Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Speaking of Shabogan hooligans, here's the Fall at Glastonbury (2015)

"Thanks for turning the volume down, cunt on the desk."
The glorious caterwauling of Mark E. Smith is not diminished by age or repetition.

The full set. (Expand the description, it's a functional set list.)

The Deadly Assassin - "Just the kind of hooliganism we're always running the Shabogans in for."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Deadly Assassin - Details

Season 14, Story 3 (Overall Series Story #88) | Previous - Next | Index

Crime scene. The floor of the Panopticon.
"The Deadly Assassin" is an unusual story in many ways, while at the same time being easily identifiable as a Robert Holmes-penned Doctor Who story. Holmes-isms include: a double act (Spandrell and Engin this time around); it's got the violence and disturbing imagery; his contempt for authority and bureaucracy is evidenced throughout; he's brought back the Master -- who debuted in his "Terror of the Autons"; the dialogue is distinctively his, as is the dry wit. Unusual in that the Doctor is without a companion, this story also does a soft reboot of the Time Lords and Gallifreyan society. Unusual stylistically in that it starts with a scroll and voiceover narration by Tom Baker setting the context, something I don't recall seeing DW do before, or since. [citation needed] Familiar and strange, we're wrong-footed into a story that proceeds to reassure us this is still the show we know and love, while challenging us to expand our idea of what the show can be.

It wobbles to an over-long end, but for a little more three episodes, this is about as good as Doctor Who gets. Before I give all the credit to Holmes, Baker, the strong supporting cast (especially Bernard Horsfall as Goth and George Pravda as Castellan Spandrell), and ace director David Maloney -- whose other credits include "The Mind Robber" (which also featured Horsfall as Gulliver), "The War Games" (also featuring Horsfall, as a rando Time Lord who could've been Goth? Nothing forbids the possibility, though there's certainly no reason to think anybody put any thought into it), "Genesis of the Daleks," and "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" -- we've got to acknowledge the gorgeous-on-a-few-quid design work of Roger Murray-Leach. Murray-Leach's vision (and recycling: the Gallifreyan symbol is, famously, from "Revenge of the Cybermen") make this look better than it has any right to. Those giant cowls we identify so strongly with Time Lord society, they debuted here. As did the Sash, Key, Rod, and probably a few other Objects I'm Forgetting of Rassilon. (Not to mention the name Rassilon itself, which raises all sorts of questions about where was all this when we learning about Omega back in "The Three Doctors"?)

This story exudes confidence. You can say the same about virtually all of the Hinchcliffe era, but this story in particular grabs the series by its lapels, gives vigorous shakes, and says, "Look, we do what we want, see?" (That's my Cagney voice -- Jimmy, not & Lacey.) No companion, riffing on The Manchurian Candidate and North By Northwest (with a model airplane, no less, and getting away with it), throwing scribbled notes in Gallifreyan script on the screen where one of the glyphs is clearly a mouse for no good reason, flipping off Mary Whitehouse: these are the decisions a show-runner determined to do things his own way makes. If they don't work, the damage could be irreversible and tank the enterprise. But, Hinchcliffe and Holmes make it work.

That chalk outline on the floor of the Panopticon where the outgoing President fell, that's brilliant. A small detail, unremarked upon by any character in the story that brings a smile to my face, and I suspect yours as well, upon every re-watch. Likewise, the Doctor sketching caricatures while on trial. They may not have been able to afford the materials to fill out the sets and make them as grand as they would have wanted, but they manage to fill the screen with chalk and pencil scribbles that add a layer of visual humor that it would have never dawned on a less creative team to include.


So many things to talk about with this story, could fill several more posts, but going to resort to listing off the things I'd spend more time on if I hadn't also watched "Robots of Death," "The Masque of Mandragora," and "The Invisible Enemy" today.

  • With events in Charleston, SC this past week, we've had it made painfully clear, yet again, that white supremacist ideology is a stain on civilization that is set deep, and we've barely begun trying to get it out. I mean, of course the Time Lords are all old, white men, who else would we find in the halls of power? I'm afraid it was all but inconceivable that a race as wise, ancient, and powerful as Gallifrey's could be anything but all-white to the creators of the show at that moment in time. That Holmes despises these musty, old buffoons is clear, but the breath of life, the source of energy that their society is missing is embodied in the Doctor -- another white guy. I don't think anybody was making a statement deliberately. I'm not accusing Holmes and Hinchcliffe of being especially racist, only observing that in the years ahead, it's only going to become more and more obvious how much everybody defaulted to casting white actors as much as possible. Seinfeld, recently, has been glibly denying he needed to do anything about addressing institutional racism and sexism in his show, and he looks much the worse for his casual indifference. Seinfeld is one of the great TV comedies, no doubt about it. But apart from the marathon runner and Kramer's attorney, where were the black men and women of New York City? They weren't on Friends.
  • I loathed Nolan's The Dark Night Returns because of the tacit approval of the "protect the people from the truth, because they can't handle the truth" scheme cooked up at the end to save Dent's reputation. Ruined the movie. That Wayne/Batman thought so little of his city that he agreed to take the fall for Dent, and that this was supposed to make him heroic to us, the privileged, elite viewer was so demeaning, it ruined the movie, and the franchise for me. So, you might have expected me to unload on Holmes for giving Goth cover on the same grounds in this story. The thing is, after that first bullet point, I feel like I've already brought the hammer down on him for doing what, basically, virtually everybody else was doing as a matter of course for decades before and after, so I'm inclined to go easy on this front. Also, we were supposed to see our current society, in a fractured reflection, hyper-realized in a comic book universe, but basically we were supposed to recognize the citizenry of Gotham as being regular folks. Holmes is painting Time Lord society as a stagnant, degenerate society, so not giving them credit for having the fortitude and integrity to handle Goth's villainy is probably about right.
  • Talked already about how The Manchurian Candidate and Hitchcock were plundered here but there's loads more. The matrix was riddled with allusions to old movies and the tropes of villainy. The Doctor being framed for assassinating a President screams Lee Harvey Oswald to the paranoid imagination. Heck, going up to the catwalks above the Panopticon with the Master lurking up there in his black robes felt pretty Phantom of the Opera.
  • Everybody mentions this, but it bears repeating, the computational matrix loaded with the minds of dead Time Lords uploaded just before they expired that looks a like real world to the consciousness inside it, but can also be represented on screen as code and circuitry, and where your avatar's death inside it will kill you in the real world, is called the Matrix twenty plus years before the Wachowskis blew our minds. (Hinchcliffe explaining to Baker what they were doing on the audio commentary is hilarious.)
  • Speaking of the audio commentary on the DVD ... Baker's telling of the story of the women who told him on the train to (or from) Charing Cross that she loved him all her life is priceless. There's a reason he was so well-loved and tremendously popular: he was amazing as the Doctor. Amazing in this story, amazing in most of them. For seven odd years. Much as I love Capaldi, Pertwee, Tennant, Eccleston, Troughton, Smith, Hartnell, Davison, McCoy, Colin Baker, McGann, and Hurt (roughly in that order, though it may change depending on what I've watched any given week) -- Tom Baker is the standard against which all the others are measured. He's unrivaled, in my estimation. 
  • This is something I should remember with certainty, but I was very young, and any thing even vaguely scary on telly would give nightmares which messed with memories -- it took me ten years to work up the nerve to watch the first TV adaptation of Salem's Lot for a second time, which, yeah, as goofy and not-scary as you probably think it is now -- and what I'm dancing around here is that around the same time a dippy TV vampire was keeping me up nights, that's when I first saw Doctor Who for the first time, and what I remember seeing first was "The Deadly Assassin". The laughing clown face, the Doctor on gurney about to be injected with a giant hypodermic needle. That shit messed with my sleep, too. I was eight-years-old, or thereabouts, and prone to nightmares anyways. Cut me some slack.
  • Continuity and canonicity. At some point I'm going to finally get around to organizing my thoughts on What Canon Means And Should Mean, but for now just want to point out how breezy Hinchcliffe is on the audio commentary about how much was done on the fly, without being particularly concerned about tossing off lines referring to the twelve regeneration limit, and what all was just made up on the fly. We fans tend to take this stuff very seriously. Often more seriously than the creators. And when obsessive fans grow up and get put in charge of things, sometimes that is problematic, too. 
  • I love the wood-paneled alternate control room. As design, it's lovely. In terms of the show, if we see it, we know straightaway that we're watching a good one. Every story this control room was used in is great. Save one. *gives side eye to "The Invisible Enemy"* Your mileage may vary on "The Hand of Fear," but I love it and, no, not only because I verklempt at the end ... 

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Monday, June 29, 2015

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#tenyearslater cryptonaut-in-exile: The Best Movie Reviews Include Crudely Drawn Comics

The link is still alive and, with a new batch of Star Wars movies on the way, we hope it won't be relevant. But it might be.

Below is how the post would've looked if I used the format back then that I do now.

Star Wars Episode III: a steaming pile of Sith.

Yoda fesses up. Image via bestpageintheuniverse
Before I go on, I have to address something that all you stupid Star Wars nerds are probably thinking right about now: "But Maddox, it's a movie made for kids, what do you expect?!" Even Lucas stated in an interview with the BBC that: "The movies are for children but [the fans] don't want to admit that." 
Oh really? It just so happens that this "children's movie" has a scene where a guy gets his hands chopped off, a graphic decapitation, the wanton slaughter of children (the highlight of any movie), and the coolest scene in any space action movie starring Ewan McGregor: Anakin getting his legs chopped off as his stumps catch fire while his face melts. By the way, if you haven't seen this movie yet, don't read the previous sentence.

Maddox, by the way, is still going strong. Check out a few of his recent posts if you head over that way. If you're a business owner, he can help you save 23% on labor costs.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

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Friday, June 26, 2015

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

Tagging Now A Felony With Prison Time In North Carolina Thanks To HB552

Tagging A Building With Graffiti Could Get You Felony Prison Time In North Carolina | WUNC:

State lawmakers are expected to send Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday a bill that would make graffiti vandalism a felony if performed by repeat offenders.

Since the story was written, the bill was signed in to law. Because our legislature here has nothing better to do.

Watch out, Banksy.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Karl Polanyi Explains It All

Karl Polanyi, image via concordia.ca
Libertarian economists, who treat the market as universal—disengaged from local cultures and historic time—are fanatics whose ideas end in tragedy. Their prescription means “no less than the running of society as an adjunct to the market. Instead of economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in the economic system.”

Saturday, June 20, 2015

TV List of the Moment (Summer 2015 edition)

Believe it or not, between episodes of Doctor Who on WUNC, WUNC-MX, BBCA, DisneyXD, and what I've got in my collection, I do watch a few other shows. The best of what I've been watching lately, in no particular order:

Black Mirror
  1. Black Mirror - It's uncomfortable, challenging viewing and I love it. I'm only three episodes in to Series 1, but it's living up to the advance billing in a big way. Raising the bar for anthology series. (Available on Netflix)
  2. Catastrophe - The rom-com isn't a genre I've got a lot of patience for, but this totally won me over. I only gave it a shot only because comic twitter genius Rob Delaney co-created and co-stars, didn't have much in terms of expectations. Totally blew me away. The thing with rom-coms is the characters in them are, generally, utterly unlikable and/or impossible to relate to as human beings. Not the case here. (Amazon original series)
  3. Daredevil - Even though it got rave reviews, I was skeptical it would do much for me. Daredevil isn't a character I care much about (spare me the Catholic guilt jokes) and I was afraid it would look shoddy being a Netflix production. While I wasn't overly impressed with the star, Charlie Cox (low-wattage charisma, and a bit on the welterweight side) he wasn't a deal-breaker, and the rest of the cast, notably Deborah Ann Woll, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elden Henson, and Rosario Dawson, crushed it. D'Onofrio's Kingpin is one of the best villains this genre has had. If not the best. He should be winning awards. Looking forward now to next series in this Defenders lead-up.  (Netflix original)
  4. Archer & Bob's Burgers - I'm late to the game on these two animated series and just getting caught up. Haven't seen a dud from either of 'em yet, both keep knocking it out of the park in their own way. (FX & Fox, respectively)
  5. The Late, Late Show - I haven't been a late night TV watcher with any consistency since Letterman moved to CBS, but James Corden is winning over me where Fallon, Kimmel, Myers, and even his predecessor, Ferguson, couldn't set the hook on me. Each have, or had, their moments. I wish he'd nudge a bit into the Jon Stewart space, but Colbert will be coming along soon and, on paper at least, they should be a devastating one-two punch. (CBS)
  6. iZombie - Loved the first season. Secretly hope it's got bigger scope in mind, advancing a bit beyond the weekly procedural. Not that it couldn't keep up like it's been going, but I think of how Dollhouse was about to make that leap from being episodic with a bigger story slowly emerging, to totally going apeshit and lowering the boom and wonder how long this show can keep the lid on its zombie outbreak. I'm not advocating it turn into The Walking Dead, these are a different kind of zombie, and their apocalypse could be something fare more intriguing ...
I haven't looked to far ahead to see what might be worth looking forward to in terms of new scripted series, but aim to check out Poldark on Masterpiece tomorrow, hoping it will fill the gap left by Wolf Hall

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I ♥ the replies to this Bobby Jindal tweet

I hope Gov. Jindal reads every single reply to this tweet and comes to understand how despised his pathetic attempt at politicizing a tragedy for his own personal gain is. And, let's be clear, it is absolutely appropriate to discuss the politics of gun control, white supremacist ideology, and complicity of the political class and mainstream media in perpetuating the failure of our society address these (frankly, not that difficult) issues. What is not appropriate is to exploit a tragedy to further your own career goals. People see that for what it is and they react with revulsion.

Terrorist targeted historic SC church on 193rd anniversary of thwarted slave revolt planned by its founder #CharlestonShooting

Image via Sam Livingston

The black South Carolina church where a white terrorist gunned down nine worshipers was burned down nearly 200 years ago as part of a seminal event in United States history.
Denmark Vesey and five slaves were hanged in July 1822 for allegedly plotting a revolt that authorities at the time claimed would have involved thousands of slaves in Charleston and at nearby plantations.

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26 essential #sci-fi novels | ZDNet

26 essential science fiction novels to get you ready for tomorrow | ZDNet

Not on the linked list but it should've been.
With summer finally here, it seems the right time to publish some of that list, so I've collated below 26 of what I consider the most essential SF titles for people interested in imagining all possibilities for the future. Think of it as a summer reading list that's a gateway to building tomorrow - all over your cold beverage of choice.
For the descriptions, check out the article. If you just want the list, here it is:
  1. Vernor Vinge: True Names
  2. Vernor Vinge: Rainbows End
  3. John Brunner: The Sheep Look Up
  4. John Brunner: The Jagged Orbit
  5. John Brunner: Stand On Zanzibar
  6. John Brunner: The Shockwave Rider
  7. Bruce Sterling: Heavy Weather
  8. Bruce Sterling: Distraction
  9. Bruce Sterling: A Good Old Fashioned Future
  10. Bruce Sterling: Islands In The Net
  11. David Brin: Existence
  12. David Brin: Earth
  13. Charles Stross: Halting State
  14. Charles Stross: Rule 34
  15. Paolo Bacigalupi: Shipbreaker
  16. Paolo Bacigalupi: Pump 6
  17. Neal Stephenson: Reamde
  18. Ramez Naam: Nexus
  19. Ramez Naam: Crux
  20. Kim Stanley Robinson: 2312
  21. Laura Mixon: Proxies
  22. M J Locke: Up Against It
  23. Brenda Cooper: The Diamond Deep
  24. Linda Nagata: The Bohr Maker
  25. Alastair Reynolds: Blue Remembered Earth
  26. Cory Doctorow: Little Brother

Not a terrible list. But ... c'mon, dude. Not until #18 do we have a recommendation for a book written by something other than a white man. At #21 we get our first woman?  On top of that, why would include the same authors so many times in a list this short? I was delighted to see John Brunner on the list, and I would've struggled whether to recommend The Sheep Look Up or Stand On Zanzibar, but list one and mention his other great works in the description of the one and make room for another author on the list.

I'm going improve the list above by recommending only one per author and making it a little less country club:
  1. Vernor Vinge: True Names  Monica Byrne: The Girl in the Road
  2. Kim Stanley Robinson: 2312
  3. Vernor Vinge: Rainbows End
  4. John Brunner: The Sheep Look Up
  5. John Brunner: The Jagged Orbit Ursula K. Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness
  6. John Brunner: Stand On Zanzibar Samuel R. Delaney: Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
  7. John Brunner: The Shockwave Rider Lucius Shepard: Green Eyes
  8. Bruce Sterling: Heavy Weather
  9. Bruce Sterling: Distraction Joanna Russ: We Who Are About To ...
  10. Bruce Sterling: A Good Old Fashioned Future Ann Leckie: Ancillary Justice
  11. Bruce Sterling: Islands In The Net Kate Wilhelm: Cambio Bay
  12. David Brin: Existence
  13. David Brin: Earth Vonda N. McIntyre: The Entropy Effect 
  14. Charles Stross: Halting State
  15. Charles Stross: Rule 34 Joe Haldeman: The Forever War
  16. Paolo Bacigalupi: Shipbreaker
  17. Paolo Bacigalupi: Pump 6 J.G. Ballard: High Rise
  18. Neal Stephenson: Reamde
  19. Ramez Naam: Nexus
  20. Ramez Naam: Crux China MiĆ©ville: The City & The City
  21. Laura Mixon: Proxies
  22. M J Locke: Up Against It Lewis Shiner: Deserted Cities of the Heart
  23. Brenda Cooper: The Diamond Deep
  24. Linda Nagata: The Bohr Maker
  25. Alastair Reynolds: Blue Remembered Earth
  26. Cory Doctorow: Little Brother
I left the original list items if I haven't read them, but for the Neal Stephenson book at #18, I'd have gone with Zodiac. I also moved the Kim Stanley Robinson up because if you only read two from the list, that should be one of them. After that, these are in no particular order. For the Vonda N. McIntyre suggestion, I went with one of her Star Trek novels because Dreamsnake is out of print and might be hard to find.

Gunman kills 9 in 'hate' attack on church

Gunman kills 9 in 'hate' attack on church | Al Jazeera America

The late Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, State Senator (D) via NBCnews.com
A white gunman who killed nine people overnight at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina had attended a prayer meeting with the victims just before opening fire, police officials said Thursday.

Dixie Be Damned

The Great Dismal Swamp was originally a territory covering almost 2,000 square miles on both sides of the North Carolina/Virginia border. From the early-18th century through the end of the Civil War, the swamp was a refuge for overlapping, decentralized yet permanent communities of escaped European indentured servants, Indians, and West African slaves. These settlements became more Black as the young American economy imported more slaves.

Rather than just using the swamp as an avenue for escape, fugitives also used it as a site from which to attack surrounding plantations through cattle rustling, arson, the assassination of overseers and aiding in the escape of other slaves. Maroons also waged larger-scale guerrilla warfare against both pro-slavery American forces during the Revolutionary War and the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Several insurrectionary conspiracies that involved hundreds, if not thousands—including planned attacks on Norfolk and Richmond—have been linked to the swamp. Some historians, such as Herbert Aptheker and Hugo Prosper, have made the case that the maroons of the Great Dismal Swamp made a fundamental contribution to a slave culture of escape and rebellion, which itself helped to destabilize the plantation economy.

See also:

The Great Dismal Swamp [WikipediaNPR]

Also dramatized by H. J. Conway, Esq.:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Movies on the Radio: Science Fiction | WUNC

Movies on the Radio: Science Fiction | WUNC

The State of Things is one one of my favorite shows on WUNC, so glad to hear Frank & co. talking sci-fi movies.

A bunch of great movies get mentioned, but if I had to add one, probably go with Children of Men.

My flickchart is subject to radical change at any time ... but you can see the current rankings of my favorite sci-fi movies over there.

Side note: I had no idea John Kessel (who phoned in to the show) teaches at NC State. I've got a signed copy of Good News From Outer Space on my bookshelf that I picked up when I met him, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Lucius Shepard at a signing at Ziesing's in Willimantic, CT back in 1989. I still shake my head in wonder at how lucky I was to meet that much talent in a tiny bookstore.

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Are Uber drivers ICs or employees? CA says the former.

California Says Uber Driver Is Employee, Not a Contractor - The New York Times

As a driver myself (very part-time), I'm watching this with interest. I've been working on a post about the experience of signing up and driving with Uber and, from my limited experience, it sure looks to me like Uber is gaming the system.

For more, see Robert Reich's post on the news ...

Monday, June 15, 2015

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Friday, June 12, 2015

The Lodger - "They never really stop."

The Lodger (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 5, Story 11 (Overall Series Story #215) | Previous - Next | Index

Craig and the Doctor via chemically-calmed
Not that I thought of it that way at the time, but it's The First One With James Corden in it. Never having seen Gavin And Stacey, it's The Late, Late Show -- where he succeeded massive Whovian, and long time mate of Peter Capaldi, Craig Ferguson -- that I know him by.

This story's going to get short-shrifted by me a bit, in that I just did a number on the Series 3 finale, and "The Lodger" is, in my estimation, a much slighter affair. Not to say there's much wrong with it, it's miles better than "The Sound of Drums" and "Last of the Time Lords," in my estimation, it just doesn't have lofty ambitions or vast scope. It's a relatively quiet little domestic thriller with some comic charm and a few easter eggs that put the "calm" in "the calm before the (oncoming) storm(ageddon)."

Amy's trapped in the TARDIS, bumped off a steady landing by a mysterious force that the Doctor is a little nervous about engaging, so he Doctor goes undercover as a normal guy to investigate the upstairs of Craig's building, where power surges, creeping rot, some unusual bumping and thumping emanate from. The Doctor's undercover normal is about as successful as Twelve's in "The Caretaker." ("Have you seen you?" Amy asks.) Craig, a likable bloke with a crush on a ladyfriend he hasn't worked up the nerve to act on, yet, is a tolerant foil for the Doctor's antics and it's all a bit of a lark -- around the dead bodies, and until Craig's love interest is lured upstairs.

All-in-all, a pleasant enough tale about knowing what you want and deciding to take action to go after it. If somebody told me I had to pick an episode Oprah Winfrey might like, I guess this'd be the one. *shrugs*


  • Really don't miss this TARDIS interior design. give the coral desktop theme any day.
  • Check the refrigerator door, looks like Craig went (or will go) to the Van Gogh exhibit.
  • Remember the bit of tech Three whipped up in "The Time Monster"?  Eleven goes bigger along the same lines in this one.
  • Eleven's football skills are roughly on par with, if not somewhat superior to, Five's cricket.
  • Got a ton of exposition to get through, but don't just want your characters to blurt it out rapid-fire? This episode solves it with a some psychic transference via head-butting that works rather well.
  • Want to take the opportunity to plug The Late, Late Show. I missed his debut ... I watch very little late night TV; but when Letterman was saying farewell, I started checking out Corden's current gig and found he's doing a bang up job. He's the best of Fallon, but without the smarminess, and of Kimmel, but not quite so ... bro. He's got some Letterman's edge in his DNA, but is a better interviewer -- using the full couch technique of Graham Norton to good effect.   

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords - "Basically, um, end of the world. Here come the drums."

Utopia (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 3, Story 11 (Overall Series Story #191a) | Previous - Next | Index

"We're at the end of the universe and you're ..."
Image via tied up like two ships
Frankly, taken all together, the Series 3 three-part finale doesn't work for me. No, it's not because Ten is dismissive of blogging; despite my prickly disposition, I can let that slide. And, certain elements absolutely do work -- it's by no means a complete wash-out. But, it's hampered by a less than successful integration of a trio of domestic abuse narratives it attempts to weave into a story powered by a Paradox Machine featuring the return of the Master who's got a wild scheme cooked up to use the Earth as a launching point for a intergalactic domination.

Could the themes ever have been explored by this show in this sort of story?  Sure, it's tricky stuff, but you can do pretty much anything with Doctor Who if you put your mind to it. The execution just falters over the season, stumbling hardest here at the end. The real hero of S3, Martha, is made unlikable through no fault of her own, while we're asked to continue accepting the Doctor as a hero, despite his being portrayed as a narcissistic ass with no regard for his friend's feelings. Sabotaging Martha's character only serves to undermine the authorship of the series.

The poor handling of Martha's arc from med student in residency to unrequited departing companion detracts from what is otherwise a strong season. This is, after all, the year in which we got "Human Nature" / "The Family of Blood", "Blink", and vastly under-rated "42". (Sure, after starting strong, it sags hard in the middle, but delivered a series of gems leading up to the finale.) If the vision of the third series hadn't been to show why Martha's companion status was untenable -- or, un-Ten-able, eh? -- this could have a wild success.

Well, the other impediment that would've had to have been addressed before this could have been a wild success is the dump Murray Gold on the incidental music tracks. Because, wow, the music in this story sucks. It sucks so hard. Not so much in "Utopia," but once we get into part two, and from then on, it's unlistenable. (Martha's theme at the very end of "Last of the Timelords" is OK, but it's too little, too late.) It's been uneven under Gold, but this one calls back the dark days of the dying classic series, when the show was an aesthetic abomination from bean to cup.

Here's the lens I think it's most helpful to use, among several possibilities (not the least of the others would be a focus on the origin of the Master and his relationship with the Doctor): "Utopia" is Chantho's story. Domestic Abuse Narrative 1. She's killed by the man to whom she made herself subservient, Professor Yana/the Master, a man more focused on his work, not capable of returning affection. She kills the Yana body, but he'd already been de-Chameleon Arched at that point and could regenerate so the cycle of abuse evolves and continues...

"The Sound of Drums" is Lucy's story. Domestic Abuse Narrative 2. Vulnerable Lucy is convinced by the Master to make her own choice in staying in an abusive, exploitative relationship. He does this by showing her a future with no hope at the end of time -- the genesis of the Toclafane, if you will. Her story continues into part three, where she also gets a turn killing the Master. However, as with Chantho, the cycle doesn't end ... a woman's hand pills the Master's ring from the ashes of his funeral pyre so we know he'll be back. But we'll call part two Lucy's story because ...

"Last of the Time Lords" is the conclusion of Martha's season-long arc. Domestic Abuse Narrative 3. She makes the choice Chantho couldn't. She is the one who, among other heroic actions, breaks the cycle of men taking advantage of woman, and she does it without violence. She saw the same future as Lucy -- although, to cut Lucy some slack, Martha didn't actually see the failure of Utopia. Hearing about it though, she still doesn't abandon hope in the future (her future), she resolves to make the best life for herself she can and soldier on.

So why don't we like Martha? The series was rigged against her. She's the hero, but her work is undone. She and the Doctor remember "the Lost Year," but nobody else does. And, more to the point, she spotlights how the Doctor is the same as the Master, at least in this one regard. Minus, of course the physical abuse. And, because, she's the one pointing it out, with eye rolls and woe-is-me asides, it's easy for us to blame the messenger for the news that this Doctor is self-centered and inconsiderate. (He's not yet the Time Lord Victorious, but he's on the way ... )

And because the whole season is entwined, remember Lazarus not only provides the basis for the tech the Master uses to age the Doctor down to a dessicated walnut, but killed his partner, Lady Thaw, as well, Martha's season is inseparable from its emotional and physical abuse themes. To the extent the Doctor is implicated in them, it is ... disturbing. It's fixed, I think, if ... well, you pick the spot, but I'll go with when they share a bed in "The Shakespeare Code" ... the Doctor says, "Look, Martha, I know. You are amazing. I'm nuts, but it can't be that way for us. We can travel together as friends, but that's how it's got to be. I can't have another miserable TARDIS filled with sniping and recriminations. Have I told you about Tegan ...?" Get it out in the open, deal with the elephant in the room, and either proceed with mutually agreed upon arrangement, or call it a day. Whichever course Martha takes from there, the Doctor at least has been open and honest, instead of toying with her.

Back to this finale triptych not being all bad, this episode in particular actually quite strong. Right from the open, the shot of the TARDIS materializing with the gleaming skyscraper in the background is signals imaginative effort has been put into this one. Yeah, we get some rapid-fire exposition about Cardiff and it's position on the Rift, but it's dumped and done. If you can swallow that pill, you're ready to be swept along. Plus, it would be weird, given the amount of  emotional and physical abuse the women take, if the Doctor had used Martha the Glasgow Kiss Exposition Method he deals Craig in "The Lodger."

Truly great: Derek Jacobi's too-short turn as the Master. He does some subtle Delgado tribute inflections that totally work for me. But, like Delgado, knows when to go big. Simm is fine. Simm is RTD's camp take on the Master and, sure, I'll roll with that. But, man, how great would it have been to have Jacobi as a recurring villain for a while?

Chantho could've been straight from a China MiĆ©ville novel. She looked great and her "Chan" and "tho"s  bracketing each of lines -- except when Martha encourages her to be vulgar -- is a nifty little detail that makes her seem more truly alien.

Captain Jack is back. Never going to mind a call back to Eccleston season. He even uses Nine's "Fantastic!" at one point and, of course, brings up Rose, wondering if she died at Canary Wharf. He ties the three series together, lending a feeling of continuity that assures us events and people aren't just forgotten. That's a hard balance to get right. You don't want to bog the series down, but you can't keep having the Earth get invaded and things being back to normal the next time the TARDIS touches down either without cheapening what's come before.

The far future setting isn't exactly convincing, and the Future Kind look like folks that got bounced out of a Mad Max open casting call, but it's just good enough to make the cliffhanger one of the best we've seen in a while.

The Sound of Drums (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 3, Story 12 (Overall Series Story #191b) | Previous - Next | Index

The Master and Lucy love them some Rogue Traders, don't they. "Here come the drums," indeed.

Y'know, it's not a song I love, but it's got a beat (courtesy of Elvis Costello, at least in part -- there's more than a little "Pump It Up" in "Voodoo Child"'s DNA) and I'm not going to complain about its inclusion. (No more than I did "Tainted Love" and some Brittany Spears back in "The End of the World") but stick around after the song in the clip below and listen starting at about 2:18 to what Murray Gold does. Listen, if you dare. You'll be pleading for him to bring back the drums. I neither love nor hate Murray Gold. He's done some good work, and some poor. What he does here though is make the show sound worse than daytime soap operas ever did.

As intense as the "Utopia" cliffhanger was, the resolution is cursory. Wave the sonic and *poof* they're out of the jam; before you can catch your breath, we're firmly in sci-fi soap opera mode. Tish and the rest of Martha's family, excepting her dad, range from dramatic equivalent of a snooze button (her brother), to outright unlikable. They're just not characters it's possible to care about. That's Martha getting the shaft again: where Rose had Jackie's out-sized personality to play against, Martha has her mom's perpetual sourpuss. (I do like her dad, but he's lost in the shuffle.)

In a world of corrupt politicos and unchecked oligarchy, a crusading free press is our greatest defense against those would reverse the progress of the last century and roll back secular democracy. With that in mind, I loved how it was a journalist who sussed out the problem with Saxon. That she got blind-sided by Lucy's devotion to her monster of a husband fed into my frustration with the story in general. Soap opera logic run amok.

Tonally, I'm put off here too by the mix of camp and macabre. The repeated gag of the Master and Lucy opening the door, hearing the journalist's screams as the Toclafane butcher her off camera, closing the door, then opening it again ... it's fair horror comedy, but now were layering comedy over horror over soap opera over sci-fi over Murray Gold's sonic assault ... and I'm burned out on the mess it's become.

To the extent this is an origin story for the Master, I like the chutzpah of RTD laying claim to the character. I'm not so sure the whole origin of the Master thing was particularly well-conceived. Tantalizing, but unsatisfying. How many young Time Lords are driven mad by the schism? It's a little late to be giving the Master martial tinnitus -- if he's been hearing the sound of drums his whole life, why didn't we ever see it before?

A few stray thoughts:

The aircraft carrier where First Contact with the Toclafane is to be staged looks like a solid influence on the helicarriers in the MCU.

The Master has jelly babies. He must be missing Four.

If the American President depicted here is anything like how the British view American politicians, they must think we are clowns. Of course, we are, and the characterization seems pretty spot-on. So...

Last of the Time Lords (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Series 3, Story 13 (Overall Series Story #191c) | Previous - Next | Index

The Master and wizened Ten
Image via Basement Rejects
At the end of the last episode, Martha had escaped the carrier to a ravaged Earth. The Doctor had been reduced to a CGI Dobby in a cage. Now we open to a title telling us it's ... One year later ... which must mean it's time for more shit music.

So it turns out I've pretty much front-loaded this write up and have already mentioned how Lucy's and Martha's different responses to future's they envisioned with the Master and the Doctor, respectively, make the former tragic and the latter heroic. It's in this episode though that Lucy's shiner is a multi-layer sucker punch. On the one fist, it's the character showing the signs of abuse, on the other, it's us, the viewers, seeing the Master no longer as super-villain, a megalomaniacal archnemesis for our hero, rather, facing the realization he's a more mundane and commonplace evil: a garden variety wife beater.

It's hard to commit to caring much about a story that we know, by the conventions of TV storytelling, is going to get invalidated. The puzzle is how it's going to get done; but, once you see the how, you've been paid off and there's nothing left to enjoy about it. Just as it's hard to imagine wanting to do a jigsaw puzzle, then break it down and do it again, it's hard to see what the point of watching Martha go through the paces so she can get back aboard the carrier to see the fruition of her storytelling.

Once. You can do this reverse/reboot/reset once, maybe, if you do it well, but it's trick that wears out its welcome. The lost year pre-emptively sucks the life out of "The Big Bang" (S5) and "The Wedding of River Song." (S6).

The Master's pop music obsession starts to grate in this episode as well.  Scissor Sisters "I Can't Decide" is not as catchy as "Voodoo Child," a jarring reminder that much of this isn't going to age well.

You can't talk about this episode and not remark on how the Doctor gets healed by humanity leveraging the Archangel Network to not only bring him back to the prime of life, but render him glowy and floaty in some glam-trippy excess that could've been straight out of the Pertwee era. Heck, if it weren't for the music, I might not have cringed so much.

So there it is. The Doctor gets his shine on, defeats the Master, and things look to be rolling to tidy conclusion until Lucy snaps. Doctor-Master histrionics ensue, Tennant chews the scenery and we wonder how's managed to misplace his emotions to care so much about the childhood friend he's been locked in a dance of death with for centuries. I mean, dude, let it go.

Ultimately, the Master ends up atop a funeral pyre, precedent I suppose for Eleven's Viking funeral on Lake Silencio. Of course, now as it will be later, no Viking funeral for a Time Lord is final. A woman's hand (Not the Rani! Stop it.) collects the Master's ring to ensure he can return for "The End of Time."

This won't be Martha's final farewell, either. She leaves, comes back to tell the story about her girlfriend's obsession with some Shawn bloke, leaves again. Passes up the opportunity to meet Agatha Christie, so Donna will get that adventure instead. Much as loved Freema Agyeman as Martha, and refused to the writers sour me on an ideal companion, I have to admit the dynamic is better with Donna, so one Martha season ended up being enough. It just wasn't the season the character deserved.

And here's the Titanic, what?!

New ☆ Tweet from @RepHall_Durham

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @ClassicDrWho

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Chimps drink fermented palm sap to party? Yeah they do!

Chimps partying. via The Guardian
The boozing starts from 7am. Though large amounts are often drunk, the sessions are orderly, even sociable. A skinful later, and always before nightfall, enough is enough and they rest.

They are the chimpanzees of Bossou, south-eastern Guinea, and their secret is finally out. With 17 years of evidence in hand, scientists have declared the troop the first wild chimpanzees to indulge in regular, habitual drinking.

The Greensboro Massacre

Image via Carolina Peacemaker
Photo by Charles Edgerton
Muhammad also tied the massacre to recent events, as demonstrators in several cities across the country have called for more police accountability and protested against socioeconomic and racial disparities. 
"We have to recognize that what happened in 1979 is not disconnected to what is going on today and what happened in Baltimore, what happened in South Carolina, what happened in Ferguson and what may happen in Greensboro,” he said.
What the marker doesn't mention is the collusion of the Greensboro police with the KKK, nor does it have room to note that all-white juries acquitted the defendants in the criminal trials.

1979. Not 1879. I was 8-years-old. Star Wars had been released two years earlier. The big news in November, 1979 was the hostage crisis in Iran. This is recent history. So recent it could have been yesterday.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

'I'd snog Peter Capaldi's face'

Faye Marsay wants to return to Doctor Who as Shona: 'I'd snog Peter Capaldi's face' - Doctor Who News - TV - Digital Spy

Shona dancing via Companions of the Doctor

Only to say, "We're with you Faye. We want Shona back, too. And we'd probably all snog Peter Capaldi's face given the chance." Wait, what?! *Pulls a Tennant Face*

Sunday, June 7, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal

Excepting policemen's unions, somewhat ironically, it's pretty clear who cares about people in general and who cares about doing the bare minimum while extracting as much money as possible from the public.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Reasons people shoot other people

Reasons people shoot other people

Image via Sacramento's 12news

My fiancee and I had an argument, so I open-carried my gun to a park and shot four random people. 
The bartender put Clamato in my beer when I wanted tomato juice, so I shot him and his dog. 
I found suspicious calls on my boyfriend's phone, so I shot him. He was armed at the time too. 
Rather than let my ex-wife win custody, I shot my own daughter to death.
Your Second Amendment-guaranteed well-regulated militia in action. Those above were just from May of this year, and it's only a sampling.

Finally, a switch pitcher!

Missed seeing Pat Venditte's Major League debut against the Red Sox live to my chagrin. It's something I'd hoped to see since I was kid, and wondered if I ever would: a pitcher in the majors who could pitch with either hand.

A lefty myself, I can also throw right-handed, but not as well. I bat and swing a golf club lefty, but write, play tennis, and eat right-handed. I can write left-handed but, weirdly, find it easier to write right-to-left, mirror image style, than proper left-to-write when I do. Table tennis I have no preference, am equally bad from both sides, though.

I wouldn't say I'm ambidextrous -- I can kick a point after left-footed, but fell, twisting my ankle in the process, when I tried right-footed, and I can't write left-handed going left-to-right without getting some of the letter backwards. I self-identify as a lefty because I consider throwing a baseball the skill that defines one's handedness. But, it's actually more like nothing comes easy for me from either side. For example, my handwriting is terrible, all but illegible even to myself unless I really concentrate on it. Although, I draw tolerably well right-handed.

I wonder sometimes if it's related to the dyslexia my dad and youngest brother struggle with and my son's apraxia. In any event, Pat Venditte's achievement is remarkable.

I'm no fan of the A's, but I'll wish Venditte well whenever he's not facing the Red Sox.

And, yes, umpires needed new rules to deal with him.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ted Cruz Being Ted Cruz

Hey Ted Cruz, Why Don’t You Shove Your Joe Biden ‘Jokes’ Right Up Your Bible Hole? | Wonkette:

What a shame Cruz had forgotten just how bad he felt for the Bidens — Cruz is a father too, so we’d expect he might be able to imagine how painful it would be to lose a child, if Cruz were made of human parts —but at least he damage-controlled that unfortunate error in judgment, so it’s all better now. In fact, let’s all praise Ted Cruz for doing the right thing. “Good on him,” wrote reporter Janell Ross at the Washington Post. Yeah, takes a real big man — who talks incessantly about his faith, which we’ve heard is about kindness and compassion, but maybe we’re wrong about that — to recycle a joke, about a man who is grieving his son who just died, and then say “Oops, sorry about that. My bad.”
He didn't really apologize, he fake apologized for the "timing" of the joke.

Look, I get it -- it's politics and these guys have speech writers and they give the same speech over and over again. Taking potshots at your rivals is part of the bullshit game our politicians love to play instead of doing the serious work of serving the public to promote general welfare. But, after this happened, when what he had done was pointed out to him, he had a chance to offer a genuine apology right there, and he blew it off. He blew it off and walked away. He didn't make that weak ass, fake apology until he'd be roundly castigated and had to in order to get the thing to blow over.

I had no respect for Ted Cruz as public servant, or a human being, to lose, so it's not like he's done anything but confirm what an asshole he is, yet again. The point is only that it's long past time news organizations stopped offering a microphone for him to speak into, or paying any attention to him at all. He should be ignored, and told, firmly and forcefully, to shut the fuck up and let the adults deal with the issues when he does pipe up.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @therealelp

As a fat guy who loves baseball and would throw on a uniform, drop whatever it is I'm doing at any given moment, and play a double-header, this may be the one time I stand in solidarity with Mr. Christie. He may be a lousy Governor who would make a lousy President, but we don't need to body shame the guy. We should take every opportunity to policy shame him, to corruption shame him, but let the guy play some baseball without being mocked.

Fill the uniform, my brother. Viva El Guapo!

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New ☆ Tweet from @georgelazenby

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @WFMU

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Monday, June 1, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @FloydMcKissick

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