Coco

El Día de los Muertos, the day of the dead. I’ve known about it for decades, but never really got it. Until now, when we went to see Coco in the cinema. It seemed odd to serve up food in cemeteries for your dead relatives, but I could almost do it myself now.

And the day of going to see Coco was sandwiched between news of a death and all the thinking and talking that goes with something like that, and a quick trip to the cemetery to see a new gravestone and to ‘check out’ how other people decorate their graves. So, very much like Coco.

The lesson of the film is that we must remember our dead, and we should talk about them. Once everyone who’s known them is gone, so are the dead. Reminds me of the old photos I have. No need to hang on to them after I’m gone, because I barely know who’s in them, and no one else will.

There was quite a lot to the film; remember your dead, talk to your old great grandma, respect your elders but don’t lose your own dreams. And a loving dog is always good to keep close.

I liked the strong Latin American feel to the film, complete with Spanish words, songs and the Latino accents. And it was good to have songs already well known, like La Llorona. No dejaré de quererte. I could have sung along, had I not been such a well behaved witch.

Here’s hoping that young viewers understood something of the film, and that it wasn’t all gags about your dog getting its teeth round some elderly [dead] relative’s bones.

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Leave of Gabse-sense?

We made you big. Now it’s your turn to honour that, by providing us with NCIS episodes worthy of your fans’ devotion. Instead you are ‘thanking’ us by invariably serving up complete rubbish, with the odd silver nugget every now and then. I put those good moments down to unexpected good writing coupled with appropriate directing.

It just doesn’t happen often enough for a number one show.

Because it could do. It used to. If anyone on NCIS or CBS had time and inclination to revisit the past, you’d see how it ought to be done. You’d see what made you number one.

You made the show. Us, the fans, made you number one. We deserve better. Hell, even you deserve better.

Instead of this gradual weakening, which means you’ll go out with a whimper at some point in the future, you could make us one last terrific season of NCIS and go out with a bang. Something to remember you by. Something that would make some of us sad, and make us miss you.

Get it right!

As I understand it, the actors get paid well enough, although I suspect the male actors might be paid more. Mark Harmon is certainly rumoured to make a minor fortune for every episode. I almost wrote ‘earn’ but realised that he doesn’t earn anything the way he’s forgotten to act, or even caring about the show or the fans.

This week’s dance around Fornell? Embarrassing.

McGee has let himself go completely. It’s not the twins; it’s something much deeper that’s wrong. The beard, obviously, but there’s more to it. Or less, depending on how you see it.

Bishop is mostly the way she was, but comes across as quite mature by comparison. Torres is a treasure. He’s cool in way DiNozzo never was (although I recognise that Michael Weatherly was what kept people together), and kind at the same time.

Palmer is good, managing to be a cross between his old self and Ducky. I’m a bit disappointed now with Sloan, who seems to forget how an agent behaves and babbles about things all over the place, getting emotional. But that will be the script writers, not the actor.

Finally Abby. She’s not quite herself, but based on the rift between Pauley Perrette and Mark Harmon, that’s hardly surprising. I can’t work out how Abby’s going to go, but that almost doesn’t matter now. If the show is to continue (please no!) there needs to be a forensic scientist, but how they could make that work, I’ve no idea.

Back to the money. NCIS must make a fair bit of money, being number one and all that, and managing to pay its actors handsomely. I can’t help but feel that this means they have responsibilities too, to the viewers, and to their advertisers. It’s time you all worked for that money. It’s clearly too late for mature behaviour on the set, but I feel the money should pay for that as well.

So, you can’t – or won’t – have Abby and Gibbs on at the same time. If one or both of them is dangerous and a risk to others, the police should be told. If there is ‘merely’ a quarrel of some kind, a major CBS show like NCIS should be strong enough to make two actors work together like the adults they supposedly are.

Fixing it so they are never together is ruining not just season 15, but it really does take pleasure away from past seasons. Somehow you can’t un-see what is going on now. Watching season 14 backwards, you discover that the rift was already there. The last two episodes are almost totally free from overlap between the two, and the episodes before them have a really weird feel to them.

It’s too late to put all this right. I wish you could, because we really do deserve better. The odd, almost OK episode would almost make up for it, were it not for the Gabby split.

Fair Fairweather

Eight years isn’t too late to review a concert, is it?

Daughter says it isn’t, but she seems to have forgotten the whole evening, which is surprising for someone who remembers everything, especially when I don’t.

So, Dennis Locorriere came to the Lowry back in 2010 (although the rate at which he tours, I’m sure he’s been back several times since). I’d been looking forward to it, as the time I saw him before that, was one of those magical evenings. But this time – eight years ago – he half lost his shine.

Though that’s not what I want to tell you about.

Dennis had someone there to play first, and I hate that! This was someone I’d never heard of; Andy Fairweather Low. Yes, I realise I was unusual in this. But anyway. There was Andy, looking like a middle-aged bank manager, singing unexpected songs in a most unexpected voice. I hoped he wouldn’t take too long over it.

But you just never know when you’ll fall in love, do you? No, not that way. Just the music.

By the second song I was enjoying this bank manager in his brown suit. I was more than pleased that he sang for about 45 minutes, which is a thought that would have shocked me when he started.

In the interval before Dennis came on, I rushed out to beat the queue to buy Andy’s CDs and have them signed. I was second, but had the bad luck to be second after a really big fan. But that was enlightening in itself, as I realised some people had actually come to hear Andy, rather than Dennis. So I listened in on the conversation, and eventually got my CDs signed, and went back in.

That’s when I experienced a certain level of disappointment. But I have already written about that here, and been told off by a fan, so there’s no need to go into that again.

I have listened a lot to Andy Fairweather Low since then, always enjoying his singing. I have also, slightly fruitlessly, looked online every now and then in the hopes he’d be coming to a stage near me, but somehow the time or the place never seemed right.

(In my current situation, I can heartily recommend coming to the Stirling Albert Halls. If they’re good enough for Jimmy Osmond…)

But what about the dead marine?

Gibbs, Gibbs, you’ve lost your sense of proportion here. There is hardly ever anything more important than a dead marine. You need to find out who killed him or her, and get justice.

But no, once we knew who had done the killing this week, however un-intentional, it seemed to get lost in the general cuteness of how to achieve a happy end for all. Apart from our dead marine.

So yes, it was a sweet – if not necessarily terribly realistic – ending.

The mix of two pairs of misbehaving teenage girls was a clever one, though, and kept us guessing a while.

And this was surely another new Kayla Vance?

Abby vs Gibbs

It’s amazing how little you see, unless you know to look. After what I discovered yesterday, I’ve spent the morning on some NCIS-based research. It’s anything but complete, and I admit I don’t have access to any official facts, but when a Facebook friend posted a photo of a couple of US magazines to illustrate a point he wanted to make about something totally unrelated, my eyes were drawn to another magazine on the edge of the picture, which prompted me to do a search on the words on the cover of whatever the magazine might be: ‘Harmon drove Perrette off show.’

Magazine cover

I’m one of the last people I know who would write publicly about something based on gossip, which might very well be just that. But, for once I am tempted to believe there is some truth in what I accidentally came across.

OK, maybe Pauley Perrette didn’t decide to leave NCIS at the end of season 15 because Mark Harmon insists on bringing his pitbull Dave to work with him, or that she’s scared of the dog. What seems clear after more looking into things is that a year before her announcement, Dave took a bite out of someone on the NCIS set. All sources at the time (October 2016) claim Dave has not been back.

But there’s a reason for Pauley’s decision to leave. I’d been intending to speculate a little on this, since short of her being ill, I didn’t have her down as a quitter. She has always seemed to be someone who might well be the last one standing, in fact.

Maybe Dave is now back. Maybe not. Perhaps Pauley complained about him and met only hostility. Maybe she is angry at this. Maybe Mark Harmon is angry about Dave-related issues, or about something entirely different.

Because there has to be a reason why – just like the gossip magazine claimed – Gibbs and Abby are not filmed together in season 15.

All right, a few episodes is not proof of anything, and I can’t believe I never noticed that one is not there if the other is; that there are no more kisses for Abby when she’s done well. Other people visit her in her lab. The one time I found them talking to each other, it was over the phone.

I don’t know. But it makes the public comments from Mark about her departure sound rather hollow. If the set is still really like one big happy family, there would be no need to keep the two in separate rooms.

What’s more, it makes it harder watching older – and happier – episodes, as I found when I happened to catch the beginning of season three last night.

Not just a pretty face

It’s amazing how coming face-to-face with someone off television makes you feel as if you’re meeting an old friend. And in this instance I don’t mean in the street, but seeing them on a different television screen. Like the Christmas University Challenge.

Now, I do know a few people who’ve been on the ‘celebrity’ teams anyway. But then the other day, Daughter and I were taken aback to find Bishop’s screen ex-husband (the snake..!) Jake on one of the Cambridge teams, as himself; Jamie Bamber.

We did always like Jake on NCIS. At least until he cheated on Bishop and had to be escorted off the premises by Gibbs.

Anyway, it was nice to see him again, and even nicer to find he’s a knowledgeable and intelligent man. Somehow you suspect actors and musicians of being a bit substandard in a general educational way. Here I have to say that without Jamie his team would have done a lot worse.

In the semi-finals they were up against an Oxford team, on which we were very happy to find Frank Cottrell Boyce, and happier still to hear him describe himself as a children’s author (and not the man responsible for having the Queen fling herself out of a helicopter in the company of James Bond). Frank is a very educated and intelligent man, and more than a credit to his team.

There have also been a few musicians this year, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what they know.

And then you tend to be equally surprised by how little some others know. But as Jeremy Paxman says, they did not have to do this.

My feeling is that more women would make for better teams. And more authors, preferably children’s authors. I can provide a list of suggestions, should the BBC require help.

The Stone of Destiny

The Resident IT Consultant rather surprised me. Back in the summer we wanted to have a few films to watch, and I asked him if there was anything he fancied getting. The response was immediate, and surprising. He wanted The Stone of Destiny.

For reasons I can’t easily explain here, he sees many more film trailers than I do. I assumed he’d come across it in the cinema during the last year or so. And then it turned out the film was almost ten years old. I was amazed he even remembered.

But of course he would, as it’s about Scottish history. We could see a trailer on YouTube, but then we hit a stone wall. In the end he sourced a Polish version online, with subtitles and everything. (If you’re really clever you can turn the subtitles off, but it was harder than it usually is.)

Ian Hamilton, Stone of Destiny

This is the true story of a group of young people from Scotland who go to London in 1950 to steal the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey. They do it on Christmas Eve (because that’s such a good time to commit a crime…). And they succeed.

Naturally.

It’s not an outstanding film or anything, but it’s fun and informative for rookie Scots. It’s got Robert Carlyle in it, and a group of relatively unknown actors (to me, anyway). I enjoyed it, and I could really feel the cold in that unheated B&B somewhere in London. The capital at Christmas looks very fine, if chilly, and then they drive north with the stone and it looks like summer near the Scottish border. That drive either took a long time, or the weather’s so much better up here. Or continuity forgot to lose the leaves on the trees.)

Stone of Destiny - film

It was not a forever triumph over the English, but it was good enough.

The film is worth seeing, especially without the subtitles. And the Resident IT Consultant got so fired up he [re]read Ian Hamilton’s book about his exploits as a young man, which we had on our Scottish shelves.

Naturally.

(Co-published with Bookwitch.)