" Madam Miaow Says

Monday, 25 August 2014

Doctor Who "Deep Breath" review: all hail Peter Capaldi, shame about the script.


Why is Peter Capaldi flashing his red bits like a lady baboon, and other questions.


SPOILER ALERT

Review of Dr Who "Deep Breath" first broadcast BBC1, Saturday 23rd August 2014

The Dalek was eyeing up some poor bastard on the far side of the room. It hadn't yet seen me, so I backed away. Far scarier in the actual metal than on screen, its presence only three feet away sent my heart pounding to 11, so loud it was sure to hear me. It swung round and I froze, skewered by its cyclops stare. Me and a Dalek. Eyeball to eyeballs. An inhuman rorschach inkblot of a creation, sucking out all the dark matter in my soul and planting it into this single embodiment of EE-vuhl. It waved its sink-plunger at me and I took another couple of steps back. People laughed, my mother among them. Surely a nervous, entirely inappropriate, reaction to the horror before them? I sensed another malign presence. I slowly turned to where the people were looking and tittering ... to find a Cyberman bent right over me, arms outstretched for a bearhug.

I screamed an eight-year-old's scream and ran as fast as I could, missing the Cyberman's grip by a whisker, past the Ice Warriors, the Monoids and the Fish People, and screeched to a halt before the Yeti blocking my way outta here. A moment's relief because the Yeti was surely just a big teddy bear. All that cuddly fur waiting for a kid to snuggle into. But this was no oversized furry playmate: this was a sinister, silent, unbelievably huge furball with fangs and a bad manicure standing between me and the exit. I stared at it, suddenly aware of depths of alien viciousness. Knowing I was beaten, I broke into a fit of weeping and heard the laughter rise. I swear that Yeti was heaving along to the jollity. It shifted a little to one side leaving a space just big enough for me to squeeze through and then made a final swipe. I yelped and leapt several feet in one bound, vowing I would return one day to vanquish the monsters that had landed at the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition.

That was one of the few times Doctor Who ever pressed my terror button. Doctor Who was always about the permanance of the British empire and our values; as much in the outlands of space and time as here among Britainland's acres of melamine and fresh paint. Why else, after 51 years, is there still a white male at the helm of the Tardis aided by a trusty gurl assistant? Terror was the series' way of reminding you how lucky you were to be alive at such a secure, stable time ... if you lived in the British Isles rather than, say, post-second-world-war Korea, Yemen, Kenya, or Malaya. Any disruption of the status quo was certain to be corrected by the Doctor, with equilibrium restored by the end of the series and our place in the universe nailed.

Nuthin' changes except when it does. This year, for its twelfth reincarnation and eighth series of the modern reboot, Doctor Who goes full-tilt steampunk, calling once again on the Victorian era for validation in a world that's a little less secure, a little less reliable. Terror springs from newscasts and comes knocking at the door. Casting Malcolm Tucker (who bears a passing resemblance to actor Peter Capaldi) is inspired. Gravitas, grit, a laser tongue and a weary intelligence far beyond that of the mere mortals surrounding him make him the perfect Timelord in this, our hour of need.

Sadly, 'Deep Breath', the first episode of the long-awaited new series introducing Capaldi, inhales superb production values, along with some solid acting, but exhales a godawful script from Dr Who veteran Steven Moffat. Dwahlinks, you call that DIALOGUE? Monologues, more like: with declamations to the audience requiring actors to remain rooted unresponsively to the spot instead of reacting the way people, you know, react! The old vagrant and the robot boss have to freeze and endure long narcissistic screeds of character-establishing bollox that should never have made it out of Moffat's notebooks.

The episode opens promisingly with a Godzilla-scale tyrannosaurus rex as the chosen delivery method of the Tardis, the new Doctor and his companion, Clara (Jenna Coleman). After terrorising London, it is swiftly dispatched by a gentleman cyborg who harvests humans for body parts and requires some dinosaur optical nerve; although how first incinerating the creature aids raptor recycling is never made clear. The story then unravels with one damn thing after another rather than pearls finely strung to develop a complete whole: a meandering scene concerning a bad-smelling homeless man, some absurd short-cut ratiocination from Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), and lo-o-ong event-free dialogue in Mancini's restaurant. You know it's an idiot-plot when the heroes stumble on their nemesis as he's recharging and don't even unplug him. Clara is saved from the cyborg's cannibalising restaurant by the crimebusting Paternoster gang. They escape by taking the deep breath of the title and holding it, thereby avoiding detection by the murderous bots who only want to find their "promised land". The Doctor, still befuddled by the stresses of his regeneration, may or may not have pushed the cyborg gent out of his human-skin balloon at the clunking denouement, although suicide under the torture of being forced to listen to him rant while barely getting a word in edgewise, isn't ruled out. There's not a lot of outwitting going on.

When Joss Whedon-manque Russell T Davies first rebooted the franchise, his achilles heel was his adoption of the surface characteristics of Buffy and Angel with only the slimmest understanding of how plot and character interact, resulting in relentlessly annoying hysteria and a lack of story dynamic. He gave us sentiment instead of profound emotional involvement, lurches instead of arcs-within-arcs that dipped and soared along with our spirits. Bad habits have stuck.

I was always shown (and told!) that the rule was 'show, don't tell'. The Doctor babbles exposition like a mofo in a stinker of a script in search of a storyline. Note to producers: making characters talk 13 to the dozen like coke-fiends doesn't mean we won't notice little things like plot-holes and entire missing throughlines. Have none of you heard of PACING? Longeurs stretched into longdays as sub-Buffy banter held up the promised action while we were expected to genuflect before the awesomeness of Moffat's one-liners, a vanity process not far removed from pounding rock for diamonds — yes, there were a few but by the time they surfaced I was too exhausted to care.

You can lesbian-lizard-snog all you like in order to establish your LGBT credentials, but class hierarchy is alive and very unwell in the world of Doctor Who. Any subversive value resides in the relationship between Lady Handbag, Madame Vastra, and her maid-wife being normalised, not hollered triumphantly every two minutes. Uncool! Why're we back in very unsubversive days when maids and butlers were the norm (know your place, kids), and where the white "ninja" maid appropriates eastern skills but the only actual East Asian (Clem So) in sight is a robot? Reactionary mindset leaking at the edges? Even Harry Potter had an East Asian girlfriend until she was dumped for a white girl under circumstances never satisfactorily explained. In fact, not much ethnic minority presence at all in this one.

And why does the Doctor keep exposing his frock-coat's red silk lining like a lady baboon flashing her in-oestrus labia? So many questions, so much left dangling.

We wade through a swamp of exposition so thick you could stand a spoon up in it. The origins and rationale of the cyborg aliens aren't revealed through the clever workings of the script: Capaldi has to bark them out while the cyborg stares glassily, politely waiting for him to finish.

The cyborg's not too bright, anyhow. Eons of farming humans in order to make a skin balloon when he could have used whatever material Victorian dirigibles were made from, or simply bought some animal skins from the local abbatoir?

The funniest moments are owned by Strax the over-literal butler (Dan Starkey) whose knocking out of Clara with a rolled up copy of The Times was authentic laugh-out-loud slapstick.

Clara goggles her way through like someone who's been told she has pretty eyes (which she does) and has given up blinking for fear of hiding them. Her shrill tantrums have been praised as the mark of a strong woman. Surely, the critics have mistaken petulant for "feisty"? Having her throw strops and hissy-fits at inappropriate moments is a singularly ham-fisted method of telegraphing that this is not your dad's submissive Dr Who companion but an incredibly dated Grrrl Power trope that the BBC has only just twigged exists. Brattish and bossy when she could be co-operative, sensitive and insightful (but there I go again, talking about myself: it's catching), Clara is the template for the privileged breed of management who climb up the echelons of the BBC and walk off with those million-quid payoffs. FFS, don't try this at home, kids.

"In the name of the British Empire," cries Madame Vastra as her gang perform their rescue. Drip, drip, drip. Doctor Who is the hard-wiring of young minds into the values of the Establishment, not those of our real British society. The post-war period of freedom and relative prosperity for the masses is at an end, the party's over and the Doctor has reincarnated into the child-catcher. Protect your tender budding brains. Retain your critical faculties even as you chow down on your (intermittently tasty) comfort food.


Review of the rebooted Sherlock: The Blind Banker.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Lauren Bacall dies at 89: Bogey and Slim reunited in the hereafter


Oh, this really, REALLY hurts. Yesterday Robin Williams passed away; today, I find out that one of my all-time favourites, LAUREN BACALL, one of Hollywood's great beauties, also died aged 89.

Bronx-born Betty Perske was the star of To Have and Have Not at 19, going on the weave her screen magic in The Big Sleep, Key Largo and How To Marry A Millionare when they grew proper screen goddesses in America.

Wooed by 44-year old WASP Humphrey Bogart, her co-star in To Have and Have Not, she was so horrified by the casual anti-Semitic banter among her movie industry friends that it took a while before she felt safe enough to admit to her lover that she was Jewish. Thankfully, it wasn't an issue.

They married, had two children, came out as leftists during the McCarthy political witch-hunt era and were then scared off, leaving them open to unfair charges of being rat-finks but they avoided the blacklist.

I saw her on stage in Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird of Youth in London and was mesmerised.

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."

RIP LAUREN BACALL, Mrs Humphrey Bogart (or was he Mr Lauren Bacall?).

My poem about Lauren ...

Ode To A Detox On Returning From St Ives

I'd hoped to grow old like Lauren Bacall
Elegant, willowy, tall
Tight arse, tons of class
An enigma on a pedestal.

Once slender and considered quite tasty
In a thin thong and pasties
The pasties are now Cornish pasties
And I can't thing the thame thong without crying.
My legendary six-pack is now a six-pack of cider
My inner Size Zero grows a whole lot wider
Finds the hacksaw hidden inside the cheesecake
And hacks her way free,
Pausing only for a swift one with pork scratchings on the side
Deep fried.
If only I ate apples instead of being shaped like one
I am a woman of many appetites but fruit salad ain't fun.
My overactive mandibles leave love handles the size of trees
I love my food but my food hates me
Treacherous, it deposits clues
In my jelly belly
it's a jelly belly, it's a jelly belly, it's a jelly belly, it's a jelly belly
I tried sleeping with the fishes
Even they didn't fancy me
They flashed their fins and went upscale
And threw me out of the sea.

A whale washed up
A chubby cherub after the Fall
I roll across the land, a shapeless fog
Devouring all in an epic trawl.
I wish the fog was a pea-souper
‘Cause I could scoff that an' all
Scarf the lot like a hog.
Nom, nom, nom.
No! This lardy bard must recall
Lauren Bacall was no butterball.

Fat threatens to settle in folds,
In rolls of old cholesterol.
The make-up thickens
Like clotting cream
Like several inches of plasticene
Like fossil strata from the palioscene.
My bags are now luggage
My breasts are baggage
In body angst overdrive
My reflection is savage.
I will rivet closed my gaping maws
My beak snaps shut
My greedy paws gathering greenery
My jaws chewing up the scenery
Filling the hole inside me,
‘Cause I recognise the metaphors.
Grimly I scan the vision before me
And understand why no-one adores me.
I do not enthrall like Lauren Bacall
Tons of flaws, open pores,
I'm growing old like Diana Dors.

Anna Chen, September 2010

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

When Robin Williams played West Hampstead



To add to the current wave of global misery, Robin Williams was found dead this morning, suspected of committing suicide after well-known bouts of depression. Deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

It must have been in the 1980s (maybe earlier) but the story I was told shortly after I moved into leafy West Hampstead was that Robin Williams occasionally visited da hood because he was mates with the owners of The Railway pub in West End Lane, back when it was a much respected, if somewhat down-at-heel, venue. The Railway sits a few yards from the tube station and next door to the English National Opera rehearsal studios in Broadhurst Gardens which previously housed the Decca recording studio where, famously, the Beatles failed their audition in 1962, and where the great John Mayall albums with Eric Clapton and Peter Green were recorded.

In those days, West Hampstead was mostly students in bedsits and artists who couldn't afford Islington or proper Hampstead. It wasn't called "East Kilburn" for nothing. Great parties, though.

Anyhow, apparently Robin was visiting his mates when he was overcome by the urge to do an impromptu set. Like a bird that has to sing, he got up and did loads, presumably secure with a relatively small no-pressure audience that loved him.

No pix, no video, just happy memories of a very lucky audience. We need a blue plaque.

Also in our manor, Bow Wow Wow singer and Malcolm McClaren protégé Annabella Lwin was discovered working in what was the Shamrock dry-cleaners at 210 West End Lane, next to Barclays. And Olivia Newton-John used to live in Dennington Park Road.

RIP Robin Williams — one of the funniest and saddest guys ever.

EDIT: Note Lisa Minot's eyewitness account in the comments below:
I was at that gig - he turned up at the end of the weekly Comedy Club that was held in the back room (and we were very loyal regulars, went every week) - he had asked to impro to a UK audience before a Princes' Trust concert. When the normal comedy acts finished, a guy came on and just said: 'Some American guy wants to try some new material, if you stay, we'll keep the bar open'

Easy choice and when Robin walked out on stage, our first thought was: 'Hey, that's the guy from Mork and Mindy'

He then proceeded to perform, non-stop, for nearly two hours, seemingly without any material, just improvising and interacting with the very small audience of mainly students. It was utterly brilliant and even now, nearly 28 years on, I can remember knowing that night was special.

A few months or year later, Good Morning Vietnam came out and the rest is history.

Read this and then watch video of Robin Williams saving Matt Frei's bacon. (Thanks to Peter.)

Friday, 8 August 2014

Allow Gaza to exist, end the blockade and build a viable Palestinian state if you want peace

Israel should end the siege, end the blockade and allow Gaza to grow.


There's only one people being pushed into the sea right now and it's Gazans. A coastal sliver about 25 by seven miles — an area of 360 sq km into which 1.8 million people have been rammed, 60 per cent of whom are under 18 years old — Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Much is made of the rockets launched from the tiny strip. It should be noted that no rockets were fired for the first 34 years of military occupation by Israel. Those that are fired are far from the same scale as the 6,800kg monster ordnance payload per aircraft delivered by the occupying force. The maximum payload of biggest rockets fired from Gaza is 144kg, the most common Qassam missile 9kg, according to the IDF.

Since November 2012, when Israel broke the original ceasefire and killed the Hamas peace negotiator, it has violated ceasefires with its vastly superior firepower 191 times. In the same period, there were 75 violations by Palestinians. In addition, Israel has broken 65 UN resolutions and continues to build illegal settlements in the West Bank.

And what does an Israeli ceasefire mean? Constant drones threatening obliteration for people who have no underground shelters. A sadistic reminder that Israel has the power and is gagging to use it in scenes reminiscent of the Capitol terrorising the 12 Districts in The Hunger Games.

Bibi Netanyahu makes a great President Snow. His casting credentials range from approval of the Yitzhak Rabin sniper target posters to indiscriminate killing and collective punishment of Palestinians under siege.

This eye-witness account of daily life for Palestinians from Brian Eno in the Independent newspaper, is similar to what I've heard from Jewish friends who were originally sympathetic to the state of Israel until they saw what was happening in their name:
'I was in Israel last year with Mary [a mutual friend]. Her sister works for UNRWA [the UN agency for Palestinian refugees] in Jerusalem. Showing us round were a Palestinian – Shadi, who is her sister’s husband and a professional guide – and Oren Jacobovitch, an Israeli Jew, an ex-major from the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] who left the service under a cloud for refusing to beat up Palestinians. Between the two of them we got to see some harrowing things – Palestinian houses hemmed in by wire mesh and boards to prevent settlers throwing shit and piss and used sanitary towels at the inhabitants; Palestinian kids on their way to school being beaten by Israeli kids with baseball bats to parental applause and laughter; a whole village evicted and living in caves while three settler families moved on to their land; an Israeli settlement on top of a hill diverting its sewage directly down on to Palestinian farmland below; The Wall; the checkpoints… and all the endless daily humiliations. I kept thinking, “Do Americans really condone this? Do they really think this is OK? Or do they just not know about it?”'

A former Israeli soldier has gathered evidence that the army allows their soldiers to kill Palestinians for revenge and confirms that the young man in the green T-shirt, Salem Shamaly, was murdered in Shujaiya out of malice.



It's well known by now that the group suffering the most are the children. Plus over 400 kids killed out of nearly 2,000 and thousands injured where hospitals are bombed and the importation of medical equipment and medicine banned by the blockade.

We've seen the sheer recklessness in putting human life at risk turn into outright viciousness, targeting UN schools housing terrified refugees because rockets were fired "near" them. Not from the schools themselves, but "near" is near enough to obliterate dozens of innocents taking shelter. No, Hamas should not hide arms in UN schools, even if they were empty at the time — however, the response has been entirely disproportionate and savage.

As has been Dr Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli scholar of Arabic literature and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, who says rape of wives and mothers would deter Palestinian combatants. The Israeli far right are openly talking of "genocide" as a solution, their politicians about mass murder and a future in tent camps in what is already the biggest concentration camp in the world. The peaceniks and measured commentators such as Gideon Levy of Haaretz are harassed and endure death threats.

We've seen all this and yet the disinformation, the diversion, the smoke and mirrors come thick and fast. However, the truth will out in this era of social networks. Claims that Hamas uses human shields have been unpacked. Religious claims to the land have been rebutted by rabbis and scholars. The three Israeli youth murdered in a criminal act which Hamas has denied ordering, was cynically used by Natnyahu to whip up anti-Palestinian hatred even though he knew almost immediately that they'd been killed, ignoring the two Palestinian boys shot by an Israeli sniper shortly before in May and all but forgotten, because some lives count more than others. The Nation debunks the most common five points of Israeli propaganda.



Politicians from John Prescott to former US President Jimmy Carter want Israel investigated for war crimes. Baroness Warsi resigns from the Tory cabinet over British government policy over Israel, and now an Irish politician calls Israel out on their actions. Irish Senator David Norris says: "Israel created Hamas in order to split Fateh. Israel bombs first and weeps later. Nobody believes you any more."



Israel is an international pariah but responses of revulsion and horror are in danger of turning into a wave of anti-semitism. However shocked we are, we should be wary of calling Israelis Nazis even when they're behaving like the worst heartless, selfish, far-right thugs. And on the other side of the coin, when Netanyahu tries to conflate all Jews with Israeli zionist expansionist ambitions, it's vital to keep the two separate. I am told by a British Jew that the biggest threat to the Jews of the world is Israel.

The discovery of a huge gas field off the Gaza coast ten years ago by BG (formerly British Gas) should have ensured the construction of Gaza as a viable self-supporting entity. But this may well have sealed its fate as the land grab is joined by a gas grab.

Some suspect that Israel is using the conflict as a showcase for the arms industry.

There are the Hasbara secret propaganda booklets.

Even middle-of-the-road Emily Maitliss has had enough with Israeli spokesperson Mark Regev:



Channel 4's Paul Mason, part of an ace reporting team that's gained the public trust, posits an outcome with Gaza as a game-changing event.

The Tricycle Theatre issues a statement after the Jewish Film Festival pulls out after refusing to drop Israeli Embassy funding. The Tricyle offered to plug the funding gap but this was declined in an increasingly bitter one-upmanship.

Non-action by Arab leaders by Mehdi Hassan in the Huffington Post.

Sexualised violence, blood lust and ammosexuals in Israel.

The Economist has collected facts and figures about Gaza and Israel.

Hamas agrees to 1967 borders in 2006 and says it will recognise Israel in return for a Palestinian state in West Bank and Gaza. On 24 April 2014 they formed the Unity Administration with Fatah, they also agree talks should be resumed regards the Two State solution. Hamas's 10 demands for peace.

Nafali Bennet, leader of Jewish Home and coalition partner of Likud: "There will never be a peace plan with the palestinians"

International law scholars on the Israel-Gaza wars 2008-14.

Questions to ask your pro-Israeli friends.

There are moves to organise a boycott of Israeli goods including boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Protests are taking place tomorrow, 9th August.

JUST IN … CHINESE FOR LABOUR — PRESS RELEASE
8th August 2014
Chinese for Labour call on Government to condemn the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians
The recent and devastating events in Gaza have created a response from countries and nations from all over the world. The endless and tragic images that show the scale of the humanitarian crisis arising from the conflict between Hamas and the Israeli army has moved many people across nations and communities to demand Government’s secure a peaceful solution.
The numerous large scale demonstrations, vigils and protests that have taken place over the past month across every part of the United Kingdom has united groups and communities together in pursuit of preventing further deaths and injuries of Palestinian civilians.
Members of the Chinese community across the UK have responded equally as compassionately to the situation in Gaza, and Chinese for Labour call on our Government to condemn the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians and are in agreement with the statement issued by Ed Miliband that acknowledge the ‘disproportionate’ actions taken by the Israeli Government in the conflict with Hamas.
The loss of life is deeply regrettable on both sides, but the number of children and civilians involved in this conflict is an issue that communities across the world have rightly spoken out against.
Peace.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Two Dutch guys driving from China to Holland using only Chinese brands


I so want to do this journey. Two Dutchmen, Maren Striker and Rogier Bikker, are driving the Silk Road route from Shanghai to Rotterdam using nothing but Chinese brand goods. One car, three months, eleven countries, 20,000 miles and a lot of sponsorship from July 26th to October 31st.

The car, the phone, even their underwear, will be Chinese-made, demonstrating China's entry to the top of world manufacturing, reliable for quality and value having shaken off the outdated "Made-in-China as crap" tag.

Automotive brand BYD (Build Your Dreams) is a world-leading brand to watch, with added Warren Buffet in there somewhere. Other Chinese brands sponsoring the trip include rising Huawei with their Ascend P7, also known as the ‘selfie smartphone’; Lenovo, the fastest growing PC maker in the world, with their Yoga touchscreen laptops; AEE, set to be a world leader having grown to an outdoor camera brand used by outdoor enthusiasts as well as Chinese police, fireman and military forces; outdoor enthusiasts' brand Ozark getting to grips with hostile terrain from scorching deserts to the highest mountain peaks; Braos cornering skateboard lifestyle clothing and sunglasses market; and XIYOUJI fashion.

You can follow the guys in their regular video blogs here:
http://www.brandnewchina.net

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The entire population of China sued by New Yorker


The biggest lawsuit ever, TTIP legislation and vulture capitalists.


Anton Purisma, the man suing New York City for more money than there is in the world, has just taken out an action suing Ed Snowden and the entire population of China for the rest of the money that doesn't exist in the entire known universe.

Not content with $2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, or two undecillion dollars, (which is bigger than a gazillion and MUCH more than a squillion), one of his requests is to play Edward Snowden at poker.

According to a Yahoo report:
Anton Purisima has filed his two undecillion dollar lawsuit after he claims his middle finger was bitten and infected by a "rabies-infected" dog on a city bus, that he paid more for coffee than he should have at LaGuardia Airport and a Chinese couple took pictures of him without asking.

I can't find what it is that the Peoples Republic of China have done to him to deserve their lawsuit but a Chinese couple (or they could have been Korean or Japanese) photographed him in his dog-bitten misery so maybe he holds China responsible. Why not? Everybody else does.

Talking of "does", in his hand-written upper case lawsuit, he includes: "Does (as in "John Does") 1-1.3 BILLION, DEFENDANTS."

Ah, yes, there it is: "Illegal dumping (of 'cheap') & defective 'China-made-and-over-priced products.'"

Before we laugh off the biggest suer in the world, let's not forget the TTIP EU legislation enabling vulture capitalists to sue governments for every penny of debt until they own the world. So far, Anton only wants your money. He doesn't want you in slavery in perpetuity.

Thanks to Adrian Chen for the hat tip on Twitter.

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