Sunday, December 21, 2008

I got sunshine!

Hi folks - well, after some grey cloudy and damp skies yesterday, we finally got a dry spell and went for a walk around Oxford (New Zealand).

Today, the sun is up and we're off to Christchurch Xmas shopping.

Over and out falks. Hope things are good in the UK

In LA - Xmas 2008

It's raining here. It was bucketig down when we arrived and didn't stop all day. Today it has been mostly cloudy and raining.

Yes, it IS summer.


Still, nice to have the family with us so that's good.

Will be online a little.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


En route to NZ.

We have a room with a balcony over the pool.

I know its December, but this still strikes us as very fabulous.

Will be in touch when we make it to NZ folks. Hope you are having a great run-up to Xmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A sweet prince (if not the one expected): Hamlet RSC Novello Theatre 13 December 2008

Well, we all know the story of Edward Bennett - how he has pulled rabbits from a hat to dazzle audiences with his very own playing of Hamlet.

And it IS a fabulous performance. By 'losing' its mega-star, this RSC production of Hamlet has proven that their particular way of constructing a show can work to amazing effect. It was always possible to see and feel how well this works as an ensemble piece, even with the deliciously distracting Tennant in the role (1). But shorn of this particular bright light, it allowed the overall production air to breathe in a different way -- one that allowed the audience to experience the full array of stars in ALL the glory, as full constellations.

Stewart is brilliant, and seeing his performance from (literally) a different perspective (2), lends even greater appreciation to his re-visioning of Claudius/the Ghost. Downie is equally astonishing as Gertrude: a role I do understand is limited but yet so central to the play. Her freezing fear when Claudius approaches her after Polonius' death is palpable; her decision to drink the poison even more desperate and touching in the realisation that her 2nd husband is the murderous soul that her son took him for being. As the cast shuffles up, Ricky Champ gets to take on Guildenstern, bringing a different sort of humour to the R&G double act (it remains brilliantly and sharply funny as these 'friends' try to take in Hamlet, failing so dismally it hurts). Mariah Gale's Ophelia again broke my heart, at heart turns terrifying in her shrieks of madness and tear-inducing in her bereft, muddied flower-hugging confusion. And Oliver Ford Davies remains a heartbreaking Polonius, full of drifting repetition.

But of course the show now belongs to Bennett, and with a few tweaks to the production he makes this is own show. Every Hamlet is different: even every actor's performance is different each time. It is in the nature of theatre.

Ed Bennett brings a teenager's temperament to the role, though that makes it seem more immature than it is. There is certainly a youthful frustration to his manner, a desperation to his soliloquies, delivered mostly centre stage. I liked the fact that, when he spits on Ophelia - something that HAS been done by other actors in the role - it is not done with venom but with an almost casual distain: a 'what are you to me? nothing' kind of response. When he re-reads Ophelia's letters, the 'I did love you once' seems more astonished, as if reminiscing from another lifetime, and it is again just that tiny bit different to other readings of this role I have seen or heard [and I can also draw on the experience of my friend Helen who counts this as her 11th Hamlet on stage].

By the end of the production, the audience was thoroughly convinced this had been worth seeing. The cast as a whole were gloriously applauded and Bennett again got a loud and vigorous ovation. The touch on his arm from Downie was affectionate and offered reassurance: 'see, you can do it and it's going so well'. Not as I think he needs that, but it demonstrates how the RSC family works as a whole.

Now for the big question.

Did we miss Tennant? That's a harder one to answer: unlike Marie and JH, myself and Helen had been lucky enough to see the production before. "You don't know what you've got til its gone" seems a harsh line to have running through your head when you know you still feel thrilled to have seen such a great performance as Bennett gave. As Marie put it, she doubted that Tennant could have been better - he would simply have been different. And that's an important distinction, because identifying performances as better/worse is terribly difficult to do - especially when you are comparing something unseen with something seen. We 'know' that various actors in the past have offered up iconic Hamlets, but the ones we see will always be closer to us.

So I feel deeply privileged to have seen this production twice and to see/experience two quite different Hamlets. I doubt I will be able to shrug off that Tennant's was particularly special to me, because it was my first stage Hamlet and it was such an iconic performance. But I want to take nothing away from how much Bennett succeeded on his own terms in his own way in circumstances that would have truly tested the metal of any actor on the rise. Certainly he is one to watch and I hope that one day he gets a production of Hamlet built and not just adapted to his own way of performing, because he truly deserves it. (3)

And with that, I depart. I'll be with you again I hope a little before Xmas and then again in the New Year. Cheers for 2008. Here's to 2009.

(1) personally, I blame the underpants debacle. It really was difficult to think straight sometimes... Yes, I am THAT shallow. I'm sorry.

(2) Our seats, thanks Poly, were on row B of the dress circle facing centre stage. Frankly, I'm not sure if it wasn't a good thing that BOTH David Tennant and friend Christine were poorly (not as I wish either ill) since I suspect that we may well just have squeed ourselves into oblivion at having such a vantage point.

(3) Edited for typing errors with assistance from Pers... Ta!

Friday, December 12, 2008


As if laughing at Marie's gallant efforts at bolstering her enthusiasm were not enough to cover my screen in hysterical spittle from laughing, then this gem comes up from Crockatt and Powell.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas e-Cards

Hopefully everyone who I have thought I should send a card to has at least had an e-card by now. Do shout up if you feel deprived of one -- I've probably not intentionally missed you off, its just I didn't really do a list this year. A few peeps have had/got hard copy cards as well.

I'm also sending e-cards because Care2 cards saves a bit of the rainforest for each card sent. Yeah, its not much and there are lots of other good causes but I've not really had time to think this through. Especially as I HAVE sent actual cards too.

I kinda suck at Christmas - this year especially.


One more day at work...

In praise of The Devil's Whore - and John Simm

Come on: admit it.

You cheered when Sexby finally dealt with nasty slimy Christian as he was about to do something horrid (keeping it spoiler free people, for late viewers)

You cheered when Sexby finally got what he had always wanted from Angelica.

You cheered when Angelica finally dealt with Joliffe.

You cheered when you saw the heavily veiled woman at the funeral exchange a hidden look at Angelica.

You cheered at the cross-dressing encounter.

And you sighed, sadly and mournfully when Cromwell's 'coronation' bells rang out.

Brilliant. Melodrama? Undoubtedly. But wonderful stuff all the same. So, the history and politics were a little off in parts. But dramatically it worked brilliantly.

For spoilers and praise, see Lucy Mangan in today's Guardian.

Sigh - life conspires and the upside

Life Conspires

Work overload

Poorly friend who was due to go to theatre Saturday

David Tennant out of action til at least Xmas

Any more woes?


It will soon be the longest day (guess where we will be for Xmas and New Year*)

I will STILL be seeing Hamlet this weekend

I will STILL get to see my poorly friend

I will get to spend a night in London talking till the early hours with my other friend (yes, I do almost only have the two...)

Life is (bitter)sweet.

* hope link works

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Be fair

I have to say, whilst I understand the frustration, I'm really hacked off at the Telegraph piece this morning presenting the "anger" expressed by 'fans' at David Tennant temporarily pulling out of his role as Hamlet on Monday and Tuesday so far this week. Some even went so far as to not bother with the production at all because he wasn't going to be in it. (I use the term 'fans' here with quote marks deliberately).

In the vast majority of theatre productions, there are few understudies and very limited opportunities for them to fully practice the role. The RSC is both lucky enough to be able to afford to prepare understudies AND is passionately committed to building talent to take up significant role. It is also crucially an ensemble company. Yes, I too would be gutted to not see David Tennant in the lead role he has nurtured these long months, but to turn away and not even bother going in... it just baffles me.

Besides which, the poor man is ILL: back pain, as anyone who has ever experienced it, is utterly merciless and difficult to predict. Tennant has previously only missed one stage performance in his career to date: he wasn't going to be missing TWO in a row, let alone a Press Night, if he could at all help it. So the 'late' announcement was fair. Remember as well, this is the man who after 9 months of filming Doctor Who - not the most laid-back of roles - immediately went off to do MORE work. When the break came up between the RSC Stratford and London runs, he didn't have a full holiday but instead slotted in work on the film 1939. He's addicted to acting: it's his life-blood. And given how physical Tennant is in his acting, coming back too soon could do long-term lasting damage. Nevertheless, I suspect he will be itching to come back to the role as soon as he is able to do so.

I desperately WANT him to be well in time for Marie/Jane Henry and myself/Christine to go this Friday and Saturday respectively, because they haven't had chance to see the production already (though JH has been able to see the charasmatic Tennant in Love's Labours Lost). But most of all I want Tennant to be well. The rest of the cast are astonishingly good in Hamlet and I will be delighted to see them all regardless.

And I will be sending my love and healthy best wishes to Tennant whether he is able to be there or not. Sure, my heart would break a little to miss his presence, but I would never dream of insulting the overall talents of the cast and crew by walking away from their efforts. I think the standing ovations the cast have received at Monday's and last night's performances* are testament to the quality of the RSCs productions - and this Hamlet is no exception.

Cross everything whatever happens.

* I could certainly appreciate what was said in the Times review of Bennett's performance. It cetainly takes some nerve to make an entrance and then stand still holding a glass for quite some long minutes. And I'd probably echo the thought that Bennett does do silly very well (he was brilliant in Love's Labour's Lost) - so it was nice to get the acknowledgement that by the second half he had nevertheless brought something to the role Tennant had made his own in this production. This seems echoed by other papers - and I was especially glad to read a more neutral tone in the Guardian comment and Guardian review which challenge the reasonableness of people not attending the performances if Tennant is no longer in them and find room to praise Bennett's turn.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Clangers rule! Oliver Postgrate RIP

Especially given my fondness for this weird conspiracy theory expose on the Moon Landings*, I was much saddened by the death of Oliver Postgate whose work shaped my childhood (an ongoing childhood many would argue).

And don't get me started on the wonderfulness of Bagpuss...

*I love the feeling of scrolling through the images and yelling at the screen 'never mind the flag blowing, there's something else to spot!!!

Get well soon

You know who I'm referring to - but let's send healthy best wishes to him. I did try to tell Marie not to jump on him...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Saving Bromley House in Nottingham

Bromley House is the most incredible place - it houses Nottingham's Subscription Library in an 18th century town house and has an amazing little garden. It is an oasis of calm in the midst of the city centre. Surrounded by far too many rather tacky buildings, it is under threat from a number of things and has been fighting a variety of inappropriate building plans for the nearby derelict former Odeon cinema site for some time.

There have long been problems with developers proposing multi-storey developments in close proximity, and now we find out the Council failed to notify anyone - including the library - of changes to the latest developers plans despite a meeting at the committee being due just next week (17th Dec). To top it all, English Heritage in its infinite wisdom has now decided to withdraw support for our campaign of opposition saying it now believes the development will do 'no harm' (how can they POSSIBLY tell?!) and that they no longer require any consultation from the Council with them. Yet even EH admit that there are still problems with the plans and that there are 'missed opportunities' for improvement of the overall site which is very close to a large number of multi-storey buildings on Maid Marian Way which the Council itself admits should NOT be added to and that have been to the detriment of the cityscape.

I don't get it.

If any of you are interested in adding weight to a campaign for a brilliant local site of historic interest, let me know. if you are interested in libraries and their preservation, let me know. If you care about city centres not being over-run with more unnecessary high-storey buildings then also join us.

iTunes top played - updated Dec 2008

Not a fully reflective listing of what gets played a lot in chez Rullsenberg and Cloud since stuff also gets played on the CD player, we listen to the radio a lot and of corse Neil has his own iPod and computer.

But still...

I have omitted the duplications from the last listing

Am I Ginger? 0:02 - Doctor (DW Soundclip)
Annie Waits 4:17 - Ben Folds (Rockin' The Suburbs)
It's like when you fancy... 0:03 - Doctor (DW Soundclip)
I See How You Are 3:18 - The Broken Family Band
Stormy Weather 3:00 - Nina Nastasia (Dogs)
A Relatively Famous Victory 6:22 - Ballboy (I Worked On The Ships)
James McCrimmon 0:04 -Doctor (DW Soundclip)
A Good Reason 4:12 - Broken Records (Gig EP)
Bandit Queen (w/TD) 4:27 -The Decemberists (Picaresqueties)
A Grand Occasion 2:07 - Modified Toy Orchestra (Toygopop)
Dream Machine 4:50 - Stephen Duffy (They Called Him Tintin)
The Mariner's Revenge Song 8:46 - The Decemberists (Picaresque)
Cross Your Fingers 2:24 - Laura Marling (Alas, I Cannot Swim)
Start Something 6:11 - Maps (Start Something)
Frontline 3:59 - Captain (This Is Hazelville)
No Brakes 3:28 - Declan O'Rourke
The Other One 3:44 - Lisa Germano (On The Way Down From The Moon Palace)
mydoctor 0:05 - Doctor (DW Time Crash Soundclip)
Gold In Them Hills 3:33 - Ron Sexsmith
Only Bad Signs 3:11 - Billy Bragg (Talking With The Taxman About Poetry: disc 2)
TARDIS 0:03 (DW Soundclip)

Yes Joe - I hear ya...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Books I have been reading

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke - I picked this up a while ago and read it with great delight over the past week. It's about books and reading and the power of words. Yes, it's for children, but I enjoyed it!

The Seance by John Harwood - a thrilling Victorian mystery full of family histories and tangled narratives. A really good page turner.

London 29 Nov-1 Dec 2008: in bullet points

Saturday 29 November 2008

  • Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book - with drawings by Dave McKean (I was very tempted to also get the children's edition which also has beautiful illustrations but could not justify both!)
  • Lisa Appignanesi's Mad, Bad and Sad
  • Geoffrey Nunberg's Talking Right: How Conservatives turned liberalism into a tax-raising, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving,New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing Freak Show
  • 500 Essential Graphic Novels
  • Buffy comics Omnibus 5
  • I, Who 3 - a compendium on the novels and audios etc surrounding Doctor Who
The Estorick Collection and its show Cut and Paste on photomontage (runs till Dec 21st 2008) - brilliant little collection and a fabulous exhibition.
Taking Liberties, The Golden Generation of British Theatre 1945-1968, and 1968 on Record: A year of Revolution - all at the British Library. A fabulous trio of exhibitions at the BL - Taking Liberties is a rich and interactive exhibition of ideas about history, politics and identity; the Theatre exhibition puts into context the work setting up the National Theatre and other post-war developments in British stage work; and the 1968 room brings together a very diverse range of sound clips and visual images to construct the narratives of 1968 (a classic bit being the sound review of the opening of an extended line on the Tube system. "Going to Walthamstow - wherever that may be" says the commentator.

Bar Bruno - for breakfast
S&M Cafe - for Sunday breakfast
Ristorante Paradiso, Store Street - for good Italian food
Brick Lane - for a pimped up curry (Sunday night)

Rough Trade, Truman Brewery -- nuff said. Listing to follow

Late night through from The Bank of England, via St Pauls, The Daily Express Building, through Covent Garden. Delightful walking in the rain.

Spitalfields Market
Tabio - footwear pR0n

All of this in the company of the Time Out Guide... (follow links to the photos and magazine cover section for 2008)

Thinking about a mug of pens where none of them work -- and other thoughts of Writers' Rooms

The Guardian's series of photographs called 'Writers' Rooms' has long been one of my favourite bits in the Review section. This weekend I caught Clive James talking about his thoughts on his own writing room, and frankly I giggled frequently throughout.

Now, Clive James is undeniably a bit of a berk, albeit an interesting and provocative writer and broadcaster. But it is hard not to laugh in recognition at tales of having a mug of pens for taking important notes -- only for every pen not to work. Nor the image of a desk of papers all unsorted and out of date. Nor bookcases so disorganised that the reader ends up buying another copy of a book they know they own because they cannot locate the original.

Though I hasten to add that that last issue is not one that affects me because I am scrupulous in organising books!

Rullsenberg Rants: Social Services reorganisation

I don't lightly criticise the government - I know there are plenty out there eager to do so - but the latest edict from Ed Balls has had both Cloud and I cursing loudly at the radio this morning. Heads of Social Services for Children must now be required to have experience of both Social Services and Education - given that it has been deemed that one of the failings in the baby P case was that the head of Social Services for Children only had experience of Education.

Well there is a F$@*ing good reason for that you complete %*$@! That is because until very recently local authorities were organised into Education departments and Social Services departments - with Social Services covering everyone from 0 years - death. Which was fine, except that anything that was happening under the edicts of Education was getting missed by those working with children under Social Services care, and vice versa.

So, not entirely unreasonably, the departments were reorganised to split Social Services into Children and Young Persons Services (bringing together Education and Social Services) and Adult Social Care and Health Services.

HOWEVER: what happens when children turn 18 years old? Hmm...

Anyway. With the reorganisation, there was obviously a need for new heads to be appointed to the amalgamated services for CYPS. You were always therefore going to be appointing someone without experience of half of the new service because someone with Education experience was likely to not have experience of Social Services and vice versa.

Now, I'm all for bringing people in who have experience of both Education and children's Social Services - but the recent reorganisation was hardly likely to have produced anything other than the likes of the Haringey Childrens' Services Head who had mostly/exclusively experience in one or the other due to the way in which the systems had been previously organised.

Similarly, I'm all in favour of people having more hands on experience before they have their own caseload of Social Services cases. BUT: how to achieve this? One of the key things affecting the delivery of good social services is that many social workers are just overloaded with work. This can never excuse poor choices and failing to follow the systems that are meant to protect, but when priorities have to be made between one horrific case and twenty-five, one hundred, or several hundred horrific cases it is easy to see how those failings can occur in the cases that capture the public imagination. All too often good social work goes unnoticed. That doesn't mean that the few failings that come to attention are only a small number - nor does it mean that they are guaranteed to be the tip of an iceberg. But the structures are failing both the workers and those needing protection. And making 'sweeping changes' yet again to the structures will not in itself prevent further tragedies occurring.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Devil's Whore - TV reviewing belatedly arrives

Isn't The Devil's Whore just brilliant? I mean, everything about it is just brilliant: the costumes, the history, the narrative... yes, yes, I know it isn't (exactly, remotely) what really happened, but it FEELS right.*

I sometimes think that with historical dramas that what you're after is something that feels right even if it may not BE right: the sense of doing more than just conforming to our expectations and errors of history whilst hitting the nail of conviction.

Maxine Peake once again proves herself an incredibly adept actress, far more than just the comedic turn she started out being in the public imagination, whilst Riseborough continues to impress as a relative newcomer. And as for John Simm... it's a fabulous turn as Sexby. In fact, even allowing for the occasional dodginess of Dominic West's accent as Cromwell (Cambridge via... wherever) it feels damn accurate to the recorded dialogue and tone of the times even when it takes obvious dramatic licence.

I'm also pretty damn pleased that the series is 4 parts - not because I don't want more but because it means we get to see it all before we won't be able to watch any more UK TV for a while.

DVD release in the New Year anyone? I'd happily rewatch this again...

* Rather like anecdotes that you probably suspect are apocryphal but they just seem so true to the person!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Shuffleathon 2008 - CD from Jamie Smitten

How can you resist a compilation that is entitled "As a matter of fact I am the F****** Queen! - Smitten Songs for Lisa", as prepared by Jamie Smitten?

Especially when it includes the likes of Nerf Herder and REM. Mind, there isn't much else that is familiar to me...

So here's my review:

1) 100 Yard Dash - Raphael Saadiq
A gentle bit of funky soul to get the party started.
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - new to me. Jamie described it as "kind of like the warm up at the start of exercise class" - that's a neat and accurate summary.

2) The Good Life - Cracker
Awh, Jamie you just made me want to watch 'The Prom' all over again (and failing that to re-read the awesome recap review on Television Without Pity).
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - Yep, but not in full. Fabulous. I'll be playing this track a lot.

3) Sorry - Nerf Herder
Hee hee - this is a classic frat boy apology song. Very funny. Too many hilarious lines to count.
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - Heard of the band obviously. I'll be giggling at this for some time to come.

4) Banditos - The Refreshments
There's a definite feel of US college rock to this compilation. No bad thing in itself, though I probably haven't pursued much of the material myself in the past. Some fine guitar riffing though! "Everybody knows that the world is full of stupid people" - oh so true.
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - nope, apologies.

5) Everything's Cool- Lit
Party on dudes! This makes me think of the Bill and Ted films! Very cheery.
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - again, apologies.

6) Fighter Girl - Mason Jennings
I can't quite put my finger on who his voice reminds me of: it's not Sir Leonard of Cohen, it's not quite Jonathan Richman either. But it reminds me of someone. Any clues who I may be thinking of?! It's starting to drive me mad!
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - Apparently I had two tracks by this artist already: two covers of Bob Dylan as appearing on the I'm Not There soundtrack collection. That reminds me: that IS a rather fine collection of covers.

7) 27th Ave Shuffle - Foxboro Hot Tubs
Here comes my 19th nervous breakdown... This could be the last time... Oops, sorry, I'm sure that's some very well inspired Stones ripping...
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - Again, nope, neither song nor artiste have previously hit my radar.

8) Story of My Life - Social Distortion
I love a bit of la-la-la-ing. This is apparently Mike Ness on 'nasal introspection'. I'm hearing a bit of early Stone Roses via the Clash in influences. Doesn't beat the classic track by Pere Ubu of a similar title, but then little actually could.
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - God this is embarrassing: again, sorry, all new to me!

9) Living Well is the Best Revenge - R.E.M.
The barn-storming opening track to latest album 'Accelerate' and I'm very happy to get this track to myself at last (it's a complex story).
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - Phew: I'm not as out of touch with popular music as I thought. I have actually heard of this band. Mind, given how long they have been going that probably doesn't reflect well on me!

10) Do ya - Matthew Sweet
A fuzzy guitar and some nice R.E.M. links for this artiste. I like the middle section especially. I think I could be playing this track a fair bit - it has a lively feel and some frenetic oomph on the vocals, guitars and percussion. Like the 'thank you, both of you' muttered at the end.
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - a passing awareness of the R.E.M. connection from reading too much about that band over the years (hanging with the George probably encouraged this!)

11) The Stoop - Little Jackie
Hell yeah, Jamie says this brings on the 'finger-snapping' and sheesh does it ever. I feel my shoulders move to the rhythm to the beat.
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - *blush* How did I miss this cracking track?

12) A Change is Gonna Come - Seal
A Blue State anthem? This is a classic track - and is pretty much impossible to spoil. I've most recently heard Billy Bragg doing this track - and though Sam Cooke pretty much provided the definitive version, this lush version doesn't detract from its power.
Heard of before? (Track/Band) - Not heard this version before, but in the current context, it's mighty fine to hear.

Overall verdict:
The middle songs probably won't prove very memorable sadly, but there's a good handful of welcome tracks here that I'll be playing again for sure and looking into more from the artistes. So thank you! And I LOVE the CD cover (makes me feel so ashamed that my CD cover skills went belly-up when my printer died...)

Here's to Shuffleathon 2009!

Mini update: London and forthcoming

Apologies: we were in London last weekend (very nice thanks) and since then I've been battling with work overload and general lurgy.

Still, just to give a quick preview of what's coming up:

  • review of the shuffleathon CD received from Jamie Smitten - a fine looking beast it appears too
  • London visit review
  • The Devil's Whore - one of the best TV dramas of this year IMHO
  • books I have been reading
  • what's happening in December/January
Just a reminder on that last item folks: I will NOT be able to watch the Doctor Who Xmas Special this year. Anyone able to set a video or similar to record this and let me watch their recording will therefore be gratefully adored and acknowledged.*

Just as a forewarning as well, and partly as I don't really trust myself, I will probably be largely off-line between Xmas Day and 6th January.

As Professor River Song said: "Spoilers!"

* The iPlayer will be of no use to me here UNLESS the show is repeated and (or) is available via the iPlayer for viewing after 6th January 2009. Meh.