We’d like to go after anyone threatening to continue production of Torchwood. Do you know who we mean?
Ever since we had a baby we’ve been listening to Radio 4’s Today in the morning, because you need to have some background noise on when you’ve got a baby (strangely, they’re not keen on the deathly depressed silences that are my preferred ambience) and all the other morning broadcasting options are shrill and intolerable.
As a rolling news show, Today is basically Okay, but then there’s the interviews.
Oh fuck, the interviews. Some newsworthy figure is wheeled on to have some half-baked challenges and queries barked into their face. Interviewee bats these away. Questions are repeated, and avoided every time. If there’s more than one interviewee, some fatuous opposition is set up between the two, and questions are ping-ponged between them to create some arbitrary drama.
It’s rubbish, and much congratulations must go to Graham Linehan for steadfastly refusing to play ball when Justin Webb (not pictured) tried to get him to engage in a meaningless argument with a theatre critic last week. That Webb insisted on playing arch-twat in the face of Linehan’s insistence that the whole scenario was meaningless and pathetic, and continued to do so on twitter afterwards, just shows how far down the rabbit hole of their own reputation the Today team have disappeared.
Because the mythology of Today is this – that it is the centre of the national conversation, where the great and good are brought to account on important issues, pinned down by the fiercest voices in broadcast journalism. That it is vital listening, where vital matters are revealed, and a compulsory start to the day for anyone who wants to know what’s what in the UK.
Or, to be realistic, it’s a news show with some deeply uninformative interview segments where Ministers, Executives and other members of the interchangeable managerial smear who run things in this country get to be lambasted by James Naughtie (actually pictured) or John Humphrys, get on the radio and then send an email to all their underlings including a full transcript later that day, insisting that it’s vitally important that they all know how vewy bwave their boss was on the wadio. No policy is changed by these interviews, the most lasting consequence being the occasional unflattering soundbite that will be repeated on other BBC News broadcasts for the rest of the day.
The myth of Today as a gladiatorial arena of accountability is fantastically flattering not just for the BBC team who make the show but for the sense of self importance of the highly appointed dimwits who get ‘grilled’ on it. For, make no mistake, ministers and civil servants and senior business types love Today for the sense of importance it ascribes to their half-baked policies. It fuels the myth that their decisions shape our world, and that organisations really can be changed at the top (but that’s another rant for another time). It makes them feel special.
Whereas I’ve finally come up with the exact phrase for what Today really is: an Accountability Pantomime. A raucous, knockabout bit of nonsense where the powerful come on, shout it out with the presenter, and we can all go away feeling cathartically pleased that some high-placed clown was given a bit of a hard time while in fact they’ve been held to account for precisely fuck all.
A good example of this went out this morning, with an executive from beleaguered care home company Southern Cross. Humphrys gave the bloke a bit of a grilling, battered the same simplistic points again and again, and I found myself smugly pleased that Southern Cross bloke had been given a hard time, as if that somehow constituted a significant restitution for Southern Cross’ alleged crappy behaviour.
I shouldn’t have felt that, of course, because all that had happened to him was that he’d had a conversation with a rude man. He’ll have gone back to his job, and the key meeting with Southern Cross’ landlords (the subject of the interview) will have gone ahead exactly as well as if no interview had ever occurred.
Of course, the one useful thing Today could do would be for the BBC to leverage the exaggerated sense of importance the political classes put on it, to which I make the following suggestion:
The next time BBC funding is threatened, the first thing the BBC should offer to cut is the radio cars that allow Ministers to do Today interviews in their jim-jams. If that doesn’t cause an immediate policy reversal, suggest slashing the length of Today by an hour.
MPs will, of course, insist that to reduce the scope of Today in this way would be stifling democracy by failing to give a platform to our duly elected officials to big-up their initiatives, but as Today is basically about politicians listening to the sounds of their own voices rather than speaking to the electorate that’s bullshit.
Press the bastards, threaten to smash their stupid little soapbox to pieces. That should protect the licence fee for another generation, at least.
Here’s a curio for fans of 1960s ‘Doctor Who’ (i.e. any ‘Who’ fan over twenty-five with a functioning taste gland).
While in Paris for our honeymoon a couple of years ago, we browsed a vast second hand book shop in a covered market. It was the kind of place that, for whatever reason, you don’t see in the UK. Amongst all the filthy Italian horror comics and other oddities I spotted a familiar face:
… William Russell, Ian Chesterton himself. Now, most fans of any vintage will know that Russell was the star of ‘The Adventures of Sir Lancelot’ before starring in ‘Who’. Indeed, as with Matt Smith et al on the back of current ‘Who’ books, Russell is credited by name at the front of this French tie-in book:
As ‘Who’ has never been big in France, it’s interesting to see that one of it’s initial stars was well-known enough to have his face plastered over a kids tie-in storybook in the late 1950s/early 1960s.
There was a DVD release of ‘Lancelot’ a few years back, some of you may even have seen it. I’m seriously doubting that it had the kind of action this book’s illustrations suggest:
Finally, it’s good to know that even when playing Lancelot, Russell still had Ian’s frankly awesome haircut:
I don’t know much French, but I’m glad we found this book, physical confirmation that William Russell was a global star five decades before the current ‘Who’ team started doing premiere events in New York, as well as a charmingly straightforward TV tie-in from long ago.
I know I said I’d try for one post a week, but as I’m now on full weekday parenting duty (see artist’s impression) and Georgina won’t be doing any nursery time until May, at the moment it’s a push for me to even do Story Gamer and Shiny Shelf, never mind this blog.
However, I am still all over Twitter, so you can follow me there if you like, via the ‘Tweets’ link to the right —>
Will hopefully be back soon, in May if not before.
Over the last few years, BBC Books published a series of short, hardback ‘Doctor Who Files’, basically fact files books with a few words, a lot of pictures and a short story in the back, each covering some aspect of the series: the Doctor, the TARDIS, one of the monsters.
Anyway, they stopped doing the books a year or so back, so it’s probably safe now for me to show you my proposed text for Doctor Who Files: The Macra. For some reason the BBC rejected this as suitable for publication. Can’t think why.
As stated in today’s Penny Arcade, games events can be a virulent source of disease. However, they’re also supposed to be friendly, social events, so recoiling from any contact with your fellow attendees, covering your face with a wet cloth whenever they threaten to breathe on you, might be considered rude.
How to stay healthy, while not being outright insulting? Simple, cosplay one of these three game characters:
1. Zombie in FEMA fictional analogue for FEMA environment suit, from Left 4 Dead 2
These popular nuisances from Valve’s second multiplayer zombie shooter have the advantage of combining all-over protection – what keeps germs out more effectively than a government issue envirosuit? – with being a very lazy costume to assemble. Simply slap on some grey face paint, pull on the suit, and you’re ready to go.
Of course, not every aspect of this outfit is ideal. It’s probably immensely expensive and difficult to buy this kind of suit, and if you do, expect to answer lots of questions from local law enforcement about exactly why you feel the need to protect yourself against chemical weapons in a suburban area.
Also, it looks a bit sweaty in there. Expect to boil in the bag if the aircon fails again.
2. Hunk, from Resident Evil 2 and numerous spin-offs.
A fan favourite. If Boba Fett proved nothing else, it’s that nothing provides a greater identification figure for the hardcore fanbase than a masked man with no visible personality who seems to have nothing to say in any given social situation.
Anyway, Hunk is your everyday gas masked special forces dude, and as such is interchangeable with all manner of other games protagonists and baddies. Expect to be mistaken for a Helghast, someone from Modern Warfare, a SWAT guy… OK, it may be a bit generic. In fact, you wouldn’t be that different from…
3. Artyom, or pretty much anyone else in Metro 2033.
A newy, and not too dissimilar from the Hunk mercenary type character above, but the various tunnel-dwellers from the far future of oh-shit-I’ll-probably-live-long-enough-to-see-this-shit-for-real have a couple of advantages as cosplay templates.
For a start, as it’s twenty years after the apocalypse, there’s no need to worry that your second hand army surplus duds are going to embarrass you. Whereas Hunk and his ilk always have military standard, spotless black gear, these guys make-do-and-mend, so you needn’t worry about how mismatched all the army surplus you bought for cheap looks. Wear and tear is authentic, in this case.
Also, and this is what puts this outfit above the rest, is that most of those other mercs wear their gas masks all the time, whereas a key game mechanism in Metro is the need to take your gas mask on and off depending where you are.
So, in this gear there’s no need to choke away beneath a mask for the entire con. Simply sling it around your belt, enjoy the show floor and, whenever you see someone particularly sniffly heading your way, make a big show of shouting about a gas attack in a Russian accent while putting the mask on. Job done, post-con-illness largely avoided.
Of course, none of these outfits will prevent the ill-effect of drinking your own bodyweight in overpriced alcohol in the hotel bar. But that’s another problem altogether.
All giant robot shows should end on a ballad:
“My name is Alfred Kingsmill and I did once steal a loaf of bread and the judge he did have me hanged. Now my family own a big bakery, and I haunt the place and do a ghostly shit in each loaf. And that is my Kingsmill confession.”
(I suspect this isn’t what they were looking for.)