Review! The Guardian reviews Graham Coxon's new album Crow Sit on Blood Tree: "The whole process, Coxon boasts revealingly, took just two weeks: it sounds like it. At its worst meandering and melody-free, 'Crow Sits on Blood' Tree mostly trundles along, exciting neither interest nor ire." With a title like that, I'm surprised Rick Wakeman isn't humming backing vocals...
Review! Anonymous Juice reviews people who scoff at 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon': "How dare you, you poncy bastards in the second row with your FCUK mock turtlenecks and vintage Stan Smith’s, your plucked sideburns, your haircuts brushed forward Caesar-style and pricked up at the front as if Caesar was caught in some Gaullic headwind. Your Guinness paunch hidden by your FCUK mock turtleneck, your gaunt, spindly chicken legs safe from harm inside your stovepipe Levi’s." Somehow flying in the face of the film's success at the cinema, the DVD company has released the film with 'English Dubbing' as the default setting. Grrr...
Salsa Shark Spent a great lunch time today in Manchester Town Hall Square enjoying the free Salsa festival. Underlining the wierdness of working Saturdays, I stuck out like a saw thumb in my suit and tie (although it certainly beat the usual wondering aimlessly looking for a cash machine). Music provided by an Los Lobos xerox - who worked the quite large crowd around from stunned amazement to general love in, spontaneous dancing errupting all over. Amazed to find I knew some of the songs. There is something glorious about 'world' music played in metropolitan cities, as anyone whose spent five minutes watching four Fijians giving what for to a set of drums and pan pipes will attest to. UK Salsa seems to be hub of the UK Salsa movement (so to speak), although you can imagine terrific rivalry with Salsa-Jive (is there much crossover there?). And it been said on many occasions that Salsa is a great way to meet people so perhaps it's about time I took it up...
Books The Illustrated Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Published in 1994.

This edition of The Guide was published at time when a film was looking increasing unlikely, and an extra impetuous was perhaps required for the story within the market place. The premise is simple. Re-imagine the novel as a photographic picture book, scenes depicted without being handstrung by budget or casting.

At first glance it’s hard to imagine that the entire novel has been reproduced within its ninety-four pages. But upon reading everything is there, no guide entry lost, no dialogue guides omitted. This is the British version of The Book in all of it’s glory. But you can look elsewhere for a review of the text.

The actual format of the book resembles a magazine. There are box-outs highlighting famous quotes, the text appears in two columns, and the first sentence of each chapter is in big bold letters and underlined. In fact, in many ways this could be an up-to-date version of a medieval manuscript.

The quality of the images, is where the book flies. It would have been quite simple to recreate or re-stage scenes from the already deeply familiar tv series. But Douglas stated that he was never happy with some sections of that work, his ideas never quite being possible on the kind of BBC budget akin to Doctor Who.

Instead, everything changes, and in some cases this may even be for the better. At the time the book was produced, Simon Jones, everyone’s idea of Arthur Dent was still young enough to be imagined in the role. He was still perfect in the ‘making of’ spin-off video and in his work for ‘The South Bank Show’. So it’s somewhat disconcerting to find the earthman played by – Jonathan Lermit, perhaps because in this dressing gown he looks as much Dent-like as Jones did, particularly in the opening shot of Arthur shaving and noticing the bulldozer in his front garden.

Tom Finnis’s Ford Prefect (unlike David Dixon) is not as effecting, but does have a particularly moody shot, looking startled at a Babel Fish. The new Zaphod Beeblebrox (Francis Johnson) is dazzling and perhaps the most prominent of the four characters, the designers obviously pleased with themselves because they managed to get the two heads on both shoulders (and not the lump Mark Wing-Davy was saddled with on TV). Trillian is the oddest change. From the sloan of radio’s Sheila Hancock, to the American madness of Sandra Dickinson, we have someone called Tali, who looks unnervingly like Kim Wilde as though she’d followed Madonna’s lead in fashion during the ‘Like a Virgin’ era.

Of the other ‘actors’, we have a particularly gruesome Prosser imagined as Alexander The Great; Marvin becomes a skeletal wreck of over design and sadness; the Vogon Captain reminds me too much of Gilbert The Alien from kids tv show ‘Get Fresh’; Douglas himself appears as one of the space policeman hunting for Zaphod.

All of this is a shock to the system, until one realises that the designers are quite rightly attempting to reflect the prose of the radio show and not the tv. We assume Trillian would look like Sheila Hancock, because that is the voice we here. Actually Tali seems closer to the mark, given the girl’s recent studentship. Making Zaphod black just makes him cooler.

Amongst these scenes, with find the various guide entries, imagined in actuality – the towel, the Babel fish, the Earth (hamless). If these seem less successful, it’s because the tv guide was so vivid and as we might imagine The Book would look. There is also a feeling that these images have to be there, although only vague thought has gone into them.

The things missing are the sounds. And Peter Jones.

Hitchhiker’s collectors will probably have bought this book anyway, and if they haven’t they should hunt it out. If you’re more of a casual fan see if your library has it, at least so that you can revel in the glowing dust cover, which underneath (by the way) does indeed have the words ‘Don’t Panic’ in big friendly letters.

[Updated ... 10/09/2003 ... this was the review referred to in the post below ... just to keep things nice and tidy]
Review! My review of The Illustrated Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy has reached 42 hits - something of a milestone, especially on the day BBC2 presents an Omnibus tribute.
Review! Metafilter reviews a review "My opinion is that if you are a reviewer, you should at least have the potential to enjoy the work -- subjectively or objectively -- to be able to consider yourself qualified to review. And in this case, it seems to be like a vegetarian saying "well, I like food, so that makes me qualified to review restaurants" and then damn them all for serving meat. Like getting Doctor Laura to evaluate your porn, or me to review a tennis match."
Review! THE TONY FERRINO PHENOMENON at 'Off The Telly': "As well as avoiding these perils, the script also avoids too many "funny foreigner" jokes, getting laughs from broken English. The few they do include are worth it, like when Tony has both his assistant, "the lovely" Maria, and Kim Wilde on stage, and claims "I cannot choose between you, I must toss. Who wants head?" while producing a coin." Personally I thought this was one of Coogan's weaker creations, a riff-on Stavros, feeding from a single catchphrase - "I donnot like wassis!"
Commuter Life Having recently joined the ratrace, Commuters - Learn to Let Go offers some useful tips. The one thing they haven't solved is getting the time back - believe me, traveling for two hours round trip to work every day can take it out of you.
Theatre Shagaround at the Soho Theatre, reviewed by Lyn Gardner of The Guardian. "I suppose we are expected to suspend all disbelief in the interests of comedy, and you might if it was remotely funny. But the evening gives the impression that the jokes were written first and the rest of the script written round them. The piece isn't inlaid with heavy-handed humour but overlaid." Perhaps its time for Toyah Wilcox to get a new agent...
Hey! He gets my vote - pity I'm not from that country. Join the J-City Cusack for President campaign. John Cusack is an actor who doesn't seem to be able to put a foot wrong. He very rarely features in bad films ('Money For Nothing' - yes it gets that obscure), and even when the rest of the movie crashes about around him, he's always good. So go on US - you know it makes sense. And let's face - having Tim Robbins as commander in chief would be fun. [via Metafilter]

Who When the long-running science fiction series 'Doctor Who' reached its Twentieth Anniversary in 1983, there must have been only one idea at the forfront of the minds of then producer John Nathan-Turner and cohorts Eric Saward (script editor) and Terrance Dicks (writer). A story which would bring together all of the previous Doctors with the latest, and the more popular companions and monsters in a epic story. Seems like a perfectly reasonable idea. Little did they know what they had themselves in for. Which in a way makes 'The Five Doctors' quite idiosyncratic viewing - the main interest being the ingenuity of Dicks as he overcomes the obstacles which would be in the way of bringing a coherent story to the screen. For a start not all of the Doctors would be available. The first, William Hartnell, passed away some years before, and Tom Baker decided not to appear (a fit of hubris he would regret in later years). In the show then, Hartnell is replaced by Richard Hurndall, an apparent lookalike so wildly unlike Bill as to be a distraction. Baker's absense is explained through unseen footage from the unfinished adventure 'Shada' and a malfunction in the main baddies computer. There seem to be few monsters other than Cybermen, a Yeti and a Dalek. That's because all of the rights to these monsters have fallen to their creators and clearance to use must have been a nightmare. And then there are the companions. Believe it or not most don't appear because of other work commitments. So you're left with the then current companions, The Brigadier, fan favourite Sarah-Jane Smith, and Susan, The Doctor's erzats granddaughter. When some other companions did become available at the last minute they were swiftly written in as 'illusions'. And the thing would appear as the centrepiece of the very first Children in Need appeal and so had to intelligable to a wider audience than usual. So it should a complete mess. And it is. But what a glorious mess. There is some nostalgia in seeing 'your Doctor' at work again even in a brief few scenes. And The Master is in top form. And without the need for a cliffhanger every twenty-five minutes the story has an extra pace - perfect for the post-Matrix generation...maybe...pickup the DVD if you can, for Peter Howell's haunting music - which strangely may be the highlight...
Literature With the recent stretching of the humour rubber band by Chris Morris and the 'Brass Eye' special it seems an opportune moment to look back in time to another moment when taboos were burst. Geoffrey Chaucer, erstwhile poet to the royal court of the middle ages caused something of a stir with 'The Miller's Tale'. Pre-dating the films of Robin Asquith by some seven hundred years, this was the tale Nicholas and his plans to bed Alison, the wife of his landlord John. As with all such stories, it's in the telling. Even read in middle English there are some laugh out loud moments: the scene where the effeminate Absolum, so enamoured by Alison that her serenades her, is tricked into kissing her on the butt cheeks; the arrogant John, so taken in by Nicholas is talked into hiding in a barrel in the rafters in prepartion for a second flood. Most of the ten commandments are broken somewhere in there, which at the time could only have cause hysteria throughout London (or rather anyone who could afford the book or someone to read one out loud). This is dying for a film telling, although anyone looking for a modern version should look no further than 'Cruel Intentions' or 'The Last Seduction' both examples of seemingly miscellaneous sub-plots drawing together at the end by the master manipulator at the centre of the story.

Erm... It looks like the Sugababes project is over for now. In the week when Destiny's Child and the Atomic Kittens fight for the top slot in the charts (the 'kittens' winning with a travesty of The Bangles 'Eternal Flame'), 'Soul Sound' dropped from the top 40. Despite plaudits from the music press and further afield (even The Guardian gave them a good review), it seems the public had little time for this smoother form of RnB. Their time will come we're sure.
Hey! The Future Just Happened which began tonight on BBC2 is something of a departure for British television. Anyone who sat through an episode of Dotcomedy has a pretty good idea of how the Internet is viewed by television. A frivolity. Something other. It especially isn't a community for goodness sake. Here instead was a serious view of the net presenting it as a land of opportunity and adventure. Fascinatingly, we caught a glimpse of Google or rather Google's headquarters, a typically mirrored building in Silicon Valley. The place has a workforce. A large workforce. Who play roller-hockey and basketball between flirting and eating. Hundreds of people. Now look at the website. What are all of these people actually doing?