What? 'Think and Link' on World Aids Day 2001.
Why? I've always tried to keep myself within the blogging community, even if I make a point of not linking to things I've found elsewhere much. This seemed like a good cause, although when the day came I wimped out with this post:
"Aids I've been thinking all week about what I was going to write today and eventually realised that I don't have anything to say. I know other webloggers will have stories of friends and familly who've been effected by the disease. Some will offer statistics. But I find myself, for once, speechless. So I think all I can offer is that it's in my thoughts as it should be in yours. I'd be wearing a ribbon with pride if I could find one anywhere ... which sort of proves that Aids has drifted off the agenda lately ... link and think ..."
I've been lucky in that no one close has been struck down by this thing so had no personal perspective to offer. On reflection this wasn't the best logo in the world (just modifying someone elses) but it could have been a lot worse.
first appeared 1st December 2001; finally
TV I'm not sure what else to do with this. Whilst researching for the above piece about Channel 4's new series 'The Book Group' I googled myself what I think is a transcript of an internal meeting about the channel's future entertainment plans and it makes for interesting reading. It isn't complete either, but it does show how accurate 'People Like Us' and 'The Office' were in capturing the meetings culture. One particular quote sticks out. I mean we love 'Smack The Pony', but do they?

"These things follow on from the fact that you are dealing with someone who has a vision. It sounds terribly idealistic but it is actually true and if you look at something like Smack The Pony which is about to hit our screens with series three, you know, it's done terribly well. It's won two Emmy's and we shout about it a lot and of course the programmes, I will be the first to admit, can be a variable quality but it is a pretty strong series and its done extremely well for us." (my italics)

I'm sure the girls would be happy to hear that. Although it's perhaps unfair to signal that piece in particular, as it's the only negativity in was is a very passionate piece which underlines how the channel has changed it's emphasis over the years, from an operator who'll throw any old tat up on the screen sometimes ('Something For The Weekend') to a place which really tries to nurture new talent. It does get a few digs in at the BBC, although they are correct. As I've mentioned before, Auntie does have a habit of find new kids with new ideas and then not satisfying their creative needs...
TVThe Book Group’ (which began tonight) is one show which certainly didn’t seem to offer anything. Channel 4 have sat on it for at least a year and in pre-publicity it seemed to be trading upon the title of the preceeding series in the slot ‘Black Books’. Which is a shame, because it’s certainly that show’s equal but in different ways.

The premise is promisingly simple. American Clare (Anne Dudek) is living in Glasgow and in a bid to make new friends advertises a ‘Book Club’ in a local book shop. The show is about what happens at each monthly meeting and is told in ‘real time’ The twist is that that the people who arrive seem totally mis-matched for occasion and are obviously there for something other than the book – footballer’s wives, a smart-arse student, a wheel-chair bound fitness instructor and the slightly shady Rob whose job has yet to be revealed. On reflection there are similarities with ‘Dear John’ – in that show there was similarly motley crew of sitcom characters.

Here, there is a definite understanding of humanity. Strangely these people never appear to be cartoon character, a strength of writer/director Annie Griffin. True this feels like theatre at times, but this means there is a rhythm to the writing, for example the breaking up of scenes by one of the wives asking if people want tea or the subject of football coming up now and then. In some ways I’m reminded of the ‘Friends’ episode all set in Monica’s apartment as they all get ready for speech Ross is giving. That had a nervousness about it, as though this team of writers don’t know how to break up the action. In Griffin’s work, this never happens, there is the surety you would expect from someone who had been writing for years.

Clare is not an intensely likeable character, coming across as the sort of control freak who would give Heather of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ a run for her money. She had an obvious picture of how this thing was going to turn out and these aren’t the people she was expecting to meet. She’s sarcastic and neurotic (best line – ‘Oh soccer? You can make money from that?’). But its to Dudek’s credit that we don’t completely hate her – that there is a spark of pluckiness we might root for. Of the rest of the actors, James Lance (as the student) does his usual smart-alec patter, but here it seems less forced. Rory McGann (fitness instructor) is also particularly good – we feel for him, but don’t feel sorry for him.

This is a show that will develop with time. By keeping back all of the important revelation about the characters we have something to return to. And I will.
Film What if the Best Picture Nominees from this year's Oscars were adapted for television:

"Sean Astin's Samwise Gamgee takes centerstage in this new series, inspired by the classic Tolkien trilogy. In the pilot episode, Gamgee returns to the Shire from a berry-picking expedition to find his home ransacked and his good friend Frodo murdered! A grief-stricken Gamgee wonders how to avenge his friend -- and is visited by the spectral spirit of Gandalf (special guest star Donald Sutherland), who reveals the existence of a heretofore unknown Super Ring. The ring imbues its wearer with catlike agility, superior strength, and lightning reflexes -- just the combination for kicking serious Orc butt!"
Feminism Sometimes you have to link to something because of that unrepeatable web address ...
Blog! Cynthia, inside is a Japanese pop culture linkblog, which thankfully doesn't get bogged (blogged?) down in anime. It's got a light yet distinctive design, which demonstrates what can happen if a true artist is involved. Don't you just hate people who are more talented than you are?
People Have you read Dave Gorman? In the spirit of Gorman's original quest (to meet 54 namesakes), two of his fans are searching for 676 people who have read the book, 'Are You Dave Gorman?', this number arrived at by a suitably complex equation which includes Scrabble letters and a grid. The site itself is wonderful stuff and you wonder what Dave himself thinks of it. Sadly my initials have gone, but I'm sure some of you out there could help ... [Metafilter] [via Miles Mendoza's Website of the Day]
Food It must be quite painful for restaurant owners to see a bad review -- like plays these things can mean the difference between a long run and closure within a month. This a particular stinker, as the reviewer Sarah Spencer tries her best to say lots of nice things about il Basilico in Budapest but finds herself obsessing over a little thing .. those damn mushrooms:

"In my reserved English way I chose not to immediately investigate the case of the missing mushrooms, however, as the meal wore on I became more and more indignant about paying full price for only half an order. Finally I worked myself up into such a frenzy that when the waiter came to clear the plates I politely inquired as to the artichokes’ whereabouts."

They do their best by offering a complementary sweet it must be quite galling that for the manager that the focus of the review of his restaurant would be an edible fungus.
Career (sort of) I've just volunteered as a British TV brain at allexperts. It'll be at least a bit interesting to see what questions I get asked. So who was that guy, who appeared in that thing, with that bloke who was in thingy, presumably.
That Day As I write, a video of The Queen Mother's funeral plays in the background. Although I feel compelled to watch, I find it difficult. I've never been to a funeral in my life -- when my own grandmother's died I was too young, I suppose, so this is something I'm yet to confront. Things are easier in this case, because, understandably, because of who she was, this is being treated as a historic moment -- and in a way this is an opportunity to give younger generations an incling of their past. It's justa shame that a number of the obitumentaries are implying she didn't do anything after the blitz -- which doesn't seem at all fair...

Who? Joe DiMaggio, Baseball player
Why? Imagine being the pitcher whose heart melts as he looks into these eyes and realises he hasn't clue were the ball is going to go.... and it would have been his birthday ... notice the very small title ... eyes this intense should never be covered up ... I did consider leaving it off altogether, but I didn't want to confuse people to much.
first appeared November 2001; finally

Who? Rachel Green (as played by Jennifer Aniston). From 'Friends'.
Why? Of all the characters in ‘Friends’ Rachel has been the most consistent and in terms of development, the show’s greatest achievement. From the dumbing down of Joey to the blanding out of Pheobe, many crimes have been committed but Rachel has been a triumph, as we’ve seen he develop from being a pretty little rich girl, through dizzy waitress to strong career woman, with sacrifices (Ross) and gains (a baby), and in the centre Jennifer Anniston’s performance. As my friend Anna says: “she has a subtlety about her. she's a true sort-of comic. you know, a class clown, someone who takes the fall. she's the straight guy who's straightness is what's so funny. she does well when she's doing this.”
first appeared November 2001; finally

Who? Tom Baker's Doctor Who being menaced by some Daleks. Scary.
Why? I never hid behind the sofa. I couldn’t – it was against the wall. But I still didn’t cower being any kind of lounge furniture. ‘Doctor Who’ never scared me. I always saw through its inherent fakeness, unable to suspend my disbelief. I had seen ‘Blade Runner’ (that frightened me so much I puked) and the realism on display there had killed my capacity for seeing the TARDIS as anything but a few round bits of plastic stuck on some hardboard. But I was born in the early seventies. I only caught the tail end of Tom’s last season. I was being enthralled by Peter Davison, then Colin Baker. I missed the golden age. I missed seeing ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, ‘City of Death’ and ‘The Horns of Nimon’ the first time around. I never saw Tom Baker in his prime, as he appears in this photo, vital and surprising, alien yet familiar. Yet another of life’s tragedies I suppose.  Happily I have been here for the resurgence: since the appearance on ‘Have I Got News For You’ he’s been managing to find steady work outside the convention circuit -- something we should all be grateful for. I know he’ll never be The Doctor again, but could someone please give him a detective series exploring unusual happenings? The old bluffer is still in there, you know …
first appeared November 2001; finally

Who? Androgynous looking Roman statue of indeterminate origin.
Why? Every year, for five years, I’ve been attended night school classes at the local university, in a bid to keep the educational part of my student years alive. A few years ago, I left my choice of courses to the very last minute, a week after most had already begun, exactly. Looking through the booklet I found one series about ‘King Lear’. I hate ‘King Lear’ – or rather I hate the fact I can’t understand it. Once the old duffer gets onto the moor, the rain comes in and my mind clouds. I decided I’d get this sorted out once and for all. Sadly, after sitting in the class room where it should have been held for half an hour I found out it wasn’t running. In a panic, I dashed for the next available class, a history of ‘Popular Music’. Two things made me leave this at the interval; the scary middle-age woman who kept winking at me as she took an Elvis pencil, from an Elvis pencil case to write in an Elvis exercise book; and the lecturer who took to placing his hands on my shoulders and spent his time talking about rationing and not playing any bloody records.

So there I was in the break looking at a course board looking for something at least a bit interesting that didn’t seem to require any prior knowledge. Within a few moments, from nowhere I still think, a beautiful young woman, the sort I’d always seen in foreign films, stood next to me. I asked which course she was doing. She pointed at the board:

“Art, Beauty and Philosophy.” Her accent was French.

“Any good?”


And I followed her into the class, for nine weeks of Socrates, Aristotle and Freud. Hence the statue. This was one of the most significant moments of my life. Did I end up dating her?. No. Did I fall for anyone else on the course? That’s a long story, but ultimately no, although the experience added someone important to my life. The reason that this moment still makes me shake, was that for once I said something, in the pregnant pause when in the past I would have just smiled nervously and gone home, I asked the right question, and did the thing I would have been kicking myself for not doing the rest of my life. I made up for all the times this has happened which I still wince over. Like the time a similar French girl asked me up to her room on the first night of college and I declined … but that’s another story.
first appeared November 2001; finally

Who? Withnail (without I) as played by Richard E. Grant, during the famous tea room scene ... 'I want the finest wines known to man, I want them here, and I want them now!'
Why? In his autobiography, ‘With Nails’, Richard E. Grant describes how the rest of career has been coloured by this part and how many of his greatest roles have been because his fellow actors wanted to work with Withnail. The measure of the actor is that he doesn’t feel constrained by this.  Unlike some who’s future work has been defined by a single role, he thanks the world for the opportunities it has given him; the chance during the nineties to work with a string of iconic directors (Altman, Coppola). Since then he has been no less visible in career terms, but has been appearing in seemingly lower key productions, a clever move, which has allowed him to play the roles he would simply never see on the big screen. In a film of ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ he would have been a pompous courtier not the masqueraded hero; knock his appearance (and performance) in ‘SpiceWorld’, but he was there in a moment of pop culture history, ‘A Hard Day's Night’ now; in ‘Trial and Retribution III’ he gave a classically dramatic performance, by turns sinister and touching; in ‘The Curse of the Fatal Death’ as another instant Doctor Who we glimpsed how Withnail might have been in the TARDIS, now that Marwood had already been there. Chin, chin.
first appeared November 2001; finally

Who? Death, as featured in the Ingmar Bergman film, 'The Seventh Seal'
Why? When I was at university, I was almost an anti-student. During my year in halls, whenever everyone else was out having fun, getting drunk, getting each other, I would spend my time at home catching up with study or reading or music or in a Friday night, the free videos available at the college library. And since my campus had the main language faculty, this consisted of foreign film from throughout the century. If I’ve any knowledge of world cinema it’s from this time. Kieslowski’s ‘Decalogue’, Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ and Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal’. I had seen the references – 'Bill and Ted', 'The Last Action Hero', 'Love and Death' – but seeing the source, the moment on the beach in which knight looks Death in the eye as he moves the chess pieces sticks in the mind. This was fantasy without swash buckle, heroism in words not swords, humanity not scared of the future river or where it flows. In too many ways, I never saw films the same again – and began to go out more, to see what I was missing.
first appeared 28th October 2001; finally
Features For those who've asked for it, I'm developing an archive of my title bars, and I'll be working there for the next few days. I've set it up at Blogger, so if you go there each day, you'll see something new posted. Normal blogging services will resume shortly (donations welcome to get rid of that advert banner ... well if you don't ask ...)