Books Nora Ephron's mother, on her death bed, told her daughter that she should have a notebook out because 'Everything's copy'. There are those writers who can convincingly make everything up as they go along -- but that kind thing leads to Star Trek tie-in novels. For me, The really good ones work from experience, either because it's what they know or because they feel like they've got a responsibility to report what they've seen. Natasha Radojcic-Kane falls into the latter catagory. She was born under Tito's reign in Yugoslavia and then watched the country fade from inside after his death:
"I felt it most personally through the music of the time. By the late 1980s the lines at the opera house, where my father had first taken me, were shrinking, and a new kind of music crammed the stores: terribly aggressive turbo-folk, expressing the discontent of a nation gasping for air under the yoke of the disintegrating economy. And then there were my friends at Belgrade’s Academy of Arts, where I was a film student. Once, they were sharp, unflinching supporters of free thought; individualist, secularist. Now they were succumbing, lost and hopeless, to the new mantra—“Serbia, Serbia.” My half-Muslim blood rendered me persona non grata at their parties. My phone grew quieter and quieter."
This is a lady who will never get over her guilt of not being there.
Business At college, I had two supermarketing options. There was the Morisson's in Leeds city centre, which was big, cheap and had great fresh pizzas. Or there was Safeway, more local in Headingly, which was small, more expensive, but had decent reductions. I only ever went there if I ran out of something -- always handy to have a place like that within walking distance. Within all that I always thought of Morissons as being the fragile one of the two -- I liked it because it seemed quanter, more like a family company. Which makes all of the takeover bids which are suddenly spreading about Safeway all a bit irksome. Will someone buy it already? Even BHS is eyeing it up now, possibly as way of become a kind of quasi-M&S.
Travel Whenever I want to go on a shopping spree I go to Manchester. This makes the case that Peru is good alternative.
People Profile of that political animal Martin Sheen. When that thing happened on that date, the general consensus was that Barlett in 'The West Wing' would have been a greater statesman that Bush Jr., and by turns that Sheen should be US president. Anyone wanting to look between the lines might infer that the actor has got some aspirations in that direction. He's still quite young (by comparisson). his only difficulty might be that although he's a popular entertainer, his political views would pissoff far to many people -- and doesn't seem like the kind of mine you would kurb them just for power's sake.
TV & Music Really sorry to hear about Zoe and Norman. Thought those two would really make a go of it.
Life I need a new television. I think I need a new television. Actually I might not need a new television. I actually I won't be getting one at all.

It's a value judgement. Weighing up what is important with what isn't. For the past six months, the television in my room has experienced a strange kind of interference. There are sort of wavey lines on superimposed over the picture, multi-coloured, a kind of subliminal version of the cascade of colours you see in a puddle as the side of a road, where oil or fumes are laying on the surface and it's like a rainbow has taken up residence there. If I'm watching something full screen it's hardly noticable, but vent through a DVD, and that widescreen is obscured by them, the action ebbing and flowing between. It not unwatchable, just distracting.

We were going to the supermarket to replace a bread making machine, and I knew there were cheap TVs so I went along. Sure enough, they stocked two 28 inchers, perfect for the job, about £200.

But I stood looking at them and part of me which thinks too much set to work. The picture on my current TV isn't so bad, just distracting. It's not like it isn't working at all. And this was £200 -- which is still a lot of money to me, new job accepted. I could have put it on my credit card, but I would still have to pay it back eventually and it's not looking that health as it is.

I'm looking at the televisions, new televisions, and I began to think about all the things I still want to do. I need to get my life sorted out. I'm still living at home, I'm not all that happy pretty much of the time (just pleasantly surprised I'm still here). I need a life change, I need to be doing some things to set me up for the rest of my life, and these are the kinds of things which require money. I need to continue saving, and I can't do that if I'm busting £200 on a TV. To buy the TV would also say something about me ... in a way that the quality of the television picture is more important than the kind of life you lead. I met someone a couple of weeks ago who was still using the b/w portable she had been for years, hooked up to a toploading VHS player. What does it say about me that I thought I need a 28" picture?

Does anyone else go through this kind of mental torture when they go out to buy consumables?
Film OK, so Woody Allen's 'Hollywood Ending' wasn't so great. But wait, there's another one along later this year, and this time he's going for the teen market:
"Woody Allen's character is a struggling and insecure artist in New York. He is having an affair with Christina Ricci's character, a dense and self-centered young girl. Jason Biggs is Ricci's boyfriend, and when he finds out about the affair, he confronts Allen. Meanwhile, Allen must avoid Danny Devito who plays Christina Ricci's father, chasing after Allen with a loaded shot gun."
After re-watching 'Annie Hall' and 'Hannah and her Sisters' over the past week, I'm really beginning to miss the times when he mixed comedy and drama and analysis. The fact that "Something Else" features Biggs and Ricci sends out a few mixed messages. Although the thought of a crazed DeVito flying around New York without any care but to shoot Woody does sound strangely appealing (synopsis via the IMDB).
TV First Iain Lee, now Mel & Sue have joined RI:SE. This is looking more and more promising ...
TV I never watch Coronation Street, but somehow, on Monday night, I managed to bump into what some tabloids have descibed as a 'bloodbath'. Now I've little or no idea of the characters involved, but I was amazed at how similar the show looks to a sitcom. And what was Keith Duffy doing there, lost in a sea of not so familar faces? Off The Telly offers a positive review which makes me wonder if I'm missing something vital.
People It must be difficult for John Cusack to be one of my top five actors. Here he looks back over the high points of his career. It's a massive article which even takes in his lesser work, like 'Tapeheads' and 'Better Off Dead'. [via The Uncool]
Music When I was at school, someone convinced me that Steve Miller's 'The Joker' was about Jack Nicholson, offering compelling evidence in the form of a comparisson of his films with the lyrics. Here's what it's actually about. (via SoapBoxGirls)
Commerce Vicky's reminded me of the letter of complaint I sent to Asda just before Christmas. See below:
"Dear Sir or Madame,

I’m writing because I finally have to express my continued disappointment with the customer service at your newly opened Sefton Park store. On a number of occasions I have found the staff to be rude and unhelpful and it has finally meant that I dread visiting the store. In a way, what happened tonight encompassed many of the things which have happened previously, which is a shame, because it was my way of giving the store one more chance.

When my father and I started to put the goods on the conveyor belt, a friend of the lady serving arrived and they began to talk. The lady serving did not look up at us, and I had to run to the part of the till were the goods are scanned to start packing because she was throwing the goods towards there. I bring carrying bags from Habitat, because they are stronger than Asda carrier bags and make it easier to carry my Dad’s beer and my shandy. I’m trying to open these out so that I can continue to put the goods in, but because the lady serving wasn’t paying to attention to anything but the conversation, the goods were mounting up. Because she didn’t look up, a loaf of bread was almost squashed between two packs of beer – I only just managed to save it in time.

If she had looked up she would have seen I was already packing the goods and wouldn’t have bothered to start half-heartedly packing things into carriers – I say half heartedly because she put a sixer of shandy on top of some lolly ices squashing the boxes. It might have been nice if I could have got at least some of the goods home in one piece.

If she had stopped talking to her friend for a moment she would have noticed that she hadn’t reduced a lettuce and scanned it properly. When my Dad pointed out the error, she snatched it from him, reduced it down and flung it in with the rest of the goods. Again, she didn’t look up, she didn’t stop chatting, and above all, she didn’t apologise for her error. The only time she paid any interest in us was when she barked the price at us. At no time did she even say please or thank you.

When she’d got her money, without acknowledging, she asked her friend to sit in her place whilst she went to the toilet. We were still packing. Only at this stage did her friend again half-heartedly ask if we needed any help with the packing, a bag of oranges and the afformentioned lettuce before the end. I declined. I just wanted to leave the shop as quickly as possible.

I fear I may have to visit the shop again, because it’s the only convenient supermarket to get to after work. I hope that next time I visit there has been an improvement. I would like to know what you plan to do to improve the service available as this is the last straw.

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Ian Burns.
I haven't had a reply. I suspect they think I'm a nutter. But I'd never written a complaint letter before. I think it went quite well ...
Theatre Shakespeare continues to be eminently adaptable. The Coatesville Cultural Society are finishing rehearsals on their version of the disputed 'King John' (no one can decide if he wrote this one), and finding it difficult to cut it down to a manageable length, so they're employing some unauthodox tactics:
""It's two hours now, but we still left a lot out of it," he said. The other difficult part, he said, was "keeping the juice" in the play. "It's dry for a modern audience," he admitted. However, to "keep the juice" in the play, Jones added modern devices such as the music of rapper DMX playing over the top of one scene.
In Sweden they're cutting 'Hamlet' down to an hour and a quarter for practicality -- because of a lack of venues, they're trying something else:
"The Ice Globe -- a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London -- is built of some 15,000 tons of snow and ice from the nearby Torne River. It stands beside Jukkasjarvi's Ice Hotel."
Basically if the play was any longer, they audience would freeze to death before the end of the second act.
Buffy Reading the movie mistake's guide to Star Trek:Nemesis, it's pretty clear that Trekkers are becoming generally hacked off that their sacred continuity is being roasted on the spit of the general audience. It hadn't occured to me that Buffy fans were just as precious. Then I saw this Idiot's guide to continuity on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a very funny and true look at how internal consistency has gone out of the window:
Vampires, traditionally, fear sunlight.

Long walks in the sun. (Though we have noticed that a blanket seems to protect a vampire from harmful UV rays, we feel this is bullshit. If there is absolutely no way to get around a vampire needing to go for a jog in the sunlight, we bitterly agree to a blanket, though it'd better be a damn thick one. We suggest flannel. Or one of those soft fluffy ones one can buy at a Mariner's game.)
See also this chronology (which still can't make sense out when the slayer's birthday is). I remember almost, very nearly, losing sleep once over 'Quantum Leap'. Was Al the hologram seeing Sam Beckett as himself or as the person he'd leapt into? In some episodes he was lusting after Sam's outer appearance and in other's making snide remarks about seeing him in drag ... [both links via Whedonesuw]
Play Or rather not. In a very real sense. This is one image of Mark Durden-Smith, former presenter of Channel Four's RI:SE I really didn't want to have. The fact that someone looking for it found my weblog I find deeply disturbing.
Rest My first college course of the new term began tonight, so you can expect some posts relating to 'World Music in Context' some time in the near future. Right now I'm listening to an artifact from a course past. I might have mentioned some time that I did a theatre directing course at the local University. We were introduced to some trainee actors and the final outcome was a fully developed exerpt from a famous play. I chose 'Waiting for Godot', because it has a good break after ten minutes, and it was the only play I studied at school which didn't have Shakespeares name on the cover. It was afascinating experience and I was really proud of what we accomplished in those such a short amount of time.

The trouble was that when the final night came, my fellow 'directors' all gave their actors something as a thankyou -- chocolate, whatever. I had nothing. It just hadn't occured to me -- nerves I expect. So I told them that did have something, and that it was a surprise, and that I had left it at home. Yes I know it's the lamest of excuses, but they bought it (no really), and when I got home, that night, I put together compilation album for them. The only, perfect thing seemed to be to create a soundtrack for the play. Now here is where I'm hoping at least some of you are familiar with the thing. Because otherwise the following will mean nothing. Here is a very simple Godot 101. Here is something a bit more complicated. Here is something a lot more complicated. Here is the play. And here is the interactive adventure. And here is the track listing:

A ROAD Portishead
I'M STILL WAITING The Gutter Brothers
LET'S GO Cranes
YOU SMELL Mitch Benn
HOLD ME Shascle
HELP ME Joan Osbourne

My point? Well think about all of the film soundracks there are available -- then think of how many have absolutely no connection to the film you've seen. Here I was in my bedroom with my (admittedly mad and unusual) cd collection I russelled something up which actually features titles that imitate lines from the play and replicate the mood in a few hours. Anyone like to send in a fictional soundtrack album for Krapp's Last Tape?
Work I agreed to do my first shift swap in my new job today. I was asked by a colleague to work her late shift. On Valentine's Day night. Which is a Friday. I did pause before I agreed. I knew I wouldn't be doing anything that nght, which agrivated me slightly. Not that I wouldn't be doing anything. With anyone. Same old, same old. But that I'd actually resigned myself to the fact a whole month in advance. I really have to do something about that.
Film Star Trek: Nemesis It’s a long time since I’ve sat in front of a Star Trek film with such poor expectations. The notices this thing has been getting haven’t been this bad since the dreaded Star Trek V. Perhaps it’s all our collective jadedness with the Roddenburyesque universe. Some background. Regular readers will know that I was once a stereotypically obsessed Star Trek fan – not to the point of wearing costumes, but I did have a few t-shirts, read the tie-in novels and watched the show religiously. I was still interested up until the final season of Deep Space Nine, then it sort of petered out. Voyager was getting lost and going nowhere in the Delta Quadrant and I was just of hearing the same dialogue over and over, the same music keys, the same things happening over and over. The next generation was still there of course, but there are only so many times you can watch some things before the fun drifts out of them. Plus Buffy was doing all the things, we’d with Trek had been doing – but I’ll save my ideas of what Trek would have been like if Whedon had produced it for a later date. This is the bit where I admit to being … pleasantly surprised. So long as you’ve ever liked Star Trek.

It does feel like the television show. Some would see that as a criticism, but it is one of the strengths. In the TV show, most stories had a slow burn. Three acts of investigation and character development leading up to the big scenes at the end – no pointless action sequence here is needed in case your attention is flagging – you’re supposed to be watching the story. The more enjoyable moments happened, not during the action sequences but when characters just sat about and talked. That seems to have been forgotten in the movies. The moment when Picard meets his nemesis resembled all of those times he sat about with Q, some Cardassian commander, or whoever. Can he persuade them or can’t he – it’s the drama of talk not action. The scenes in which Geordi and Data investigated the new arrival are just like the times they would collectively try and work out what had gone wrong that week with Data / the ship / both. It was good to see them return here.

But the story is only average. This is the stuff of season seven rather than seasons three and four. On DS9 this kind of story felt universe changing. Here it creates a ripple. It doesn’t feel like all or nothing. You know they’re going to lose, but not everything. There is the franchise to think of. Which is part of it’s problem – your led to believe all bets are off, but they’re not really. Nothing really has changed at the end of the episode, sorry film. What we really wanted was the return of Q and a massive war of some kind. Not the skirmish that’s here.