Monday, 25 August 2014

Doctor Who Books Read and Heard, Part 12!



This post: treats from the eras of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth Doctors.  This may feel a little Paul McGann heavy, as there is one book and 2 audios for him, but that’s just how it worked out this chunk.
A note on order.  Target Originals are not read in order of publication (which was all over the place), but in order of each Doctor, and each Doctor is read in order of their stories broadcast on TV.  However, I jump about in terms of which Doctor I read at any given time.  The Virgin New Adventures for Sylvester will be read in order; as will the BBC 8th Doctor series (as though they had been on TV, see?  I’m trying to get an arc flavour).  The BBC Past Doctors series and the Virgin Missing Adventures are simply read in terms of which one I fancy next, as they are stand alone adventures slotting in-between the TV ones.
Oh, and in case you forgot, I’ve taken to recording which books I read that are actual paper copies, and which are Kindle or other electronic.  I’m being social historical for my own benefit. I want to see how long it is before I just plug books straight into my brain, how many years before I’m a reading cyborg.

As always with these rambly reviews: OFTEN LARGE SPOILERS ON ALL BOOKS IMMINENT!!!!

  1. Doctor Who: Snakedance, by Terrance Dicks
    (5th Doctor.  This is one of those now classic incidents – I am starting to see – where I find a story as it is presented on TV yawnworthy, then adore the book to bits!  I think this was partly down to having completely forgotten the performances on TV, other than I thought Martin Clunes did a very good indeed ‘I am bored to death’ performance.  So I was visualizing him as I read, but all the other characters other than Nyssa and the Doctor, I was creating for myself with the help of Terrance.  Notice I didn’t say Tegan. 

    I *had* forgotten Tegan’s performance, but in my head I was still seeing her as creepy as she was as the Mara in Kinda.  I made a mistake, which was that, I was SO enjoying the book, I thought – ‘how could I have forgotten this story, it must be brilliant’, so I re-watched it.  And remembered promptly why I had forgotten it.  The main problem [thought there were several], was that they - for whatever reason – didn’t let Janet Fielding do her incredibly creepy Mara-ness in the same way as before.  They didn’t give her the red eyes and ill looking face or the same degree of clear malice in her voice and body language.  Whereas, I *did* remember Kinda [a very good story], and so whilst I read the book, I had The Mara Mark 1 a la Kinda in my head, rather than the limper one from Snakedance.  If you weren’t impressed with the TV version of Snakedance, then do try the book – with just a very few tweaks, Terrance Dicks makes it a very creepy story indeed, full of atmosphere – and Tegan’s Mara is again the truly chilling character she should be.  Recommended.  ACTUAL BOOK.)
  2. Doctor Who: Last Man Running, by Chris Boucher (BBC Past Doctors series)
    (Fourth Doctor.  This was a lovely Leela focussed story, that managed the excellent juggling act of also having plenty of the Doctor.  When they end up on a planet, that after much extrapolation, turns out to be a self realising, self refining weapons development and testing facility, the machine that runs the place – and the now psychotic human that has come into contact with it – become very interested in Leela and her warrior instincts.  Cue several very nice set pieces showing Leela’s versatility in getting rid of weird alien creatures: her quick thinking, cunning and skill.  This story runs alongside another where a hapless search and retrieval team think they are sent to the planet to pick up a criminal, a ‘runner’, and also fall victim to the tests.  The Doctor thinks more calmly than the other humans, but less usefully than Leela in some ways in this story.  The story starts with the Doctor irritated with Leela and her literality, her basic-ness, and ends with him having a new appreciation for what her skills are and how quickly she learns. 

    Its also peppered here and there with some great little speeches, both from the Doctor and Leela’s remembrance of her warrior training days: “Looking, always looking.  Look for the opening.  Look for your opponent’s fear.  If you cannot find fear look for desire.  Both are weaknesses that can be used against them”.  I kept catching myself wanting to write down these little gems of clear thinking.  The Doctor at one point, intones: “Useful, convenient or pleasureable behaviours become habits, habits become rituals, rituals become superstitions, superstitions become obsessive compulsive disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders become religions” – an interesting way of looking at it. 

    The book has, lastly, a very nice satisfying ending – all the characters are taken care of in suitable way, and almost a happy ending ensues – yet without seeming forced or overly jolly.  That was an unexpected nice touch.  So much of science fiction, and especially these Doctor novels, seem to revel in a downbeat ending.  I’ve enjoyed the Chris Boucher books I’ve read so far and look forward to more, especially where Leela is concerned.  He’s really managed to explore what was a brilliant character creation that annoyingly on screen was always distracted to the eye by her bikini type wear – in the books there’s none of this, you get to know her as a brain, a thinking reasoning creature, and so different, therefore a great foil for the Doctor.  ACTUAL BOOK.)
  3. Doctor Who: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, by Christopher Bulis (Virgin Missing Adventures Series)
    (1st Doctor.  I think its possible that I might be about to make you feel sick with the amount of praise I will be heaping on this book.  It’s the best of the non TV adventure books that I’ve read yet.  Unlike a lot of the others its not too clever, its just extremely well written and just about the best homage-fusion of 2 genres I’ve EVER read – those 2 genres being fantasy [epic fantasy] and science fiction.  And it didn’t mock fantasy, as so many people do; it lovingly recreated its tropes, and wrote the story straight, with a million references to many famous fantasy epics, and fairy tales. 

    When the Doctor and Susan, Ian and Barbara turn up in a land with dragons and it just gets better from there, the interesting question the reader gets is of course: Is magic real?  Or real here in this place?  And it spends the rest of the book telling a story with exceptionally good pace, while having another story invade it [some spaceships from ‘the Empire’, and yes, it does make you think of that Empire a little bit] – people need the ‘energy source’ they detect on the planet.  But the planet repels all advanced technology, so how do the Empire people get down to it.  Meanwhile, Susan gets abducted and learns how to practice magic while reliving the Rapunzel fairytale with a Princess; Barbara meets and helps a witch and her cat before getting kidnapped by the faery folk and then left to the mercy of the forest; Ian and the Doctor go on a quest for Merlin’s Helm with a leprechaun and some Knights…and its way more serious and way more believable than I’m making it sound.  And oh my god – it’s such Good Fun! 

    It also holds the ranking of being just about the only fantasy novel I’ve read, where I really believed in the evil magician – while he was wearing silly hat no less [and I used to be a MAJOR fantasy reader in my 20s and 30s, so I’ve read lots of this kind of thing]; and where I actually came to see the versatility and worrying nature of nanobots.  And what happens to a society that has No Concept of God.  [A very interesting sidebar to the plot, that was.] 

    And yes, the magic question gets answered.  And no, the answer won’t disappoint you.  This was 10/10, brilliant, I will read it again sometime!  This has set a very high bar for this author for me, so I’m hoping his other books are this good.  They don’t have to be this much fun [its RARE a book is this much fun in the scifi genre] – but they have to be this compulsively readable and believable…ACTUAL BOOK.)
  4. Doctor Who: Storm Warning, by Alan Barnes (Big Finish Monthly audios, no.16)
    (The first 8th Doctor Big Finish adventure.  Gary Russell directed this.  Which surprises me.  This is another one that lots of people seem to like, and that more or less misses me completely.  I really WANTED to like it – whilst the TV movie isn’t great, I thought Paul McGann had allsorts of interesting possibilities which he never got a chance to explore.  I’ve been loving his portrayal based on the limited info they had, in the BBC 8th Doctor book series.  But this one just did not work for me at all.

    I don’t know what they were thinking with the remix of the Dr Who theme Paul McGann’s Doctor has.  I see they couldn’t use the TV music, and I see he needs his own disparate variation of the theme – but this one sounds weak and faltering and I hope it grows on me, because it annoyed me every time I heard it.  [It was a bit like the over bombastic new Who music being all OTT – this *underwhelms* almost to the exact same degree, for me.]

    To begin with on the story, there’s an awful lot of very clumsy and clunky exposition said by Paul McGann – an awful lot of talking to himself at the beginning [as if the writer was afraid we had forgotten the sound of him], and it continues on here and there throughout the story: “Its becoming – oh no – an energy weapon,” some very obvious audience information transfer. The sound of him as a character IS interesting – he's bit sharper than the TV movie, a bit more cynical, a bit more sensual [and of course, he was the only Doctor at that stage to have anything approaching tender feelings for a human woman – so this is a part of his character it will be interesting to hear.]

    Another voice performance that works well is Gareth Thomas as Tamworth, who sounds exactly like Colin Baker to my mind, which did confuse my brain through a lot of the proceedings; but his certain sort of 1930s fellow was spot on. [As was the character portrayal of a certain sort of petty ruthless power monger, in the character of Rathbone, he seemed to me written well.]

    The big thing about this story other than its reintroduction of the 8th Doctor, is the introduction of a new companion at the same time [a stowaway who wants to be an adventuress, who should have died by the end of the adventure, so the Doctor takes her with him to remove her from history].  India Fisher as Charley Pollard doesn’t – so far – convince me at all.  She sounds a little bit shrill at times, and sort of jolly hockeysticks schoolgirl often.  I found listening to her made me wish someone else was speaking.  Obviously, I hope this was just how she was written and directed in this particular adventure, and that she grows on me – as the companions are so important in the Who stories.  She and McGann did seem to be bouncing off each other nicely, so maybe my ears just need time to settle into them as a pairing.

    The story was coherent enough, like being on the Titanic before it sinks, but an airship instead.  There are time vortex creatures outside, and a new alien race, the Triskeli, featuring heavily in the story.  The ideas behind both creatures were interesting, but were presented so much in the form of simple exposition my brain seemed to wander off.  That was the main thing I suppose.  Some of these stories grab me instantly, and even if I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, there’s an immediacy and a curiosity that has me hooked and listening.  This was one of the other kind of stories – I knew what was going on, but I was struggling to really care about any of it, or the characters dilemmas and choices.  That’s never good.  I hope the next 8th Doctor play is better, since there’s 4 off the bat with him in now…ON DOWNLOAD.)
  5. Doctor Who: Goth Opera, by Paul Cornell (Virgin Missing Adventures)
    (5th Doctor.  This one started off rocky, for me.  I’m coming to realise that as well as being chock full of imagination, Paul Cornell is also a very playful writer, and there’s something about the way he plays with the Dr Who universe that feels a little bit off to me.  He’s incredibly readable – just as with his last book, I read this one in almost a day, I let other things go to read it, I provided very blah childcare during this book!…but every time I did pop my head up from it, I felt that something was not quite right, for all its addictive pull.  The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are perfectly done, I could see and hear their every move; Romana II, Glitz, Captain Spandrell and other Gallifreyans were closely envisioned. 

    Maybe it was the supporting characters that weren’t quite doing it for me.  I say the book started off rocky and it was because I didn’t like the 2 vampires portrayed, Madeleine and her boyfriend Jake.  There seems to be a thing, a common thread in Dr Who books, of making vampires either laughably arrogant and pompous [Yarven in this case, and Ruath], or else so ordinary, yet wisecracky, that they still don’t feel quite real – that was how I felt Madeleine and Jake; though by the end of the book they’d grown on me and I was glad they had gotten away to start a new civilisation. 

    Also, there were a couple of missteps – at the beginning of the book, Tegan is annoyed that they have gone to Australia and are watching cricket, she’s bored to death.  But in Black Orchid, well preceeding this story, she’s a cricket fan and happy to watch, while Nyssa and Adric are puzzled and bored by the game.  So that was weird.  I wasn’t quite sure in the time scheme of things how Roamana II ended up back on Gallifrey at that moment, as if this is after the E Space trilogy [which it was sposed to be, because of her vampire knowledge], then why wasn’t she still trapped willingly in E Space?  Maybe I missed something.

    His treatment of Lang, the American evangelist with something to hide, and Christianity, was interesting – it could have been done in a hostile way and it wasn’t.  It was handled kindly, if anything.  That surprised me, as there is a sort of playful cruelty I pick up in parts of Paul Cornell’s writing: he’s not afraid to have any character suffer, and he could have made mincemeat of this one – he chose not to, which gave grace to the portrayal and the crimes of the character. 

    Anyway – this was a strange book – as I say, I ate it up very quickly even though I wasn’t sure if I was liking it – I’m starting to think maybe all my Paul Cornell reading experiences might be a bit like this!  Maybe his books are like a fairground ride – I’m thrilled along, strapped in, can’t get out – but I’m relieved when it’s over, despite how vivid it undeniably was?  In the Introduction, as this was the first Missing Adventure published, the Editor said these stories were going to be a lot less experimental and more traditional, than the earlier started series, the New Adventures [for Sylvester] – I found it odd, that being the case, they started with this book and this author: he’s definitely experimental in that his imagination is so rammed full and slightly nightmareish [think the Baby character here] and he’s more than a bit irreverent in his writing.  Hmm.  ACTUAL BOOK.)
  6. Doctor Who: Sword of Orion, by Nicholas Briggs (Big Finish Monthly, no.17)
    (8th Doctor.  This one took a long time to interest me.  Despite loving to listen to Paul McGann’s voice, and the Charley Pollard character starting to grow on me [getting used to that posh tomboy voice], I felt the story could have done with some editing.  I’m noticing in general, that the Big Finish stories are starting to get longer and longer, from 1 ½ hours, to over 2 hours.  Not only does this make it hard to listen to in the Fluffhead at nursery/primary school timeslots that I have, without splitting them up [which is annoying], but I don’t necessarily think that the stories have that much more in them for the extra length [so far].  I wonder if the stories are going to adapt to the extra length and use the time wisely, or whether they are going to continue just sort of …spinning their wheels and having lots of semi rehashed exchanges between small groups of characters??

    Criticisms over, it was a good story, once it got going.  Starting from Ramsey, their adaopted Vortizore, getting ill and needing to help him, and leading to Cybermen and an attempt to use them in a war between humans and androids [in the Orion system of the title], with a good double twist on one of the main characters right near the end, it did carry itself along.  I got the feeling that had I been reading this as a novel rather than watching it as a play, I would have felt more involved – been quite happy with the slow exposition and pace.  As it was, I was very conscious that the scenes with Charley and the Doctor discussing what was happening were much easier to listen to than the scenes with the largely Cockney crew of the scrap ship – even though it was fun to hear some old style Cockney accents – you rarely get to hear them anymore, since in our actual world, Estuary has almost taken over, along with an interesting ‘urban’ school dialect [that Fry and I have always adored to use in conversation because its so fun and has such brilliant shorthand words]. 

    This was an odd story: it took a long time to play out and led to an abortive ending that felt a bit anticlimactic [I missed the emotion of a bit that I can see was meant to be poignant], however, this being only the second Paul McGann outing in this format, I was ok to listen to carry on acclimatizing myself to this new way of experiencing his Doctor, and as I say, India Fisher as Charley, am  getting used to her too.  I’m hoping these Paul McGann outings are going to drastically improve though, as they aren’t grabbing me by the throat and keeping me fascinated like some of the better Sylvester ones so far, for example.  Also, the sound palette on this one didn’t feel very inspired.  But quite happy to listen on – still early days.  And I can feel the beginning of good chemistry between Charley and the Doctor, which is always a reason to listen/ watch/ read Doctor Who.  ON DOWNLOAD.)
  7. Doctor Who: Dragonfire, by Ian Briggs (Target Original)
    (7th Doctor.  Oh goodness…this is very very hard to write a review of.  I loved the TV serial of this, and I loved the book.  There’s something very spare and clean about this story, as spare and clean visually as the Iceworld sets.  Its simple – a bit stupid, many say – and all its characters are underdeveloped…well, the book adds a few extra scenes that give us more of the backstory and thoughts for 2 or 3 characters, notably Belazs, but, really, it’s the same spare clean and odd story I liked when I saw it on TV.  I like the little girl Stellar; she serves no real purpose except as a narrative linking device…yet I enjoy her, here as on the TV.  I feel for the Dragon Creature, just as I did when I watched.  I honestly am at a loss to explain or understand why I find this story as satisfying as I do.

    Is it the introduction of Ace, a not real teenager that I nevertheless enjoy greatly?  I just see her as a sassy not yet grown up person, full of bluff and doubts and angry confusion.  Someone older imagining how a teenager would be when they can’t quite remember.  Is it how she interacts with Mel?  Quite well, I thought, they were an interesting pair – one enthusiastic but calm and mature; the other impulsive and bolshey.  How the Doctor is by turns comedic and serious, so that I’m never quite sure where his performance will go next?  That definitely contributes.  That cliffhanging scene just made me laugh – I thought it was a very cheesy and amusing visual gag; it didn’t make me as uptight as it seems to lots of others.  I didn’t find it lazy; I found it quirky, as I find the whole story quirky.  In a world of its own [along with Paradise Towers and The Happiness Patrol – they are all in some weird parallel universe].

    The whole story in some ways is pointless and goes nowhere – it showcases Glitz [always a fun character to see], and introduces Ace…that’s it.  But I like it.  Just one of those things I can’t quite explain…ACTUAL BOOK.)
  8. Doctor Who: Dreamstone Moon, by Paul Leonard (BBC Past Doctor Adventures)
    (8th Doctor.  I think I was expecting something epic here, because all his previous books I have read have been so: dealing with huge moral issues and how they impact races under threat of genocide through one means or other.  In a way, this was the same, in that the dreamstones are sentient, parts of a larger creature, and to mine them is to maim them – to mine them large scale is to kill a race…But it wasn’t that sort of book.  The focus was different. 

    This is the book where the 8th Doctor finally finds Sam again, after losing her a few books back.  I had imagined [I mentioned last post], that when she found the Doctor again, she would be much changed due to her terrible experiences in The Longest Day.  But, and I don’t know whether this was deliberate, due to her nearly starving on the Kusk ship, its as if the experiences in that book have been almost obliterated, she seems none the worse for wear.  Even though that book was all about horrible choices, and she has some to make again in this book, which you would think would bring it all back to her…but no.  Not sure what I make of this handling of her experiences.  Maybe they’ll pop out and we’ll deal with them later; she was after all, very busy in this book, no time to reflect.  For now, it was insufficient and felt wrong.

    There are some memorable characters in this book though.  Aloisse is a typical Paul Leonard character as I have come to expect them, he seems to have one of these per every book he writes:  an alien creature of great nobility and morality, to whom bad things happen, yet they react with dignity and resourcefulness.  This character will make your chin quiver with her bravery.  She was good.  And for once, she was also not killed or otherwise isolated by the end.  Anton, the actual protagonist of the book was a very interesting if underdeveloped character.  He drives the plot and is the one who realises, as the Doctor does, about the sentience of the stones and why they act as they do for some people.  The Doctor also realises, before Anton does, that Anton can control the stones, and is projecting his own fear into them.  There’s some sad lyricism: “Anton was dreaming.  The Doctor rather suspected that Anton had always been dreaming, that there had always been only a slight, if significant, distance between what went on in the world and what went on in his head.”  Anton dies, later.  “After a while, The Doctor realised he’d just killed a man with the force of an argument.  It wasn’t a very pleasant thought”.

    The weird thing about this book is that the Doctor is in it often, rushing about, figuring things out as he does; but there’s no real feel of him – he’s at his most absent as a portrayal as I’ve felt him in any of these books.  It’s all about the other characters.  But that does work out ok, its not annoying.  This story has room for everyone, as its very action oriented, and flows along at a very brisk pace.  The world created is not as detailed as his other worlds, nor as portentous.  But it’s still a satisfying read.  This author is in trouble anyway: his previous books have been SO GOOD, that I have very high expectations! ACTUAL BOOK.)



Monday, 11 August 2014

Film and TV watched this year so far, April- August, Part 2 (last part, don't worry!)



…And to continue the things I’ve been watching since March.  Mostly TV with a slight film smattering.

HUGE SPOILERS!!!

  1. The Fast Show Bank Holiday Special, parts 1 and 2 (50 Years of BBC2 series)
    (Oooooo – they seem to have lost the knack of this one.  The scenes that should have had terrible pathos and desperation lacked it [landowner and gamekeeper], though Caroline Aherne’s scenes seemed just as great to me.  Arabella Weir and Charlie Higson doing the painter was good.  The man whose name I forget, who used to do ‘This week I have mostly been eating…’ wasn’t there, sadly.  The Jazz ‘nice’ man was, and still doing well.  But on the whole, it felt odd and strained, and like they are all much happier now, and couldn’t take it seriously.  Makes me suspect that humour does work at its best when you have an edge on you of despair or anger, or maybe you don’t get on with your co-workers or somesuch.)
  2.  BBC Heroes of Comedy (50 Years of BBC2 series)
    (They left out some interesting groupings they could have shown, but this was interesting, and funny.  Enjoyed.  Made me wish I could have seen Bruiser.)
  3.  Harry and Paul on BBC2 at 50
    (This was unerringly spot on in many ways – their parody of The Apprentice, with Alan Sugar saying to the contestants “I’m better than you!” instead of “You’re Fired!” for example.  This was a joy the whole way through.  Especially the honest bit where Paul Woodhouse interviews Harry Enfield about why he wasn’t in The Fast Show, how he hadn’t been asked, and they got loads of awards and his show didn’t get any…)
  4.  The Mentalist Season 3
    (Even though he nearly – maybe – gets to shoot and have his revenge on the killer of his family at the end [Red John], it still feels oddly low key.  I had a huge session of watching this consistently, then stopped totally for 2 months and came back to the last 4 eps.  Which weirdly killed the vibe; the eps were ok, but I’d lost a lot of the flow and my emotional involvement.  Can’t remember what interrupted me specifically for those months, because I was flowing along fine before then.  Perhaps I just had too much lowkey police drama and wanted comedy instead or something…)
  5. The Wolf of Wall Street
    (Anarchic, obscene, and rollercoasterly confirming my prejudices in almost every respect, until the last third of the film where it slowed down  and became a bit …I would have edited that last bit to make it much shorter.  The ‘Cerebral Palsy’ Qualudes wriggling to the car is UNFORGETTABLE!  With Fry, who wasn’t as impressed as I was – he said it didn’t feel like a Scorsese film, which is true, it didn’t .)
  6. Blow Up
    (What a WEIRD and strangely interesting and un-understandable film! Misogynist Man sort of vaguely looks into a murder he nosily witnessed via photo, without calling the police; and is distracted by absolutely anything that happens including a mimed game of tennis after which the film just...ends, with zero resolution. It was aided [and not hindered at all] by Fluffhead having a hysterical giggly fit all the way through, piling cushions on top of my head while yelling "Nappy Airport!" repeatedly. It was all very...60s performance art.)
  7. Community, Season 2
    (BRILLIANT!  I am now officially aboard whatever bus Fry got on – this is the most happy making and brilliant show I have seen in ages – so inventive, unscared of breaking the rules or of being silly…wonderful.  Especially good eps: Epidemiology (the zombie one); Comparative Calligraphy (the one with Annie’s pen and the monkey); Advanced Dungeons and Dragons; Intermediate Documentary Film-making (where Pierce pretends to be dying and freaks out Jeff about his father); Paradigms of Human Memory (where they waste several ideas for eps that never were, just to mock them – how confident they must have been that they had loads of other better ideas, I am in awe); both the Spaghetti Western paintball ones were good too, especially cos of…Sawyer!)
  8.  Community, Season 3
    (This is starting to feel a little bit patchy – there are some eps which are falling a little bit flatter – but when its great, its still great.  Though a sad lackage of John Oliver this season.  Brilliant eps: Remedial Chaos Theory [the timelines one, clever]; Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism [Shirley and Jeff find out she was a cow and made him pee as a kid]; Regional Holiday Music [the Xmas and Glee episode – the rapping of Troy and Abed alone gold plates this episode – REGIONALS, Fry!!!!]; Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts [just excellent – especially Britta realising she’s great at and doomed to be a wife so hates marriage, and Jeff realising he hates marriage because his dad left, a couple made in heaven…]; Digital Estate Planning [the old style computer one, where Abed saves the day with his many computer code writing babies: ‘Hilda my love, I said I’d come back for you…’]; Introduction to Finality [excellent finale – I was laughing out loud more than once].)
  9. The Philadelphia Experiment, the remake
    (Not half as bad as everyone else seems to think; and lovely to see Krycheck!)
  10. The Secret of Crickley Hall
    (Oh my god – SAD…  Poor Nancy, poor little Stefan, poor twisted Morris, what the hell was wrong with the Crebbins???  Powerhouse performance from David Warner, nuanced.  Excellent photography and music, and what a joy to see Iain de Caestecker, who is one of those upcoming keep an eye on actors.  Olivia Cooke was good too.)
  11. Dexter, Season 1
    (The most loveable character I have discovered in a decade or so!)
  12.  Dexter Season 2
    (Brilliant season from beginning to end, not one duff episode.  The addiction angle was very interesting.  Good to see Jaime Murray.  Dexter’s monologues are wonderful – ‘excellent, the voices are back…’.)
  13. Dexter, Season 3
    (Much more slow burning and less perfect than season 2, but once it DID get going it was very good.  It’s a very stupid idea, that Jimmy Smits would be a murdering ADA, but on the other hand, no more stupid than many other things I have greatly enjoyed – and he was rather a show stealer in his best scenes.  Some very good music cues here too, for tension and betrayal.  Interesting that the addiction angle is gone and utterly forgotten – a little too convenient.  Also, the development of Deb’s character, from slightly stupid and gauche, to badmouthing and confident is …I’m not sure how believable; as is Rita’s character from downtrodden ex beaten wife to bolshy estate agent.  We shall see.)
  14. Doctor Who: Voyage of the Damned (Xmas Special)
    (It’s a nicker – shades of Delta and the Bannermen [people cruising other cultures]; shades of Robots of Death [robots malfunctioning murderously]; Ace wanting to travel [Kylie]…shades of The Poseidon Adventure [climbing through the ship when its broken and stuck…Aliens [the bit with the picker upper thingy and the dropping]. “An echo with the ghost of consciousness…stardust…”  - nice line.  Toy Story:  “You’re not falling, you’re flying.” This was watchable, but nothing that memorable.)
  15. BBC Ghost Stories: A View From a Hill, and Number 13
    (These were from the attemped reboot of the old Christmas ghost story by the BBC idea.  Usign the traditional fare of M R James stories – these ones were piked for creepy value; whereas the old 70s ones [see some in next bit of review] were not only creepy, but often violent and gory too. 

    A View From A Hill had the brilliant idea of making a man be able to see a now demolished abbey only through a pair of certain binoculars – so you have brilliant scenes of him wandering about looking like a nutter, with the glasses up to his face looking at apparently nothing, whereas he’s seeing a wonderful view of this ornate an huge building.  He escapes his fate to be sucked into the past [the past tries to hang him – not sure why], only to have a rather lovely ambiguous ending: he hears a noise at the station when he is ready to leave, and looks up – and The End.  Quite nicely done that – is it just a noise, or is the past coming for him again; and we’ll never know. 

    Number 13 has a lovely underdone performance from Greg Wise, and a story about a missing room 13 with a devils disciple shadow and lots of stuff with Hieronymus Bosch’s painting.  Not as good as the first, but very atmospheric.  It again, ends ambiguously, with a stash of missing people’s clothes and accoutrements under the floorboards – and a letter from the devilish Franken that this time, mustn’t have its seal broken.  It just ends as they are looking at the things – and this time its annoying, as you feel there is more to it that just isn’t coming.  Ambiguous endings are difficult little things to get right.  They can either be so satisfying or like this – just frustrating.)
  16. BBC Ghost Stories: Lost Hearts, The Treasure of Abbott Thomas, and The Ash Tree
    (These ones were from the early to mid 70’s, part of the original strain of Christmas stories.  Watching them, it does make me think what a weird lot we were in the 70s; and it also reminds me why it’s my favourite TV decade.

    Lost Hearts was weird [definitely 1973!], and bit gory in places: an eccentric old obsessed with magick man seems to take in stray children, only to kill them in an effort to attain immortality.  The latest child is haunted by the spirits of the first 2, one of them playing a hurdygurdy, as is the old man.  The ghosts have silly long fingernails and very odd facial expressions.  You could say they were creepy – especially the boy with his sickly stuck on grin – but you could also say they were simply blue tinged and Nosferatu ripoff-ish.  The children kill the old man and frolic off, saving the life of the last child.  It’s all a bit nonsensical.  Weird, and a bit memorable, but not that great.  And the hurdy-gurdy music annoyed me rather than creeping me out.  The whole episode had a very lost in time distant feel to it – THAT was the oddest and creepiest thing about it.  Its sense of being lost to us – we could NOT make anything like this now, with this precise feel.  Its distance, historically is what is scary…people don’t think like this to make productions like this, now.

    The Treasure of Abbott Thomas has more to it.  A bit of rational vicar doing some seance busting with young posh intellectual blond sidekick; only to be victim of arcane coded mystery, gets greedy, goes to find treasure and is attacked by its guardian – some menacing oozing black GOO.  Yes: beware the goo, when you get greedy!  It looks nice and had pace, but seemed strangely distant, and I didn’t like anybody in it so I was unbothered what happened to them.  However, it was plot heavy, and that was a nice and unusual change for these little stories, which usually rely on atmosphere alone.  [In my head though, this will remain The Goo Story.]

    The best was the last one, The Ash Tree.  Edward Petherbridge does a brilliant job of being heavy lidded, louche and exceeding posh; and Lalla Ward – what a nice surprise - does an equally good job of being perky and posh.  Barbara Ewing does a very good job of being the victim of Petherbridge’s ancestor’s suppressed/repressed lust, and dies after he thinks/imagines he sees her running as a hare at night and calls her a witch.  She curses him and his descendents at her hanging, which leads to the bit about the tree.  It’s outside the current Sir Richard’s window, and as he increasingly flashes back to the past, when he was Sir Matthew, and we find out about his lust causing the death of Anne Mothersole, the tree is scratching away at his window.  In a very supremely weird last section, these insane hairy human headed spider babies come up the tree, down the branches and into his room and eat him/feed off him, until he lays there blackened and dead.  They cry like babies, but in a distorted sort of faraway way.  A servant catches sight of them and drops a lantern – the tree burns down.  It ends with Lalla touching the body of her betrothed  and finding her hands are in pain – as told earlier in a story by the local vicar about the death of the ancestor, Sir Matthew.  It had a lot in it for half an hour and was sufficiently wild and strange that I was thoroughly involved.  It also looked gorgeous. 

    And those spider baby crawly hairy things were intensely memorable – specially the one single shot you get of one of them next to Edward Petherbridge’s face, with its little deformed mouth open and wailing: shiver.  I read this production had practically no money, so I’m even more impressed.  THIS was the stuff of nightmares.)
  17.  Dexter, Season 4
    (Not only does John Lithgow steal the show as one of the most creepy, tormented serial killers ever, but the finale had me disgusted and in tears, truly truly shocking.  Of course I should have seen it coming.  It was the imagery – the power of one particular image and its implications.  An absolutely great season – the cat and mouse was addictive.  Seriously though – Shocked and disturbed.  Chilling finale.  Awful, awful thing to do to a child.  I was replaying that image in my head for several days, saddened and uneasy – there’s some powerful TV.)
  18. Dexter, Season 5
    (This was a much quieter more subtle season than season 4.  That was so intense and ended so shockingly that I think the production team made a good decision in choosing to make it a slow burning season from a completely different angle.  A victim learns to become a vigilante, via Dexter.  There’s even a love story, which was very affecting.  And then she left, and Dexter is left with the fact he had love but it’s gone now and he’s alone again.  I felt Julia Stiles was bit miscast, not enough vulnerability to her.  I wonder where it’ll go next.)

Not sure what I’ll be watching for the rest of the year – I’m still finishing some series I started back in February (Scorpion Tales, for one, such nice little 70s snippets, I’m not hurrying at all - one here, one there).  It’ll be as much of a surprise for me as for you what turns up in the next lot I post, as I’m almost entirely whim and obsession driven when it comes to TV and film.  About the only thing I can guarantee is that I’ll finish Community for sure…




Saturday, 9 August 2014

Film and TV watched so far this year, April-August, Part 1!



Since March, you’ll be amazed how much TV I’ve got through considering I only get 1 and a half days off a week and don’t spend all of them watching TV by any means (I read too, and occasionally even write!).  But here you go, the not making much sense selection-wise bunch of stuff – mostly TV – I’ve watched since March this year.

HUGE SPOILERS!!!

  1. Mists of Avalon
    (Not a patch on the Marion Zimmer Bradley book, but how could it be?  A rather confused narrative too.  This was THE book that turned me into a practicing pagan in my late teens – and yet the lines I remember from the film are Lancelot to Gwenivere about how wouldn’t it be such a comfort if we made our own heaven and hells [not a god, but ourselves]; and the death of Merlin [a rather subsidiary figure in the film], who on dying, says the Goddess exists in our humanity – nowhere else.  I read from this, along with the emphasis the film placed on ‘the father in heaven, and the mother of Earth’, and the getting on of the 2 religions, that…it was in fact a film calling for humanism, not religion at all.  At the end when Morgaine gets the remembered vision of the Goddess standing as balance between the predator and prey, or else chaos reigns, it seemed to me the film was trying to say that without woman to put a hold on man, man will kill everything [it was panning over the deaths in a great, the final even, battle, at the time].  Interesting.  And yet.  The film also had a very traveller-y thing going on – lots of tiny black patterned tattoos, traveller clothes and fabrics, tatty white rasta hair [no doubt the “offences against hairdressing that kept occurring” I read about in an Amazon review, lol]. Some nice mock Celtic soundtrack moments too.  But a very uninvolving film, where a lot of the people were miscast, I felt.)
  2.  Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
    (Better than the last few outings.  They managed to make it both slicker and more interesting.  Though of course, they have all lost their way chronically compared to the mastery that was the first one.)
  3.  Irresistable
    (Susan Sarandon does very well here.  Always great to see Sam Neill.  This was very good indeed.  Apart from slightly losing me at the end, the gaslighting effect in this one was excellent. Keeper.)
  4. Beastly
    (What a lovely little fairy tale re-do.  Mary Kate Olsen amazed me and convinced me; and Alex Pettyfer did downcast and feeling ugly very well – he also looked oddly more real with his nasty tat makeup on.)
  5. Reginald D. Hunter: In The Midst of Crackers
    (Liked it better than his other gig I saw.  But man oh man, does he have some bigarse problem with females. Of course, Fry – who I watched this with – disagreed totally and though he was right on the button and very funny about women; but I felt such contempt, in places, coming off him about women – wonder why?  Still, he’s a very funny comedian, and not the first to manage to be hilarious despite a clear attitude problem to women [Bill Hicks comes to mind too – have any of you ever seen the responding to heckling scene where he repeatedly – and what an overkill, made me squirm to watch it – takes apart the ‘drunk cunt’ who was daring to speak to him??  Look for it on YouTube…good thing I can realise that some people are weird about some things, and fine in all other ways…])
  6. Alpha Papa
    (Good.  I kept being a bit surprised it had enough in it to fill out a whole film. Some very funny bits – window smack on arse, funny gunholding running etc.)
  7. Pretty Little Liars Season 4
    (Hmm.  As insanely well plotted and watchable for the first half of the season, then slid weirdly offcourse with the Halloween episode and the departure of Caleb for no good reason [a spin off reason – poorly executed].  It then all just got very dark, and odd, and things didn’t make as much narrative and character sense.  Ezra’s face heel face turn was a weird weird thing; ruined his character.  Toby’s vanishment at the end [what was in that letter], and the redherring characters of the girls with the missing friend, the guidance counsellor and the substance abuse characters – there for no real reason…filler began to be obvious.  And then Alison being alive….not sure what I think of that.  And not sure where the entire season left Mona in terms of motivation.  And what in hell was that extremely unnecessary 40s episode about????  This may be coming to an end in terms of what it can do – its messing too much with the core characters and this sudden doing away with everyone’s partner, annoying….ALSO: was not the implication that the person who tried to kill Ali and that the mother would protect perfectly clear: JASON.  Derrrr….We’ll see where it goes next.  But the mood definitely changed in the second half of the season – it got darker and stupider; not atmospheric in the same way as before.  It’s taking a slide into melodrama as opposed to mystery.  It needs to be very careful or I’ll totally lose interest – Holly Marie Coombs notwithstanding, tsk tsk.)
  8. Inherit the Wind
    (AGAIN, first time in ages! Totally forgot what a *powerful* film it was. All the views of the participants so eloquently stated, their mindsets shown. Spencer Tracy was amazing; and Gene Kelly came a close second. Rarely seen both sides of an important disagreement put so clearly and well. And just as bleedin' relevant today as it ever was. The way all the differing viewpoints are explained, both clearly and emotionally - no one is condemned, and ultimately neither side 'wins', as some symbolism at the end showed. The science vs. religion thing was a very topical and handy hook to hang the film on, and in one sense, it seems to me to be exactly about that - but in a wider sense, its impression on me was of people's fear at other people's thoughts; people wanting everyone to think like them or they feel threatened; and the power of not thinking and being ruled by passionate emotion to create mobs. I felt really in dread during some of the scenes of religious fervour - it could just as easily be (and almost was) like the Nuremberg rallies...anything that feeds on powerful emotion and starts to bypass the thinking mind, purely to create a 'them' and 'us' mentality...I was chilled and scared. )
  9.  Twins of Evil
    (AGAIN, another one for the first time in ages!  Much much better than I remember.  I think I was confusing this film with Lust for a Vampire, or Vampire Lovers – whichever one had Yutte Stensgard in, dripping blood over her face and breasts.  This film had far more plot, was stunningly well shot – beautiful use of location and greenery, and had some lovely costumes and make up.  It was a joy to look at.  Whilst the characters were a little thin, as all classic era Hammers are, at the same time, they had more depth than usual.  I enjoyed it.  A very good romp.  And I really have lost count of how many classic era Hammer horrors have galloping horses at the beginning…)
  10. The Apparition
    (The thing about this one was that tomandandy’s soundtrack dominated the whole film – and fit in so well that I think it might be a bit disappointing to listen to alone.  It was perfect heavily saturated wash against the action.  It was also clearly well budgeted without being reliant on effects, and very nicely shot.  For all that, it was a thin film and bit disappointing.  The idea that human belief is what creates poltergeists – that is, you have to actually be believing and scared for one to come, was interesting.  The cod science with the amplifiers and the EEGs and the other machines was a bit inexplicable and stupid.  I could wish for more character depth or plot – not necessarily both, one or the other.  I enjoyed the film, but mostly because of the wondrous sounds and lush shots.  Not the actual subject – give me all 3 and it would have been a REALLY good film.  Interesting history the film had – smallest distribution from a major network ever in US film history; and delayed for a couple of years after making due to production company and distributor unfurling themselves from a contract – I think maybe these issues had something to do with the films oddly bitty despite deeply professional feel.  Something got lost in all the trouble.  Maybe the editor was messed about?)
  11.  Doctor Who, Series 3 (new poo Who)
    (Well…Some good ones and some bad ones. Good: 42, Human Nature, Family of blood, Blink [all in a clump for some reason].  Bad ones – pretty much all the rest of them – which walked a very uneasy line of child’s show with stupid jokes and laughable creatures, to adult show, complete with serious moral dilemmas, shouting and angst.  The good episodes were very nicely done, holding the 2 threads in tension well; the bad ones showed why the show needs to make up its mind what it is – classic Who didn’t have a problem being scary enough for grown ups but also mindful enough for children – and it did it without a lot of the sort of silliness you get in the modern series.  But then, classic Who, all different vibe altogether.)
  12.  Saw VI
    (With Fry.  I’ve been off the Saw franchise for ages, but this one wasn’t overly torture porny.  I mean – it was alarmingly gruesome, but not in a very annoying way.  A plot way.  The characters did actually develop, to a degree.  I was very put off by the main detective being very familiar to me from an episode of Charmed though – I kept expecting him to walk through walls as a ghost; which was how he was in Charmed.)
  13. The Exorcist
    (AGAIN!  With Fry, who had never seen it.  This wasn’t the Director’s cut or the extended cut, it was the bog standard theatrical release, and I think I have got used to the other two and like them better.  This one felt a bit short and unexplained.  How Regan ends up in hospital so soon, why she seems so ill so quickly without many of her symptoms having been presented to us previously.  It feels a bit rushed and a bit implausible for that.  I still found certain sequences very scary, but Fry, who has been brought up on all the ripoffs as well as the development of the possessed genre, wanted more talking demon, more mental games – and that would have been good.  We both enjoyed Karras more than anything, I think.  I noticed this time round watching how long the Arabic sequence at the start is; and how little the Mike Oldfield music is actually used.)
  14. Community Season 1
    (With Fry.  I only saw half of it with him, and whilst I don’t yet think it as magnificent as he does, I did still enjoy it and find it very quirky and sharp. Then I finished it and found it very happy making and feel good – which is a boon in any show; and means it has the potential to become the show I go to when I have 30 minutes and feel down.)
  15. Beyond the Door
    (
    I found this on YouTube and vaguely remembered it, so watched it again.  Hailed a an Exorcist ripoff, it really wasn’t – it’s a grown woman who gets possessed and it’s to do with her baby and there’s very little possession action.  Giallo stalwart Gabriel Lavia is in it, and looking as doe eyed and sad as usual.  Juliet Mills is WONDERFUL as the possessed person, not so wonderful when she isn’t.  And the whole film was awful - not even saved by a brilliant creepy boy child [also in rough sequel, though much better, Beyond the Door 2, with much underrated Daria Nicolodi].  Sadly bad film…tsk.)
  16. Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka
    (Hmmm.  My ability to enjoy this – which started off high, as I was hooked from the start, despite usually disliking animation; was hindered by Fluffhead making me watch episode 1, then 2, then 3, but in combination about 5 times each before I got to move on to eps 4-6.  So I was starting to feel strained and irritated with the incessant repetition of the first 3, which obviously wasn’t their fault at all.  By the time I got to the end I was feeling a bit annoyed that the companion was too heavily involved in saving everything – I was detecting a Rose Tyler nuWho scenario; and then all the singing irritated me too.  I think if I had been allowed to just sit and watch it all the way through without interruption though, that I probably would have skated over those things that annoyed me.  It was just that the delay ensured the end could never be as good as the beginning.  I did like some of the dialogue very much though [“what are you?” “Mildly annoyed.”]  I enjoyed Richard E Grant’s portrayal very much and wished there could have been more of him.  Likewise Sophie Okenado.  Interesting, the unexplored backstory with the Master as a robot, too.)

And on to part 2…

Saturday, 2 August 2014

A Reprise on Colour, write it again...



I did a writing exercise on colours once before, and wanted to do another to see if I still had the same ideas, or if I’d actually managed to squeeze some more thoughts or impressions out of my head in the meantime – the last was over a year ago, I think.  So here’s the reprise on colours.  Free writes again, just seeing what comes to mind when I picture each of the colours – and after the mammoth length of the last 2 posts, I’ve let this one stay small and manageable!  Won’t take you an aeon to read!
***

Blue makes me think of…
The sky over the lands, where it is always (or mostly) a wonderful blue, and kingfishers and hummingbirds swirl through, dipping and darting, free.  There are no predators here.  It also makes me think of The Dreamer, who was once told by one particular female that he looked very good in blue, so now seems to wear it all the time, and it makes him feel confident.  It seems very much a man’s colour, in those I see around me.  Troubadour used to love it too, always wearing shirts of old, much softened cornflower blue, along with some absolutely awful polyester trousers that ruined the whole effect.  Along with Stanley, both of them have a thing about not wearing running shoes ever, and only wearing suit shoes.  Both of them sometimes ruin this effect with crap trousers to go with the lovely shirts they wear!  Blue also reminds me of when I was small, and mum used to get cotton wool balls in different colours – pink and blue and white.  My friend Sian who lived in the Barbican, used to suck her thumb, while clutching some of these cotton wool balls and rubbing them gently and meditatively over the side of her nose.  I tried it one day when I got home, sitting hidden in the airing cupboard (as only small children can manage), and it was very soothing.


Pink makes me think of…
Small children’s toys, fluffy plush animals, clutched in small hands with nails so small they look like they might flake off at any moment.  It makes me think of rose quartz and the associations of that with peace and self love…rose petals and rose oil, strewn and dripped into a bath.  No lights except the soft glimmer of a couple of tealights, the flames just shimmering on the walls of the bathroom, and almost total peace in that room, as I lay there, just looking out the window, watching the patterns of leaves striated on the glass itself.  I almost trance myself out.  When I was pregnant with Fluffhead I was stunningly starkly aware of how little sleep I was going to be getting in the next few years, and I spent a lot of time in that bath, just lying there.  In the stillness, watching the leaves, feeling the utter quiet, watching the candle flames, looking at my crystals.  Slowly feeling myself move, all unable to stop, from one calm and hard phase of reality toward another one - squishy, loud and confused.

                                                         from: gardendrama.wordpress.com

Green makes me think of…
Deep forests, where I tromp in wellies or Timberlands, with my feet cracking twigs.  The smell of pine, and other earthy smells, running through my nose and all pressing in.  Roots deep within the earth all packed tightly to the surrounding soil and clay, baked and enmeshed inside, a deep rootedness of trees surrounding me.  It’s the tops of trees, where leaves sway and quiver and gust in the wind.  It’s the tree outside my bedroom window, where I lay on the bed in the golden room, and just watch the leaves move – and feel privileged that I have that tree right there to see, every day.  It comforts me.  I watch the trunk stay still, the individual boughs move, and the leaves shake all over the place.  I am mesmerized by the sight of them.  I am calmed and beguiled.


Brown makes me think of…
Safety and growing things.  Tree trunks, soil playing through my fingers.  The deeply dry and useless looking soil that I planted my herbs in – but they are growing.  Basil is coming though slowly and delicately, coriander and oregano growing at 2 totally different rates, and chervil growing through the wrong hole in the pot, but growing nonetheless.  From that seemingly dead soil, is growing a bounty of herbs – possibly the first things I ever remember growing from seed, and its working!  So much I learn from the way things grow and die and decay and come back.  That tree in the yard where we used to live, that started to come through, then Stanley butchered it and broke off loads of its branches ‘cos it was in the way of the washing line.  And I mourned it for months.  It laid quiet all winter, and then – wonderful surprise, it budded on the ends of the broken parts, and burst, so quickly I was amazed, into shoots and leaves, then whole branches.  The next year I didn’t let him touch it, and it grew by early spring, into a proper tree!  A proper little tree!  I was amazed.  So I learned, that even when things seem dead, they may be holding their seeds of growth and regeneration deep inside them, and if left be, and tended just ever so gently, they will blossom forth again, and be stronger than ever.  Some clich├ęs do seem to hold true.

                                                                           from: rock-style-love-tumblr.com


Purple makes me think of…
The idea of occult pretention, and bishops and kings – and how Troubadour  said (he had such a habit of killing things with his opinions) that its an immature colour.  It seems to be the chosen colour of pomp and circumstance.  It makes me think of crowns and fur lined cloaks – ermine, isn’t it?  And small children seriously holding up the trains of kings and queens in huge majestic cathedrals like Salisbury or Westminster.  Its blockbuster epic novels by Edward Rutherford, about the whole of Ireland; or by Ken Follett, about Pillars of the Earth (that was very good).  It makes me think of flowers I don’t much like – overly serious, almost philosophically  dark flowers, as opposed to the ones I have behind me – white, lilac and pink scented stocks – so delicate and yet so overwhelmingly beautiful.  It is a colour of ritual and sacrament, and possibly opium induced dreaming: of secret things that spin the head.  It’s not a colour I’m much interested in, in its deeper shades.  I am more likely to go for a happy, brighter purple, an almost lilac glint of amethyst – that you can fall into and swim inside, crystalline and with the breath of winds up high, white horses galloping way below, snatch of salt from the sea.

                                                                                  from: videohive.net

White makes me think of…
Currently it makes me think of the gleaming crystal perfect brightness of the toilets at my last job, when you first go in.  White tiled floor, brilliant white walls, dark melamine surface the only difference.  The doors to the toilets were also painted gloss white.  The whole room shone, with hints of silver – the door handles, a scuff-guard at the bottom of all the doors.

It makes me think of Sylvia Plath and how she saw white not as a colour of purity, but as a colour of death and bleached bones, and purest ashes of nothingness.  Chinese funerals, where people hold their heads low, in white hats.  It makes me think of tiny birds in nests, cuddled up together, their eyes barely opening, small feathers tucked closely in to their bodies.  It makes me think of a friend I once had and her thing for angels – and the idea that if you see feathers it means an angel is about.  When I was last in the gardens of Michelham Priory and I was with mum.  We wandered the grounds, and she thought that statue of the monk with no face inside its cowl started to breathe and she jumped!  She’s a throw back to the middle ages, she makes me laugh.  As I wandered I saw loads of wonderful feathers, and I gathered them all, and a twig – in my head about to make some gorgeous smudge fan.  They are all still here, and I still may well…6 years later.  They are in a bag, softly folded and flat, in a drawer in my book room.  I just never seem to feel arty when I am at home, so much to write and read…but the potential for a beautiful smudge fan is still there.



Black makes me think of…
It used to make me think of Goths, and black magic, and darkness – but one day I read somewhere that black symbolized discipline and holding in, and I really identified with that. That’s why its such a good colour for work – not because its safe or boring, and goes with everything (Trinny and Susannah deeply disagree), but because it helps you focus.  It doesn’t get in the way.  It lets you shine out from within it.  Hence my password at home on my old laptop used to be about darkness being light.  Which felt very true, somehow when I wrote it, and I am only just starting to see how true it is now.  The learning from within hardship and suffering.  The joy you can get even in the midst of pain.  Light is so much brighter, when tempered by the dark.  (Of course, this does not obviate way too much darkness in anyone’s life – but it helps to be able to move through it, and without too much fear, to understand that it will be there and that one will, of necessity, have to learn how to move through it.)  So now I find black comforting, and sort of sleek; it helps thought, on some days.


Red makes me think of…
Other people’s ideas of passion, and red slickened lips, pouting for kisses.  Women’s lips sucking cherries.  Women’s tongues tying knots with cherry stems.  (Do I even believe that is possible?  NO!)  It’s a colour that people have as much loaded associations for as black and white.  Red is a siren colour – a colour for toe nails; women with red fingernails suddenly have talons.  Vampires seem to wear a lot of red in Hammer.  Vampy women wear a lot of red lingerie; it’s seen as naughty.  To me, red is juice from strawberries; juice from bright red (temptation) apples; juices running over your fingers and chin.  It’s a decadence of fruit.  Grapes, plums, redcurrants; raspberries especially.  Its small children dripping strawberry sauce off of cornets; dripping chemical ice cream off of strawberry splits.  Eating slush puppies, crunching ice and sticking out their tongues that are cherry red, violence red.

Red doesn’t really make me think of blood.  Despite that time when I heard the Falklands War had broken out (as if barely able to contain itself), and I was in the toilets in St Georges (my primary school, despicable place), and wondering if I was going to be dripping my nosebleed into the sink forever and ever.  Would I still be there when the war was done?  At that stage I was fed up of trying to staunch the blood and didn’t want to go back to class, so I was letting it drip and drip, with my head hung close to the sink, watching the white enamel turn redder and redder, until the whole sink was blood covered.  I thought it looked quite pretty and dramatic.  I used to have massive nosebleeds every other summer, regular as clockwork for no discernible reason.  So did my dad.  I don’t anymore; they just stopped one summer in my late teens.

Oddly, I still dream about those toilets.  Though when I went back to visit some years later, they were midget toilets, and I was amazed I had ever been small enough to bend seriously over that sink standing, and not on my hands and knees.