online for every occasion.

So the format of Blogger isn't suiting my shortlink posts and I'm barely getting time to write the longer ones. Bah humbug.

So far this has meant failing to blog about:

* The Life of Galileo (RSC starring Ian McDiarmid)
* A visit to Lincoln
* Macbeth (Trafalgar Studios, London starring James McAvoy)
* The Merchant of Venice (Crescent Theatre Birmingham - amateur production)