Wednesday, 30 September 2015
Monday, 21 September 2015
One of the most enjoyable things about having guest bloggers is giving people with a variety of opinions a platform. Although, at times, it may not always seem so, I love Doctor Who. Even when it’s at it’s weakest, I watch religiously. I’ve tried to quit. Heaven knows, I’ve come close! One of the things I enjoy most about the show are the people I meet along the way. People who have grown up with actors from Hartnell to Capaldi as “their Doctor”; I love hearing from ALL of them (you!), even when opinions are diametrically opposed to my own. As regular readers are no doubt aware, I am not exactly the biggest fan of Clara Oswald. I certainly don’t “hate” her. I am, honestly, completely ambivalent toward the character, and certainly, with regard to her time with Peter Capaldi, I do find myself agreeing with many of the points raised in this post. Similarly, I love Jenna Coleman as an actor! For good, or bad, she plays the hand she is dealt, and she does so exceptionally well.
A tribute to Clara is, perhaps, therefore, the LAST thing you would expect to see on this blog! And yet, here we are, with a beautifully written tribute to the character, by my latest guest blogger, Adil, and it is my pleasure and privilege to share it with you..
A love letter to... Clara Oswald
Now, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d have heard the news that Series 9 will be Jenna Coleman’s last series as Clara. She first graced our screens as Oswin, in ‘Asylum of the Daleks’, back in 2012, which was 3 years ago. Yes, 3 years ago! Blimey, hasn’t time flown? Clara is known for being a divisive character to say the least; a quick journey across the web, or at least through Twitter, will reveal that she has a loyal fan base and others that totally despise her. If the title of the post hasn’t given it away, I’m in the camp that loves Clara. In fact, she’s been my favourite companion of the revival, and here’s why…
Now before you exit the page, I’m not a biased viewer; I do recognise flaws in the way in which her character’s been written. For example, at the very start of her time on the TARDIS back in 2013, she didn’t feel like a real character, constantly being written with a new personality as each episode aired. It wasn’t until ‘The Crimson Horror’ where shades of the Series 8 Clara started to appear and by ‘Nightmare in Silver’, it felt like she’d finally became a coherent character. In fact, ever since she became a real character, Clara’s been receiving a profound amount of development, becoming more like the Doctor as time progresses. ‘Flatline’ saw the peak of the development with Clara taking charge of the council workers. She was able to think on her feet, make risky decisions and eventually, save the Doctor who then defeated the Boneless. And of course, there was that great line at the end when the Doctor stated, ‘’you were an exceptional Doctor, Clara... Goodness had nothing to do with it.’’ An accurate statement given that she had to lie and fool the workers into thinking they were safe, a strategy of the Doctors’ that she had previously disapproved of.
One quality that I absolutely admire and love seeing is her ability to hold her own. She’s a character that doesn’t really depend on the Doctor which is always a great quality in a companion. Episodes such as ‘Deep Breath’, ‘Kill the Moon’ and ‘Flatline’ demonstrate that, although she might be frightened by a situation when left to deal with it herself, she’s more than capable of handling it.
The three episodes noted above are all Twelfth doctor episodes which brings me onto another point; the Twelfth Doctor brings so much more out of Clara. Now, what I mean by this is that with the Eleventh doctor, she had someone she could control. Not exactly a push over per se, but she didn’t have to fight for control in the way she does with the Twelfth doctor. When Eleven regenerated, he changed into someone erratic, someone frostier and slightly more unreliable, and, most importantly, someone far more stubborn. The start of the 8th series saw Clara attempting to figure out who the new Doctor was, what made him tick and how she could control him. He’d become the polar opposite to his former persona. To elaborate, Eleven would never have left Clara alone with the clockwork droids in ‘Deep Breath’. At the very least, he would’ve let her use his sonic. He also wouldn’t have left Clara alone to decide the fate of the moon without telling her his plan to find out what the moon actually was. Twelve changed Clara. She knew that she couldn’t boss Twelve around in the same manner she did with Eleven and so, she became more authoritative and much bossier. She never would have needed to bring Eleven to the volcano to threaten him in the way she did Twelve. That scene illustrated a fight for control, a fight for power and dominance that wasn’t really present with the Eleventh Doctor.
She’s quite a tragic character too. As a character constantly fighting for control, whether it’s control over the Doctor or Danny, she’s faced many tragedies in which she had no control over. For instance, she’s suffered the deaths of her mother and Danny. The death of her mother is particularly interesting. This could perhaps be reasoning as to why she feels the need to control every aspect of her life, a subconscious response to the despair and helplessness she felt when her mother died. When grief struck her again, at the loss of her boyfriend Danny Pink, she felt the responsibility to alter his death. This led to the scene in the volcano in ‘Dark Water’ which remains one of the highlights of Moffat’s era in general. As the scene progresses, you can tell she is trying to fight that familiar sense of desperation, despair and helplessness by trying to control the Doctor, trying to force him to alter her own timeline. Something she knows that she can’t do, but decides to try and do regardless of the fact. Series 9 seems a turning point for her, which is the biggest reason
I’m glad she stayed on past ‘Last Christmas’. There are still loads of places you can take the character which seems the case with the next series. It seems she’s almost given up trying to control everything and decided to embrace travelling through time and space. This intrigues me incredibly. With the promise that she’ll continue becoming more Doctor-like, it’ll be interesting to see where Moffat and the crew take her and how far she adopts a Doctor like mind-set. Perhaps that’ll lead to her inevitable departure?
Her dynamic with twelve is also brilliantly written. With arguably the most conflict that there’s ever been between the Doctor and a companion, they still remain crucial to one another’s lives. After ‘Last Christmas’, it’s evident that the both of them are inseparable with a bond that echoes shades of Three and Jo Grant, Nine and Rose. The love that they share for one another becomes obvious and it’s going to take a lot to break them apart.
Clara, a tragic companion, one who strives for clarity and control over her life as they are both things that she often lacks. Whilst she hasn’t always been consistently written, when the writers found out who she was, she quickly developed into one of the most intriguing characters that the show has had. It’s been a pleasure to explore her character these past couple of years, and I hope that the next series sees her lose herself to this persona of the Doctor that she is adopting, as that seems to be the obvious way forward. Here’s hoping that when she goes, she goes out with a bang.
Many thanks to guest blogger Adil.. Please give him a follow on Twitter @Nougdalla98
Sunday, 20 September 2015
Three users. @BrownBagPantry, @ZimJay, and @Bethannr679. Better known as Ms Sandra Hermann-Courtney, Ms Janine Robertshaw (Zimardo), and Ms Beth Robertshaw. I strongly advise people NOT to engage with these people, much as retaliatory tweets may seem tempting. These people do not listen to reason. They care not one iota about the damage they have inflicted. Rather, I ask; no, BEG you to report them to Twitter. My previous blog post has, to date, had almost 1400 views. If this one has a similar quantity, and 20% of those views, DO report these accounts, then surely Twitter will have to sit up and take notice. At least, one would hope so. If they do not, then truly, there is no justice for the people who have been emotionally and mentally scarred by these parasites.
I sincerely hope that Dave’s break from Twitter is short, and allows him to put these appalling incidents behind him. I hope that when he returns, he is left alone by these clowns, and allowed to use the platform for the support he needs, and to engage with the friends he has made. I consider myself privileged to be amongst those friends.
If you happen to have a spare couple of quid, do something truly amazing. Donate it to Dave’s holiday fund. God knows, if anyone deserves a break after the tragic loss of their beautiful son, and the subsequent actions of certain Twitter users who have no morals or shame, it’s him, and his family.
Wednesday, 16 September 2015
Monday, 14 September 2015
A 30X dilution means that the original substance has been diluted 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times. Assuming that a cubic centimetre of water contains 15 drops, this number is greater than the number of drops of water that would fill a container more than 50 times the size of the Earth. Imagine placing a drop of red dye into such a container so that it disperses evenly. Homeopathy's "law of infinitesimals" is the equivalent of saying that any drop of water subsequently removed from that container will possess an essence of redness. Robert L. Park, Ph.D., a highly respected physicist, and Executive Director of The American Physical Society, has noted that since the least amount of a substance in a solution is one molecule, a 30C solution would have to have at least one molecule of the original substance dissolved in a minimum of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water. This would require a container more than 30,000,000,000 times the size of the Earth.
Oscillococcinum, a 200C product "for the relief of colds and flu-like symptoms," involves "dilutions" which are even more ludicrous. The supposed "active ingredient" is prepared by incubating small amounts of a freshly killed duck's liver and heart for 40 days. The resultant solution is then filtered, freeze-dried, rehydrated, repeatedly diluted, and impregnated into sugar granules. If a single molecule of the duck's heart or liver were to survive the dilution, its concentration would be 1 in 100200. This number (which has 400 zeros!), is vastly greater than the estimated number of molecules in the universe (about one googol, (1 followed by 100 zeros). In its February 17, 1997, issue, U.S. News & World Report noted that only one duck per year is needed to manufacture the product, which had total sales of $20 million in 1996. The magazine named the unfortunate bird "the $20-million duck."
As a matter of fact, the laws of chemistry state that there is a limit to the dilution that can be made without losing the original substance altogether. This limit, which is related to Avogadro's number, corresponds to homeopathic potencies of 12C or 24X (1 part in 1024). Hahnemann himself realized that there is virtually no chance that even one molecule of original substance would remain after extreme dilutions. But he believed that the vigorous shaking or pulverizing with each step of dilution leaves behind a "spirit-like" essence; a “memory”; "no longer perceptible to the senses”, which cures by reviving the body's "vital force." Modern proponents assert that even when the last molecule is gone, the "memory" of the substance is retained. This notion is completely and utterly unsubstantiated. The implications of this go further; if true, every substance encountered by a molecule of water could imprint an "essence" that could exert powerful (and unpredictable) medicinal effects when ingested by a person.
Many proponents claim that homeopathic products resemble vaccines because both provide a small stimulus that triggers an immune response. This assertion, again, is erroneous. The amounts of active ingredients in vaccines are much greater and can be measured. Moreover, immunizations produce antibodies whose concentration in the blood can be measured, however highly diluted homeopathic products produce no measurable response. In addition, vaccines as prophylactic medication, not as a treatment.
For a simplified understanding of homeopathy, I would urge you to watch this video, in which the presenter drinks 'homeopathic' bleach. It is also worth noting that there have been multiple protests, during which people have taken homeopathic 'overdoses', with, predictably, no adverse effects; more specifically, with no effects whatsoever!
Tuesday, 1 September 2015
Foreign cinema is not for everyone. It is, however, a big passion of mine (bet you didn't know THAT..!). There is a whole world of extraordinary films in the World Cinema arena. Many people, wrongly, assume foreign cinema equals dismal, pretentious tedium, when nothing could be further from the truth. For those already acquainted with foreign cinema, you will doubtless already be aware of films such as Life is Beautiful, which is, arguably, the only film in existence capable of eliciting comedy from the Holocaust, whilst remaining dignified and respectful to the subject. You may have seen the stellar 'Downfall', in which Bruno Gantz gives a chilling performance as Adolf Hitler, in the final days of the Third Reich. Perhaps you've been treated to the wonderful 'Jean De Florette', a beautiful, entertaining French film starring Gerard Depardieu.
One film I am fairly certain you won't have come across is a Spanish production, and happens to be one of my all time favourite films. My recent brush with cancer made me revisit this masterpiece a few days ago. I haven't seen it for some considerable time, however, on first viewing, I reviewed it for the IMDB. I'd like to whet your appetite, and introduce you to a truly extraordinary piece of cinema. If you are new to foreign films, or an "old hand", this is a wonderful way to start a journey into World Cinema, rekindle your passion, or simply add to the repetoire. That film is 'Planta 4a'...
Planta 4a is a truly remarkable film. A coming of age drama, dealing with first love, basketball, the usual childhood mischief, and above all, friendship. Essentially a comedy, this will definitely bring laughter, and maybe a few tears along the way… I cannot recall seeing a coming of age drama with such a refreshing honesty suffused with sadness and humour since 'Stand By Me'. Oh, and by the way… it just happens to be set in the cancer ward of a hospital.
One could be forgiven at this point for thinking that this sets the scene as thoroughly depressing. It is anything but! The young lads suffer from cancer, and while that is never forgotten, nor overlooked, it never dominates the film, choosing to remain almost in the background. Director Antonio Mercero has managed to take a difficult subject, and bring true unflinching humour into the story, whilst never making light of the gravity of the illness the boys suffer from.
Made all the more remarkable by the fact that it is based on a true story, that of Albert Espinosa, a long time sufferer, and survivor of cancer, it is little surprise to note that the film has already won numerous awards, and much critical acclaim. Lead actor Juan José Ballesta, himself a Goya award winner for his astonishing performance in 'El Bola' turns in a stunning performance, although the same is true of the rest of the young, and mostly hitherto unheard of, cast.
Originally a theatrical piece, 'Los Pelones', or 'The Baldies', this adapts very well to the big and indeed small screen. 'The Baldies' is the name affectionately given to the young patients, by the hospital staff, for obvious reasons, and drawing from his own experiences, Espinosa conveys beautifully, the emotions and trials of growing up with cancer, and indeed just plain growing up. The film treats the individuals as exactly that; a group of young lads, finding their way in the world, their places in the social pecking order, and dealing with all the normal things teenage boys deal with. Never once are they treated as 'victims', and rightly so. They are ordinary teenagers, from different backgrounds, dealing with different emotions and problems, whilst all sharing one common factor, which never once overtakes the coming of age theme the film so eloquently portrays.
Planta 4a contains several scenes which maybe unsuitable for younger viewers, however they are all in keeping with the overall tone of the film. There is nothing gratuitous or unnecessary; the strong language is appropriate given the age of the boys – teenage boys swear; it's just another part of the rich tapestry of their lives.
This film is an absolute joy to watch – it will make you cry with laughter, and in places, will probably just make you cry. There is sadness, naturally. It would be unrealistic if there was none, and yet again, it never overwhelms the film.
If you get the opportunity to see this, either at the cinema, or on DVD (which takes some finding, but it does exist), please, please do yourself a favour, and see it. Savour it – films like this are rare, but like any precious gem, finding them gives remarkable rewards. There are few films with cancer infused into the storyline, and even fewer that leave you with a warm and fuzzy feel-good factor. This film is one of those rare exceptions, which dares to take on a tough subject, and use it almost as a secondary theme.
I dislike 'scoring' peoples work, but in this rare instance I am happy to make an exception – this garners a very well earned 10 out of 10!