abendgules: (self-portrait)
Sunday afternoon, and we've found Michael Palin's 'Around the world in 80 days' on one of the higher-number channels.

We found it partway through the episode in Hong Kong. He says, 'all anyone can talk about is 1997.'

He reaches Shanghai, and walks through a Victorian-looking customs office where his crew is allowed to film.

He comments on the purposeful movement of the Chinese, as the camera pans across the cyclists. 'Just imagine if everyone here traded in their bicycles for Hondas?'.

At the end of the credits, I see this programme was made in 1989.

Pre-1997, for Hong Kong.
Pre-September 11.
Pre-George W. Bush's wars.

It's like a historic document all on its own. He couldn't have known what he was recording in a travelogue, not for 100 years from now, but just 25 years later.

abendgules: (self-portrait)
...the only decent afternoon TV for grownups. Time Team, and Antiques Roadshow, are my only mental sustanance when I'm sick.

Today's episode is of a 4th c Roman villa in Somerset, south of Bath, as it happens. Real mosaic just 8" below the surface, painted plaster pieces from walls, that still holds its colour, could be one of the biggest in England. Gorgeous.

In the Oxbow Books catalogue I see a lot of landscape architecture books (almost always in the first pages), and living here it's not hard to see why; so often the history is still visible, just barely under the modern ground surface. For this site, the aerial photo from 30 years ago clearly showed a 3 sided villa shape in the grass colour, if you just looked for it. It's from 1700 years ago but it still dictates the pattern of growing things today.

There's a Stonehenge documentary circulating right now that shows how in a recent dry year when the grass was burned back, you could see the outline of stones that were now buried - that noone had previously really remarked on. Stonehenge has to be one of the most studied archeological sites in the world, though with varying degrees of skill and expertise...but it's still got 'new' stuff.

There's something in Roman decor that really speaks to me; I don't know why, but every time I see examples my heart just turns over. With just 3 or 4 colours they create the most amazing patterns, designs, and effects.

I've long thought that if I ever have a house I'd use a Roman colour palette and design. I don't need to live in a villa, but I'd love to decorate it like one.

I'm not willing to maintain a mosaic floor (unless it's sealed so you can wash it) but I can paint a floorcloth with a mosaic, and have black and white or red and white tiled floors.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
I gave Matt Smith a chance. Talked too fast.

Still giving Peter Capaldi a chance.

But he and the rest are being let down by lazy scripts.

I'm really tired of characters telling each other to shut up, shut up, SHUT UP.

It's happened in every episode so far, several times. It's like the writers can't think of any other way to change the dialogue from one person to another.

I was shocked when it happened in the last Dr Who. Not just shut up, but calling each other stupid.

It's not hip, it's not clever, it's not charming. It's just crass.

They spend so much time being really clever and funny in throwaway lines about eyebrows, and then can't be bothered to use better language to interact when it's important to change the direction of the conversation.

Anyone else finding this?
abendgules: (prickly)
...of course, BBC didn't exist then, so to speak.

BBC is running themed history programmes to cover WWI, from now til 2019. It's the biggest 'season' I've seen on the Beeb - usually a 'season' is six related progarmmes.

If I were more cynical I'd think the corp was trying to dictate the public view of the war - where it belongs in our history, how we should think about it, etc. etc. I don't know if it's actually driven by public demand.

I have noticed that the current programmes are overviews, and about 'how the war started' - an overview of the changes to society over the war, one about life in the year 1913 just before the war, one about the royal cousins (Victoria's descendants who sprawled across the royal families of Europe), a fairly academic discussion of whether the war could be avoided (though didn't have nearly enough time to chew over).

The drama 37 days is a historical drama about the time from Franz Ferdinand's assassination to the start of the war. And propaganda or not, it's historical drama that BBC does so well: costumes, settings, acting talent and tight, intelligent scripting.

It spells out in comprehensible chunks how the conflict escalated from one assassination to a European war, in a way that I might actually remember longer than every previous documentary I've seen about WWI. For the first time it makes sense: honouring past agreements (some dating back to Waterloo and the war of 1870, which was still in living memory); entente cordiale; the war in Ireland that was widely anticipated (something I knew nothing about); the naval agreement renewed in 1912 (something else I knew nothing of).

It pointed out many nuances, to me.

That the German, Austrian and Russian(?) ambassadors were all cousins, part of a class of aristocrat-diplomats.
That everyone was trying to work around their summer holidays so at first the death in Sarajevo wasn't considered a very important assassination.
That many diplomats and officers had agendas, and could use the conflict to pitch their views. (Duh. This happens all the time, but somehow with history where outcome is well known, it doesn't feel that 'varied' in the recounting.)

Robert remarked that it still made the Kaiser Wilhelm out to be an aggressive antagonist, with unrealistic hopes of having a quick clean war before Russia could respond...and getting annoyed with his council for not doing what he asked while he was on holiday.

And it left out the Austro Hungarian emperor almost entirely, like he was just a puppet. It made me wonder if English and German histories are easier to source for BBC researchers and writers than Austrian ones.

The blog, of course, shows the geeks picking apart the details, and includes an explanation of the sources.

My annoyance is the near complete lack of women in the story; that somehow they had no part. I understand that to a certain extent women in 1914 did not have the role in public life that they do now. But it means that a lot of dialogue falls on one female character to pick up as the token woman.

If you have a chance - see it for yourself.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
Watching the news about protests in Ukraine: anyone who protests outdoors through an Eastern European winter has got to be serious.

Footage on Channel 4 shows Ukranian police using war board-sized shields: flat aluminum shields with angled left and right edges to curve around them. They're overlapping the edges when they're gathered in a group, with the classic testudo shelter of shields over head held by the second and third rows.

OTOH, when they run down protesters (and apparently they're going back and forth in the centre of Kiev), they don't keep that formation - they each carry their shields separately, and chase down individuals to club them.

It's like watching the Pennsic battlefield - only with Molotov cocktails...yikes.


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