Dear me!

Back at the beginning of the year I was intending to have a good moan on here, but somehow ran out of time and energy for it and thought ‘what the heck, I’ll just leave it.’ So it was left.

The it was drinks at the local cinema, Vue in Stirling. What with the government meddling with the sugar content of fizzy drinks, for some reason this meant the prices were going up. Obvious, really. Put in less sugar and the drink costs more. I almost understood it at the time.

However, what got me was that while the change was happening around Easter, our Vue decided to put the prices up after Christmas. It was an experiment, intended to show the powers that be that customers minded – or didn’t – the drinks costing them more. So they asked each customers if they felt the price was OK. Very scientific way of getting results.

Not only did they get to charge more when the time came; they got an extra three months of overcharging their customers before it.

Whether this was a local bright idea, or a countrywide Vue thing, I don’t know.

However, it would seem that the Stirling Vue charges more for cinema tickets than any other Vue in the country, including London. The local paper had discovered this and made some enquiries. After asking Vue about it, we now know they have a ‘dynamic pricing policy.’ So nice for them. And convenient. Whatever dynamic means in this instance.

Maybe it means we don’t have anywhere else [much] that we can go to for films. I even have a friend in deepest Perthshire who comes here for the movies.

We can go to one other place, without actually travelling to another town. The arts centre at the university has both a cinema and a theatre. It’s a nice cinema, smaller, and cheaper. But it gets the new films later than Vue, so it can’t compete. It also offers the narrower films that Vue customers aren’t expected to be interested in, like Edie a couple of months ago.

I had a little look at prices for Mamma Mia! as both cinemas show it right now. On Sunday my pensioner ticket – so already cheaper – would be £11.24 at Vue, and £7 at the Macrobert. Tuesday is better, with a mere £10.24 for old people at Vue and £6 at Macrobert. But that is anyone at the Macrobert, as Tuesdays are their cheap day. On a Sunday Vue charge £1.50 more for a normal adult ticket, while in the week it looks as if pensioners only save £1.

Earlier in the year I heard from a London friend that he goes on Mondays, when all tickets are cheap. £5, I believe. After some searching I discovered we too have a cheap Monday offer, which we had not been given, or offered, when we went on a Monday. Seems you have to sign up for something online, and after going round in a lot of circles I still didn’t quite grasp how to join or what to do, or even where to find it again, once I’d gone in and out a few times.

But that’s pensioners for you. Less dynamic.

If there is a cheap day of the week, it should be offered openly and upfront to all, whether or not they know about it, or if they don’t book online. The one thing to turn you off will be if it gets too crowded, but then it’s always possible to pick another day. Not like when we went. We got the queues and the crowds but no discount.

Might have been that dynamic pricing policy.


Here we go again

Mamma Mia! ten years on, or five if you consider the plot. We’re all ten years older, but we – mostly – don’t look it. Do we? And a person can always have a young self, like they do in the new Mamma Mia! film. I adored the young Harry especially.

So, Donna is dead. Maybe this was for the best, as it left all of us crying, and it meant there was for the most time only two almost identical young women to be confused by. Sophie, and her mother Donna as a young woman, and made more confusing by shifting quickly between the two. Now we know what it was like for Donna and Sophie’s three dads, even if some of the continuity might not actually work. Who cares?

It’s like a family party. You’re just so happy to see everyone again. This time there were fewer old ABBA hits, and possibly less music too, but you’re happy, crying both sad and happy tears, and a film has to be pretty good to achieve that, and I don’t care if the film critics are still a little sniffy about it. Although they learned their lesson ten years ago, and now take Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again much more seriously.

There were the expected cameos from Björn and Benny. I suppose many of the appearances were somewhat cameo-like, really. I love Cher, but am not sure she was the right grandmother for Sophie, even if great. And ABBA songs are less well suited to a deep voice.

Lots of laughter, quite a bit of crying, both from me and Pierce Brosnan, not to mention from Julie Walters. I could watch the film again tomorrow, if only life didn’t need me for other things.

And thanks to Daughter who saw the film in Pasadena 20 hours before me, I knew to stay for the scene after the credits. I waited and I waited and everyone else left and the cleaners came, giving me funny looks, but eventually, there it was; the extra scene. I took a chance on it!

Designated Survivor

After barking up the wrong trees for our holiday small screen entertainment, we have found something that works; Designated Survivor on Netflix. It’s not The Crown and Kiefer Sutherland is no Claire Foy. But as new heads of state, after the deaths of their predecessors, there are similarities.

I was surprised at first to discover that Tom Kirkman, as he is, had no idea what his role as designated survivor actually meant, but he soon finds out when the Capitol is blown to smithereens, with everyone – well almost everyone – inside it dead, and he is sworn in as President of the United States.

Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, ©ABC

Seen as a weak man by most, he struggles, but it seems his inner decency will carry him through, despite all the back-stabbings, despite all those deaths and the need for calm and cooperation.

I have no idea how real this might be, apart from the bombing of the Capitol, but it makes for fascinating viewing. We’ve been without a decent POTUS for too long in real life, so this makes for a nice change. Never having watched the West Wing, I don’t know if this follows in its footsteps, or if Designated Survivor is making its own tracks.

And what a perfectly polite but awful adversary Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten is. I quite like her.

To begin with I couldn’t see how this series could be so long. I mean, how much time do you need to install a new man as President and start him up? But I could keep watching this. If it weren’t for the deaths of so many innocent people, I’d prescribe this as a good way to proceed.

McCartney at my dining table

How things change!

There I was, idly clicking the link to Paul McCartney singing in James Corden’s car. I thought it’d be a few minutes, but I was in a post-dinner lull, so could afford the 25 minutes required. It was a great programme, but that’s not really what I wanted to mention here.

It set me thinking about how it’s financed; how I am able to watch it via YouTube and not even sit through commercials. I don’t know. But I appreciate it. And I can watch it again, with no need for a video recorder and available space on a tape, or any other recording technique requiring forethought.

And on my phone, not even a computer needed. Yes, I know a phone is a computer, really. I meant no large machine needed. Just me and the quiet after dinner. I don’t even object to James Corden, and I’m someone who objects very easily to people. I’m thinking he’s saved by being a History Boy. Once a HB always a HB.

The quality of the recording, both sound and image, is almost like a miracle after the early days of wobbly YouTube or the old video recordings of thirty years ago.

If I’d known then that I’d be able to watch something like this on a tiny handheld contraption, I’d not have believed it.

Nor would Mother-of-witch, back in 1964, maybe, when she sacrificed herself and went to the cinema with the very young witch to see a Beatles film. Possibly A Hard Day’s Night. I don’t recall. It was the Beatles. That’s all that mattered. And all that screaming. The teenage girls must have thought they were at a Beatles concert, and not in a small provincial Swedish cinema.

Back then we definitely couldn’t watch again, at least not after the one – possibly two – weeks the film was on, to disappear and never be seen again. It certainly didn’t end up on television. If it had, then two or three decades later it would have been possible to record it, and watch again. Until the tape wore out.

And here I am, even more decades on, idly discovering a programme on my phone and simply allowing myself to sit there and enjoy. That’s progress. At least, I hope it is. There’s more to life than watching Paul McCartney, but in this day and age it might be best to take whatever good stuff comes our way. In case that’s all there is.

Comets and comics

‘Is that really him?’ asked the Resident IT Consultant, when Neil Gaiman appeared on the screen in Big Bang Theory (yes, I know. We’re a few weeks behind in our viewing). I’m glad I’m our Resident Neil Gaiman Consultant. And he’s probably the only cameo celebrity on BBT that I ‘know.’

Big Bang Theory, The Comet Polarization, with Neil Gaiman

Is it me, or have they had a lot more famous [for other things] people on the show recently? Maybe it’s just that they are inviting ones I’ve heard of and recognise, without having to Google them after.

With Bill Gates the other week I was shocked to discover I was old, and so was he. When Leonard started babbling about having met Gates as a child – Leonard, not Gates – I did a mental double-take and worked out that it was indeed both possible and probable. And that I too could have met the young Leonard and been an adult at the time…

Back to Neil. It made a lot of sense to have him, with the comic connection. And poor Stuart could really do with some success and attention. I know the Gaiman effect from personal experience. If he links to your whatever-it-is, your hits shoot up dramatically. It happened to me, and when Daughter put a photo of Neil on her photo blog, I said to send Neil the link and sit back and wait. Don’t think she believed me, but the old witch was right, yet again. When Neil says ‘click’ to his fans, they click. And there’s a lot of them, as Stuart discovered.

And speaking of discoveries, ten years ago Penny wouldn’t have cared about having her name on a comet discovery. She’s gone geek over time. But she’s right, we should all have our names on what we find, be it comets or planets, or anything else.

Photo © Chuck Lorre Productions, Warner Brothers



Is it me, or is it them? Am I older, wiser and more cynical [only], or are they not writing such good end of season episodes any longer?

NCIS went out of their way to make Mark Harmon – or do I mean Gibbs? – seem nicer. A sort of ‘I’ll share my worst moment if you’ll share yours.’ Things are so bad that I almost like Kasie in Abby’s lab. That’s without a period of grace having passed.

It made more sense having Sloane go crazy on screen than reading about it beforehand. But I’m still not sure about everyone seemingly having a big, awful past.

Anyway, the end of season 15 of NCIS made such an impression on me that two days later I had to ask Daughter how it had ended. I just didn’t remember without a prompt. And I will not spend all summer worrying about the Director.

Which brings me to who I will spend all summer not worrying about in NCIS: Los Angeles. Hidoko, I will worry about. I don’t feel it was conclusive what happened, except it probably did. Odd that nothing was shown, though.

But all the rest? Nah, not worrying. There was too much; personal quarrels, lots of bangs and far too much fire. And Mosley… She’s gone from quite OK and providing some fresh input, to being stir crazy, rather like Sloane. It’s great to have another woman boss, and a black one at that. But did they have to portray her like this? She could have worried about her son while still being lucid and professional. Is it men writing women?

But this being mean and unprofessional, while demanding sympathy and dressing to the nines? Was sending Hetty to Vietnam a test to see if Mosley could take over? Granger could have. Now Hetty is back, and she’s the only one who acts normal.

Sam walked just fine whenever he lost the stick. Unless finding yourself in a vehicle on fire will put an end to any walking, good or otherwise.

We’ll see when September comes.

The one she doesn’t mention

We are not really any the wiser regarding why Pauley Perrette left NCIS. But it’s always possible to deduce something that may be close to the truth. After Abby’s last episode it was as if Pauley had to get it out of her system and she tweeted some very cryptical stuff.

I can see that she wants to save the jobs of her friends still working on the show. Whether the secret is so big and so bad that knowing about it would bring NCIS down is anybody’s guess. Or if she just thinks it would. Pauley had the opportunity of keeping quiet, but I can see that doesn’t sit well with her.

On the other hand, if she really wanted to have a go at someone, she’d have done better to get her act together to say something more lucid and meaningful. That opportunity is now lost.

But, OK, there are tweets saying nice things about most of her co-workers. We can start making our own deductions based on who is not mentioned. In fact, the most interesting tweet was Pauley saying she’d had a long conversation with Don Bellisario.

Because we know how Bellisario was shunted off his own creation. It was always something I felt uncomfortable about, even if he was a slave-driver. But what if he wasn’t?

And who got rid of Pancho Demmings? In fact, who was it who thought that practical jokes were good to play on their fellow actors on the show? Could that have had anything to do with Sasha Alexander leaving?

It’s one thing to have Gibbs the boss in the fictional team, but why should the actor playing him be boss of the team of actors away from the cameras. I felt uncomfortable when David McCallum spoke about Mark Harmon as though he was the one they all looked up to, the one who looked after his gang. If there was any looking up to be done, it ought to be the younger actors to Ilya Kuryakin. He’s the real deal here.

I have clearly read too much celebrity gossip, but there have been one or two bits of information about Mark’s personal past behaviour that always made me wonder what he thought he was doing.

And then there was Dave, the dog.

He is still being blamed for the break-up. But if it was him, there is no explanation for those badly written tweets in the last week. I wish Pauley had taken more care over those. Much can be said while avoiding being libellous.

If it’s actually so bad at NCIS that many wanted to complain but didn’t dare, so it was left to the one who was popular enough that she could, then someone needs to take a deeper look at what’s wrong. On who is wrong.

Whichever way this ends; if CBS had finished the show after season 14, the fans could have looked back and mourned their loss. Now, we will be mourning something far worse, something that will take away any pleasure we’ve had from NCIS over a decade and a half. Either we will [eventually] know, or we will have to keep guessing. I don’t know which will be worst.