Sunday, June 27, 2021

"All Is Confirmed ... [Though] My Flesh Be Hacked, Give Me My Armour"

A total right-shite state of affairs has descended from high a'top The Thing with an uncomfortable splat upon yer actual Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House over the last few days, dear blog reader. It's been a sight to see, so it has. As many of Keith Telly Topping's dear Facebook fiends will already know, this blogger's Facebook account (established in 2006) appears to have been well and truly hackerised like buggery and he is, currently, entirely unable to access his account due to his e-mail address and password having been changed by the naughty - alleged - hackerisation-type individual involved in the - alleged - hackerising. Yer actual has e-mailed an address which is alleged to be Facebook's Help Centre for, you know, help in his hour of need - but he has yet to hear anything back from them as of the time of this bloggerisationism update. And, anyway, this blogger is not even sure if the address he sent his plea to is a genuine one. So, if any dear blog reader out there has any practical suggestions about what Keith Telly Topping can do, a) either to contact Facebook or to b) sort out this ungodly mess (or, ideally, both), this blogger can be contacted via e-mail at keithandrewtopping at gmail dot com. However, can I ask that only anyone who actually has something practical which is likely to improve this blogger's temper contacts him. Please, don't - for the love of God - send messages of sympathy or anything along those lines. Because, frankly, his blogger is just a wee bit beyond the accepting-sympathy-in-the-spirit-it-was-intended stage now.
To be fair, this here right-shite state of affairs has had but one positive side-effect. Since this blogger - for the moment, at least - is not spending a couple of hours each day checking out Facebook postings from his - many - fiends, he's had more time than usual to devote himself to other things in his life. Like reading the recently-acquired mega-massive-tastic seventeen hundred page monster that is Mark Lewisohn's extended Be-Atles biography, Tune-In (Part 1). They were a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them. He is currently up to page three hundred and seventy three if anyone is taking notes. It's June 1957 and future alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon's O-level results have just turned out to be just as bad, if not worse, than everyone (including him) expected and his auntie reckons he's not going to make a living from this guitar-playing nonsense. Meanwhile, Keith Telly Topping's wrists are really suffering from holding the damn thing whilst he's reading it. Alternatively (to give his wrists a bit of a break), he's also carrying on with his current complete Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch. He's just about up to the end of series five of the Star Trek series which got good the quickest and stayed good the longest and The Dominion and The Cardassians are about to get really heavy on Captain Sisko and co's collective ass. Or, he's been watching - and, actually, rather enjoying - the Euros (at least, until the Germans give England a right good shellacking next Tuesday, after which the novelty may well wear off somewhat). Et cetera, et cetera. Life? It can be a right bloody chore, innit? Still, the weather's been quite nice ... 
As a consequence, therefore, of all this previously discussed right-shite state of affairs, this latest From The North bloggerisationisms update will be somewhat shorter than usual. Since roughly half of what this blogger posts in an average bloggerisationisms about his own various doings are, usually, collected from stuff that he's told his fiends about on Facebook. So, you know, if you're wholly uninterested in yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self, dear blog reader, that's a double bonus, surely?
Firstly, last week saw the unveiling of The Doctor's new costume for the forthcoming series of the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama. This blogger is not sure it entirely works for him, to be honest. Although, he does like the - presumably sonic - wand. A lot.
Last week, the Lack of Culture Secretary The Vile & Odious Rascal Dowden announced that 'a new frontier' had been opened for British musicians who want to play live in Europe. Thanks to 'ambitious' negotiations, he suggested, artists and their crews can now tour without visa requirements in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The deal comes after Brexit meant that performers must obtain costly permits to play in most European countries. Touring musicians called The Vile & Odious Rascal Dowden's announcement 'tragic' and 'a joke.' And those were some of thing kinder things said. 'Iceland's population is roughly the same as Wigan. Liechtenstein has a similar number of residents as Wilmslow,' said The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess. 'If it wasn't tragic it would be funny.' He added: 'The Charlatans have played all over the globe for thirty one years and we've had three number one albums. However, Oliver Dowden, we have never played in Iceland or Liechtenstein due to sheer expense/very small populations there and few venues or promoters. But thanks for your help.' One imagines that was Tim being a bit sarcastic, there. The UK government claimed that the deal with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein - which are not part of the EU, but are in the European Economic Area - was 'only one part' of an overall effort to reopen Europe to British musicians. One or two people even believed them. Of the UK's major touring artists, a grand total of none have played in Liechtenstein in the past decade. Only one act - over-rated ginger strummer Ed Sheeran - has visited Iceland since 2011 (for which, one trusts, the people of Reykjavik will accept our sincere collective apologies), but Norway does remain a regular touring stop for many bands on the European touring circuit. 
England's opening Euro 2020 (ish) match at Wembley on Sunday was watched by a record audience on BBC iPlayer. The - actually half-way decent for once - one-nil win over Croatia pulled in a peak TV audience of 11.6 million and a seventy nine per cent share of available viewers. One really has to wonder what the other twenty one per cent were watching. Contemplating the inherently ludicrous nature of existence, probably. It also set a BBC iPlayer live viewing record with the game being streamed 3.9 million times and 4.5 million times on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport online.
Astronomers claim they have solved the mystery of why one of the most familiar stars in the night sky suddenly dimmed just over a year ago. Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the constellation of Orion that no one knows how to pronounce correctly (it's 'bet-al-gurr-z' if you were wondering), abruptly darkened in late 2019 and early 2020. The behaviour led some to speculate that it might be about to explode if a firework display that would've been quite a sight. But a team using the excellently-named Very Large Telescope in Chile says the cause was 'almost certainly' a giant dust cloud between us and the star. Even if you can't name many points in the sky, you'll almost certainly know Betelgeuse by sight. It's the orange dot in the top-left corner of Orion - or bottom-right, if you're viewing the constellation in the Southern Hemisphere. Close to Earth, relatively speaking, at a distance of about five hundred and fifty light-years, Betelgeuse is what is known as a 'semi-regular variable star.' It naturally brightens and darkens over a period of roughly four hundred days. But what happened eighteen months ago was out of the ordinary. The loss of brightness was far greater than anything previously recorded. Astronomer Miguel Montargès and colleagues investigated the event with the European Southern Observatory's VLT, one of the most powerful telescopes on Earth. It has the resolution to directly image the surface of Betelgeuse. The researchers compared pictures before, during and after the dimming and did some modelling to see what kind of behaviour might give rise to the views obtained. Two ideas were dominant. Perhaps there was a large cool spot on the surface of the star, because red supergiants like Betelgeuse are known to have large convective cells which can cause hot spots and cold spots. Or maybe there was a cloud of dust forming right in front of the star as it was viewed from Earth. The explanation turns out to be 'a bit of both' according to colleague Emily Cannon from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. 'Our overall idea is that there was a cool spot on the star which, because of the local drop in temperature, then caused gas ejected previously to condense into dust,' she told BBC News. 'So, the cool spot on the surface would initially make the star look dimmer to us. But then this condensation of dust would add to the rapid drop in brightness of the star.' Betelgeuse is about fifteen to twenty times as massive as the Sun. An object that big is likely to go supernova at some point. So, it wasn't crazy to wonder when this unusual dimming occurred that Betelgeuse might be about to go bang in a spectacular explosion. Emily Cannon said: 'I don't think this event means Betelgeuse is going to go supernova any time soon, even though that would be incredibly interesting and I was kind of wishing it myself! We know that red supergiants can display increased mass loss rates, which may indicate there's a later stage in their lives when they are more likely to go supernova. But Betelgeuse we think is a relatively young red supergiant and it probably has a lot more time left.' How much time? Tens, even hundreds, of thousands of years is the sort of period astronomers will often quote. Although, in cosmic terms, that's effective 'some time soon.' When it occurs with will be an amazing thing to see; the event would be visible in daylight. The last supernova observed in our Milky Way Galaxy was Kepler's Star, which was observed in 1604. Records from astronomers at the time indicate it was visible during the day for over three weeks after it went ker-blam. Miguel Montargès' team reports its findings in the journal Nature.
And finally in this shortened From The North update, some jolly sad news. The actress and agent Jackie Lane has died at the age of seventy nine. Jackie appeared in nineteen episodes of Doctor Who in the 1966 playing Dodo Chaplet a companion of The Doctor, William Hartnell. Jackie was born in Manchester and, after training as a child actress she had small parts in soap operas like the BBC's Compact and Granada's Coronation Street as well as series such as The Villains, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and The Protectors (no, the other one). She also appeared in Anna Neagle's radio production of Wonderful Things in 1958, with Charlie Drake in Grandad Was A Wrestler in 1959 and as a panelist on a 1961 episode of Juke Box Jury. In 1963, aged seventeen, her agent put her forward to play the character of Susan Forman in the BBC's new science fiction seris, Doctor Who. Jackie however withdrew from consideration upon learning that she would be expected to sign a year-long contract should she gain the role. Three years later, with Doctor Who a major success, the actress was offered the role of Dodo by producer John Wiles. Arriving at the end of The Massacre, the character travelled with The Doctor and his companion Steven (Peter Purves) across four stories, The Ark, The Celestial Toymaker, The Gunfighters and The Savages. Jackie told Doctor Who Magazine about her time on the series: 'It was very friendly, although Bill Hartnell had put up with a lot of cast changes over a short space of time. It was really beginning to get to him. We got on very well, although I wouldn't say I ever really knew him that well.' Jackie's contract expired after four months and it was not renewed by the incoming producer Innes Lloyd. The character disappeared from the series, without a goodbye, after appearing in a couple of episodes of The War Machines. 'Innes had definite plans for the series, which neither Steven nor Dodo fitted. I think I would have liked a dramatic ending. My farewell was a bit of an anti-climax. Still, I got my revenge. I now run a voice-over agency and Innes Lloyd once asked me to find him work. I reminded him that he had once sacked me from Doctor Who and said a very firm no.' Soon after Jackie left Doctor Who she effectively retired from acting. She spent some time as a diplomatic secretary working for the Australian Government and as an antique dealer before returning to the theatrical world, this time as an agent. In this role, for a time she represented both Tom Baker and Janet Fielding and managed Nicholas Courtney. A very shy lady, Jackie Lane was always reluctant to involve herself with Doctor Who fandom - and who, honestly, can blame her? She gave very few interviews about her time on the popular long-running family SF drama series but did make an appearance at the time of Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary in 2013.