Tuesday, 16 October 2018

How Many Times Does An Angel Fall?

In the song Blackstar David Bowie asked the question "How many times does an angel Fall?" and the answer it would appear, for now, is thirteen. The many times The Doctor has fallen, nearly always in battle and never ever really knowing what you are gonna get. Well this time we got Jodie Whitaker and this angel has taken wing. She is great and I imagine this is what she did during her auditions for the part. I say auditions as I have heard she had to do more than one.
              Anyway, there she was at Christmas, oh yes, Christmas night last seen falling from an exploding Tardis, clutching desperately, trying in vain to close the distance between herself and the thing she loves and needs. Hows she going to get out off that one! We now know she did not, crashing through the roof of a stalled train, presumably protected from going splat by the residual energy of her recent regeneration. fortunately she landed on a sheffield bound train and not on the Belfast to Dublin line. Or perhaps not so fortunate, I have no doubt she would have found herself in a tricky situation of some sort, just not one involving alien tech. Probably.
             She hit the ground running did Our Jodie (And doesn't that feel natural already). Only born and already trying to save innocents from a fate worse than Casualty. It was a strange story to kick off with, a predator inspired hunt I suppose, with an alien entity that felt more like a creature from Torchwood than Doctor Who. Although they do occupy and share the same continuity, just a human tooth clad creature..ugh. She was fortunate enough to find great company straight off the bat to share her adventure, both in the industrial underbelly of the city and the green open spaces overlooking it. A great juxstaposition both visually and in terms of telling the story. One being part of the other.
              No Tardis yet, no Unit to check out the alien incursion, no sentient puddles...I think at least two of those things are sure to reappear at some point. I really liked seeing this new incarnation running about in the tattered remains of her previous incarnation. I had hoped the ramshackle but well equipped workshop she built her new Sonic in was going to be her regular workshop. Goggles and torch in gloved hand she looked every inch the cyberpunk inventor.I love the idea of The Doctor building magical things out of junk. It so speaks to the heart of why I love this show so much. And with everything else going on it might have been easy to overlook, or not quite hear, the amazing new soundtrack provided by Segun Akinola. He had such huge shoes to fill who would have blamed him from shying away. He did not though and we were rewarded with an atmospheric soundscape that really held its own with the bold new visual direction.
              Nine more weeks off this..
              Its enough to make one believe in magic.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Easy Like Sunday Evening.

                                            New Day. New Time. New Doctor. New Who.
                                                                   Same Hero.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Jacqueline Pearce.

So sorry to hear the lovely Jacqueline Pearce has passed away. A hugely talented and charismatic actress who's career has spanned decades, every now and then walking away with a fantastic turn in some genre piece. Quite recently playing a fabulous two-hander with the much missed John Hurt as the wicked Cardinal Ollistra, more than holding her own in the force of personality stakes, indeed she convincingly played a Time Lady willful enough to reign in the force of nature that John Hurt embodied as The War Doctor.
            Best remembered as the nemesis of Blake, and Avon off course, in four seasons of Blake,s Seven. I do not know if this is true but her character was said to have been intended for one episode but such was the charisma on display that they allowed the character to grow and come to share an equal place in the affections of fans of that classic genre drama.
             I will never forget the two Hammer movies , filmed back to back, in the sixties; Plague Of The Zombies and The Reptile. Two dark fantasies, with all involved on top of their game. Jacqueline Pearce was a stand out in both movies. Darkly beautiful and doubly doomed, he loss in both movies as she became transformed into the stuff of nightmares made doubly so because of that tragic beauty. Her transformation into an undead thing during one of the movies classic dream sequences is one once seen never forgotten. Despite what would be considered by today's standards quite primitive make up effects they, and she, pull it off. Watch he change and then climb wordlessly from the grave. Same with her turn as a reptile lady(how often do that particular set of words come together in a sentence.). Witness her teasing her poor father with a rift on a sitar( again, how often does that set of variables come together?), her attempts to have an ordinary life and the revelation she is quite extraordinary.
            For all that though, she had some other quality that set her apart. A knowing worldly wit I suspect. A smokey voice that could be threatening as well as elegant, seductive and unreliable. And those amazing eyes, those were eyes that had peered into the untempered schism and did not blink.
             Jacqueline Pearce. One of a kind. Kind of special.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Spaceman; An Astronauts Unlikely Journey To Unlock The Secrets Of The Universe.

Very enjoyable read One of those great books that makes me want to kick my heels together and set of to help continue the legacy of men like Carl Sagan and Mike Massimino. Men who worked hard and against the odds to take mankind to the stars. I have to admit I have off late spent too much time on Youtube listening to conspiracy theories about how the moon landing was faked, the culmination of a huge conspiracy to bankrupt Russia or some such nonsense.It can be very dispiriting. Some of these theories and the people who propose them present quite convincing cases, the breadth of their research and the confidence of their delivery. I found myself beginning to doubt my own beliefs that we made it to the Moon and back, on four occasions actually. So wide spread are these notions that I often find myself subject to ridicule and abuse for my perceived gullibility any time I talk about NASA and the history of the space race. As though belief in science, belief in the courage and fortitude of mankind is a silly thing, a frivolous childish delusion. Now although this book does not address that particular era in the history of the space race, it does reinforce my faith in the enlightenment that propels man forward to the heavens and beyond. A stop gap in the dyke damming the waves of negativity, reinforcing the protective wall surrounding the hard won assertions of our new age of wonders.
                Mike Massimino is an ex astronaut although I wonder if one can become an ex astronaut. When does an angel cease being an angel or a catholic stop being a catholic? Actually Mike Massimino is a catholic astronaut. That is not a contradiction or even a tautology. His dreams of walking in the stars were born in 1969 when Neil Armstrong and his crew went further than man ever has. He was born into a working class family in Long Island and it took a lifetime of studying and working hard to achieve his dream of following in Armstrong's example. The book details his many ups and downs and he writes with a simple honesty and a educated clarity, and a page turning enthusiasm. It also covers a turbulent and exciting period in the history of NASA, which in turn reflects the changing fortunes of America through the seventies to the present day.
                Mike Massimino is also a huge fan of the film The Right Stuff, the film more so than the book, and he talks at every opportunity about the profound influence it had on his life. Chapter after chapter he refers back to it, inspired by the friendships and shared courage of the astronauts in the film, attempting to recreate that aspirational quality in his own life with the men and women he works with in the space program. They are all hugely talented people , hard working, patriotic, all seeking to better the fortunes of mankind. There is a great photograph which sums up this idea, that stands testimony perhaps to the power of dreams and how they may shape our lives. There is the picture of young Mike Massimino the school boy in an astronaut costume his mother made for him standing outside his home in July 1969 and in his hand is a Snoopy Space man toy. It is side by side with a picture of Mike Massimino the astronaut at work in space and floating next to him is the very same Snoopy Space man toy he held onto since then( Not every moment of course. I am sure he put it down for important things like going to school then college then work then marriage and children etc..you know, the building blocks of his life.) I do hope he cleared with NASA bringing the Snoopy Space man toy on board his craft and that he did not jeopardise the mission by bringing a non safety cleared item into a zero G enviroment.
                 You know on the same date I was also a school boy who stood outside our family home looking up at the moon and wondering about the men who walked up there for the first time in human history. "Well Da, Theres men up there tonight," I said pointing up at the moon. My da stood at our front door with his hands in his pockets smoking a park drive " Nah, theres nobody up there, its not real." he said in that way of his, that any other possible observation than his is just nonsense.
                 What a thing to say to an innocent boy who's mind contains images of dark lunar landscapes and the brave men who risked everything to walk there. What an off puttingly negative thing to say to an impressionable dreamer. Who knows, if he had said something positive I might have been an astronaut by now.


Rejoice, A Knife To The Heart.

Enjoyed this new novel by Steven Erikson due for release this October. It is a well written and thought provoking novel about an old world ending and a possible new one rising from it non cindery ashes. Which is to say no familiar apocalyptic tropes drive this inventive exploration of a well worn groove. Reading it I pretty much felt the way I did when I learned that the death card in a tarot deck does not mean death but is the harbinger of change, be it great or small, the transition of one thing to another. A similar transition might take place in your own head as you read it.
            The copy I read off this book had the words "Is Humanity Worth Saving?" asserted across the top part of the cover. I am not sure if the author attempted to answer this proposition or if he had even intended to. The reader will have to answer that question to their own satisfaction. He does provide insightful glances into the lives of some very different examples of who we think to be human despite their actions probably best described as inhumane. It is not only "The Good" who will, or will not, be saved by this powerful cosmic intervention. Which is what the alien incursion actually is and like all interventions, even for the significant ones good, is not always welcome. The intervention takes the form of a series of force fields which push mankind out of any areas on Earth where our presence had led to enviromental damage. That is as you would expect is quite a radius of ground to cover. These force fields are also adaptable to other scenarios and prevent mankind from dealing any more harm to its fellow beings, mostly stopping bullies and greedy people from preying on others, showing evil on a grand scale is really petty on a grand scale. In no time at all the world changes as the threat of violence becomes nothing more than the empty promises of the impotent. 
             Rejoice is a book with dark beginnings that gradually builds towards an optimistic visions of mankind's potential. A Canadian science fiction writer is abducted and told she will become the designated go-between the intervening aliens and the human race. A spokes person to articulate the aliens intent, probably preferring not to come face to face with mankind, for reasons which may, or may not, become clear. You will have to read the book, to go on that journey to the undiscovered country, guided by your designated driver, Steve Erikson. In his company the journey is more World War ET than World War Z.
             Er..thankfully.

Palo Santo. Olly Alexander And Years And Years.

Have been really enjoying this beautiful addition to the shared cultural zeitgeist i.e. the world we all ive in and try to get by in despite ourselves.)by Olly Alexander and his amazing band Years and Years. Palo Santo ( Spanish for Holy Wood ), lovely serendipity for an MR James fan. The haunted carvings from classic ghost story The Stalls Of Barchester Cathedral were carved from wood grown in a location called Holy Wood. Felt a sympathetic shiver as this lovely coincidence (?) occurred to me. It is the title of Years And Years second album and also the name of a short film made to accompany the album. Its a sort of sexy musical Blade Runner where androids and AIs attempt to experience real emotions inspired by human performances in dystopian cabarets. It is a fantastically realised and emotionally engaging film that explores complex notions of sensuality and the fluidity of sexuality. Yes, it is as ambitious as that and manages to pull it off with the assurity of a group of artisans at the top of their game.
             Olly Alexander shines in this film, he resembles Prospero's sprite Ariel, a self made magical being, possessed of otherworldly abilities and a fey gentility that makes him as loveable as he is magical. He plucks metaphysical ideas from a bubbling cauldron of humane sexuality and makes you want to dance to the anthems he and his band conjure out of the ether. I do not think I have enjoyed a musical interpretation of a series of abstract but believable concepts as Palo Santo since I saw David Bowie's Blackstar. In fact if I could suggest David Bowie as The Sandman or Morpheus of our musical dreaming then I would surely nominate Olly Alexander as its Ariel.
             He is the stuff that dreams are made off.

Hero.The Life And Legend Of Lawrence Of Arabia.

Thoroughly enjoyed this great big book based on the lives, yes lives, and times of T E Lawrence. A very well written glimpse into the turbulent and complex mind of a man who continues to fascinate and intrigue..anyone who is fascinated and intrigued by him. I have no idea how other people come to be interested in these things. With myself it is allt all a bit random. "You have very catholic tastes" someone put it to me. As if I needed to explain myself to myself as to why I enjoy some things more than others. I do not believe that description covers it other than to suggest I spend a lot of time feeling guilty about things I cannot help and humming Ave Maria to myself.
             There have been a number of biographies about Lawrence the man, Lawrence the myth, Lawrence the mythy man.He seemed a complex fellow, almost larger than life, driven by forces and ambitions that were at times other worldly, certainly outside the motivations that drove many historic figures to make the impact their lives left on the world they in time left behind. Few of them outliving the legends foisted upon them by the worlds perceptions of their deeds.Despite the fact he led a full, active and colorful life from beginning to its unexpected close, it was the two/three years he spent uniting the desert tribes in Arabia that he is best remembered for. The visually appealing and iconic image of him in his flowing desert robes is the stuff of legend. Looking every inch the desert warrior or Ealing movie born Jedi knight( Peculiarly English in a remote desert setting.) is famous the world over in no small part an image generated by the David Lean bio pic with that amazing turn by the amazing Peter O Toole.
              TE Lawrence was born into an eccentric family situation. The mother and father of the five sons being unmarried. A terrible stigma in those far off class based days which would have affected the boys chances for good schooling and career prospects, had the details of their life been better known. To my uneducated ears it all sounded terribly bohemian, a mix of Tom Brown's School Days and Swallows And Amazons. Even as a school boy he seemed destined for a life less ordinary. A life he certainly went on to lead, recorded in fascinating and engaging juicy detail by Michael Korday. And some of those details were and remain almost pruriently unresolved. Arabia was the glittering prize in a deadly game of thrones played by the world's power players. In fairness Michael Korday does not play down the ruthlessness of England as an ambitious and greedy power player in that game.
             Hero is an intimate glimpse into the life and legend of Lawrence Of Arabia. It is a big book that covers many miles and minutes but does not outstay its welcome. Something the man himself would have appreciated.
             Here is a tiny gleam in the eye of TE Lawrence himself when he once explained to his mother his passion for reading and for beautiful books; " Father won't know all this-but if you get the right book for the right time you taste joy-not only bodily, physical, but spiritual also, which pass out above and beyond one's miserable self, as it were through a huge air, following the light of another man's thought. And you can never be quite the old self again."