Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Another gem from the world of xkcd

Awh, just fab.

The Gulf of YouTube

The Blogipelago

The Sea of Memes

And much, much more from the Seas of Virtuality...

Here be the Map.

Swiss Toni is tall

"Are you really that tall?"

No love, I'm being operated by Frank Oz. Dear oh dear.

Hilarious report of the Viking assault on Trent Bridge this weekend.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Weekend Reading

Over the weekend I have read:

All VERY enjoyable. Dark. Darker. Violent with a serious dose of the funnies.

Brilliant stuff.

Another Bob Mould fan!

Ah, jams, I knew there was more good reasons I loved your blog!

Ingmar Bergman: RIP

Awh. There's gonna be some saddened film fans today.

Where's Freema?

I mean, if this IS the cover of the new box-set for season 3, gawd, she must be WELL pissed off.

I'm actually beginning to feel sorry for her...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Harry Potter 7 (some spoilers may appear)

So, it's all over.

You read it?

You read all seven books?

You read book 7 (The Deathly Hallows)?

Okay, get on with it.

What did I think?

Well, I would have to say I am something of a moderately interested reader of the Potter books. Neither wildly addicted nor dismissive. Maybe that helps. Like my previous post on drugs, I reiterate that I'm not particularly in favour of any excecssive behaviour. Yes, we can all be occasionally excessive but, like dining out all the time, if it's your everyday habit then it does lose its flavour and appeal over time because it is no longer a gleeful pleasure, a rare delight.*

I digress.

The point is that I am not a standing-outside-Borders person for each new book. Hell, I wasn't even a order-it-as-soon-as-the-release-date-announced person. I came to the HP party late (I first joined in around book three, and perhaps for that reason it remains one of my favourites and perhaps the best of the films so far), and proceeded to recap with two and then one. I read four VERY late indeed, having seen a friend become traumatised at Rowling killing off a character which caused them to stop reading for quite some time. But when I got to it, I enjoyed that one very much indeed (as I did the rather messy and unwieldy film version which nevertheless still charmed me and ultimately is now something of a favourite. Yes, I know I have bad reasons at heart...). Book five I think I bought - and gave away soon after. There was a lot I liked about it - the large amount of Sirius probably helped - but somehow it was really losing its way. Six was, kinda, better, but really did feel like it was getting to the end of the saga.

And so to seven.

Well, I liked it. No really, I REALLY liked it. After two (slightly) 'meh' volumes - even if I did still enjoy galloping through the prose - I was gripped from the start. I remembered that I did actually care about these characters - good and bad (though obviously more the good than bad) - and I felt rather like Spike at the end of Buffy: "I want to see how it ends".

And I cried. I did. I cried for all the deaths - those both sudden and those more predictable. I cried for the tension and the violence, for the heroism, for the survival. And for Dumbledore (all over again). Heck, I couldn't help myself, I cried for Snape: poor, flawed Snape.

And then there was that epilogue.


Sorry. JKR you should really have thrown away your finale from all those years ago. What came before it showed how far you had come with this narrative; what let it down was that epilogue. Yes, it gave resolution but I bet right now there are a thousand fan-fics and more doing an alternative job of your conclusion, if indeed it needed one at all.

Still, thanks for the ride.

Now can all you hyper-positive HP fans and hyper-negative HP haters all please find something else to do. I'm going to miss the fun of the books but really, just keep on reading (something). It's surely what JKR would want - that the reading does not begin or end with Harry.

* Exceptions can always be made, but even I temper my imbibing of Scottish acting, fan-fiction, sci-fi, wonderful music, great films etc etc. All day, every day: even I would begin to take such delights for granted.


Having spent most of the day immersed in the final Harry Potter (more on which in another post), I have also therefore been conveniently missing most of the claptrap being bandied about in relation to drugs on todays' news programmes. Given that by the time Cloud left for work this morning I was practically screaming at the radio for its nonsensical claptrap, this was probably a good move on my part. [Best line if Cloud hasn't stolen it already, 'Eminem became addicted to sleeping pills because of cannabis': to echo Kate Ashfield "WHAAAATTT?!!!"]

Despite repeated attempts by journalists/interviewers to make a claim otherwise for what the study said, it is NOT the case that if you smoke cannabis once or twice you are 40% more likely to experience mental health problems.

What the study actually said - as far as said journalists/interviewers would allow the authors and commentators to say - was that looking at the group as a whole of those who smoked cannabis (from those imbibing every week, day, hour to those who had had some occasional, irregular or one-off usage), users were 40% more likely to develop some mental health problems. So the impact is averaged out. I would say that suggested that high users were much more likely: a fact that has been well-known for many years, if not decades, and that frankly you'd have to be pretty dense not to have anticipated. Although, there is the issue of whether the propensity of mental ill health comes before the drug use, stimulates the likelihood of drug use, and how it exacerbates the effects of drug use: heck, even the BBC site had to allow them this one -

[the authors] could not rule out the possibility that people at a higher risk of mental illness were more likely to use the drug
So my point is this. We're generally getting muddled on cause and effect here. Also, screaming about classification is misdirection. I don't think it was especially smart to change the classification, but it was changed and despite a lot of shouting by all accounts "the incidence of schizophrenia has not shown any significant change in the past 30 years" despite (any) changes in cannabis usage. I can't find the figures but I'm also pretty sure that cannabis use isn't particularly rising, but what is/may be changing is the type of cannabis generally available.

So, how helpful is the current media attention on this particular study into the existing research on the impact of cannabis use and its association with mental health difficulties? [Note how I'm on about the media coverage more especially than the Lancet's meta-study of existing research].

I would actually say the hoo-ha 'not very helpful at all'. Why? Because it isn't really telling us anything most people didn't already know. Doing something excessively doesn't do you any good. Moreover, the definition of 'excessively' may be difficult to define and could vary across individuals. So it's probably not a great idea to do it at all but mostly the paranoia surrounding an individual's usage is - for most people - going to be much worse than any impact the drug may have. Oh My God! You smoked one spliff! You're obviously now going to be 40% more likely to develop schizophrenia!

Er. No.

The study's public profile has more particularly been linked with the perception/reality that Gordon Brown would like to roll back the Blair government's previous decision to reclassify cannabis. Well, as I have already indicated, I actually think closer review of current figures may reveal classification to be something of a decoy duck problem. Would it be practical to establish particular forms of cannabis as a higher category? Not sure? But if you can't split it - and my sense is it would be a 'mare to do so for all regulatory and policing bodies concerned - then how would raising back up the classification help? Would that discourage (young) users? I don't think so.

Mental health difficulties cause incredible pain and distress to those experiencing them, and to the people around them. I have no wish to dismiss just how painful that can be. But it seems to be a gross misuse of statistics to lay so much blame at the door of one drug and to scaremonger the public's perception of its impact. Having seen first hand the negative impact of any excess on the people around me - cannabis, alcohol, tobacco - I would never allow anyone to think that I am blase about the effects of such habits. But what I do rail against is indiscriminate use of statistics to make crappy soundbite points about such a serious issue as the overall mental wellbeing of human beings.

Rant over.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Note to self: watching excessive enjoyable quantities of TV with Scottish actors has a distinct impact on my vocal manners


Spent a fair bit of time over the last two days watching the six glorious episodes of "Takin' Over the Asylum". I had not forgotten how bloody wonderful this programme was and re-acquainting myself with its narratives and characters was just a delight.

Unfortunately, by the time Cloud came home I ended up having to virtually gag myself for an hour after he mercilessly pointed out that I sounded as if I was newly arrived from the fair city I spent several hours watching.

As I said: shite.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hurrah for Clare (and Harry)!

I'm not even on the scale of fandom for Harry Potter reading/watching*, but I do appreciate a good defence in the face of criticism (even though a large proportion of readers here appear to have spent most of the last few days buried in book 7 themselves so probably not many critics here...).

Anyway, it's with great delight I point you to Clare and her spirited protection of escapist reading.

As I have said before, I liked 'The Da Vinci Code' because it was a page-turning bit of fun. I like the Harry Potters' for the same reason. I don't need - let alone want - all my reading to be serious or 'good literature' (whatever the hell that is). I have spent - and still spend - vast amounts of time reading quite dense texts. I like doing that and some of the stuff I read for pleasure would possibly baffle some folk. Nevertheless, I also like to coast through some books and that's where certain fiction comes in.

Having said this though, it seems only fair to point out that even if the Dan Browns and JK Rowlings of the world can be acknowledged as not demonstrating the pinnacles of western literature, that is not to say that they do not present worthwhile ideas. To take the Potters, we get the tracking of growing up, the death of family and loved ones, betrayals, learning emotions from experiences, education... and all wrapped in a magical bag of spells, werewolves, battles of good and evil and the power of love. Awh. What's not to like?

* yes, yes, I know I have watched the GoF several times. Shoot me.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Book/CD review: The Adventures of Luther Arkwright by Bryan Talbot

I first picked up Bryan Talbot's acclaimed graphic novel* of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright several years ago, having long been aware of its mythical and significant status amongst comics* writers and artists. It is, to put it mildly, a rather odd text: it certainly benefits from re-reading, largely because its complex weaving narrative can be described as rich, dense or, to detractors, unintelligible. It is visually stunning for sure: just absorbing the images can take days of 'reading'. To take in the communicated storyline(s) as well means paying close attention to what is taking place across the pages. (It just isn't possible to talk of Arkwright using panels in the conventional sense of many graphic novels).

All of that could suggest I am less entranced by this particular work than some of my other favoured texts in this genre/media: my love for Gaiman's work, especially The Sandman series, is well established; Ennis and Dillon's Preacher swept me off my feet and made me care especially deeply for the flawed non-heroic Cassidy; From Hell bought to life a compellingly rich (and well-referenced) version of the the Jack the Ripper killings and their context; Speigelman's Maus showed that a serious story could be told in this media (a view that more recently Satrapi's Persepolis reinforced); and so it goes.

But whilst I would acknowledge that I perhaps 'love' some of those other narratives more, Talbot's Arkwright nevertheless remains one of the most wonderfully thrilling and delightfully infuriating texts in the medium. I cannot help but be drawn to it, not just because it is so admired, but because it is so powerful, so enthralling, and so well controlled by its creator. Yes, it is to some extent a product of its time - hell, it was produced long before the concept of graphic novels as we know them were really thought of. But it's futurism, its parallel world narrative, still stands up. Whilst other texts can be relished or swept through at a speed as the reader sees fit, and undoubtedly each can be regularly returned to for repeat visits in order to add fine layers of visual or prose understanding, Arkwright needs - benefits - from more thorough attention at each visit. It has a structure, for sure, but it isn't simple and the early 'chapters' especially made this reader feel like (on first visit) someone was throwing in mental 'oh DO keep up' signs into the narrative grass. But it pays rich rewards for such efforts as you switch between multiverses with a sweeping whoosh sound ringing in your ears, tracking Luther and his telepath companion, Rose Wylde.

So that's the book format version: how the hell do you manage to convey that in an audio dramatised version?

The answer is, from my perspective, very well indeed. I resisted for some time the lure of buying the Big Finish dramatisation of Talbot's seemingly untranslatable narrative, even though it had caught my eye during a trawl of various internet sites including Amazon. Somehow, it all works: the soundscape is fabulous (befitting the work of Big Finish generally) and though a few characterisations were not quite how I heard them in my head, the major roles are wonderfully conveyed. Yes, yes, I know it's David Tennant in the lead as Arkwright (that wasn't, I admit, a discouragement to purchase), but it's a fine performance from him throughout (even if a thousand fan-fics would relish this solely for the chance to finally hear 'him' say "I love you Rose"). Interestingly, I think Paul Darrow (ah, those years of me and my mum relishing his performances as Avon) was absolutely perfect for the malignant incarnation of Cromwell and actually just the person I was hoping for in the role. But best of all it somehow conveys all of the mystery, all of the convoluted and yet controlled chaos of Talbot's storyline with its parallels, its technology, its politics and intrigue.

I listened to parts one and two yesterday and finished listening to part three today. Its three hours long in total and I can't imagine how they could have done it quicker or comprehend the imagination it must have taken to keep track of its narrative. A hearty well done to all involved.

In other words, both are highly recommended (if not for the faint-hearted).

* You'll have spotted that I have used the terms somewhat interchangeably here. Personally, I just think of such works as this, Sandman, and Preacher etc as fine writing with pictures, though it is a genre or medium that lends itself to conveying ideas in varied if particular manners. It is also an approach whose nuances, speed and agility of story-telling can rarely be captured in other forms - such as traditional prose narrative or film - even though several try to translate such texts to alternative media.

Book review: Maureen Carter - Dead Old

The second in the series by Maureen Carter featuring her wonderful character DS Bev Morriss is entitled Dead Old.

Like its predecessor, Working Girls, "Dead Old" has an excellent structure with its movement towards its final revelations of the true culprit(s) well-handled and thrillingly written.

I really enjoyed reading this book: I'm a real sucker for a bit of crime fiction and the characters can be mentally projected into the mind's eye within the time it takes to read a few of Carter's words to describe them.

Neatly, Carter is playfully aware of the typical characterisations of detective fiction and manages to stay on just the right side of using those stereotypes while working to complicate them. So Morriss swears, drinks too much, grumbles in puns and goes against protocol, but it never feels like the constantly lazy construction of characters often found in such books (or, more especially, their TV counterparts). It's probably because of the limitations Carter places on weaving the narratives so they are not dependant on such conventions; instead they are regularly commented on and fought against. Morriss is also smart and observant, but gets things wrong enough for her to not feel like a fount of all knowledge 'fighting the system' or 'showing it up'.

What I especially liked in this novel was how secondary characters were so convincingly drawn (though that was already a clear strength from "Working Girls"). She manages to do this for both her elderly and younger characters: from the hapless, manipulated Davy to Morriss's gran, Sadie, it is possible to both visualise and trace the impact of events on these characters through Carter's vividly straightforward prose (I mean that as a compliment: there is no convoluted prose style to distract the reader; language is well-used rather than drawing attention to itself).

So, a second enjoyable read. I'll get the next two when I get back from the forthcoming vacation... Should be good!

Bookshelves, books and the writer's room

Anyone else out there longing for the Guardian to publish a swish coffeetable book of all those lush colour photographs and discussions of writers' rooms? (Preferably, and I cannot stress this enough, with photographs shown complete on a ONE page and not straddling the page fold).

Anyway, it came back to mind not least because I was re-reading David McKie's piece on trying to read the spines of books when looking at photographs of bookshelves such as those included in the glorious Guardian series.

God, I really, REALLY like books. I know we have a long way to go on getting our house sorted as we want and that bookcasing, shelves and other paraphenalia are all well down the list on getting a kitchen/diner sorted next but I long to have a proper study/library a la something like one of those lovely author's room pictures. I have the fireplace with tiles ready to be centre-stage but what I currently have is a squashed nutjob of a room filled to (beyond) capacity with a jumble of differently styled shelf units, boxes and boxes of paperwork and assorted stuff (slides, photo cds, jars of pens, blank cds, card folders, old journals, cassette tapes) and piles and piles of books littering every spare inch of space.

Part of me longs to get someone to take over and just do a decluttering job on me, but mostly I just need better storage and organisation.

An unfortunately that is gonna have to come WAY after the kitchen project which could take the rest of the next 12 months to sort out.


Norm's very own Normblog profile

On the stroke of 200, we finally get the Norm's own profile...

Previous selections from the Normblog profile include Matt_c, Hak Mao, Marie, Darren, and Clare. And lots of other really, really spiffy bloggers.

And, erm, for some strange reason, me.

Tachyon TV: fans come out from, and for, Behind the Sofa

Thanks to the wonders of the pledge-drive, we can look forward to a full-blown finale - and final (sniff) - TTV/BtS commentary on 'The Sound of Drums'/ 'The Last of the Time Lords' sometime soon.

Eeh, that's proper cheering!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

On Loss

There's something weird about finding out about people dying: when you think about it logically, we hear about people dying all the time. War, famine, disaster. Terrorism, violence, disease. Thousands, millions, dying constantly in a variety of human-caused chaos events and others the result of the rippled effects of destructive actions (climate change).

So why does death more immediately affect me emotionally when it is the individual, the result of a relationship, the personal?

Perhaps, cosy as we are in relatively affluent western society, I can recognise the impact of such death(s) more intimately when the numbers are singular? And yet, following such horrors as the London bombings on 7/7, the plane attacks of September 11th 2001, the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, the numerous dead moved many, stirred many, politicised many. I was moved too. But was the feeling of loss made harder, more emotional, when names and biographies were put to those numerous bodies? Or when they failed to be so named and made individual?

Lacking a large family, most of the deaths that have most affected me have been those belonging to friends: the various parents, siblings, and partners of those around me. Almost always these are tinged with the awareness that these deaths have often come 'too early'; for people who - in an age where medicine appears endlessly able to postpone the inevitable - could be described euphemistically as 'gone too soon': as if there was ever a time where we could comfortably feel that there was a 'now' that was apt.

(There's always an exception, mind: when my father died in 2004 I'd long since done all my grieving for his death long before. Aged 80, I had no delusions he had not had long enough).

Still, logically, a parent's death should not be 'too soon' and yet it so often feels that way as we seek to stretch out the time we have with them. My own mother died aged 68: that felt too young even though I was already approaching 33. Others have lost their mothers at much earlier ages. I can hardly imagine how 'too soon' those deaths felt with parents only in their forties, their fifties. To experience the loss in my early 30s was hard enough; to have been younger - my twenties, my teens, a child - I'm not sure how I would have been able to process that, even as I watched friends talk through their own horrors and mixed emotions. My mother postponed acknowledging and exploring her illness for far too long and in the end died less than two weeks after first going into hospital: by then, the cancer was far too advanced for there to be any positive outcome.

The recollection of loss can strike at the most unexpected moments: for me, it's usually when I see a film or TV programme I know my mum would have particularly enjoyed - or at least appreciated me enthusing over (we had plenty of 'did you watch...?' and quick 'are you watching...?' calls and letters over the years.) "She'd have loved that" is still perhaps the most oft-invoked phrase about my mum.

All this musing is, I guess, by way of my working through that I only know by association how it feels to know long-term that someone is dying, even if I know too harshly how each death takes place in a period of time that is both too short and yet infinitely lengthy.

So, to all the McDonald family and their friends, condolences.

Information on ACCORD can be found here, donations information can be found here, and for those using JustGiving, donations can also be made here.


Just tiled the window recess in our bathroom.

Wish I actually had access to including pictures on this blog.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's the 'So Fucking What' non-news

Student smoked dope. of course, they didn't enjoy it.

Publishers and agents often send out rejection letters suggesting they have read things when really they haven't. And 'failing' to comment on dead-obvious plagiarism in their standard reply letters. Who'da thunk it?

In future I'm considering getting my news from here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Plasterering, builders, architects: and more fun things

Woah. It could be that something, FINALLY, is starting to happen. In the course of two days I've had some plastering done (meaning we might finally be able to finsh and decorate the bathroom), had a builder round to do prelim work and assessment on several jobs, AND had an architect round who will guide us through the buildings regs issues on getting our kitchen extended! Woo and Hoo!

God, that is sad.

In other news, the Tachyon TV/Behind the Sofa gang let me have a new server access to get the final bit of "Bowen! McGann!"* commentary on the Doctor Who TV movie. Brilliant. Much more fun than DIY and kitchen extensions.

* it makes sense if you have listened to part two at least!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It's frothy boys: New Who season 3 opinions

That would be the anti-BTS awards, aka the david-tennant.com Sparklies.

This years awards have arrived.

And if you haven't already, go spot the crucial differences in approach by checking out the BTS 20 questions...

Clare's life change

Officially announced!

Clare has gone full-time freelance as a writer.

Go Clare! Go Clare!

"Buttercup, don't break my heart..."


Toni, dear boy, you will be the earworming death of me!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Want to hear that scathing commentary on Last of the Time Lords?

The Behind the Sofa crew needs our money!

Woo-hoo! The money has been rolling in it seems (as the above updated link shows).

"We'll turn around and find we've talked all night..."

Bless Chrissie: I try to give her as much info as possible when I pass on a compilation but I do sometimes hold back a little thought or two and wait to see if she picks it up.

Sure enough, today I got a text through about the track "It's Getting Light Outside" by Clearlake.

Now it's a cracking track anyway but it is one I've had sitting for ages waiting to hit a Chrissie playlist thinking of a specific message in mind.

Bless her for getting it.

Derby Food and the Peregrine Falcons

Awh, bless.

On Saturday Cloud and I had a spiffy day out in the sunshine - yes, sunshine; ball of light in the sky, blueness, fluffy little clouds, warmth: weird huh, considering it's FECKING JULY PEOPLE!!!! In the Northern hemisphere! ---

Where was I?

Oh yes. Derby.


We had a lovely time, not least because I fixed myself up with some snazzy wellies for Summer Sundae (what d'ya mean I'm tempting fate? It could take a year to dry out the bloody De Montford site at this rate). And I got some nifty Victoriana style shoes (just £10!!!). Bargain.

Post-shoe-shopping, we mooched to a new favourite restaurant - we now have suitable independent eateries in all the major East Midlands towns/cities* - The European Restaurant and Bistro. It's always a good sign when you have proper Italians serving Italian food. At the end of lunch a huge pot of fish stew was bought out and the staff sat to eat their lunch. Despite being stuffed to the gills with food, I was almost tempted to eat some more. Not quite though. Even I have limits of fullness. But we'll be back there again.

Anyway: whilst there a friendly bloke - clearly something of a regular (enough to exchange brief Italian compliments to the staff) - came and chatted to us and explained something of the history of the place (it's in one of Derby's oldest buildings, dating from around 1400ish) and asked if we had seen the falcons.

(Slightly) oblivious to the topic, we got a full run-down on the local chicks as the Cathedral opposite the restaurant has a pair of Peregrine Falcons that have come back for a couple of years and have again provided chicks this spring/summer.

Checking out the webcam is one thing; but for the less patient, try some of the videos available:

Peregrine 7: 12 May 2007 - Feeding the chicks

Peregrine 9: 11 June 2007 - Let's Poo on Mum!
Yes, it's every bit as daft as you would think - the way that mum looks round as if to say "who did that?" and the chick is all Bart Simpson...

Peregrine 12: 25 June 2007
Now the offspring are practically fully grown...

* Food places of goodness in the East Midlands:
Nottingham - Gusto (sorry, link down at 16 July 2007 17:47 BST)
Leicester - The Quarter (review)
Lincoln - Mrs Miggin's Pie Shop (sorry, too many year's watching Blackadder: unfortunate really as the Lincoln venue is wonderful!) Brown's Pie Shop and Restaurant

Buffy/Angel Books - a collection point

Just to explain, I was getting in a knot with my various Buffy related books, losing track of what I had and hadn't already got. So I've done a note here which I'll place on my sidebar (and hopefully remember to keep updating!).

**LAST UPDATED AUTUMN 2008 (at bottom of post)**

Stacey ABBOTT, Reading Angel: The TV Spin-off With a Soul.

Michael ADAMS, Slayer Slang: A Buffy The Vampire Slayer Lexicon (hardcover edition)

Anne BILLSON, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: BFI Television Studies

Christopher GOLDEN - Nancy HOLDER, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide

Candace HAVENS, Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy

Nancy HOLDER, Jeff MARIOTTE, Maryelizabeth HART, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide 2.

Roz KAVENEY, Reading the Vampire Slayer: An Unofficial Critical Companion to Buffy and Angel (1st edition)

Micol OSTOW, Steven BREZENOFF, Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Quotable Slayer. (paperback and hardcover editions)

Jana RIESS, What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide

James B. SOUTH, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale.

Nikki STAFFORD, Once Bitten: An Unofficial Guide to the World of Angel.

Keith TOPPING, Slayer: A Totally Awesome Collection of Buffy Trivia

Keith TOPPING, The Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Kathleen TRACY, "The Girl’s Got Bite. The Unofficial Guide to Buffy’s World"
Paperback, Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 1998.

Rhonda WILCOX, Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rhonda V. WILCOX, David LAVERY, Fighting the Forces: What's at Stake in Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Glenn YEFFETH, Seven Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Discuss Their Favorite Television Show
Season One, Volume One
Season One, Volume Two
Season Two, Volume One
Season Two, Volume Two
Season Two, Volume Four
Season Three, Volume One
Once More With Feeling
Christopher GOLDEN - Nancy HOLDER, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Out of the Madhouse. The Gatekeeper Trilogy: Book One; Ghost Roads. The Gatekeeper Trilogy: Book Two; Sons of Entropy. The Gatekeeper Trilogy: Book Three

Nancy HOLDER, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Evil That Men Do"

Yvonne NAVARRO, Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Wicked Willow I: The Darkening; Wicked Willow II: Shattered Twilight; Wicked Willow III: Broken Sunrise

**New additions**
Buffy Omnibus v1 and v2 (comics compilations)
Season 8 comics (all issues to date)
Christopher GOLDEN - Nancy HOLDER, The Sunnydale Yearbook

**New additions July 2008**
Buffy Omnibus v3 and v4 (comics compilation)
Nikki STAFFORD, Bite Me! The 10th Buffyversary Guide to the World of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Sarah Michelle Gellar and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", ECW Press, 2007

**New additions Autumn 2008**
Buffy Omnibus v5 (comics compilation)
Angel: After the Fall - books 1 and 2 (new comics)

"Goddamn right, it's a beautiful day"

Darn you SwissToni, you earwormed me!


"The clown with the frown driving down to the sidewalk fair
Finger on the trigger let me tell you it's quite a scare"

Friday, July 13, 2007

Marie can fit Kelly MacDonald into her handbag

No, really, she could.

Another fine post from Marie covering - variously - the excellent State of Play, fancying The Master as played by John Simm and written by RTD more than John Simm in other roles, the height of actors (McAvoy is 5' 7") and the consequent dangers of crushing actors at weddings when wearing high platformed shoes.

You have remembered there's a time limit on reading her blog haven't you?

If you want to be able to follow links after Tuesday 17 July 2007, you will need to have emailed her by Monday 16th - that's this coming Monday.

Your age by eating out...

Okay, I generally steer clear of circulating any/many of the gazzilions of emails that file their way into my post-box, but this DID freak me out.

From Wesla via the lovely Rita.


Don't tell me age; you might tell a falsehood, but your waiter may know!
This is pretty neat.
It takes less than a minute. Work this out as you read ...
Be sure you don't read the bottom until you've worked it out!
This is not one of those waste of time things, it's fun.
1. First of all, pick the number of times a week that you would like to go
out to eat.
(more than once but less than 10)
2. Multiply this number by 2 (just to be bold)
3. Add 5
4. Multiply it by 50
5. If you have already had your birthday this year add 1757...
If you haven't, add 1756.

6. Now subtract the four digit year that you were born.

You should have a three digit number.

The first digit of this was your original number. (i.e., How many times you
want to go out to restaurants in a week.)

The next two numbers are YOUR AGE !
(Oh YES, it is!!!)


And it did work...
That's quite weird.

The British Library government answer

Library - epetition reply 13 July 2007

We received a petition asking:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to keep the British Library FREE of charge to users! Don't cut its budget!."

Details of Petition:

"You may have read in newspapers that the government is considering cutting the British Library's budget by up to 7%. That might not sound much, but it will result in the library cutting its opening hours dramatically, and charging a fee to use the reading rooms. If you believe that to be a truly British Library, the library services the BL provides should be free of charge to the user - then sign the petition! The BL is a truly world class institution, and one which belongs to all of us. We have a duty of care to support it, for the benefit of future generations. Please, Mr Blair, don't cut its budget!"

Read the Government's response

The British Library preserves, promotes and celebrates our language and literature, two of our greatest contributions to the world's cultural heritage. It also underpins research in the higher education and business sectors, playing what is an essential part in a modern knowledge economy. This Government has supported the Library in fulfilling these roles since 1997, and will continue to do so.

It is, however, independent of Government, and makes its own management decisions, including on issues such as admission charges [italics added].

Excuse me, but how the FUCK does that answer a petition on budget cuts forcing the Library to consider introducing admission charges?

Because I read that response as being the Library makes its own decisions on what to do WITH the budget it gets set, but says absolutely PISS all about denying there is any cut or even explaining any budget cuts. Let alone confronting the issue of how changes and limited hours will impact on accessibility, quality of research and the very things that make the library worth fighting for... Sure, I'm reet p'eed off the with Library for making moves towards admission/reading room charges, but they wouldn't be in that position without the cuts.

So this strikes me as a real duck of an answer here.

Sorry; this just bought out the cranky in me.

I feel the need to invoke the sweary spirit of Melissa - aka QCoFM.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Black as night and raining again...

Hot damn, it's turning into a fun summer...

It's really NOT a phallic symbol

Great story and remark raised from Shakesville and ably picked up by Pandagon.

As resident_alien remarks in the comments, if the citizens of Keizer are so upset, there must be a reason:

There’s a german proverb that says:”He who is hungry thinks of bread.”I find this suits the situation nicely.

Marie is a Goddess

But we knew that anyway, right?

The George and co in Orkney

Two days up at present - day one and day two - with some spectacularly lovely pics of The Sonia, The George, The Gang and the Orkneys.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Always space for a Beatles post

And you can usually bank on someone to come up with one to entertain.

Michael Berube, who, weirdly I saw dancing at the BAAS conference the other year (in fact should that be dancing weirdly? Possibly)... anyway, where was I?

Oh yes: over at Pandagon Berube stirs up some thoughts on the three most cringe-worthy Beatles-written tracks per songwriter (Ringo excluded since he only wrote two) and the three most under-valued.

Some nice reminders there of the good and the bad and some fiercesome defences of each selection...

What makes our love a sin...

Just a little subtler than this was, but somehow still absolutely hysterical.

'Get off me, you maniac,' said the Master, wriggling frantically on the ground, but not wholly convincing anyone that he didn't enjoy rolling about with the Doctor a little too much.

It's wrong, it's just sooo wrong...

God, I do love reading fan-fic...

Buffy Season 8 comic ep5 - next out 1 August

More Buffy!

And Marie's book launches the same day!

Picture 'spoiler' for the forthcoming Xmas special of Who

Oooooh. Nice togs.

Like her boots.

Some people deserve much better than they get

There's no blogger button in the world could fix this, but heck knows Rachel and her family deserve to know they're in our thoughts.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I know it's a while till Xmas...

... but my birthday is in October.

Given how crowded our house is with Stuff, he may have to live in the attic.

Excuse me Neil, just off to check how the attic conversion is progressing...

(Via MediumRob)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bookarazzi: Bloggers with Book Deals

The new project of (amongst others) lovely Boob Pencil is launched!

Go check out Bookarazzi.

It looks brilliant.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Marie's chapters

So, having read the first bits of Gods Behaving Badly, just HOW excited is everyone about Marie's book?

'Cos here it's a VERY much...

Specific gems from the Doctor Who Fan's Phrasebook

I keep re-reading this because it makes me laugh so much! Kudos to all the contributors. Although I am almost glad I haven't joined OG's forum because I could guarantee the slipping away of every minute of my life if I did.

A few choice selections...
“If I recall correctly...”
Who the Hell am I kidding? I ALWAYS recall correctly. I can remember the Logopolitan code for restoring the TARDIS down to the last hexadecimal. But I don't want everyone here to think I'm, like, really Sad or anything.

“The dialogue in that scene was nothing but a massive info-dump.”
I am an expert in every line of every script of every Doctor Who episode ever broadcast and, consequently, I resent the fact that writers consider it necessary to explain things like continuity to people who are less dedicated than I am.

“I can’t even begin to describe how angry I am about the casting of Catherine Tate.”
I know that my country took part in what may well be considered an illegal war in Iraq, as a consequence of which people are still dying every hour; I know that we live daily with the terrifying threat of Intercontinental terrorism; I know that global warming poses a significant threat to all life on this planet; but what has really moved me to sign an Internet petition and vent my impotent fury, publicly, is “an actress getting a job.” I hate everyone in the entire world, including myself.
And on that topic, this was a joy to read:

“Jon Pertwee.”
An actor who - at the time he was cast in Doctor Who - was chiefly known for his comic characterisations with wide popular appeal. A masterstroke of casting which reinvigorated the show.

“Catherine Tate.”
An actress who - at the time she was cast in Doctor Who - was chiefly known for her comic characterisations with wide popular appeal. A mistake of quite apocalyptic proportions that will, I predict, kill off the show for good.
And this was my particular favourite:

“I can't wait until RTD steps down as show-runner.”
I am going to be painfully reminded of the old truism “be careful what you wish for, it might just come true” if we get saddled with Chris Chibnall in 2009.

Oh yes....

Don't you know, I haven't got a personality...?

My Personality
Openness To Experience
You are introverted, reserved, and quiet with a preference for solitude and solitary activities. Your socializing tends to be restricted to a few close friends. You can be very easily upset, even by what most people consider the normal demands of living. People consider you to be extremely sensitive and emotional. A desire for tradition does not prevent you from trying new things. Your thinking is neither simple nor complex. To others you appear to be a well-educated person but not an intellectual. You have some concern with others' needs, and are generally pleasant, sympathetic, and cooperative. You like to live for the moment and do what feels good now. Your work tends to be careless and disorganized.

Test Yourself Compare Yourself View Full Report

Great: I'm disorganised. Tell me something I wasn't already aware of...


Overall Score 82
Anxiety 91
Anger 76
Depression 76
Self-Consciousness 48
Immoderation 42
Vulnerability 93

You feel tense, jittery, and nervous and often feel like something dangerous is about to happen. You may be afraid of specific situations or be just generally fearful. You feel enraged when things do not go your way. You are sensitive about being treated fairly and feel resentful and bitter if you think you are being cheated. You tend to lack energy and have difficult initiating activities. You are not generally self conscious about yourself. You often resist any cravings or urges that you have, but sometimes you give in. You experience panic, confusion, and helplessness when under pressure or stress.
Wow: I often resist but sometimes I give in. That's a truly incredible insight... [typeface for irony]


Overall Score 24

Friendliness 30
Gregariousness 6
Assertiveness 47
Activity Level 63
Excitement-Seeking 41
Cheerfulness 20

People generally perceive you as distant and reserved, and you do not usually reach out to others. You tend to feel overwhelmed by, and therefore actively avoid, large crowds. You often need privacy and time for yourself. You are an active group participant but usually prefer to let someone else be the group leader. You lead a moderately paced life. You like some energetic activities, but also like to relax and take it easy. You enjoy some excitment and risk taking in your life. You are not prone to spells of energetic high spirits.
BWAH! Okay, apart from my bouts of freakish shyness, I am notoriously the person for whom the phrase "bossy cow" was practically invented. "Not prone to spells of energetic high spirits" eh? So that manic-depressive tendancy slipped right past ya there then...? Still, then again it is based on MY answers...

Openness to Experience

Overall Score 66

Imagination 90
Artistic Interests 50
Emotionality 44
Adventurousness 41
Intellect 57
Liberalism 69

Often you find the real world is too plain and ordinary for your liking, and you use fantasy as a way of creating a richer, more interesting world for yourself. You are reasonably interested in the arts but are not totally absorbed by them. Generally you are not considered to be an emotional person, however you are aware of and in touch with your emotions. Familiar routines are good, but sometimes you like to spice up your life with a bit of adventure or activity. You enjoy a certain amount of debate or intellectual thought, but sometimes get bored with too much. Often you exhibit a readiness to challenge authority, convention, and traditional values. Sometimes you feel a certain degree of hostility toward rules and perhaps even enjoy ambiguity.
Hmmm... well, the bit about not being emotional seems way off beam; the rest of it... Less said... Me? Challenge authority...? Surely not...


Overall Score 50

Trust 76
Morality 58
Altruism 66
Cooperation 4
Modesty 40
Sympathy 79

You naturally assume that most people are fair, honest, and have good intentions. There are times when you believe that a certain amount of deception in social relationships is necessary, however you are mostly candid, frank and sincere. People find it moderately easy to relate to you. You will help others if they are in need. If people ask for too much of your time you feel that they are imposing on you. You are not adverse to confrontation and will sometimes even intimidate others to get your own way. You are willing to take credit for good things that you do but you don't often talk yourself up much. You are tenderhearted and compassionate, feeling the pain of others vicariously and are easily moved to pity.
I will usually avoid saying or doing anything to upset people at pretty much any price (whilst at the same time having a vicious temper that can lash out with just a fractional push too far at me). Does that make this accurate? The "doesn't talk herself up much" seems all too true.


Overall Score 17

Self-Efficacy 2
Orderliness 29
Dutifulness 72
Achievement-Striving 26
Self-Discipline 14
Cautiousness 26

Often you do not feel effective, and may have a sense that you are not in control of your life. In general you tend to be disorganized and scattered. You have a strong sense of duty and obligation, and feel a moral obligation to do the right thing. You are content to get by with a minimal amount of work, and might be seen by others as lazy. You find yourself procrastinating and show poor follow-through on tasks. Often you fail to complete tasks - even tasks that you want very much to complete. You often say or do the first thing that comes to mind without deliberating alternatives and the probable consequences of those alternatives.
Now this is a weird one: high on duty, low on achievement. I suspect the reason this one reads so strange is because I find it difficult to see how others do not recognise just how inherently idle I am. I will pootle till the cows come home if I can (witness blogging: surely the pootlers' paradise). Yet everyone else around me will usually comment on how hard-working I am, how much I take on, how much I do. Which makes me think I DO get a lot more done than this survey suggests but probably via LOOKING as if I am working hard, since ACTUALLY working hard is very different. As long as I am looking as if I am busy, and (crucially) the task gets completed in a reasonable time, I guess people do generally think of me as being a Hard Worker. Does that make it true? I suppose it is about 'conscientiousness' and not working hard...

Well that was a very odd experience doing that, and even more so reading the results.

Via Keith Topping.

Making a Public correction: Its all about The White Stripes

And it happened that on a sunny July day in the year 2007, the Rullsenberg acknowledged that the George was one of our most ardent fellow believers in the Peel, and as such the George was an enthusiastic proclaimer of the legend of The White Stripes from the very first.

For yea, Meg and Jack were the news Gods of rock blues and the George did shouteth it from the rooftops.

And it was good.

But then it came to pass that Seven Nation Army did garner the multitudes to loving The White Stripes and for the George this was Much Less Good for he doth much relish being outside the mainstream and was concern-ed for the effect this would have on the music.

But lo, the Stripes did continue to maintain their credibility and are still hot-rockingly Good.

And it did come to pass that, because Rullsenberg does not play all her music on her computer, the George spotted her listening to Icky Thump on her lastFM profile and did falsely believe that the Cloud and Rullsenberg had not previously took up the Stripes into their hearts as the George felt they should have long since done. Moreover, he did feel slighted and rent his garments saying that it was all down to the Fuzzboy's review. For he did not know that the reason for her playing it on her PC was because she used some of her eMusic credits to get the new album via download. And the George was much saddened in his erroneous opinion, and the Rullsenberg even more so, for she did much appreciate the George for his wise council on the subject of music.

And so she did maketh this Public Pronouncement to soothe the George's troubled soul that of course he was the only one who could possibly deserve public credit for any listening to The White Stripes. And she did hopeth that he would look into the heart of the Peel belief system and know that you only have to seem like a grumpy bugger to win the hearts of millions.

Here endeth the pronouncement...

Why little details annoy

"The author would, perhaps rightly, conclude that such a small mistake is of no great concern in the overall context of such a massive work and he well may be right about that. But, as a reader, the inevitable follow up question in my mind has to be, if the author got that bit wrong, then what else had he got wrong that I’m not such an expert on?"
From Keith Topping's blog.

Now you see THAT'S why I make cranky marginalia in books ...

Take your time folks: read up on the Doctor Who Phrasebook

Courtesy of the gang at Behind the Sofa, I found out two things:

(1) Keith Topping (by whom I have several Buffy-related texts) has a blog. Good news.

(2) Topping has written the most hilarious and frightening bloody accurate dissection of Dr Who fan language possible.

Anyone dare go on Outpost Gallifrey now and do a spot-check on the use of these phrases? (You could probably find some of them here I suspect!)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

And at the second attempt: happy anniversary Rob!

EineKleineRob has been blogging for TWO YEARS!


Shame I mucked up his blog by accidently logging in there...

I didn't know David Hepworth had a blog

But he does.


I may start dipping into that.

Book Review: Working Girls by Maureen Carter

You may remember from earlier in the week I had posted about meeting Maureen Carter, author of a series of crime novels, at the Lowdham Book Festival.

She was lovely and I am thrilled to report that she writes a darn fine bit of crime fiction too.

I've just galloped through reading Working Girls, the first in her series of novels about DS Bev Morriss. It was, as the saying goes, a page-turner.

As someone who comes from a tradition of loving Dorothy L Sayers (especially the Harriet Vane classics) AND Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder books (it's the New York/New Jersey thing) AND Ian "Oi!"* Rankin's Rebus series (the Scottish settings, hearing it in my head doesn't hurt), I found Carter's writing style incredibly easy to get into, with a real sense of character and a sharp ear for both spoken and internal dialogue. You can possibly attribute some of those things to her experience as a journalist and broadcaster - including working on the early years of Newsnight - but I'd personally say there's a considerable difference in writing fiction and writing/orally presenting factual narratives. It's to her credit that she brings the demands of journalism for spare if still engagingly fluid prose to conveying such a compelling tale without losing sight of what dramatic genre fiction needs. Good plots, convincing settings, internally consistent characterisation: check, check, check.

Of course, her writing clearly benefits from some tight observation of the worlds of policework and the aftermath of criminal activity. In "Working Girls", it's even possible to imagine the op-ed pieces that could have been constructed from the conversations with Vice/Child Protection Squads (a telling distinction alluded to in the Author's Note at the front of the book). But such articles would have been missing a crucial element, and one that truly brings the book to life.

Bev Morriss is a standout character with behaviour and foibles that draw the reader to empathise with her. Okay, so there is a certain projection of Carter herself in Morriss - that Johnny Depp obsession isn't going away any time soon is it? And yes, he would make an excellent Charlie Hawes - but the Morriss/Carter overlap is both an understandable and forgivable trick to pull. And it works. It would certainly explain why Morriss' charmingly caustic humour feels so real.

Carter is now up to her 4th Bev Morriss novel. I'm going to start the second one - Dead Old - as soon as I can (and then get the next two). It's always enjoyable to find a good series novel writer, and even if they do get hard to sustain, a recurrent character is a fine hook to draw a reader into the created world.

Overall remarks: recommended.

ASIDE: Maureen also has her own myspace page, designed by her daughter Sophie. Kudos for a clean design. I get quite dizzy with the number of websites out there who think all-singing, all-dancing backgrounds and multiple layers of text are the way forward. It's a relief to be able to read something with ease. My only criticism would be that white (or even coloured) text on a black background is generally a complete 'mare for anyone with dyslexia issues to read, but the colour scheme is in keeping with the Creme de la Crime palette so it's probably for keeps.

* Ian "oi!" Rankin
: thus monikered for his (very) brief appearance in the first Ken Stott Rebus drama. When a leading character is attacked in the street we see a man in a coat at the top of the road point at the attacker and yell "Oi!". I don't think we see him again, and he certainly has no more dialogue (to our recollection: Cloud and I were too busy chuckling "that was Ian Rankin wasn't it?!). But henceforward the author has become known in our house as Ian "Oi!" Rankin.

Alan's Home

One benefit of waking up at the ungodly hour of 4am (did I mention I was still knackered?) is that you catch early morning news.

Alan Johnston is released.


The Noble Cause


I've been awake since 4am.

This was not entirely what I wanted to read in my inbox.

By the end of the Xmas episode I had warmed to the character of Donna; but a full season companion? She did turn him down last time, right?


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Gods and fiction

You can't make stuff up like this or this (unless you're RTD).

Courtesy of Counago & Spaves.

Marie write the episode she wanted to see

Marie puts her writing skills on display when she constructs the narrative she really wanted from The Last of the Time Lords.

Brilliant. Can we come on set with you when you get the inevitable Who-writing gig?

Oh dear me...

Be warned by the tags.

It's both utterly disturbing and horrifically funny.

I think this has been doing the rounds for over a week but I just found it buried in my Bloglines on Pete Ashton's weblog.

As Platypus said in the comments "Please stop making me pee myself. It is undignified."

Swiis Toni's new cat

Awh man, this cat is just the business of cuteness!

Reminds me of the old line:

Dogs see humans - you feed me, you take care of me, you fuss me: You must be a god!

Cats see humans - you feed me, you take care of me, you fuss me: I must be a god!

Yep, worship the cat!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Anyone else tried to order a Radio Times print from ssplprints.com?

I've registered fine but the bloody site will not recognise my damn debit card to buy a copy of the print!


BTW anyone else want Marie to give us not only more songs (the latest is great - scroll) but also her own rewritten version of the season finale?

Come on Marie, what did you want to happen?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Because you can NEVER be too cutting in attack

A fine piece of 'holding back what I really think' from the ever wonderful Gert and her mission to make the world understand the true horror of the celebrity diva.


More WongaBlog

Mr WongaBlog makes the case again in utterly accurate and scathing terms for why complaints against speed cameras are specious crap.

If you really, really think that it’s safe to drive faster, bloody well start a campaign to have the limits raised. Or a variable speed system. Or a free-for-all where the onus is on fragile humans to keep away from massive kinetic machines. Whatever. Something tangible, backed up with proper, statistical evidence that isn’t something you heard Jeremy Clarkson say. Complaining about enforcement and not the law itself just makes me think you have no case.

I’ll bother listening once speed-camera campaigners have something to say that doesn’t smack of a complete disregard for the expertise of road safety experts, other road users and the legal system. Until then it’s just the ramblings of a bunch of speed-junkies.
I wish I had half his eloquence on the subject...

Who3 follow-ups

Mr WongaBlog gives me one of the best laughs of the day. After making the same point I did on the consistency of S3, he added this brilliant coda:

I’d like, however, to request that English Professor Doctor never return. Ever. I’d prefer to hang on to my girlfriend, and I’m not sure she’d cope with a reprisal.

And there is of course the FULL Season Carusometer over at MediumRob's place. Cracking.

He's not the Messiah; he's the Doctor... (Don't read if you haven't seen the final three episodes of S3 Who)

Right, trusting you're pro-spoiler or that you've watched ALL THREE of the finale episodes of the NewWhoS3, you can read on.

Otherwise, beware there are lots of reveals, lots of comments and plenty of confusion/delight.

Here we are then.

First, an up front confession. I had some really mixed feelings about the finale episode when I was watching it last night. I predicted in my head within seconds of the show's the beginning - let alone its journey and ending - that there would be a strong "God, that was SHIT" brigade coming down hard on RTD. Limited Doctor? Messianic religiosity? Gollum/Dobby? Hyper-mania Master boogying on-down to the Scissor Sisters?

But here's the thing that I'm going to dare to say.

I think Season 3 has been the most consistent of all the three new Who series so far. They still can't quite get that first two-part episode moment right, but overall there has been MUCH that I have loved from this season. S1 had a lot to do and didn't always get it right - as much as I thrilled to its return (and I wasn't spoiling myself as much back then: a moral to my tale?). The stand-out hit of "Girl in the Fireplace" aside, I found S2 thoroughly enjoyable but the internal consistency of episodes got patchier as the season went on (I liked the screen caps from Fear Her MUCH better than the episode itself). And S3? Well, I was pretty much the only person who didn't think the Daleks episodes blew farts at the audience so I already felt we were on a higher plane than last year (and I liked Rose, really I did). Okay, so I did feel some initial stomach-dropping anxiety with regard to last night's episode of bonkers, totally BONKERS-ness, but somehow, some way, against every pile of odds set against it (not least the degree of expectation) it all worked as a whole. [Maybe expectation has been the series biggest enemy? It certainly did for S3's Dalek tale, with its possible postponement crisis, and with such a HUGE build-up, perhaps this week's finale did suffer a little from it too...]

Anyway, since it's been raised elsewhere, I'm treating the final three episodes as a six-parter storyline. It seems just right to try to do so.

Utopia / The Sound of Drums / The Last of the Time Lords

It takes a really harsh critic to be utterly untouched by the massive fanwank overload that was 'Utopia'. For a start we had 'Degsy' (whose giggling at what people should call him, as reported in this months DWM, I can absolutely confirm via lovely Lisette who has spoken to him herself and had a similarly giggling exchange). Now I had managed to keep myself pretty unspoiled - apart from the 'can barely duck anywhere without running into mention of John Simm being in NewWho as... Ta-Dah, The Master' - so it was with MUCHO pleasure that I began to leap and shriek and generally lose all fan inhibitions when sweet cheery Pertwee-esque period Professor Yana regained his true identity and revealed himself as The Master (incarnation number... oh who's counting...?).

Some have said that the 'Utopia' episode was only a set-up to the final 20 minutes when the watch started to take on a new significance, but I would have to disagree. Okay, so there was some fudging of the Torchwood ending (which I still love, and for all its faults as a series I am still going to get and rewatch before S2 kicks off).* And though seeing a quarry bought back chuckling frissons of Who past, I was somewhat unconvinced by the FutureKind. Still, I did giggle at the 'you're busy blogging' remark - though yesterday's bloggers conversation decided it was more 'Twitter' than blogging. And there was something gloriously hopeful about the end of humanity trusting to find its way out before the end of the universe (even if it was further evidence of RTD's love of Really Big Numbers). For me, the highlight before those uproarious final minutes was that utterly delightful, quietly still, blistering with darkness exchange with Jack and the Doctor which was worth its weight in 'drama'. I was also pleased to see some good running (more convincing than in 42 I thought) and I liked the relationship of Yana and Chantho - which was made all the more poignant by that exciting culimination of the episode.

ANYWAY. The thing is that whilst part one of this six-parter was cracking, part two (the second half of Utopia) was truly in a league of its own. And THAT was what made it feel as if the first part was weaker [I take it as only a comparative thing]. The fanwank cross-references are well noted elsewhere, and despite some friends telling me otherwise I stick by my remark that these would only really confuse NewWho fans with feeling they were missing something IF they were watching it with someone who knew and loved the Classic Who series [though I firmly place myself in a jointly loving Who camp**]. Certainly Cloud was a little bit 'huh?' but that was probably because by the time we were hearing Roger Delgado whispers and menace from Jacobi that blew the roof off I was practically bouncing off the sofa with SQUEE. (And understandable OTT-ness from Simm aside, getting Tennant, Simm and Barrowman in the same episode was a little bit like a girls' fan-fic heaven).

ANYWAY. ANYWAY. It would have been hard to follow through with a sufficiently detailed cliff-hanger resolution, and so it proved. With a little sonic-screwdriver - what else? - we got a nice teleport to the present and a post-election Saxon setting. Actually, I thought that was both genius and a cop-out. We didn't really want to be waiting to get out of the ends of the universe did we? Thought not. And the nice crash-landing scene was well-handled, both from the point of moving things along AND visually. So overall I thought that was well-handled.

What 'The Sound of Drums' did bring us was a littering of the assorted curios and quirks that we have come to expect from RTD - substituting the Clangers for the Teletubbies was inspired; the happy/sad faces of the Master in cabinet just about worked - mostly because of the shift into the hysterically creepy excess of the thumbs-up gas-masked Simm doing his tappity-tap thang; there was even the hilariously jarring and yet somehow utterly charming pop music cameo (yes, I DO believe RTD had Voodoo Child on repeat writing the episode). To top everything there was still a bumper load of cross-references, too many to mention but not least the SQUEAL flashes of Gallifrey. (And the Magpie TV as the bomb in Martha's flat? Nice touch). Having briefly considered and then blocked the significance of the ever-present drum sound in 'Utopia', I loved the realisation of what 'tappity-tap' really was [something that was neatly mirrored with the finale's 'two-parts'] even if it DID take me way too long to get it. I loved the dismissive references to Jack's gang (the 'Doh!' team surely?!). And I was thrilled that Martha finally started to have some purpose, and her family more so. I even finally felt something for her when the virtually oblivious Doctor casually grins his remark about perception filters - "and they don't even notice you..." - and I actually wanted to hug her and Jack when Jack replies "you too, huh?" Far more than I felt when the crunching line from Human Nature "...and it wasn't me" was delivered.

Of course it wasn't hard to feel hurt when, at about the midway point to the six-parter, we had to see the Doctor reduced to old age - though MUCH worse was to come - but somehow it all worked. From the maniacal Master to his accommodating wife (still not sure we saw the last of her); the 'load of (space) balls decimating the earth - good use of language - to the departure of Martha back to earth. Against all the odds it ALL worked.

How the hell could the final two parter hope to top that.

Well, 'The Last of the Time Lords' was certainly EPIC as Anna rightly acknowledged. And it had dark (with Rosby's accurate prediction that the Toclophane would be the bastardised, transmogrified humans in pursuit of Utopia***). On that front, they were made very Davros/Emperor Dalek-eque weren't they? Though I think I was most creeped out when they flashed back to the charming Cree and the "skies are made of diamonds" speech and you suddenly realised how horrifically childlike and manipulated these monsters had been made to be: at the mercy of the pathology of the Master. Shudder. It also had the Doctor made his most vulnerable: not enough to make him old, the Mill turned him into Gollum/Dobby. That's a real slap to anyone watching the series from the perspective of 'any-excuse-to-watch-David-Tennant'. Good job I'm a little less shallow than that, eh?

Seriously though, I could cope with the Scissor Sisters opening (Lisette was thrilled by this BTW: as it's her favourite track from the album I'm letting her have that as a personal shout-out) because it again showed up the Master for the twisted psycho-sociopath that he is as the Doctor's mirror self [though unlike the Buffy/Faith version of that tale, there's no real sense that the Master is ever redeemable: instead he metaphorically slaps the face of the Doctor and takes a different route out****] And I really loved the efforts of the Jones gang - minus the 'my-agent-fcuked-up-big-time' missing Reggie - plus 'here-we-go-again-Jack' to try and get the Master. But what was really pleasing was that in the opening half of the episode (part five if you will), Martha was really given the meat she deserved from the get-go, and could have had more of with more consistent writing and direction, and dare I say acting prowess...? Anyway, here she was walking the earth, supposedly gathering the components of a KillMasterGun, being the "mythical" Martha Jones on her quest. And we even had some rounded sub-plot characters to go with her: a touching appearance from Ellie Haddington as Professor Docherty (who gave such a wonderful performance in Lawless Heart) and excellent work from Tom Ellis as Thomas Milligan (which pressed another pile happy buttons for Lisette). Good work: a bit of proof that back-story characters can be brought in succesfully.

And so to what MediumRob called "the exact same cocking deus ex sci-fi get-out clause". Here's where I part company with the great Carusometer man a little. I rather LOVED the resolution (mind, I loved 'Doomsday' and 'The Parting of the Ways'). Yes, I did wince somewhat at Martha's pre-surrender preaching of the Holy Doctor of Galifree myth - hey, I am an atheist after all! - but the idea of the whole world believing in the Doctor, of a thought bringing back something thought near-death to life again (not really a metaphor for the series at all...), of the subversion of the Archangel network, of everyone - Jack, the family Jones, even Mrs Evil herself - murmuring 'Doctor' in a breathy, adoring intonation*****... sheesh, I'm tingling just thinking about it. And so what if the Doctor rejuvenated into a floating, sparks flying Matrix Neo/Christ? He's back dammit! The Doctor was back!

And so it was that Tennant and Simm got their big scene of emotional resonance: they do that sort of wringing angst and frustration so well don't you think? Time swung back. The earth - and the universe by extension - was saved. Jack even surprised us all one last time as the Face of Botex Guest: I really didn't see THAT coming and it was a charming way to finally explain the tender affection the Doctor had for that "Big Old Face". Just lovely. I hope that not-so-angsty Jack is the one who finally gets it back with his team in Torchwood - should they manage to get back from the Himilayas...

And Martha went home. Warmed but wiser; walking away from the damaging non-relationship with a modicum of dignity intact, bless her. Hopefully when she comes back she will have kept more of that persona and we'll be able to welcome her back with more open arms.

In the meantime, we have another "WHAT?!" conclusion and opening to look forward to with the Christmas special. All that and Titanic too. WTF???!!!

Just to keep you in the picture, here's a collation of selected reviews.

MediumRob: thumbs up (even if he hated the deux ex Matrix and the need for huge amounts of NerdFilla TM)
Anna: thumbs up
Marie: [she'll be coming soon no doubt] UPDATED: as she eloquently puts it "both thumbs down my own throat in hatred and loathing" - so that'll be a 'hated it' then...
TV Today: an ambivalent thumbs up from a pro-Martha enthusiast
TV Scoop: an even more ambivalent thumbs sideways (with a downward tilt I think)
Stu-n: thumbs up and arguments about Rob's Deus Ex Machina...
UPDATE: And some more ambivalence from Rosby, who - as always - is worth waiting for.

* Sidebar 1: I think over the three epsiodes as a whole they've rather backed themselves into a corner on this. Torchwood watchers - or more accurately Capt Jack/Barrowman fans - will have been delighted to see Jack back with the Doctor, and looking happier than he ever really did in Torchwood except for when he was getting his rocks off with Ianto [was that on-screen or just expanded in the of-screen fan-fic? It was sometimes hard to tell...]. But there was more than enough Jack to interest younger viewers to the point where there may be very awkward questions about why they can't be allowed to watch Torchwood [mind, Chibnall's in Charge without enough Graeme Harper to rescue him should put them off].

** Sidebar 2: that sounded much clearer and less obscene in my head.

*** Sidebar 3: I'm going to show myself up here and offer my thought on what it might have been. My thoughts when the sky ripped apart last week were that the Master had opened up some kind of semi-route from the Void. And that the space-balls Toclophane were an experiment of mixing the last humans with the trapped soul of Rose Tyler. Now that's just nasty right...?

**** Sidebar 4: anyone else believe we saw the last of the Master? Thought not.

***** Sidebar 5: anyone else sleep fitfully with a breathy murmuring of 'Doctor' on their mind...? Just me then...

Lowdham revisited

Last year we visited the Lowdham book festival for the first time. We had an absolutely spiffy time there.

This year was rather marred by an overdose of rain and flooding. Lots of rain. And lots of flooding in Lowdham.

Despite this, the festival carried on very successfully - even if some events did have to shuffle about a little (sandbags were still very evident yesterday on the final day). For reasons of travel difficulties and scheduling, we didn't get chance to go to any of the events before the final day, but friends and colleagues spoke just as highly of proceedings and there were excellent audiences. Brits eh; we don't let a little water put us off culture...

Funnily, I wasn't expecting to make it TO the final day at all. I'd originally been down to do some work (volunteering beyond calls of duty being a particular area of expertise) but at the last minute, I didn't have to do it. It probably contributed to why I felt less obligated to traverse the wilds of flooding to go to Lowdham (even if it IS my maternal great-grandparents etc familiar haunt) for other events mind, but it was with glee in my heart I could trundle with Cloud yesterday to be able to enjoy Mike's talk about blogging.

Of course, it wasn't all we did. We had mucho fun trawling the book fair and exchanging hellos with the Bromley House staff (who had drawn a massive audience for a presentation on subscription libraries like BH). We especially enjoyed meeting with Creme de la Crime publishers. Wow; that was a treat: not only was the stall offering up plenty of scrumptious looking crime writing goodies, we also got the chance to natter to Maureen Carter. She was friendly, delightful to talk to and on dipping into the range on offer we were more than happy to part with some cash for a couple of her titles and one by Roz Southey (from the Period Pieces selection of CdlC's range). We're very much looking forward to reading them.

Nevertheless, Mike was the key reason we were there. "Blog-Talk": how could we resist?!

He was fab. It was fab. There was a mini-blogging coterie in attendance - not least the lovely JP (as charming and cheery as ever despite everything) and the ever-glamorous Miss Mish - and the pleasure of meeting K (definitely wearing the Best Jeans Ever). The worlds of work and blogging collided nicely as a colleague of Neil's was also part of the Troubled-Diva gang. And post-talk we followed them all to the pub for drinks, hilarious anecdotes (I will never think of twigs in the same way), Doctor Who chatterings, and final smokes before todays ban (on which note, I'm with JJ: HURRAH to no smoking in pubs etc ever again!!!)

Post-drinkies (just orange juice for my lovely driver btw) we took the decision to drive on up to Newark to indulge in purchases from Waitrose - that being the nearest branch we are aware of in Nottingham's vicinity. Scrummy. That made for a nice pre-Who tea.

And then it was Who...

UPDATE: a lovely post from Mike who is as self-effacing as ever. Lots of good links to regarding the sources used for his talk.

Summertime tag

From lovely Emma over at All About My Movies. Thank you for giving me breathing space to contemplate my thoughts on the ending of Who season 3.

01. Name movies you watch every Summer.
"If Only" and "This Year's Love" - especially this scene. Very personal choices, but something of a delightful ritual.

02. Songs that remind you the most of Summer.
All of Pulp's album, "His 'n' Hers". Just as Different Class always reminds me of autumn/winter (particularly the dark tones of 'I-Spy'), so their previous album always stirs up summertime. I'd also nominate the always lovely "Echo Beach" by Martha and the Muffins ('my job is very boring I'm an office clerk' - in the years I was just that, it was an especial treat to sing loudly along to this!)

03. What was the greatest Summer holiday you ever had?
Given that mostly I haven't DONE summer holidays since I was about 22, it's a tough one to answer. I did have a lovely summertime last year though.

04. Your favourite airport reads.
Urgh. Not sure I even approve of the concept of an airport read.

05. Are you a sunbather?
Used to be. Not any more.

06. Your ideal holiday destination this Summer that you haven’t been to before.
Not sure I have one...

07. Describe your Summer of 2006 in 10 words or less.
Summer Sundae. Being lazy. Not enough house renovation going on.

08. What Summer movie must you see this year?
Must I? Go on then, Harry Potter.

09. Which Summer changed your life?
1990. Met my boy on an Open University Summer School. Can't get more life-changing than that on a hot summer's evening.

10. Do you like the beach? What do you bring to the beach with you?
Hmmm... Have gone off beaches over the years. It's almost like a regression for me. Apparantly when I was a baby I HATED the beach, hated sand. It moved beneath me you see - scared the bejeesus out of me. So I could only sit on the beach on a towel and if sand got onto the towel I yowled. I think I've gone back to that. Back when I last had a beach holiday I took a cassette player. That long ago. Mind, I do love beaches. Especially Aberdeen and Woodend (scroll for Woodend).

11. Your earliest memory of a Summer holiday.
Donkeys at Weston-Super-Mare. Always managing to look the wrong way when someone called me for a photo.

12. And finally, what do you intend on doing this Summer?
Intentions versus reality.

I intend putting together a book proposal on my PhD. I intend organising builders, plumbers and plasters to do some work on my house.

Instead I will probably write some nonsense, then it will be time to go to NZ and then I will get to the end of the vacation and have to go back to work and I will think "crap..."

Hmm, so that's MY take on summertime.

UPDATE: Catherine just won my heart completely. She loves Godspeed You! Black Emperor ...