Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What is Justice? What is punishment for?

Swiss Toni has provided a very pertinent commentary on how the hell we should react to the grotesque case in Austria currently occupying news headlines.

He makes some powerful points, not least around how we decide and evaluate 'just' punishments for such crimes.

I have to admit that I have felt terribly conflicted over the last two days regarding how, or even whether, to publicly articulate the emotions stirred in me by the horrific uncovered events in Austria. The subject seems so utterly awful, so distressing to even begin to comprehend, that I wondered how - if - it was appropriate to try and do so amidst the frivolity that usually occupies my mind.

But this sort of uncovered event, this history, surely deserves acknowledgement even here. Perhaps precisely because to ignore it is to treat it with the no-questions-asked-acceptance-of-what-is-said mentality that led to a community, a family, being unable to challenge the lies it was fed and turning away from the horror in its midst.

Swiss Toni is certainly right to be firm that any 15 year sentence feels far too short, too inadequate in comparison to the 24 years of grief and suffering already inflicted on his family members. (Plus the rest, since it appears he was brutalising and raping the daughter from around 11). And that's before considering that the family are likely to require intensive support for some time to come, if not the remainder of their lives. Could any sentence be enough for the systematic rape, torture, imprisonment and brutality he inflicted on his family?

Because we surely have to question what is the basis for our sense of 'justice': is it about inflicting some comparable suffering on another human being, dependent on how vile was their crime? Surely it cannot be that, or just that: can there ever be restitution of what was lost? Can there ever be suitable recompense? Should it be about revenge or equivalence of the pain caused?

In this instance one does wonder, even with the confession, how much this man comprehended what he was doing as being 'wrong'... The skewed mindset of the rapist, the manipulator, the exploiter, the controller, the brutaliser is potentially one that does not identify the actions as anything other than reasonable - for them - much as the child abuser, which he also was in this case, sees their actions as understandable and appropriate...

The options available as to how we, how society should respond are inevitably limited: of course they are, and that is probably the most valid marker of a civilised society. In some ways, that is kind of the point because to imagine that there is some way of creating a 'reasonable punishment' is in itself problematic. For where would one draw the line? As much as an individual may want revenge, the ultimate revenge for a life taken, destroyed utterly, would surely always be death - but how can the taking of another life obliterate the hole, the emptiness, created by the original damage done?

Swiss Toni mused that even when society finds its own system of punishments inadequate, if it is to remain civilised "what choice does [it] have but to obey its own laws?" To do otherwise would surely lead to extension after extension into ever-more violent responses and punishments, diminishing our own humanity and civility in the process. But events like those currently dominating the news media do lead to uncomfortable feelings and encounters with the personal - and perhaps instinctive - desire for vengeful action. That is why calls for capital punishment are best overruled by parliament, whatever opinion polls may say because as individuals we probably do need protection from our worst instinctive responses to violence and harm. Maybe all we can do is wring our hands and have the internal debate about what can be done about providing 'justice' for the most heinous of crimes.

Such debates, the ability to pose such questions, are surely the best marker of our efforts to maintain belief in humanity regardless of such aberrant examples of inhumanity as this. We have to keep asking in cases like this: Is prison the best place for this man, this father/grandfather? What would any sentence served in such an environment achieve? Would incarceration at a more suitable institution be more appropriate? Can he be 'treated', or merely 'cared for'? Can he be rehabilitated,; should we even try? What would ever be 'enough' as a punishment?

If we cannot keep asking ourselves these difficult questions, then we shall surely have lost sight of the balance between trust and vigilance necessary to retain our society, however unnerving such debates are -- and however impossible defining answers may be.

5th line meme

Before anyone else tags me (ta Paul by the way):

Pick up the nearest book.
Open to page 123
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the next three sentences.
Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.
Nearest book for me was Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. Please don't laugh.

p.123 is from Chapter 6 and the fifth sentence is actually the first in a section entitled 'One Item At A Time':

You may find you have a tendency, while processing your in-basket, to pick something up, not know exactly what to do about it, and then let your eyes wander onto another item farther down the stack and get engaged with it.
The passage continues:

That item may be more attractive to your psyche because you know right away what to do with it - and you don't feel like thinking about what's in your hand. This is dangerous territory. What's in your hand is likley to land on a 'hmppphhh' stack on the side of your deak because you become distracted by something easier, more important, or more interesting below it.
Oh dear: I should probably acknowledge and counter some of my own tendency to behave that way in processing my own non-in-tray-piles of paperwork. *shudder*

Who to tag? Help yourself hapless bloggers...

Monday, April 28, 2008

A-Z of blogs

Stolen shamelessly from EineKleineRob.

Autocomplete blog meme. Simple procedure: type each letter of the alphabet in the address bar (one at a time, obviously) and see which blog comes up first. The result should be a map of your personal blogosphere, or at least those bits of it you’ve visited recently.

This version echoes a bit of Phil (excluding letters where nothing came up) and a bit of Rob (I wasn't particular about excluding those sites only visited a few times, since I too may revisit on such whimsical information).

Apologies to those who maybe came alphabetically a little below the first appearing blog for each letter. Or for those where my history has cleared out identifying them.

A - 'Theatre is Life, Film is Art, TV is Furniture' [Anna Waits]
B - Behind the Sofa [The Doctor Who multi-authored blog]
C - Cloud in Trousers [thank goodness! Neil might never forgive me otherwise!]
D - From Despair to Where? [as the subtitle says 'Stuart and Dave's communist blog]
E - Eine Kleine Nichtmusik [EineKleineRob of course!]
F - Feeling Listless
G - The Gaping Silence [Phil, from whence the meme came...]
I - Indigenous Stranger [James Diggs]
J - Joe in Vegas [Joe, funnily, in Vegas]
M - Music is Our Hot Hot Sex [collective blog]
O - Informationally Overloaded [at onemanblogs - Gordon McLean]
P - You Don't Think You're Taking This Too Seriously...? [persiflage_1 at livejournal for all your Doctor Who thoughts and especially Doctor/Martha fan-fic needs]
R - Rullsenberg Rules [no idea who she is...]
S - Stu_N [unsurprisingly, Stu N...]
T - The Big Blowdown [Reidski]
W - The Woman Who Talked Too Much [Marie - our successful author]
Z - All About My Movies [Emma]

Radio to look forward to...: Fragile

Next Friday (9th May, 9pm), Radio 4 will broadcast Tena Stivicic's play Fragile starring Douglas Henshall.

Wonderful news, especially as Fragile drew this fine review from The Times.

Hat-tip to the usual notification site for all things Mr Henshall.

Darren's meme...

If Darren will make such threats, then I guess I have to respond...!

1) What was the last 1980s song you heard?

The Police - Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
I was (briefly) listening to 6Music's Listener's Mix...

2) What was the last thing you saw on Youtube?

This Scissor Sisters Doctor Who video. God, I'm shallow.

3) What was the last entry on Wikipedia you viewed?

House of Leaves when writing my book meme.

4) What was the last computer/video game you completed all the way through?

You are kidding right? It's well over 10 years since I had a game of Tekken. I think that's the closest I have ever come to playing a computer game at all. I've never done level games.

5) What did you last pig out on?

Chinese meal (or rather the post-meal prawn crackers).

6) What is the last undeleted text message on your mobile phone?

Note to self: delete more texts. Not telling. Sorry. ;)

7) When did you last have a conversation with someone other than a family member?

Depends what you mean by conversation. Do work colleagues count? Last non-work conversation was probably Saturday with friends Nick and Sue.

8) Aside from where you live, what is the last village/town/city you visited?

Derby on Saturday for the Silk Mill Workers commemoration day march.

9) What was the last competition you won?

Primeval book competition!

10) What are the last three blogs you visited?

Rosby, Swiss Toni, Anna Waits.

Tags??? Help yourselves folks...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Book meme: an A-Z of authors

This meme has been doing the rounds for some time now, and I wanted to try and give it a fresh spin: after all, it's not that I couldn't include Austen et al on a list of fiction I have read, alphabetical by author. No, my concern is that such a list merely confirms a lot of similar lists. Perhaps trying to come up with a list of slightly more off-beat texts - ones you may not have already read will prove more interesting for me to write -- if not for you to read.



Happy-Go-Lucky features: a scene in Crockatt and Powell (with someone serving who is the antithesis of both Adam and Matthew); a quirky teacher who dresses in bright colours and whose response to picking up Penrose's tome 'The Road to Reality' is along the lines of "I don't think so!"; and several confrontations about the need to 'grow up' that are refuted with verve. It concentrates on a character who despite all the petty difficulties life throws at her, despite the damaged people she encounters, nevertheless retains empathy and positivity (whilst also managing to convey that underneath all her energies to remain so 'happy-go-lucky', she can feel the darkness: the scene with the homeless man, incoherent, is almost heartbreaking in showing a brief splinter of sadness and recognition of the reality she earlier shunned).

Come on: you've got to have guessed I really liked this film.

The cast is great, turning in several cracking performances (Hawkins and Marsen are especially good) and though your head may explode if you try to follow how the hell she did the opening bike ride, I'd certainly recommend it.

Defending the (in?)defensible...? The Sontaran Strategem

I sometimes wonder about my critical faculties: do they occasionally just cease to function? Go on strike? Rebel?

Cloud will frequently comment that I am remarkably unobservant for someone who originally studied as an art historian, let alone someone deepily addicted to visual culture in its many forms. It's as if I can be both capable of spotting little details at fifty paces as well as missing the bleeding obvious straight in front of my nose. Equally, my ability - even dedication - to enjoying certain things even when they may seem patently obviously pants on closer inspection (and very much declared thus by those around me) has an almost legendary reputation. I, after all, was possibly one of the only people semi-behind the sofa defending the dalek two-parter from last year's NewWho S3. By Helen Raynor. Even though on reflection it undoubtedly constituted a weak link in an otherwise admirable season.

Anyway, this is all by way of leading to some initial thoughts about 'The Sontaran Strategem'.

You know what: I really rather enjoyed it. And this was despite knowing that Helen Raynor was back on scripting duties. I was even excited by the cliffhanger ending (cliffhanger endings, even/especially when they seem to give us a Doctor and/or earth-in-peril have always been a bit rubbish but you know what, you go with it!)*

Okay, there were too many moments when you wanted to send everyone concerned with presenting/ directing/ scripting the character of Martha back to the school for even getting basic characterisation and performance functional let alone consistent to the development over last season and through her Torchwood experiences. And yes the Sontarans are as much amusing as they are scary (they always were potato-headed shorties). And yes Murray Gold doesn't know when to let go of a syrupy theme (Donna seeing lovely gramps) and the director/script writers reinforce this by unncessary flashblacks... but ... but...

It's no good. I enjoyed it. I'm as a pissed as hell that next week I won't get to see the ep until the Monday night (events and scheduling of a family get-together beyond my control but with a delightful and more than wonderful substitution on the cards). Sigh. Maybe by then everyone will have had their fill of ranting about how 'bad' it was. Already Anna and Marie are at best ambivalent and bored (and both, unnervingly, cross with Tennant's performance as the Doctor -- I'm more with those commenting at Marie's that actually Tennant was more back on form this week). And Donna continues to impress, which has to be worth something. I'm just going to have to resign myself to being ever so slightly less critically minded than others are - or would prefer me to be. Call it my inner child combined with adult delight: I just can't not enjoy it as much as I can.

Let's review the story, flawed as it is, properly after I see the second ep in this two-parter.

* Yes, I know. Smash the bloody windows...

Friday, April 25, 2008

I've been earworming...

Oh my, it was fun to write up my earworms of the week.

And ST was really REALLY nice to me! Shucks.

I had a blast. If you fancy passing on your earworms to Swiss Toni for a guest-slot, then I'm sure he won't mind you letting him know...

He's coming home, he's coming home...

Neilie's coming home.

He's been in Glasgae and boy have I missed him.

Been able to watch Doctor Who and other assorted goodies in peace though..

He's texted to say he's landed so I'm getting the win ready.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Assorted Dougie goodies

I have to say I'm really rather enjoying my prize of the Primeval book: okay, so I'm probably most enjoying the fact that I can visualise and hear all the characters Cutter vividly inside my head, but it's still fabulously enjoyable. Even if I do feel like a mid-teenage boy for reading it. It's very fun. Full review to follow.

I'm also feeling pretty pleased with myself that as the main phase of current work on the house nears completion (bathroom and toilet flooring in!!!) I made an executive decision yesterday to go get a towel hook and new toilet roll holder. Not very exciting you may think, but I had A Plan.

"Shall we go to B&Q?"

Off we trot, find said items...

Coming out I add "While we're here, can we go to Toys 'R' Us?"

Hee hee hee... I get me my Primeval figure of Cutter and the anomoly.

Even Cloud had to admit that was subtle retail park planning on my part...

And in other Dougie loveliness related news, there's now a spiffy gallery of pictures from 'The Last Days of Judas Iscariot' on the Douglas Henshall website. Be still my fast-beating heart for that delectable lounge-lizard Satan...

"Cheap shots": an Ood review

Spoiler warnings if you haven't seen the episode yet. But you probably knew that.

Hmmm.... when even the almost always positive Stuart Ian Burns has to declare in his first line review "Well, they can't all be classics", you can probably guesstimate this may divide opinions.

Heck, it even divided MY opinions. I was thrilled that we got an alien planet made visable in glorious wide landscapes (and using a quarry! Ah, quarries again: old-skool Who); I was much less thrilled by this meaning there were Ood again in DW. I'm never that wild about the blue suit; I loved Donna's initial dress and then her going back for the intermittently hearing impairing hooded coat (I so want one like that even though I'm almost completely sensorally challenged once inside a hood - if I turn my head I also can't see much either). I loved the Ood song; I utterly FUKCING wanted to take the baton and staves away from Murray Gold for overdoing so much of the rest of the score, thus diminishing the song's impact. I was very excited by the bouncing off the side of the containers running by the Doctor; I desperately tried to ignore the pretty crap claw CGI-ed into attacking him (three pointed??? how does that grab 3-D 4-sided objects?) I get that slavery is bad, oh how I get that 'metaphor' - to the point where I so did not need a full-length subtle diatribe; I still choked slightly at finally getting an explanation about the translators and their relationship (replacement) of the hand-held Ood brain. I did like that Halpen got the full Ood treatment; I have to admit I was disappointed that we didn't get a full-frontal facial transformation a la 'The Empty Child' (even if, as the Confidential raised, it only looked like the character was barfing spaghetti...). I noticed a few more quirks of Catherine Tate's characters this week than I would have liked; I really, really loved her calling him 'Spaceman' (and indeed that whole 'cheap shots' exchange .... even if the Converse shoes and wardrobe of the Doctor rather undermine his criticisms).

And so on.

How did I feel at the end of the episode? Well, better than I thought after 50 mins of being hammered over the head by anvillicious RTD's 'slavery-is-bad' subtlety. I'm still liking Donna over-all; I like that she isn't afraid to tell him off and that he kinda likes it (the slight, oh so slight smile of wry 'yeah'-ness when Donna bites back at him in the 'cheap shots' exchange). And I just can't help watching the programme still with all the attentive adoration of my younger self.

And Martha is back next week, being rather UNIT and soldier-y and perhaps not quite influenced for the better by her experiences with the Doctor or Torchwood...? Hmmm...

PS can I just say how much I loved it when Donna asked the Doctor to take back the Ood song and then noted how he must 'hear it all the time'? That was just brilliant.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Music Intelligence

Apparently I am a:
Mix-Tape Master (109-144 points)
You are a music evangelist: the person in your network of friends who always has the coolest new song, the one whose iPod gets picked to DJ every party. You understand the art of the segue, how the key to the best mix-tape isn't just the songs you pick, but how they interlock with each other. You also know who the up-and-coming acts are and are quick to recognise where their influences lie and whether they will make it big. You work hard at the pursuit of this knowledge, scouring music blogs, magazines and record stores. Most importantly, you are generous with your passion – and your friends should be very, very grateful. Still, it’s always good to get new inspiration for your latest mix.

Music Intelligence Quiz

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I wonned! I winned! I am a WINNER!

Coo-er, my grammar went all ker-pluee then with the glee that I will soon be receiving a prize-winning copy of the Primeval novel 'Shadow of the Jaguar' courtesy of lovely MediumRob.* I'm really rather looking forward to reading Steven Savile's well-presented novel.

And as I rarely win stuff it's an especial delight to get this as a prize. Not at all as if I'm drawn by the cover...


* Even if I did effectively plead my way to acquiring it...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Charlie B says "Don't vote for Boris"

Thanks to Stu_N for the direction, but Charlie Brooker's piece on Boris Johnson and the London Mayoral election is a classic.

I'd probably back off from saying that BJ is a dim waste of space (he was an enthusiastic and reasonably informative guide on classical history etc) but as CB's header says "I wouldn't trust Boris to operate a mop, let alone a £10bn Crossrail project."

If you're a London voter I'd advise:
1) VOTE - don't waste it
2) UT please, we beg you PLEASE, do NOT vote for Johnson

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Derby day with Deliciousness and the Doctor

What a lovely day Cloud and I had yesterday: the building work is approaching a stage 1 completion with most of our current activities approaching a finale. So we headed for Derby and started off a pretty brilliant day.

1) the magazine stall
Derby has an indoor market and a magazine stall that I swear can rival WHS: picked up the latest set of fridge magnets for Doctor Who in SFX and began the trundle round the city, enjoying the goth/emo/nu-rave kids on the block that always hang out by the square.

2) Haze
Venue of choice for said goth/emo/nu-rave under-17 year olds and women over 30 seeking hippy clothes and fulfillment of their own goth fantasies.

I picked up a very nice smock dress that I think will do lovely for a friend's wedding in the summer. Though knowing me I will wear it before the end of the week.

3) Oxfam
Always makes me happy to ply trade in an Oxfam. Bought three amusing cards and a CD of poetry. Felt reasonably well with the world considering.

4) Derby Westfield Shopping Centre
Yes, I know these beasts are evil and everywhere and that it has been KILLING the local small shop trade to have a spiffy new mall in the city centre to incorporate the old Eagle Market. But as we've always wandered the little streets anyway in each of our visits to Derby, and paid our money to lovely selective stores (Haze, Mustard shoes and more), I wanted to just SEE what the new place looked it. Okay, it IS a mall, but it is quite shiny. And...

5) razcherries
OH GOD. I thought I would never find these outside the London markets. Finding razcherries on a stall in the Westfield of Derby pretty much set me for the day.

6) European Restaurant and Bistro
On our last visit we were very taken with finding the staff coming out to eat their own lunch in the restaurant as they closed for the afternoon. It may have sinking floors and characterfully un-even ceilings but the food is divine. A very nice 2 courses (goats cheese tartlet and then salmon for me; mushrooms and then meatballs for him) plus wine for just over £30, followed again by the delight of seeing the staff come and sit down for their own grub. I do like the idea of the staff enjoying their own food.

7) Bennett's Department Store
A very old fashioned home and clothes store where we got a safe-cracking style analogue kitchen timer like this.

8) Westfield Shopping Centre (again)
Pro-Cook supplied us with a very nifty old-style bread bin for the new kitchen. Very nice.

9) Forbidden Planet
Ah so shoot me. Picked up the 2008 Doctor Who story book (since my copy got lost in Amazon/PO hell when we had the NZ trip earlier this year -- NB DO NOT TRUST the PO's offer to repost mail to an alternative address). Cloud insisted I enquire about the availability of Primeval figures: only the online and London store sell them. But I happily got the painted cover of a Buffy comic I had missed getting from Page 45. Yeah!

10) Doctor Who on the TV!
Ah, bliss. My sofa, razcherries and the Doctor. And blimey, is it just me or was that just fabulous? I mean I know I have a low threshold for happiness when it comes to the Doctor (I can get delight from just having it on the screen!) but I really enjoyed this. I thought Donna was great, taking the Doctor to task and being far more adult in a crisis than it was appropriate for either Rose or Martha to be; I thought the Doctor was great: bitter, reluctantly merciful, angry, mindful of his awesome awareness of time. The plot worked - the seers were creepy, their occupation by the pyro-wotsits suitably 'yuk' - and the supporting cast was top-notch. And I did enjoy watching Confidential afterwards: David at large in Pompeii and at Vesuvius, suitably awed by the experience.

So yeah, a good day.

Today we painted the pantry: ah well, at least we did it to music.

Friday, April 11, 2008

On 'neighbourhood schools'

Shuggy provides a brief commentary on how it is actually neighbourhood rather than the non-existent comprehensive schools that do best in this country, culminating in the following glorious bite:
But why consider this when you can cleave to the myth that a return to the notion that a child's future can be, and should be, determined by a test they do when they're eleven years old is what is needed to help "bright working-class kids escape the hell of inner-city comps"? Yes, give your Daily Mail prejudices a prolier-than-thou veneer if you can. But before you do so, consider this question: can you explain to me why, exactly, a child has to be 'bright' to qualify for escape from a situation you consider to be 'hell'?
Oh AMEN: it's a source of endless bemusement to me that some people seem to think that a system is only a good when it benefits them and their supposed 'bright offspring' rather than offering anything to those who may not as yet, if ever, demonstrate such 'brightness' (and how arbitrary are some of those measures of brightness may be at age 11 anyway...)

This digital angel wants her wings

Oooh, more t-shirt goodies via Cloud.

"You Never Forget Your First Doctor"

There are SO many ways to read this t-shirt...

Takin' Over The Asylum... coming to DVD?!

Can it be true? Have all those songs FINALLY managed to get copyright clearance? Will I at long last no longer have to live on recollections and the dodgy non-sync sound of YouTube to enjoy the magnificent cast of "Takin' Over the Asylum"?!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Further positive reviews for Douglas Henshall in the Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Almeida Theatre, London till 10 May 2008)

From Variety (with courteous thanks)
But the juiciest role is Satan, played to acclaim in New York by the swarthy Eric Bogosian. Goold has gone the opposite direction in casting Scottish actor Douglas Henshall. Tall, strawberry-blond and silkily patrician, Henshall's performance is a comic marvel of ostentatious understatement. A knowing, sexy smirk on his face, this Satan's danger comes from the energy he generates by doing oh-so-very-little onstage: the odd flick of a walking stick, the cross of a Gucci-trousered leg, the devastating application of one of Guirgis' well-composed put-downs.
I say again... **gah** and **swoon**

It really is so wonderful to see him getting such wonderful reviews: even where the comments are only so-so about the play, it's been an across the board rave for Henshall's performance as Satan.

So I reinforce again, if you get chance to see the play before it closes, go and book!

Blossom and E: a Joe in Vegas update

Spring is sprunging! And E grows more adorable by the week (check out the E Friday label on Joe's site).

I really have been shamefully poor at visiting sites of late: apologies people. It also seems each time I make a promise to improve it all goes pear-shaped*. Maybe it would be easier to not promise?

Nah, aim high.

Fail better.

* indeed I had good intentions last week, thwarted by a communication breakdown at work...

Swiss Toni and the alphabeticon of CDs

God, I LOVE lists! It's the ordering thing I love, the completist nature in me (even if I do sometimes lose faith after a while).

Swiss Toni started this trawl some time ago and I have devoured it eagerly and stored the posts on bloglines ever since. It's just so lovely to get this picture of someone's music collection -- however incomplete it may be.

I am still seriously considering doing this myself. be warned.

Love Marie, love her blog

It goes without saying. I vote for Marie and David...

Neil's Memorial to a Good Man

Burns was read well by Neil.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Misty's Big Adventure: Serious Thing

MBA are fun, frothy, and smart. Like a more pop version of Einsturzende Neubauten.

Anyway, you can catch their video/song of 'Serious Thing' here on YouTube.

Partners in Crime: Doctor Who returns

What can I say: yesterday was a VERY good day.

Okay, so I had to wait an excruciating few hours to get home to actually see the ep (god bless Neil and the BBC iPlayer), but really this was a delight.

Sure, the adipose babies were straight out of the marketing department's "how-to-make-a-cuddly-'monster'-for-kids" textbook (even Marie wants one!), but somehow they worked.

Sure, the villain - Miss Foster - wasn't utterly evil-- but as Rob notes this actually worked very well really. (Miss Foster also had an uncanny resemblance to a friend ... hope my friend's not offended but both Neil and I made the same remark so I couldn't have been entirely imagining the resemblance!)

It was an RTD extravaganza and a season opener at that, so we weren't expecting Shakespeare (or even The Shakespeare Code), but dammit, it worked for me. Donna worked for me -- in ways I didn't anticipate. The whole 'lurve' thing was knocked firmly and amusingly on the head well within this first episode. And the appearance at the end (more or less welcomed by Anna)-- all I can say is I have obviously managed the non-spoiler efforts better than expected. Hurrah!

What I loved: the pace, the humour. Yes it was farce, but done with a real deft touch. I totally giggled like a nut when the silent meeting took place through the windows. And most of all I loved that Cloud had watched it live (whilst I was in London eating post-play*), then set up BBC iPlayer on his laptop AND then happily watched it with me again at 11pm. I think redhaired Catherine Tate may have had something to do with that, but we'll let that go.

Glasses: check.
Lankiness and running: check.
Licking: come on Rusty, do us proud!

*I nearly wrote 'post-Dougie' but that seemed to have very different connotations...

UPDATE: after the disappointment that the BBC may not be able to let commentaries on episodes be downloadable as podcasts, they've found a neat way around this via BBC7. Hurrah!

"I Adored Satan": Paul Morley captures my experience of seeing "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot"

Where to begin?!

Well, for those who didn't catch it*, I'd first send you to watch Friday 4 April 2008 Newsnight Review on the BBC iPlayer (still available for another 7 days) and catch the roundtable - especially Paul Morley - virtually worshipping the excellence of Douglas Henshall as Satan in "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot".

I can't say as I blame them.

The play itself is sprawling, erratic, over the top, emotional, streaked through with humour, theology, philosophy, history, social commentary, hip-hop and is utterly, utterly compelling for its three hours (including a 15 minute 'recess').

The cast is excellent and each deserving of praise (Joseph Mawle, I hope the hypnotherapy helped you stay on your knees without pain, since you are caught in a pose of internal despair for much of the duration). So even if it hadn't had Douglas Henshall in it, playing Satan (**swoon**) it would be a magnificent piece of theatre: with him, it's simply unmmissable.

Morley described Henshall as Satan thus -- "I'm gonna use this word advisedly: he's 'awesome'..." and it's hard to disagree. When onstage, he is totally compelling, mesmerising and full of wryly maleavolent charm.

His interaction with Judas is brilliant; his demolition of both prosecution and defence electrifying. In short, you really REALLY hope that someone actually rewards this barnstorming performance.

If Henshall does get more offers of work from the US, if he does take them up, we can only hope that he is enabled to retain his passion and fire for what he does: for when he is alight, nothing can touch him. I wish him success whatever he does - and for, as ever, being so, so delightful to me afterwards when I saw him - and I hope his happiness in life (on and off stage) brings him to the audiences he deserves. Whether all of those potential audiences will appreciate him - and allow him the freedom that enables him to truly shine - remains open to question (as ever, even some Americans doubt that the system there will let him be the best he can be). But I -- and I sure he -- live in hope.

In the meantime, get your asses to the Almeida. Go see The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.

And tell him I sent you.

* You may, for instance, I don't know, have been watching Jonathan Ross... an interview which was almost timed to the second to begin just as Newsnight review reviewed the Judas Iscariot play. Come on boys: play nice, I'm trying my best here...

Lisa in stripes for the theatre

Thought I would share what I wore to attend the theatre yesterday (more on yesterday soon).

Friday, April 04, 2008

Help Stu_N talk about cars

Stu_N is interested in responses and knowledge about British cars.

I'll admit it's not my strong suit subject but I think that is kinda the point.

So, without recourse to Google, and with no embarrassment for writing 'Don't Know', I'm sure he'd appreciate your visits to answer the following questions:

Name three British cars (car makers will do, if you can't think of actual cars).
Name three current British car makers — that is, ones who are building cars now.
What makes a car British?
What makes a car maker British?
What's the biggest British car maker, at the moment?
What comes to mind when someone says 'British car'? I'm thinking about things like quality, design, performance, 'image', reliability. And have a think about what comes to mind about French, Italian, American, German cars.
When do you reckon Britain made the most cars?
What do you think the rest of the world thinks of the 'British automotive industry'?

I think I'm in love with Satan...


I mean, .... **thud**

Dougie, dear boy, you've just won me over to any dark side on offer. I love it when I nip across to the Henshall site and get goodies like this.

UPDATE: **double GAH**

"Douglas Henshall’s slick Satan, all tailored jacket, stylishly carved cane and Saturday Night Fever swagger, has the calm, casual danger of a sleeping volcano. His deep, whiskey-soaked tones and burning eyes could probably convince anyone to do anything." (Official London Theatre Guide)

Everybody sing along...!

You know you want to.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Did anyone else see the piece on Brain Gym on last night's Newsnight?

I'd be interested in opinions in the plundering of Ben Goldacre's Bad Science columns that was last night's Newsnight piece on Brain Gym [if you're quick you may get to view the video piece].

My sense is that what Brain Gym does (e.g. the actions it gets children to do) are not in themselves unhelpful. The relaxation, the exercise, the physical co-ordination issues it encourages: all in themselves seem fine. They help focus, distract those from other problems or just plain allow some space for de-stressing so that actual physical, scientifically measurable things can happen which DO help the body.

Where my problem does come is in how much can be claimed for it on an inherantly scientific basis: brain buttons etc do not to me suggested a particularly evidence-based scientific analysis of how the body and brain work.

On flying

Mindful of Stu-N's recent experience (first hand horrors of Terminal 5), I contemplated my own encounters with flying this year.

Of course, flying Emirates first class to NZ isn't something we're likely to do again - or at least not any time soon. After all, 28 hours in the air is STILL 28 hours in the air: you're no less tired just not additionally strained and exhausted by the physical cramping of economy class. In some ways then, flying BMI baby to Edinburgh was therefore a more normal experience for me.

The flight up was early (and alone: mate Annie came down with dread lurgy leaving her bed-bound and without the conference) but fine. We landed on time and efficiently.

Coming home was less good: we should have took off at 6.55pm. When I checked in, all seemed well. by the time I got upstairs to the departure gates it was now delayed by an hour. Turns out the plane itself had started the day off delayed coming in from Spain. They'd never caught up. So how come the check in screens mentioned nothing of a delay they must clearly have known would be in place as a knock on effect for the whole day?

That was grr number one.

Grr number two related to ticketing and seating. An elderly couple ended up in the middle of a severe row with a hapless young woman and two cabin staff, seemingly because seats booked in January hadn't been kept for them.

The fact they had seats seemed to totally by-pass them.

It seemed right to keep quiet when I realised as we dropped into East Mids airport that actually both myself and someone I knew on the return leg had managed to seat ourselves in the wrong row (especially as it was by doing this that a row was freed up for the elderly couple to be reseated...)


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Poppy Shakespeare: TV review

Contrary to Sam Wollaston's Guardian opinion that:

It's the sort of film people will say they enjoyed, because they feel they should have. They may even convince themselves they did. But go on, admit it, it was actually bloody boring
I actually found it wonderful, wry and warm. Anna Maxwell Martin, as even Wollaston had to admit, gave a "fine performance" but then some of us have known for a long time just how stunning she is as an actress.* [Cloud rather revealingly muttered part way through "she's a bit of a hottie"] Still, I would say that overall this was a beautifully put together piece of drama, with a fine score and a similarly devastating performance by Naomi Harris as Poppy. Admittedly many of the other characters came across as ciphers, but this was essentially a relationship story between N and Poppy and it probably needed the broad brushes of the other figures in their often fleeting appearances.

Not having read the book on which it was based, I'm ill-placed to judge whether this TV version truly lacked the "angry, satirical brio" of Clare Allan's original text as Andrew Billen suggests in the Times. To me there was still a bite to the narrative. Nevertheless, I will certainly take up his call to "Now read the book" which I suspect will make me laugh aloud in horror.

* I originally saw AMM in the Stoppard trilogy "The Coast of Utopia" and she was marking herself for stardom there even before her barnstorming turn in Bleak House.