Everything else So alright it has been a surprising year in someways. Which is why I’m having difficulty thinking of a fifth; I could take the fifth at this juncture, but that wouldn’t be funny, so we’ll open a file called, ’everything else’ and offer this list: Buffy musical ‘Once More With Feeling’; Alanis Morissette in good album shocker; Neil Young is back again; so is Beverly Knight; and so is Bob Dylan; Oasis think they are but they really aren’t; Liberty X go to prove that no one knows anything by releasing something intelligible; Mylene from ‘Hearsay’ to go classical; Jade from ‘Big Brother’ hasn’t released a single; and while we’re on the subject did anyone see that Anna Nolan travelogue where she visited a sex commune? John Major had an affair with Edwina Curry (this is music related – OK it isn’t, but MY GOD!); David Byrne is cool again; Atomic Kitten still aren’t (penultimate mention – last one in April – has it really been nine months?); Toyah murders her own ‘I want to be free’ on ‘Songs of Praise’; Shakira; someone decided that Grandmaster Flash would be the perfect compare for the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony (he wasn’t); Bill Bailey fits in well on ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’; the ‘Back to the Future’ moment in ‘The Two Towers’.
The UN Concert to celebrate the giving of the Nobel Peace Prize (or something like that) Shown extremely late at night, there can be little doubt that the many hundred who tuned in for this will have sat in a state of utter bewilderment. This glittering occasion had the unfortunate whiff of a Eurovision Song Contest without voting and with people you had a broad chance of having heard of. Sadly on this occasion neither Ken Bruce or Terry Wogan were available. So instead, looking like overdone Oscar presenters we had the unlikely partnership of Meryl Streep (not looking at all well), and Liam Neeson (not looking at all comfortable). Well unlikely if you haven’t seen the obscure tv movie on a budget ‘Before and After’.

The overall highlights of the show: Neeson and Streep actually announcing the acts. Nowhere else will you hear that gruff Irish brogue whisper: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Wycliff Jean.” Then there was Streep’s in ability to say “A-ha” without sounding like Sherlock Holmes discovering a vital clue; Morten Harket of the aforementioned group, still with the belief that tight leather pants are cool; poor old Natalie Imbruglia batting out ‘Torn’ and her new single to a largely unappreciative audience; the unappreciative audience who we suspect would have looked any less bored if Elvis had turned up, with John Lennon doing backing vocals; the high contingent of classical performers who were excellent but who you’d never heard of; Meryl again: “And here, to sing “Nessum Dorma!”, Russell Watson”; Anastacia (how can that voice come from the body?); Destiny’s Child managing to get through a live song without a catfight or a lawsuit (meow) and finally Paul McCartney.

Now my Dad went to school with Paul (actually he’s a few years younger so they never met as far as my Dad can remember). Little did we know he would become a walking Metafilter for the occasion, when he began his set by telling us one of the songs was about September 11th and the other was dedicated to George. There was a certain inevitability when he ended the show with ‘Let It Be’, given an extra-powerful lift by the group accompaniment of the stars of the show. This would seem to be the only time these stars will ever share a stage again. It was almost as good as that bit in ‘Live Aid’, and before he’d decided that he wrote the songs before John. He did. He did. He did. Goddam you Yoko …
T-A-T-U This is one of those occasions were it ddidn't matter what you were doing, you suddenly had to drop everything, run to the screen and sit slack jawed. The last time this happened was at college, when one night, in a packed student union, the interminable Robert Altman film 'Pret a Porter' was being shown on the big screen. The night was OK, not brilliant. Then suddenly all of the men in the room put their pints down, almost in unison, and glared at the screen. As a friend described, 'There was a catwalk, an' all these girls 'an they were naked.' Scene finished and the embarrassed half the room looked back into their girlfriend's faces.

So I'm minding my own business, tidying my room ready for Christmas, and I've got 'The Music Factory' (Freeview version of Mtv) playing in the background. It's 2:30 in the afternoon. It was one of those rare occasions when five promos had been played which weren't Nellyville or Blue. This song appears which is catchy in a sub-Groovejet sort of way. I glance at the screen to see the video, and two over aged school girls are being stared at through some fencing in the rain. And then they start to kiss.

 Now this isn't some peck on the cheek; whatever the motives this is full on passion, that scene in 'Cruel Intentions' with other things on their mind. I'm old enough to remember the uproar which surrounded the antics of Beth Jordache on 'Brookside'. Which was the most surprisingly aspect -- this was on during the afternoon, pre-watershed. Over and over. Russian lesbianism is suddenly acceptable for TV. And I thought this sort of thing only happened on Buffy.
Late Junction I discovered this relatively, well, late. Both of the released mix albums are an antidote to the anodyne meanderings of most compilation albums (how are can there be annuals for the superclubs, when (a) they aren't looking so super anymore, (b) they list the next year Cream 2003 or whatnot … how do they know). Anyway, if it hadn't been for Fiona and Verity I wouldn't experience the spooky moment after 'The Fast Show' live when I sat with my friend Chris, in the car park of the most dangerous MacDonald in Manchester (where the staff actually had to 'buzz' the door open for you) eating a Bic Mac, and listening the Ethiopian Rhythm Music, all humming and strange stringing noises). Here are the entries I posted on this weblog on the night I first tuned in:
>>I've always thought there was room for a radio station without musical barriers -- which didn't see a difference between Jazz, Classical, Rock or Pop, which only had a belief in Music as a whole, which only wanted to bring the best to it's audience. Perhaps in the future in digital radio I'll see this happen, but for now I think I've found a close approximation. 'Late Junction' on Radio Three, a world music programme boasts on it's home page a: "laid-back, esoteric mix of music from across the globe, ranging from Mali to Bali, and from medieval chant to 21st-century electronica." This sort of randomness sounds like exactly the sort of thing I've been looking for and I'm tuning in for the first time tonight -- drawn finally by the chance to hear Act One of 'The Clanger's Opera'. Currently waiting for it to start...

>>We've already had Peruvian music, organ music, Jazz and now the soundtrack to an episode of 'The Clangers' -- this is great.

>>Back to Radio Three again with a twenty-minute piece of classical music, which I'm sure I could hear any other time of the day. I was promised music from Bali...
Which strangely I got the following night. Spurned me on to do a World Music course at the University …
Jarvis Cocker With Pulp dumped by their record label, and Jarvis heading off to Paris, the only thing left to do in this country was to appear on 'Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes'. The whispers started as soon as the tv guides began to preview the performance, people either shrugging and lamenting a once fine music career, or smiles at the ironic brilliance of the man. Then the show aired. I don't actually remember what Matthew Kelly said to Cocker, or vise versa. All I can see (and hear) clear is the moment when the musician said 'Tonight Matthew I'm going to be Rolf Harris' and there he was moments later in the beard. And he really was channeling the spirit of a young Rolf, and for moments we were back in the seventies, with Rolferoos about. The perfect finale would have been the appearance of a hundred school children, all cross legged as Jarvis threw out a painting of John Peel. But the fact that he won the contest was brilliance enough. I'm so happy I never watch ITV. You can however catch it again on New Year Eve as part of that Jamie Theakston introduced clip show.
Music It hasn't been an especially surprising year in music, although many surprising things have happened. Here are my top five:
Blog! It seems only fair at this juncture to acknowledge the weblogs I’ve been reading this year. If you aren’t on this list, it isn’t because I don’t love you it’s just that I had to pick some didn’t I?

Sore Eyes John always has a habit of offering the links which always seem just out of my grasp, on subjects I’m always interested in. Recently the discussion sections have become as intelligent and interesting as the actual weblog, proving that communities spring up everywhere.

Wrzl Weblog Something with quality and quantity. Sometimes you just want to go on-line to play games, act a little bit strange or silly or just be laddish. Haven’t yet visited and not found something exhilarating or unusual.

4fs Says all of the things you wish you could say in a way you wish you could say them. A sort of angry version of Douglas Adams.

In Passing... because it's fractured humanity reflecting in on itself. And really funny.

Boing Boing Of the 'big' weblogs, I've had the most enjoyment here this year. Easier to read than /., less difficult to love than Mefi.

See also ... linkmachinego, online blog, scotblog, Rebecca Blood, Wheadonesque, Outpost Gallifrey, Soap Box Girls, The Uncool, Salty, Gawker ...
Calling 'Baise-moi' an ultra-violent porn film doesn't even scratch the surface. Oddly for a French film it has a one line plot summary -- a hooker and a porn star go on a two girl shagging and killing spree. The piece begins quietly enough -- bunch of people sit around chatting about how shitty life is and how there never seem to be enough drugs. Then one girl is raped, the other murders her pimp and the two go on the run into a series of increasing bizarre situations, the restrictions of society are cast aside. It's repetitive, it's dizzying, and the justifications of the main characters are a bit shakey to say the least. I once watched a documentary about a group of juveniles at a detention centre. A doctor was psycho-analysing them, wondering how they will cope with real society when all they do is sit up late watching violent films. I can imagine those guys thinking this is the best film they ever saw -- "You mean there these two birds and they sleep around and the go and kill people for no reason? Cool." In a way it feels like Natural Born Killers in the style of the gameshow 'Banzai' ... 'Are they going to sleep with them, shoot them, or both? Place bets now.' Banned in it's native country and Australia and only passed here after a ten second cut. It's crass, annoying, and you should go and see it. If only so that next time you see a so-called violent film or 'sexy' film you can smugly say you've seen something much, much worse ...
Changing Lanes’ is another attempt to create a Hollywood film using the sensibilities of a Hollywood film. It’s essentially a remake of a Tom and Jerry cartoon with human beings and the ins and outs of their ‘real’ lives. The cat is Ben Affleck, a lawyer who is slowly understanding the dodgy ethics perpetrated by his other partners and whether he can still stay true to himself within that world. The mouse of the story, Sam Jackson is a recovering alcoholic and telesales worker who finds his life slowly slipping away, partly because of his atrocious temper which comes forth whenever he feels like he’s doing the right thing.

In a strong, well-structured script, unlike a real cat and mouse caper, there isn’t an actually a villain or hero. These are both men on the edge, whose sense of right and wrong slips away as the day progresses. Both have much to lose but in different ways – and it’s interesting that when Jackson strikes against the lawyer its in material ways; when Affleck hits the telesales advisor at the roots of his life.

It’s the performances that lift this film. Affleck gives his best work since ‘Chasing Amy’ – in a part which could have been whitewashed with sleaze, he comes out looking all the more human. He should be the bad guy but we find ourselves wondering if our choices wouldn’t be too dissimilar given the circumstances. Jackson again proves himself to be an actor of massive range. It’s the first time we’ve seen this kind of character from him in a so-called mainstream film (although its similar to the low key display found in ‘The Red Violin’), and it’ll be interesting to see how things are when the Oscars come around again.

Roger Mitchell has always struck me as a very generic director – like Michael Apted he doesn’t have a particular style and in fact he often borrows from someone else. This has a very faux-Soderbergh feel to it, especially in the opening titles and the use of hand held cameras throughout. But I’m not criticizing. I’ve had enough of glossy films which spend all their time just looking perfect at the expense of the plot. Imagine how vacuous this thing might have been in the hands of Michael Bay, for example.

I’ve heard the ending being criticized somewhat. Yes it’s uplifting and hopeful, but not unrealistic and if things had ended unresolved, in this case I would have been dissatisfied. So another Hollywood film with brains. It’s almost like its the seventies again ...
Arguably the best romantic comedy this year, ‘Kissing Jessica Stein’ wins no awards for originality (and neither will the opening line of this review). Straight girl is sick of men and decides to try the feminine thing. But like every other romantic movie you’ve ever seen, it isn’t about the set-up, it’s about the journey and in this case I’ll be happy to show you onto the train.

No stars, here just talent. And what talent. Usually in low budget films, you have to take it for granted that – some – of the acting – will be a bit stilted. Staggeringly although I can’t think of a face here I’ve seen before, everyone is uniformly excellent. It feels like a movie which has dropped in from an alternate dimension where everyone here is a big, famous actor in their field. Jennifer Westfeldt as Jessica, has a stunning screen presence. But unlike Jennifer Anniston (for example) she feels like one of us – and that’s why we root for her. Similarly Heather Juergensen, as the girlfriend, is instantly likeable (and not just because of her opening scene). The fact that their already friends improves an on-screen chemistry you feel would be their anyway.

The writing is also superb. They act, they write. I was reminded of the first time I saw ‘Walking and Talking’ or ‘Love and Other Consequences’, that kind of attention to the detail of people. The blossoming of Jessica from slightly plain, the just unbelievable is totally believable. There is an obvious through route from ‘Annie Hall’ to ‘When Harry Met Sally’ to what we find her. The girls are obviously fans of there previous movies, scenes there are mirrored here with a twist. Of course to tell you what they are would spoil your enjoyment of this film, but keep an eye out for re-runs of the moment from the end of ‘Sally’ when Harry tells her he loves her, when Woody and Annie go to the movies in ‘Hall’. That this film has been released under Fox’s Searchlight banner and not as a major studio piece demonstrates how the priorities of Hollywood have changed.
Gosford Park’ is a Robert Altman film. It says so on the poster and in the opening credits. But its more particular than that – you can tell it is all of the way through. Big well known cast (check!). Multiple almost storylines (check!). Overlapping dialogue (check!). The main plot is beside the point (check!). The premise is so simple it’s a surprise no one else has given it a try. Take all of the characters who typically appear in an Agatha Christie novel. Give them the motivations you would expect, but play them for real, whilst commenting on how artificial the divide between those upstairs and those downstairs really is. Welcome back to the kinds of films we love that you make Bob.
Film It was an odd year for film. Once the post-Christmas Harry Potter / Lord of the Rings chatter had died down, all eyes were focused on the summer. ‘Spider-man’ and ‘Star Wars: Attack of the Clone’ sucked in audiences, but in hindsight both films were only partly very good. Rather than trundling out a bunch of films which everyone will have seen, this will survey some things which some of you might have overlooked and are definitely worth catching on DVD (by reposting some earlier reviews in a satirical yet time saving version of what some magazines are also doing) . Well four and one which was loved by my evil twin brother. I think you can guess which one ...
Shallow Hal’ is a very unconventional film. The concept: man (Jack Black) who fixates on finding a partner with perfect looks is hypnotised to see the inner beauty of people, so that woman (and men) who society has rejected as being too ugly/fat/both, seem blindingly attractive to him, and us when we see the world through his point of view. He falls in love with a woman he sees as an angel (Gwyneth Paltrow). The moments when Paltrow features in so-called ‘fat’ situations (the canoe ride, the dive bomb in to a pool) here become beats in which Black suspects something is wrong. It could by argued that because these sections aren’t laugh out loud funny it makes the film a failure. But these are the only times the film wallows in the situation and are actually quite adorable.

But what really marks the film out as different is the ending. If this had been the wrong kind of comedy, we would have seen Black chasing about the country looking for the hypnotist to put the spell back on so that he can see his girl they she had always been to him. Instead we have twenty minutes of John Cusack-style soul searching followed by an otherwise text book Hollywood ending, in which Black sees Paltrow’s inner beauty before her looks. This is done without a cutaway to remind us of what thin Gwyneth looked like and with a totally straight face. Adorable. So here we have ‘Shallow Hal’ – a comedy with hidden depths.
Moments It wasn’t the only time she’d died. The first time was at the hands of mecca-vamp The Master in the final episode of the first season. But that moment had been totally matter of fact – ditch in a puddle, saved by Xander, kicking again by the end of the episode. This time it was the real thing – the final ‘it’. The genius of the writing meant that it had a finality, as though the entire series had led up to this moment. For the casual viewer, the start of the episode featured a precee of the entire series, shots from every episode, including those which hinted at the end.

The actual teaser was an actualization of the idea which Creator Joss Wheadon has sited as his reason for creating the film and show – a cheerleader going into an alley and able to surprise her attacker with her funny and martial arts. As the scene played out it was clear that the world was on her shoulders. Like Hamlet, she was aware that once the events had played out she would not see the next dawn (pun intended). As the story progressed, despite the help of her friends, it became clear that Glory, the god like ‘big bad’ of the season was meddling with forces too powerful for her this time.

The final moment was about sacrifice. In an earlier episode she had been given an award for being the class protector, but that had been at high school. Since then she had been protecting the whole of the world.. For her, and for us, this was the moment her life and the series had been leading up to, she was completing the quest. The final speech wasn’t profound. It didn’t give answers. In her last gasp, she did what she always did. Said that thing which would save her friends, “the hardest thing in this world ... is to live in it.” It was a moment of hope. The final shot of the inscription on her gravestone, demonstrated all of qualities which made this show good, tragedy and comedy combined: “Buffy Summers. Beloved Sister, Devoted Friend, She Saved The World … A Lot”
Moments I’m sitting in the café at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. On the table before me are an espresso and pain du chocolate, and they are all I can smell. Around me people are talking in a din of different languages. A Japanese girl is sat at a table almost but not quite opposite to me. She has brought an espresso as well. We smile at each other, and we share a few words: ‘You alright’ Yes.’ ‘Japanese?’ ‘English?’ But its obvious that is the limit of my Japanese and her English so we sit in silence. I'm reading the English version of the guide book; hers is all in Japanese. Different versions of the same book. I put my copy down and start to eat the pain. I can tell she is intrigued by it, so I pull off a chunk, making sure there is some chocolate and offer it to her. The girl takes it gladly and smiles giddily after eating. She tries to say thank you but can’t, so I just tell her she’s welcome. When she’s finished that piece I give her some more. We sit in silence just looking at each other, until our coffees are gone. We shake hands and go our own ways.

Like all big cities, Paris can be one of the loneliest places in the world. I’m a paradoxical human being. I like going to places alone, because it means I can see everything at my own pace and only see the things I want to see. But I also want to be able to share the experience. When I was in Paris, having these amazing experiences, I sometimes did feel like I was in an alien place were no one understood who I was. After the first day, whenever I heard an British accent I almost ran to it, just to discourse, a kind of relief in the ability to communicate meaningfully even for a few brief moments.

This moment wasn’t about language, but it was about interaction. For such a romantic city, there were a lot of single people touring alone. In a way it felt like we were some kind of cultural subgroup. The trouble was we couldn’t talk to each other, either through fear or because of language. When the Japanese girl sat opposite I knew I wanted to talk to her, tell her about all the amazing things which had happened to me that day, about bumping into Whistler’s Mother, about the Mona Lisa. But I was able to tell her about this one small thing by sharing it with her. I fantasize that she’s writing about all this as well on her weblog (‘…and I tasted his sweet …’), but I don’t think she is. For a time it was nice just to live in a moment with someone and it not be about service or money …
That Day

"And incidentally - a Happy Christmas, to all of you at home."

[From: Doctor Who: The Feast of Steven (or the one where he visited Liverpool)]
Moments I’m standing in press tribune at the Manchester Evening News Arena. Before me England are playing Jamaica at Netball for the bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games. The air is filled with the smell of wood, paint, popcorn, beer and the perfume of one of my fellow volunteers. It’s warm. My ears are battered with the cheering and chanting of the crowd; my mouth is dry with screaming, the palms of my hands chapped with clapping.

The volunteering process had taken eighteen months from an initial course, through application via administration, through to picking up my uniform. For all of that time it was something I was looking forward, in my future, sentences throughout beginning with ‘When I’m at the games …’ or ‘After the games …’ The process was mostly painless and as time went on I was more and more excited – it was like Christmas in middle of the year. And everyone was happy to be there. It’s odd how when you’re not actually getting paid to do a job it somehow seems to mean more to you.

But it was also about the people. Thrown together, the press room staff were an odd bunch, but within hours we had started to bond and within days we were doing all of the things it takes some groups of staff months to do – you know, being able to fit in about each other, the shorthand. Because we all let our guard down slightly, and trusted each other to some extent, and actually liked each other, we all (I hope) had one of the best working experiences we’ve ever had. For the first time in ages, I stood on that press tribune and actually liked the people I was working with, and felt that collectively we were doing a good job, trusted them all. We could pick fun of each other without much offense being give when needed. It really is the weirdest thing in the world, but some of the friendships I had in those three weeks feel more important than some I’ve had for years. For once I was in on the joke; I was content just to be there.

Although some people had grinned when they heard I would be at the Netball, I approached it with a totally open mind. On the day before the main competition began, two school girl teams were invited to play in the venue, so that the various process which would be happening during matches could practices – the results, the media, and the volunteers. As someone new to the sport it seemed interesting but not something you would want to follow. Slow, and full of stoppages. Then on the opening day New Zealand, I think were playing their opening match. Sitting on the photography bench on the edge of the court, I don’t think I’ve seen anything so balletic, visceral and exciting. For a non-contact sport it’s extremely physical and even with my rudimentary understanding of the admittedly complicated rules my eyes were pinned at the ball and the court. My love for the game became so unique that when two drunk journalists appeared on the final day and told me they were ‘stuck covering it’ and ‘didn’t like this shite’, I felt like punching them.
Trinny Woodall I think you’re either a Trinny person or a Susanna person. I had to pick one, I prefer red heads, and so here is Ms. Woodall This is a case of people buzzing about the scene for a few years and then doing one thing which seems to fit a time. This has been the year that individual style has become something not out of the reach of us regular people – it was also a time when M&S suddenly didn’t seem too old fashioned and could quite stealthy mixed with Gap and Next. These girls have been at the forefront of this; flicking through the book of the series in which they actually model the clothes (essentially working the programme on themselves) you could imagine some ladies (and gents I’ll be bound) using it as a guide. Come on – walking around town, surely you’ve noticed how tastefully dressed everyone seems? [profile, interview, related]
Mark Kermode This is a particularly person choice, because it isn’t like Kermode has done anything in particular this year (other than restoring the ‘Rape of Christ’ scene into ‘The Devils’). It’s just that for years I’ve been working on a style of reviewing of crash, bang, in, out. If a film doesn’t work, if it simply doesn’t fulfill it’s promise I’ll say it – I’ll rip it apart and put it back together. A college lecturer used to say that the best way to write a review is to look for all the positive aspects; I used to think that too for about five minutes. And that can be true of some things – I’d find it hard to rip into a college theatre production, for example. But films are different. If someone has spent £100 million on making a film, and when some pays a fiver to go and see it, and the experience was just alright, or ‘ok, I suppose’ something is terribly wrong. The new James Bond film ‘Die Another Day’ is awful. The stunts don’t work and are often a cliché; people in the screening I went to were laughing at the dialogue rather than with it; and chatting amongst themselves trying to work out the plot. So shit basically. Yet I’m seeing review after review saying, that’s its not the best film in the world, but it’s James Bond so what are you expecting. A good film? See – I’m calling a spade a spade, not a fork.

Up until about six months ago, I didn’t think anyone else looked at films my way. Then I started to pay attention to Kermode’s reviews in print in ‘Sight and Sound’ magazine, on Late Review and on the Simon Mayo Radio Five Live show. Backed by years of film going experience he knows what a good one looks like and when the film maker was treading water and will rip into them unmercifully. Here is his review of 'Like Mike' from the BBC website:
"Hideously dreadful cack about an orphan (15-year-old rap star L'il Bow Wow) whose second-hand training shoes get struck by lightning, thereby magicking the basketball skills of Michael Jackson into the dimunitive hero.

Absolutely ghastly from beginning to end, this cynical clap-trap was apparently co-produced by the NBA who should feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Most depressing is the appearance of Crispin Glover, once tipped for greatness (see Back to the Future) now soiling himself with this rancid garbage.
Point made. Give this man a permanent TV slot some time soon please. Film 2003 since Jonathan Ross seems to have forgotten he’s supposed to reviewing the weeks films not just telling us they’re on … [profile, interview, related]
Avril Lavigne This year has offered its usual moments of profound naffness. The Cheeky Girls. The Ketchup Song. Michael Jackson’s new album. But for me the single most excruciating moment is at the beginning of the promo video for Avril Lavigne’s ‘Complicated’. Avril rides through a car park on a skateboard – we think it may be her, but her face is away from us so she might as well be stunt double. We hear her though:
“What’s up, boys?”
She skips of the board and lands on it. With so much eye make-up, it’s a surprise she can see where she’s going. Her mouth is wide open and she has a slightly angry look on her face, for no apparent reason.
Whoever the boys are, and we assume it’s the band, they’re a vagabond bunch. Of the two in shot, I’m particularly worried about the one on the left, who is wearing all black, his head down trying desperately to hide from the sun. He looks like he’s coming down with something (or coming down from something) and has a tattoo halfway up the calf of his leg (which must have been painful). He looks like he needs counseling, not the recreational activity which is selected eventually. This must be the bassist.
His friend, a spiky haired generic skateboarder type looks about, one eye closed equally unable to see anything and asks:
“So what do you guy wanna do today?” Go to work? Go to school? I try to plan ahead when I have only a finite amount of free time.
Avril has an idea:
“Dude, djwanna crash the mall?” Is this a sript? Does she actually talk like this? Does anyone actually talk like this? Let’s start with ‘Dude’. Are people still dudes in the US? I thought this term went out with the early nineties (outside of ‘The Big Lebowski’) ‘Crash the mall’? Crash it into what? If it’s in the party sense, you’re hardly going to be sneaking in are you? There are big glass automatic doors which open to welcome you inside. You won’t need to give the security guard a sixer of beer to let you in.
Spikey-haired spokesman for the boys agrees:
It’s as though they hadn’t thought of this. You’re in the mall car park! There aren’t many more options. It doesn’t look like a big town anyway. And apart from anything else, dja just do whatever Avril suggests because she’s the singer? Because you can be replaced? Would your management be happy for you to just go and hang out in the mall?
Avril’s happy now:
The rest of the video is filled which such chew your own arm off bad moments (the mock Morissette dancing on stage, the BMX, the trying on the gold jewellery, the fish hooks). The whole thing treats its teenage audience with contempt, by using prehistoric language, fashions and no irony. This is one of those videos which looks like it was more fun to make than it is to watch. But the song is really good. The follow up ‘Sk8er Boy’ is one of the best chick rock releases in months, the promo, an adrenaline pumped homage to the ‘Twist and Shout’ sequence from ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ for a post 9/11 generation. It’s been a paradoxical year all in all. [profile, interview, related]
Peter Jackson I think when it was originally announced that a film trilogy was being made of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, the director was the farthest thing from our minds. The smuggest amongst us actually had an idea he might have a good go at it. ‘Heavenly Creatures’ proved he could handle actors; ‘Meet The Feebles’ showed a keen eye for puppetry and fantasy; ‘The Frighteners’ offered both. Perfect really. But I don’t think any of us knew how perfect it would actually be. Here is a man who’s taken some really great literature and spun it off into some magnificent films that appeal to a wide audience without completely ruining the spirit of the source material. By comparison, see what kind of a mess George Lucas is currently making of his own source material. Watching the documentaries which accompanied the Extended versions, two things struck which sort of explain why Jackson has made such instant classics: as well as hiring a bunch of youngsters just out of art school to design everything, he hired two artists who had been visualizing Tolkein for years; when he cast the wrong man in a key roll, rather than just making do, he took the difficult decision of recasting on the fly and made the correct choice. I mean let’s face it, on the strength of ‘A Perfect Murder’, did you think Viggo Mortenssen would be this good? [profile, interview, related]
Paula Radcliffe Considering that I was volunteering at The Commonwealth Games, it was oddly difficult to see any of it. But I was home the night Radcliffe embarked on her attempt to win the Gold Medal in the 5000 metres, and it was the first time in a long while , found myself screaming at the television during a sporting event. Of course if the other runners had been giving way and letting her keep the inside lane she would have smashed the record, but this was competitive event and had to be seen on those terms. But as she stepped over the finishing line I was out of my chair anyway. It was the single most thrilling piece of long distance running I’d ever seen (and that includes Coe, Cram and Ovette run in the early Eighties). I’m happy to see the nation agreed with me. [profile, interview, related]
People The normal weblog will be taking a break over the next week (something going on you know), so instead I’ll be taking a look back over the past year in culture looking at the highs and lows in my own life and the things you’ll already have bumped into ... to begin with an alternative list of people ...
Film Die Another Day There is a fine line between a good James Bond and Octopussy. Unfortunately, not even a killer squid could have saved this mess. To be absolutely successful, there has to be a clear and considered story; action sequences which thrill; interesting characters. Here, the story is empty – the face changing bad guy simply creates a massive weapon with which he could to hold the world to ransom – and he uses it to take away the mines between North and South Korea; it’s never clearly established why Bond is there to begin with anyway. Eighty percent of the action sequences in the film absolutely fail to convince, and this is largely due very ropey green screening – there are shots in where its fairly obvious that some filming was done in a study – you’re willing to forgive this in the 60s Bonds, but now? In one sequence Bond uses a parachute and the fuselage of a plane to ride a waterfall. The waterfall looks computer generated; Brosnan looks superimposed on top, not part of the action. You’re immediately dropped out of the story. It’s in the characters the film makes the biggest mistake – Halle Berry’s Jinx is an absolute joy – the film only really enlivens when she’s on screen – so much so that you wish that the film was about her. That can’t be right for a James Bond film can it?
Rings Busy enjoying Sunday, so I'll give you this single treat. It's a discussion at Straight Dope containing versions of The Rings if they had been written by writers other than Tolkein. Some of them are scary:
"On this particular evening, something changed hands quietly in the back of a hobbit-hole in the Shire many miles from the dark realm of Mordor. A small, metallic something. Something which could be accurately described as a circular loop of shining metal.

The land of Middle Earth was almost oblivious to the change of ownership, which was wonderful for the two parties concerned. The trade went unnoticed among the citizens of Rivendell, it escaped the Nazgul completely, and even the dark lord himself continued straight on with his day without noticing. This was a pity for him, because it was exactly the thing he had been searching for all these years.

-- from The Mostly Harmless Ring of Power, by Douglas Adams
I'll only post that one ... but I urge you to go and have a look at the level of ingenuity at play here ...

An angels gets its wings ...

People Jimmy Stewart. 'It's a Wonderful Life'. On again. There is an article about here:
"It's a Wonderful Life does, in fact, exhibit tell-tale symptoms of a belated liberal populism of the 1930s, whether or not the Committee knew that Clifford Odets and Dalton Trumbo, among others, had worked on the screenplay. Stewart here plays George Bailey, a banker who succeeds his father as head of a benevolent mortgage company that alone keeps the town of Bedford Falls out of the grip of the property and lending monopolies of Mr Potter, the evil tycoon played by Lionel Barrymore. One of Bailey's projects is a co-operative low-income housing development for working-class families; Potter's wish to eradicate that symbol of collective hope is a significant strand of the plot. Stewart, whose politics were conservative, never failed to cite George Bailey as the part in which he took the most pride, and the film's box-office failure, which he put down to the insipid postwar taste for nerveless domestic comedies, rankled with him to his last days."

Updated: 16/12/2006 Happy Christmas Metafilter readers. Whilst you're here, you might like to take a look at Review 2006, which is the blog's big event this year (and even contribute a question -- you'll see what I mean).
TV A bit random, but in what year is ‘Dawson’s Creek’ set? The first season began in the Spring 1998 in the US as mid-season replacement and ran for thirteen episodes and seemed to cover the winter term (Halloween included) of a school year. So was that the previous winter term or the one coming up. This wasn’t really answered when the second season ran through the Fall 1998 – 1999 season, but unlike other UStv shows (which run the breadth of the Autumn, Winter and Spring) just picked up the story from moments after the end of the first season, and takes us up to the end of the year, until the beginning of the Summer. Without a wiff of Christmas or Easter. Then Season Three picked things up at the beginning of the new school year. Now does this mean that Season One was set in the future or that we are behind a year (which references such as a Saving Private Ryan poster would contradict). Someone’s lost a year somewhere – leading the other question about how old the characters are . . . and in the episode were Dawson & Joey are accepted into college, it’s apparently for the fall 2001. Let's see ... official website ... erm ... oh no they actually have a page devoted to this, which comes to the conclusion that they don't bloody know either. I suppose I should just suspend my disbelief ...
Music And so to another poll. To celebrate seveny years of broadcasting, The BBC World Service held a poll to find the world's greatest tune. Looking across the top ten, you can truly elieve the world has gone mad. The number one tune is folk song about Irish nationalism. The top pop song on the list is Cher's 'Believe'. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen is at number ten ('Wayne's World' was ten years ago you know ...) Much of the rest are from the soundtracks of a number of Bollywood films. 55% of visitors to the website think this accurately reflects the state of music globally. No wonder Pete Waterman wants to commit suicide.
Chanukah When I was at school a number of my friends didn't celebrate Christmas -- they were Muslim or Jehovah's Witnesses or Jewish. December must have been really difficult for them, especially around here. And every year without fail I would give them a Christmas card. I think now they understood, and I understood that I wasn't doing it out of an expectation of anything in return, it about saying you're just as important to me as all my 'Christian' friends at this time of year. Eventually it did become difficult, so I just told them I would have got them a card, and had thought of them, and that was enough.

Looking back now I'm amazed at how gracious they were about it, especially considering how precious they were about their own religion, and the upholding of theireliefs were to them. I suppose part of me wondered if they were actually like Derek Powazek ...
"Growing up as one of a few Jews in our little town made December a month of hell for me. Oh sure, I got my presents, too. For Chanukah. But I also got back in touch with my outsider status. Every store downtown, every song on the radio, everywhere I looked I had yet another reminder that I was not a part of the majority. And every year in school I got to give a little presentation to the class about Chanukah.

"Class, this is Derek. He's not like you and me. He celebrates Chan ... Chan.... How do you say it again, Derek?"

I still remember being about 5 years old and not understanding why we didn't have a Christmas tree. My mother tried to explain it to me, but I wouldn't listen. I wanted to be like all my friends.
It's difficult to think of my life without Christmas. See above.
Christmas Work broke up for the seasonal break yesterday ... for some of us at least. One question which kept being asked was: "What are you doing for Christmas?" I always had the same answer. "Christmas." I knew what they meant -- will you being going anywhere / meeting anyone? Everyone seemed to be rushing around, in fact doing all the things they do all year anyway -- for example going out for a late night drinking session in town on Christmas Eve. Which is fine for them, it's what they enjoy. It's just at this time of year the spiritual part of me takes over somewhat. You'll know I'm not that religious so it really hasn't anything to do with some deeper significance involving the messiah or whatever. Christmas for me as about family. Friends. It's about doing all the things you haven't been able to do all year for each other, either because circumstances don't permit, or you haven't the 'it'. The one time of the year that every shuts down. The one day when there is little traffic on the roads, the shops are closed, people can if they want to, let everything stop.
Books Unusual article from Brian Francis Donohue of the Literary Traveller, which demostrates the pitfalls of following in Ernest Hemmingway's footstep when you're not Michael Palin. Here he is trying to see Gregorio Fuentes, the former captain of Hemingway's yacht, "El Pilar":
"Here I stand, on the front porch of literary legend, the Babe Ruth of fishermen, the single most influential fictional character of my life. The door opens a crack and onto the porch steps a man in his mid 40's, a blue and white guayabera unbuttoned to his belly. I let my tout ask if we can see the old man.
"Fifteen dollars,'' he replies.
I hadn't planned on paying an admission fee to meet my humble old fisherman. This was a pilgrimage, not a trip to Six Flags. I haggle. I'm a journalist, I tell him. A fan, a fellow fisherman, an admirer. I wrack my brain for the Spanish word for "idol". Finally, he lets me in for ten dollars."
Of course my version of this was paying eight pounds to go up the Eiffel Tower. Sometimes, life long dreams are worth paying that little bit extra for.
Mefi Metafilter's visitors now have the ability to change the post timings to relate to the time zone they're from. So suddenly, I can tell that the last post was at 7pm tonight without having to try and do some maths. And everyone will see their own. There is also a New York post filter for the site.
www The phenomina of online soap operas seems to have been superceded by the real life meandering of us webloggers. Before this kind of updating became a valid proposition though, people (well me) flocked to sites like 'The Spot' were actors and actresses, employed much as they would in real soaps would be shown to interacting, their fictional lives rolling out over many weeks. In some cases, emails were answered 'in-person' (which I can only imagine led to some bozzos thinking that this was real).

As I said, I thought they had died down, but judging by this page I was very much mistaken. Unlike 'The Spot' which was a commercial effort, most seem to be amateur works, and it has to be said are an acquired taste. 'Cordial Deception' is set in the fictional town of Parker's Peek, near Boston and featuring an all star cast (Harrison Ford! Kristen Scott Thomas! Christian Bale!)
"Bryce attempted to form words, by they died on his lips. He had nothing left to say to her -- not until he knew the truth. Not until he knew whether or not Krista was pregnant. He stared breathlessly at her, watching her once-enticing form rise from the couch and walk across the living room. She stopped, still silent, about two steps away from him.


The question burned in his mind, and though her expression showed almost nothing of what she might have been thinking, his thoughts couldn't help but settle on the conclusion that something was wrong.
See, I can tell you're hooked. This is the stuff of Sunset Beach, not Eastenders. There seem to be gaps for another two episodes here, but no updates in months. Yet another cancelled show?
Buffy What again? This weblog used be about fine art and books and stuff. I know. It's just that my favourite websites have all quietly closed or stopped updating, so I've got to fill up this column with something. Anyway, reason I posted ... for anyone interested, BBC Two will be showing the extended cut of 'Once More With Feeling' this evening at five to one ... this piece at the Cult website sort of explains why this didn't appear last night, and neatly suggests the rampant flouting of copyright law ("...so drink plenty of coffee to stay awake or set your video recorders in good time....")

Music Fame Academy's Sinead signs to Mercury, first single out February ...
Rings I believe some film with Hobbits and stuff is opening tonight (oh who am I kidding it's the only film I've wanted to see all year). The critics have been universal in their praise (to be honest I've never seen anything like it). There is a single dissenting voice, one Victoria Alexander of FilmsInReview.com. For all I know the film could be "about real estate". When I was leaving 'Fellowship of the Ring' last year I overheard someone say to their friend, "Well that was crap, it had no ending ..." This is the review for them:
Sometimes directors have screen alter-egos and here director Peter Jackson obviously favors Gimli. He has more screen time and close-ups then The Ring, Frodo, and Aragorn combined. He's also the comic relief. My favorite character, Legolas, who I had hoped to see more of, just trails behind Aragorn on the long, forced march. Frodo spends a lot of time walking through the woods as a minor character. Sam gives a speech. Gandalf, a clever and formidable personality in FELLOWSHIP, is a secondary, one-dimensional character here. The charm of his scenes with Bilbo are gone as he becomes a white-robed, haloed wizard.
Almost as a disclaimer to try and explain why Miss Alexander is flying so deeply against critical opinion, the Rotten Tomatoes reproduction of the review adds, "ADVISORY: Victoria Alexander is not an LOTR historian..." Yeah, 'cause that's important when you're writing a film review. I'm planning on seeing the thing on my shopping trip to Manchester just after Christmas and I'll let you know what I think then ...
Film Whenever I try to put together a film top twenty (never an easy task) I always seem to end up including 'Strange Days' the spinning big city adventure set days before the new millenium. The fascinating article at 24fps gives a full synopsis and carefully describes all of the reasons I love it so much:
“Strange Days” is infected throughout with YK2 psychosis and this apocalyptic “euphoria” at the end-of-the-century party provides a narrative of politico-radical tensions, exacerbations and questionings. A film which disorientates and distances the gaze of spectatorial identifications and representations, simultaneously, accommodates a neo-Marxist critique of late-capitalist pomo-distillation and disintegration. The neo-noiresque mise-en-scene provides a panorama of techno-furious culture, enhanced, encased and endangered within its own techno-euphoria. Mind, memory and matter meld in a set of discursive patterns of techno-postmodern angst.
Couldn't have said that better myself. I do love films which feature downtrodden figures set against a scaperscape which dwarfs them trying to fight the crushing hugeness of it all. It also features the best extrapolation of the nest step in camcorder technology, although the empathic part of the process is some way off yet ...
Film For the interested (I think there are at least three of you, I just got the following email from FACT:
"OPENING DATE CONFIRMED: The UK¹s newest centre for film, art and creative technology, FACT, opens to the public on 22 February 2003. It's been seven years in the making. It cost £10m to develop, build and equip. It's the first purpose-built arts project in Liverpool for over 60 years and it¹s opening in the New Year!

We can now reveal FACT's opening shows will include Isaac Julien's specially commissioned film installation, Baltimore (Baadasssss Cinema Part 2), Alex Cox's Revengers Tragedy, - a film shot on location in Liverpool ­ and in the Media Lounge - a curated space for internet and media art - shows featuring artists including Last.FM, Mongrel and Graham Harwood. There are a whole host of screenings and events to mark this milestone in Liverpool¹s cultural development so stay in touch and we¹ll keep you informed!
It's good to see the place opening with a 'Liverpool' film. One of the more annoying aspects of filmgoing here, is that movies made are very rarely actually shown here. The biggest tragedy was 'Hilary and Jackie', filmed at St. George's Hall, but never shown at the cinema opposite ... madness ...
Music At my eighteenth birthday party (and my god that was ten years ago) one of the invited guests thought it would be endlessly amusing to request The Smiths' 'Girlfriend in a Coma'. Unsurprisingly, the 'Rinky Dink' disco didn't have that one in their collection (although they did ablige instead with 'Tetris' by Dr Spin). Reading this fascinating interview with Simon Godard, discographer of The Smiths and beyond, I'm wondering about the pleasures I may have missed. With some bands, if I want to educate myself, I'm going to have to start at the top and work my way down.
TV At some point in the nearish past I was studying at a 'Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror' night school course, during which I created many crimes against literature, but the odd (I thought) worthwhile piece. I've just turned this up, 'The Dracula Murderer'. Three things you need to know before you read it. One -- it's not a full story -- it's a synposis for a film or tv show. Two -- it's my only ever attempt at horror, so treat it kindly. Three -- I wrote it a full six months before I'd even heard of Buffy (yes and that includes the film). Wierd.
Communications Owning the oldest mobile phone in the country I'm unfettered by such things as WAP or photo-messaging. So I can't help but grin smuggly when I see that some have been convinced that the photos which appear in the adverts have been taken by the actual phones. I quick glance over this photo blog demonstrated that technology isn't there quite yet. The article does concede the number of uses that the phones have, although the cost does seem a bit steep. [related]
Geography Someone translated this archive page into German. Hope they found what they were looking for ...

Take the What Type of Friend are
quiz, and visit mutedfaith.com.

This is the oddest personality test I've ever seen. Why does LiveJournal seem like another country. Why are they all fixated with Anime? I've never seen Dragonball Z and I've no intention to. Loved Akira though. And Ghost in the Machine...
Film For various reasons, Apple haven't premiered their Switch commercials in the UK -- Macs are a very hard sell over here. Although they are regarded as being more user friendly, there is far too much software out there for the PC for anyone to consider anything else. But as I've said before, the internet affords us the chance to see these things, and more significantly their parodies:
"Mmmm ... used a PC, I did. Yes.

Betrayed I was! Forced me to release my anger, it did!

Only with a Macintosh can you bring balance to the force.

Yoda ... my name is. Jedi Master am I."
Silver Dragon Den offers other genius, including why Gandalf, Neo, Jay and Silent Bob all switched as well, all in handy wallpaper format ... [via NewsAskew]
Competition The sidebar competition is now officially ... closed. I've contacted the winners (both of you) and soundtracks will be on their way shortly. There will be another quiz in January. With any luck the turnout then will be a bit larger...
Music Speaking of which ... what ever happened to Wendy James?
Music Waiting for my Dad to arrive last night so that we could go and buy the Christmas Tree from a florist which is open late into the evening, I found myself brousing through the charity shops nearby. Because most of these places are run by volunteering pensioners (bless em) there always seems to be a disproportionate pricing policy on anything not made of fabric. In Barnardos for example, there must be a rule that all cds are a fiver no matter who they are, what they are and what condition they're in. Five Star's 'Strong as Steel' or a cover disc from the NME, doesn't matter. Last night I did manage to find a ex-rental fifth hand copy of the Ed Zwick movie 'Leaving Normal' ('Thelma and Louise' with a happy ending) for three quid. But only after my hand had hovered away from the Rosemay Conolly excercise video nearby ...

Most charity shops seem to relish their static vinyl collections. These are boxes which frequently don't look like they've been rifled through in years and always have the same James Last album at the front. TV Cream (bless em too) have surveyed the long players usually found in these boxes with stunning accuracy:
Wendy James and her menacing looks galvanised the overly-purple cover of this 1989 definer which had a predictable postscript of failure around it, confirmed by the band's inability to do anything worthy afterwards. Containing the four hits of the year - Wendy screaming, Wendy rocking, Wendy balladeering, Wendy whispering - the album sold well, of course, but the ever-presence of the album in the bins and on the walls with big, cover-tearing discount stickers suggested that the record company were over-zealous in their estimates... "
In case you were wondering, I'm in current ownership of:
THE KIDS FROM FAME - The Kids From Fame
FLEETWOOD MAC - Tango in the Night
Christmas Oddly enough I was in Liverpool today visiting the Continental Market which is taking up much of the main street. I was mostly feeling a bit left out. People were buzzing about trying to do all of their shopping for presents and whatever. But I've already finished my present buying. Because in my old job, my selection of holiday weeks was fairly limited because I'd only just started I had the end of October (my birthday week) and the beginning of December. At the time though, I wasn't sure about whether I was in a with a chance on my current job, so I went out and did all my shopping in that first holiday. I went to Manchester and Cheshire Oaks and all the places I would usually go, and bought everything. In some ways it was a good thing because I certainly haven't the time now to go on all of those excersions, but the impulse now is to go out and buy more presents, which is sadly what I've been doing. Christmas morning is going to be busy this year ...
Liverpool Life Now I really am excited. As I'm sure I've mentioned over and over agin, Liverpool doesn't have an art house venue. If I want to see anything that doesn't feature Adam Sandler, I've got to go all the way to The Cornerhouse in Manchester. Now FACT (Foundation for Art & Creative Technology) have quiety built a new headquarters on the edge of the centre of Liverpool and it features a three screen venue with THX sound dedicated to art house films. It's brilliantly accessable (the last fleapit was at the top of a hundred stairs) and is being run independently by City Screen who've pitched themselves successfully throughout the country. I'm just getting happier all the time...
TV And so Peter from The Brady Bunch wins 'Fame Academy' (oh alright David). This isn't a show I've ever spent much time over despite the absolute blanket coverage across the BBC networks (except BBC4 -- odd really). What I watched was late at night on BBC Choice when I was too tired to reach for the remote. Tonight was the first time I actually bothered to watch a live finale (I was at a friend's house), and going in cold, on points pint sized Irish blonde version of Sophie Ellis Bextor, Sinead was the more obvious winner. Dave seemed just too good -- in that Pop Idol way. The chick rocker had more passion, more integrity (despite the Ronan Keating duet), and looked really good in that Matrixy leather jacket. Let's hope gutsy earthy bits of her aren't tuned out by some plastic producer.

Travel It's abit late to book anything, but here are Conde Naste suggestions for a festive get away. It's a pretty standard list, full of places you would want to visit any time of the year, but it is good to see Edinburgh on the list -- why anyone would want to leave our land mass when that metropolitan eden is up there I've no idea. Some will argue about the weather, but Prague is hardly the rim of the sun hot at this time of the year either.
TV Charles Kennedy had a fantastic comedic presence on 'Have I Got News For You' tonight. Unlike previous presenters he seemed entirely confident in the studio, in that chair and it was obvious from the reactions of Hislop and Merton that they would be happy for him to be leading them through the following series. What particularly stood out was his ability to seem unflustered when stuck in the mire of their one liners, adding his own and being able to continue the comedy when needed. He also knew when it was best to shut up. And he was self depricating in a way not seen since Deayton. So if the whole political party thing doesn't work out he's got a safe seat in that studio. [Disclaimer: All that said, I am a Liberal Democrat. But can you imagine many other politicians who could have run the show like he did tonight?]
TV So they're asking for the Freeview ... sorry ... ITV Digital ... erm On Digital boxes back. The 'scheme' is send it back or pay £40.00. Hmmm .... Malcolm Shearson of the liquidators appeared on Radio Five Live yesterday morning initially in bullish mood, until presenters Guy Richardson, Victoria Derbyshire and Julian Worricker began to ask him some tough questions. Even if you know nothing of this story, it's a fantastic bit of radio as Shearson realises he hadn't looked at all (any?) of the issues involved and may have made a terrible mistake getting up that morning. 'I ... I want my box back ...' [real one req]

Music World Music has two histories. There is the history we’ve studied during the course, of the music itself – how it’s developed throughout the world to become a beautifully scattered collage of sounds and feelings. But there is a more recent history which in some ways has been as influential as everything which has gone before. The history of the actual genre, which began at a meeting of interested parties on Monday 29th June 1987.

Music likes to be labeled because people like labels. I once entered into a long protracted argument with someone on the subject of Heavy Metal. I’d heard something and I was insisting on calling it Metal because it was loud, the lyrics were indistinguishable and I could imagine a room full of people banging heads together to it. He was growling that in fact Heavy Metal didn’t actually exist and that there were in fact many sub-genres taking preference and that what I’d heard was in fact ‘grind core’. I eventually gave in – partly because I wasn’t that familiar with the genre but mostly because I accepted that Heavy Metal as a name was more of a marketing tool – at some point in the past a label was needed and that was chosen. Which is exactly how ‘World Music’ developed.

‘World Music’ of a sort was particularly prevalent in 1986, when Paul Simon released his ‘Gracelands’ album. The concept behind the album was to bring meld his own sensibilities with the sounds which he had fallen in love with listening to artists from Southern Africa. So although the sounds of Ladysmith Black Mambaso and Savuka were featured on the album, arguably they were just sounds which Simon used to wrap around his own concerns. Although they were credited in the sleeve notes, the name on the front of the album was still Paul Simon, no matter the contributions of the other groups involved. But this project and the work of Peter Gabriel and Johnny Clegg amongst others had to some degree introduced non-western music to a wider audience and this was an opportunity which could not be ignored.

Before 1987, although World Music undoubtedly had a following and with this potential market opening up, it was difficult for interested parties to sell their music to the larger music stores; although specialist music stores had been important in developing the genre over many years, the record companies, broadcasters and journalists had been finding it difficult to build a following because the music itself seemed to scarce – hard to believe now. They were eyeing the Jazz and Classic markets, watching them develop a cross-over audience and decided that the best way forward would be to collective strategy to bring the music to a wider audience.

At the outset of the meeting, the musician Roger Armstrong advised why something needed to be done; “(He) felt that the main problem in selling our kind of material lay with the U.K. retail outlets and specifically the fact that they did not know how to rack it coherently. This discouraged them from stocking the material in any depth and made it more difficult for the record buyers to become acquainted with our catalogues.”

The first concern of the meetings was to select the umbrella name that this ‘new’ music would be listed under. Suggestions included ‘World Beat’ and prefixing words such as ‘Hot’ or ‘Tropical’ to existing genre titles, but ‘World Music’ won after a show of hands, but initially it was not meant to be the title for a whole new genre, rather something which all of the record labels could place on the sleeves of records in order to distinguish them during the forthcoming campaign. It only became a title for the genre after an agreement that despite the publicity campaign, this wasn’t an exclusive club and that for the good of all, any label which was selling this type of music would be able to take advantage.

Another issue which needed to be addressed was the distribution methods which existed at the time. Most of the main labels were unhappy with the lack of specialist knowledge displayed by sales persons which led to poor service; there was also a reluctance amongst many of the larger outlets to carry the music, because they understandable liked larger releases which could be promoted within store. It was difficult to justify a large presentation expense if the stock going into stores was limited.

One of the marketing strategies used in the vinyl market at the time was the use of browser cards, which would appear in the record racks. As part of the World Music campaign it was decided that these would be a two colour affair designed to carry a special offer package; to aid the retailer a selection of labels would also be included (presumably for shelf or rack edging).

In an unprecedented move, all of the World Music labels co-ordinated together and developed a compilation cassette for the cover of music magazine, the NME. The overall running time was ninety minutes, each package containing a mini-catalogue showing the other releases on offer. This was a smart move as NME reader are often seen as discerning listeners and it was important step to get them on board.

By the time of that second meeting it was becoming clear that in order for the campaign to be successful, it should its own dedicated press officer. They would be able to juggle the various deadlines and also be able to sell the music as a concept to not just the national stations but also regional DJs who were keen to expand the variety of music they could offer. They were seen as a key resource as it was important for ‘World Music’ to be seen as something which could be important to people outside London – most regions after all had a similarly rich folk heritage which could be tapped into. A cost effective way of achieving all this would be a leafleting campaign.

The next step was to develop a World Music chart, gathering together selling information from around fifty shops, so that it would finally be possible to see which were big sellers in the genre – allowing new listeners to see what was particularly popular. It was agreed that the NME could again be involved in printing the chart and also Music Week and the London listings magazine City Limits. It was also suggested that Andy Kershaw might be persuaded to do a run down of this chart on his show regularly.

And so October of 1987 was designated ‘World Music’ month. A music festival, ‘Crossing the Border’ was held at the Town & Country Club, London and it was the start of the winter season for both WOMAD and Arts Worldwide. The main press release stressed the issues inherent in the campaign:
”Since the early Eighties the enthusiasm for music from 'outside' Western pop culture has been steadily mounting. More and more international artists, many of whom are big stars in their own countries, are coming here on tour. They started off, like The Bhundu Boys, playing small clubs and pubs, but now many acts are so popular that they are packing out larger venues.

“The excitement and word-of-mouth appeal is backed up by radio - Andy Kershaw and Charlie Gillett's shows to name but two... and the demand for recordings of non-Western artists is surely growing. This is where the problems can start for the potential buyer of ‘World Music’ albums - the High Street record shop hasn't got the particular record, or even a readily identifiable section to browse through, it doesn't show in any of the published charts, and at this point all but the most tenacious give up - and who can blame them?”
That this ‘World Music’ became prominent very quickly. Paul Simon acknowledging as much when he featured the Graceland musicians appeared upfront during concerts. This was possibly helped initially by the fact that music was still largely being sold on vinyl. I remember visiting HMV that very winter and suddenly seeing those large covers featuring mysterious pictures from far off lands – they were positively alien compared to the Debbie Gibson album a possibly bought that same visit.

But this story demonstrates that with co-operation anything can be achieved; but as well as a marketing opportunity, those involved were driven forward by a passion for the music, something which was passed on to customers. And it stands as a testament that some areas of mainstream music have adopted many of the features of world music, and that artists such as Shakira and the members of the Buena Vista Social Club, who would previously never have appeared on best seller lists and been ghettoized area being enjoyed by a much wider audience.

WORLD MUSIC HISTORY -- minutes and press releases
I’m Going To Graceland - Evan Gimpel

[The above is the essay for my World Music class. I was supposed to be giving it as a presentation, hence the style. But I turned up for what I thought was the penultimate week only for find it was the final week and I didn't have anything prepared. So I got up and improvised something anyway. I remember being quite nervous, but I did get some nods of agreement from the experts in the room, which was I'm sure a good thing. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that Daredevil isn't the only man without fear ... so I hope you've enjoyed it a little bit anyway ... and if you want to know more, look here]
Blogbar Strange new title bar featuring a certain TV reviewer, submitted by Graham from Off The Telly ... suggestions and other submissions always welcome ...
Film I failed A-Level English. It took two years, round the clock study and a deep-seated understanding of the books at hand not to succeed in the endeavour. I wasn’t disappointed at the time because I was still going to University on my B in Fine Art and D in General Studies. It wasn’t until three years after college as I sat watching a production of Hamlet and understanding every word of it I decided I should have done better. I reconciled that I couldn’t have done better at the time and I’ve moved on. Watching ‘Wonder Boys’, the memories of the study experience came flooding back to me.

Part of the learning journey was one-on-one study periods with the head of the English department. His ground floor office was much as you would expect – a dusty edifice full of old books and even older carpeting. The teacher’s desk was in the bay window, and as I entered each fortnight, there he would be, sitting with his side too me, stuffing tobacco into his pipe.

He didn’t actually seem to teach anything which we hadn’t covered in class. On reflection, I think it was his chance to see how much of what he had been saying had crept into my teenage mind. During each session I would find myself with one obsession. Trying to imagine what his life was like outside school.

I couldn’t ask him, this fifty-something man, with squinty glasses and a receding hairline. I decided eventually he had a house in Cheshire from which he would drive every morning listening to Radio Two. He had two grown up kids, one a doctor, the other following in her father’s footsteps as a teacher. He’d been at this school since graduating from college, and had lived an unremarkable yet useful life, king of his own castle, looked up to by all around.

I think I secretly hoped though, that his life was something like Grady Tripp, Michael Douglas character in ‘Wonder Boys’ -- someone who had lived life enough to understand the literature from what he’d experienced not from what he had learnt. That when I wasn’t falling asleep in that tobacco smoke filled office; he would be tapping away on an old typewriter on an unending novel which would be considered a classic if he ever finished it. That when he described why John Donne had written ‘On His Mistress’ it would because of some infidelity of his own or an inability to commit. That in those moments when he would go into detail about Angelo’s attitude in ‘Measure for Measure’ he was teaching me some little nugget about his life. In effect that I was the James Leer (Tobey Maguire) of this little fantasy.

He wasn’t. I certainly wasn’t. I failed English Literature (which probably had more to with my dozing than his teaching skills…but I digress).

I do wonder what that teacher would have made of ‘Wonder Boys’. I suppose I can imagine him scoffing away, unable to comprehend the implausibility of this man holding down a tutoring position whilst trying to be a novelist. I can see him giving chapter and verse on it in class, before rolling his eyes and commenting, yet again, that Shakespeare was the only true dramatist. That may be true, but it’s good now and then to dip into the ones who are at least trying.

There is a certain spiritual similarity between this film and ‘Good Will Hunting’. Both are filmed with the same slightly glary quality – but ‘Wonder Boys’ is a much more literate film with an awareness of history which only comes from writers and directors of experience. I haven’t read Michael Chabon’s novel, so I can’t say how closely it follows the printed page; but the adaptation by Steven Kloves (the director of ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’) is entirely dialogue driven, allowing us the chance to learn about the characters – there is exposition, but also plenty left unsaid, moments were implication fills in for truth.

It’s entirely shocking that this is directed by Curtis Hanson. In a decade, he’s moved from the histrionics of ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradles’, through ‘The River Wild’ and the instantly classic ‘LA Confidential’. Those were all larger films, full of bangs and whistles. It could have been a similar story here – the unfolding plotline could equally have been played as a farce in the mould of Steven Moffat (‘Coupling’, ‘Joking Apart’). But this has proportion and some experimentation. Rather like some low budget indie film, it doesn’t care if we lose track of a few characters and what they’re doing for a while – we’ll catch up them later. What you’re seeing is much more interesting. It’s a step sideways for Hanson, but a valid one. Less plot perhaps – more character.

Douglas’ performance here is as good as it’s ever been. He’s a slightly maligned actor because more often than not he appears in so called ‘Hollywood’-style films like ‘Disclosure’. But even there he must have been working some magic to make us care for him. As Tripp (which is a real ‘Steve Buscemi’ of a loser role), he excels in creating a history behind his eyes, and warmth in his cheeks. He’s certainly the best actor in show here. Downey Jr does the kind of shtick he’s been perfecting since ‘The Pick-up Artist’, and proving what a tragedy his life has been all in all. Tobey Maguire is in his understated acting mode, making that smile of his, when it finally arrives even more appealing. Francis McDormand proves once again that the world will eventually be inherited by character actresses, making you love her as soon as she appears on screen. And Joey Potter – sorry – Kate Holmes is as good as ever, talking out of the side of her mouth and cocking her head that way. It’s actually refreshing to see her in a role where she isn’t trying to completely lose her TV origins.

So this is another of those films I’ll watching over and over. When it appears on television it’ll be like bumping into an old friend. It isn’t a surprise that it wasn’t a success on its first release in America – it’s the kind of film which makes you warm and fuzzy looking back at a week later. That release wasn’t helped, of course, by a staggeringly inept poster of Michael Douglas looking like a wino. The second poster was much fairer, playing up the ensemble nature of the cast. It might not been seen as a classic now, but I’m sure in ten years it will be appearing in top one hundred lists. It has word of mouth in its favour. Which is why I’m recommending it to you now. If you’re looking for something life affirming in the ‘Shawshank’ or ‘Field of Dreams’ mode, but new to the eye. This is it.

[Another Tuesday night dig about the archives. I don't think most of you have read it so here it is. I still stand by every word. I'm in the process of working on some 'Big Breakfast' style pre-records for over the festive period, and watching 'Tomorrow La Scala!' so I hope you'll not mind 'another chance to read ...']
Paris For anyone who's interested, here are the best of the first set of pictures from my Paris trip ...
Competition Emma of Leather Condom writes:
"In the style of a New Mini ad:

"19-year-old virgin attempts to convince the world that she's a kinky leather fetishist. Fools no-one. The end."
She also said some other nice things which I thank her for. You too ...
Christmas imperial doughnut is in a festive mood ...
Blogging Checking through my hard disk for rooms to jetisson, I came across this piece of editorial I wrote for an early version of the site:
”Other than Vinnie Delpino, the lovely Wanda and a euphemism for baby faced doctors, the greatest invention the TV show ‘Doogie Howser Md’ brought to the world was the idea of keep your journal on your computer. Little did they realise that eventually the Internet would give people a place to pour their hearts out.

The obvious questions are whether these ‘diarists’ actually tell the complete truth because you can be certain that their friends will be reading the entries and its one thing to talk behind someone’s back a polar opposite to potentially be letting the whole world what you think of Frank, Mable or George.
It seems even then I was ruminating on ‘The Rules’. I’ve mentioned ‘The Rules’ before. There is an actual list and here it is …

The Rules

(1) Don’t write about your friends unless they’re doing something amazing
(2) Don’t talk about work unless you’ve left
(3) Don’t talk about things you know nothing about
(4) Don’t make the rules too conspicuous
(5) Some rules can be broken ...
Film Being something of a fan of 'The Blair Witch Project' I was intrigued to see the film which may have inspired it, 'The Last Broadcast'. Over much of its hour and half, an intriguing story is slowly revealed which grips with the standard of mystery makers, the unknown. Then, stunningly it all goes horribly wrong. As Mark Kermode writes:
"All this would be a neat enough trick were it not for the film's final act which breaks out of the pseudo-documentary format and jumps suddenly and ill-advisedly into the realms of misjudged drama, replete with widescreen masking, smooth camera moves and even the occasional crane shot."
It's hard to fathom how film makers who have show some obvious talent over the previous moments in the film should suddenly forget the kind of film they are trying to make. Instead of being in a state of terror, I'm left with general bemusement. Not good.
Site News I've embedded one of those chat windows into the left hand sidebar (keep scrolling) so it'll be even easier for you to offer comments, enter the competition and contact me. So if you are a regular reader, it hasn't been easier to show yourself ...

[It was working all last night. I'll keep it there for now ... must be a brief glitch at their website ...]
Competition Aaron from the Den of Ubiquity is the latest (and so far only) entrant to the sidebar competition:
"You know, I don't know if I remember anymore precisely what led to the title "The Den of Ubiquity". I think I had just discovered the word "ubiquitous", or at least been reminded of it, and the obvious connection to "Den of Iniquity". Later, someone who had encountered me in quick succession on several Usenet newsgroups penned "Alfvaen Is Everywhere", which is linked off my main web page. (For the days when I had so much time...)

Before that, I called it "The Temple of Azpiazu". I go into this off my web page as well, but basically Azpiazu was a name I ran across in the contributors to the first volume of the Bulwer-Lytton Contest, 'It Was A Dark And Stormy Night'. I liked it, and tended to use it in my fantasy fiction(especially that written for alt.pub.dragons-inn)for the name of the God of Chaos. Hence, the temple. But I was never quite comfortable, as an atheist, with the pseudoreligious connotations.

As for "Alfvaen", that one's _also_ explained on my web pages. In a nutshell, it's a D&D character name that I got from Janet Kagan's incredible SF novel 'Hellspark'. Alfvaen was my favourite character, and I've written at least one story about his development. He wasn't one of those heroic types--he was, well, sardonic, and generally tormented. Sort of like Mat Cauthon in Robert Jordan's series, if that signifies at all.

Not very interesting, really, but thought I'd try..."
That closing date is getting nearer. So come on if you think your hard enough ...
Film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Not having read any of the books and approaching each of these films with fresh eyes. Anyone who’s read my piece about film adaptation with know that I’ve always thought that films and their source material (books or whatever) should stand alone … the former having its own internal logic and ability to entertain. With the Philosopher’s Stone and this one, I feel as though I missed a vital part of the experience. Which means to me, the plot is as follows: Harry Potter is a student wizard who returns to school only to find that voices are talking to him, weird writing appears on walls and people are being petrified. Two hours later he confronts the demon behind it, but not before both of his best friends are hurt and his school is nearly closed down.

It’s a very long film. Fans will no doubt relish that all of their favourite bits from the novels are in there. Anyone else will start to figit. The film meanders on and on towards its conclusion, and there are so many dead ends and irrelevant moments that by the end we aren’t sure how much of what we’ve seen is important or for that bares any relation to the conclusion. In an adventure film, it’s important that everything which happens on screen drives the plot forward and/or tells us something about the characters – which is why there are usually so many deleted scenes on some DVDs. The shape-changing scene for example does neither. It isn’t even that funny. Neither does the moment when they meet the giant spider. And at the end of it all it’s a Scooby Doo ending – the culprit turns out to be someone we’ve only met once during the course of the film, and we only find him because Harry essentially bumps into him in the Chamber of Secrets so that he can reveal the plot. These are no doubt issues with Rowling’s novel, and there would have been war if the ending had been changed, but it makes for a slightly worthless viewing experience.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t some positive things to say. Ken Branagh plays up well to the public assumption of who he is in real life. Some of the special effects are very effecting – for example the realization of the paintings which have a life of their own. And all of the adult do their best with some deeply underwritten roles – you can see why Zoe Wannamaker passed this time. The kids are also very good, especially Daniel Radcliffe who has grown into a very good little actor. And Dobby The House Elf, is very well realised – none of the stiffness usually associated with CGI characters. But it’s all for nought if the overall experience is dulled through boredom. With any luck the next adventure will take Harry outside the school. We already know what that looks like.
Art Too tired to comment, but too good not to post, The fate of the Parthenon sculptures in Athens. Something which will run and run ... [Metafilter]
Photographs I had some of my Paris photos developed today. As usual, I'm mostly happy with some of them, embrassed by at least two. Much of this has to do with my camera, although I haven't the heart to go digital. But looking at the entries for the PDN-PIX digital imagining competition, I know that the investment won't be too far away. Especially like this frog, and this landscape.
Life hybrid examines an emotion even worse than fear:
"Dread is a different experience than fear. Fear is experience. Dread is a burden that we lift into experience that acts as a shield against the threat of life. Mostly we dread fear. We dread the idea that we'll be stuck in a situation that might be dangerous. Just the idea that we may have to throw ourselves at the mercy of the moment, of the elements, keeps us working to secure our safety."
Personally, I'm with Douglas Adams on this one. "Whatever happens, happens."
Rings Mtv are at it as well:
The only criticisms were reserved for screening organisers MTV, who apparently invaded the screening with cameramen and lighting technicians in order to shoot vox-pop interviews with those watching the film. "MTV, you ought to be ashamed of yourself," rants one reviewer. "If Peter Jackson were there he would have strangled that cameraman."
The good news is that the response for 'The Two Towers' has been incredibly positive. Hot Dog magazine have *****ed it (although it isn't clear when they saw it), and Ain't It Cool is awash with positivia. Expect spoilers.
Art Exploding Dog has been somewhat sad of late ...
Wars Radio 1 News demonstrates it's powers as a carefully researched news gathering organisation with this titbit:
"'Star Wars Episode 4' is to be released on the 28th anniversary of the first film, according to several movie gossip websites including Starseeker.com, Yahoo! Movies and even Amazon.com."
Good job they all seem to think it's in fact Episode III, otherwise 2027 is looking good for the holo-rerelease of 'A New Hope'. Damn, George, when will your revisionism cease?
Work I’ve now been in my new job for a week and until now have found myself unable to write. It doesn’t quite feel real yet; I only finished at my old job on Saturday and began anew on Monday. It feels too good to be true; I’ve said it many times over the past few days and I’ll say it again now here – I’m still looking for the catch. I’ve jumped from the frying pan into a bath full of feathers. When it happens, and I’m sure it will, having been in the worst places, I’ll just look at the sky, smile and get back on with it. For the first time, in long time, I feel like I’m in charge of my own destiny.