Category: Writing

Don’t read the John C. Wright story in the Hugo Packet

I appreciate that is rather like saying ‘don’t stick beans up your nose’ but I am seriously suggesting people don’t read it. It is (I assume unintentionally) a nasty violent sexual assault fantasy with overtones of child abuse. I doubt that is what John C. Wright intended, indeed I imagine he may think of it as morally uplifting but the finished product is bad both morally and as a piece of writing and even by the standards of John C. Wright. I’d say it is easily the most repugnant piece of writing of his I’ve read.

A summary and discussion below the fold.

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Timothy the Talking Cat Presents: How to cook a frozen pizza the Hugo way

timpizzaFrozen pizza: the forbidden food. Yet these instructions defeat me. Yes, I, a cat who can field strip an AR-15 in the dark and without the aid of opposable thumbs, am incapable of reading these tiny instructions or operating the big heaty kitchen box thingy.

Time to turn to wiser heads. Who better than the six nominated writers for the Hugo 2017 Best Writey Book Prize!

All the Pizza in the Box

When Patricia opened the freezer, she found a melancholy pizza box. It sat on top of a pile of oven chips in the crook formed by a box of frozen spinach and an unopened tub of lactose-free ice cream. With the pizza crying subliminally to end its misery by being eaten, Patricia looked past the nutritional information label and onto the cooking instructions but all she could see was fear. Not just fear, but also misery, and not just misery but also Italian sausage and pineapple. Patricia still didn’t understand how the life could just go out of a popular cuisine, but she could tell the very concept of ‘pizza’ was fighting against death with what little resources it had left.

Patricia vowed that she would call upon the powers of magic to preheat the oven to 390 degrees Farenheit.

Laurence, his hair the colour of late-autumn leaves, suggested either using the time-travelling cyber-microwave he’d built or at least preheating the oven to 472.039 Kelvin.

Box’s End: The Three Pizza Problem

Yun Tianming listened to the radio from his hospital bed. The United Nations had jointly formed a resolution to condemn the doctrine known as ‘not being arsed to cook anything nutritious’. With the Trisolans a hundred years away from Earth, humanity had, in despair, stopped making an effort to cook anything decent.

The special session of the United Nations was being addressed by a tall American man.

“We must ensure the oven has been properly heated before putting the pizza into to cook!” he stated firmly.

The various national representatives sat in shocked silence until one of them spoke up:

“But how can we wait so long! The crisis is nearly upon us!”

The man nodded. “Yes, our only hope is to recruit at least six men of the right mental attitude. Each one will be placed in suspended animation until the oven is correctly preheated! They will be cut off from their families, friends, everything they know and awake in a world very different from ours! A world ten to fifteen minutes in the future!”

The Obelisk Box

“A what?” you say.

“An oven tray.” Alabaster, beloved cookmonster, sane madchef, the most powerful pizza-dough spinner in all of the Stillness, stares at you. This has all of his old intensity and you feel the will of him, the stuff that makes him a force of nature when it comes to bread-based Italian derived food stuff. “A metal plate for food to rest on.”

“A what?” you repeat.

He makes a tiny sound of frustration. He’s completely the same, aside from being covered in frozen peas. The same as in the days when you and he were less than dining companions and more than friends. Ten years and a couple of apocalypses ago. “Frozen-Gastronomy isn’t foolishness,” he says, “I know you were taught that – everyone in the Stillness thinks its a waste of energy to use their own oven when they can simply dial out for a pizza or maybe order it online. But… but I thought you would have learned to question the status-quo by now.”

“I had other things to do,” you snap, just like you always used to snap at him.

Too Like the Toppings

The witch Frisby approached the oven, her humanist boots clipping the floor in a rhythm like the spears of Menelaus approaching the walls of Illium.

Must thou once again use such words, Mycrust? We have had words on this thou and me already. Speak more on the cooking of this ‘pizza’ and less on witchcraft.

Must I, dear reader? When the innocent Candide was thrust out of his earthly paradise and taken in by those Genoese soldiers, would his tutor have counselled him that their baked snacks must be the best of all possible pizzas? Would Petrarch not lament that only the word ‘pizza’ remains of that noblest scion of Latin?

“But pizza was disallowed by the decree of 2205!” cried Carlyle Foster. “We can’t return to the dark days of the Domino-riots and the Pizzahut hegemony uprisings!”

“Along with big wigs, fabulous frocks and Enlightenment philosophy, we, one of the several secret conspiracies manipulating this society have also brought back pizza! But strictly in the privacy of one’s own ‘bash and between consenting adults!” explained Nepos Cousin Francis Bacon Diderot Seneca Augustine Louis MASON-Saneer-Weeksbooth-Huegnot-Bourbon-Hapsburg XIV, polylaw, sensayer, and vice-president of the Nintendo-Microsoft-Walmart Hive.

Ninetoppings Gambit

What Cheris remembered most was the instructor’s warning: returning to over cooked pizza, that was just over cooked pizza and not radiation gates contorted against hyperbolic cheese vectors and black-blasted pepperoni, was one of the best moments of a meal.

Thirty-minutes, twenty seconds, and one blistered finger later, surrounded by the smashed pineapple and the smouldering remains of chopped capsicum of the heretically anchovy-free oven pizza, Captain Kel Cheris had come to the conclusion that the instructions on the box were shit.

According to the oven’s manual, it was equipped with a directional fan-forced setting which would scramble reality vectors. The effect would be localised within the oven containment unit, but it was troublesome that at least one-quarter of the pizza topping was now inextricably baked to the upper inside surface of the oven. One miscalculation and the pizza could have been disintegrated down to its component sub-particles.

Cheris considered the fractal coefficient of the post heretical calendric settings of the oven timer. Despite everything – this pizza was cooked.

A Close and Common Pizza

Pepper looked at them all as they tucked into the charred cheese-stuff: the former genetic trash-sorter, the re-embodied AI simulacrium, the tentacle-monster that had come to terms with itself, the gelatinous cube that had found a new understanding with its long lost side-sibling, the reanimated megalithic three-toed sloth that had looked beyond the crude stereotypes of pre-Ice Age mammals, the abstract nano-cloud-being that had reforged its bonds of friendship across the mind-body divide and the martian/crocodillian hybrid kill monster that had learned that there was more to life than biting giants chunks out of people lost in the space-sewers.

They had done more than make a pizza together – they had made a family.



Timothy and the fancy restaurant

[Scene: A Fancy Restaurant]

Camestros Felapton: Huh what? Where am I?
Timothy the Talking Cat: At a fancy restaurant of course, silly.
CF: Oh for glob’s sake – we aren’t doing a restaurant sketch are we?
Tim: It was your idea.
CF: Really?
Tim: You’ve been a bit…odd the past few days but you wrote me a note. See?
CF (picks up note and read out loud): “Ha ha I see it all now. Let us celebrate with a mighty feast of the finest food tomorrow eve! See to the arrangements! Yours enlightendly, C. Felatponus”
Tim: See?
CF: Well it is my handwriting…
Tim: Exactly.
CF: But why is it written in blood?
Tim: That is odd.
CF: …and in Comic Sans?
Tim: You’ve been a bit intense of late.
CF: OK, well now that we are here…actually, where are we?
Tim: ‘La Dame Gris’ – it is very fancy.
CF: Greece? It looks more French than Greek.
Tim: Come on I’m hungry! Let’s order!
CF: Are you sure about this – I can’t help feeling this is going to end up as a laboured political metaphor about current events. You hate that.
Tim: You haven’t eaten properly in days. You’ve just been scribbling away and rambling on about Lord Voldermort.
CF: Seriously? I know I got a bit obsessed with that last book but I don’t remember Voldemort.
Tim: Yeah, some fancy dude, begins with a V, name is some freaky anagram he made up for himself.
CF: Voltaire?
Tim: Same thing. Sir Randolph Fiennes played them both in that movie.
CF: Well…no too much to unpack and correct there. As you said, we are here for a nice night off. So no shop talk OK!
Tim: OK! No Hugos, alt-right, pre-modern philosophers, book covers, or puppies.
CF: Or guns or why Theresa May should have me shot for treason.
Tim: No such words will pass my lips!
CF: It’s a deal.
Tim: Done.
CF: Well this is nice.
Tim: yup.
CF: Nice, um table cloth.
Tim: White is traditional I believe.
CF: Hmm.
Tim: They have more than one fork. That’s nice.
CF; Yes, nice.
Tim: Yup.
Tim: agh OK, OK, you can talk about something blog related.
CF: Well, funny you should mention that because I’ve been thinking a lot about track 08 of Clipping’s Splendor & Misery album. Now as you know, this track ’True Believer’ switches between history and mythology and also invokes the names of gods such as Loko Yima, the god upon the Earth in the creation myth of the Bantu people of the Kuba Kingdom of Central Africa. Now doesn’t that sound a lot like “Loki”? Which makes me wonder if Norse mythology has a Central African origin, transmitted via Mediterranean culture and interconnected figures such as Prometheus.
Tim: Or, then again, awkward silences can be quite refreshing.
Waiter: Are you ready to order.
Tim: Get a grip – its just a waiter.
CF: Sorry, sorry. I’ve been in hiding for weeks. I’m still getting used to the outside world again.
Waiter: That is quite all right sir. Now can I interest you in our degustation menu? The theme is Boulanger au gratin?
Tim (whispers): That’s French for grated balloon.
CF: Oh just a main course off the alley cart for me.
Tim: Likewise.
Waiter: But of course – here are the menus.
CF: gratias tibi
Tim: Oooh looks fancy. You know what, I’ll have the kibble.
CF: Timothy! It’s a fancy restaurant, you can’t order kibble.
Tim: oh pish-tosh, all the fancy Hollywood celebs order off menu.
Waiter: So one kibble for Mounsier le Chat Parlant, and for you sir?
CF: I’ll have the Cotelettes d’agneau grilles aux herbes de provence, beurre a la moutarde a l’ ancienne, ratatouille et pomme purée.
Waiter: Excellent choice sir.
Waiter: Your main course, sirs.
CF: EEEEKKKK! Stop sneaking up on me!
Tim: Camo! I’ve met calmer cats. Seriously. [to the waiter] Thank you my good sir. Please excuse my friend, he is a stupid head.
Waiter: Enjoy [departs]
CF: Hmm, this doesn’t look like cotelettes d’agneau grilles aux herbes de provence, beurre a la moutarde a l’ ancienne, ratatoville et pomme purée.
Tim: What exactly does cottle dagnoo grill oh herbs the province bur a la mortars ali machine ratatatat eat poms puree look like?
CF: Well, I don’t know exactly but I assume it doesn’t look like a slice of bread with a square of processed cheese on top.
Tim: Hmmm, I see your point. My kibble looks more rectangular than normal also. Indeed, it would appear to be exactly the same as your food.
CF: Why didn’t you say something when he put the plates down!
Tim: Why didn’t YOU say something?
CF: I was still alarmed by the sight of another human being, and also I had a sudden attack of being middle-class and British and couldn’t dream of making a fuss in a fancy restaurant.
Tim: Oh but you expect me to?
CF: USUALLY I can’t stop you.
Tim: (sniff) nope, definitely not kibble, definitely cheese on bread.
CF: That’s outrageous! You are lactose intolerant!
Tim: I’m ALL kinds of intolerant. I specialise in it.
CF: OK, I can do this. I *will* make a fuss.
Tim: I believe in you.
CF: (very quietly) um excuse me.
Tim: Louder!
CF: excusemeifyoudon’tminfcouldIjustsaysomething
Tim: That is about as assertive as carrot attempting to dissuade a rabbit.
CF: Well I don’t see you helping.
Tim (to waiter): OY! PENGUIN! GET OVER HERE!
CF: You are trying to murder me with embarrassment.
Waiter: Is everything all right sirs?
CF: Well, you see, um, thank you for the food and really, an excellent job on the cutlery and the plate and the delivery was excellent but…
Waiter: Yes?
CF: Well, I can’t help noticing that, um, and really its just my opinion and everything, but well…it is actually just a slice of bread with a slice of cheese on top.
Tim: Also this is not effin kibble.
Waiter: Well we have been trying to push the boundaries of our food here at La Dame Gris.
CF: Oh, I see.
Waiter: Indeed. We have attempted to address the question of diversity among our chefs.
CF: Well that’s very laudable. I know the upper echelons of the food industry are in desperate need of more people of colour, women, and other historically disadvantaged minorities.
Waiter: Indeed.
CF: I’m not sure that explains my food though. I hope you aren’t suggesting that only white heterosexual cis-men can cook?
Waiter: No, no, not at all. Indeed our new chef is very much of that ilk.
CF: I don’t get it then. In what way is that diverse?
Waiter: Well we at La Dame Gris has decided to tackle diversity of *ideas*. You see, for too long the upper echelons of cooking have been restricted to people who actually care about the quality of the food they produce. We have tried to break out of our liberal bubble and find somebody who can reach out to a wider audience of people who hate the very idea of nice food. It is time recognised our culinary bubble and look out beyond its borders.
CF: I think you may have misunderstood several basic concepts.
Tim: Look, just bring the bloody chef out here.
Waiter: Of course sir.
Chef: Yeah, what?
Tim: Why! It is Bret Stephens, former Pultizer Prize-winning columnist for the Wall Street Journal, neoconservative and now New York Times Columnist!
Chef: The very same!
CF: What a surprise! When the bread and cheese turned up I assumed our laboured political metaphor would be about that Fyrefest thingy! It turns out we are stuck in a laboured political metaphor about a New York Times Opinion piece on climate change.
Tim: Never mind that. I love your work dude but where’s my kibble?
Stephens: Look, food is an art form. It is about self-expression. Fine dining is about challenging your preconceptions and looking beyond your established ideas. I’m trying to start a conversation here – trying to get you to look beyond your implicit assumptions.
CF: yeah but this is a bit shit.
Waiter: With all due respect, you haven’t even tasted it yet.
CF: I had a nibble and its dry bread and plastic cheese.
Stephens: This is what is wrong with the liberal establishment. When confronted with challenging ideas they just try to avoid thinking about them.
CF: No, I just don’t want to go to a fancy restaurant and eat stale bread and processed cheese.
Stephens: You are showing the same kind of denial you attack others for. Look, it’s perfectly edible food. You are trying to paint me as some cuisine extremist but many ordinary people would see bread and cheese as a reasonable and well informed meal.
CF; No, no, no, look – I get bread and cheese. Heck, I’m probably even more into eating bread and cheese than you are but I don’t come to a fancy blimmin restaurant and expect to be given a shitty slice of bread with some shitty cheese.
Tim: oooooh, he said ‘blimmin’. He’s mad now. I’d skedaddle before he does something rash like gesticulate with his finger.
Waiter: Well, that’s just PROVING HIS POINT! It is a childish response to what was simply a way of broadening all our horizons. Bret has every right to express his ideas on food and you are just a mean left wing bully for not appreciating it.
Stephens: [sigh] I am so misunderstood.
Tim: By Bret.
Stephens: Oh, bye Timothy. See you at next week’s meeting of misunderstood conservative thinkers, yeah?
Tim: Will do! But, don’t ever feed me cheese again OK?
Stephens: Sure thing, Tim. That shit’s just for liberals.

Dear Mister Martin from Timothy T Cat

Dear Mister Martin,

Or can I call you George or Are-Are? You may remember me from my previous letters what I wrote you – specifically my lengthy inquiry as to whether Sue Perkins was a Stark or a Lannister or what? Camestros has since explained that I have been habitually confusing the BBC’s  ‘Great British Bake Off” with HBO’s “Games of Thrones”. This revelation has certainly cleared up many a query I had about where the story was going. Although I am still puzzled by the distinction between baking powder and baking soda – don’t worry! I understand a great writer like yourself has to have his secrets, so I’ll wait to find that out in the final episode.

My recent issues have been further compounded when I learnt of cast changes in your show and a change in venue. Now it is Sandi Toksvig? Is everybody turning into Sandi Toksvig? Stephen Fry turned into Sandi Toksvig as well and he was in the Hobbit – so don’t say it couldn’t happen to you. Camestros says that I am still getting that confused with The Great British Bake Off but I don’t see how because the show isn’t even called that in the United States, so how could HBO swap Sue Perkins for Sandy Toksvig? That makes no sense! Also, Sue Perkins is still on television but has her own rebel army which has declared a kingdom in the North – I’m guessing to revenge Sean Bean who failed the Mary Berry Signature Walnut Frosted Layer Cake Challenge in season 1.

Anyway, Noel Fielding is definitely a Targaryen – so at least that’s been cleared up.

Down to business! You sir, are a busy man or so I was told when I suggested writing this letter. What you may not know is that I am one of the best author/editor/publishers this side of the M25. Now between you, me and the scratching post, I have heard that many of your fans are impatient to find out how your epic ends and you don’t know because – like, how could you know? They probably haven’t even picked the contestants for next seasons Games of Thrones or even what baking challenges they will have to face! (Hope it’s not the caramelised walnuts again!) Yes, everybody wants another amazing twist like the Red Velvet Cake Wedding again but don’t those bozos know it isn’t a twist if you know it is going to happen! I feel you pain George, I do. Your fans are bozos. There, I said it. I hope you aren’t offended because we both know it is true. Don’t believe me? Just ask Mary Berry.

Anyhoo. Here is what I’m thinking. Why don’t I write a book to finish off your epic? Ha, ha, don’t worry – it won’t be the real end! No, you can keep writing your own ending but I can write a PRETEND ending. This way, all those bozos will think ‘Oh, Games of Thrones is over now and now I know how it ended! Who’d have thought the ice zombie monsters had all the thrones all that time! I guess that’s the end of the games!’ See? Then they leave you alone and you can work on more yummy recipes for the next season in peace. When you are finished you can say ‘Psyche bozos! That wasn’t the real ending! Here is the real ending – Sean Bean’s back and this time he has a flamethrower!’

My fee would be $1 million US. That may seem cheap but I need the money pretty sharpish to pay off a Russian dry cleaners that are holding my green suit hostage. I either pay them a million dollars or they release the recordings to CNN.

Let me know your thoughts ASAP


Tim RR Cat

Undergraduate Career Advice!

Yeah, but seriously if you are planning your post-school studies, seek proper professional advice and not this blog post.

Via numerous Twittery things, the question of what degree a young person intent on Higher Education should study has been doing the rounds in various ways. One source was a snarky comment about English degrees from a successful writer, a second one I ended up Tweeting about was somebody claiming that STEM students can cope with Arts/Humanities degrees better than vice-versa. I’ll get to the specific question of writing & the humanities v STEM in a bit but I want to look at things more generally first.

More after the fold – as this goes on for awhile.

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Couples, Star Wars and Rogue One

The Star Wars films use characters to play common roles and functions within the franchise. By ‘roles’ I mean less plot central aspects of the story such as ‘comic relief’ and by ‘functions’ I mean more directly plot relevant tasks such ‘character who delivers secret message’. To make the films both different and yet familiar roles and functions are repeated between films but divided between different characters (and/or objects).

This approach begins with the original Star Wars film (‘Episode 4’, ‘A New Hope’, or if you wish to troll two fandoms simultaneously ‘The Original Series’). Lucas takes roles and functions from other films but creates new characters around them. Lucas draws upon films like The Dam Busters, 633 Squadron, The Guns of Navarone and takes aspects of those films and reworks them into his film. The fjord in 633 Squadron has a function that is shared by the trench on the Death Star that leads to the exhaust port for example.

The most substantial source though is Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress. The roles (Princess, former general, former general’s rival on the enemy side, a hidden resistance base etc) are lifted from Kurosawa’s tale of rival clans in feudal Japan and placed in a new setting. However, there is not a simple mapping of Hidden Fortress to Star Wars, mainly because new characters and plot points are added but also because functions map out differently or brought in from other films.

However, one of the earliest points at which both films map is the classic shot of the bickering couple trudging through a desert. In Hidden Fortress the couple are the the two peasant soldiers Tahei and Matashichi, survivors and runaways from a battle. In Star Wars the couple are C3PO and R2D2, who have just escaped a space battle. The role of the couple are similar in both films – comedic banter and commentary on what the main characters are doing. In that latter role they provide a bridge between the main characters and the audience, wondering aloud (in Star Wars only C3PO actually intelligible) what is happening. The function they couples play is different. R2D2 has a very specific Star Wars role – carrying the Death Star plans to the Rebellion that does not have a simple parallel with Hidden Fortress.

In the sequels and prequels to Star Wars the couple role becomes less attached to the two droids. At times it passes to Anakin and Obi Wan in parts of episode 2 and 3, to Han and Chewbacca, Luke and Yoda but rarely lingers for reasons I’ll get to. In the Force Awakens (episode 7 or if you prefer ‘Star Wars:TNG’) the couple role bounces around multiple characters but is often centred on Finn (Finn and Bo Dameron, Finn and BB8, Finn and Rey, Finn and Han etc).

The couple role naturally connects with comedic relief. It turns up in classic comedy duos (Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy), buddy-cop movies and isn’t confined to male-male pairs. Nick and Nora Charles in the Thin Man series, Lucy and Ricky in I Love Lucy, Abbey and Martha Brewster the ageing sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace.

The pairing can be platonic or sexual but the familiarity of the role/trope is the married couple – two people who have known each other a long time. The role is not about sexual tension but it doesn’t preclude two characters between whom there is sexual tension sometimes playing aspects of the role (Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd in Moonlighting, even on occasion Mulder and Scully in the X-Files). The issue is not that the couple cannot ever have other emotional aspects to their relationship but rather when those other aspects come to the fore they play a different role. It is for this reason that the Star Wars prequels never maintain a consistent couple role in the way that Star Wars Original Recipe does with R2D2 and C3PO.

Rogue One passes the comedic relief role to K2-SO and the delivery of Death Star plans function to Bodhi Rook. R2D2 and C3PO get a cameo (of course – and establishing that R2D2 is busy controlling the rebellion on Yavin…). However, it also reinvents the couple role with Chirrut Iwe and Baze Malbus. Their role is less comedic but it is essentially the couple role. You can, if you wish, take it as a platonic friendship but as a supporter of the principle & traditions of marriage, I prefer to assume they are actually married (mind you I assume the same about R2D2 and C3PO so I’m easily persuaded towards this position).

As a pair, they have both overt differences from both the Star Wars IV couple and the Hidden Fortress couple but also distinct similarities.

Unlike Tahei and Matashichi they are season warriors who are brave and face danger. They are selfless and eager to help. They are competent and highly skilled. They both show wisdom and personal insight.

However, like Tahei and Matashichi they are found in desert surroundings amid (sort of) a battlefield. They are allied with the losing side in a conflict but have become separated from it. They are drawn back into the centre of the conflict by a woman protagonist. They form a nucleus of a small army under that woman’s leadership.

Likewise, they have a similar alternate-reality relationship with R2D2 and C3PO. The similarities are weaker than those with the Hidden Fortress pair. Most notably is the related but muted colour scheme of the pair that mirrors the droids.


Chirrut is dressed in blue and white (with a small amount of red). Baze is dressed in yellows/beige. They are not, of course, the R2D2-C3PO of Rogue One – they are different characters and have different functions but their role has distinct parallels with both the Droids and Tahei and Matashichi that also highlights the extreme differences.


“Wait, “you say, “this is somewhat convoluted. Where are you going with this? It’s not another…oh it is, isn’t it? For goodness sake…”

Yes, yes! This blog has only the one official fan theory and we will use any and all means to promulgate it.Chirrut is the R2D2 analogue in Rogue One *and* he is, as we also contend R2 is, a force user!

Chirrut is the R2D2 analogue in Rogue One *and* he is, as we also contend R2 is, a force user!They even both use the force to do the same thing!

Chirrut uses the force and personal focus to walk through a volley of blaster shots unharmed. R2D2 does the exact same thing only a few hours later (in-universe) on Captain Antilles ship!

No, don’t walk away! I’ve all sorts of other proofs to show you!

Doctor Who and the Da…Alt-Timelords

It is fine winter’s afternoon at Felapton Towers…


[Camestros] schrllgulup schrllgulup schrllgulup…
[Timothy] wuh? wah?
[Camestros] schrllgulup schrllgulup schrllgulup…
[Timothy] Stop it. Whatever that is that you are doing, stop it.
[Camestros] Opportunity of a lifetime old boy!
[Timothy] It’ll be the end of your lifetime if you wake me up like that again.
[Camestros] Look, see. [shoves an antique walnut and silver Galaxy Note 7 at Timothy]
[Timothy] The headline says: “Oh my god he’s going to kill us all isn’t he?”
[Camestros] No, no, not the US Politics section, below that. Entertainment.
[Timothy] Beyonce is going to have twins! Hooray!
[Camestros] Below that.
[Timothy] Hmmm ‘Peter Capaldi will be leaving Doctor Who’. Hmm…

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