November 2013

Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

The Night Before the Day of the Doctor

Resurgence of hope?

Screenshot from Doctor Who mini episode, Night of the Doctor, Doctor Who copyright 2013 BBC

November 22, 2013, OTTAWA — Doctor Who returns tomorrow, in yet another special, this one to be simulcast all over the world, the better to prevent the spilling of spoilers before their time.

Do I sound cynical? Those (few) of you who have been wondering what happened to my long-promised review of "The Name of The Doctor", first broadcast last spring, might well expect me to be.

I won't disappoint you: I still am.

But I ran across a bit of a surprise a couple of nights back, in the form of an eight-minute (mini) episode called "The Night of the Doctor." I don't suppose many of you reading this are still in the dark about it, but just in case, I'll offer no details here. Beware the spoilers that lurk in my review!

The surprising pleasure I received from the above-noted short film, saw my cynicism tempered, a little, by hope that this Saturday's long-awaited extravaganza might also surprise me. That hope saw me finally re-visit last spring's ostensible finale, "The Name of the Doctor" — and, yes, to also finally review it. That review is behind this cut. Spoilers, of course, and also a return to much wailing and gnashing of critical teeth. You've been warned on both counts.

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Note to local readers:

The Old Man's Last Sauna celebrations

November 20, 2013, OTTAWA — I'm very pleased to announce that The Old Man's Last Sauna is now available at Brittons in Ottawa's Glebe at the corner of Bank and Fifth. If you can't make it out to our launch party at Daniel O'Connell's Irish Pub this coming Sunday, then Brittons is the place to be!

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Catching up, or trying to

The Old Man's Last Sauna is was born


The Old Man's Last Sauna,
delivered at last!

November 17, 2013, OTTAWA — This entry was supposed to have been written nearly a month ago. In fact, it mostly was written very early on the morning of October 26, but careless user-error on the part of yours truly — due in large part to extreme exhaustion (I ain't taking the fall for this one, your honour!) — saw it eaten up when I closed my text-editor without first saving my deathless prose.

Image: poster for launch part of The Old Man's Last Sauna

And so it was that the front page of Edifice Rex Online completely ignored what is quite possibly the most important even in its pretty long (internet) life: the launching of The BumblePuppy Press as an actual publisher, with an actual book in print and ebook editions!

Yes, Carl Dow's first book, The Old Man's Last Sauna cried its first on the morning of October 25th, 2013, when five cartoons containing the proof were delivered to my door, a mere 24 hours before Mr. Dow (yeah, he's my dad) and I were due to take our places at a table at the Ottawa Independent Writers' annual Author's Fair.

I'll have lots more to say when I get the chance, but for now, I'll just let you know that we're having a launch part this coming Sunday (November 24, 2013), at Daniel O'Connell's Irish Pub here in Ottawa. The details and a chance to register for tickets (they're free!) are at our EventBrite page. There will be readings, a chance to meet the author, book give-aways and live music provided by Kevin Dooley & Friends!

If you're in town, forget about the Grey cup and come out to celebrate with us!

(And if you want to know how I reacted to the book delivery back on the 26th, read The cavalry came in five cardboard cartons (but be warned: salty language ensues).

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August 2013

The prodigal blogger returns (again)

Kick-Ass 2 poster

August 29, 2013, OTTAWA — I hate the fact that I am so often making excuses and apologies for this site's less-than irregular schedule, so I am not going to bother this time. The three months that have passed since I last updated have been busy ones for me, and even productive ones, but not much of the evidence is yet ready for pixelation.

I would like to wax elequent about the criminality behind the West's latest march to war in the Middle East, or the police states being revealed on our shores, but for now I can only commend you to my Twitter feed if you want my take on the state of the world.

As for Rex, I can offer only my sole venture into the wasteland of this year's summer blockbusters — not the new Star Trek or E-Men (was there an X-Men movie this year?), but a sequel to a minor hit from a few years back that I liked quite a lot. The original, that is. The sequel? Not so much. Kick-Ass 2 wears sneakers, not steel-toed boots.

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May 2013

Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

Nightmare In Tedium

Neil Gaiman channels Stephen Thompson

(Which is never a good thing)

Screenshot from 'Nightmare in Silver', Doctor Who copyright 2013 BBC

May 16, 2013, OTTAWA — On more than one occasion, the writer Harlan Ellsion insisted his name be removed from a movie or television program and replaced with that of Cordwainer Bird in place of his own. He did it when he believed his script had been butchered: changed to the point where the on-screen result would in some way make him look bad. It was his way of "flipping the bird" at those who had ruined his work and, more, of protecting his own reputation as a screen-writer.

If Neil Gaiman doesn't have a pseudonym for similar circumstances, he should get one — and apply it retroactively to his sophomore entry as a screen-writer for Doctor Who.

"Nightmare in Silver" isn't the worst episode of this year's often-dreadful half-series (far from it) but it isn't very good, either.

It is almost inconceivable that the the writer of "The Doctor's Wife" (not to mention of the Sandman graphic novels) could have handed in a script as dramatically disjointed, as illogical and as frankly boring, as that which showed up on our television screens this past weekend. And surely, it wasn't Neil Gaiman who closed the episode with the appalling spectacle of the Doctor almost literally drooling as he ponders the sight of Clara in a skirt just "a little bit too tight".

A nightmare in silver? More like pewter, or even tin. Spoilers and snark, as usual.

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Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

The Crimson Horror:

Patterns of abuse

Screenshot from, The Crimson Horror, Doctor Who copyright 2013 BBC

May 12, 2013, OTTAWA — I know a lot of you enjoyed "The Crimson Horror" and, in comparison to the previous week's travesty, you had every right to.

Nevertheless, what you enjoyed was still pretty lousy television and I guarantee that, unless you make a real study of it, you won't remember a damned thing about it a year from now.

Don't believe me?

Read "Carry On Up the Tardis!" to find out why it was the idea of "The Crimson Horror" you liked, and not the show itself.

As usual, both plot- and fun-spoilers abound, so enter at your own risk.

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Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 7

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS:

The contempt of the show-runner

The Hisotry of the Time War, screenshot, copyright BBC

May 4, 2013, OTTAWA — An insult. A slap in the face. Or should I say, another insult, another slap in the face?

What more is there to say? The whole of Steven Moffat's Doctor Who has been a long series of insults dressed up as Big Ideas, punctuated by apologies from the likes of Richard Curtis and Neil Gaiman.

But how long can we point to "Vincent and the Doctor" or "The Doctor's Wife" and tell ourselves that Steven Moffat actually cares about the cultural institution in his charge?

The truth is, we have become so used to terrible television that when the merely mediocre happens along, people like me nearly start preaching the second coming.

It's time we face the truth: Steven Moffat holds us, his audience, in utter contempt. Take as Exhibit 37, the latest mess of a program broadcast under the name of Doctor Who.

"Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" begins with an implausible and arbitrary set-up and is propelled by a plot that works only through the unlikely stupidity of its guest characters, the even more unlikely (and dumb) decisions of its regulars and a resolution that re-uses — yet again! — one of Moffat's now tired and tiresome time-travel tropes — and which then cheats on its own rules. The BBC brain-trust ought to be ashamed to have allowed it to air.

My full review is behind this link, but be warned: I am not happy and sometimes I say so in language unfit for ears of the young and tender, or for eyes of work-mates reading over one's shoulder. Also, there are spoilers, as per normal.

Finally, if you want to suggest that I hate this show so much I shouldn't be reviewing it, you may be right. But I committed myself to seeing Series 7 through to the end, and so I will. But after that? If Steven Moffat is still in charge, I rather suspect I'll be done with the show for the duration. Those of you as sick of my opinions as I am sick of Steven Moffat's stories probably have more reason for hope than I do.

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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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The World According to Dear Leader Harper ...

 

 
Not content with silencing its scientists, Harper Government imposes new 'code of conduct' on Federal Librarians that includes 'duty of loyalty' and a snitch-line

 

Our Dear Leader Looks Upon His Minions
Our Dear Leader gazes from atop the Archives Canada Preservation Building in Gatineau, Québec. Photo-illustration by Geoffrey Dow. Original photo of Archives Canada Preservation Building by Bruno Schlumberger/Postmedia News

 

By Margaret Munro
Canada.com/Post Media
 

And speaking of our Dear Leader ...

15 March 2013 — Federal librarians and archivists who set foot in classrooms, attend conferences or speak up at public meetings on their own time are engaging in “high risk” activities, according to the new code of conduct at Library and Archives Canada.
Given the dangers, the code says the department’s staff must clear such “personal” activities with their managers in advance to ensure there are no conflicts or “other risks to LAC.”
 
The code, which stresses federal employees’ “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government,” also spells out how offenders can be reported.
 
“It includes both a muzzle and a snitch line,” says James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, which represents more than 68,000 teachers, librarians, researchers and academics across the country.
He and others say the code is evidence the Harper government is silencing and undermining its professional staff.
“Once you start picking on librarians and archivists, it’s pretty sad,” says Toni Samek, a professor of library and information studies at the University of Alberta. She specializes in intellectual freedom and describes several clauses in the code as “severe” and “outrageous.”

(More.)

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