The Christmas dozen

24th December 2023

John Wyver writes: a tiny present in the form of a short selection of readings and listenings, some seasonal and some not, that caught my attention over the past week. The image is ‘The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel‘, 1308-1311, by the Sienese painter Duccio di Buoninsegna, tempera on poplar panel, courtesy of the truly enlightened open access policy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Happy Christmas!

Pluralistic: 2024’s public domain is a banger: this, my friends, is how a links post should be done, from the maestro Cory Doctorow — about copyright, the public domain and sex, basically. There is also a very good edition of Free Thinking from this past week about the same subject (although mostly without the sex), with guests David Bellos, author of Who Owns This Sentence? – A History of Copyrights and Wrongs, Katie McGettigan, lecturer in C19th American literature and Hayleigh Bosher, Reader in Intellectual Property Law at Brunel University London. Pleasingly, it’s only minutes into the discussion of copyright before one of the guests comes out with the all-too-familiar mantra, ‘There are a lot of grey areas really’.

The lost world: Rebecca Giggs for the New York Review of Books on dinosaurs [£, but you get a single free article] is a great read.

Christmas Around Europe: this nearly day-long broadcast has been the soundtrack to my week, and is always one of the highlights of the holiday season – the joyful, endlessly surprising EBU-organised annual celebration of Christmas music from all around Europe; the link is to Part 1 on BBC Sounds; Part 2 is here, and Part 3 here.

Films that Work Harder: The Circulation of Industrial Film: what an absolutely wonderful present from Amsterdam University Press, who have an exemplary open access policy for many of their volumes! This is a freely downloadable .pdf of a very substantial new collection edited by Vinzenz Hediger, Florian Hoof, Yvonne Zimmermann and Scott Anthony about ‘the dynamic relationship between film, industrial organization and economic development’. The thirty essays are by many of the leading scholars in the field of industrial ‘useful cinema’.

BBC R&D 2023 highlights: lest we forget the totally brilliant work done by researchers and programme makers with the Corporation, here’s a very short compilation of innovations over the past year – for more detail go to this excellent summary.

Alphaville forever: Bilge Ebiri for Vulture on the new restoration of Jean-Luc Godard’s timeless classic [£, but you get one free read a month].

How to stay sane: ‘a Christmas message of hatred and anger’, with a bit of swearing, and a smidgen of hope, from the treasurable Ian Dunt, via his new (and now funded, but still freely available) newsletter, Striking 13.

The disturbing impact of the cyberattack at the British Library: a deeply depressing read from Sam Knight for The New Yorker:

In The Library of Babel, the short story by Jorge Luis Borges, the thrill of a library that contains every possible book is succeeded by “a similarly disproportionate depression,” when its readers realize that the place is totally unnavigable. “The word that gets overused in many other contexts but is absolutely applicable here is Borgesian,” [scholar Daniel Starza] Smith said. “It is like the literalization of a Borgesian library problem. . . . You can access everything but you can’t access anything. ”

Matter of the Heart: because a little sentiment at Christmas is definitely a good thing, here’s a seasonal ad for the Dutch pharmacy chain DocMorris:

They want you to forget what a film looks like: Chris Person at aftermath is very good on the problems (and potential) of machine learning techniques being used to upscale films, including the effects of colourisation; much of his wrath is reserved for Park Road Post, a subsidiary of Peter Jackson’s WingNut Films, and while Person is mostly writing about recent versions of True Lies, AliensThe Abyss, and Titanic, he sees the rot having set in with Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old:

They Shall Not Grow Old is difficult to stomach, with the soldiers being motion interpolated in a melting, shambolic manner. The digital noise reduction is inconsistent – film grain is present on the skin of soldiers and absent in other places, following their faces like reptilian scales. This is an enthusiastic, clumsy use of a technology on severely damaged footage. 

Brianna Ghey and dark net ‘red rooms’: with some disturbing content, this is a valuably informative post about the dark net from Jamie Bartlett’s How to Survive the Internet blog, along with some sensible advice for parents.

The best video essays of 2023: an absolutely invaluable digest of hours and hours of fascinating and rewarding videographic practice, compiled for the BFI and Sight&Sound by Queline Meadows, Irina Trocan and Will Webb, who to compile this list of 181 essays sought the views of 48 voters.

• and finally… from (of all places) Channel 4’s Eurotrash back in the day, here’s Sinéad O’Connor (oh, that smile!) and Terry Hall, once with the Coventry band The Specials, who died a year ago this week:


  1. Billy Smart says:

    The whole of ‘A Song For Eurotrash’, presented by Anton De Caunes and Katie Boyle, can be found on YouTube – . If you want more recently-deceased Irish rock stars, it also includes Shane MacGowan’s interpretation of ‘What’s Another Year’.

    I bought the ‘Song For Eurotrash’ album for 50p in Music & Video Exchange a few years later. Everything is improved by being divested of having to watch the wearying larky, day-glo, nineties TV visuals when you listen to it! It includes two recordings that I’m very attracted to – Edwyn Collins’ version of ‘Ding-A-Dong’, and Dubstar & Sacha Distel’s interpretation of ‘Popee De Cire, Poupee De Son’.

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