Blogs

April 2013

Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

Of ghosts, of monsters, of hockey teams

A fan's faith, reborn

Les bleus, blancs et rouges, Habs logo.
Boo! Screenshot, Doctor Who: Hide

April 22, 2013, OTTAWA — I grew up during the 1970s and was a fan of the Montreal Canadiens (a professional (ice) hockey team, the only sport that really matters in Canada). The 1970s was a good decade to cheer for the "Habs"; les glorieux won the Stanley Cup in 10 of the first 14 years of my life.

Since then, they have drunk from that sacred Cup but twice, a bitter drought for those loyal followers who yet wave the bleu, blanc et rouge and who, each autumn, dream again the following spring will see a return to glory at last.

Saturday's episode of Doctor Who, "Hide", felt almost like I had (yes) been transported back in time and in space, to the Montreal Forum on the evening of May 21, 1979, to witness my team's 4th Stanley Cup victory in a row.

Doctor Who: Hide promo poster.

All right, I exaggerate. One episode does not a championship make. And maybe the metaphor doesn't entirely make sense. But neither, often, does logic in Doctor Who. So (as an American might say), sue me.

The conceit feels right to me — and besides, when was the last time someone discussed hockey and Doctor Who in the same place?

Point is, for this fan, the last few years following the Doctor has felt a lot like watching the Montreal Canadiens lose hockey games. The uniforms look more or less the same, and there's still a lot of travel involved, but victories are few and far between.

"Hide" was one of those victories. And a victory so convincing, this fan suddenly feels those naive hopes of a championship springing like wheat from an arid field. Click here to find out why. Far fewer spoilers than usual.

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Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

"The Cold War" weds mediocrity with subtle brilliance

Jenna-Louise Coleman becoming a revelation

Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara, screenshot detail.

April 19, 2013, OTTAWA — Late again, I know. Life and an episode of back-aches has kept me busy.

And more, I found it hard to find my focus on this episode. An entertaining tale on the surface, dig just a little bit and you find in the Mark Gatiss-penned "The Cold War" only another stop on Steven Moffat's Travelling Medicine Show of Intellectual Horrors.

An idiot plot, in other words.

But there was an upside, beyond the mere fact this episode made for the second in a row that managed at least to be an entertaining distraction on first viewing. That is, that Jenna-Louise Coleman is starting to look like the best regular actor to grace this series since maybe as far back as Christopher Eccleson's turn as the Ninth Doctor, and certainly since Catherine Tate played Donna Noble.

I know, I know, it's early days, and so I stand to be corrected, but so far Coleman is doing remarkable things with often ludicrous material. "Click here to read more, and to watch a video aide. Spoilers, as always.

Post-scriptum: The aforementioned video is currently under review for copyright violation by Youtube. I've disputed the claim on the basis of fair use, but who knows how that will play out; if it stops working, please use the contact form to let me know. If necessary, I'll host it here on Rex and let the Beeb argue with me directly if they will.

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The return of The Droz Report:

No prayers for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings

Photo by The Phantom Photographer; image manipulation by Geoffrey Dow.
Boston Marathon bombing aftermath

April 16, 2013, OTTAWA — Whenever my Facebook newsfeed starts filling up with prayers and expressions of shock and sadness about tragedy halfway around the world, I find myself wanting nothing more than to scream at all those well-wishers to shut the fuck up with their ritual grief, whether caused by a tsunami, a famine, a school shooting, a bombing in Boston ...

You got me. I'm already sick to death of hearing how you feel about the bombs that went off in Boston yesterday afternoon. Yes, it was an awful thing, but if you don't live there, or know people who were directly involved, I would prefer you keep your ostensible pain to yourself.

Offering up your prayers or good wishes might make you feel a little better, but it doesn't do any tangible good. And it's not like these things occur in a vacuum. Most of the major problems facing women and men in this world are caused by men and women. Even the damage caused by hurricanes usually has a human cause in there somewhere. And since that's almost always the case, platitudes aren't the answer, nor are prayers going to help.

Thinking might help. Political activism might help. Even donating to the Red Cross might help.

It's not the sincerity of the well-wishers that bothers me, but the lack of seriousness.

If you want my take on yesterday's terror attack, without a platitude in sight, click here. Comments, arguments and calls for my head are welcome.

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Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

"The Rings of Akhaten" is solid Doctor Who

Decent space opera fun is welcome tonic in a dismal era

The Rings of Akhaten, screenshot detail.

April 12, 2013, OTTAWA — I really enjoyed this episode on my first viewing and, despite hearing from some quarters that it was awful — worse even than "The Bells of Saint John" — I liked it well enough the second time 'round, too. But then I've always had a preference for off-Earth adventures and have a fondness for space stations, so possibly I cut it more slack than I otherwise might.

In any case, "The Rings of Akhaten" suffers from special effects more ambitious than successful and, maybe, from a script that was cut down hard to make a two-part story into a single episode, but still managed some decent space opera fun, a welcome dollop of secular-humanist scepticism courtesy of the Doctor and our first chance to get to know Clara Oswald as more than just a mystery with a fetching smile, but as a genuine character.

For my full review, visit "Good news from Akhaten, someplace (almost) awesome". Spoilers as per usual.

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Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

"The Bells of Saint John" entertains, but fails in the details

Clara meets the TARDIS. Screenshot, contents copyright © BBC.

April 5, 2013, OTTAWA — What is it with Steven Moffat and passivity as drama? It isn't just women in refrigerators or women happy to have been bounced back in time to live out their lives in a previous century, now it is the Doctor himself, literally waiting for the phone to ring in order to get our story started.

Passivity is looking less and less like unconscious misogyny and more like the mark of a writer unable to think of a more creative way to get to the parts of the story he thinks are "cool". Many have noted his treatment of women, but it seems a trope he uses to the point of exhaustion. Rory Williams anyone? And now the Doctor ...

In the opener for Series 7 (Er, 7.5, I guess), we're treated to the conceit that the Doctor has decided the best way to find someone is to hide away in a 13th century monastery and hope she comes to him. That it works is a given, else there'd be no story, but it's a pretty inane way of getting things started.

Not that I didn't enjoy "The Bells of Saint John"; I did — at least, on first go-round. For a bit of a wonder, Moffat's script moved along at a good clip and offered some tension and humour. But on second viewing, the story didn't make a whole lot of sense, which leaves me less than confident about the rest of this year's series.

My my full review, please see The Mad Monk meets the Lazy Writer (beware of spoilers!).

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March 2013

Speaking ill of the dead

Elisabeth Sladen: the autobiography

Elisabeth Sladen the autobiography cover plus link to amazon.ca

Mar 12, 2013, OTTAWA — Like many North American of a certain age, my introduction to Doctor Who was haphazard at best. The first episode I remember seeing was Robots of Death, in which Louise Jameson's Leela was the companion, not Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith.

Nevertheless, TV Ontario sooner or later broadcast at least a few of the Sarah Jane serials and the buttoned-down young journalist joined the half-naked savage as my favourites among the Doctor's companions.

So I was very much part of the target audience when Sarah Jane returned to Doctor Who in the (revived) series' second season episode, "School Reunion". That production managed to please both old fans and new, so much so that Sladen's return spawned a spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures, a children's program that often managed to be quite a bit better than its big brother.

The Sarah Jane Adventures featured Sladen as its alien-fighting principal, a woman in her seventh decade who was nevertheless forever running down corridors, hopping fences and facing down monsters, even as she played reluctant mentor and den mother to her teenage co-stars. Sarah Jane Smith was so credible as a paragon of courage and intelligence that one longed to believe those traits reflected the performer as much as they did her writers.

Fan of both Sarah Jane Smith's first and third incarnations (even Sladen quite rightly acknowledges the failure of her second, in the early 1980s), I am clearly also part of the target audience for Sladen's memoir. And so it was I impatiently waited for a Canadian release of Sladen's autobiography, completed just a few months before her surprising and terribly untimely death from cancer in 2011.

Sadly, the contents between the frankly dated and cheap-looking covers pretty accurately reflect the contents of the book itself.

Though the autobiography does not stoop to gossip or cheap score-settling, neither does it offer much insight into acting; into what it was like being a feminist icon of sorts; or into Sladen's life. Those hoping for more than some amusing anecdotes about working with Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker will find in this book some tasty snacks, but nothing remotely like a full meal.

My full review lives behind the cut.

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Ou sont les neiges d'antan?

red & white ambition image

For the Brits, the peak of Everest served to display the Union Jack. For the Yanks, only the surface of the moon herself would do for the Stars and Stripes. But for Johnny and Jenny Canuck, a seasonal 'mountain' of snow was more than enough to honour the Maple Leaf.
Photo by Geoffrey Dow, near exit 88 on the 417, March 10, 2013.

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Future Indistinct

Future indistinct, but present coming into focus

The morning of December 22, 2012, was an old fashioned Canadian winter's day, snowing hard and blowing. And, old-fashioned Canadian at the wheel, new-comer riding shotgun, we were off (yes, through that first snowstorm of the year) to Quebec City and then Laval, for what turned out to be a wonderful (if too brief) holiday.

And then, shortly after our return to our Nation's Capital, Raven came down with a cold. She was out for (get this!) 12 whole hours before returning to the pink of health. I, on the other hand, took sick and am only now (finally!) coming back to life. (12 hours vs nearly *20 days*. It's a wonder I still love her!)

All of which is to say, I've been remiss.

I haven't mentioned that I reviewed Christopher Hitchens' last book, and that said review was published in the winter issue of Humanist Perspectives. They misspelled my name, but at least they got my website's address right. I'll be posting it their sooner than later.

I haven't mentioned the surprise sale of a photograph to one of Canada's major museums — in large part because I have not yet seen the cheque. (Memo to self: follow-up on that invoice!)

Nor have I finished my reviews of Elisabeth Sladen's memoir, Neil Young's genuine stream-of-conscious volume, Waging Heavy Peace, nor, most importantly, have I done nearly as much as I had intended to on the biggest project I have on the go.

It's not one that I've mentioned here much, if at all. Partly because I'm lousy at self-promotion, partly because it's far from ready for prime time and partly because there's a second party involved. But said second party has given me the go-ahead to mention it, and so ...

I am co-writing the memoir of a remarkable woman, one who endured the twin traumas of the sort of personal disaster you would think could only happen in fiction (or maybe on one of those daytime television freak shows), as well as abuse from a not just one public institution that should have been protecting her, but at least *three* of them.

It's a powerful story of a woman's desperate battle to protect her family and to find at least a semblance of justice from a system that seemed bound and determined to give her anything else.

Anyway, I am very happy to report that I have had two good night's sleep in a row (the first such series of the year, or so it feels) and that, yesterday, my personal "January 1st", I added about 1,600 words to that book and am damned if I don't make a daily habit of similar numbers for the next few months.

More to come, sooner than later. I promise!

Reprinted, with modifications, from a bloody Facebook posting, of all things!

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January 2013

Divorced lesbian new Premier of Ontario!

Should we be cheering?


Kathleen Wynne (left) is congratulated by runner-up Sandra Pupatello on Saturday.

And something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

— Bob Dylan, "Ballad of a Thin Man"

Photo by The Phantom Photographer; image manipulation by Geoffrey Dow.

January 28, 2013, OTTAWA — Early Sunday morning on Facebook, I posted a knee-jerk response to the selection of Kathleen Wynne as the Liberal Party of Ontario's new leader — and thus, the province's new Premier. Wynne won on the third ballot, edging out Sandra Pupatello. The women had been the front-runners right from the start. (Entirely coincidentally, but most serendipitously, Wynne's victory came only two days before the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision declaring that women have a fundamental right to control their own bodies.)

I wrote:

Those of you who think that nothing changes, please take note. In some very important ways, the world *is* getting better and it's important we remember that. A divorced, gay, woman is now Premier of Ontario.

Woman. Gay. Divorced. 30 years ago (or less!) any *one* of those facts would have automatically disqualified her.

That's a sea change, ladies and gentleman. A fucking sea change.

There is more to it than that, of course, and finding myself living in a country in which six of its 14 First Ministers are women does not mean we have reached Utopia.

But it is significant.

So significant that it deserves not just an emphasized paragraph all of its own, but consideration at some length. The perfumes of change.

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On the dole, and other magnificent obsessions

(Canadian man really loves trains!)

January 22, 2013, OTTAWA — Some people think Man was put on this earth to pray, others to work, and still others, to tell one another stories.

I think, at least for some of us and for some of the time, our purpose is to play. And that's not such a bad thing.

This morning, allow me to present to you, a man who spent 40 years tape-recording radio programs, and one who has built a full-scale model VIA Rail car in his basement. (I'll leave it for you, the reader, to assign significance to the fact that both men claimed to have wonderfully understanding wives.)

The full story lies behind the link (of course).

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Catching up on 2012, Part I

Publication!

Reviewing Christopher Hitchens' Mortality

 

January 21, 2013, OTTAWA — P.T. Barnum is alleged to have said, "There's no such thing as bad press, so long as they spell your name right." But what is one supposed to do when the press is good, but the spelling is not?

Shoot the messenger, bite the hand ... and toot one's own horn, I guess. So damn the clichés and full speed ahead.

I suppose I would better have done all of the above when I first got my complimentary copies of the magazine in the mail back in December, but illness and the press of other business got in the way of proper self-promotion.

Those copies made for a sort of early Christmas present, but signed with an insult (presumably unintentional).

 

Or, as the old joke goes, I found good news and bad news in my mailbox.

Since I am one who prefers his misery lessened rather than his happiness punctured, that's how I'll tell the (brief) story.

The bad news was that Humanist Perspectives magazine thinks my first name is spelled GeoffEry, not GeoffrEy.


The good news is, its Winter 2012/2013 edition contains my review of Christopher Hitchens' post-humus meditation on living with the cancer that led to his death, Mortality.

(And, perhaps karmically, though the ultimate E and R are reversed in my byline and the table of contents, both my name and my website address (that's www.ed-rex.com folks!) are exactly right inn the two-line bio below the essay.)

I won't pretend it isn't gratifying to see some of my work in actual (paper) print again. 2009 was a while ago.

But, though the Winter issue of Humanist Perspectives is still the current issue and can still be found on better newsstands across Canada, I think it's time to share the work with the rest of the world.

The full text (very slightly modified from its magazine publication) lives behind this link.

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By my own, idiosyncratic, calendar . . .

(Happy New Year at last!)

January 18, 2013, OTTAWA — What a year it's been. Okay, 17 days, but it's almost *felt* like a year since, and more, since I last rode my bicycle, leaving it at the airport on the Friday before Christmas. The snow started coming down, joined by freezing rain, just as I started to head for home, so I circled back, parked the beast and took a bus.

Do you want to know what kind of year it's been (so far) for your humble narrator? Please click here for the good, the bad and the sickly.

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