Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Doctor Who and the Cyberman-a-tron 

I enjoyed the 2008 Christmas special but ... well  ... the end was just silly.

I used to watch Doctor Who a lot when I was a kid but, in an era that lacked video recorders I didn't manage to watch all the episodes and so I am not completely aware of all the Cybermen stories or their history. I have filled in some of the gaps but that exercise has left me even more troubled about the Christmas episode. I have found mentions of Cybermats (a friend suggested they were possible precursors to the Shades) and the Cyberking as a type of Cyberman Dreadnought starship for invading new worlds.

The new Cybermen come from a parallel Earth and have nothing to do with the Cybermen the Doctor encountered in his prior existences, although they do coincidentally have a similar appearance and the same name. They first tangled with the Doctor when he accidentally slipped into the parallel universe and then again when they crossed the Void and battled with the Daleks at Canary Wharf. The Doctor banished them all back into the Void and later they fell out, presumably during the wall-between-universes-weakening messing around at the end of the last series.

However, where in all that time would they have built or found a Cyberman Dreadnought starship?

The new Cybermen would not really know of space travel. Their existence has been limited to the Earths. They would have no reason to build a starship to invade another world when they had the Earth of 1851 to invade.

It is feasible that they could have found more from the Daleks -- the Daleks would have had knowledge of space travel and possibly of the old Cybermen. It is also feasible that they found the Cyberking in the Void as a remnant of the old Cybermen.

However, that sort of thing should have been explained. The way the Christmas episode was presented seemed like RTD had muddled some of the new and old ideas of Cybermen with no thought as to how it should have worked. The idea of the Cyberking stomping all over Victorian London at the end was all.

I like the new Doctor Who. It is fun and exciting and there are some brilliantly written stories but there are some that just get carried away with themselves. This, unfortunately was one of them. The major hook for the story was whether David Morrissey was really the 11th Doctor but that question was answered very early on with the very low tech versions of the Tardis and the Sonic Screwdriver. That just left the Cybermen, as butch as ever, but with the goal of taking over the world with a giant Transformer.

On another but related subject ... what is going to happen with Doctor Who? No series next year. RTD has announced he is stepping down with Stephen Moffat to take over in 2010. David Tennant to do the four specials, if his back injury allows, but with someone else taking over in 2010.

I am concerned that the series will die again. A year is a long time and four specials (which might not happen if David isn't well enough) will not keep the fickle British public's attention or interest. That and the BBC's predilection to cut series during financial troubles leads me to think that Doctor Who's future isn't that secure.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hell on a train 

On the way to the station, I passed three London Lite peddlars but I didn't pick one up because I knew, yes, knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had my iPod with me and that I would be able to spend the train journey listening to the next instalment of National Public Radio's version of Star Wars.

I didn't even say "no thanks" as I stomped past in my pre-Christmas grumpiness. Not once, not twice but three times.

Of course, as soon as I got on the train and sat down, I discovered my mistake and found that I'd left the iPod on my desk at work. Great! Nothing to keep the annoyances of the carriage out of my ears tonight or tomorrow morning.

And did I need it!

It was only a short journey as it was a fast train but it felt very long.

I wrote this in my notebook as I was sitting there ...

"I'm sitting opposite a man WHO CANNOT CHEW GUM WITH HIS MOUTH CLOSED and across the aisle from an idiot who doesn't know how to turn the beeps off on his mobile and is composing the longest text message known to man.

You'll understand why I have steam coming out of my ears."

One thing I absolutely hate without question is people eating noisily. I have mentioned it before. At least with normal eating it's over fairly quickly but with gum chewing it goes on FOREVER.

Noisy chewy bastards!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Revenge of the Spirit of Christmas 

I am still a bit of a Christmas Grouse at the moment. The inner five-year-old won't make himself felt for another few days. In hindsight, then, it probably wasn't the wisest of ideas to put up my Christmas Tree last night and even less wise to preface the activity with "oh, well, I suppose I'd better put the bloody tree up."

It was a catalogue of disasters. OK, disaster is probably a strong word. No-one died, for instance and I avoided major injury but there was significant mental trauma.

First off, I had to clear the little table I use to stand my tree on. This is normally home to one or two house plants. Well, two earlier this year and one up to last night. The one remaining plant shared the table with the tray that was under the one that died. I should have cleared it away months ago but it was one of those things that had become invisible.

Anyway, I had this tray and it needed to go somewhere. The shed seemed a sensible place. So I found the key for the shed, opened the back door and tried the key in the lock.

It didn't move.

"Fair enough," I thought, "wrong key." I have a few keys that all look similar for locks that were all installed at roughly the same time. So I tried the other two, both of which I thought were wrong. Still no luck.

I tried the first one again. Harder. It turned.

The door wouldn't open.

I tried prying it open with a screwdriver at the side. No luck. At the top. Again, no luck.

Eventually it opened with my pulling on the key with a pair of pliers. Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to keep a small set of tools in the kitchen.

So, with the door open, I took the tray from the table and put it in the shed.

No, of course, the door wouldn't close. I thought of maybe hitting it with a hammer but I didn't think the neighbours would be too keen on that. I tried shouldering it shut in the same way as detectives in dodgy movies for decades but no luck. I tried pushing it shut with my bum (a not inconsiderable weight) but the door resisted. I eventually had to sort through my tools in the shed and find a plane to take a few millimetres off the side of the door.

DIY in the cold and the dark of a December evening isn't fun, I can tell you.

Apart from hunting high and low in the loft for my tree's decorations (somehow they had ended up on Graham's side of the loft behind the probably quite damp mattress he's stored up there), the rest of the exercise went more or less without a hitch. I even got all the lights to light first time.

Yay, Christmas!

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Beethoven's Ninth 

I just listened to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. There is something about this piece of music that I absolutely love and, for some reason that I can never quite establish, it almost makes me cry whenever I hear it.

I was privileged to hear David and the chorus sing this a few years ago at the First Night of the Proms.

I listened to a version of it on my iPod and when I got to the choral piece in the fourth and final movement I turned the volume way up. Possibly not the best of ideas at work. I don't think anyone heard (my headphones are very good) but there was a risk that people would have noticed my watery eyes.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008


It takes me a long time to get "into" Christmas but this year I feel even less in the mood for it than I normally do.

Perhaps it's the weather or the poor state of the world or the general low mood caused by the recession or my own personal recession caused by spending way too much money over the last year -- but I just do not feel in the least bit Christmassy.

I find I am resenting spending money on it. I sneer at the few paltry decorations I have seen up in the high streets, although there aren't that many of those even now. I hate the desperate urgings in adverts in papers and on the net for people to spend more money than they can.

The Metro the other morning had present suggestions categorised according to price: below £100, £100 - £200 and so on. Some people are going to get ridiculous ideas from that. To me, a great present is something someone has thought about and given something that someone would really like. It could cost pennies but if the thought has gone into it then it is priceless. Spending a lot of money suggests a desperation to be popular.

We have our Christmas party at work tomorrow but I am missing the evening meal due to a mix up with my diary (OK, I didn't look) resulting in a double-booking. I will be going with David to a Maddy Pryor concert instead. I am quite happy about that.

I have ordered most of the presents I am buying for other people and have placed a huge wish list on Amazon to give anyone wishing to buy for me plenty of choice. I will be writing my cards tonight.

I suppose it all seems so clinical.


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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sahara throat 

I am getting over a cold. It started Friday with a sore throat and a bit of mild sneezing. It didn't stop me going to watch David and the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra perform Carmina Burana on Friday or going to see Spamalot on Saturday.

Sunday, however, found me lying around on the sofa covered in a blanket, full of apathy and snot. I didn't feel especially unwell, as colds go it was very low on the scale, but it did make me feel a little detached like I was operating my body by remote control.

It also deeply affected my concentration. On Saturday I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, have a shave and a shower. In the shower, I discovered I'd shaved my cheeks above my beard but forgot all about shaving my neck.

Anyhow, after taking Monday off work as a sick day (so bored that I did my filing) and staggering in to work yesterday, I feel more or less OK today. I still feel a little snotty and my sore throat is mostly gone apart from feeling exceptionally dry like I have been gargling with talcum powder.

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