TV And I'll leave you tonight with the news that Johnny Vegas will be essaying Mike Read's role in a remake of popular 80s children's show 'RUNAROUND!'
Wars Empire magazine's review of 'The Clones':
"For a man supposedly oblivious to TPM's critical pasting, Lucas' fifth instalment feels like it was made by a fanboy committee. There's more action, more humour and more humanity (McGregor's Obi-Wan is more confident and cynical; while Portman's Padme is less regal; more sexy). On the flip-side, there's no midi-chlorians and - hurrah! - barely any Jar Jar. Meanwhile, obviously suffused with confidence again, Lucas directs capably, showing off his visual skills (breathtakingly beautiful shots are legion), while letting the increasingly dark story develop unhindered."
Ooops, sorry, I'm drooling ...
People Of all the Arquette's Patricia has arguably been the most consistent. From Alabama in 'True Romance' to rainsodden turn in 'Beyond Rangoon' she's been the every person, the person we relate to in extra-ordinary situations, and none more impossible than 'Human Nature' where she plays a woman who has hair throughout her body. It's the latest script from 'Being John Malkovich' writer Charlie Kaufman. Says Arquette:
""It's about how you'll alter yourself to get what you want," Arquette says, referring to Lila's shaving mishaps while she struggles to keep her relationship with Nathan viable. "But it's also about how you don't want it once you get it -- you want something else. At the end of the day, you're screwed because you're left with yourself. And there's no perfect person who's going to distract you long enough. You can be in love and be lonely being in love because you're still there."
Or careful what you wish for, you might just get it ... [Interview at Papermag]
Blog! In case you're wondering I'm still trying to work out how to review 'Waking Life' properly But while you're waiting perhaps I should point you in the direction of 'News of the dead', the weblog of Wiley Wiggins, the lead actor in that film and 'Dazed and Confused'. It's a ecclectic mix of tradional bloginalia, news about the projects he's working on and life's meanderings; from the strange to the truthful. I can relate Wiley -- and can't help but agree that the film was cheated at the Oscars -- 'Johnny Neutron' for goodness sake ...
Books 'The Salmon of Doubt' by Douglas Adams
It is now one year since Douglas died and for some reason it still feels like there's a hole in the world. True, Adams wasn't publishing books, but every now and then he would turn up on television or in a newspaper talking about some wonderful new piece of technology or environmental cause we should all get behind, and it felt like there was some good in the world. Within this context, Adams' final book feels like a study in loss, helped by the epilogue which reprints Richard Dawkins epitaph from 'The Guardian'.

The book is split into three sections. 'Life' deals with Adams as a man; there are pieces about his boyhood, writing methods and holidays he has taken. 'The Universe' is about Adams impact of the world -- there are articles about new technology and how he wished it would work more efficiently; 'Everything' collects some fiction, a couple of short stories reprinted from an old 'Comic Relief' book he worked on, and that third incomplete Dirk Gently novel. There is actually very little in here which has not been printed somewhere before. There are pieces from H2G2 (the internet attempt at 'The Hitchhicker's Guide), various magazine and newspaper articles and introductions and essays from his own books and others.

And we don't mind, because the quality of the writing is so strong and vivid. He brings the same vibrant gravitas to everything from his aetheism to making a cup of tea; he somehow manages to look beyond the surface of a thing and is able to describe it in a way which will make it instantly familiar. When he talks about the time he and a few pals climbed Everest in a Rhino outfit to raise money for that endangered species, you are in the centre of the group with him; you're there to when he goes diving with Manta Rays. A cynic reading the book might ask whether he did anything but go on exotic holidays and buy new electronic thingys, but I don't begrudge him a bit, because he's forever the observer, the learner, adding to the critical mass and the world's knowledge through these experiences.

Another joy is the inclusion of transcripts of concert introductions. Those in particular are a surprise as he generously heaps praise on 'Procal Harem' -- you can see in his words a niggling disappointment that he didn't make music instead of writing. He repeatedly he said he wasn't really a novelist, that he was a scriptwriter at heart; one of the books gitwrenching moments comes during an interview with 'The Onion' when he descibes how a Hitchhiker's film script was written which was dreadful, but someone had put his name on it even though he never contributed a word, and the thing hung around Hollywood for so long that producers assumed he couldn't write screenplays. You wonder what cinemagoers have missed without him being there. Imagine the Adams influenced 'Men In Black' if he had been the script doctor -- he would sure have increased it's meaning and depth.

It's ironic then that this book offers such a good introduction to the writing of Douglas Adams. I'm sure the big man would have appreciated the irony.
Wars Intergalactic war broke out at the midnight showing of the new Star Wars film at the Glasgow Odeon. I won't spoil the report, which I've posted here, although I'll simply say that the police where called half way through... [via Chris]
Commuter Life I want to get something off my chest. If anyone rides commuter buses they'll recognise what I'm talking about. Here is a dictionary definition of 'spatial awareness':
"The ability to work within one's own space; the ability to organize people and objects in relation to one's own body."
In other words being able to see things or people and how they relate to you. In which case can some explain something to me. Why do people, when they get on a bus where there are no seats, insist on standing at the front in the way of the door? I know there are wider concerns in the world, but when I've forgotten my book in the morning other than see the same drab housing pass-by through the window there is nothing else to look at. The senario usually plays out something like this:

Three students and a businessman get on just before Toxteth. The Businessman will grab the nearest seat and the three students will congregate around the baggage rack just in front of the door. Next stop is full of people. As they get on, no one moves. As the people get on, rather than pushing past the students they will stand with them. Someone will move through when the space gets to full, but rather than moving all of the way to the back and letting everyone spread about, they will move forward as little as possible. Bus moves on, next stop. Doors open. The driver has to shout a request (as usual) for everyone to move down the bus. Which they do. But not all the way of course, just halfway down the isle. The bus driver asks again. Now, they move. But it's begrudingly, the look in their eyes either vacant or irritated because they've been shouted at.

Then there are the ones who meet a friend who is sitting down and start having a chat and then will pathalogically refuse to move even when they're getting shouted at. They will take all kinds of pushing and shoving as people try to get past them, and even tut when they're knocked away.

Final rant. What is it with people who won't take their bags off their shoulders when they are standing up? Every night I'll find myself sitting with a backpack in my face trying to avoid a smack in the face. I'm how do you ask them to move ... it's a bit petty isn't it?
Pause Still watching 'Waking Life'. I'll do this sometimes ... I'll see film and I'll want to wacth it over and over because I feel like I'm missing the important details or moments ... which I'll then miss again because I was paying attention to other stuff. I think if I'd actually seen this thing at the the cinema I would have had a very expensive week.

Commenting on yesterday's post, Alfvaen of Den of Ubiquity thinks I overestimated how many people buy films [see guestbook]. I think what I was trying to say, not very well, is that the general audience would not necessarily have an interest in buyning films like 'Waking Life', but interested parties should be able to. I suppose the best way of acheiving this would be some kind of digitl delivery system. You call a shop or drop in and say that you want to buy a copy of a film on DVD or video and they would burn or dub a copy while you wait after streaming or downloading the information from a general source. I remember this approach being used for games on cassette during the 8-bit computer age -- you would ask for a game and they recorded it onto tape at the checkout. In the newer version, there would also be a machine on hand which could print the inlay and documentation at the same time -- all the shop need to is supply the box and disk. The only downsides are that download speeds would need to increase even more and portable printing machines would have to be of a quality comparable to that available now.

TV For those following the story, bidding has closed on the terrestrial digital license. We're going to Sky incidentally. Some day.
Media I've just watched 'Waking Life', Richard Linklater's animated opus. I'm still in glorious shock at how anything so artistically perfect was made let alone released, but I'll review it when I've had some perspective (although I am already storing up key phrases like 'The 'Fantasia' of Philosophy').

The film has only recently been released at cinemas in the UK and I think there are only a few prints -- paper reviews were a few weeks ago, but it's only just turned up at nearest art house venue to Liverpool, The Cornerhouse in Manchester. I saw it at home, lying on my bed (kind of apt) on DVD. The fact that I could watch this extra-ordinary piece domestically when a theatre is showing it at the same time, demonstrates the artificiality which now exists within media distribution circles. They are limiting our exposure to creativity people. The communicator has a hand over his mouth until they let him speak. My question is -- why should we in the UK wait around until someone else dictates when we can see something? Let's look at two examples:

'Waking Life' was officially released theatrically in the US last October. Many of the weblogs and sites I consult on a regular basis posted reviews and comments about the film. But of course I couldn't see it, so I could participate within the shared experience. The film was eventually slated for release in February (note six month delay) and was reviewed in all the monthly film magazines... put it was pulled for some reason and eventually spluttered out last month. My chance to talk about it freshly with people from the country which originated has evaporated.

Example two: Star Wars: Episode II is released tomorrow throughout the world. Everyone will get to see it together and to talk about it on the same level at the same time.

But both are released by 20th Century Fox. Both are valid pieces of creativity within their own right. So why is one treated differently the other?

I know the answer. Economics. Star Wars will have a much larger audience than a cartoon about philosophy (although both sort of fit that description depending on how much you buy into 'The Force'). The UK only got 'Waking Life' after it had finished it's US run because we've doubtless got some cast off second hand prints.


Which leads to my other open-ended question. Why is it economically not safe to release a film theatrically and on sell-thru disc media at the same time? Why not give the consumer the choice of seeing film at home or in the theatre? That way I could have seen 'Waking Life' at the same time as my US cousins without having to wait around for Fox to grudgingly out it out into the market place (with skant advertising I might add). Economics again. To relase a film on sell-thru as well as theatrically would naturally circumvent the rental market (by the time a film goes to rental all the interested parties would have bought it after seeing it ar the cinema anyway). 'Blockbuster' would go under (they couldn't surely survive on Direct-to-tape films), the selling life of the bigger films would shorten.

The sporty-types on the playground stepping on the toes of the intelligent ones again. In 'Waking Life' Steven Soderbergh tells a story which proves my point (if I ever had one). I'm paraphrasing:
"Billy Wilder met Louis Malle, who had just completed his most expensive film, which cost two and a half million dollars, and asked him what his film was about. Malle told him it was about a dream within a dream. Wilder told him he had just lost two and a half million dollars."
I'll still be happy to pay for this stuff. I can only hope that when broadband becomes more widespread and the ability to watch computer files on a quality screen becomes easier -- and the quality of those files is stronger. some bright spark will see there is money in a global pay-per-view company which everyone, no matter the country can use ...

I'm off to watch the film again ... the joys of having it on shiny disc ...
Wierd When nuclear weapons were developed it became clear that such a destructive force should never be in the hands of people who might do evil. Since everyone has that capacity, even you, the realisation that either no one should have them or everyone should have them quickly followed as a sort of backwards protection evolved.

When the internet was developed it became equally clear that a cultural destructive force was actually now available to almost anyone and that whilst some might have an interest in furthering the understanding of mankind, that some would probably use it for the furthering of no one but themselves.

The site you’re reading now is no doubt in that category, but before this project caves in on itself perhaps we should spare thought for those who are using the internet for even more obscure purposes. Of course, there is some humour in someone archive their supermarket receipts or creating a shrine to navel fluff – but you do have to wonder what benefits they might have to offer a charity organisation or other people in need of computer ability.

But perhaps the fact that they are creating these sites which make you go ‘tut’ means that they are benefiting society. They are staying off the streets. No offence. In a nice way.

[Another dip into the madness of the random text in my old portals. The idea was to contradict the name of the site and offer lists on various subjects with a bit of text to introduce. Basically a static weblog -- then I realised how to do one of those and the idea seemed redundent somehow. Anyway, here is the list which appeared with them...]

10,000 year clock, Bunny Endurance Tests, Derek's Big Website of Wal-Mart Purchase Receipts, Gallery of Huge Beings, Human Male Pregnancy, Identity Relocation Foundation, Ramon: You Damn Bastard, Rectal Foreign Bodies, Sybershack, The Archive of Mis-heard Lyrics, The Big Foot Recordings, The Diva Experience, The Human Cloning Company, The Misanthropic Bitch and The World of Navel Fluff.
Blog! So basically general ambivalence all round then ...
People Thank goodness for that ... I was worried about James Earl Jones. He hasn't been in anything for a while (last sighted unveiling a plaque with someone else's name on). But here he is at a charity premiere for some film which is being released at the end of this week. A quick glance at the IMDb and I see he's become the king of voice work. And what do we find at top? This. His destiny, I suppose. Interesting to see that they're recommending 'Jedi'. Can we expect Ewoks to ruin that film as well?
TV This short piece from The Yemen Times describing the dangers of letting kids watch television. I'm staggered at how close some of it sounds to the preaching the UK government does frequently concerning our children's television. You can certainly hear the PM saying things like:
"Most animated cartoon programs are imported from foreign sources. These imported programs are hazardous to the intellect of our children, the same children we need to raise to be responsible adults who will build our country in the next generation. Children are the pillars of any society. They are considered to be a national wealth to lead this country for the better."
I agree that Pokemon could be damaging to the parental pocket, but from what I here it teaches the ideals of friendship and loyalty (albeit in an incoherent manner).
Travels with Matsui 'Hanging Around' -- Gemma Hayes

What? Another lost cause? I hope not. When I told my Mother that I'd bought this single, and that there only seemed to be ten copies in the shop, she suggested that they should have taken my name and address so that the singer could personally send me a thank you note for the support. Considering my choice last week, Bellefire stormed in at, well, number 18. I don't see this one charting at all, which is a shame as its a luminous piece of guitar rock. She's from Lymeric in Ireland although sound is pure American highroad ... On her website, Hayes descibes the impitous for the song:
"It's kind of about wanting to be in love with this person, wanting a house, being really chilled, and how life would be rosy from then on. And you get there but everything you wanted just makes you feel bored. It's about that uneasy feeling of having everything here, but I'm still not fucking happy'."

First Impressions? The video (which features on the single) is another in the female singer-songwriter-in-a-loft genre (see Dido's 'Thank you' and Natalie Imbruglia's 'Torn'). She's an extremely attractive girl, but for once this doesn't get in the way of the music. She's selling a dream herself -- that she's singing only two you and it works. Watching her pick up her guitar at the outset made my heart stop.

Moved? Oh yes. This is Sheryl Crow before the stadiums got in the way. The kind of music I wished I'd find at 'The Picket' in Liverpool on a Friday instead of three interchangable bands all playing Oasis covers. She's not in the business of telling a story, more a matter of impressions. It's about killing time until you fulfill the next dream.

Lasing impressions Again, I do hope she'll have some success. I'm not sure it is significantly different to what has gone before, but it's certainly another antidote to the rest of the singles released this week.

Keep, sell or dump? Keep. Then buy the album. I'm sorry, but I'm beside myself.
Liverpool Life BBC’s new heavily promoted drama 'Spooks' began tonight with a trip ‘up’ to Liverpool. Actually it didn’t. In fact I’m not entirely sure where they actually were. The street shown was no Liverpool City Centre I know – there are no taxis which look like Estate cars with a white TAXI logo stuck to the top. And didn’t some of those non-chain stores look a bit suburban? Looked more like Banger in Wales to be honest. And people there is no Rylands Park – in fact there isn’t a park anywhere near either of our Starbucks. Or St. Mary’s Hospital. Although I’m sure if there was, this sort of thing wouldn’t be happening there. Watching, I suddenly felt like all New Yorkers must when they see Vancouver or Sydney doubling for their fair city yet again. But it occurred to me that in drama (and comedy), no one seems to have ever got Liverpool correct. Not even ‘Brookside’.

The show as a piece of drama is nothing which hasn’t been seen before. It’s promising, but by no means must-see television. It needs to be cool without trying (‘CSI’). We need to know more about the characters and who they are within the group – what is Jenny Agutter’s job other than being the recognisably famous one? The reason most US imports work is because all of the characters are very clearly defined from the start (er etc) – this wasn’t much in evidence. It needs more sparky dialogue (‘Buffy’). And for this type of series, why does it also feel so much like ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘Attachments’?

I suppose I’ll be watching it again just in case there is an improvement. The series one piece of genius casting Lisa Faulkner gets a bigger role next week; I just hope there is more conflict amongst the leads – count how many other really good shows you know in which the characters get on all of the time …
Rival On the coat tails of the film, a new animated 'Spiderman' series is being produced. This one will ignore all that has gone before (no change there) but the casting is somewhat alternative ... Peter Parker will be voiced by Neil Patrick Harris (yep, Doogie Howser) and Mary-Jane by Lisa Loeb. Bizarre. If they want to be really alternative, she'll be contibuting some songs ...
People I was always a bit disappointed that Brian Blessed wasn't physically going to be in that film. He's such a presence and it would have meant he could have updated the story he always tells on chatshows about forgetting there are special effects in 'Flash Gordon' ('And I gave out a great WHOOSH!'). And I miss the laugh. 'The Lady' magazine interviews the big man as he steps onto the stage in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang':
"I always loved nature and spent hours exploring the Gam, a stream which flowed across seven fields between Wakefield and the moors. The wildlife was magical. I remember there being millions of newts - pink, white, beige, pale blue, great crested. To me it was Shangri-La. All this has been destroyed, flattened, used as a dumping-site." As his face registers the pain of this vandalism, his voice amplifies as if in a Shakespearean tragedy: "It's gone. It's dead. We are the guardians of this planet and we must act responsibly to ensure its future."
You can almost here him holloring through the screen ...
Perhaps Not too long ago in an alternative dimension, in street very close by, two teenagers Tim and Mike are out playing on their bikes. It's the end of the summer, but they'd rather be bored here than back in school. Tim asks:

"Fancy the pictures, tonight."
To which Mike answers:
"Can't. Doctor Who's on tonight."
"Will that take all night?"
"After that."
"Groovy. What do want to see?"
"That new one."
"What new one?"
"It's called err ... A New Hope."
"Sounds like a film for girls."
"Look-in said it was a space opera."
"It's for girls, and it's got old people's music in it. It sounds rubbish."
"No .. listen ... there are these two robots and they crash on this planet and they have to hide from the baddies because they've got the plans for some secret base, which gets destroyed at the end."
"So it's like Doctor Who. Why would I pay to see something I can see at home?"
"It's better than Doctor Who."
"No it isn't ..."
"Tisn't. Bet it asn't got Daleks."
"No -- but it's got these men in white armour. And there's this princess, and a giant monkey."
"But I don't like the title. What do we tell our mates in school? We went to see a film called A New Hope. It's a girly title. The cinema will be full of girls ..."
Tim waits for Mike to work it out ...
"What time are you coming around?"