Well, there was a new episode of Doctor Who last Sunday.
I really enjoyed it. Base under siege that became something a little more, a little different, as the Doctor underwent some startling character development that we'll see culminating in an undoubtedly gaudy, though still shamelessly enjoyable, Christmas Special. Apparently, John Simm's Master will be returning, as well as Donna and Bernard Cribbins. No complaints there- they were all superb. RTD being RTD, we'll probably also see Davros, the Daleks, the Cybermen, Rose Tyler, Jackie Tyler, Pete Tyler, Sam Tyler for all I bloody know, the Sontarans, Captain Jack, the fucking Slitheen, Harriet Jones, Mr Finch, the Gelth, Martha Jones, Madam de Pompadour, Sarah-Jane Smith, Simon Pegg's character from The Long Game, Mickey Smith, that woman Jessica Hynes played in Human Nature, the Face of Boe, the Carrionites, the Dalek Emperor, that woman from Silence in the Library, Sid, the Empress of the Racnoss, the Hath, Ood Sigma, the oracles from The Fires of Pompeii, a giant wasp, that bloke with the face of a pig, Professor Lazarus, the Wire, the Chula, the Jagrafess, the Abzorbaloff, the Adipose and Adam from the Long Game revealing that it was him all along. Then they'll all form a chorus line and sing "Happy Days Are Here Again" while the Doctor regenerates. Afterward, the fanbase will complain that Sally Sparrow wasn't in it, and that it wasn't dark and gritty like The Twin Dilemma.
I get the feeling, though, that the Christmas Special may end up being a Fantastic Aesop
in action. I bet the moral will be "if you have the power of time travel, don't go back in time to change history, because it is (for unspecified but definite reasons) Wrong". This is because There Are Some Things People Should Not Be Allowed To Do, specifically saving peoples' lives some of the time (as distinct from saving peoples' lives most of the time, which is perfectly all right. It's in the format, after all). Similarly, the Aesop in Torchwood was that If Aliens Threaten The Human race With Extinction Unless You Do Something Horrible, It's Best To Strike A Dramatic Pose, Say No And Hope They Make An Elementary Tactical Error Like, Say, Giving You A Free Death Ray. Which, to be honest, strikes me as moral cowardice.
Still I shall look forward to Doctor Who and, I have no doubt, enjoy it immensely. All the same, I'm looking forward to seeing what Mr Moffat will make of it.
I've been watching series one of Dollhouse recently, by the way, and with the end of my exams, I've managed to get the series finished.
I'd heard somewhat mixed reports, that the first few episodes weren't very good, but that it rewarded perseverance. Sure enough, the opening four or five episodes delivered an intriguing premise, but not much else- mainly a series of run-arounds with a (literal) reset button pressed at the end of each episode.
A few episodes in, however, it takes flight, and my, what a wonderful beast it is. Intriguing metaplots start coiling together, the characters develop and the various backstory enigmas get filled in. The penultimate episode was great, and the unbearably weird "epitaph" ep left me wondering what the hell Whedon has planned for the rest of the story.
It's not perfect, of course- I really have no idea why it feels the need to inhabit a formula so strongly for the first half of the season. The change in format, when it comes, isn't really triggered by anything within the story- it feels almost as if Whedon finished the season a couple of episodes short, so filmed a few interchangeable eps to pad it out. However, it reminded me of just how great a writer Joss Whedon can be when he gets the chance.
Let's just hope Fox don't decide to pull another Firefly on us.
Hm. Seems like I'm never going to tell you all about Berlin, am I? Oh well- you can make up something scandalous and tell it to each other in progressively shriller and more outraged voices.
Life has been quiet and busy at the same time. Since coming back from possibly my best summer holidays ever, I've spent four weeks at college, then two weeks at work, then a week "revising" at home and the past week back at college again. The current lot of exams for which I am revising (the Advanced stage) are ridiculous- the last load were probably "harder", in the sense of having to learn reams and reams of complicated concepts, but these are just... weird. Sitting them is like nailing down fog- the challenge is in trying to work out what the examiner is getting at, and wondering whether you've missed any complicated deferred tax implications (or whatever). A lot of the questions seem to be angled more toward testing my judgement in making reasonable estimates and assumptions rather than my knowledge of anything in particular. Not what I'm used to!
Time between college has been spent avoiding work. The week that I booked as leave to stay at home and revise was an absolutely monstrous waste of time. I made bolognese- that's about it, and whilst it has been very helpful to have dinner in the freezer for the past week and a half (and it's still not finished), it's not exactly the head start I was hoping for. I've been to a pub quiz in Hampstead regularly as well, and we've managed to get a decent grab-bag of London and former G&S friends along. Andy was there (plus one) last week, and Pete before that. It's been nice- we came second last week as well.
I went to see Up last weekend. Really, really, really good. Whimsical to the point of completely defying not only rudimentary physics and biology but also common sense, and yet somehow disbelief was kept suspended throughout, as if on a thousand helium balloons. I'm not really sure where it fits into the Pixar pantheon- I haven't rethought the difficult "What's your favourite Pixar?" question since going to see The Incredibles, so I suppose Up is squeezed in with that, Ratatouille and Wall-E in the overcrowded Number One spot.
Hm, what else? I've been reading the latest Pratchett, Unseen Academicals, and it's not great, I'm sad to say. Haven't finished it yet, but I'm about 80% of the way through and I couldn't really tell you what the plot is. The characters are all good, there are still a lot of funny jokes and interesting takes on fantasy tropes, but there's just no narrative drive to the thing.
And speaking of narrative drive, my Dollhouse season 1 DVD arrived today. Nice. I've seen the first two episodes, borrowed from someone who torrented them, and enjoyed them enough to purchase the real thing shock-horror-legitimately. I'm sure Al Qaeda will survive without my funding them. Haven't got around to watching the thing yet, but I'm sure it'll complement the Firefly episodes I've been re-watching latterly on a kind of Joss Whedon kick.
Toodle pip for now, anyway. I'm off to spend what remains of the evening relaxing with the Guardian crossword before getting a moderately early night before going to college tomorrow.
As most of you are probably aware, I went to the Edinburgh festival a couple of weeks ago. A wonderful time was had by all, and I went to see a record-breaking 36 shows, as well as doing a lot of fat-chewing, beer-drinking andcurry-eating (the Mosque Kitchen curries from the Pleasance Dome are really fantastic).
Anyway, here's what I saw and what I thought of it:( This year"s showsCollapse )
So that was Edinburgh 2009, my seventh consecutive Fringe. I have to admit that I can't wait for the 8th; this is still one of the highlights of my year.
And in my next post, I'll tell you all about Berlin.
I spent the weekend away in the depths of Lancashire for Pete & Lesley's wedding. I'm pretty sure that everyone on my flist who cares about the wedding was there, so will only botch an attempt at alliteration to say that the ceremony, company, ceilidh, canapes, cheese & (a)ccomodation were all wonderful.
Of something approaching interest may be the fact that I lost my phone; left it in a Preston taxi. An attempt at recovery is underway, & chances of success are looking good, so I'm not attempting to get a new one just yet, but be aware that I'm somewhat out of touch at the moment.
Oh, and I have a woeful sore throat. Boo.
I read Self Help recently, by Edward Docx. I found it a bit slow to get into, but devoured it once I was about 30 pages in. A really wonderful novel, heartwarming, funny and thought-provoking in equal parts. Entertainingly for me, the characters (and, presumably, the author) hang around the same parts of London as I do. Off-hand discussions of the topography of the Northern Line may not be everybody's bag, but they're certainly mine. Recommended.
I've also read Gemma Bovery, a comic by Posy Simmonds (first serialised in the Guardian) and How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World, by Francis Wheen. Gemma Bovery was excellent; genuinely engrossing and beautifully composed, both visually and textually. Mumbo Jumbo was... well, it had its moments- the author's rants against postmodernism were entertaining, for instance, but I couldn't help feeling that I was reading a polemic. I kept comparing it to Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, and it came up wanting. With Goldacre, I get the sense that the issues he's writing about are genuinely pervasive and worth getting angry about- with Wheen I wonder whether he's been cherry-picking the facts that fit his argument. Also, it's not especially clear what that argument is- the title promises to tell us how mumbo-jumbo conquered the world- Wheen tells us only that,in his opinion, it has conquered the world, and doesn't do an especially good job of demonstrating even that. Don't get me wrong; the forces that Wheen rails against (Thatcherism and neo-liberalism, the rise of fundamentalism, academic psedobollocks) are things that worry me, but he doesn't offer an especially illuminating analysis of them, or any reason for us to suppose that they may be new- I'd argue that, far from taking over the world, mumbo-jumbo has been with us all along.
Oh, and I watched the first disc of series 3 of Arrested Development. Unfortunately, what was, for the first two series, one of the funniest sitcoms I've ever seen, appears to have jumped the shark calamitously. There are still isolated moments of comic genius but, overall, the characters are too exaggerated, the humour too self-referential and the plot too convoluted for me to really give a shit any more.
So that's what I've been reading and watching. As work was a bit quiet last week, I decided to take advantage by booking some leave and taking a four-day weekend, following a one-day week. Next week, however, marks the start of the dreaded Busy Period, so I'm off to Portsmouth for a week. A whole week with no internet- however shall I survive?
I'll let you know.
PS- The second and final part of Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader, Neil Gaiman's 2-part run on Batman, is out at the end of next week. Thought I'd add that.
PPS- If you get a cup, line it with microwavable cling film, break an egg or two into it, twizzle and tie up the cling film, then put the whole cling film/egg complex in boiling water for a few minutes (leaving the cup), you get one of the world's greatest poached eggs. From b3ta.
So there's been an internet kafuffle.
Amazon may or may not be deliberately removing gay/lesbian/rape recovery books from their ranking system (and therefore making them more difficult to find through searches). This may or may not be the result of a third party troll, a co-ordinated attack by pressure groups, glitch in Amazon's software or an unforseen emergent memetic effect.
There's an article and collection of links here
that sums it all up better than I could.
Twitter is brilliant for inciting outrage, panic and snap boycotts!
Scottish Sun steals copyright from cancer patient
The linked article contains a link to contact details for David Dinsdale, the editor of said "newspaper". These are reproduced below:
The Scottish Sun
124 Portman Street
Glasgow G41 1EJ
I've sent Mr Dinsdale a short email, expressing my disgust (signed "Dr JE McGraw" for maximum gravitas). Whilst I'm aware that this won't do much good, hopefully a lot of other people will be doing the same, which may have some kind of attrittion effect.
Feel free to do likewise.
Neil Gaiman just twittered the first big Planet of the Dead trailer
, and I am unsure whether to watch it.
On the one hand, it'll pass a pleasant couple of minutes, and give me substance for my rabid speculations.
On the other hand, I realised early on that, fun though speculation is, I enjoy Dr Who episodes much more when I don't know what to expect. I suspect this "surprise" element may be harder to preserve for the specials.
(unrelated sidenote: Andy just twittered this interesting link
that y'all may like to look at, if you've ever wondered where inanimate objects go to die)
EDIT: Well, I watched it, weak-willed puttyman that I am. Looks a bit Midnight/Voyage of the Damned/Impossible Planet to me. Which is to say it could be excellent or.... not. Base-under-siege is a fairly common theme in Doctor Who, and tend to rise or fall on how good the secondary characters are. It's written by RTD and Gavin Roberts, both of whom have a track record in this department that veers from excellent (the gang in Love & Monsters and the murder suspects in The Unicorn & the Wasp) to forgettable (the cast of Voyage of the Damned and, most unforgivably, Shakespeare).