Rings Watching the Brits 2002 last night I was reminded yet again of my fantasy entertainment moment. I have a day dream that Leonard Nimoy's music career took off and instead of returning to acting he continued to build a successful following in the business of show. After many years he became a man of stature and a regular fixture on the Vegas circuit. One year, the makers of Miss World decide he would make a perfect compare. And so, on the night, after the hush of the audience, the screen comes up, and there is Nimoy, much as he looks now, beard and all, in a dinner jacket. He steps forward smiles and with a wave and a foot tap, the orchestra, as a tribute to a film which won many an Oscar, launches into 'The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins', the former Vulcan's best remembered track. He relishes the chance to put an ironic lilt to it as the Miss World contestants stroll out to offer backing vocals, each escorted by a dwarf ... which is a preamble of course to the discovery that my Hobbit name is Lotho Boffin of Needlehole.Thanks go to Hambut Knotwise of Michel Delving for the link.
Music Alanis Morissette's new album 'Under Rug Swept' glared at by Rolling Stone Magazine:

Try "Precious Illusions," as she intones, "I want to decide between survival and bliss/And though I know who I'm not/I still don't know who I am/But I know I won't keep on playing the victim." Or "That Particular Time," a serenely spacious hymn carrying a prosaic payoff: "I kept on ignoring the ambivalence you felt/And in the meantime I lost myself." Lines like that might provide some perspective if there were a story to go with them, but there is none. Even "Hands Clean" holds not a hint of Lolita guilt, forbidden passion or resentment; compared to her furious take on the same situation in "Right Through You," on Jagged Little Pill, it's downright clinical."

The implication seems to be that Alanis' work has reached towards the mainstream. Listening to the new single 'hands clean' I'm not sure that's entirely fair. True it's more accessable than the previous album but that isn't exactly a bad thing, an in any case, even without her distinctive voice this is still recognisably her. After all if you've put the work in, you want to be heard. People want music which speaks to them, they don't really care how true the story behind it is. I sight 'Penny Lane' as an example yet again.
Photography Steve McCurry has spent his life looking for beauty in warzones. This flash site pulls together some of his most vivid images, including the iconic image of a young girl from Afganistan. But his work hasn't been without a few dangers:

"I've had a couple of close calls in my career, but part of my brain that's concerned with self-preservation is very large. I was almost drowned in India and I was in an airplane crash in Yugoslavia, where I found myself about 10 feet underwater. Miraculously, I was able to swim out from underneath the seatbelt. Vut I came within a fraction of an inch of not making it. I'd rather take the risk and have the adventure, than to be timid and not take those risks ... It's the best life."

I'm not sure how far I would go for my art. But then the closest a weblogger gets to danger is Windows crashing again, or an electric shock from the on-button.
Site News Flabbergasted to note that this is now the number one destination for listless people on the web, right above feeling this will run and run...
Sport 5.6m warm to ice maidens The Curling last night was gripping for two reason. The possibility we might win. We didn't have clue what was going on. There is nothing more boring than actually understand the rules of engagement. Why the brushes? Why the screaming? Why anything? This is of course not even the most most nonsensical of games. That prize goes to the Indian sport of Kabaddi, which Channel Four took great delight in showing for seemingly hours at a time in the early Nineties (before Italian Football came along). This seemed to consist of half-naked men dragging each other around a sandpit the size of a volleyball court for half an hour. Now there's a sport the British could really excel at...
Commuter Life I was going to write a mean spirited piece about how long it took me to get home from work tonight (2 hrs) but instead I thought I might bring you my favourite magazine article ever. It says more about the war years than the five years of history I sat through at school. This is the one I keep refering back to at all times whenever I can. In a possibly copyright infringing move I'm going to reproduce the whole thing here.

First published in The Picture Post. Vol. 22. No.3. January 15, 1944.

Although this new game seems to be played largely on all fours, its official name is “handball”. It’s a cross between netball and football, and is popular with Norwegian girls in this country. There are already enough players in London to make up five regular teams and they practice and play matches in Hyde Park.

The ball is the size of a football, and the aim is to throw it into your opponent’s goal. You can knock the ball out of the enemy’s hands, but kicking is forbidden except for the goalkeepers. As you mayn’t hold the ball for more than three seconds, the game has pace; and as Norwegian girls are traditionally athletic, these matches are played with speed, skill and courage. English girls from Norwegian offices who join the teams have to be exceptionally fit – or go under.

According to the rules, handball should not be much tougher than netball – you mayn’t run more than three paces with the ball, or grasp it with both your hands from a member of the other side. But as you can see, it’s apt to develop into something like a Rigby scrum. When the ball drops to the ground, half a dozen girls pounce on it like hawks on a sparrow, and the girl who gets it has to be very strong and nippy. Even when she’s grasped it, she isn’t safe – it may be knocked out of her hands before she’s time to pass it on. When there’s a scrimmage like this, the referee has to keep a sharp lookout that nobody kicks the ball or wrestles with her opponent. Penalty – a free throw to the other side. What with the mud, the cold, and the keenness of these Norwegians, it would be a brave set of English girls who dare to makeup a team of eleven, and then challenge them.

Many of these Norwegians went through exciting and dangerous adventures before they reached England. Anne Margrethe, captain of one handball team, walked through many miles of forest in Norway and Sweden to escape from the Germans. Butte, another of the girls, now secretary to a high Norwegian military official, crossed the North Sea in a small boat. Wenche, the youngest of them, escaped through Sweden, too. Over here, some of them are working as civilians in Norwegian offices, and some are in uniform, in the Norwegian A.T.S. and W.A.A.F.

The piece is accompanied with many pictures of Norwegian girls playing mud-football in the park. Sadly my lack of a scanner leaves these to your imagination. In broad terms we have a group of moderately attractive women all dressed in paisly sweaters and kaki shorts looking thoroughly out of breath. The captions are pretty descriptive:

Norwegian Girls in London Play Handball to Keep Fit
Handball is a new game to England. It’s a cross between netball and football. Norwegian girls have introduced it to London, and play every week in Hyde Park.

Handball Is Not the Gentle Game Is Sounds
You’re not supposed to kick or grab the ball. But there are usually scraps when the game gets fast and exciting. And in a scrimmage, you’re likely to land on all fours.

A Hard Catch – She Misses it
She misses a difficult catch, but scoops it up quickly with an opponent at her heels.

A Shot at Goal
(1) The ball’s in the air. She watches it like a hawk. Her opponent watches, too.
(2) She’s caught it. She twists neatly away from her opponent, leaving her on the wrong foot.
(3)She runs three paces – all that’s allowed – and shoots at goal.
(4) A good shot -- but the goalkeeper’s ready for it. The shot’s a good one – well aimed and fast. But Wenche, the goalkeeper, intercepts it. Wenche escaped last year through Sweden to join her father in this country.

It Reminds You of Rugger
”Tacking” is forbidden. But there’s no rule against scrimmage.

Update! 03/08/2008

All of these years later, find below scans of the actual pages. Click for larger versions!

Blog! Jacob Schwirtz suddenly becomes the envy of bloggers everywhere: "Yep that's me. Yep I'm on a Segway. Yep I am converted from skeptic to buyer waiting list." And looks very happy on it ...
Film There are two irritating things about film trailers. Firstly, the fact the longer ones always give away the plot. But secondly the music. If I see one more with the theme from 'The Rocketeer' playing in the background I'm going to give up film as a hobby (no really). But more than that I hate it when I know I've heard a theme somewhere before but I can't quite put my finger on where and so spend the first ten minutes of the actual film trying to work it out. I'll wonder no longer, as SoundtrackNet offers a staggeringly informative list of films and their trailer music. Some this is fascinating. Want something creepy for that John Malkovitch film? That'll be the theme from 'Brazil'. 'The X-Files' pilfers from 'Romeo + Juliet' and 'Scream'. Sadly 'The Rocketeer' isn't listed -- although I think I can guess what that would have been.
History For decades, the residents of Crystal Cove lived and thrived in harmony in the ramshackle cottages on a reckless coast. Some lived there all year around, some simply vacationed there. It was due to an unusual agreement struck by the original owner of the land, who agreed that squatters could build their homes on small chunks of his property -- so they didn't own the land but the buildings. Then, in 1979, after the landlord's death, the place was sold to the parks department so that the development on the area would be halted. But now, after a two year court action the residents have been evicted because the judge ruled that the land should be usable by all Californians not just a lucky few. Karen E. Steen, one of the former residents returns to the place she grew up and discovers not only her past, but the bleak future of this idylic place.
Time The mystery of Huygen's clocks has been solved, almost, perhaps. For the unitiated, Christiaan Huygens was a Dutch scientist who spent some of his life trying to create a completely accurate clock using the apparatus of the time. Imagine his surprise when he placed two pendulum clocks next to each other, which, despite an initial wobble began to tell perfect time, as the pendulums swung in a perfect mirror image. It was right. It worked. But Huygens could never work out why. Trust those researchers in the US to think of something:

"It turns out that the pendulums only mirror each other when the conditions are just right."

Why do I feel so underwhelmed?
Still That Day Then, for some, today was the perfect day for getting married...
That Day So. 20 02 2002 -- how was it for you? Pretty much like every other crummy day? Same here. If I sound disappointed it's because I just feel that it's a shame that the most unusual day this millenium isn't being marked by something other than another Brit Awards and the BBC's NHS day. I'm not talking about anything too sophisticated -- just the date printed on the moon or as lights floating in orbit above the Earth. If you're an American you'll have no idea what I'm talking about of course -- for you today is 02 20 2002 which is pretty, but not the same ...
Music That man is still at number one. I only hope Alanis has Jennifer Love Hewitt in her promo as well -- then she might stand a chance next week ...
Books HG Wells was a plagarist, according to a new work 'The Spinster and the Prophet'. Now I'm not usually drawn to such flagrant sensationalism, but this article from The Bloomsbury Magazine offers some compelling evidence:

"One of the twentieth century’s most intriguing plagiarism cases also centred on a history book. H.G. Wells’ The Outline of History was published in 1920. It became an instant bestseller, garnering Wells tremendous critical acclaim and providing him with substantial financial wealth (the latter was something his novels had never really generated). Clocking in at around 250,000 words, The Outline was a formidable volume (or two volumes to be exact). That it was completed in less than two years and that it was Wells’ first foray into history, made it even more of a miraculous achievement. A Canadian bluestocking called Florence Deeks saw things a little differently. In her eyes The Outline bore more than a passing resemblance to 'The Web of the World's Romance', her unpublished history of the world.

The article goes on to point to the fact that Deeks own work had passed by Wells' publisher not too long beforehand. It could be a coincidence; if I had a pound for every time I heard of a budding TV writer being told that something similar to their submission was already in the works ... you know, coincidences like that.
Photography In keeping with the Valentine's Day theme (a few days late, but still), Life Magazine presents its archive of famous kisses. Number nine could be one of my favourite photographs ever...
Blog! I've followed Moz's writing on Metafilter for some time but only now have I found myself reading his weblog, The Perfect Kiss. I'm speechless at his Valentine's Day post, a hoplessly touching story which will be familiar to most of us:

"She was tall, I remember; cute, smart, and an editor at the local school paper. I wanted to ask her out and I stewed over the situation for a week or so; Oh, but she’s tall, I thought, and I am not tall. Again: Oh, but she is an editor, I thought, and I am not. There was a pause after one of our news meetings.
“Umm...” I stammered.
“Umm... I was wondering if you might like to go to lunch sometime?”

You really should offer archives of your writing on your site Moz; much of what's there is giving me goosepimples.
And now he's getting married. Whether it is to the girl isn't clear (still no archive) but it just demonstrates how life can change in a matter of months ...
Backlog Before I began full time work (just eight short months ago) I spent much of my time wrestling with The Backlog. The Backlog is a pile of videos in my room recording from television which sit largely unwatched. There are things at the bottom of the pile which I recorded two christmases ago which I will get around to watching eventually. When I wasn't working it was relatively easy to polish off two or three of these tapes in a day, giving a glimpse of multi-channel television before this even happened. There are things in this pile which are being repeated ad-infinitum on UK Gold, which I recorded when they were originally on. There is no way I will ever get to the bottom. But this does mean that I'll find myself watching unusual things at unusual times for no readily apparent reason.

And so it was last night I found myself tuning into the UN Concert to celebrate the novel peace prize, a glittering occasion which had the unfortunate whiff of a Eurovision Song Contest without voting and with people you had a broad chance of having heard of. Like the Eurovision of recent years they went for the male/female presenting partnership -- but in-keeping with the occasion we have Meryl Streep (not looking at all well), and Liam 'Qui-gon' Neeson (not looking at all comfortable).

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 it sounding like Sherlock Holmes discovering a vital clue; Morten Harket of the aforementioned group, still with the believe 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’.

Not quite.

I’ll report some more on my backlog in the coming weeks…
Quiz Speaking of vampires ...

Which Buff Girl Are You? Find out @ She's Crafty
Film The first Blade film managed to be a contemporary Vampire film without straying into Buffyworld. But it was still fun and funny. Now about that sequel, Mr. Goyer: "The truth is, I’m not doing that much more than I was on the first film. On Blade as involved much more than a writer might have been, but now it’s been formalized. The first thing that I did, along with Peter Frankfurt, was to pick the director for Blade 2. I sat in on all the budgeting meetings and special effects meetings, and I go to the editing room and the music meetings and the postproduction meetings. We’re a team, so the big choices -- casting and whatnot -- Peter and Guillermo and Wesley and I sit down and look at everything together. Obviously a writer wouldn’t be doing that, so in that aspect I’m functioning as a producer."
Philosophy Zatni Arbi of the Jakarta Post ponders what it is to be 'virtual': "The word "virtual" is becoming more and more vague. We hear the word being used virtually every day. And, each time we hear the term "virtual office", we wonder what it means. Does it mean an office in the virtual world, or does it mean that we have an office that is virtual?"
Humour Blondes get payback. [from artbabyart]
Film I never particularlywant to meet celebrities in the traditional way. I just don't see the point in annoying them while they get their shopping or have a meal in a restaurant -- although we all adore them, for them that film or record are more of job. I just wonder how I would feel if I had to stop every five minutes for a photo or to sign an autograph. I'd much rather bump into them socially and have a chat about something unconnected with both our lives. Glen Gould used to say that they best way to find out about someone is ask them what they think of a current event or something which isn't about them. I agree. Which is why articles like this one can get a little bit under my skin -- it's a beginner's guide to hunting celebrities in their own habitat:

"Val Kilmer wore many disguises in The Saint and does so when shopping for music. Two brothers spotted him shopping at the Virgin Megastore late one night wearing a very unfashionable velvet tracksuit, glasses and long oily hair that would make Julian Clary shriek. The older brother, who noticed him first, whispered "Oh my God, Val Kilmer is standing at the end of the counter". The younger brother looked and was not convinced until the star turned and looked both of them. "I had no idea it was him until he turned around and I saw his very distinctive lips. I wouldn't have looked twice at him if my brother had not seen him first." They had the perfect opportunity to meet him and get a photo with hardly any customers around, but were too nervous and had no film in their camera."

Apart from Val Kilmer ... everyone should annoy Val Kilmer ... you see there are exceptions to all rules ...
Friday Five At the risk of make the page look like a question and answer session ...

1. What was the first thing you ever cooked?
Toast. Does that count? Otherwise a boiled egg. Aren't these the things everyone cooks first?

2. What's your signature dish?
Spag Bol. I eat pans full of the stuff. Might I recommend the use of Tyne Brand mince instead of real meat for that real studenty North Yorkshire taste.

3. Ever had a cooking disaster? (tasted like crap, didn't work, etc.) Describe.I once used to create experimental stir fries with an everything in flavour. There are some vegitables which aren't supposed to be fried over a long period, so between the tomatoes, mushrooms and onions, there'd be pulpy bits of celery and banana.

4. If skill and money were no object, what would make for your dream meal? I was once in Shrewsbury and for lunch I had a 'New Yorker' burger at a pub/restaurant. It was the nicest burger I ever tasted -- it was so good I can remember every bite. The burger was succulent, the bacon just right, the cheese melt just soft enough without dribbling. If I had enough money I'd search and and find the chef and pay him to be on call 24 hours a day to just recreate that taste...

5. What are you doing this weekend?
Work Saturday, rest Sunday.

Take the Friday Five challenge yourself ...