purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)

The covers of the New Adventures novels were often rather pedestrian, even when they managed to get the human figures anatomically correct and in proportion (which was not always the case). This cover, by Jeff Cummins, is therefore among the more striking and accomplished. It is also, as it happens, one of my favourite books in the range.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Model-Checking for Analysis of Information Leakage in Social Networks has been accepted into the post-proceedings volume of the conference it was given at. The acceptance is notable, in particular, for the referees' comments which amount in all cases to "have dealt with previous comments more than sufficiently, nothing more to do" which is good in the light of how much time I don't have between now and the camera ready deadline.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
Following the comparative success of Vengeance on Varos, Mindwarp by the same writer was one of the more eagerly anticipated stories of Doctor Who's troubled 23rd season though Robert Holmes' final episode (part 1 of the ill-fated Ultimate Foe) was probably more eagerly anticipated. Watching Mindwarp one feels that it had the potential to be as good as Vengeance on Varos but is fatally undermined by both the constricting ongoing story of Trial of a Time Lord and by a general sense of mild incompetence, mostly on the part of the director though, as with much 1980s Who, there is a fair amount of rather lacklustre acting on display as well.

When I first saw Mindwarp I recall thinking that Brian Blessed was sadly wasted in his role as Yrcanos. I'd recently seen him in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V so knew him capable of being, if required, not quite so full on Brian Blessed. Rewatching now, Brian Blessed was definitely one of the best things in Mindwarp. He's clearly having fun and at least we were smiling whenever he was on the screen.

Frustratingly the ongoing story arc of the Doctor's trial condemns this particular segment to a section where doubts are supposed to be growing about the veracity of the material on display. We are essentially told that all the events unfolding on Thoros Beta are being conveyed to us via an unreliable narrator. The Doctor states that events proceeded broadly as depicted but that the emphasis was different. In the hands of a better director this could probably have been made to work, but as it stands the story is frustratingly confusing: relationships may or may not be as the appear on screen, events may or may not have happened for reasons which may or may not be those stated. I've nothing against unreliable narrators per se, but I think Mindwarp demonstrates that you need to work hard to pull them off in a way that doesn't make the result look like something of a confusing mess.

The (as far as one can tell largely one-sided) relationship between Yrcanos and Peri is bizarre as well. It must be said that poor Peri was often saddled with the role of random object of affection/lust for some passing character or villain (we were to watch Timelash next), more so than many companions and I'm sure whole essays could be written on why this particular companion at this particular point in the show's history keeps encountering this trope. In this case though I think we are supposed to believe the feeling is mutual, even though Nicola Bryant conveys nothing more than a kind of indulgent friendly feeling towards Yrcanos. I deduce this because her death at the end of Mindwarp is retconned (I would say unnecessarily) into marriage to Yrcanos six episodes later (in the novelisation it is even more bizarrely retconned into marriage to Yrcanos who is then transported to Earth by the Time Lords where he embarks upon a successful career as a pro-wrestler with Peri as his manager) and one assumes one is supposed to view this as a happy ending - as opposed to a companion being abandoned and forced by circumstances into marriage. Of course one can handwave the lack of apparent affection by invoking the unreliable narrator, but it is ultimately odd and frustrating.

Beyond that there is a lot of running around and capture-escape in this story, rendered more confusing and apparently pointless by the interruptions of the trial in which the Doctor insists the material is being manipulated. An attempt to portray a planet in which not everyone is white is undermined by the fact that all the non-white characters are slaves or servants and very much secondary to the main cast. Patrick Ryecart as Crozier is working hard to inject some depth into his role but is undermined in part by being a less sympathetic character than the Governor in Vengeance on Varos and, to be honest, by a decision to depict this world, not with the grimness of Varos, but as a dayglo confection of pink and orange. Sil is reduced more or less to being a comedy henchman. Kiv, Sil's superior is potentially more interesting (and marks the start of Christopher Ryan's career as Doctor Who villains in latex masks) but it seems unnecessary to suddenly sideline a successful character by introducing his superior.

To be honest, despite my complaints, Mindwarp isn't that bad but one feels it was very nearly good and somehow misses it mostly by just not having a good enough grip on tone and a clear enough idea how to convey the ambiguity over the gap between what we see and what actually happened.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
The Randomizer suggested we watch The Faceless Ones but, when I put it on, Tame Layman claimed to have seen it. I'm fairly sure he's actually only seen the two episodes that exist, and those many years ago, but he was adamant. We've been gradually collecting exceptions to the Randomiser. The project is now to watch all of Doctor Who in random order except NuWho, anything seen in the previous five years and The Faceless Ones. I may try to sneak The Faceless Ones back in at the end.

Anyway, the Randomiser next offered up The Invasion. I had bought the version of The Invasion with animations replacing the two missing episodes some time ago (more than five years, I was fairly sure) and we had watched it so I took the precaution of mentioning this in advance to Tame Layman who then didn't veto it.

The Invasion is remarkably watchable given it is one of the longest Doctor Who stories out there and, as a result, features even more random and somewhat pointless capture escape than normal.

It is definitely helped by featuring one of the better Tardis teams. Although Wendy Padbury has complained that Zoe Herriot, having started out well, was rapidly reduced to just another screaming girly I think the character is generally pretty well-served and definitely fares better than either Deborah Watling's Victoria or Anneke Wills' Polly. While still sometimes constrained by a tendency to be placed in a damsel in distress role, Zoe is generally proactive, competent and often gets to show off her mathematical skills (as she does here - confusing computer receptionists and calculating missile trajectories).

The Brigadier and UNIT, in its first appearance, also work very well. The Brigadier has yet to be reduced to the kind of buffoon who refuses to believe he is on an alien planet and is, in fact, remarkably helpful and supportive of the Doctor throughout. This gives the whole story the feel of military versus aliens which is both nostaligically reminiscent of much 1960s sci-fi fare and refreshing for Doctor Who in which the military are often one of the obstacles to be overcome.

Kevin Stoney's Tobias Vaughn is a triumph as a villain. In particular, it is refreshing to see a villain who is under no illusions about his likely fate once the Cybermen take over and part of the reason I think the story fares so well over its extended length is that it effectively portrays the interaction of three factions at work, rather than two.

We spent quite a while discussing the animation. I felt it was broadly similiar in both style and quality to that in the recent Power of the Daleks release while Tame Layman preferred it. I think it certainly helped that there were live episodes in between the animated ones which helped ground the characters out better in existing performances.

Frankly this is a pretty good chunk of 1960s Doctor Who and certainly much better than it has any right to be lasting, as it does, for eight episodes.
purplecat: (books)
Reading: When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time by Michael Benton. This was recommended as part of The Primeval Writer's Bookshelf on [livejournal.com profile] primeval_denial. I'm only two chapters in so at the moment it's mostly doing a quick history of paleontology.

Listening: I listened to an episode of Doctor Who: The Writer's Room which I discovered via The Doctor Who bookclub. The idea is to look at the writing on Doctor Who. This particular episode was on Terry Nation and was focusing on his two non-Dalek stories. Although the writing was discussed it was a lot closer to a more generic episode discussion than I expected. Still, I've downloaded the next and we shall see.

Watching: We watched Persuasion last night on the grounds it was Valentine's Day. I had forgotten (or not noticed) how often this story involves two characters involved in some interaction which is causing other characters to map the outcome onto their own thoughts about their own affairs. This made the experience a little exhausting since G. kept needing all the nuances explained to her.
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One of B's PhD students has just won the BBC Wildlife Magazine Blogger of the Year. This came as something of a surprise to B. who wasn't aware she blogged, though it has not prevented him heading out for celebratory drinks with her (where he is as I type).

The blog is Stripy Tapir and, among other things, features some stunning photographs which might be of interest to one of the younger [livejournal.com profile] kargicq's.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Reading: Back to End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. This continues to be an intriguing mixture of mystery novel and end-of-the-time surreality though I'm concerned by [livejournal.com profile] a_cubed assertion that ultimately it all fails to gel. Still, enjoying it so far.

Listenining I've minorly injured my leg which has put a hold on my running listening. The last thing I listened to was a slightly defensive history of African Art on "Stuff you missed in history" - I felt this would have worked better with a) an actual focus on the history of African Art and/or and explicit acknowledgement that more African voices would have been valuable.

Watching: Doctor Who, Mindwarp. Hmm.... more on this anon.

Linky Links

Feb. 7th, 2017 08:23 pm
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
deborah | Information literacy: No, Trump did not craft White House policy that "women dress like women"

I said in my last link roundup that I was finding it very difficult to judge which of Trump's actions were genuinely exceptional and worrying and which were business as normal for a Republication President. This kind of thing is part of the problem. There are far too many people in my filter bubble that share stuff like this without due diligence even while complaining about fake news in almost the same breath.

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Did Neil Gorsuch Found a High School 'Fascism Forever' Club? : snopes.com


More of the same.

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Yes, I know the Trump administration are telling mind-boggling whoppers, but where I tend to hang out on the Internet those get shredded in minutes while this kind of stuff slips through.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)

The Dalek Emperor is perturbed to discover his orders are being questioned. *Resists temptation to make a Donald Trump joke*
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
My sister recently discovered that one of her work colleagues went to our school. This seems to have resulted in a certain amount of mutual bonding and an attitude of fear and awe from the rest of the team, not helped when said work colleague described our school as the kind where pupils put on productions of Greek plays - in the original Ancient Greek - for fun. My sister then blamed me for this which is a total calumny, I was roped into one such effort (organised, as it happens by the Greek teacher, not the pupils) as part of a Chorus of Huntsmen.

This is us bringing back the mortally wounded Hippolytus. He had, if memory serves, been gored by a bull and, this being a Greek tragedy, this was all his father's fault at some level. If memory also serves, his dying words to his father were "pray your true-born sons are like me" which, to my judgmental 15 year old mind, meant he was probably not so great a loss to the world as he seemed to think he was.
purplecat: (books)
Reading: I'm still not caught up with the fanfic, but I've made a good dent in it and I think it's about time I got back to End of the World Blues. I've got a trip to the US at the end of March which should also help me keep on top of it!!

Listening: On [personal profile] dunderklumpen's suggestion I listened to an episode of The Nerdist in which they interviewed Mark Hamil. I must admit I was a little dubious about long celebrity interviews (this was almost an hour and a half) but I actually really enjoyed it. A gentle trip through the collectibles culture of the 1960s, 1970s and beyond followed by some good-natured reminisces about Star Wars and a few Harrison Ford impressions.

Watching: Mostly Futurama. I must lobby for more Avengers.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Once again it would appear to be a while since I posted one of these!

Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of FDR’s Japanese Concentration Camps — Anchor Editions

Some stunning photos, together with quotes from many of those involved.

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News: The Opening of Lascaux IV, Dordogne, France. – Darkness Below UK

[personal profile] fredbassett attends the opening of Lascaux IV in France. Lovely photos.

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IEEE puts out a first draft guide for how tech can achieve ethical AI design | TechCrunch

I played a small part in the development of this guide, as a late addition to one of the sub-committees.

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There’s such a thing as collective narcissism (and it might explain a lot that’s going on at the moment) – Research Digest

An interesting article which focuses primarily on collective narcissism as a facet of national identity. However it seems like there should be other applications - e.g., to political identity which might be illuminating in other ways.

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Britain's productivity has fallen. That's a good thing - CapX

An interesting alternative perspective, both on productivity and on wage stagnation.

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Should we have intervened in Syria? I don’t know – and neither do most armchair generals

This is almost exactly how I feel about this. I watch the events in Syria with horror, but am far from convinced things would be any better if the UK had been more involved. Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't, but I'm very, very aware that almost everything I know about Syria I learned from Facebook (that which I didn't learn from Facebook I probably learned from the Guardian or the Telegraph, neither of which I think are necessarily deeply insightful when it comes to the complex politics of this part of the Middle East) which doesn't exactly give me a great deal of confidence in any judgement I might make about this. This is liberal inaction and wringing of hands, of course, and one of my vague aspirations is to do less of this, but I'm not sure an issue as complex as Syria is the place to start.

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It may have seemed like the world fell apart in 2016. Steven Pinker is here to tell you it didn’t. - Vox

"Look at history and data, not headlines." - a useful counter-point to the widespread panic and doom-mongering that is occurring in my particular filter bubble. Via elisi

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'Fake news' – why people believe it and what can be done to counter it

No answers here, but at least a nuanced analysis of the problem that refrains from simply blaming Facebook.

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Everything you know about British train fares is wrong | CityMetric

An old article served up again. However it confirms my vague unease, when I hear people complain about profiteering on the part of railway franchise holders, that all is not as simple as it seems.

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The obstacles to making the Northern Powerhouse work are huge – and the data proves it | CityMetric

Interesting (if superficial) analysis of the North's problems via pretty maps.

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Doctor Who | Everything Ends - YouTube

I'm not much of a one for fanvids as a general rule, but I do like the work of TheGaroStudios and this is a good one, riffing on the Doctor's line about everything ending from the Christmas special.

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We can't afford a bitter Euro-divorce - CapX

One of the less hysterical articles about the likely implications of Teresa May's commitment to "hard" Brexit.

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The trouble with 'microaggressions'

Just quoting the conclusion: "... “microaggression” is not the best way to think about subtle prejudice. Its definition is amorphous and elastic. It fails to appreciate the ambiguity of social interaction, relies too exclusively on subjective perceptions, and too readily ascribes hostile intent. By doing so, the idea of microaggression contributes to a punitive and accusatory environment that is more likely to create backlash than social progress."

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Who will keep predatory science journals at bay now that Jeffrey Beall's blog is gone?

For those of us in academia this is sad and troubling news. Jeffrey Beall performed an important service in a world where the pressure to publish is exceedingly high.

EDIT: [personal profile] londonkds (in the comments on DreamWidth) has several criticisms of Beall's approach.

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How dangerous is burnt toast? - Full Fact

We discussed this when it came up on the Today programme. B. was skeptical, based on the information there, that there was any serious cause for concern about burnt toast. This article from Full Fact would seem to confirm that. It is difficult to disagree with its final couple of paragraphs which question whether a public campaign launched on such flimsy evidence might not have the entirely negative effect of causing people to ignore warnings about things we do have good evidence are harmful.

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We should be kind to America's First Victim — Melania Trump

As [profile] miss_sb says, Laurie Penny is better at polemic than rational argument. But I've been uncomfortable about much of what the left is saying at Melania Trump and, to be honest (though that's not an argument that exists even as a glimmer in this piece) about assumptions the left is making about the Trump marriage based on a few snippets of video taken under highly stressful conditions.

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I've excised a number of Trump articles I'd saved because, to be honest, I'm finding it very difficult to pick apart what is precisely business as normal for a Republican President (the Mexico City Gag Rule, for instance) and what is not. I find myself more concerned about the attacks on the Press, scientists, the Judiciary, and the gutting and/or sidelining of government departments than I do some of the more concrete issues since without the former I don't see that a lot can be done about the latter (and many of the latter were campaign promises which does make a difference). But even here it is difficult to figure out what may be business as usual (no press releases to be put out while the new administration gets its act together kind of thing), what is exceptional but may not be a bad thing in the long run (forcing the Press to be less reliant on access journalism, for instance) and what is exceptional and straightforwardly a bad sign.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I'm sure I must have seen Kinda since it was first broadcast but I don't recall when and my memories of it were distinctly hazy. At the time of broadcast it came bottom of the season poll in DWM but shortly thereafter it was placed front and centre in Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text which attempted* to apply academic media criticism to Doctor Who. It would be tempting to say that Kinda is an interesting failure but I'm not sure it is a failure. It's more something completely to one side of main stream Doctor Who and isn't really even attempting to play by Doctor Who's normal rules.

More under the Cut )

I actually really enjoyed this and was surprised that I did. It is like nothing else Doctor Who has ever attempted before or since. In Doctor Who terms it is mostly a mixture of over-earnest, naff and silly, but on its own terms it is grippingly frightening in places, surreal and rather beautiful.

*I've not read it so, for all I know, the attempt was a success even if it was regarded with bemusement by most Who fans of the time.


Jan. 28th, 2017 11:25 am
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I have no more word searches to offer. But here is a simple crossword from Issue 2 of the Web Planet.

purplecat: (primeval)
Fannish things I did this week.

Two primeval, drabbles - for the last two [livejournal.com profile] primeval100 prompts.

Repost of a Primeval/MCU crossover I wrote for a [community profile] fandom_stocking.


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