Monday, 30 April 2012

Z Is For...Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

My twenty-sixth and final post for the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge, Z Is For... Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz:

I'm sure this is a sentiment shared by many of you. After twenty-five posts this month it's almost time to sleep.

When I ran The Noughties Blogfest I followed it up with a debrief of sorts. I was going to attempt to write a debrief for this year's the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge, but we have the A-to-Z Reflections Post on the 7th of May, so I'll wait.

I've included the answers to the questions from my Q is for...Quiz post below, but if you haven't seen the questions and you want to take part in the quiz, you can do so here, if not you can scroll down for the answers...:



1) What 'A' is Buffy The Vampire Slayer's middle name?

2) What 'B' is a character in Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter?

3) What 'C' is the fictional Alaskan town in which Northern Exposure was set?

4) What 'D' is the greatest, fantastic, wherever there's danger he'll be there, the ace, amazing, the strongest, the quickest, the best, the greatest, fantastic, wherever there's danger he'll be there, the ace, amazing, the strongest, the quickest, the best, terrific, magnific, the greatest secret agent in the world, Power House, the fastest, the greatest, the best?
Danger Mouse

5) What 'E' is the speed that Doc's DeLorean needed to reach to achieve time travel?
Eighty-Eight mph

6) What 'F' is Mr Benn's street?
Festive Road

7) What 'G' is Nanny Ogg's first name?

8) What 'H' is the setting of Quatermass And The Pit?
Hob's or Hobb's, Lane or End

9) What 'I' is the US state that Star Trek's James T. Kirk says he is from?

10) What 'J' is the company that owned Red Dwarf and Rimmer and Lister worked for?
Jupiter Mining Corporation

11) What 'K' is a shape-changing robot companion from Doctor Who?

12) What 'L' is the first name of the protagonist of Gulliver's Travels?

13) What 'M' is the name of I in Withnail And I?

14) What 'N' is the epidemic that hit Royston Vasey in The League Of Gentlemen?

15) What 'O' is the leader of the Autobots in Transformers?
Optimus Prime

16) What 'P' is "Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as"?

17) What 'Q' illustrated most of Roald Dahl's books for children?
Quentin Blake

18) What 'R' is the company that owns the Dollhouse in Dollhouse?
Rossum Corporation

19) What 'S' is the name of Gandalf's horse in The Lord Of The Rings?

20) What 'T' is Guybrush's surname?

21) What 'U' is the holiday being celebrated in Firefly's The Train Job?
Unification Day

22) What 'V' is a group also known as the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society, the Draught Beer Preservation Society, the Custard Pie Appreciation Consortium, the Sherlock Holmes English Speaking Vernacular, the Office Block Persecution Affinity and the Skyscraper Condemnation Affiliate?
Village Green Preservation Society

23) What 'W' was on the wall in Pulp's 'Disco 2000'?

24) What 'X' is the taxonomic name of the Alien from the Alien films?

25) What 'Y' is the name of Brian K. Vaughn's last man?
Yorick Brown

26) What 'Z' is the name of Futurama's physician?

Thanks for taking part.

P.S. A date for your diary: I'm running The Nineties Blogfest on the 14th October 2012.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Y Is For...You

My twenty-fifth and penultimate post for the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge, Y is for... You:

Hello You.

Thank you for stopping by.

Who are you?

When I started writing this blog it was difficult to imagine anyone was reading it. Then one day someone made a comment and I realised that people were finding. If you write it, they will come. Maybe.

As a result of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge there are now over a hundred people following this blog. Maybe that's you as well. Hello again.

So I've decided to make a promise to everyone following this blog: over the next hundred days or so I'm going to find the time to visit each and every one of you at your blog or website.

As promises go, I know it's not huge, but it's a start. So thank you again for visiting my blog and see you soonish on yours...

Friday, 27 April 2012

X Is For...XO's

My twenty-fourth post for the A-to-Z blogging challenge, X is for XO's:

Following on from recent Top Ten lists of my favourite spaceships and Captains, working my way down the chain of command, here's a list of my Top Ten favourite XO's.

XO is short for Executive Officer, which in turn is usually referred to as first officer or second-in-command. XO is presumably a term usually employed by people with either no time to spare or who are determined to sound cool. It doesn't work, but it has enabled me to use to post this for X.

Star Trek is of course replete with first officers and so nearly making the top ten are: Pavel Chekov of the USS Reliant in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan and Will Decker of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and also Fry's brief stint as Wiggles in an Futurama.

And so here are my top ten favourite first officers, seconds-in-command, number ones and XO's:

10 - Chakotay
The ex-Maquis terrorist and Native American first officer really showed his mettle his ship was lost on the far side of the galaxy, and he accepted a subordinate job on the ship of the woman who had come to arrest him. Although sidelined in later seasons, Star Trek: Voyager's was Captain Janeway's right-hand man for the first half of a seven year run.

9 - Chewbacca
Everybody's favourite Wookiee is second-in-command aboard the Millennium Falcon and was fiercely loyal to Han Solo. The smuggler-turned-rebel fought in the battle of Yavin IV, carried bits of C-3PO around Cloud City, helped turn the tide of the Battle of Endor and didn't even get a medal in Star Wars.

8 - William T. Riker
Riker served as Picard's Number One aboard both the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D and E. Offered numerous commands of his own during Star Trek: The Next Generation, He continually turned them down for years and was almost a lifelong first officer.

7 - Kif Kroker
Kif is Zapp Brannigan's first officer in Futurama. If Zapp is overconfident then Kif is practically a walking sigh, but to his credit he makes up for Zapp's incompetence and his administrations presumably single-handedly prevent the Democratic Order Of Planets (D.O.O.P.) from being invaded.

6 - T'Pol
The first Vulcan to serve aboard a Human vessel for a significant period of time and eventually the first Vulcan in Starfleet. T'Pol was first officer on the Enterprise NX-01 and her loyalty to the Humans she served with was a considerable step forward for relations between the two species. Jolene Blalock is fantastic throughout Star Trek's prequel series.

5 - Damar
Gul Dukat's second-in-command on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, initially as a sullen button pusher on a Cardassian cargo ship, then as an insurgent on a Klingon battle ship, then as adjutant during negotiations with the Dominion. He succeeded Dukat to become the leader of the Cardassian Union, before leading the rebellion that helped end the Dominion war. Loyal to Dukat, even when his former superior was clearly barking mad.

4 - Worf
The only Klingon in Starfleet served aboard aboard two USS Defiants and a IKS Rotarran to boot as First Officer. A prominent figure in Klingon history, Worf took dishonour rather than cause a Klingon Civil War and killed the Chancellor in order to prevent him losing a war. Probably unique as a Klingon raised by humans, Worf was never entirely comfortable in either culture, he was not a merry man, found life among DS9's shades of grey particularly difficult and often expected too much from his subordinates, but it was in starship battles and hand-to-hand combat that he excelled. If you have a fight on your hands, you want Worf on your side.

3 - Kira Nerys
Sisko's second in command aboard Deep Space 9 (and also the USS Defiant until Worf arrived, see above), the ex-terrorist/freedom fighter fought to get the Cardassians off her planet, hated having to welcome the Federation in their place and wasn't shy about saying so, until working with Starfleet won her around. She lived through two occupations, she was the Bajoran liaison officer to both ally and enemy and she was instrumental in training Damar's rebellion (see further above).

2 - Spock
First Officer aboard two USS Enterprises under two different captains. Even after he was promoted to Captain and given his own command, he remained a First Officer at heart. His Vulcan logic meant he kept his head when all about him were busy losing theirs.

1 - Zoe
Born on a spaceship, Firefly and Serenity's first mate is cool, calm, collected and an impressive fighter. Zoe manages to juggle her responsibilities and is both loyal to her captain and devoted to her husband. Perhaps uniquely she seems to have the respect of everybody aboard Serenity and may well be the reason that life aboard ship functions as well as it does.

Who are your favourites?

Next month: Top Ten Doctors

Thursday, 26 April 2012

W Is For...Writing

My twenty-third post for the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge, W is for... Writing

I used to say that I turned to writing for all the wrong reasons.

I started writing out of frustration. Frustration that I couldn't make things happen in any other field of my endeavour without someone else's help in some way, but I realised I could write alone. Frustration also that I saw, read, auditioned for and was involved with several shows which were saddled with truly awful scripts. I figured I could at least try and write a better script.

I wrote bits of scripts and I really enjoyed it, so I kept at it. I wrote a play, which might well see the light of day eventually. It might not, but writing it gave me the confidence to write more. Whilst at university I wrote for two shows that I was in and that was a new experience. Writing something that you'll eventually perform is very liberating.

The Mr Carruthers Presents, Behind The Bike Shed and Train Of Thought shows provided me with deadlines, which meant that ideas that before would have probably rattled around in my head with me thinking, I must get around to writing that. Instead those ideas would get written. I wrote plenty of comedy sketches and looking back some of them might still be funny.

The act of writing hasn't gotten any easier for me, but I do find it easier to know when it's right. Sometimes the hardest thing is to know when to stop rewriting. I used to agonise over it, now it seems a little easier.

I started writing prose, short stories, non-fiction and I took part in many a Microfiction Monday. I have several projects on the go at the moment, now my problem is finding the time to focus on one long enough.

I used to say that I turned to writing for all the wrong reasons. I've since realised there are no wrong reasons.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

V Is For...Vegetarianism

Here's my twenty-second post for the A to Z Blogging challenge, V is for... Vegetarianism:

My girlfriend is a vegetarian. I am not.

It's not as big a deal as you'd think. I'm not so much of a carnivore that I can't live without meat and she isn't so much of an ideological vegetarian that she won't cook the odd sausage.

As I've said before I'm not much of a cook, I'm more of a defroster. I do a lot of washing up to attempt to make up for my culinary shortcomings. Understandably, when Sarah cooks she mostly cooks without meat. I really don't miss it. It's nice to have the odd meat dish from time to time, but I think that the infrequency of it in my diet now means that I enjoy it all the more.

Sarah has been a vegetarian all her life and is oddly curious about meat preparation. She doesn't know much about meat preparation and why should she? It's not until she asks me a question about meat that I realise how little I actually know. All those things that would never occur to me. "Why do they do that?" I rarely have a satisfactory answer. TV cooking shows are a bit of a minefield with phrases like "soaking in its own juices" and talk of meat on the bone, blood in gravy or even euphemistic names like suet or crackling, which help you to forget what they actually are.

It works both ways, I didn't know what Quinoa was until I met Sarah. It's pronounced Keen-wah and is very handy in Scrabble.

The strangest thing is the fear. Nothing in vegetarian cooking can kill you. You can't get food poisoning from lentil soup. Even if you don't eat meat you've heard that juices need to run clear or that something can be burned on the outside and raw on the inside. The fear of a vegetarian who isn't used to cooking meat is palpable.

I'll finish with quote from A. Whitney Brown if for no other reason than because I like it, "I am not a vegetarian because I love animals, I am a vegetarian because I hate plants."

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

U Is For...UFO's

My twenty-first post for the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge, U Is For... UFO's:

UFO's or Unidentified Flying Object. I'm a big fan of spaceships, although none of those are really UFO's since I've identified them.

I suppose UFO's are objects that technically only fly when they are inside a planetary orbit and above its surface.

I posted a few other pictures that I've drawn here. For some reason I left this one out, well not any more.

I Drew This:
The UFO looks a bit like a Dalek saucer from Doctor Who. I don't think it was a deliberate choice, but maybe that makes this a semi-identified flying object.

Monday, 23 April 2012

T Is For...TV DVD

My twenty-first post for the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge, T is for...TV DVD:

I love TV. I love DVD. As I result I'm a big collector of TV on DVD as far as my budget will allow and for no particular reason that I can defend I feel that DVD should be complete. I don't wish to sound ungrateful because it's obvious that many DVD releases are made as a labour of love, particularly those in the Doctor Who and Red Dwarf ranges.

I get very frustrated when things I like aren't released on DVD for obvious reasons, but I get even more frustrated when a series is released with some omissions. It just seems like such a missed opportunity. With this in mind I've written three previous Please Release Me posts listing things that I'd love to see released on DVD. And so here's:

Please Release Me DVD #4

Here's another batch of TV shows that are unfortunately currently unavailable on DVD:

Doctor Who: The Crusade, The Tenth Planet, The Underwater Menace, The Moonbase, The Ice Warriors, The Ambassadors Of Death, The Mind Of Evil, National Television Awards scene, Death Is The Only Answer
I've written about a few unfortunate gaps in the series already, but I want to stress that the Doctor Who DVDs are wonderful and because they have been released in a randomish order and also as some stories are being re-released any gaps may well be filled in the years to come.

Many sixties episodes of Doctor Who are missing from the archives altogether and against all odds they do seem to turn up from time to time. When the DVD collection of extant episodes, Lost In Time, was released, the existing episodes of The Reign Of Terror, The Tenth Planet, The Ice Warriors and The Invasion were omitted, presumably because they were seen as viable releases in their own right. The eight part Patrick Troughton story The Invasion had two episodes missing, which were beautifully animated by Cosgrove Hall to the existing soundtrack. This kept hope alive that other stories with missing episodes might get the same treatment and The Reign Of Terror has indeed been announced as a forthcoming DVD release with its two missing episodes animated, so here's hoping that The Tenth Planet and The Ice Warriors get the same treatment.

Three stories that were represented on Lost In Time: The Crusade, The Underwater Menace and The Moonbase are all four parters with half their episodes missing. While I appreciate that the ratio of animated material to existing material would be higher on these stories and therefore so would the costs of production, I would love to see these stories get a DVD release as well.

In addition, there are a few episodes of some Third Doctor stories that although made in colour only exist in black and white. The DVD releases of Terror Of The Autons, The D√¶monsPlanet Of The Daleks and Invasion Of The Dinosaurs all had monochrome episodes that were re-colourised. Let's hold out hope that the same is possible for The Ambassadors Of Death and The Mind Of Evil as well.

And bang up to date with the Eleventh Doctor in glorious technicolour and two mini-episodes. Steven Moffat wrote a scene for the opening sequence of the 16th National Television Awards featuring Matt Smith, Dermot O'Leary and a host of characters from the likes EastEnders and Coronation Steet and with Graham Norton chalking his third appearance in Doctor Who. It's no surprise that this isn't included in the DVD boxset, because it must be a copyright nightmare, but it would have been nice for completeness. Death Is The Only Answer however is very odd omission. It was written as part of the Script To Screen competition by a class of children from Oakley Junior School with a great performance from Nickolas Grace as Einstein and shown in the last episode of Doctor Who Confidential. The sixth series DVD set features the cutdown versions of Doctor Who Confidential and unforgiveably it was the mini-episode that was cut out. How brilliant would it be for those kids if we could all purchase a copy of their work? How brilliant for us that it is worth purchasing? How annoying that it is unavailable for purchase?

- - - - -

QI: Series D, E, F, G, H and I
The first three seres of the Quite Interesting gameshow were released on DVD and very good they are too, but that's where it ended. Yes, I know it's on TV all the time, but it woud be lovely to have the likes of the episodes on Death, Espionage, France, Gallimaufrey, Hoaxes and Imbroglio on DVD. We deserve the opportunity to build up our own Encyclopaedia BritanniQI.

- - - - -

Ashes To Ashes: 2008 Children In Need episode; 2009 Children In Need trailer; Ashes To Ashes Does Sport Relief
The spinoff to Life On Mars was prolific in its support of BBC charities. Ashes To Ashes met Top Gear in aid of Children In Need in 2008 with an episode that saw petite petrolhead Richard Hammond borrow Gene Hunt's car. A year later for the same charity was a little scene featuring Hunt teaching for the What The 'L Driving School with Ray and Chris as backseat drivers. In 2010, Ashes To Ashes did Sport Relief in Ashes To Ashes Does Sport Relief which followed Fenchurch East's finest solving the 1983 theft of the Ryder Cup and featured an array of famous faces from the Eighties. Sadly left off the Ashes To Ashes DVD sets, these little episodes could have been released on shiny disc and raised a fortune for their respective charities.

- - - - -

Is there anything that is currently unavailable on DVD, that you would like to see get a release?

Saturday, 21 April 2012

S Is For...Stay Alive In '95

My nineteenth post for the A-to-Z Challenge, S is for... Stay Alive In '95:

I wrote a review-of-the-year type post of my favourite Film, TV, Radio, Music, Books, Comics, Games, Online and/or Art etc at the end of 2010 and enjoyed writing it enough to decide to keep writing them. So I've been working my way backwards, one year per month, and I've reached 1995:

Stay Alive In '95
I've borrowed this title from the sleeve notes for the single release of Pulp's 'Common People', the full quote is: "There is a war in progress - don't be a casual(ty). The time to decide whose side you're on is here. Choose wisely. Stay alive in '95."

1995 was the year that Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers disappeared, Nick Leeson caused the collapse of Barings Bank, the Oklahoma City bombing took place, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of double murder and astonishingly the state of Mississippi finally outlawed slavery.

These are a few of my favourite things from 1995:

Mighty Aphrodite
Woody Allen does Greek tragedy and does it in style. Mighty Aphrodite is very, very funny. Mira Sorvino's performance is phenomenal, Allen and F. Murray Abraham are great.

Twelve Monkeys
Terry Gilliam's thought-provoking time travel thriller is fantastic. Inspired by La Jetee the film deals with temporal mechanics in an intelligent way. Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Frank Gorshin and Christopher Plummer are all great. Here's the trailer.

Bond is back with a vengeance after a six year absence. The bizarre, but brilliant title sequence exemplifies the idea of adjusting Bond for a post-Cold War age. Pierce Brosnan takes on the role and makes it his own, while Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Alan Cumming, Michael Kitchen, Robbie Coltrane and Judi Dench are all wonderful and it's great to see Desmond Llewellyn back as Q. Here's the trailer.

The Usual Suspects
Bryan Singer's directorial debut is a brilliant and densely plotted film that takes in elements of heist movies and film noir to become probably the best in its genre. The cast and the twist in the tale are fantastic. Here's the trailer.

Apollo 13
Based on the true story of the thirteenth Apollo mission. The realism acheived aboard Apollo 13 is incredibly convincing, the cast are great and the sense of lunar apathy on Earth, followed by the sensationalism when the mission is at risk, are both very well played. Here's the trailer.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Past Tense; Heart Of Stone; Destiny; Prophet Motive; Visionary; Through The Looking Glass; Improbable Cause & The Die Is Cast; Explorers; Family Business; Shakaar; Facets; The Adversary; The Way Of The Warrior; The Visitor; Hippocratic Oath; Indiscretion; Rejoined; Starship Down; Little Green Men; The Sword Of Kahless; Our Man Bashir
The third series continues with two-parter Past Tense which addresses the issues of homelessness, unemployment and segregation on 21st centry Earth with a great guest cast. Heart Of Stone is almost a tragic love story between Odo and Kira with a great surprise ending and Nog's application for Starfleet Academy is a nice subplot. Destiny concerns Sisko's uncomfortable relationship with the mantle of Emissary, the interpretation and reinterpretation of the prophecy is great and O'Brien's embarrassment is tangible. Armin Shimerman, Max Grodénchik and Wallace Shawn are all great in Prophet Motive, a uniquely Ferengi spin on the concepts and mythology at the heart of DS9's pilot episode. Visionary is an intricate time travel detective story and Colm Meaney's dual performance is fantastic. Sisko goes Through The Looking Glass and fits in perfectly as a Terran freedom fighter in the Mirror Universe. Improbable Cause and The Die Is Cast are an outstanding two-parter which builds on the events of the season thus far and the mostly unexplored relationship between Odo and Garak is used to great effect, Rene Auberjonois and Andrew Robinson are fantastic, the interrogation scene and the space battle are particularly impressive and it's lovely to see Paul Dooley back. Avery Brooks and Cirroc Lofton ease with one another make the Siskos father and son trip in Explorers, the Cardassian coincidence is well played and the O'Brien and Bashir drunk scene is fantastic. Quark and Rom return home to deal with some Family Business, Shimerman, Grodenchik and Andrea Martin are wonderful in what is a fantastic Ferengi episode. Kira is reunited with Shakaar as Kai Winn risks a civil war on Bajor and the exterior shooting looks wonderful. The regular cast each embody a different host of the Dax symbiont in Facets and Shimerman as Quark as Audrid and Auberjonois as Odo as Curzon in particular are wonderful, while Nog takes his Starfleet exams and Grodenchik is adorable as proud father Rom. The paranoia caused by the Changeling infiltration of The Adversary is intense, the Odo versus Founder fight scene is impressive and the Founder's final words are revealed to be suitably chilling.
The fourth season begins with the flawless TV movie The Way Of The Warrior, which works like another pilot as the political landscape shifts once again, the Klingons become the enemy once more and Michael Dorn's Worf joins the cast. Brooks, Lofton and Tony Todd are wonderful in The Visitor's fantastic exploration of a relationship between father and son which transcends death. Bashir and O'Brien's friendship is tested as the Doctor's Hippocratic Oath compels him to help a group of Jem'Hadar, but the engineer chooses to break it for him. Nana Visitor and Marc Alaimo are wonderful together as Indiscretion throws Kira and Dukat together in a road movie-like episode and Sisko's faux pas is very funny. Rejoined is a love story that trades one taboo for another and Terry Farrell and Susanna Thompson make a beautiful couple. Starship Down is a great submarine thriller with some lovely interaction between its pairs of characters. Shimerman, Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg are hilarious in Little Green Men, a comedy episode crammed full of B-movie references. The quest for The Sword Of Kahless is a great adventure yarn and Dorn, Farrell and John Colicos are terrific. Our Man Bashir is a fantastic Bond homage and a huge amount of fun.

Star Trek: Voyager: Caretaker; Parallax; Time And Again; Phage; Eye Of The Needle; Emanations; Prime Factors; State Of Flux; Heroes And Demons; Faces; Jetrel; Learning Curve; The 37's; Initiations; Projections; Non Sequitur; Parturition; Persistence Of Vision; Tattoo; Cold Fire; Maneuvers; Resistance
The Star Trek spinoff about a starship marooned in the Delta Quadrant and its long voyage home begins with Caretaker, Armin Shimerman's cameo scene as Quark is great, Ethan Phillips steals the show as Neelix, the location shooting and the visual effects are very impressive in what is the most equally balanced Star Trek pilot. It introduces all nine of its regular characters ably as well as several of the key relationships between them and sets up the premise of the series very well. The second episode, Parallax, is not yet business as usual for Star Trek: Voyager and the quantum singularity cause is effect A-story is fairly inconsequential, but the subplots tidying up unfinished business from the pilot are much more interesting. Time And Again is another time travel paradox episode and a nice little story to boot which expands on the role of Kes. The Phage-suffering Vidiians are a great SF concept and this episode avoids the silliness you would expect from lung theft and instead features some genuine ethical dilemmas and brings out the best in Kate Mulgrew, Robert Picardo and Phillips. The 'Harry Kim wormhole' allows the crew to peer through the Eye Of The Needle into the Alpha Quadrant in the first of many attempts to get home quicker and Vaughn Armstrong is great as Telek R'Mor. Emanations asks some interesting questions about the afterlife, gives Garrett Wang an episode to get his teeth and Jefrey Allan Chandler is wonderful as a reluctant recipient of euthanasia. The crew get another chance to get home in Prime Factors which sees the Starfleet and Maquis crews working together like never before and Martha Hackett is great as Seska. She comes to the fore again and the revelations keep coming in State Of Flux. Heroes And Demons is a very funny Doctor episode which features a hilarious performance from Picardo and a wonderful depiction of Beowulf. Faces is a very literal character study as Torres is split in half in, but it's a great episode as Roxann Biggs-Dawson is wonderful in both roles, Brian Markinson is fantastic and this episode turns the Vidiians into great horror movie-style bad guys. Neelix comes face to face with Jetrel, a thinly veiled Oppenheimer/Hiroshima parable which features great performances from Phillips and James Sloyan are great. Learning Curve is an atypical season finale, but it does acknowledge the Starfleet/Maquis divide and run with it convincingly for the last time (and as a plus features this line).
The second season begins with The 37's which works as a restatement of principles and effectively as a second pilot episode with wonderful performances from David Graf and Sharon Lawrence. Robert Beltran and Aron Eisenberg are great in Initiations, an episode that adds a much-needed layer of complexity to both the Kazon and Chakotay. Picardo and Dwight Schultz are as brilliant as ever in Projections, a fractal Cartesian nightmare for the Doctor as reality unfolds around him and the resulting episode is fantastic. Wang and Robert Duncan McNeill are great together as Kim gives up the perfect parallel life in Non Sequitur. Neelix and Paris overcome their jealousy and undergo Parturition in an episode that proves Phillips and McNeill are a great double act. Persistence Of Vision follows a well mined seam of hallucinations and fears made real, but does so with such style that it seems far more original. Beltran and Henry Darrow are both wonderful in Chakotay-centric episode Tattoo and Picardo is hilarious as the ill Doctor. Jennifer Lien is given a rare chance to excel as Kes in Cold Fire and she does not disappoint. Maneuvers advances the Seska storyline compellingly, the Kazon torpedo shuttle attack is impressive, Cullah's transporter use is gruesome and Beltran, Hackett and Anthony De Longis are great. Joel Grey is phenomenal as Caylem in Resistance and the relationship between his character and Janeway is very touching.

Father Ted: Good Luck, Father Ted; Entertaining Father Stone; The Passion Of St Tibulus; Competition Time; And God Created Woman; Grant Unto Him Eternal Rest
The series hits the ground running as the first episode, Good Luck, Father Ted is fantastic and highlights include Dougal's diagram, the Lord's prayer, Funland, duelling banjos and every scene with Tom. Ted and Dougal find themselves Entertaining Father Stone and Michael Redmond pitches his deadpan stoicism perfectly. Jim Norton is great as Bishop Brennan forces Ted and Dougal to protest against The Passion Of St Tibulus at the cinema and their signage has gone down in history, while Father Hernandez is hilarious. Competition Time introduces Ted's rivalry with Dick Byrne and the intercutting between Craggy and Rugged Islands, Dougal's fascination with Henry Sellars hair and the Elvises Presley are great while the simplistic treatment of alcoholism somehow manages to be funny and still does the show credit. Mrs Doyle's examples of bad language, Jack on automatic, mass fans, Jim's diagnosis, Ted as an accessory in Tom's lift and Dougal looking for change are all brilliant moments in And God Created Woman. Jack shuffles off this mortal coil in the last episode of the first series, Grant Unto Him Eternal Rest, and Dougal's last rites, the cut to 'Karma Chameleon' and the game of charades are all great.

Northern Exposure: The Great Mushroom; Mi Casa, Su Casa; Horns; The Mommy's Curse; The Quest; Lucky People; The Graduate; Little Italy; Balls; Buss Stop; Ursa Minor; Let's Dance; Tranquility Base
The sixth and final season continues with Maggie visiting Joel living atop The Great Mushroom and his various deaths are all funny. Marilyn follows soon after and Joel feels she undermines him, while Ed housesits for Maurice and takes on more than a few aspects of the owner's personality in Mi Casa, Su Casa. Alaska releases Joel from his contract which has a profound effect on him, while Maurice's Cicely Water venture causes a role reversal in the town in the brilliant hundredth episode Horns. Another death leaves Maggie wondering if The Mommy's Curse is hereditary and Walt's brief career in retail is great. The Quest for the Jewel City of the North takes Joel and Maggie on a bizarre journey and ends in a particularly poignant ending. If people who need people are the luckiest people, then Maurice, Phil and Michelle discover they are Lucky People indeed. Chris becomes The Graduate, the transcendental 45th Regiment are brilliant, the reveal of Holling's secret is shocking and the town's rallying around him is very funny. Phil discovers Cicely's Little Italy and finds himself at the centre of a family feud, while Ruth-Ann's radio career and Ed's suggestion of "early burnout" are very funny. Lester Haines' "tribal values" are initially hilarious and ultimately heartbreaking for Ed, the bowling team scenes are great and the rift between the Capras is a bold move at this stage in Balls. Michelle tries to direct a production of Bus Stop in Buss Stop, Hayden Keyes' forced perspective entrance and pointless trapdoor, Shelly's presentation skills and Maurice's theatre speech are great. Ursa Minor sees Ed looking after a baby bear. The effect of Cal's violin on Semanski, Phil's breaches of Tlingit etiquette and Marilyn's cotillion classes are hilarous in Let's Dance. Cicely's couples converge on Maurice's Tranquility Base in the final episode and every relationship is tested to one degee or another, Michelle is visited by Joel's hallucinatory Rabbi Schulman and the 'Our Town' montage at the end is great.

American Gothic: Pilot; A Tree Grows In Trinity; Eye Of The Beholder; Damned If You Don't; Dead To The World; Meet The Beetles; Strong Arm Of The Law;
Gary Cole, Sarah Paulson, Lucas Black and Nick Searcy are fantastic in Shaun Cassidy's horror TV series. The pilot episode introduces the town of Trinity in South Carolina, USA a well as its Sheriff, its Doctor and schoolteacher and Caleb has a particularly horrific tenth birthday as he loses his sister and father. A tree grows in Trinity in A Tree Grows In Trinity and David Lenthall is great as put upon coroner Webb. Eye Of The Beholder introduces the wonderful Tina Lifford, the horror quotient is high, Michael Burgess is great and the episode builds to a nice twist which sets up the the dynamic for the rest of the show. Brigid Walsh and Steve Rankin are great as Damned If You Don't shows that Lucas collects on debts. Searcy is excellent in Dead To The World, which again shows another facet of Lucas, but also feature a great use of Gail's character. Meet The Beetles is incredibly creepy and Caleb's grave idea gives a brilliant insight into his character. Strong Arm Of The Law is a great example of Sheriff Buck's sense of justice at work.

Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave
Shaun and a flockful of sheep join Wallace and Gromit in Nick Park's third short film. It's what you might get if International Rescue used Thunderbirds for cleaning windows. Between the window cleaning and the flock acrobatics, the set pieces are wonderful. Wallace's romantic involvement with Wendoline is heartbreaking as you will them to get together, but as usual it's Gromit that steals the show. It's another animated tour-de-force.

Knowing Me, Knowing Yule With Alan Partridge;
Alan's records some choice cuts of Christmas chat from a studio mock up of his home. Christian bellringers mingle with electrocuted golfers, a cross-dressing chef and Alan's new boss Tony Hayers. Featuring several Rover Vitesse product placement and a brilliant rendition of 'The Twelve Days Of Christmas'. Steve Coogan, Rebecca Front, David Schneider, Kevin Eldon, Patrick Barber and Doon MacKichan are hilarious.

Pulp: Different Class
The band's fifth album and their biggest break is made up of twelve of the best tracks ever. Dealing with themes of sex and social class, the lyrics are brilliant throughout. This album is fantastic.
Stand-Out Tracks: 'Mis-Shapes', 'Pencil Skirt', 'Common People', 'I Spy', 'Disco 2000', 'Live Bed Show', 'Something Changed', 'Sorted For E's & Wizz', 'F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.', 'Underwear', 'Monday Morning', 'Bar Italia'

Blur: The Great Escape
The fourth album could be seen as the antidote to its predecessor, The Great Escape is everything that Parklife is not. Moving its focus into suburbia and with a listless melancholic feeling hiding within even the jauntiest tracks, while the slower songs 'Best Days', 'The Universal', 'He Thought Of Cars' and 'Yuko & Hiro' take on a beautiful elegance.
Stand-Out Tracks: 'Stereotypes', 'Country House', 'Best Days', 'Charmless Man', 'Fade Away', 'The Universal', 'Mr Robinson's Quango', 'He Thought Of Cars', 'It Could Be You', 'Ernold Same', 'Dan Abnormal', 'Yuko & Hiro'

Supergrass: I Should Coco
Popular perception of this band probably stems most from 'Alright', but even at this stage they were already so much more. The band’s debut album rushes passed at breakneck speed and takes in a huge array of musical styles that should probably clash, yet the dexterity with which they are played sees them sit perfectly side-by-side. Beginning with several rockier tracks, each distinctively different from the last, building through slower towards a quite trippy penultimate track and a beautiful coda. 'Caught By The Fuzz' is easily one of the best songs ever written (especially in its sublime acoustic version), but it speaks volumes that it might not even be the best song on this album.
Stand-Out Tracks: 'I'd Like To Know', 'Caught By The Fuzz', 'Mansize Rooster', 'Alright', 'Lose It', 'Lenny', 'Strange Ones', 'She's So Loose', 'Time', 'Sofa (Of My Lethargy)', 'Time To Go'

The Presidents Of The United States Of America: The Presidents Of The United States Of America
Despite sometimes feeling more like a novelty album, this album is both grungy and catchy with some great self-deprecating lyrics.
Stand-Out Tracks: 'Lump', 'Boll Weevil', 'Peaches', 'Dune Buggy', 'We Are Not Going To Make It', 'Naked And Famous'

Red Dwarf: Last Human by Doug Naylor
In a similar vein to series VI and VII, the third Red Dwarf novel is set aboard Starbug rather than its mothership. Last Human plays very intelligently with time and multiple realities, features some intersting descendents and incorporates elements from the TV episodes Psirens, Legion, Emohawk - Polymorph II, DNA and Quarantine. A rather more explicit novel than its stablemates, especially in its descriptions of the GELFs and the consummation of Lister's wedding...

Maskerade by Terry Pratchett
The eighteenth Discworld novel sees the witches caught up in a story not unlike The Phantom Of The Opera. Pratchett takes no prisoners joking at the expense of opera, musical theatre and goths. Any book containing the sentence "People who didn't need people needed people around to know that they were the kind of people who didn't need people" is alright by me.

Ghost World: Hubba Hubba; The Norman Square
The fifth chapter sees Enid and Rebecca visit fifties diner Hubba Hubba
and the girls arrange a date with bearded windbreaker in a sequence which is the scenario for the film. Josh, Weird Al and the episode of Orlando are all very well depicted. The Norman Square finally acknowledges the Ghost World graffiti and sees elements of the backdrop to the girl's lives unravelling: Bob Skeetes phone is cut off, a solo Satanist and no more Norman as his bus stop is reactivated. Both chapters end on a very touching note.

Benefits Supervisor Sleeping by Lucian Freud
The painting (below) captures its subject in a moment of stillness. It's refreshing to see a zaftig nude portrayed simply and seemingly without judgement. She is neither glamourised nor demonised, she just is.

Recommendations welcome. Next Month: 1994

Friday, 20 April 2012

R Is For...Rhinoceros

Here's the eighteenth post of the A to Z Challenge, and R is for Rhinoceros:

When I was about three years old we went to Windsor Safari Park. We trudged from enclosure to enclosure and seeing animal after animal that didn't seem to realise they were on show. The gorillas were largely absent, the insects were probably hidden in plain sight and the more visible animals were all of a sort that failed to capture my young imagination.

We walked over to the Rhino enclosure and true to form they were all in the far corner and tiny. Apparently I wasn't standing for any more of this nonsense. My father says that he looked down and I was stood next to him one minute and the next I was gone. He looked around him and and there was no sign of me. He looked up and saw a tiny child on the wrong side of the fence...tottering towards the Rhinos.

Panic ensued. After seconds which probably seemed like aeons to my parents, zookeepers hoisted me out and I was safe. The Rhinos probably barely noticed the fuss. I have a memory of it which I'm sure is mostly derived from hearing my father talk about it. I've always liked Rhinos ever since.

When Marco Polo saw a Rhinoceros on his travels he was convinced it was a Unicorn. Unlike most of their contemporaries, the Rhinoceros has barely been anthropomorphised and seems to have made very few appearances in fiction. Babar The Elephant's neighbours, and the animal that kills the hero's parents in Roald Dahl's James And The Giant Peach are two notable, if unflattering, exceptions (and talking of Rhino escapes: this is astonishing). One of the vehicles in M.A.S.K. was called Rhino, but I'm clutching at straws by mentioning it here.

It is a common misconception that powdered Rhinoceros horn is used as an aphrodisiac in traditional Chinese medicine, however it is prescribed for fevers and convulsions. Scientific trials have found no evidence of any medical benefits. The thought of a Rhinoceros being killed by man for its horn is obviously a horrific one, but the thought of a Rhinoceros being killed by man for its horn and the horn being absolutely useless to man, is unbelievably barbaric.

Three of the five species of Rhinoceros are defined as critically endangered. If you want to help prevent this situation worsening, please donate to Save The Rhino.