Posts Tagged With: the idiot’s lantern

Have I Got Whos For You (aaannnddd…we’re into October edition)

Well. We’ve got a bumper crop of memes for you today. This is because I have spent much of September writing other things, and also because my WordPress account is playing up and I can only, for whatever reason, access this from Firefox. It has taken me all of a week to figure this out; clearly the technology is moving on without me. Cripes I feel old.

Not as old as this lot, who were discovered waiting for the new Bond movie.

What else has been going on? Well, the anti-lockdown demonstrations have continued in earnest, although an overheard conversation between two unmasked protesters indicates they’re not all as unified as we might have thought.

Elsewhere in London, the Doctor and Clara run out of corridor at the most inopportune moment.

And some of the other Doctors react to that recent Radio Times poll.

There are tensions on the alien mothership during the Sycorax leader’s re-election campaign.

In UK politics, on a publicity drive to highlight the Government retraining scheme, MPs take it upon themselves to visit a number of people from the arts sector trying out new careers.

“No. Absolutely not. Go away.”

Still, all the spin in the world can’t hide the fact that the NHS is sorely under-funded.

Of course, it happens on the other side of the pond as well.

“Hang on, Mike. Hold still. I think there’s something on you.”

“Don’t look at me like that. There’s more than six of them, and we’re supposed to call it in.”

And over in Downing Street, there’s an angry reaction when the powers that be discover that curfew laws apply to them as well.

“They shut the bar at ten? Bastards.”

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Have I Got Whos For You (Lockdown Special)

“LET’S ROCK!”

There are good things coming to BoM in the next few days, but I also have a few time-sensitive images I really ought to be sharing, so we’ll do that first. Sharing these days seems to be the new black, whether it’s books or audio material or free online tuition, all hastily assembled in a disassociative spirit of ‘community’. Isn’t it great, the internet seems to be collectively screaming, how a pandemic makes us all better people? (Hashtag strongertogether? wewillgetthroughthis? Pick one.)

I’m cynical, but that’s largely because I know full well that the sea change the left are predicting or clamouring for is probably not going to materialise. If there’s one thing that life has taught me – one thing Doctor Who has taught me – it’s that people have remarkably short memories. No foxhole housed an atheist, and when we’re all in a spot – and forced, within the confines of our homes and local neighbourhoods, to indulge in extended periods of reflection, it’s easy to think that Things Will Be Different once this is all over. It would be lovely if that were so; something has to give, and heaven knows it’s been a blessed relief not having to read about Brexit these past few weeks, even if my feed is otherwise clogged with pictures of sunbathing tourists and deserted shopping centres. But I’m reminded, I’m afraid, of the end of An Inspector Calls, and the scene where the Birling family, having believed for a minute or two, that they’ve got away with the crimes to which they’ve confessed that evening, start to talk about things getting back to normal – only for karma to intervene in a sudden and dramatic manner with the sound of a ringing phone.

The phones do not ring here. For one thing we’re all on Messenger; for another, life seldom imitates art so neatly. There will be lessons learned, but not by those who need to learn them the most. And we’ll all go back to Netflix marathons and jokes about the next election, and things will continue much as they were. And perhaps that’s not the terrible calamity I’m painting it to be. Perhaps.

In the meantime we’re all apparently supposed to saturate Facebook with beach pictures to lighten the mood. Fair enough; here’s mine.

There are rumours doing the rounds about the actual cause of the virus, which – if you believe everything you read on the internet – has less to do with bats and more to do with 5G, leading to a spate of online petitions, debunked conspiracy theories in open access journals, and the occasional act of vandalism on a telephone mast.

Meanwhile, as he recovers from the effects of COVID-19 at St. Thomas’ Hospital, Boris Johnson receives an unexpected visitor.

(Oh God. This one is going to date very badly, isn’t it?)

In the meantime – unless you’re a key worker – you’re probably doing what I’m doing, which is staying home, getting up later than you should and doing more than some people advise and less than others suggest, which probably means you’re getting the balance about right. I implore you, constant reader, to keep your chin up, and if you’re in a dark place, please tell someone about it. Even if that person is me, and even if you’re simply using the comments box. At least you’ll get a response that way. Or just tell me what you’ve been doing; what books you’ve read, what TV you’ve watched; tell me about the novel you’re planning but will probably never write; the prospects for exercise in the local community; how many people in your street clapped for the NHS. Or tell me nothing. I’m fine with that, and I will keep the memes coming in any case.

Of course, you probably could go to the beach, if you were careful about it.

Now, how was that sentence going to end…?

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Have I got Whos for you: bumper TV edition

We’ve got a meme backlog here at Brian of Morbius, so let’s take a look at what’s new in the wonderful world of the moving image.

First, I was looking at Jenna Coleman’s role in Victoria, and thought about the bit in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ where Clara got splintered all across time, and – well, one thing sort of led to another…

I’m not a costume drama fan, in general. I’ve never seen a single episode of Downton Abbey, although I rather enjoyed Dickensian. I have been enjoying Preacher tremendously: a show to which we’ll return, although I have given it a decent write up over at The Doctor Who Companion. If you’ve seen it, you’ll understand this. If you haven’t, it’d take too long to explain, but rest assured that it’s a programme worthy of your investment. It’s so…quirky!

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Too much TV is bad for you, of course, as this recent image from the Island of Sodor demonstrates.

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(Oh, I was bored.)

This week’s big news is The Great British Bake Off, a show that started from comparative obscurity and – thanks to a succession of great producers, some wonderful presenters and not a little scandal – became one of the BBC’s stalwart exports. At least it was, until Love Productions, who make the show, decided to move it to Channel 4, who were prepared to pay the £75 million that the BBC couldn’t find when it came to contract renewals.

Things you may not know: Love Productions allegedly had a number of out-of-court settlements with the Beeb over similar shows they later did (Hair, The Great Painting Challenge); programmes that (according to the obligatory ‘insider’) were stunningly similar in tone and format. Also: since 2014, Sky has had a 70% stake in the company. Go figure. Meanwhile, current hosts Mel and Sue have decided not to migrate with the show, and Mary Berry followed suit not long after. This leaves Channel 4 without three of the people who arguably made Bake Off the massive success it was, and while reinventions have worked in the past, alarm bells must surely be ringing in the Westminster boardrooms.

In any event, I think I have solved the problem: I therefore propose The Great British Baker Off.

baker-off

With the news that Channel 4 have effectively paid 25 million for a tent, some flour and Paul Hollywood (not my joke, but I’m stealing it), and the overwhelming probability that this will sink faster than the new series of Top Gear, speculation mounts as to who’s going to be at the helm when it goes down. I suspect that Davina McCall is already checking her diary. I can’t think of any show that’s completely replaced its core cast and managed to keep going. Can you?

eccleston_regen

Well, stranger things have happened.

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A Portrait of the Modern Artist as a Young Time Lord (part two)

Oh, the man loved his wheatfields.

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I’m no art critic, but there are two things that jump out at me every time I look at this. One is the cloud formation. I don’t know what sort of day it was when he painted this, but they’re billowing. It’s a swirling mass of cumulus, dancing in some sort of abstract Rorschach formation, enticing you to see what you want to see. To the right, there are the cypresses, tall and dark and imposing like the edges of a sinister forest, the dark against the light.

Sadly, there is no sign of a gigantic chicken. But that’s OK.

We were in the National Gallery, which (you will remember) was where they airlifted the TARDIS in the opening scenes of ‘Day of the Doctor’. The Doctor (resplendent in tweed) strides across Trafalgar Square to a slightly embarrassed Kate Stewart, who apologises, before they all go off to look at some pictures. It’s like an episode of Millionaire Matchmaker. (The gallery’s interior, I’m told, was in Cardiff. Do not make the mistake of gallivanting round London trying to find it. That’s something that happens in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, and that it doesn’t end in tears is largely thanks to John Barrowman.)

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We’d really only gone to the National to see the Van Gogh. We were, as you might imagine after Friday, rather weary of looking at pictures. Plus it was a Saturday, and the place was crammed full of tourists all crowding round The Hay Wain. Within five minutes, Thomas had had enough. “This is boring,” he said. “It’s just paintings of people and stuff.”  Call it an autism reaction: he responds better to the abstract, which enables you to form your own impressions in a way that the concrete does not. I can see his point. Even the Constable is basically a horse pulling a cart across a river, which no one wanted to buy until it was revered by a Frenchman.

It made me think about the value of art, and whether things are considered great because great minds think them great. If someone of influence and authority takes a particular shine to something that was previously considered mediocre, isn’t that a fast-track to the sort of validation that it might otherwise have taken decades to earn? Put it this way. If someone like…oh, I don’t know, Philip Pullman was to talk about the merits of ‘Boom Town’, wouldn’t that push it up the polls a bit? Or if Hilary Mantel was to tell you that ‘The Twin Dilemma’ was among her favourite stories, wouldn’t Baker’s cluttered debut merit something of a re-appraisal? If people of literary talent and assumed knowledge (and perhaps this is why I don’t listen to critics, who typically show evidence of one, but not the other) argue in favour of something, perhaps they influence our own views.

Perhaps it would explain the enduring appeal of the Mona Lisa, a painting whose reputation I’ve never really understood. There are many theories: the identity of the girl in the picture, the enigmatic smile, the eyebrows (or lack thereof). People tell me it’s because Da Vinci was doing things with form that no one had done before, which is venturing into an area of art criticism I don’t really want to visit, largely because I’ll be out of my depth. Perhaps they’re right, but I’ve never been convinced. It’s a pretty painting, for sure, and I’ve not seen it in the flesh (oil. Whatever) but I wonder how much of its immortality may be ascribed to people telling you it’s great. Art is subjective but it is generally agreed that the Mona Lisa is wonderful. Citizen Kane is similarly bold and innovative, and enormously influential, but also rather dull – nonetheless, if you tell people it’s the greatest film ever made with sufficient regularity they will, eventually, start to believe it.

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The main entrance to the impressionists’ wing was closed, so we had to hunt for The Sunflowers. They sit on a wall facing north-west, this unassuming bunch of dried-up flora, a still half-life, “somewhere between living and dying; half-human as they turn to the sun”. There’s a reverence to them, something bold and tortured that jumps out as you stare at the thing, a sense of awe somewhat undermined by the people with iPhones. But I took one anyway, just to say that I’d done it.

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“You should have done a selfie,” said Emily, not entirely seriously. “That way people would know you’d actually been, rather than just taking a photo off the internet.”

“I’d need a stick,” I said. “You know I can’t stand selfie sticks.”

I went to Philadelphia a few years back; did I ever tell you that? The art gallery there – arguably more famous for the ascending staircase that leads up to its entrance than anything inside – houses several Gilbert & George works, a couple of Warhols – oh, and this.

Philadelphia_28

This is the repetition of the third version (the original third hangs in Munich), while the one at the National is the (original) fourth. (In Whovian terms, that’s presumably Katy Manning impersonating Jon Pertwee.) It looks rather unassuming on screen, the oils crystallised as pixels, a tribesman missing his soul. Seeing things like this up close is unique because you can get close enough to see the brushwork, the hours of labour, the years of psychosis. And yet I wonder how much of my love of Van Gogh and his childish scribbling is thanks to Doctor Who. Is it possible to appreciate the birth of impressionism for what it is and simultaneously be indifferent to the Lisa del Giocondo? Perhaps it isn’t. It’s times like this I wish I really understood art, so I could at least make you think I knew what I was talking about.

There is something rather special about sunflowers, I’ll give you that. They are used to striking effect in the finale of Everything is Illuminated, in which Jonathan Foer arrives at his destination, deep in the heart of Ukraine, having spent most the running time searching for the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II. Emily and I saw the film back in 2005 (being perhaps the only people in the country to do so, given the box office ratings) and one thing that struck us about it was Elijah Wood, who had spent much of the last decade playing a Hobbit. We’d already seen him earlier that year in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (a film we often joke about not having seen, which you’ll understand if you know the plot) and now, it seemed, he’d finally shrugged off the last vestiges of potential typecasting, free to be his own man again. He sits in the cottage, eyes glistening a little as Augustina’s sister muses on the nature of journeys and the significance of the heirloom he carries. “The ring is not here because of you,” she says eventually. “You are here because of the ring.”

everything-is-illuminated

Oh, and it was all going so well.

By the time we finished at the National Gallery everyone was about ready to come home. We’d spent the morning at the Science Museum, which houses more than you can reasonably examine in a single day, so we concentrated on the home life exhibition in the basement (Betamax! Pong! SPEAK AND SPELL!) before trooping up to the aviation centre. It was humbling, somehow, being surrounded by all those ancient engines and prototypes, strolling across the shoulders of giants. Amelia Johnson was in residence; she’s looking pretty sprightly for a woman of 112.

The second floor houses technology (antique mobiles! An original copy of Windows! A DRAGON 32!). There was an exhibit about the history of TV. Daniel was watching the coronation. So naturally I did this.

London_2016 (10)

I asked Daniel for his favourite part of the trip, which turned out to be a tie between the youth hostel we visited and the Tower of London, which we’d skirted the day before. It sits on the north bank of the Thames, not far from Fenchurch Street, brown and somehow unassuming. It’s not even much of a tower, really, at least not in the sense that Barad Dur is a tower, or Orthanc is a tower, or Stark Tower is – well, you get the idea. It’s more a fortress, which I suppose is the point.

“So why did you swear?” said Josh, as we strolled around the square outside.

“I didn’t swear,” I said. “That’s its name. The Tower of London, or the Bloody Tower.”
“So we can say ‘bloody’ without it being swearing?”
“Yes, but don’t make a habit of it.”

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If you read this blog regularly you’ll know I have a habit of tying up entrances and exits, and you’ll also remember that the Tower is now the new UNIT HQ, as visited by Amy and the Doctor in ‘The Power of Three’, (it was actually filmed at Caerphilly, but it still counts). It’s also host to one of my favourite scenes in ‘Day of the Doctor’, in which Jemma Redgrave is seen relaxing on a bench, gazing at Tower Bridge. “The ravens are looking a bit sluggish,” she says. “Tell Malcolm they need new batteries.”

I was thinking about this as we wandered around, slightly frustrated that I seem to be the only one who remembered it. It’s an excuse to watch DOTD again, I suppose, not that I need one. It remains a high point, infused as it is with an invigorating sense of wonder, understated (but carefully crafted) narrative and the best use of eyebrows in the history of the show. It was an episode that made me appreciate Doctor Who all the more, at the end of a year of borderline overkill (let’s not discuss the after-show party, please) and given my current sense of weariness about the whole thing, it’s one I often go back to. Perhaps that’s what it’s all about: surrounded by people who watch the show but don’t necessarily understand it, who just want to take photos and run…perhaps I’m a residential bird, tired and sluggish and in need of new batteries.

“Ooh, look!” cheered Emily, as we passed by one of the best views of the Tower, with a bunch of visitors all snapping away with selfie sticks. “It’s the London ravens, boys!”
“What on earth are you doing?” I said.”Those are pigeons.”
“I know,” she replied. “I’m just trying to confuse the tourists.”

 

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