August 23rd, 2010

doctor who

Doctor Who Rewatch: 11

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I liked most of these stories about the same as last time I watched them - the two real turkeys, The Mutants and The Time Monster, remain turkeys, but the Season 10 stories seem more forgiveable somehow.

I am now 42% through the Old Who stories, 48% by screen minutes and episodes, and 36% of the time from November 1963 to December 1989 has elapsed.

< An Unearthly Child - The Aztecs | The Sensorites - The Romans | The Web Planet - Galaxy 4 | Mission To The Unknown - The Gunfighters | The Savages - The Highlanders | The Underwater Menace - Tomb of the Cybermen | The Abominable Snowmen - The Wheel In Space | The Dominators - The Space Pirates | The War Games - Terror of the Autons | The Mind of Evil - The Curse of Peladon | The Sea Devils - Frontier in Space | Planet of the Daleks - The Monster of Peladon | Planet of the Spiders - Revenge of the Cybermen | Terror of the Zygons - The Seeds of Doom | The Masque of Mandragora - The Talons of Weng-Chiang | Horror of Fang Rock - The Invasion of Time | The Ribos Operation - The Armageddon Factor | Destiny of the Daleks - Shada | The Leisure Hive - The Keeper of Traken | Logopolis - The Visitation | Black Orchid - Mawdryn Undead | Terminus - The Awakening | Frontios - Attack of the Cybermen | Vengeance on Varos - In A Fix With Sontarans | The Mysterious Planet - Paradise Towers | Delta and the Bannermen - The Greatest Show in the Galaxy | Battlefield - The TV Movie >

The Brabant Radio Museum

We have been debating over breakfast whether or not the new museum in the next village to ours is the Brabant Museum of Radios or the Museum of Brabant Radios. (Report in Dutch here, video in Dutch here.) Mr Janssens, the proprietor, has 6000 radios stashed about the house, and has now put 1900 of them on display. (It is not clear if there are any other human occupants of the house.) In an inexplicable display of shortsightedness, none of the various state funding bodies offered funding for this enterprise, which has cost Mr Janssens €380000 of his own money. It is open on Friday evenings and all day at the weekends, should you wish to drop by. I am immeasurably excited by the prospect.

From the best-selling novel of 1910

"In my country we should call it real mean to laugh, at people who had been our guests and performed in our houses."

"In your country, my dear," said Myra Ingleby, "you have no duchesses."

"Well, we supply you with quite a good few," replied the American girl calmly, and went on with her ice.
The Rosary, by Florence Barclay

August Books 24) Back To The Vortex, by J Shaun Lyon

I've given up on this "unofficial and unauthorised guide to Doctor Who 2005", after ploughing through a first half composed entirely of secondary reports gleaned from the media and checking out the write-ups of the first two episodes, and I won't buy any of the rest in the series. I picked it off the shelf at the Doctor Who shop hoping for something at least as insightful and interesting as the ol' Discontinuity Guide and if possible approaching the standards of the About Time series, but this isn't it. The reviews of each story were written almost immediately after broadcast, so have the qualities of enthusiastic reflection rather than the detailed reflection which I know several of the writers can deliver. A disappointment.

August Books 25) The Bookseller of Kabul, by Åsne Seierstad

The more I hear and read about Afghanistan, the more I realise I don't know. I recently attended a conference of experts where a full day was taken up with discussions of how quickly, and with how much dignity, Western troops can realistically be withdrawn; this not being one of my areas of expertise, I mostly sat and listened.

Seierstad's book rather adds to my confusion. The book purports to be her interpretation of the lives of the Afghan family she lived with in Kabul for three months, anonymised and told through their viewpoint rather than hers. She vividly depicts an intensely patriarchal society, religious in observance rather than belief, traumatised and decapitated by years of war; much along the lines of what I have read in Khaled Hosseini's novels, though restricted in time to those few months of 2002 shortly after Karzai first came to power (and reminiscences of earlier periods).

But is it accurate or fair? Her host vehemently protested the fairness of her depiction (and her utter failure to disguise his identity adequately) and the latest news is that his younger wife has won damages for what the book says about her. And the fact that the details are so intensely disputed by those in a position to know about them makes one suspicious about the extent to which Seierstad has got the big picture right.

We all bring our own baggage to our interpretation of what is going on in other people's lives, and I suspect that Western journalism - or perhaps more broadly, the instinct to tell a story which is interesting to a Norwegian or European audience - may not be the best way of letting the voices of Afghans themselves be heard where it matters. My own feeling (which of course reflects my own biases of intellectual formation and professional experience) is that anthropologists, more than other commentators, have quite a lot to offer in helping the understanding of situations like Afghanistan, certainly more than journalists who drop in (let alone the 'military experts' who tend to dominate domestic discourse in the West). I don't know of any such work on Afghanistan itself, but if I ever need to work up a more detailed knowledge of the country, I will start there, rather than with any more books like this one.

August Books 26) The King's Dragon, by Una McCormack

One of the July crop of New Who books, by altariel of this parish. Starts by hinting that it may be a Doctor Who version of Beowulf (main setting is the small city of Geath, ruled by Beol) but goes in quite a different direction - ending up with a nod or two towards Star Trek with a running subtext of sardonic political commentary. This will all be above the heads of the age group who are the main audience for this series of books, but their parents will enjoy it all the same.