Daily Archives: Sunday, 24th Nov 2013

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

This is a gloriously silly film which is being blamed on Fifth Doctor[1] Peter Davison, in which Peter, joined by Sixth Doctor Colin Baker and Seventh Doctor SylvesterMcCoy[2] try to get themselves included in the 50th anniversary special. They even try to drag Tom Baker into it, but his appearance bears a resemblance to one he sort of made in another special some years ago.

Much silliness follows, with appearances from numerous companions, with a surprise guest appearance at the end. So far, only the trailer is on You Tube:

To see the whole thing, you’ll have to go to the BBC site:

The Five(ish) Doctors

[1] And Tenth Doctor’s father in law
[2] Allegedly AWOL from filming the Hobbit

Keith Houston – Shady Characters

I’ve been enjoying Keith Houston’s Shady Characters blog for quite some time now. It’s a fascinating and quite deep delve into the origins and development of punctuation marks, from the familiar to the more obscure, and always entertaining.

So I had no hesitation in ordering his book of the same name. Now I usually prefer Kindle versions, but for this I was happy to make an exception. It’s a nicely bound hardback, printed on remarkably bright white paper, with all the interesting punctuation marks picked out in red, such as ‽ (the delightful interrobang) not to mention (the pilcrow, recognised as the paragraph mark in most word-processing programs) and ☞ (the manicule, a handy thing for marking important text).

The book is filled with quotations, images of old documents, and has enough footnotes and references to satisfy anyone interested in punctuation. And maybe to draw in people who’d never really given the subject much thought.

My only negative point is that Keith has adopted the not entirely serious, but still annoying name octothorpe for the # hash sign (or “pound sign” as some confusingly call it[1]).

Worth a read in either paper form, or on a colour tablet. You’d miss a lot on a standard Kindle.

[1] There are a few reasons why people on this side of the pond find that confusing. The obvious one is that a pound sign actually looks like this: £. Another is that we use “lb” to denote pounds in weight, which would appear to be where the symbol used in the US came from. First, the lb was written with a bar across it to indicate it was a measurement (much like the £ is a letter L with a bar), and this gradually became standardised as a symbol. But the most interesting one is that back in the Olden Days of dot matrix printers and small character sets, getting generally US-developed software to print a £ more often than not produced a # unless you fiddled with dip switches, performed arcane software rituals or generally went to a lot of trouble. And even then it didn’t always work. And of course, if you’d done all that and then needed to print a #, you were knackered…

Terry Pratchett – Raising Steam

And here it is: the 40th in Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series, which I spent much of this year re-reading. In terms of the series, it’s a sequel to Going Postal and Making Money in that its main viewpoint character is reformed (mostly) conman Moist van Lipwig. Err, but it’s also a sequel to Thud! and Snuff, in that Sam Vimes plays a major role, and that it follows up on the events at Koom Valley and the matter of goblins. So it could be viewed as tying up loose ends, and it has been suggested that this might be the last in the series.

But enough of such speculation, and on with the book itself.

Over the years, the Discworld, or more particularly Ankh-Morpork has been morphing from a more or less off the shelf medieval fantasy society to something more like Victorian England, and in Raising Steam that transition would appear to be complete. Steam has arrived, and arrived in style. And trains are going to be even more disruptive than the Clacks, the ever-advancing telegraphy system. Now, not only will messages be transmitted faster than was ever dreamed of, but now people and goods can be moved faster than any non-magical means ever dreamed of.

And part of the book is a story of the development of the railway from a single engine doing demonstration laps to a long distance service, with the action spreading over many months. Things are made more interesting by the involvement of Moist van Lipwig, who’s almost a reformed character these days

There was a difference between a banker and a crook, there really was, and although it was very, very teeny Moist felt that he should point out that it did exist and besides, Lord Vetinari always had his eye on him.

And Lord Vetinari has his eye on the railway, too, which is why he puts Moist in charge of a very important and difficult plan to get a line all the way to Uberwald.

But there’s more. Not everyone is all that keen on progress, and the grags – the most err, deep-down of the deep-downer dwarfs really don’t like the railway. They move on from destroying clacks towers to attempting to disrupt rail travel, especially that line to Uberwald. Though their motivation for that may have more to do with not wanting their King to get back and stop the coup they’ve managed to start.

It wasn’t as if the grags were holding hard to yesterday; they hadn’t got as far as this century.

As the railway gets closer to Uberwald, the danger grows, and it’ll take the combined efforts of Sam Vimes and Moist to get the King back where he needs to be.

And there’s more. Goblins, having been declared to be just as much people as everyone else, are making themselves very useful everywhere. Not only do they make excellent clacks operators, but it turns out they’re really useful on the trains.

There’s the usual bunch of references and gags, including a fat controller, and a dwarf with the delightful name of Dopey Docson. Lots of laughs, loads of danger, an unexpected side to Lord Vetinari, and Sam Vimes changing his opinion on Moist. What more could you ask for?

If this is, as some people have suggested, the Last Discworld Book Ever, which given Terry’s state of health seems depressingly likely, then at least the series is going out on a high point.

Weight and Stuff Report – 24 November 2013

Back down again today, how exciting.

I seem to be having a day in to catch up with things, so not a log going on. Here’s a nice family portrait:

Family portrait

Family portrait

Camera: iPhone 5s
Aperture: ƒ/2.2
Shutter speed: 1/15s
Focal length: 4.12mm
ISO: 320
Taken: 24 November, 2013
Location: 54° 56.8748′ 0″ N 1° 36.2195′ 0″ W

The Day of the Doctor: Behind the Lens

Still a bit too soon for a spoiler-infested post from me (other sources may vary), but I’d like to draw your attention to this rather nice behind the scenes thingy that’s currently on the BBC iPlayer:

Behind the Lens

Now that’s only available for a week, and hard to watch from outside the UK without fiddling with proxies and other such things. So it’s a good job it’s on YouTube as well.

If by some chance you haven’t watched the Day of the Doctor yet, and you’ve managed to avoid all spoiler-infested reporting of it, you might not want to hit play on this. Otherwise, enjoy what should have been on Doctor Who Confidential after the show: