Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Oooh! Snow!

I wasn't expecting that, for some reason. But this morning there seems to be whiteness everywhere and it looks quite, quite lovely.

Out the back, obviously.

Out the front it looks like shit because people have been walking and driving in it, but out the back it looks quite idyllic.

[Goes into a reverie...]

Monday, January 22, 2007

Of all the things to mis-spell...

The flatmate is often to be found engaged in building a website at the moment. He's now qualified as a Neuro-Linguistic Programmer and therefore needs a site to launch his wares upon the local populace.

I went and cast an eye over it last night to say what I thought the likelihood would be of positioning things the way he wants.

"Very nice," I said. "Just one thing, though."

"What?"

"You've spelled dyslexia wrong."

I should get a job as a proof-reader I really should.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Creeping Unease

So, according to the BBC there seem to be proposals to split the Home Office into two separate departments, one for Security and one for Justice.

Now I don't want to sound alarmist (although I do it so well) but does anybody else feel as uncomfortable as I do with the idea of a Minister for Justice?

It's getting a tad Orwellian isn't it? Or is it Kafka-esque? (Or am I being really nerdy and thinking of Robert Holmes?)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Honey to the Bee?

I guess you've heard that there's been a - so far extremely successful - campaign to get Dame Billie Piper back in the singles chart following the ruling that any downloaded song is eligible for the singles chart. (Stupid in my view because it's regardless of whether it was actually a single. If you do that it's not a singles chart any more is it? Eh? Eh? Gah!)

Now, despite being an avowed Who-er I must confess I'm not a big fan of her musical endeavours. A lovely young gentleman of my acquaintance - to whom I am regularly more than a little indebted and payback is probably long overdue - very kindly purloined me a copy of her "best of" album a while back and I listened to it with the same mounting incredulity that I look back at Steps' productions with.

There's a couple of good-uns, I'll grant you, but on the whole I was a bit "Lord, did we used to accept this as standard?" and my final verdict was the comment that "acting's loss was music's gain".

(I am only joking about the "acting's loss" bit, mind. I love her dearly and think she's very a good actress indeed.)

But still, I hope she is amused by the effort Mister Chris Moyles is putting into the campaign, and enjoys the added royalties. And of course there is always something quite enjoyable about people-power being exercised over the faceless and joyless regulators of the music industry, I think.

I, however, will be putting my weight behind the - far less likely to succeed - Love Don't Roam campaign instead.

Well, I've always had a soft spot for the lost cause.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Survey Questions

Just taken part in one of those online survey things for YouGov.

There was a slightly odd question in it, I must say.

Or rather the question wasn't odd, but one of the possible answers was.

The question was "Have you taken out a mortgage in the last two months?"

Options available: "Yes" "No", "Don't remember".

It worries me that there may be people out there who genuinely don't remember taking on that kind of commitment.

For Bonzer Car Insurance Deals...

Well, my life gets ever more bizarre.

The flatmate and I have aquired a large amount of Sheila's Wheels promotional materials. Pink pens, balloons, bubble bath, A4 pads and notebooks.

That's what happens when you go and see Kylie you see. You meet someone who works for them and a few days later all this stuff arrives.

Chris for one is particularly thrilled. He keeps singing their tune.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Big Push for Fitness

January. A month which is so far being known more for its greyness, its mildness and yet - somehow - its howling gales than any January I can remember (which to be fair isn't many, but hey).

One thing is fairly standard though. The gym is currently packed with hordes of guilt-ridden former-salad-dodgers determinedly trying to slough off the catastrophes wreaked on their bodies by the festive season. Each one of them sweats away as a perfect picture of panic, driven to Nazi-esque exercise plans either by disapproving partners or the occasional good intention.

All of which means that my Fitness First is currently packed to the rafters, any available lockers are close to being sold on the black market for ridiculous sums of money, and the water-fountain is suffering as the increased amount of peak-time showering drops the pressure to a mere trickle.

So frankly I can't wait for February. By then the initial enthusiasm for their new regime will have waned and they'll have given up attending, reduced to vainly paying their gym membership until the contractual six-month period is over and they can cancel the direct debit.

It's the same story every year. You humans are so predictable.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yvonne De Carlo

Yvonne De Carlo - whose most famous character was monster matriarch Lily Munster - has died, aged 84 [story here].

Now, you could argue that the Munsters was shite - a poor man's Addams Family perhaps - but personally I would have rather the former series any day. The fact that the Munsters were actual monsters was - shamefully - enough to have me tuning in to the extensive repeat seasons as a child (I always felt the TV series of the Addams Family to be somewhat dull, to be honest).

But whether or not it really was any good the series was in any case a large part of my childhood.

So farewell Yvonne, and fangs for the memories.

A Pleasant Week

Gosh it's been a while hasn't it? Sorry about that - been a bit rushed since I got back to work, but hey. Hope you're all well!

Had quite a nice week off last week, thanks for asking. Didn't do much with it, really, just gave myself time and room to think, to think about my life directions and to chill out, and it all culminated with a weekend down in Kent with the folks to do the belated Christmas thing there.

It was all very nice, too. Various moments during the course of the week left me feeling that all things considered life at the moment really isn't too bad. Some highlights:

  • Accidentally stumbling across (and buying) the perfect 3/4 length black woollen coat in Canterbury.
  • The delighted reaction of my half-brother to the mamoth collection of Doctor Who figurines I'd bought him (he'd asked for two - he got a fair few more).
  • Spending a lovely evening with my not-brother Paul (we share a surname but no relations) and his wife Ellie in a wonderful rural pub in Wye.
  • The immediate delight of the Morris family cat, Teddy, on my arrival. I sat down, he ran into the room and leapt straight at my lap.(Apparently I am one of the few people who can turn him to a purring puddle of jelly in seconds flat and this just goes to show I should definitely be pursuing the massage therapy option as a career.)
  • Advising my dad regarding domain names, email addresses, broadband suppliers and so on and upgrades to his PC. Actually doing IT support that will make a difference to someone and make them happy is something I've not been used to of late.
  • Having a lengthy chat with (or rather at) Andy Lane, writer of one of the Torchwood novels, at the Fitzroy Tavern which touched on focussing on writing and so on. (Incidentally "Slow Decay" is very good.)
  • Getting formal notification from Sun Life of Canada as to the value of my endowment policy when it matures in a couple of weeks. (Finally! A wodge of cash! Upgrades to PC iminent!)
Obviously now I have returned to work, but you can't have it all can you?

And I did go and see Kylie on Monday which is still making me smile so I think I'm still ahead.

Actually I'm feeling oddly positive at the moment.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sarah Jane Adventures : Invasion of the Bane

So the televisual highlight of NYE for me was the first episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures "Invasion of the Bane". Yes, its aimed at kids but I watched it anyway and somehow it managed a sense of depth, emotion, character and drama that Torchwood has all too frequently seemed to lack.

Gareth Roberts was apparently a little nervous about being commissioned to write a series for CBBC but Russell T. Davies apparently told him to write it just like any other drama, and don't talk down to the audience.

Clearly the advice was taken on board. The first five minutes were surprisingly bleak I thought, but it soon rattled along and gave a deeply entertaining hour of alien invasion telly.

It did suffer a bit from "first-episode-itis" with the explanations for K9's non-involvement in the show, the reveal of Mister Smith, and so on, but on the whole it was an assured special. The kids weren't annoying (well apart from the one who was supposed to be so that's alright ("all noise and ignorance").

Liz Sladen was as good as ever - the opening and closing monologue aside - and managed to be touching even when talking about a robot dog. But of course the absolute show-stealer was Samantha Bond as Miss Wormwood. I don't think I've seen a villain played with such relish before in my life - she was brilliant and clearly having a great time.

Plus of course the hottness factor was quite high. Jamie Davies (late of Hex and Footballer's Wives) has long brought a twinkle to my eye, and so it was nice to see him pop up here as one of the villains. Similarly Maria's dad, Alan, was just gorgeous - Joseph Millson is clearly one to scour the career of looking for topless shots. Definite DILF material. (And in the case of Alan there has been a fair bit of speculation on Outpost Gallifrey as to why he and Maria's mum split up. )

So yes, all quite silly fun for a New Years' day, but satisfyingly so. Should make quite a good series that one. Whether I shall watch them all is another matter since I am well aware that I am way out of its target audience, but I've always maintained that children often get served better by their books and drama than adults, and I think that may well be the case here.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

News Just In...

A memo has just been received from the Ministry of No Surprises:

H from Steps is a gay.

Let's just take a moment to try and align this information with our knowledge of his past antics, chosen career and general behaviour shall we?

Right. All done.

Honestly, this is marginally less surprising than Neil Tennant's coming out a few years ago. Sometimes I'm surprised they feel the need to make it official.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Torchwood : Finale

I haven't blogged much about Torchwood over the last few weeks since life's really felt far to short to bother, but the finale of the first Doctor Who spin-off series I think deserves a moment's consideration. Why? Well, on the whole it probably best represents the better aspects of the series whilst still suffering from some of the worst.

It's also quite an interesting one since it was really a two-parter that comprised of two different stories, but with events in one causing events in the other.

So, in Captain Jack Harkness we had Tosh and Jack investigating noises at an old dance hall and being whisked back to 1941 where they meet a handsome closetted US soldier called Captain Jack Harkness.

Tosh and Jack then try to get messages back to the present, aided and abetted by the mysterious Billis Manger who seems to exist un-aged in both 1941 and 2006. His ulterior motive for this becomes clear in the second episode, but for the most part it's a simple enough character piece with an against-the-clock mystery to solve.

I have made my preference for the simpler character-based tales clear before, my favourite episodes of the series having been Ghost Machine, Small Worlds and Random Shoes so I must say I thought this episode was rather fine.

The only bone (arf!) of contention for me was the dance and final snog between the two Captain Jacks. It felt - like has so often been the case in the series - where the writers put forward an admirable enough sentiment (that it's fine to be a poove) regardless of its actual sense in storytelling terms.

The flatmate and I both felt that arrest and a brutal shit-kicking would have been the reaction to such an act, but sometimes history will prove you wrong, so all told I think it was probably one of the stronger episodes Torchwood has ever had.

And then of course we got End of Days to follow on as Billis Manger tried ever further to get the hellmou... sorry, rift opened, manipulating the team through images of - and in the case of Gwen - murder of their loved ones. Quite a powerful little episode as the team fractures, old hurts rise to the surface and - quite literally - all hell breaks loose.

It was quite fun, too. Right up until about the end I was enjoying it enormously. The first point at which I didn't was when the monster turned up. It was, to be fair, shockingly poor. And possibly even myopic given the way it seemed to be blearily and myopically staring at the ground the whole time. (Personally it's one of the first moments when it was clear that Torchwood doesn't have the same budget as Doctor Who - and after twenty-odd years of being a fan I still can't believe I have actually had cause to say that.)

The other was the unseen arrival of the TARDIS and the whisking off of Jack to be with his "right kind of Doctor". It just somehow smacked of tying Who and Torchwood together too much again. The production team really need to have the balls to have the two series operate in the same universe, but as separate entities.

Still, all told it was a reasonably good finale, and whilst it hasn't been an entirely triumphant or consistent series in my eyes, if Robin Hood deserves a second one then so does Torchwood.

I think all told they need to decide what series they want it to be, really. And the characters definitely need to become more sympathetic to the audience. But after the events of End of Days I suspect that may well happen.

Doctor Who : The Runaway Bride

Well, it's been quite a Who-heavy festive season hasn't it? A Confidential on Christmas Day (possibly could have been shorter), a new Christmas Special, then The Sarah Jane Adventures and the Torchwood finale on New Year's day.

So... Let's start with the Christmas day highlight, shall we?

On first viewing I must say I wasn't quite as impressed as I had been with last year's The Christmas Invasion. There I felt that the slow buildup to a stunning climax and debut for the new Doctor was perfectly served by the extra 15 minutes of screen time and that said increase allowed Russell T. Davies to actually fill out the plot enough for it to make complete sense for a change.

With The Runaway Bride I felt it peaked way to early in the first 15 minutes with the TARDIS chase scene (which was brilliant) and then left too much unexplained.

On second viewing I've realised that actually no, whilst it does still seem to peak early, actually it is quite well plotted. A lot of what seemed like lines thrown away (a little drowned in some of the mayhem) actually tighten it all up so it does all work.

Catherine Tate was something of a revelation too, I must say. I loathe her TV series, and some of her more irritating mannerisms from some of her characters were still in evidence, but drawn into one character they really seemed to work. Donna's development was quite touching - and indeed quite upsetting given the character assassination she received from her intended (not without some justification, but still a little heartlessly done). I got to really rather like her quite quickly and hope she does meet the Doctor again some day.

The Empress of the Racnoss was also impressively done. Sarah Parish did - as promised - put in a scenery-chewing performance, (mannerisms a little reminiscent of Sil from the Classic Series) and she was also quite funny too. Her malicious playfulness was really rather delightful.

And of course the episode was funny too. Davies seems to excel when having the lighter episodes to write. He sparkles, in fact. And how would a child think to deal with a load of alien spiders? Wash 'em back down the plughole. Perfect. (Adult thought to self - do spiders actually drown? I suppose they must do eventually but I'm sure I've had a few that kept coming back up. Shudder.)

Donna's complete inability to notice previous alien invasions ("I was in Spain." "They had Cybermen in Spain." "Scuba Diving?") was a nice touch as well since I swear there are people who are like that. Plus the Segway sequence was a stroke of sheer silliness that still served a useful purpose in the script.

Still, of course, Davies manages to undercut comedy with emotion and the references to Rose were deftly handled by David T who's portrayal of the Doctor seemed a bit darker and much less manic and gurney than previously. He increasingly seems perfect for the role, doesn't he?

Minor niggles? Well... the final "Children, my Children..." bit went on a bit. It was of course to show the Doctor watching on as he destroyed someone, going for the darker side again and emphasising that he needs someone to stop him, but still a few different lines would have helped rather than the repetition, I feel.

And the draining of the Thames baffles me logistically. Assuming they were on the inside of the barrier and it was up (and locks further up the Thames were shut too), I can see it. But I couldn't really tell from the FX shot which side we were, and if it was the outside then frankly its one of those suspensions of disbelief that even I can't make.

Still, what the hell... it was Christmas after all. Good clean fun was had by all.

So... who is this Mister Saxon then? Harriet Jones' replacement? Two mentions in Who and then one in Torchwood last night. Oooooh...

Monday, January 01, 2007

2007 and all that.

So here we are. Another year. And do we feel any different? Do we buggery.

Frankly it's felt just like another Sunday. Ho hum.

My NYE was pleasant, thanks for asking. Normally I find them either boring or deeply hellish, but last night was pleasant. Not this time was I doing nothing, and neither was I packed into a standing-room-only club or house-party with people I could barely hear let alone stand.

Instead I was invited to a private party at Wyvils which proved most enjoyable. Chatted to a few fascinating people, enjoyed the viewing of several others (no, not like that... I mean it was fascinating watching some people's interactions - the writer in me instantly was on the prowl for ideas), danced and sang raucously to a few songs and then headed home whilst trying to keep the flatmate in one piece until we got there (he was a little blotto bless him).

Oh, and one of the bar staff - Tess, bless her - thought I was someone off of the telly. (Yes, okay, that made my night.)

So what have I planned for 2007? Not much really.

I have made only one resolution this year: to not make any resolutions. Now, since this resolution has already been broken by having been made I take the view I can now just get on with things and try not to worry so much this year.

What else? Oh yes... I hit 30 in April. I'm quite looking forward to that. I think 30 and I will suit each other rather well - certainly much of my 20s has been a bit "what the fuck was I doing there?" so it's got to be an improvement.

Aside from that. No real plans.

What about you? Tell me about you for a change.

Oh, and Happy New Year!