They’re back! The Tenth Doctor (Who) and Donna Noble return in a series of audio adventures

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) are back ... in audio form at least! (Image (c) BBC)
The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) are back … in audio form at least! (Image (c) BBC)


I try not to play favourites with my pop culture children …

Oh, who am I kidding? That’s all, and pretty all of us do!

So my delight at finding out that my favourite modern Doctor Who – and quite likely my favourite overall sorry Doctor #4 (Tom Baker) – has been unbounded, filling up the “it’s bigger on the inside than the outside” massiveness of the TARDIS with ease.

Big Finish, who specialise in audio adventures of many shows, are accomplishing this miraculous feat, taking us back to a time when Donna – SPOILER! – knew all about her adventures with the Doctor and David Tennant gave the expansively curious and mostly compassionate time traveller from Gailfrey a simultaneous sense of fun and substance.


(image (c) Big Finish / BBC Worldwide)
(image (c) Big Finish / BBC Worldwide)


Each episode will be an hour long, will apparently fit in with the established timeline and canon of the Tenth Doctor, thanks to the active involvement of BBC Worldwide, and will feature the original actors lending their voices to the three stories as io9 explains:

“The trio of stories—Technophobia by Matt Fitton, Time Reaver by Jenny T. Colgan, and Death and the Queen by James Goss—will all feature full voice casts. No other actors for the series were announced other than the fact that Tennant will reprise his incarnation of the Doctor, and will be joined by Catherine Tate, returning to the role of Chiswick-temp-turned-savior-of-all-reality Donna Noble for the first time since her brief reappearance in the 2010 story ‘The End of Time.'”

An added joy is because I have been less and less enamoured of Doctor Who of late with the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) failing to thrill, excite and delight like their intelligently-animated Tenth predecessor did, the return of my favourite incarnation of the character is liking meeting an old friend I thought I’d never see again (well in new adventures anyway).

Of course well have to wait till May 2016 for the release of Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures, but while we’re waiting not so patiently, we can listen to a clip from the unexpected outing at Radio Times (via io9), and watch the two actors talk about their return to the roles that endeared them to so many.



And here they are in a clip from their first full episode of Doctor Who. “The Runaway Bride” (Donna first appeared in “Doomsday”) …


The short and the short of it: Tokyo Cosmo’s flying pigs and monsters

(image via YouTube (c) Takahiro Miyauchi and Takuya Okada)
(image via YouTube (c) Takahiro Miyauchi and Takuya Okada)


Directed by Takahiro Miyauchi and Takuya Okada, Tokyo Cosmo takes us inside the home of a woman with a fantastic imagination. Her imagination is so powerful that a simple household nuisance soon becomes an epic struggle. Things get so crazy we even get to see a courageous flying pig, a city-destroying monster and a giant lightsaber. (synopsis via and (c) Mashable)

Who of us doesn’t sometimes, nay often, wish that the everyday, ordinary stuff of life would magically transform itself into something magical, fantastical and wonderful?

Hands up! Right so much pretty much everyone, just as I thought.

In Tokyo Cosmo, a delightfully animated short from Takahiro Myauchi and Takuya Okada, the protagonist has her wish granted when the stock standard parts of her life assume an all-together magical, otherworldly feel and she sets off a grand adventure that is most definitely not business-as-usual.

It’s the sheer imagination that fills the short that is captivating.

The creative team behind Tokyo Cosmo have gone for break, daring to imagine the most fantastical elements possible and bringing them to life in the most charming and beguiling of fashions.

This is a gorgeously-wrought pocket-sized piece of cinema that reminds us that the everyday can be way more magical than we might have thought possible.

Birthday movie review: The Crow’s Egg (Kaaka Muttai)

(image courtesy Fox Star Studios)
(image courtesy Fox Star Studios)


There is a temptation when telling the story of anyone from a disadvantaged background to gild the poverty lily somewhat; in other words, to cast the deprivations of life on the proverbial wrong side of the tracks in some sort of rose-tinted, we-have-no-food-but-we-have-love glow.

And while you can well understand the appeal of that kind of narrative approach, it doesn’t really serve to give us any sort of authentic insight into life for those at the lower end of the 99%.

But Kaaka Muttai or The Crow’s Egg, written and directed by M Manikandan, happily occupies the latter territory in telling the story of Big Crow’s Egg (J Vignesh) and Little Crow’s Egg (V Ramesh), two brothers who live with their mother and grandmother in a 5 acre Chennai slum squeezed between freeways and the growing affluence of the city’s business district.

So-named because they supplement their restricted diet of watery vegetables and rice with regular raids on crow’s nests where they gather up almost all the eggs – in an endearingly selfless twist, the elder brother insist the crow must get to keep at least of its eggs – and eat them, the two barefooted spend their days gathering coal to assist their world-weary young mother who is doing her best to keep the household afloat while her husband is in prison.

It’s not an easy existence in any way shape or form, and while the boys are a delight – the elder brother is more circumspect and serious but still capable of a smile while his younger sibling is far more mischievous and apt to celebrate the small fun parts of life, rare as they are – and there are some touching moments with their grandmother (Shanti Mani) particularly, life is brusquely defined by a hand-to-mouth timetable that leaves no real time for play or school.


(image via madaboutmoviez)
(image via madaboutmoviez)


Even so, as children always do, the two boys still manage to find enjoyment in their lives.

Whether it’s talking to their amiable railway worker friend “Fruit Juice” or stopping by to talk to their well-dressed, toy-and-food rich middle class friend who is never allowed to leave his gated compound (nor are the boys allowed to enter it), there are some small joys to be had.

But these are never presented as the be all and end all of the boys’ existence; rather that despite everything their spirit somehow remains diminished, and they approach life with the joie de vivre of two young people who are yet to fully appreciate that life doesn’t always give you everything you want.

This unspoiled-by-life optimism shows itself more dramatically when a government program to give away TVs at the ration store – an odd giveaway that smacks more of distracting people with “bread and circuses” that assisting them with any meaningful change – gives them entree into a world previously denied them.

One that includes ads for Pizza Spot, a fast food chain expanding rapidly throughout Chennai that appears to offer them Nirvana in the shape of a glistening slice of cheese-topped pizza.

It soon becomes their obsession to get this mysterious new food for themselves and they devote a considerable amount of effort to sourcing the considerable amount of money to buy a pizza, and the new clothes needed to make them “worthy” enough to enter an eating establishment clearly geared only to India’s burgeoning middle class and their newly-disposable income.

But an unfortunate incident when they try to enter the establishment they have so long treated as the promised land makes them wonder if they can ever have all the good things that glisten almost unattainably out of reach on the road across from their slum.


(image via LinkedIn)
(image via LinkedIn)


The Crow’s Egg is, for the most part, an absolute joy to watch.

The boys’ irrepressible spirit in the face of a host of reasons that should have well and truly beaten it down, the warmth of their relationship with their exasperated mother and melancholic grandmother, and their willingness to do whatever it takes, short of breaking the law (they may bend it a little) endear them almost instantly to an audience.

The film’s only downside is that it spends far too long in the second act taking the action off the boys and placing it on the villains who seek to take advantage of the boys situation, and the Pizza Spot owners who don’t have much of an appetite for Little and Big Crow Egg’s desire to join their middle class brethren in junk food heaven.

They have a role to play in the film, and the finale, ripe with ironic amusement, would not succeed without them but far too much time is spent on the set-up and not enough on the delivery, leaving the boys, who are the heart and soul of the film out of the action for far too long.

But this one narrative misstep aside, The Crow’s Egg is one of those whimsical joyous films that still manages, despite an authentically grim setting, to impart a sense that even in the most dire of circumstances the human spirit can still find a way through, even if life doesn’t offer up the rarely-glimpsed fairytale ending.



“Welcome a-Bird!” Big Bird tries his hand at comedy writing

(image via YouTube (c) Funny or Die)
(image via YouTube (c) Funny or Die)


Working out what you want to do when you grow up can be kinda hard.

After all there’s so many possibilities.

Especially if you’re Big Bird and you’ve lived on Sesame Street all of your young life, where your told every day you can be and do anything you want.

That kind of anything is possible mindset if probably dear sweet Big Bird announces to the comedy writing team at Funny or Die that he wants to be all kinds of things when he grows up.

“I want to be a comedy writer when I grow up! And a fireman. And an astronaut.”

The final two are eminently doable but the final one?

Well he has got a great can do attitude and is a whiz with crayons – his first sketch however doesn’t quite meet Funny or Die’s definition of the word alas – but he may not quite have what it takes to make in the world of comedy.

Oh yeah and he may a little too young to be an intern.

But hey you have to admire his optimism and chutzpah.

I think he’ll do well once he gets the whole sketch thing down.


He is not like us: The emotionally powerful mystery of Midnight Special

(image via Hitfix)
(image via Hitfix)


In the sci-fi thriller Midnight Special, writer/director Jeff Nichols proves again that he is one of the most compelling storytellers of our time, as a father (Michael Shannon), goes on the run to protect his young son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), and uncover the truth behind the boy’s special powers.

What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Ultimately his father risks everything to protect Alton and help fulfill a destiny that could change the world forever, in this genre–defying film as supernatural as it is intimately human.

Let’s face it – despite all of our more sterling qualities, and current affairs notwithstanding we do have some, one thing humanity does not do very well is play nice in the sandpit with those who aren’t exactly like us.

Or if we do think they could be useful to us or our agenda, we have a nasty habit of treating those different from us as commodities to be acquired rather than people to  be interacted with.

All of our best and worst qualities come into play in Midnight Special where a father risks everything, and I mean everything judging from the trailer, to save his son from those who fear his difference and those looking to use it for their own dubious ends.

But it’s not just humanity on display here; there’s also an intriguing supernatural element woven into the story as the director Jeff Nichols explained to Entertainment Weekly (quote via Hitfix):

“The son happens to have unique gifts. It’s a weird word to use, but his gifts are, um, supernatural. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, E.T., Starman, they were my inspirations – very propulsive journeys that work when you can’t predict what’s going to happen next. This is my sci-fi chase film.”

There is an intensity and emotionality to those kind of films which is very much present in Midnight Special, which reminds me of the very best of the movies Nichols references, and the very best, and alas worst, of humanity.

Midnight Special opens in USA on 18 March 2016; no date for Australia yet specified.


Andrew turns the big Five-O: The 50 favourite singers and songs of my life

Andrew 50th birthday 50 favourite songs MAIN

I can’t imagine a time when music wasn’t a major obsession.

Granted I never took up the guitar or drums and joined a band, and my efforts to learn the paino were dismal at best (right Mrs. Noble?), but as a listener I was devoted beyond all reason.

It didn’t matter if it was rushing up to buy every ABBA single and album ever released – I set land speed records to get “Voulez-Vous” in 1979 – or spending untold hours listening to the top 40 on the radio and taping on cassette – yes cassette! – all the songs I liked (I could never quite stop the announcers’ voices appearing at the beginning and end of songs), I was besotted.

And that love affair has continued on down through the years as ABBA gave way to disco and ’80s New Wave and then Contemporary Christian Music and latterly all the indie music, and there’s a LOT of it, flowing through the digital wonderlands of the interwebs.

Music is an integral part of my life and the soundtrack to everything I do and there’s a healthy likelihood that will never ever change.

Here’s to music and it’s power to alter the look and feel of any moment.

1. ELBOW“The Birds”

2. KIM HILL – “Round and Round”/”Stop My Heart”

Braveheart, the album from which these two songs are taken is quite simply one of the best albums I have ever heard. Released in 1991, and widely considered one of the best Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) albums released that year, it contains everything from rock stomper classics like “Round and Round” which bristles with existential emotion, and “Stop My Heart” which is delicate and intense all at once. An emotional feast set to music.



3. ABBA – “That’s Me”/”Elaine”/”The Visitors”/”Should I Laugh or Cry”

I loved ABBA from pretty much the first time I heard them sometime in 1975 when they broke free of post-Eurovision hype and found success on their own terms. Songs like “SOS” and Mamma Mia”, and of course “Dancing Queen” are well known to everyone, but for reasons known only to my contrary soul, my favourites have always been the obscure/B-side tracks.




5. COLDPLAY – “Clocks”

I have loved this band ever since I heard a 15 second snippet – yep, that’s all it took – of “Yellow” on a CNN world music wrap-up in 2000. This set off a search for their incredibly hard-to-find debut album and a love of the band which culminated in “Clocks” (from second album A Rush of Blood to the Head) and continues to this day.



6. MASSIVE ATTACK“Teardrops”

7. KATE BUSH – “Wuthering Heights”

The first time Mrs. Derrett played Kate bust in our year 7 or 8 drama class, I fell instantly, headlong in love withKate Bush. Her music was so otherworldly, so beautiful and emotional that you couldn’t help but be swept up in it. I remain happily and rapturously in love with her.



8. BLUR“Song No. 2”

9. GWEN STEFANI“What You Waiting For?”

10. KEANE“Fly to Me”

11. DIDO – “Take My Hand”

I was in Vancouver visiting my dear friend Sandra in 1999 when Dido (brother of Rollo from Faithless) had just released her first solo album. I was walking around the now sadly-closed Virgin megastore on Robson Street when this song began playing and I was magically transported to somewhere utterly beyond words. I played it nonstop for days and it remains one of those rare songs that can stop me in my tracks and whisk me away to parts unknown.



12. ROISIN MURPHY“Overpowered”



15. AMII STEWART– “Knock on Wood”

I was massively into disco in the late ’70s (wasn’t almost everyone?) and this is one of the standout songs from the period. The song, the energy and the psychedelic clip all come together to make a truly memorable song. Hilariously, I told an 18 year old hairdresser a few years back that I remembered when this was on the charts and she looked at me like I’d just walked out of Noah’s Ark with my pet T-Rex on a leash. Hilarious and the first time I really felt “old”.



16. PATRICK HERNANDEZ“Born to be Alive”

17. THE BUGGLES“Video Killed the Radio Star”

18. M“Pop Muzik”

19. DANDY WARHOLS“Bohemian Like You”

20. VETERANS – “Ain’t No Age For Rock and Roll”

I LOVED this song when it was out. There’s something about quirky European pop that attracted me then, and attracts me now. What’s most remarkable about this song is I mis-remembered the title for 30 years, only finding it for this post when YouTube helpfully, and at long last, threw it up as an option. Hello my musical Moby Dick, I have found you!



21. ROYKSOPP – “Happy Up Here
22. ROBYN – “Indestructible
23. DURAN DURAN – “Hungry Like a Wolf
24. CAPE LION – Jennie
25. SUPERTRAMP – “It’s Raining Again”

This is one of those distinctive songs that I remember taping off the radio – sorry radio industry but every teen in the late ’70s and ’80s did it – and playing over and over again, especially when it rained. There was something intensely emotional that I related to, similar to the way Annie Lennox in the Eurthymics made me feel. Sad and yet not, all at once.



26. MIKA“Grace Kelly”
27. METRIC – “Youth Without Youth”

I love the sheer wall-breaking, in your face, defiant power of this song. Need a dreary commute lifted? Put this on and the train doesn’t seem so drab after all.



28. BONEY M“Rasputin”, “Rivers of Babylon” 
29. RICKIE LEE JONES“Chuck E’s in Love”
31. UNDERWORLD – “Two Months Off”

I love the energy and melodic inventiveness of much of the music this endlessly-creative British electronic band creates but this song in particular captures my soul like nothing else. I’ve always imagined it to be the closing credits song to the unmade movie of the novel I’ve written but haven’t yet found a publisher for, and if you want to see me dancing like a madman with complete abandon, then this is the song to make that happen.


32. NARCOTIC THRUST – “When the Dawn Breaks
33. Bhangra Knights vs. Husan – “Husan”

I spent the first 5 years of my life in Bangladesh where my parents were Baptist missionaries, and my love of the food, culture and music of the sub-continent has never left me. Discovering bangra music, a mix of traditional Indian sounds and Western electronica made my decade and this song in particular, which comes complete with a fun video clip, was the song I most fell in love with, becoming a staple on my the soundtrack that accompanies my morning exercise.



34. CHAIRLIFT – “I Belong in Your Arms
35. SPLIT ENZ – “Six Months in a Leaky Boat
36. NENA – “99 Red Balloons”/”99 Luftballoons
37. CYNDI LAUPER – “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”

Girls and gay men in the closet in the ’80s! I loved this song from the moment I heard it back in uni and as I got to know the irrepressibly wonderful talent that was and is Cyndi Lauper I fell in love with her too (strictly platonically, of course!). She is that offbeat personality I always wished I could be.



38. THE POLICE – “Don’t Stand So Close To Me
39. EURTHYMICS – “Sweet Dreams”

What an amazing twosome were Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart – so much talent and such a stellar roster of evocative songs. “Sweet Dreams” remains my favourite of all the brilliant songs they created – so much energy and emotion in such a perfect pop song.



40. IRENE CARA – “What a Feeling
41. THE GOGO’S – “Our Lips Are Sealed
42. LADY GAGA – “Poker Face/Telephone
43. BONNIE TYLER – “Total Eclipse of the Heart
44. SANTIGOLD“Radio”
45. CARIBOU“Silver”
46. CAT POWER“Ruin”
47. PINK – “Are We All We Are” / “Delirium” / “Get the Party Started”

What a powerhouse artist. Very much her own woman, with a strong sense of self and distinctive artistic vision and one of the finest in your face performers I have ever seen. There is nothing I don’t LOVE about P!NK.





48. KOSHEEN“(Slip and Slide) Suicide”
49. LITTLE DRAGON“Shuffle a Dream”
50. AMY GRANT – “Lead Me On”/”Baby Baby”

After ABBA and my late ’70s obsession with disco, Amy Grant was the next big artist to completely occupy my musical attention. Granted for many years she was a big thing only in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) circles but I loved her songs, her persona and her concerts (they were the first I saw as a “grown up” at university. I even stuck by her when she went “mainstream” since she made good music and that’s all that matters right?



Book review: The Story of Alice – Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

(image courtesy Random House)
(image courtesy Random House)


Like many of us, Lewis Carroll, born Charles Lutwidge Johnson, was a rich study in contrasts.

Born to a moderately well off middle class family in the isolated Cheshire parish of Daresbury, Carroll was to all appearances a shy, studious man, more given to the pursuit of religion, mathematics and the established order of things, than wild rabbit-initiated chases through an imaginative underworld.

Mark Twain described him as the “stillest and shyest grown-man I’ve ever met”, which neatly captured the social reticence of a man more given to musings on the world that he imagined existed just outside the realms of our reality.

Carroll’s imaginative musings were evidence that beneath the love of order and an avowedly conservative disposition and social outlook, was a man who had held onto childhood long past his peers and delighted in subverting the very things he held so dear.

This picture of a man given to flights of contradictory imagination is beautifully captured in Oxford-based academic Robert Douglas-Fairhurst’s entertainingly detailed book The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland.

“Whatever he writes about, in fact, Carroll uses the page like a filter to make the world around him look intriguingly strange (P.43)”

Beginning with a chapter on the young 8 year old girl Alice Liddell who inspired the world-famous story, which celebrates the 150th anniversary of its publishing today, The Story of Alice explores in accessible exhaustive detail the yin and yang of Carroll who in many other respects didn’t exactly distinguish himself throughout his life, preferring a quiet, uneventful though culturally and creatively-rich life.

Except, of course, in one quite important, culturally significant respect, as the writer of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), first published as Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, and its successor Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871).

Here the many countervailing influences that came to bear on Carroll came to gloriously anarchic fruition, from his love of writing, of parlour games and photography, and his fascination with the way the innocence and open-mindedness of childhood soon gives way to the rationalisation and unadventurous nature of adulthood.


(image courtesy Belknap Press)
(image courtesy Belknap Press)


In many ways Carroll never really left his childhood behind, asserts Douglas-Fairhurst.

It evidenced itself in many ways from his near-obsession with making the acquaintance of young girls, an acceptable undertaking in the Victorian age in which he lived but one which smacks of pedophiliac overtones to our modern sensibilities – the author is quick to assert that this love of children was less sexual than “sentimental” – to his willingness to entertain the sorts of flights of fantasy that a man of his standing as an Oxford Don at august Christ Church may not ordinarily be expected to be predisposed to.

It emerges again and again that Carroll adored upending the expected order of things, even as he did his utmost to uphold it.

So well does Douglas-Fairhurst make his case in this regard, pulling out salient many salient details from Carroll’s life that it’s possible to understand how many of the nonsensical elements in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came to be.

“Beginning with a rabbit that disappears and then reappears, like a magic trick that has somehow infiltrated real life, Carroll’s narrative quickly generates a genuine dream’s mixture of vagueness and vividness.” (P. 124)

Carroll was, for instance, habitually late, always vowing in his diaries that he must do better; he was also a man who set himself an impossibly long list of interests and hobbies to pursue from learning languages to photography, of which he became quite adept, photographing Alice Liddell on more than one occasion, and pondering always how to make the real world bend to his wilder, childlike impulses.

Of course, as with any biography, and the understandable lack of availability of the author himself to speak on his own behalf, conclusions must be drawn from the source material at hand such as Carroll’s diaries, some of which have been intriguingly censored by his family, and Douglas-Fairhurst does an impressive job of not drawing the bow too long in his pursuit of the man behind the insanely over the top tales of Alice.

He also succeeds in helping us to understand how Alice Liddell, later Hargreaves, managed to deal with being both a real woman and the forever-trapped-in-childhood, Carroll’s vision of a perfect childhood where the mock turtle, the caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat were all manifestations of a child’s attempt to make sense of an often all too dull but complicated world.

The Story of Alice is an engaging, immersive feat, that rare biography which manages to give us both a deeply well-articulated sense of the man but also the way in which his many contrasting influences gave rise to a book both silly and dreamlike, and insightfully thoughtful, a crowning achievement which continues to influence generations of new readers long after the author’s death to hold onto childhood and wonder anew “Who in the world am I?”

Alice in Wonderland at 150: Why fantasy stories about girls transcend time (curated article)

In W.W. Denslow’s illustrations and L. Frank Baum’s original text, Dorothy is a much younger girl (with silver shoes instead of ruby slippers). Wikimedia
In W.W. Denslow’s illustrations and L. Frank Baum’s original text, Dorothy is a much younger girl (with silver shoes instead of ruby slippers). Wikimedia


It’s 150 years since an Oxford mathematics don published the most important work of children’s literature and one of the most influential books of all time.

The origins of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in a story that Charles Dodgson told 10-year-old Alice Liddell and her two sisters while rowing along the Thames in 1862 are well known. What is less understood is why it has become such an enduring cultural touchstone across the globe.

Many popular stories can be distilled to the basic structure of a male hero undertaking a quest. In 1949, Joseph Campbell described the common features of the “monomyth” or hero’s journey that are evident in stories from those of Buddha and Jesus to Luke Skywalker.

Contrary to the dominance of heroic tales of men, there are several iconic narratives of pre-pubescent girls journeying through dream-like fantastic realms that have become enduring phenomena.

Like the ubiquitous Alice, Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz has gained a life of her own beyond L. Frank Baum’s books. The Kansas orphan’s journey into Oz is, if anything, better known through the MGM film starring Judy Garland. The film transforms Dorothy’s journey into nothing but a dream— like Alice’s— inspired by a cyclone-induced blow to the head.

The stories of Alice, Dorothy and more recent girl protagonists in popular fantasies, such as Sarah’s encounters with the Goblin King in the 1986 film Labyrinth, are strongly inflected by fairy-tale tradition. Campbell himself later acknowledged that he “had to go to the fairy tales” in order to bring any semblance of female heroism into The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

As fairy tale scholar Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario explains throughout her work, fairy tales are most often about girls on the cusp of maturation and marriage.

In their original book incarnations, however, both Alice and Dorothy are very young girls: Alice is just seven and Dorothy is estimated to be eight. Carroll was notoriously fascinated by pre-pubescent girls, whom he often photographed in staged poses.

Alice Liddell as a beggar-maid, as photographed by Lewis Carroll. Wikipedia
Alice Liddell as a beggar-maid, as photographed by Lewis Carroll. Wikipedia


The young ages of Alice and Dorothy free them from involvement in a romance plot. In girls’ fiction from the early twentieth century, it was common for adventurous heroines become hastily engaged in the final pages of a novel.

Even more importantly, as girls, Alice and Dorothy occupy a transitional borderland between childhood and adulthood. This also seems to make them more attuned to crossing the boundaries between fantasy and reality.

Whether this capacity derives from the combination of negative assessments of children and females as less rational in comparison with adults and males, or marks girls out as more perceptive and empathetic, is debatable.

What is clear is that these girl heroines take different paths to characters on the typical male hero’s journey. Even within fantastic literature, where anything is possible, there are clear gendered distinctions for protagonists.

As my Deakin colleague Lenise Prater pointed out to me in an important scholarly dialogue on this topic (a Facebook chat thread), female hero quests in fantasy tend to encompass an internal quest that takes place in a dreamscape. In contrast, male heroes enter into literal fantasy worlds; their adventures are supposed to be “real” with the space of the story.

The dreamy adventures of Alice work through or play with some of her waking interests and anxieties. As in Carroll’s text, Tim Burton’s film adaptation explicitly signals that Wonderland is a purely imaginary place. Alice suffers from nightmares about Wonderland as a child, and her father reminds her that dreams cannot harm her and she can “always wake up”.

Judy Garland with her co-stars in a publicity still. Wikipedia
Judy Garland with her co-stars in a publicity still. Wikipedia

The MGM Oz film changes Dorothy’s journey into a dream through its casting of the same actors in roles in both sepia-toned Kansas and Technicolor Oz. (Farmhands Hunk, Hickory and Zeke appear as the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion, while neighbour Almira Gulch proves all dog-haters must surely be green-skinned witches.)

As lone questers, girl characters are the most vulnerable and physically weak. Despite their powerlessness in conventional respects, heroines such as Alice and Dorothy are able to survive the dangers posed by people and supernatural beings who possess advantages that are not available to them (adult authority and magic chief among them).

The lives of both Alice and Dorothy beyond their original books by Carroll and Baum suggest a cultural investment in stories about the most vulnerable of people. Alice and Dorothy experience the most amazing of journeys, in which they triumph over the highest forms of authority and power, from queens to witches.

It is reassuring that these stories about girls, who are often overlooked because of their age and gender, are almost universally known. Nevertheless, imagine the possibilities if our most iconic girl characters did not always have to “wake up” at the end of their adventures.

Michelle Smith will be chairing the Making Public Histories seminar on “Melbourne’s Alice” at the State Library of Victoria on 26 November 2015. The Conversation

Michelle Smith, Research fellow in English Literature, Deakin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Andrew turns the big Five-O: The 50 favourite TV shows of my life

Andrew 50th birthday 50 favourite TV shows


I was not always as enamoured with television as I am now.

Back in 1970, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and there were no such things as Apple TV or Netflix – IKR GASP! – my family and I had just returned from years spent living in rural Bangladesh where TVs were not exactly thick on the ground.

Consequently I’d never seen one, and so when I did come across in a guesthouse on the way home to Sydney and saw a lady energetically singing opera inside it – to my 4 year old brain she was literally inside the TV – I freaked out and ran and hid.

Once my mother coaxed me out, I gathered up enough courage to go and check it out, even walking around the back to check out the door that the lady must obviously been climbing into the TV by.

Obviously it wasn’t there, I accepted that the people were actually in the TV and I soon adapted to watching anything and everything on it, a love affair that has continued unabated to this day but is made all the more complicated these days by the fantastic amount of good television available and the amazing number of channels it’s available on.

The list that follows is not even close to exhaustive and honestly I could have added way more shows but had to stop at 50 … OK 51 … but shhh let’s pretend there’re only 50 right so I look insanely disciplined.

Oh, and surprisingly the first person I even saw on the TV didn’t make it onto the list …maybe next time.

1. Frasier

Such an intelligently-written show with such rich characters from whom all of the humour sprang forth for 11 glorious years.



2. Friends

Yes I watched every episode, knew the words to “Smelly Cat” off by heart and even though I don’t drink coffee long to hang out in Central Perk.



3. To the Manor Born

I watched a lot of British comedy growing up including The Liver Birds, George and Mildred, Dad’s Army and of course To the Manor Born starring the awesome Penelope Keith. A riches-to-riches story that delighted with every single episode.



4. The Good Life

Another brilliant UK sitcom defined by sweet observational humour and a sterling ensemble cast that fitted together so beautifully it was as if they’d cast actual neighbours.



5. The Walking Dead

Took some convincing to convince me to watch this – I have a very patient housemate – and get over my fear of zombies but I did watch it, and I love it and even blog about it now. That’s some conversion!



6. Stargate SG1

Endless amazing adventures through countless corners of the galaxy in a TV series that, sorry fans of the film that birthed it, was way better than the movie.



7. Star Trek DS9

My favourite Star Trek incarnation by a Gamma Quadrant mile, it was edgy, gritty drama of the highest order with a stellar cast to bring it to life.



8. Ed

One of the many quirky TV shows I have come to love, full of great characters, an adorable town and a Quixotic quest for love that paid off.



9. Grimm

Postmodern shows are brilliant, gathering mythos up with a narrative vacuum and fashioning it into something beguiling and new. Grimm is one of the best combining mythology with a police procedural.



10. Gilmore Girls

How much do I love this show! A LOT. Witty, clever, quirky, silly, charming, dramatic with a cast of characters who were all wonderful in their own way … and now back for 4 more episodes on Netflix. Happy days!



11. Fringe

Yes, it had a slow first season with a severe case of “Weird Things of the Week” but once it hit its stride it became an engrossing, complex tale of how people react when assumptions about the world and the way it works.



12. Warehouse 13

Quirky, clever, funny shows delight me greatly and Warehouse 13 was one of the quirkiest with a premise centred on the idea that objects can be “infected” by their owners and can become forces for good or evil. When that happens you need a centuries-old organisation to protect people and keep said objects safely locked away. Preferably people who can quip like crazy. This is their story.



13. Eureka

A “sister” show of sorts to Warehouse 13, at least in so far as their characters crossed over to each other’s universes and they were on the same network, Eureka was all about a secret group of scientists sequestered away making all kinds of brilliant discoveries and creating amusing mayhem in the process.



14. Sesame Street

One quick glance over posts on this blog and my deep and enduring love of a show I first encountered at as 6 year old in the early 1970s becomes abundantly clear. It’s funny, clever, engaging even for adults and the best way to learn your ABCs and 123s ever (sorry all the teachers I ever had but it’s true.) … and it has Grover and Ernie and Bert! Case closed.



15. The Muppet Show

My love of the Muppets is, of course,  a product of Sesame Street but this show went a long way during its run (1976-81) to cementing that into a lifelong obsession. It featured Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and a host of other delightful characters playing their parts in the weekly creation of a Vaudevillian variety show and it was wonderful in every way.



16. ALF

Wisecracking alien with an obsessive love of (eating) cats crashes on Earth, well meaning family on Earth takes him in, 4 seasons of sitcom mayhem ensues.



17. Get Smart

“Missed it by that much!” Actually I tried to never miss it all since it was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, parodied the world of Bond and spying perfectly and featured a ridiculously large number of great lines and memorable characters.



18. The Big Bang Theory

What happens you bring together a bunch of scientific geeks, one pretty girl down the hallway and a whole world of cross-cultural misunderstanding? 9 seasons and counting of very, worlds-colliding, funny comedy.



19. CHiPs

Sure it looks a little dated now but I still love “Ponch” and John and their adventures out on the great lawless highways of California. Bad guys watch out! Oh and yeah they all looked great in their uniforms. Just sayin’ …



20. Charlie’s Angels

Again a little dated but I care not – the original Angels Sabrina, Jill and Kelly, and all who came after them never let the bad guys get away and look amazing doing it.



21. Community

Set in a wacky community college, hence the name, this off-the-wall but heartfelt sitcom by Dan Harmon showed what was possible with some imagination, a sense of the absurd and a willingness to play around with convention.



22. Dharma & Greg

Opposites attract, marriage shortly thereafter and fun, light comedy ensues that at its silliest, largely die to Dharma (Jenna Elfman), was the perfect sitcom.



23. Firefly

Such a crime that this was cancelled after just 13 episodes – smart, literate, funny, insightful sci-fi full of stellar social and political commentary. Joss Whedon at his absolute best with a cast of equal standing.



24. The Goodies

Yum yum! Silly, clever British comedy at its best with a great big help of the surreal and the absurd. Very funny.



25. Hart to Hart

Jonathan and Jennifer Hart have it all – wealth, power, Max the butler and Freeway the dog … and a willingness to spend their spare time righting the world’s wrongs. And they really LOVED each other. My happy place.



26. The IT Crowd

Both a show about people in Information technology and a play on t the idea that though their skills are essential, they are most certainly not the “it” crowd in most peoples’ eyes, The IT Crowd is brilliantly, funny, surreal satire of the highest order.



27. Mad About You

Love is gloriously wonderful but in the context of a longterm relationship, even a brilliantly good one, it’s a lot of work. No sitcom captured the highs and lows of love in the real world like Paul and Jamie Buchman as they jumped into the final frontier.



28. Portlandia

Well done parodies are such a perfectly-balanced creation – mercilessly satirical and yet affectionately articulate – and Portlandia, brought to life by the enormously talented Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, is among the most perfectly-balanced and funny of all.



29. Parks and Recreation

Started slow in season 1 but rapidly established itself as a gently satirical show with an eye for the very silly and a cast endlessly skilled at bringing it to life beautifully.



30. Kimba the White Lion

He is the king of “deepest, darkest Africa” and learning what it means to have to look after a whole host of animals, many of whom are his friends. Rather than a few children’s cartoon though, this was dark and real anime, unafraid to make things all too real if it meant a story well told.



31. Miranda

A modern UK sitcom very much in the vein but not derivative of classic UK sitcoms, Miranda was heartfelt and whimsical, full of off-the-wall spoofs and word plays and a cast of wonderfully-talented people.



32. Moonlighting

Mysteries solved and much U.R.S.T. indulged by Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) and David (Bruce Willis) all ashed through with a playful ’80s aesthetic.



33. Girls

Frankly the characters in this show can be maddeningly immature and make the worst decisions but then that’s the whole point of the show – that in your 20s when you’re working out exactly who you are as an adult, you don’t always choose wisely. It’s brilliantly, insightfully written, often funny, always illuminating and always revealingly authentic.



34. Falling Skies

Centering on the apocalyptic aftermath of an alien invasion of Earth, and specifically on the Mason family, this show was either brilliantly well-written or maddeningly under written, particularly its final, wasted, ill-focused season, but overall it was highly personal take on the way in which one small part of humanity copes with a truly horrific, potentially-world ending event.



35. Huff

Wow some people have messed up lives and that’s why they’re so compelling in a TV show like Huff which celebrates the fact that fallibility thy name is humanity.



36. Murphy Brown

She’s a tough-as-nails journalist who doesn’t fools gladly but she has a well-disguised heart of gold and heart-on-the-sleeve love of Aretha Franklin and you couldn’t help but love her and the people who work with her.



37. Nurse Jackie

Nurse Jackie, played by the superlatively-talented Edie Falco is as fallible as they come, a woman with an inordinate amount of talent for her profession but very little in the way of self-control. It lands her in all kinds of trouble but you can help but relate to her because she is so authentically real.



38. All Creatures Great and Small

James Herriott, a newly-qualified vet in 1937, who finds himself in as whole new world when he arrives in Yorkshire and must adapt to an eccentric group of people and animals. Uplifting, family-friendly viewing with a hint of drama.



39.  The Banana Splits

Lalalalalalala! Fun, colourful show full of wacky characters, lots of colour, slapstick and movement and some great cartoons and dramas. Bundles of fun and one of my favourite Hanna-Barbera things ever!



40. Catweazle

I love the fantasy genre and Catweazle is a fabulously inventive member of the ranks. An 11th century wizard catapulted into the modern day, his eccentric adventures adapting to a world not his own were endlessly entertaining.



41. Sanctuary

Amanda Tapping is my favourite sci-fi/fantasy actress and her role as as a 157 year old scientist Helen Magnus granting safety to Abnormals, people and creatures who don’t fit into what the world at large defines as normal. It was an expansive show with an intriguing mythos and great character-driven drama.



42. United States of Tara

Written by Diablo Cody, one of the most intelligent, fearless screenwriters out there, this show takes a hard, sometimes humourous, look at mental illness. It’s brave, tackles issues head on and doesn’t portray Tara’s condition as anything other than a normal, though often unwelcome, part of her life.



43. The Magic Roundabout

The name gives it away – this French/British show is just magical. Using stop motion animation, the show brought characters like Dougal (a dog), Zebedee (a jack-in-the-box), Brian (a snail) and Ermintrude (a cow) to delightful, whimsical and always watchable life.



44. Sleepy Hollow

The end is coming! Well according to the evil powers-that-be, desperate to usher the end of the world, that’s the intention but not if 250 year old Ichabod Crane (it’s a long story) and his fellow Witness police lieutenant Abbie Mills have anything to do with it. Mixing it a thousand and one supernatural elements and a great deal of myth and humanity, this show is highly imaginative and utterly addictive.



45. Eight is Enough

You can imagine that a man with eight children who loses his wife and then remarries would have a lot going on and you’d be right. Eight is Enough ran for 5 seasons of love, drama and the everyday joys and sorrows of being a big sprawling family.



46. I Love Lucy / Here’s Lucy

Lucille Ball was a very funny, enormously talented lady, no matter what sitcom she was in. I was exposed to Here’s Lucy first, thanks to daily reruns on commercial TV in Sydney (which I only saw when we visited my grandparents) but over time discovered the gem that is I Love Lucy and discovered what an entertaining trailblazer Ball was.




47. Party of Five

I must have had a thing once for large sprawling family dramas – I also loved a show called Family once – but this is one of the best. Granted a little soapy at times but always heartfelt and always meaningful.



48. The Beverly Hillbillies

Lots of silly sitcom fun that kept me laughing at the exploits of nouveau riche hillbillies who never quite got the whole sophisticated living in the most upper class of L.A. neighbourhoods.



49. Defiance

Sci-fi at its most complete world-building best. The first season may have been a little hit-and-miss but there was promise there and it was realised in spades in the next two brilliantly-realised seasons.



50. Butterflies

A British sitcom with a bittersweet edge, it starred Wendy James (who I also loved in Nanny) as a woman who loved her husband and kids but finds herself longing for more. A great mix of light and dark, rare in sitcoms which usually prefer the light of straightforward humour over all else.



and honourable mention goes to:

51. Lost in Space

I know every planet looks exactly the same as time moved on and the special effects are a tad naff, but Lost in Space has some great characters – hello Dr Smith and The Robot – and a loopy, fun sense of camp storytelling. And now, it’s coming back on Netflix. Happy am I.


Andrew turns the big Five-O: The 50 favourite movies of my life

Andrew 50th birthday 50 favourite movies MAIN


Ever since my mother took me to see Star Wars in a small wooden single-screen cinema in Ballina, N.S.W. in 1977, I have been enraptured by the power of movies to tell wholly-engrossing, utterly-immersive stories.

It doesn’t matter if it’s fun lightweight blockbuster or a serious “issues” movie, cinema tells stories in a profoundly visual way that never fails to move or entertain me.

There is something too about being locked away in a darkened cinema, with my sparkling mineral water and candy by my side, cut away for a time at least, from the world outside that is immensely relaxing.

For that small period of time, my usual work-a-day world ceases to exist and all that matters, all that concerns me, is the story playing out in front of me.

It’s not always the case – I’ve seen my share of movies I hated such as Only God Forgives, Paris, Texas or Edward Scissorhands, and The Burbs, which is the only movie I have ever walked out on – but largely cinema is one of my happy places (which is why I hope the zombie apocalypse never happens because I would hate to lose my moviegoing idyll).

Here then are the 50 movies that have most enchanted, beguiled and compelled me to watch; they’re not in any particular order and you could likely interchange other movies into the list, but for now, these are the movies that really connected to me, and which continue to provide joy in some form every time I watch them.

  1. Amelie

This is so magical and Amelie is a woman apart from reality and yet very much caught up in it. A reminder of how wonderful life can be.



2. Francis Ha



3. The Sound of Music

Released in 1965, the year I was born, this musical story of a governess and a stern military man in Austria that fall in love, sing a lot and escape the Nazis, was shown every year without fail on the local commercial TV station. I never tired of it and will happily watch at the drop of a hat.



4. Star Wars

The first movie I can recall seeing in a cinema and still one of the best sci-if movies ever. Period.



5. ET



6. Zombieland



7. Guardians of the Galaxy



8. UP

Oh Carl and Ellie’s love story is so deeply-moving! I am so glad though that Carl gets to follow their dream and go to South America and in the process change the lives of a small boy named Russell and a dog called Dug. Heartwarming plus.



8. Blue Jasmine



9. Toy Story 1-3

All the feels, all the fun, all the gorgeous characters and fabulous, friend-filled adventures.



10. Driving Miss Daisy



11. Hunting and Gathering



12. The Truth About Cats and Dogs

Love sweet love with an awkward American, a cute Brit, a BIG dog and crackling good dialogue – perfect for a rom-com tragic such as myself.



13. While You Were Sleeping

More love sweet love this time with a comatose guy, a lonely woman caught in an innocent lie and the sort of happy ending life should give everyone.



14. Speed

My introduction to the delightful Sandra Bullock, the taciturn Keanu Reeves and a bus with an acceleration problem … and love.



15. Sleepless in Seattle

I am sucker for a beautifully told love story especially one as imaginatively and heartwarmingly told as this one.



16. What’s Up Doc?

Madcap Bogdanovich farce with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal and a whole lot of matching cases. Inspired, silly, clever fun!



17. Who Framed Roger Rabbit



18. Nebraska



19. You Can’t Take it With You



20. Pillow Talk



21. The Princess Bride

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” That is all.



22. Jurassic Park



23. Die Hard



24. Fried Green Tomatoes



25. About Time



26. Frozen

Sure the story isn’t the most original ever but the songs, the love, the sheer sense of fun … plus first movie I ever took my young niece too.



27. Breakfast at Tiffany’s



28. The Family Jewels



29. Keeping the Faith

A rom-com love triangle set in New York starring three of my favourite actors – Ben Stiller, Edward Norton and Jenna Elfman – and seen in New York after a glorious wandering through Central Park and along 5Th Avenue with my friend Ellen (2000).



30. The Money Pit



31. You’ve Got Mail

Love, bookstores, New York, Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks. Perfect.



32. Lars and the Real Girl



33. Safety Not Guaranteed



34. The Way Way Back



35. The Wizard of Oz

Magical in every way – the characters, the storyline, the songs and the cinematography. Fantasy with heart … and courage, and brains.



36. Singing in the Rain



37. Inside Out

Beautiful, just beautiful – touching, sweet, funny, smart and heartfelt.



38. Sneakers



39. Snow Cake



40. Planes, Trains and Automobiles



41. Home Alone

Released 25 years ago this year – full of all kinds of rich heartfelt meaning in the midst of an hilariously violent slapstick festive flick.



42. Three Days of the Condor

The first political action thriller I am remember seeing – frightening, edge-of-your-seat stuff that enthralled you from start to finish.



44. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind



45. The Fifth Element



46. Spaceballs

Mel Blanc is a comedy god and this is the funniest Star Wars parody ever!



47. Juno



48. The Dream Team

“Ah, it’s great to be young and insane!” Indeed it is … INDEED IT IS.



49. The Wedding Singer



50. Birdman

Masterful, brilliantly, engrossingly masterful – one of the finest, most intelligent, heartfelt movies I’ve ever seen.