Monthly Archives: June 2016

A referendum in six memes

1. The ‘I did this last year but it sort of fits’ meme.

DW_Election_2

2. The Biff Tannen.

Biff_EU

3. The ‘Totally random and seemingly unconnected but ultimately prophetic’ one.

Sad_Doctor

4. The ‘Use a pen. FOR GOD’S SAKE USE A PEN!’ fiasco.

eRASER

5. The morning after.

Camps

6. And finally.

EU_Alpha

This may be an overreaction. But it sort of fits.

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Thoughts on the EU referendum

brexit_-_Google_Search_-_2015-08-18_22.25.30

We interrupt our normal scheduled broadcasts to deal with the elephant in the room. Here’s my take on things.

DISCLAIMERS:

1. What follows isn’t a perfect extended metaphor – as Gareth pointed out, “It says ‘why is this stupid thing a referendum in the first place?’, but most people who think that are Remain, since not having a referendum allows remaining.”

2. I’m not a political commentator and don’t pretend to be. I’m just tired of the whole thing. I know where my loyalty lies – purely from my own perceptions of what constitutes common sense – but I’d really rather not have to do this, particularly when it’s ripped the country more or less in half. I don’t advocate Brexit but nor do I fear change: I accept that at some point (not now) leaving the EU may turn out to be the best option. But I’d rather it was decided by people who actually know what they’re talking about, which is not (from what I’ve seen) most of the country.

3. Yes, I will be voting on Thursday. You’ve kind of forced my hand really, haven’t you?

The Jones family needed a new car. Their old one, they decided, was getting past its sell-by date. It was still roadworthy, but it needed quite a bit of attention these days, and it was only a matter of time before it would need replacing.

Mum and Dad had talked for a while about what sort of car they should get. They’d asked friends for their views and Dad had looked in some magazines and had a brief search on the internet, but they hadn’t yet found the time to go to a dealership to have a proper look. All the while, the kids were whining. “When can we get the new car, Dad?” “What sort of car is it going to be?” “C’mon, Dad. All our friends laugh at us. Can’t we get a new car tomorrow?”

That was when Dad had his bright idea.

Illustration for the eureka moment.

“We’ll let the kids choose the car!” he said.

Mum wasn’t sure. “I’m not convinced by that,” she told him. “I love our kids to bits, but they’re not exactly experts. Why don’t we get an idea for the sort of car they want and then see if it fits in with what works best for the family?”
But Dad was shaking his head vigorously. “No, no,” he said. “It’s a great idea. They choose the car, the pressure’s off us. And it’s what they want. They’ll be thrilled that we’ve given them what they want! Everyone wins!”
“What if they have their hearts set on something we really don’t want?”
“We’ll overrule them.”
“That won’t make them happy.”
“I won’t tell them, then. Not until the decision is made.”
“Don’t you think they’ll be cross when they find that out?”
“Oh, only for a while.”

Mum still wasn’t sure. But when Dad had made his mind up there was no stopping him. And so one Saturday afternoon, the family – Mr and Mrs Jones, and their children, Simon and Celia, were off to the local dealer. Mum had said that they might want to consider doing a bit of online research first, but Dad thought that was overkill. “Just ask your friends what they think,” he said. “That’ll help you decide.”

They hadn’t even got to the ring road when the trouble started.

“A blue one.”
“No, a red one.”
“Blue!”
“Red!”

Simon wanted blue. Celia wanted red. Simon thought red was too close to pink, which was a girl’s colour. Celia thought this was a ridiculous argument. So for that matter did Dad, but he didn’t say anything, purely because he wanted to remain impartial.

RedCarBlueCarT1

They got to the dealer and were momentarily overwhelmed by choice. There were big cars and small cars and long ones and short ones. There were cars for families, cars for couples, sports cars and saloons. There were vehicles for the town and big, gas-guzzling off-road vehicles for the country, most of which would probably end up being driven round the town on the school run.

For a moment, the Jones family were wrapped in a congenial bubble of attentive silence. It was broken by Celia.

“That one!” she shouted.

The car was big and dark green and cost about as much as the annual GDP of Luxembourg. Mum hated it.

“It’s a bit…well, big, isn’t it?”
“But it’s got so much space!”
“Darling, it’s got space for seven people. I don’t think we’ll need that. Your Dad’s had a vasectomy.”
“But we can fold the seats down and go camping in it!”
“Celia,” Mum reasoned, “We all hate camping.”
“We might not, though, if it’s easier.”

Simon, meanwhile, had his eye on a flashy sports number on the other side of the lot. It was bright yellow and had mechanical doors.
“This one,” he said to his father.

Lamb

His father raised an eyebrow. “It’s only got two seats. What happens if we want to go somewhere as a family?”
“We can take it in turns to take the bus.”
“What if there isn’t a bus?”
“We can get two of them, then.”
“I’m not sure you’re really thinking this through,” said his father. “What about something a bit bigger?”

Simon headed over to the family car section, stamping his feet moodily. Meanwhile, Celia was looking at an estate.

“What about this one?”
“Well, it’s a Renault,” said Mum, “and they’re not always the most reliable of beasts.”
“But I like it. I like the name. It sounds foreign and exciting.”
“But you don’t really know anything about them,” said Mum, who was reasonably well-versed in the reliability or otherwise of Renaults.
“It feels right, though,” Celia insisted. “It feels like this is the right car for us.”
“I realise that, darling,” Mum said. “But we have to go on more than a feeling.”
“So you’re saying that my gut instinct is wrong?”
“No, just-”
“Forget it,” said Celia, folding her arms sulkily. “I get it, all right?”
“Celia,” Mum said, “I think you’re getting a bit cross, and I can understand that, but you haven’t considered the fact that I might know more about this than you do.”
“Well, why’d you ask me to choose then?”
“I didn’t,” said Mum, sighing a little.

article-2615128-1D70B02B00000578-195_634x369

Simon came over. “I’ve found it,” he announced. “I think we should get that one.” And he pointed at a large four-wheel-drive jeep.
“It runs on diesel,” said Dad, who had been looking at the information card in the window. “Diesel tends to be quite expensive round here. Also it’s got a lot of mileage for a vehicle this age.”
“Yeah, but it’s cheap,” said Simon.
“Cheap doesn’t always mean good,” Dad explained.
“But we’ll have more money to do other things,” said Simon. “You can give us more pocket money if you’ve spent less on the car.”
“Ooh!” said Celia. “That means we can buy more things! There are loads of new magazines out that I’m interested in. I can get a subscription.”
“Yeah, and I can get – ”

Dad shook his head, trying not to make eye contact with Mum, who was staring at him very hard. He told himself that he’d made the right decision, letting the kids choose. Having them fantasise about money was preferable to having them fight, at least.

Unfortunately, that was what happened next.

“DVD player!”
“MP3 player!”

It didn’t take a genius to work out why Simon and Celia were arguing, which was lucky for Dad. Mum sighed and rubbed her temples, which had started to throb. People were staring. Dad took both his children by the collar. “Listen, you two,” he said, in a venomous hiss. “You’re embarrassing yourselves, and me.”
“And me,” Mum added, slightly put out.
“And your mother,” Dad added hastily. “Now will you please make a decision?”
“I WANT THAT ONE!”

Both children were pointing at different vehicles, both prohibitively expensive and entirely unsuitable for a family car. One was a two-door GTI, brand new. The other was a hearse.

Dad sighed.
“I don’t think you’re really thinking this through,” he said. “I don’t think you’re making the decision for the family; you’re making it for yourselves. You mean well but you don’t really know cars. You don’t really know how much money we have to spend or how much we’re likely to need.”
“We sort of know,” said Simon.
“You don’t really know, though,” said Dad. “You just think you do.”
“But we want to help!” said Celia. “It’s our car as well, isn’t it?”
“Of course it is,” Dad said. “But maybe the best way to have you help would have been for me to find out what you like and then make the decision in conjunction with your mother, rather than letting you make the choice. That’s our job, after all. Sometimes we have to decide these things ourselves.”
“So you’re saying our opinion doesn’t count?” asked Simon, hotly.
“No,” said Mum. “We’re saying that we know things you don’t, and understand things you don’t. That doesn’t mean we always get it right, but we can look at this properly. You two aren’t really trying to find the best car for the family anymore, are you? You’re just arguing about who’s right. That’s really what this is about.”

Celia said nothing. Simon shuffled his feet.

“Maybe,” said Dad, “I made a mistake in telling you that you could choose.”

Mum raised an eyebrow. It was a look that clearly said Now you’re getting it, doofus.

Sunset on the eve of the Autumnal Equinox, Sept 21, 2012, with the Sun setting due west at the end of westbound Highway 1 to Banff, Alberta. This is a frame from a 315-frame time-lapse movie.

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Flesh of my flesh

Three seemingly unrelated nuggets:

1. There’s a new Ninja Turtles film out.

2. Over the weekend I met Steve Benham, famous for portraying Heather from Eastenders in Harry Hill’s TV Burp, who starred in this scene.

3. Yesterday was Father’s Day.

Anyway, you can’t unsee this, can you?

Blobby_Parents

Actually, I just popped in to show you the pictures my children did for the card they gave me. Because they’re awesome. And if you squint, it really does look like that bear is wearing a fez.

Father's Day_2016

They know me rather well, I’d say.

 

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Doctor Who: The Day Before You Came

(If you’re reading this on a phone or tablet there is a chance that the embedded video may be unavailable to you. If that’s the case, I’ve left another version at Vimeo; that one should work.)

You say ABBA, you think ‘Dancing Queen’. You think Eurovision and ‘Waterloo’. You think Meryl Streep crying on a hill. You think Pierce Brosnan belting out ‘S.O.S.’ in the manner of someone having a prostate exam off camera (not my joke). You think flashy costumes and a certain joie de vivre.

Because no one likes to remember how utterly miserable they were by the time they disbanded. ABBA were a group who bore their hearts on their sleeves, or at least that’s the way it looked to the rest of us, whether it’s the raw emotion of ‘The Winner Takes It All’, the slightly manipulative but no less heartfelt sadness of ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’, the parenting anthem to end all parenting anthems (with the possible exception of ‘The Living Years’)…even something as outwardly upbeat as ‘When All Is Said And Done’ is amicably miserable (though it does include the line ‘not too old for sex’, so every cloud). I’m not saying we ignore the miserable bits, more that we tend to give more airspace to something like ‘Fernando’ than something like ‘One Of Us’. (I’ve never much cared for that song, although that’s the point at which Agnetha permed her hair and I stopped fancying her, so maybe that had something to do with it.)

The starkness plays out in that final album. The Visitors is possibly the best thing they ever did, tapping new and uncharted musical territory – an almost industrial technopop that was years ahead of its time and which Andersson and Ulvaeus would see come to fruition of a sort when they finished Chess, even though that’s still fairly theatrical. But it’s those two non-album singles – ‘Under Attack’ and ‘The Day Before You Came’ – that make the playlists, despite an initially lukewarm reaction from an audience that wasn’t ready for anything like this and had in any case more or less lost interest. Years later the latter regularly tops fan polls. I wonder if in years to come we’ll view ‘Fear Her’ with such retrospective acclaim.

FearHer1

…No, I don’t think so either.

The Wikipedia entry for ‘The Day Before You Came’ is worth reading, but I’ll summarise the best bits –

– Despite the minimal backing track, what really stands out is Agnetha’s voice, which is by and large sung in her native Swedish accent, rather than the twang she would adopt for other recordings

– The song’s meaning is the subject of intense scrutiny and debate – is this a song to a boyfriend? An ex-boyfriend? A murderer? Did her mundane life change for the better when this mysterious figure arrived, or did it in fact get worse? (The video goes some way to explaining this, although if you need a video to explain a song, the song’s a failure, so I prefer to think of the video as an afterthought)

– She left at 8 am and was at work by 9:15; conversely she left at 5 pm and didn’t get home for three hours. I know the woman stopped to pick up a Chinese but even allowing for rush hour traffic there is something going on here.

– Myself, I’ve always liked the image of Agnetha alone in the studio, completing the final recording with the lights out, as a musical union that’s outlasted two marriages limps along to its final, scrappy conclusion. Roll credits.

Anyway. Why the hell hasn’t anyone done something with Doctor Who? When you consider the new series’ focus on companions and the way their lives are changed by the arrival (and eventual departure) of the Doctor, isn’t it an obvious fit? The Doctor has a habit of blustering in, acting as a catalyst for revolution and reform and then making a quiet exit so someone else can clean up the mess. Doesn’t he have a tendency to treat people the same way?

What annoyed me intensely was that all those departure / regeneration scenes I found myself mocking when I watched the episodes that contained them took on a sudden emotional resonance when I looked at them again. I mean, I was crying at the Doctor / Verity Newman scene in ‘The End of Time’. That scene is faintly ridiculous and here I am wiping my eyes clean. Then I was crying at Rose. Dammit, I’m one of the ones that smirks whenever this sort of thing shows up on the Tumblr feeds. WHY IS THIS UPSETTING ME? I’M SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD INSIDE!

tumblr_lto5heeBOb1qchax1o5_250

That’s a roundabout way of saying that I made this last week, feeling sad and not really knowing why. Perhaps I knew, on one level or another, that this week would be the way it was. And I do feel sad this week, more than I can tell you. The world seems to have no real sense of self, just a collection of squabbling factions and misunderstandings and hatred and bile. I feel as if we’ve broken something we’re not going to be able to fix in a hurry, and rather than actually sitting down and working out how it broke and what we can do to piece it back together, we’re just kicking the fragments round the playground like angry schoolchildren.

And I don’t know the answer. I don’t. But I know that’s no way to run a planet.

Postscript: episodes used, in order of first appearance – 

Rose
The Zygon Inversion
Smith and Jones
Partners in Crime
Last Christmas
The End of Time
Listen
Parting of the Ways
Day of the Doctor
The Bells of Saint John
The Wedding of River Song
Journey’s End
The Angels Take Manhattan
Doomsday
The God Complex
The Fires of Pompeii
Army of Ghosts
Hell Bent
Last of the Time Lords
Death in Heaven
The Eleventh Hour
Turn Left
The Name of the Doctor
Face the Raven
Fear Her

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The tenuous Doctor Who / CBeebies connection, part 34 1/2

 

Five memes. Some are Who-connected. Most are not.

1. The obligatory Bing thing

Bing_TARDIS

2. The ‘two cultural references in one meme’ / ‘well, there’s sort of a Big Barn Farm connection’ thing.

Babe-Pig

3. The obligatory Dinopaws thing.

Dinopaws_23

4. The ‘vaguely topical’ / ‘why didn’t I think of this one earlier’ thing.

Messi_Okido

5. And finally, the ‘Catastrophic revelation’ one.

Maisie_Tele

 

Have a lovely Sunday!

 

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The Doctor Who ‘Mindfulness’ Collection, part 1

Note: the following is a composite of several conversations, thrown together for the sake of coherence.

“What I don’t understand,” said Emily, “is why you’ve called it the Mindfulness Collection.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I know you were poking fun, but Mindfulness is actually a thing. It’s recognised and it’s supposed to work. It’s all about meditation and focus.”
“I know all that. That’s not really my target. I’m poking fun at this ridiculous culture we have.”
“Adult colouring?”
“Adult colouring among other things. It was fine at first but now it’s got completely out of hand. The whole unique and beautiful snowflake philosophy. I know it’s supposedly about learning the compassion but it all seems very goal-focused and selfish when it’s applied in our society.”

DWMindfulness_01

—–
“And it doesn’t mean anything .”
“It doesn’t. It’s just a bunch of idioms thrown together in the form of a composite. It’s like this whole obsession with ‘spirituality’, which is basically religion for people who don’t want all the difficult stuff.”
“Not just spirituality,” she said. “Vague Sense of Spirituality, remember?”
“What annoys me about the colouring,” she said, “is that I was doing it first and then it became a huge thing and now I just feel like I’m following a trend.”
“You set the trend,” I said.
“I am good at that.”

DWMindfulness_03

—–
“I’m not opposed to the principle of Mindfulness per se,” I said. “Just the relentless Westernisation of it. I mean they even do it in offices now. They have seminars. The tree-hugging hippy crap I found in that Ladybird book I told you about.”
“Absolutely. As long as you take into account that’s not actually Mindfulness.”
“Tell you what. If I call it the ‘Mindfulness’ collection, would that work?”
“Yes,” she said. “That’ll work.”

 

DWMindfulness_02

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Alistair the Toucan does Doctor Who

Doctor Who these days is all about the speeches. In many ways it always has. Oh, it’s easy to point at McCoy and mention the rice pudding as a watershed moment, but to do so is to ignore Colin Baker’s rant about the decadence and corruption of Time Lord society, Pertwee’s wistful recollection of his Gallifreyan childhood, and the Fourth Doctor’s joyous monologue about homo sapiens at the beginning of ‘The Ark In Space’. It even goes back to the sixties: Hartnell’s Doctor may have been doddery and crochety from time to time, but he could wax lyrical with the best of them, as ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ proves as much as any other.

But there’s a trend these days – something that seems to have started with ‘The Pandorica Opens’ and then become one of those things that was fun for about five minutes and then wore out its welcome the more it was done (like Star Wars Day, but we won’t go there right now). I wish I could understand the current obsession with getting other Doctors to record great speeches, but it seems patently ludicrous. Sometimes it works. There is a decent voice imitation of Troughton doing the rounds on the internet that recreates the closing scenes of ‘Day of the Doctor’. McGann, on the other hand, was given Capaldi’s ‘Zygon Inversion’ speech to read (presumably thirty seconds before they switched on the microphone) and it sounds tedious. I’m sorry, but it does. Harness wrote that speech for Capaldi. The Eighth Doctor version would have been quite different. Capaldi bubbles with righteous anger; McGann (and this is not to do him a disservice, I love him) plays a Doctor who seldom loses his temper. It’s the elephant in the room, but it’s embarrassing to listen to, and I say that as someone who thought ‘Scherzo’ was wonderful, if you skip over the love scenes.

Look, it’s perfectly simple. If you can turn a one-trick pony into a convention staple, I can do the same thing with a puppet. Step forward Alistair, who was recorded on my ageing Flip camera, perched on the table, wedged between two books to hold it upright because I couldn’t find the tripod. Alistair messed up the second speech a little, but I didn’t hold it against him. Yes, there are outtakes. No, you do not get to see them. Yes, I did drop the puppet once or twice.

Toucans are marvellous birds, anyway, and just for the heck of it, here’s one I snapped on the Isle of Wight.

Isle_of_Wight_2008_175

I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But I did think this could be a series, perhaps furnished by requests. I’ve already had one for Trial of a Time Lord. Another request went along the lines of “Please cease and desist from contacting our client Ms. Aldred and at all times retain a minimum distance of six hundred yards”. Your own suggestions are welcome below and will be recorded the next time we get a spare moment provided Alistair is up to the task.

By way of anecdote, Alistair got his name because at first I thought he was a crow. And Alistair the Crow is…oh, you’ll figure it out. If you can’t, I’ll tell you another time. But not today. Leave ’em dangling, kid. Leave ’em dangling.

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