Monday, 31 December 2012

"I Can Only Hope That The 2012 Apocalypse Isn't Such A Letdown"

So said Some Grey Bloke. Was it? You decide.

2012 was the year that the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, Encyclopædia Britannica discontinued its print edition, Curiosity the Mars rover successfully landed on Mars and roved, the Olympics came to London and was nearly as good as the Paralympics, Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier unassisted as he fell from space and Lonesome George died making the Pinta Island Tortoise subspecies extinct.

I directed The Cherry Orchard, facilitated The Undiscovered, wrote some of Brandon Generator (sort of) and 'the incident' took place. It's been a very odd year.

These are a few of my favourite things from 2012:

The Avengers
Released in the UK with the slightly rubbish title of Marvel Avengers Assemble, Joss Whedon's superhero team up is a brilliant action movie with a witty script, great set pieces and fight sequences. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson and Alexis Denisof are excellent. Whedon gives the 'little people' the big lines and so Harry Dean Stanton, Robert Clohessy and Ashley Johnson get the best moments, while every scene with the Hulk is fantastic.

The Cabin In The Woods
This movie reappropriates all the best and worst horror movie tropes to make a genre defining movie that takes on torture porn and wins.

A Fantastic Fear Of Everything
Sometimes paranoia in the launderette is entirely justified in this film adaptation of Bruce Robinson's novella Paranoia In The Launderette. Crispian Mills is intriguing, surprising and claustrophobic throughout, while Simon Pegg, Amara Karan and Alan Drake are phenomenal.

Red Dwarf: Trojan; Fathers & Suns; Lemons; Entangled; Dear Dave; The Beginning
The Boys from the Dwarf are back for six more episodes in Series X. Highlights included the frequency of moose-related car accidents in 1970's Sweden, Gerald Hampton and the Cat's map from Trojan, Lister's drunken conversation with his father in Fathers And Suns, everything James Baxter, does as Jesus in Lemons, Kryten and Cat's quantum entanglement in Entangled, the build-up to and the last line of Dear Dave and practically everything in The Beginning, while Richard O'Callaghan, Alex Hardy, Simon Treves and Philip Labey are fantastic. Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn and Doug Naylor prove they can still do it.

Dirk Gently
Stephen Mangan and Darren Boyd return for another three excellent episodes of holistic detection and then some idiot cancelled it. Whoever they are, they should be ashamed. They sicken me.

All In The Best Possible Taste
Grayson Perry's exploration of the relationship between taste and class is absolutely fascinating as are the tapestries that he created as a result of the people he met along the way.

Doctor Who: Asylum Of The Daleks; Dinosaurs On A Spaceship; The Power Of Three; The Snowmen
Jenna-Louise Coleman and Arthur Darvill are phenomenal as the TARDIS finds itself in the Asylum Of The Daleks and almost meets his new companion Oswin. Dinosaurs On A Spaceship does what it says on the tin, while the slow invasion of the cubes in The Power Of Three is a brilliant concept and Mark Williams is wonderful in them both. Coleman comes to the rescue in The Snowmen as Clara helps defeat the Great Intelligence, dies and still manages to give me hope for the future of the show.

Doctor Who: A Thousand Tiny Wings; Survival Of The Fittest 1
The Seventh Doctor returns on radio in A Thousand Tiny Wings, set during the Mau Mau uprising in fifties Kenya, the story deals well with its historical setting, Sylvester McCoy, Tracey Childs and Ann Bell are fantastic, the dialogue is sharp "your roots are showing", the base-under-siege is both traditional and inventive due to the fascinating historical setting and the all-female besieged cast of characters. The first part of Survival Of The Fittest tells Klein's Story in a fantastic series of flashbacks to an alternative reality in which the Nazis won World War II with a surprising guest star.

Cornershop: Urban Turban - The Singhles Club
The band evidently enjoyed their last album work with Bubbley Kaur, because their eighth album is entirely made up of collaborations. Cornershop have teamed up with the likes of Castle Hill Primary, Kay Kwong, SoKo and Castle Hill Primary for some great tracks.
Stand-Out Tracks: 'What Did The Hippie Have In His Bag?', 'Concrete Concrete', 'Something Makes You Feel Like' and 'What Did The Hippie Have In His Bag? (The High Slung Satchel)'

Doctor Who: The Chains Of Olympus 2-4; Sticks & Stones; The Cornucopia Caper; The Broken Man; Imaginary Enemies
On a visit to Ancient Greece, the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory meet Socates and Plato and face up to Zeus in the last three parts of a great story with a fantastic scene of Socrates outwitting his God with logic. Sticks & Stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you. Or they might in a story best summed up by the line "evil goth teen from outer space, turning everyone into zombies", the Leximorphs are a surprisingly impressive visual and ending is a nice touch. The Cornucopia Caper sees the TARDIS trio blunder into a great strip that is part heist movie, part Muppet Mafia and with a very shocking cliffhanger. The Broken Man is a cold war spy thriller with some very nice characterisation that leaves the question hanging "What is buried in man?", while Imaginary Enemies is a nice Doctorless Christmassy flashback to Amy, Rory and Mel's childhood, which builds to a brilliant last page.

Harry Hill's Britpop Coconuts

Harry Hill's series of Britpop-inspired painted coconuts proves that even frontmen are shy. From left: Jarvis Cocker from Pulp, Gaz Coombes from Supergrass, Damon Albarn from Blur and Noel Gallagher from Oasis. I love that these exist.

What were your favourites from 2012?

Recommendations welcome.

Next month: 1987

Tuesday, 25 December 2012


I asked my mother if I was ever in a nativity play at school and her response was an absolute classic:

"I seem to remember losing a tea towel at some point."

A very merry Christmas from an apparently careless former shepherd.

Monday, 24 December 2012

More Christmas Moments

Last year I wrote a post focussing on the Christmassiest elements of the years I'd written about for These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things. Here's an update based on what I've written about since:

Christmas 1988 and Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol inspired both Scrooged in cinemas and Blackadder's Christmas Carol on television. Both revolve around a character who isn't Ebeneezer Scrooge that learn the true meaning of Christmas after seeing visions of the past, present and future. Each man finds a very different "true meaning of Christmas" though.

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1989 and 1990 saw the publication of the Red Dwarf novels, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life respectively and one story element across both books is Lister getting back to Earth, discovering that Bedford Falls, the town from It's A Wonderful Life, is real, moving there, starting a family with his ideal woman and all on Christmas Eve, because in Bedford Falls it's always Christmas Eve...

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Christmas 1991 is the first for a Northern Exposure's Joel Fleischman and the experience gives the good Jewish boy a crisis of confidence in Seoul Mates, while the local Native Americans are decorating everything with Ravens. To quote Chris-in-the-Morning: "Twinkling colored lights are nice and so are plastic Santas and reindeers and nativity scenes, but let me tell you something. There's nothing like the sight of a beautiful, black-as-pitch raven to get you in the Christmas spirit."

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Four years later and Alan Partridge celebrates Christmas 1995 with a Christmas edition of his show entitled Knowing Me, Knowing Yule With Alan Partridge. Alan gamely soldiers on through struggles with a tranvestite celebrity chef, product placement, racist chauffers and his own boss as a guest toward the most predictable of puns.

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1996 saw Terry Pratchett take his Discworld into a Christmas-like territory with Hogfather and Father Ted broadcast A Christmassy Ted, which at some point I will stop going on about.

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The radio series of On The Town With The League Of Gentlemen marked Christmas in 1997 with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (not to be confused with this), as the residents of Spent celebrated with a Christmas party that draws the radio show to a spectacular close.

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Amends is a beautiful episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which sees the Slayer and her vampire ex-boyfriend dreaming the same dreams, Xander's Christmas tradition, an uncharacteristic snowfall in California and sets up the Big Bad for the series final season, while Louis Theroux's Weird Christmas reunites him with four of his Weird Weedenders to talk about porn, survivalism, Christ, aliens and Satan Claus.

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Christmases 1999 to 2010 featured in last years post.

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Last year saw the broadcast of not one but two very different Doctor Who Christmas episodes The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe on TV and Hornet's Nest on the radio. Both were fantastic.

Here's to Christmas 2012...

Thursday, 20 December 2012

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Over the last few days Zach, Ben, Phil, Ryan, Jacob and Jeff have treated us to articles about Christmassy episodes of The Simpsons, The Office, American Dad!, Seinfeld, Lost and The Partridge Family respectively as part of Noiseless Chatter's 12 Days of Christmas.

I've written another one, this time about The League Of Gentlemen's excellent Christmas Special from 2000.

It's a brilliant piece of television and I hope I've done it justice. You be the judge.

Phil has another four articles about another four Christmas specials coming up over the next four days.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Feck The Halls...

Phil over at Noiseless Chatter is hosting a series of articles that he has called The 12 Days Of Christmas. They are twelve articles about twelve TV Christmas Specials and I was delighted to be asked to write the first of them.

I chose to write about A Christmassy Ted, the yuletide offering from Father Ted. The episode in question is a masterpiece, but don't just take my word for it. Go and watch it, then take my word for it.

I have another article coming up and I'm very much looking forward to seeing what everyone else has decided to write about.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Cheers, Cavanaugh Blogfest

A group of Bloggers got together to sing the praises of Alex J. Cavanaugh and potentially embarrass him. I signed up for this and then got a bit busy and nearly missed this. Sorry Alex.

I haven't done this properly, so sorry to everyone looking for answers to questions and flash fiction. Sorry Alex.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Alex. Thank you Alex. He comments on practically everything I write and not just to say hello but always with something enthusiastic and engaging and inspiring. I realise that sets the bar pretty high if you comment on this post Alex. Sorry Alex.

He has, at the time of writing, 1715 other followers and I'd wager somehow he probably visits each of them just as often. Not only that but he has an army of ninjas to look after, he runs support group for insecure writers, he's in a band, has written two novels and possibly has a real life in the real world as well. Alex is forever making introductions, promoting other people's efforts and championing other writers. It shames me that he can do so much so often and I don't. Thank you Alex.

People talk about a 'blogging community' and it seems a bit disingenuous. We are often writing something and then throwing it into the void in the hope that someone finds it and reacts. Alex is the connection between so many of us. I can't count the number of times he's recommended something great and through that I've discovered a blog that I now read regularly. It's hard to deny the community spirit that Alex has engendered in us all. Maybe that makes us a community, but if it doesn't I'd settle for us being Alex's friends. Thank you Alex.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Soft Boiled

This began life as a self portrait to accompany the excellent one by Joseph Ducreux, but along the way it turned into more of an egg with a face akin to Terence and/or Philip from South Park and hair half way between Adolf Hitler and an emo group that I'm too old to be more than peripherally aware of.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


Following my recent discovery of Le Discret, I did a little research into the works of Joseph Ducreux. Typically I came to this party long after the rest of the internet had mined many of them for memes.

Here is another of my favorites. It was painted in about 1783, this is a self-portrait:

It's of his self, not my self.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Carruthers Camera #29

Here are five more Carruthers blog photos that I took:

Style Over Substance was taken near Denchworth in Oxfordshire.

There's No Other Way is a fantastic sign in Skipton in North Yorkshire.

Leonardo Da Vinci Says... it in Caledonian Road's tube station.

Tea With Daren is a slightly odd lingering sign painted on a wall in Cheshunt.

Sticking with Cheshunt, Babybox is a terrifying view through a charity shop window.