TV The only episode of 'Pop Idol' I watched featured the sweary spat between Simon Cowell and Pete Waterman over Darius (I believe). I'll never forget the look on Ant & Dec's chipmonk faces as they realised they would have to issue an apology. But the format was a success, and the progeny too (although I suspect if Jim Morisson was alive he would have gone after Will Young with a paint gun for the travesty which sits at number one in the UK Top 40 this week), so it's no surprise that it's been transplanted wholesale to the US. One of the judges is Paula Abdul and Cowell is there too, much to bemusement of Television Without Pity, whose blow-by-blow account just proves that some things are universal:
"In the very first group is Jacquette Williams, the super-extra-plus-sized woman who never thought she'd even make it past the first round. Well, I hope she liked her stay in Pasadena, because this is where the Train of Diversity disembarks. She sings a verse of "Respect" fairly well. After yanking her chain back in Chicago, Simon simply tells Jacquette that "[she doesn't] look like an American Idol." Jacquette responds, "Says who?" Simon gives another spiel about how the "record-buying audience around the world" expects a certain image from their idols. Randy asks Simon what "the look" of an American Idol is and points out that she just sang Aretha Franklin, hardly a svelte pixie of a pop icon. Simon argues that if Aretha showed up today on a show like this, she wouldn't win. Ouch. But is the problem that kids won't buy acts like Aretha, or is the problem that guys in charge like Simon have convinced themselves that kids won't buy acts like Aretha so never even give them the option? And also, why isn't anybody challenging Simon's creds? None of the acts he represents have managed to crack the American market. Why should we trust his judgment? The performers aren't the only ones here trying to make it big in America, are they, Simon?"
Reading such a thorough synopsis of the thing I still can't imagine what it looks like. Bad, I expect.
People The Geek grew up. Anthony Michael Hall stars in the tv adaptation of Stephen King's 'The Dead Zone' and looks like an adult. When are you going to start that vital weblog, Tony?
Travels with Matsui



[Because some music is so good it's beyond review. If you like real music at all you'll like this.]
TV There is a line in 'The Big Chill' which I think exemplifies this year's Big Brother UK. Glenn Close and Jeff Goldblum are sitting on a couch on the last night of their weekend down memory lane, and Jeff turns to Glenn and says, "I believe people are having sex here." Like it's some kind of faith issue. Well I believe people are having sex in the Big Brother. We the viewers wouldn't know, because Channel 4, not usually so slow to pick up on anything selatious have completely failed to monopolise on the goings on in the house. In the highlights show the other night there was hint (although it wasn't referred to in the voiceover) that something went on between PJ and The Mouth, sorry Jade. There was a scut away before their fumblings became explicit and it hasn't been referred to since. This jars measurably with their coverage of Helen and Paul last year. But here's the thing. Lee and Sophie where intercoursing in the other bedroom. Apart from the yuk factor, it does make me wonder why they would throw away viewers like that. If it had been last year, there would have been endless trailers. This time all of the focus was on Sandy going over the top. You can see why Endemol who make Big Brother would be pissed. By concentrating on someone else leaving, they effectively underlined what isn't working this year over what has worked. Actually, people walking out (Jade and Sophie possible walkers soon) makes for interesting television -- when the group begins to stagnate, why not introduce someone else into the mix?
Sport I'm in love with the on-going story of the underdog (perhaps because I'm as plucky as everyone else). I'm the one who thought Sunita would win Big Brother, that Lib Dems will always win General Elections, that all of those flash in the pan girl groups like Bellefire will reach number one without any airplay. So this year's World Cup has been something of a dream. Before match after match Alan Greene or some other Radio Five Live pundit will write off a team and map out the tournament as they see it will progress. This morning for example, Korea had no chance of qualification, not against a team like Portugal. Really. The USA will have no chance -- soccer as they call it isn't that popular there, it's only being carried by a minor TV station. Ahem. Senegal. Right. Time after time, teams which have apparently no chance are finding feet of gold and minting result after result. And teams which we tipped as potential winners find themselves enjoying executive class as they fly home. So see you France, Argentina, Portugal. It gladdens the heart that for once nothing is set down -- anyone could win. Although it'll probably be Brazil. Who are they playing next so that I support that team instead?
Books & Music Adventures in Wonderland by Sheryl Garratt
The first beer I ever drank was at the age of twenty at Jazz Festival in Leeds city centre. I didn’t like it and I didn’t drink another for two months. Nothing about beer and that which surrounded it ever really appealed to me. Still doesn’t really. Which is why reading Garratt’s book has opened a portal to reality not my own – each page dripping with moments of ‘look what you missed’. I don’t think I missed that much actually but I’ll get to that later.

Rather like a science book tracing human beings from the earliest microbe, Garratt begins her odyssey in 1947 with the origins of the discotheque, and the original dance bars of the 1960s. It’s a good place to begin and unlike lesser works actually places the eventual explosion in the 1980s into some kind of historical context. The mid-section of the book, 1988-1990 deals with that explosion and how small group of people with the idea of bringing the feeling of the Ibiza clubs to Britain ended up revolutionising an industry and driving it underground. The final section deals with the aftermath and how it’s still going strong albeit in a highly controlled, corporate environment.

The reason I set out my stall from the outset is because although it's a book written very much for people who where there at the time, I was still able to read it from a dispassionate point of view. It scared the wits out of me. I missed this? But then, as someone who prides himself on his individuality, I find it incredible that so many people would essentially throw away that which made them special in a fight for some kind of collective high. At various points in the book we find words like ‘mass’ describing a crowd of people. Yes, they all love each other, but at what price?

The book also finds some difficulty in trying to reconcile the fact that much of this industry and in fact the original ideal had a basis in recreational drugs. The general feeling seems to be that E was never the problem, it was the people selling it. What isn’t ever explained is why some would choose to mix with such obviously dangerous men in order to get their drug high. Was it really worth that much? I’m being na├»ve no doubt, but didn’t they ever realise that the initial buzz had evaporated and that they could probably get as high on the atmosphere as the tablet? And what’s missing from their lives that only a tablet can fix? Surely facing up to our own issues head on makes us stronger?

Having read the book I do feel more knowledgeable about my own generation. Whereas I’d often ignorantly look down sometimes on people who would choose this way of life I now at least understand it, and in some ways envy the freedom they had. Or have. But then I read stories like this from today’s Liverpool Echo and despite what Garratt might say in the closing moments of her book, things haven’t changed that much. Money is still spoiling it for everyone.
Logobar Sophie Ellis-Bextor has a new single out ...
Quiz!

18

I act like I'm 18.
This test was brought to you by Mel - She'll bite you ;o). Take it here.

Not all that surprised. [via Grrrl]
Walking I remember watching a report on a local news programme about how the hills were being destroyed by hundred of rambler trampling over the ground, destroying everything in their boot's path. Well now there is a new danger from large vehicles and cycling groups. Ancient paths are being lost. The Ridgeway, for example, said to be Britain's oldest road is being shattered:
"Recently, however, many parts of this ancient route have been gouged into deep ruts which fill with water in wet weather and the path surface has been churned by tyres into thick mud that is almost as sticky as glue. These days you are all too likely to be confronted by a group of trail bikers or four-wheel drives. While these vehicles have a legal right to use the trail, concerns are mounting that they are destroying such ancient tracks, known as green lanes, which evolved thousands of years before the internal combustion engine."
I think the word here is 'sensitivity'. This is the kind of landscape which should be enjoyed by all, but it shouldn't be destroyed just because someone wants to get where they're going a bit quicker. That said I am glad someone invented cars and trains. I'd hate the commute if I still had to walk to Manchester ...
Commuter Life I watched a tree grow today -- I'm almost at Warrington --
You get the idea...
People It's rumoured that one of Ashley Judd's next films will be Star Trek X -- talk about coming full circle, returning to one of her original acting roles as Wesley Crusher's girlfriend. Glancing down the list at the IMDb, there isn't much her career which really leaps out -- 'Ruby in Paradise' perhaps, and 'Heat' -- 'The Passion of Darkly Moon' if you're in a kind mood. As Flametracker describes for someone who showed so much promise so early on in her career, it's a shame that she's been lately treading water:
"In the strange alchemy of Hollywood, tough chicks who hide .38s in the folds of their strapless gowns don't actually get to have sex with anyone, unless it's the abusive creep in the movie's first act -- which might in part explain why audiences didn't buy Judd in the repellently bland romantic comedy Someone Like You, in which she starred with Hugh Jackman. Similarly, no one flocked to see her in Where the Heart Is, in which she played the kind of down-home country gal that, at least on paper, once seemed likely to become her bread-and-butter -- the kind of character that Ruby, by all rights, should have been but wasn't, thanks mostly to Judd's transcendent skills."
There is the theory that Judd's career has been hijacked by Angelina Jolie -- the two are very similar, but Jolie is a bit taller. That said, like Wes, when I see her, my neutinos start drifting (geeky Star Trek injoke inc.).
Obituary PlayUK is dead (almost).
Theatre I'm not surprised my people still find Shakespeare to be relevant:
"Many theatre companies today are constantly looking for new ways to attract Generation X; those young people who have been brought up with many more entertainment options and are far more used to the screen than the stage," said Adrian Noble.
Cynically, I'm sure Baz Lurhmann had something to do with this -- and those questioned who answered postively so that they didn't look bad. But speaking as part the majority, the age group listed, I feel like we're a generation who are open to new things and willing to develop multi-faceted interests -- as happy messing about to dance music as iambic pentametre instead -- one talking to the heart, the other the head.