Friday, 30 September 2011

A Space Odyssey

To borrow from the title of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film.

The twenty-first century began with the year that George W. Bush became the US President, the UK foot and mouth crisis struck, the first space tourist was launched and the attacks on New York's World Trade Center took place.

In 2001, I took my A-Levels and started University, whilst there I performed in a production of Three Sisters.

These are a few of my favourite things from 2001:

Ghost World
Not so much a place, as a state of mind. Two girls who are living proof that being cool is for losers. Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi are fantastic in this adaptation of Daniel Clowes comic. Here's the trailer.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
JRR Tolkien's 'unfilmable' novel comes to the big screen and it's an absolute triumph. Every detail feels right and the casting is excellent across the board: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean. I was working in a cinema when this film was released and it was depressing how many audience members walked out at the end completely unaware that this was only part one of a larger story. Here's the trailer.

The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion
Woody Allen returns to the screwball comedies of his earlier career and leads a great cast with some great gags, but combines it with stunning period style in this beautifully shot noir (in glorious colour). Here's the trailer.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Disney goes all Jules Verne on two mighty quests: the first to discover lost Atlantis and the second to revitalise its traditional cel animation department. The animation is great and the stark straight lines of pre-World War I technology are a refreshing sight. The story is more adult than you would expect, the evil is capitalism and reassuringly there are no songs. Here's the trailer.

Planet Of The Apes
Another film that is not as bad as its reputation. Tim Roth and Paul Giamatti give great ape in this 'reimagining', Danny Elfman's music is amazing and the ending is a great callback to the original novel by Pierre Bouille. Here's the trailer.

The Royal Tenenbaums
Wes Anderson’s family comedy-drama is fastidiously constructed and as weighty as it is whimsical. The cast are all wonderful, the soundtrack is astonishing and the humour laced with irony. Here's the trailer.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's quirky, colourful and whimsical tale has a sardonic seam of humour running through it. The French title, Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain, translates as The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain which seems so fitting it's odd it was dropped for other languages. Here'a the trailer.

Spaced: Back; Change; Mettle; Help; Gone; Dissolution; Leaves
Daisy is Back from her travels in Asia and the finest sitcom of the twenty-first century returns. Change and not the small kind as Tim and Daisy both need to look for work (and Jeillo Edwards says "Phantom Menace" like no other). Daisy, Brian and Tim & Mike all have their Mettle tested in a One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest-esque restaurant, an art installation and Robot Wars respectively (Reece Shearsmith’s practically phonetic delivery of "Oh da ah hadden fort ah dat" is a particular highlight). Tyres returns in Dark Star Comics heist episode Help. Camden bar crawl (and mime gunfight) episode Gone is fantastic and Peter Serafinowicz is wonderful. Things fall apart impressively in Dissolution. The last episode is wonderful and yet it Leaves the audience begging for more. The more I write about it the less I do it justice. The scripts are replete with geeky references, but also full of heart. Edgar Wright’s shooting and editing style and fantastic performances from Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Mark Heap, Nick Frost and Julia Deakin come together to make a TV show that is more than a TV show, it's practically a way of life. They’ve done something bloody spectacular.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Triangle; Checkpoint; Blood Ties; Crush; I Was Made To Love You; The Body; Forever; Intervention; Tough Love; Spiral; The Weight Of The World; The Gift; Bargaining; After Life; Flooded; Life Serial; All The Way; Once More, With Feeling; Tabula Rasa; Smashed; Wrecked
Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan and Emma Caulfield are wonderful as the now-Rileyless Scooby Gang finds themselves subject to a love Triangle or two. The Watcher's Council arrive in Checkpoint and their interviews of the Scoobies are a great device and seeing Buffy get her way is wonderful. Dawn discovers her origins in Blood Ties and Michelle Trachtenberg does ample justice to this adoption parable and Clare Kramer's reaction to Glory's teleportation is priceless. Crush examines Spike's relationships with the women in his life and finds them all wanting. Relationship issues remain under the microscope in I Was Made To Love You, Shonda Farr is wonderful as ‘perfect girlfriend’ April, Buffy deciding she is better off boyfriendless and seeing Joyce feeling well enough to date makes the ending all the more poignant. The Body is quite simply one of the best episodes of television. Ever. The entire cast are fantastic, the lack of music and choice of shots really add to the isolation of grief and the dialogue is beautiful throughout. Dawn's attempt at resurrection in Forever owes a lot to The Monkey's Paw and features great performances from Joel Grey and Amber Benson. In Intervention, it's Sarah Michelle Gellar's turn to pull double duty and her turn as the Buffybot is pitched perfectly and the last scene is wonderful. Tough Love is an other chance for Hannigan and Benson to shine and begins the mad dash to the season finale. After years of being an unused option, run and hide is finally the order of the day in Spiral and the resulting car chase action sequences are great. With The Weight Of The World on her shoulders Buffy falls into a catatonic state and it's great to see Willow take charge in her absence. The epic season finale (and hundredth episode no less) arrives and The Gift is another great ensemble show with everyone at their best, but Gellar is fantastic as Buffy chooses between death or Glory. The last shot features the best epitaph ever.
Buffy comes back from the dead in Season Six opener Bargaining and Brendon, Hannigan and Gellar each put in another fantastic performance as the show takes yet another turn for the darker. After Life is another great ensemble piece that concerns the consequences of Buffy's resurrection and the reveal of where she thought she was in the meantime is heartbreaking. Buffy has always been about using monsters as analogies for real life problems, in Flooded the real life problems are big enough already and Gellar is great as put upon Buffy. The episode also introduces the Trio, who return in Life Serial to test Buffy in different ways, all good but it's Jonathan's time loop that is the most entertaining. The by now bi-annual Halloween episode All The Way isn't as much fun as its forebears, but it ably sets up the themes for the rest of the season. I’m no expert on musicals, but Once More, With Feeling is easily the most engaging I’ve seen. The songs are all great and retain Whedon's knack for dialogue in the lyrics and Caulfield, Benson, James Marsters, Anthony Stewart Head and Hinton Battle are all wonderful. The amnesia episode is an other TV staple and Buffy's offering, Tabula Rasa, is an other great ensemble piece with some very funny scenes of the Scoobies without their memories and then a very sad montage after they remember. After Giles leaves and Tara breaks up with Willow, the various relationships on the show all take a hit of some sort in Smashed, Elizabeth Anne Allen returns as a de-ratted Amy and Willow paint the town red and Buffy and Spike shag a house down. Willow's magic addiction and Buffy's denial reach their lowest ebb in Wrecked. The tone of the season so far is more adult and it looks like things will definitely get worse before they get better.

Angel: Redefinition; Blood Money; Happy Anniversary; The Thin Dead Line; Reprise; Epiphany; Disharmony; Dead End; Belonging; Over The Rainbow; Through The Looking Glass; There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb; Heartthrob; That Vision Thing; That Old Gang Of Mine; Carpe Noctem; Fredless; Billy; Offspring; Quickening; Lullaby; Dad
With both Angel Investigations and Wolfram & Hart in crisis, Redefinition moves the goalposts again and Angel turns mute and broody. Julia Lee and Sam Anderson in Blood Money and it’s great to see Lindsay and Lilah running back and forth, back and forth. Happy Anniversary brings The Host centre stage and really starts you thinking Andy Hallett should be a regular. The events of The Thin Dead Line bring the Angel-less Angel Investigations closer together than ever before and a chilling last scene between Cordy and her ex-boss. Angel finally hits rock bottom in Reprise and Sam Anderson puts in another wonderful appearance. After a great opening sequence wrong footing long-term Buffy fans, Epiphany is a definite turning point as rock bottom hits back and Angel swallows his pride and gets the gang back together. It takes comedy episode Disharmony to cement the new dynamic, with great scenes of misunderstanding between Cordelia and Harmony and then again when Cordy phones Willow, and the Vampire pyramid scheme stuff is really well handled. The aptly-named-in-more-ways-than-one Dead End is a great send off for Christian Kane and really marks the end of an era. The rest of season two takes a very different turn as Los Angeles receives unexpected guests from Pylea, The Host's home dimension in Belonging and it's great to see him (now-named Lorne) fitting in so well as a part of Team Angel and absolutely certain he's never going home again. Until he's forced to, with Cordelia Over The Rainbow and the rest of the gang attempting to mount a rescue, Charisma Carpenter is hilarious on her journey from ‘Cowslave’ to 'cursed one' to ruling monarch. The Pylean quartet continues with Through The Looking Glass which features great performances from Amy Acker and Mark Lutz, but the highlight is easily the dances of Lorne's brother Numfar. There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb rounds off both the season and the jaunt to Pylea with another ensemble episode that gives every one enough to do and back in LA ends with a surprise Sunnydale visitor.
Angel returns for a third season with Heartthrob, an episode about love and grief, but the A story takes a back seat to the cameos: Fred is now part of the team, but is only coaxed out of her room long enough to be sent back during a fight, Vampire hunter Holtz who we've heard mention of before and pregnant Darla. Carpenter is wonderful in That Vision Thing, but David Denman's deadpan Skip steals the show. That Old Gang Of Mine concerns the shades of grey that the show inhabits and Steve Niel's Huge & Horrible demon couldn't look more helpless if it tried. Carpe Noctem is a great twist on a bodyswapping story, throws up some very funny scenes and really gives Boreanaz something to enjoy. The aptly-named Fredless sees Fred attempting to avoid her parents, the scenes of Angel Investigations being suspicious of the Burkles and vice versa are great, and Trish's "Did I get it?" is adorable. The misogyny-is-bad message of Billy may not be subtle, but Cordy's reaction to it is great. Darla returns to LA in Offspring and sets up the rest of the season (and arguably rest of the series as well) with great scenes of Wes and Gunn's scroll heist, Fred's politeness to Darla and Sahjhan's lighting a cigarette. Everyone is after Darla's baby in Quickening, but it's Sahjhan and Cyril that are the highlights. Lullaby is a great last hurrah for Julie Benz. The highlights of Dad are Angel's confrontation with Linwood, the hospital scene and Lorne moving into the hotel.

Star Trek: Voyager: Shattered; Prophecy; The Void; Workforce; Human Error; Q2; Author, Author; Natural Law; Homestead; Renaissance Man; Endgame
The seventh and final season continues as the USS Voyager is Shattered into several different time periods and Chakotay travels between them revisiting several episodes from previous seasons in a story like that feels like a 'greatest hits' compilation. Prophecy is a packed episode, which sees the return of some old school Klingons travelling for generations unaware of the truce with the Federation akin to the Japanese holdouts after World War II, the belief that B’Elanna's unborn baby is a messiah, the cynical and political use to which that concept is put, as well as a disease which all the Klingons expect eventually to succumb to and Neelix's enthusiastic efforts in his relations with the Klingons. It sounds like it should be too much for one episode, but it works wonderfully. Voyager is trapped in The Void, where ships compete for resources and piracy is rife, Janeway forms an alliance of vessels to cooperate in an escape attempt in a nice little episode. The two-parter Workforce is wonderfully sinister. A Q episode always gives Star Trek a shot in the arm and Q2 is no exception, John and Keegan de Lancie are fantastic as father and son team, Q and Q. Author, Author begins as a comedy as the Doctor writes a thinly veiled roman à clef holoprogram about the crew of the 'USS Vortex' and takes a crueller twist in the revisions by Paris, before turning into a treatise on the ethical concerns and questions of holographic rights and authorship. Robert Picardo is hilarious in comedy and compelling in tragedy in equal measure and the last scene is very funny. Natural Law is a nice Prime Directive sidestepping episode about the cultural contamination of a primitive society and the decision to prevent their potential exploitation at the hands of their more advanced neighbours. Ethan Phillips' performance lifts Homestead above expectations and Neelix's farewell scene brings a lump to the throat. Almost everybody gets a turn at playing the Doctor in Renaissance Man, as he is forced to impersonate several members of Voyager's senior staff, this episode is a nice slice of comedy hi-jinx and the Doctor's confessions as he fears the end is near are very funny. Series finale Endgame borrows story elements from the admittedly excellent episodes Timeless, Dark Frontier and All Good Things…, but also manages to be more than the sum of these parts. The highlights include the scenes set in the alternate future after Voyager's return via the long route, Dwight Schultz as the elder Barclay, the Doctor’s chosen name, Vaughn Armstrong makes a perfect Klingon, Torres and Paris' differing reactions to her false labour, the USS Voyager's explosive entrance to the Alpha Quadrant and Kate Mulgrew is great as both Janeways. Having its cake and eating it too was the best possible ending for Star Trek: Voyager.

Enterprise: Broken Bow; The Andorian Incident; Cold Front
Two hundred and twenty seven years before Voyager's triumpant return home, Broken Bow, the pilot episode of Star Trek's prequel series goes more boldly than most and features great performances from Scott Bakula, John Billingsley, Jolene Blalock, Connor Trinneer and John Fleck. The Suliban are fantastic villains and their temporal cold war is a brilliant concept. The Andorian Incident introduces Jeffrey Combs as Shran and in one of the bravest innovations of this series this episode gives us the first indication that after thirty five years of television Vulcans might not be as benign as we were lead to believe. Cold Front heats up the temporal cold war and gives the series Matt Winston's Daniels at his enigmatic best.

Futurama: Parasites Lost; Amazon Women In The Mood; Bendless Love; The Day The Earth Stood Stupid; That's Lobstertainment!; The Birdbot Of Ice-Catraz; The Luck Of The Fryrish; The Cyber House Rules; Insane In The Mainframe; Bendin' In The Wind; Time Keeps On Slippin'; I Dated A Robot; Roswell That Ends Well; A Tale Of Two Santas
The Planet Express crew take a Fantastic Voyage-esque trip into the bowels of Fry's bowels in Parasites Lost, an episode which makes the relationship between Fry and Leela more complex and manages to be very funny indeed. Most SF series have done the female-dominated society story at some point, but few deal with clichés as well as Amazon Women In The Mood, plus Zapp Brannigan singing 'Leela' to the tune of 'Lola' by The Kinks is worth the price of entry alone. Bendless Love examines a love triangle of the most tangled variety. The Day The Earth Stood Stupid is phenomenal: the Hypnotoad is fantastic, the Nibblonians are wonderful and Fry's defeat of the Brainspawn is very satisfying. Zoidberg's comedy yearnings lead to That's Lobstertainment! and the making of The Magnificent Three, but it's Bender's brief tenures as Boiler and as the movie's Executive Producer that provide the highlights. The Birdbot Of Ice-Catraz is another example of an environmental episode of the sort that Futurama excels at. Told largely in flashback, The Luck Of The Fryrish, is a beautiful episode about loss with comedy graverobbing. Adoption is "a great way to have a kid without having sex" and Bender takes full advantage leading to a hilarious tale of child neglect in The Cyber House Rules. A spell in a robot asylum Insane In The Mainframe is a horrific, degrading and dehumanising experience for Fry which owes more than a little to One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and features some real time ageing. Beck is great in Bendin' In The Wind and Cylon & Garfunkel are hilarious. Time keeps on slipping in Time Keeps On Slippin' and the jumps in time through the wonderfully pointless game between the Harlem Globetrotters and Earth's atomic monsters and pop starlet Wendy's career are hilarious, but the ending is heartbreaking. I Dated A Robot features another great episode of The Scary Door and the eponymously-titled public information film within is fantastic. Roswell That Ends Well is a lot of fun as the Planet Express crew accidentally travel back through time to 1947 and crash in Roswell. It’s great to see Zoidberg flirting with President Truman, his subsequent autopsy (Zoidberg's, not Truman's) and Fry messing around with own genepool. A Tale Of Two Santas is another great Xmas episode with another great song and a cameo from Jesus.

Farscape: Liars, Guns & Money; Die Me Dichotomy & Season Of Death; Self-Inflicted Wounds; Incubator; Scratch ‘N Sniff; Infinite Possibilities; Revenging Angel
The show gets darker, more adult and more playful. The three-parter Liars, Guns & Money brings back loads of first season guest stars and sets them all against Scorpius, while the second season finale and its follow up show that you can't really keep him down and that everything has a price. Self-Inflicted Wounds sets up a sense of loss which cuts deeper than expected. Dividing Moya's crew in two and alternating episodes between them gives a greater variety in story. Incubator explores Scorpius’ back story and some how keeps him enigmatic, Scratch ‘N Sniff is an editing masterpiece akin to a Fear And Loathing On Lomo and the two part Infinite Possibilities brings the two Crichtons storyline to a surprisingly downbeat close. Back on Moya, Revenging Angel sees Crichton dreaming in the style of a Looney Tunes cartoon.

The Armando Iannucci Shows
The funniest comedy show of the twenty-first century (go on world, you have 89 years to prove me wrong). Unfortunately for all concerned it was broadcast in the wake of 9/11 and mostly sank without trace. Highlights include Hugh talking about life in the good old days when the internet was in black and white, the village which employs a sniper, Walking With Nazis, the British theatre's fundraising attempts in Africa and swearing in cress.

Dr. Terrible's House Of Horrible: And Now The Fearing…, Frenzy Of Tongs, Curse Of The Blood Of The Lizard Of Doom, Scream Satan Scream!
Steve Coogan is fantastic in all seven of his roles across these six episodes. And Now The Fearing… is seventies style portmanteau horror of the Amicus breed, Frenzy Of Tongs is Doctor Who's The Talons Of Weng-Chiang with extra Fu Manchu and crustaceans instead of rats, Graham Crowden and Simon Pegg are great in Curse Of The Blood Of The Lizard Of Doom, and Scream Satan Scream! is more Wenchfinder than Witchfinder General.

A Small Summer Party
This prequel to Marion & Geoff is essentially a dramatisation of events described by Keith in that series of a party held in honour of the titular characters and their affair is uncovered and from the brilliant twist of its teaser to Keith’s bizarre parting gift made up entirely of footage filmed by attendees.

Brass Eye: 2001 Special
Chris Morris' brilliant 'Paedo-geddon' satire is less about making light of paedophilia and more about the abuse of the public's moral indignation in news broadcasts regarding paedophilia. Phrases like "depravitivity", "intergenerational sex" and "makes your child smell like hammers" abound. The special features great performances from Simon Pegg, Julia Davis, Doon MacKichan and Morris himself, while appearances by self-appointed paedophilia experts Gary Lineker, Sebastian Coe, Dr. Fox, Richard Blackwood, Philippa Forrester, Kate Thornton and Phil Collins reveal how little consideration these celebrities put into such bold claims. Any doubts about the validity of this special was surely dispelled by this damning coverage from the Daily Star.

When Louis Met The Hamiltons
Louis Theroux gets an incredible scoop as a bizarre sex scandal while he is interviewing Neil and Christine Hamilton, but the real beneficiaries are the Hamiltons themselves. Christine's flirty banter, Neil's awkward humour and Granny's voice of reason allow the viewer behind the façade, humanising the pair that were previously painted as mere caricatures. The documentary also provides an insight into the workings of the press.

Pulp: We Love Life
The seventh (and to date the final) Pulp album takes the band into ever more contemplative mood. Embracing nature and yet maintaining a reassuringly wry outlook on life. Lyrically as impressive as ever, but more melodic than its predecessors. 'Weeds II (The Origin Of The Species)' looks at the themes of 'Mis-Shapes' through a This Is Hardcore lens and arrives at "Do your dance, do your funny little dance". 'The Night That Minnie Timperly Died' is a fantastic single that never was.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Weeds', 'Weeds II (The Origin Of The Species)', 'The Night That Minnie Timperly Died', The Trees , 'Wickerman', 'I Love Life', 'The Birds In Your Garden', 'Bob Lind (The Only Way Is Down)', 'Bad Cover Version', 'Roadkill', 'Sunrise'

Gorillaz: Gorillaz
The animated hip-hop dance Latin punk dub reggae electronic acid rock fusion band’s eponymous first album is a great fusion of hip-hop dance Latin punk dub reggae electronic acid and rock.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Tomorrow Comes Today', 'New Genious (Brother)', 'Clint Eastwood', 'Double Bass', 'Rock The House', '19-2000', 'M1 A1', 'Clint Eastwood (Ed Case Remix)'

The Strokes: Is This It
The zeal and intensity of The Strokes' debut album is incredible. The simplicity of the production feels so fresh and as if recorded live. Staccato rhythms and guitar solos abound unashamedly but nothing seems out of place or self indulgent, while the lyrics tell tales of city lives and city loves they also have a sense of being out of place.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Is This It', 'The Modern Age', 'Soma', 'Barely Legal', 'Someday', 'Last Nite', 'Hard To Explain', 'New York City Cops', 'Trying Your Luck', 'Take It Or Leave It'

Eels: Souljacker
The band's fourth album is less autobiographical than its predecessors and turns its focus instead towards circus freaks and the dispossessed. Exhibiting E's usual lyrical gift and distinctive Eels sound while combining them with luscious string arrangements, the sounds of children's toys and elaborate piano.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Dog Faced Boy', 'That’s Not Really Funny', 'Fresh Feeling', 'Woman Driving, Man Sleeping', 'Souljacker, Part I', 'World Of Shit', 'Souljacker, Part II'

Thief Of Time by Terry Pratchett
Procrastination is said to be the Thief Of Time, but the creation on the Disc of the first truly accurate clock threatens to stop time itself. The Auditors Of Reality are a great concept and it's reassuring that they are as fallable as the rest of us. The novel is replete with allusions as varied as The Matrix, James Bond, Reservoir Dogs and the Book of Revelations. the pages are populated by wonderful characters old and new: The History Monks, the Auditors in Human form, Susan Sto Helit and the fifth Horseman of the Apoc(r)alypse (who left before they became famous) among them.

The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett
Beautifully illustrated throughout by Paul Kidby. On the face of it this seems like a blend of the modern Discworld stories with the more fantasy-based earlier in the run, but actually that does it a disservice. This is a story about rules, playing with the reader’s expectations of narrative structure and drawing attention to these conventions as conspicuously as possible with very funny results. Shorter than the usual Discworld fare and yet still crammed full of characters, Leonard of Quirm is beautifully handled and Harry Dread, a villain that never made it big is a great new addition.

The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
The first Discworld novel aimed at children certainly doesn’t condescend. Maurice, his educated rodents and a piper named Keith have a racket along the lines of The Pied Piper Of Hamelin, but with talking animals and added cynicism. The rat king is terrifying, Malicia's ideas of proper storytelling are great, the scene between Darktan and the Mayor is wonderful.

Carter Beats The Devil by Glen David Gold
The fictional biography of Charles Carter, stage magician and suspect in the murder of the 29th President of the United States is compelling, dark, intricate, witty and mischievous. In the 1920's at the height of his fame Carter meets Harry Houdini, Philo Farnsworth, the Marx Brothers and of course President Harding in a richly drawn depiction of the era. The overriding themes of Carter's life are those of escape and wonder. Using both those elements to great effect, Carter the Great's stage act does not disappoint even on the page and manages to live up to the lofty ambition of the title.

Fray: Big City Girl; The Calling; Ready, Steady…; Out Of The Past; The Worst Of It
Joss Whedon has done it again, but Buffy spinoff Fray is much more than just a Melaka the Vampire Slayer-style retread. His future slayer, Melaka Fray, is a worthy successor to Sunnydale’s heroine, but in a great exercise of world building, Melaka's world has no magic in it and she has no idea that she is the slayer. Just as one of Buffy's strongest assets was those cast around the slayer, Fray's dramatis personae is another superb array of characters: Urkonn, Gunther and Loo are all great. Whedon's script is fantastic an the lexicon is part-Buffy, part-Firefly and yet still fresh. The vibrancy of Karl Moline and Andy Owens artwork gives Fray a real identity. Fray is fantastic.

Doctor Who: Ophidious; Beautiful Freak; The Way Of All Flesh
The strip turns full colour in Ophidious and introduces Destrii and ends with a shocking twist on a bodyswap story. Izzy tries to come to terms with what has happened to her in Beautiful Freak, a fantastic two-hander character piece set entirely within the TARDIS. The Doctor and Izzy meet Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera on a visit to Mexico in 1941 on the day of the dead in The Way Of All Flesh and the parallels drawn between Destrii's current identity crisis and Kahlo's accident are very nice.

Doctor Who: Death Comes To Time 1
Sylvester McCoy returns as the Seventh Doctor once more in Dan Freedman's bold reinvention of Doctor Who. Death Comes To Time's first episode At The Temple Of The Fourth is epic, maybe self consciously so, but this sense of scale is great. McCoy, Stephen Fry, Kevin Eldon and Leonard Fenton are all wonderful and Lee Sullivan's accompanying illustrations look great. It's unbelievable that Radio 4 turned this down and very unfortunate that it isn't still available online.

The free online encyclopedia written by volunteers. People knock it because anyone can edit it, but that's precisely what makes it great. Millions of articles, in 282 languages, often updated within seconds of news events making it often the most up-to-date site available on any given subject.

Time And Relative Dimensions In Space by Mark Wallinger
I love how it echoes this scene from the 1979 Doctor Who story City Of Death.

Recommendations welcome.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Ten Days 'Til Thirty

In ten days I will be thirty years old.

Here are another ten daysworth from the Evening Standard list of '30 Things To Do Before You're 30'.

Day 16
Drop your last E


Evening Standard: "What seemed fun and "grown up" in your formative years will leave you tired - and possibly fired - in your thirties. Get it out your system while you can still cope with the hangover."

I'm sorted for E's and Wizz.

- - -

Day 17
Be a fashion victim

I have never been fashionable. Why start now?

ES: "What looks terrific when you're 21 will look tragic when you're 30. Indulge in flash-in-the-pan fashion trends while you still have the legs to do so."

- - -

Day 18
Heal a broken heart


ES: "Understand the importance of a fully functioning, sanity-restoring relationship. What you wanted from love in your early twenties - fun and floppy hair - is no longer going to cut the mustard."

I don't understand. Am I suppose to apoligise to those whose hearts I've broken? Or am I meant to heal my own?

- - -

Day 19
Get married


ES: "Jemima Khan was just 21 when she embarked on her "starter marriage" with Imran Khan, Lily Allen had hit 26 and Kate Middleton was 29 when she tied the knot. Start dropping hints now - but make sure you've got the £20,000 it normally costs to make it happen."

What the flipping heck is a "starter marriage"? What happened to 'til death us do part? If Jemima, Lily and Kate are still married by the time they are forty/fifty/sixty/seventy/eighty/ninety then they may have made the right decision. I also can't imagine ever having a spare £20,000, but nor can I imagine spending a spare £20,000 on one day.

- - -

Day 20
Take it to the extreme

That just sounds like a very empty slogan.

ES: "Once you've climbed Everest, run a double marathon or done that sky dive you'll know you can push your body to its limit and still talk about it afterwards."

One marathon was enough for me.

- - -

Day 21
Write a book


ES: "Your expertise and ideas might be slim but you will never be as marketable again. Flaubert, Kafka, Fitzgerald, Updike and Walcott all pushed out classics before 30, so writing a decent tome is actually possible too."

I have written a book. It has yet to see the light of day in a physical printed sense, but I'm hopeful.

- - -

Day 22
Know who your friends are

I hope I do.

ES: "Your 783 Facebook friends have already been winnowed to 638. As the job eats away at social time, loyalty and similar interests replace "seemed nice/fit in the smoking area" as the criteria for staying in touch."

Well I have nowhere near either 783 or 638 Facebook friends, but I would resist the need for putting my friends in criteria.

- - -

Day 23
Learn to cook

I'm improving.

ES: "Still can't bake bread and struggling with béchamel? Take a cookery course, like Pippa Middleton, because chances are you'll be entertaining from now on."

The Evening Standard seems obsessed by the Middletons. I can cook a bit, but I'm still better at defrosting.

- - -

Day 24
Learn a language

I'd love to improve my German.

ES: "Learning a foreign tongue when you're young is not only easier, it can also make you cleverer in other ways. Fewer than one in 10 British workers has managed it, though, so good luck."

Learning a language is certainly easier when you're young, but surely the definition of young in that context is more like under 10 than under 29. I squandered two very good chances at learning German and would lke to make up for that, but short of being parachuted into Germany and not meeting a single English speaker I doubt it'll happen.

- - -

Day 25
Make a million

A million what?

ES: "... or at least earn your age. Only the suited denizens of Canary Wharf and a few young Sugar-lings can hit the magic number so young, but hitting 30k by 30 has a nice ring to it."

Crikey. It would be great if I were earning £30,000 but not because I'm going to be thirty. It would be great if I were earning £30,000 because it would be great if I were earning £30,000. Should fortysomethings and fiftysomethings be expected to earn their age?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Fifteen Days 'Til Thirty

In fifteen days I will be thirty years old.

Here are another ten daysworth from the Evening Standard list of '30 Things To Do Before You're 30'.

Day 6
Leave home


Evening Standard: "With rental prices up 14.5 per cent over the past year, leaving the parental home isn't easy - but life begins when you fly the nest."

I moved out to attend university and almost never looked back.

- - -

Day 7
Look after the pennies

I still have the 'penny jar' that I raised my college fund in. I still religiously put any 1p, 2p and 5p pieces that come my way into it.

"You won't earn much interest but the sensible are saving for fantasies such as houses and retirement."

I don't think the college fund will quite cover that.

- - -

Day 8
Drop out


ES: "So what if you still can't touch your toes? You can't let that stop you ditching your desk and becoming a yoga teacher. Escape the rat race before it gets you hooked."

I think I could successfully argue that I've dropped out, but it could just as easily be argued that I've merely joined another rat race.

- - -

Day 9


ES: "Living alone is said to cost £3,500 more per year than sharing. But learning to live in harmony with boyfriends, girlfriends and friends takes practice. Test out potential partners now."

Sarah and would quite like that £3,500 in cash, please.

- - -

Day 10
Have a threesome or a moresome


ES: "While legend suggests you may reach your "prime" in your thirties, you won't have the time or the energy for such adventurous antics. Indulge in a little sexual experimentation now."

I don't think my girlfriend would be keen on this, and for the record if she is then I'm not.

- - -

Day 11
Own a designer handbag

Really? This is an important landmark of your twenties? Ridiculous.

ES: "Be it Miu Miu and crafted from calf-skin or a classic Mulberry Bayswater, the perfect bag, paid for with your own hard-earned cash, equals job satisfaction by the bucketload."

I have no idea what any of these names mean, but I can't imagine that a bag could possibly be worth what these sound like they cost. I suppose the cost can only be justified because the intricate work involved in the manufacture of such bags can only be achieved with the tiny fingers of the Indonesian children that make them. Appalling.

- - -

Day 12
Grow a pair

Last time I checked...

ES: "And learn to stand up for yourself. While your early twenties are all about "people pleasing", honing an ability to fight your own battles is essential. Learn how to say "no" and, more importantly, how to entertain the notion of being right."

Oh, I see. I still say yes too often.

- - -

Day 13
Always wear sunscreen

I always forget.

ES: "Baz Luhrmann was right: with skin cancer now the most common form among twentysomethings, playing it safe in the sun is essential. And you'll be thankful for that wrinkle-free skin when you turn 40."

If "skin cancer now the most common form among twentysomethings", then surely this should be on a list of things to do before you're twenty?

- - -

Day 14
Dump the debt

Weren't you just telling me to waste money on a handbag? And to buy a house?

ES: "Your days of student profligacy are long gone yet repayment letters are still coming as the interest on your debt increases. Whether it's the average £13,000 or £20,000, it's time to settle with the Student Loans Company."

I have debts and I plan on repaying them.

- - -

Day 15
Build up your black book

I try.

ES: "Information is power, and with it comes opportunity. In London, networking ability will always stand you in good stead."

This is something I could definitely improve on. There are many people out there that owe me a favour and I never seem to get round to collecting on that debt.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Worst Movies Ever

Alex J. Cavanaugh is hosting a blogfest of the Worst Movies Ever...

I'm sure there are other (and probably worse) offenders, but these are the five that sprang to mind:

1) The Island Of Dr. Moreau
The one hundred year anniversary of the HG Wells novel was sadly celebrated with this messy waste of one hundred minutes of your time.

2) Slacker
Pretentious and unwatchable twaddle.

3) Mr And Mrs Smith
This films veers from romance to action to comedy and back, but deals with each genre equally badly.

4) Hellboy
Ron Perlman is wonderful, but this movie is appalling, I've never read the comic so I've no idea if this is representative or not.

5) Psycho
Specifically the 1998 shot-for-shot colour remake. What's the point?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Carruthers Camera #19

Five more Carruthers blog photos:

Wood Green gave me four of the following photos. Firstly Safety Signage in the car park of a supermarket.

Caught Red Handed is a photo of a house on the same street and became an Estate Agent post.

Around the corner from the supermarket, Nappy Trash is another in a long line of bin photos.

And further along, Baggy was taken in a flower bed on the edge of a park and ended up in a Drugs post. Unfortunately, you can barely see the cannabis leaf printed on the plastic bag.

Bucking the trend, Test was taken in Southgate, was perfect content for a Glasses post and one that I missed the best possible joke for. I should have commented instead on the tiny writing at the bottom of the sign.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Twenty-Five Days Til Thirty

In twenty-five days I will be thirty years old.

Here are the first five daysworth from the Evening Standard list of '30 Things To Do Before You're 30'.

So let's start as I mean to go on:

Day 1
Buy a property

Oh dear.

The Evening Standard list goes on to say: "Buying whole buildings may be unrealistic - less than half of Londoners are expected to own their own homes by 2021. But with house prices predicted to rise 21 per cent in five years, property remains a great investment. Pool your pittance with friends and family for a hope of owning a room or two."

My pittance would not go very far at all. Rich and generous benefactors feel free to get in touch...

- - -

Day 2
Have a baby (if you're a woman)


The Evening Standard article reads "We've all read those scary news stories - surely every 29-year-old is quaking with infertility fear? Now Beyoncé, our top role model, has got herself pre-30 pregnant. Time to follow suit."

I have nothing against Beyoncé, but she's your top role model?

- - -

Day 3
Avoid having a baby (if you're a man)

So far, so good. I am a babyless man.

ES: "Male and female aspirations are rarely so divided as on the issue of whether trapping yourself in a 24/7 cycle of sleeplessness and regret is a good idea while you're still young."

Whereas women love a 24/7 cycle of sleeplessness and regret? I find it odd that rather than writing about what these babyless men could be doing with all the apparent extra time they will presumably have outside the trap and instead writing a sentence that men and women often envision different things. What a revelation.

- - -

Day 4
Live abroad


ES: "A gap year after 30 is career suicide. Get South-East Asia out of your system."

Two years in Germany (and a host of travelling) with the family may not really qualify as a gap year, but I have lived abroad. There are places that I'd still love to go, but I'm not sure that South-East Asia is in my system.

- - -

Day 5
Build your brand

Crikey. The world has changed.

ES: "No fibbing now - everyone has Googled themself. If you're not the top search result, something has gone wrong. Regular commenters on your blog and 1,000 Twitter followers are also essential."

As David Mitchell pointed out on an episode of The Bubble that while it used to be deemed embarrassing to Google your own name, but now it's odder not to do so. Upon Googling my name I discovered I am not the first listing for David Black and I don't really know how to improve my standing. I don't Twitter and while comments on my blog are not particularly regular I am still very grateful to the 59 people who follow it and anyone who does choose to comment. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Lenin In London

I'm playing Alexeyev in The New Factory Of The Eccentric Actor's production of Lenin In London on Monday the 19th of September at 7:30pm at the Marx Memorial Library.

Marx Memorial Library,
37a Clerkenwell Green,
London EC1R 0DU,

The nearest train stations to the library are Farringdon on the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines and Thameslink for British Rail. Buses numbered 55, 63, 243 and 259 all stop near the library.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Thirty Days 'Til Thirty

In thirty days I will be thirty years old.

Inspired by this and more specifically this list that recently appeared in the Evening Standard, I will attempt to do each of the '30 Things To Do Before You're 30' in the next thirty days...

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Future's Owned By You And Me

Sarah and I saw Pulp play live at Brixton Academy last Wednesday and they were fantastic.

One of the many highlights was the number of songs they played that I've never heard live before: 'Countdown', 'Lipgloss', 'Have You Seen Her Lately?', 'Wickerman' and 'Mis-Shapes'...

I think the best way to appreciate the quality of the gig is to read John Aizlewood's appallingly misrepresentative review and interpret that for the most part, the opposite is true.