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Friday, December 26, 2014

Last Christmas: Dr Who is scary again

Warning: I discuss the plot of the episode. If you're unhappy with details of a programme you haven't seen being discussed, please watch the episode now and then return here.

One of my strongest single childhood memories was hiding behind my mother's chair while watching the original Dr Who avoid the Daleks in their metal floored city. I was definitely at least 6 and probably no more than 8.

I've never understood why, before the middle of the 20th century, children's entertainment was permitted to be seriously frightening nor why after that it was forced to become so completely bland and non-threatening, but The Dr lived through that era and was destroyed by it.

Dr Who of the early 1960s was for a young child a very frightening TV programme. It was scary but at the same time I never wanted to miss a minute; hence the cramped space between mum's arm chair and the wall. Later incarnations of The Dr became less frightening. Obviously I was maturing but I also think that the BBC had been gradually turning down the fright as they slowly but surely turned it into the self parody it became before ultimately being shut down.

They say you are always a fan of your first Dr Who so it would be interesting  to hear from people a few years younger than me if they found the 1970s and 1980s versions of Dr Who as shallow as I did. Was it purely that I was maturing and out-growing the show?

Since the show was resurrected I've enjoyed watching the occasional episode as the new Dr Who was, I felt, still accessible to younger people without being a silly parody. Tonight I watched Peter Capaldi's 12 Doctor and Clara Oswald in the 2014 Christmas special  Last Christmas.  For the first time since those halcyon days of the early 1960s I felt genuine horror while watching the show. Sure I'm now an adult and didn't need to hide, and the horror of being trapped in nested dreams by a parasitic creature would probably escape attention by a 6 year old, but to me the thought of the mind being forcibly taken over by predators was scary.

The episode started as almost a comedy with Santa Claus crashing his sleigh at, Clara's house. I thought "Oh no, another parody" but then the episode turned dark with strange shambling aliens and "Dream crabs", spider like creatures, attaching the guest victims ... except that Santa Claus returned and then either was or wasn't there, eventually being there almost to the end.

I think that what made the horror aspect work so well was that there was this mixture between the comedy elements around Santa Claus and the horror elements around the dream crabs. At first it seems to be a standard comedy horror spoof, except that as things carry on it becomes obvious that it isn't this and that the apparent comedy elements are actually a part of the horror.

Eventually everything is resolved, but this is hardly a surprise as we know the Dr will always survive and while there have been companions that have died, I can't remember any recent cases.

I've said to Tessa a few times that I like the thought of Dr Who far more than I like the reality of Dr Who, but if they can start producing shows of this quality I may well become a serious fan again, a mere 50 years after first being one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Smoking in the Magazine of The Ship of Fools

Well, it's officially the Christmas holiday for me and I'm not due back at work until the 5th, except that I committed some code changes just before leaving for the break and my conscience won't let me just leave potentially bad code in the pool for 2 weeks so I'm quietly monitoring things remotely. I simply didn't want to return to the new year with code changes from the old year half done if I could help it.

I'm also going to be checking for any urgent queries over the break. Hopefully nothing seriously difficult to deal with.

Other than that I don't need to worry about the wonderful world of printing for a couple of weeks.

I'm also 109 days into quiting smoking and just coming up to a portion of the year where everything is different. Between now and Anniversary day I have Christmas, New Year, 2 weeks holiday, one weeks work and then the 2015 Linux Conference of Australia ... held in the great Australian City of Auckland.

It's all good, but also the first time I've done any of these things since giving up and my experience of the last 109 days is that the first time I do anything since quitting, the addiction will trigger and try to convince me that it's time to have a cigarette. It's really weird how that works. I know I'm not planning on having a smoke but somehow the addiction thinks that just a little extra push and I'll crumble like a house of cards.

Perhaps a little more worrying is that I've been feeling a weakness particularly in the arms and legs; strangely not especially connected to my exercise routine but I have been feeling a desire to cut that short. For now I'm treating it as psychosomatic as it doesn't seem at all consistent, but if I end up taking a couple of extra days rest from exercise over the break it will be interesting to measure how that affects this weird little ailment.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

What is it about tobacco addiction?

Last night I would happily have smoked at least one cigarette. Today I didn't even think about it except when on Quit-line and even then it pretty much felt an abstract thing.

Last night I noticed the smokers outside at the food hall in Te Awa, this afternoon I sat at the next table to some at Circus Circus and only realised when I saw the waiter removing their used ashtray.

I like the TV programmme Coronation St, and several of the characters on there are smokers. Usually I notice when one of them lights up. I watched last night's episode this evening and I couldn't tell you if anyone actually had a puff.

What's tomorrow to bring? Will I cruise through or will I have to fight myself toa standstill? Why can't the damned thing make up its mind how to attack?

BTW: Have you ever noticed how on Coro (and possibly other TV shows) they always have a full-size cigarette in their mouths even if they've supposedly been smoking it for a while.

Sometimes, I wish

Sometimes I wish my back didn't hurt as much when I drive;
Sometimes I wish I hadn't had to drive to Hamilton and back tonight.
Sometimes I wish I could still light up while waiting for Tessa so we could go home;
Sometimes I wish I could have, one, just one;
Sometimes I wish the addiction wouldn't lie to me.

Sometimes I wish Christmas was already over;
Sometimes I wish I was a child and Christmas was still magic.
Sometimes I wish I'd never started smoking;
Sometimes I wish I was starting my quit next week.
Sometimes I wish I could have, one, just one;
Sometimes I wish the addiction wouldn't lie to me.

Sometimes I wish my friends on here wouldn't have their own problems quitting;
Sometimes I wish the addiction wouldn't lie to them;
Sometimes I wish I didn't have to be strong for them.
Sometimes I wish I could have, one, just one like I tell my friends.
Sometimes I wish the addiction wouldn't lie to me.

Sometimes I wish I could climb into bed and pull the covers over my head.
Sometimes I wish it was only sometimes.

Sometimes ... Often ... Always ...

I Wish.

Bruce Clement, December 2014

No, I'm not in any trouble or an especially bad place tonight. I just wanted to externalise this as a bad poem.