Also 'Far From Heaven' -- 'Pleasantville' for adults, which cleverly offers a coherent, heartfelt, engrossing film even for people who haven't seen the Douglas Sirk movies it's supposed to homage. Should win some Oscars, but won't.
'The Scarlett Empress' from a few years ago features The Doctor in Paul McGann model questing across Terry Pratchett style planet in a Tardis shaped like a London Bus. Mostly interesting, although much of the landscape is difficult to imagine so the story suffers as a result.
'Truth Drug' Rosalie Deighton is another significant almost ran in a classy but mostly unheard album which is certain as good as Dido and Vanessa Charlton's output.
'The FreeWheelin' of Bob Dylan was the album I listened to through seven years of Fine Art at school on a tape my Art Teacher would put on every hour of every day. I need to start listening to some of the great musicians and working my way slowly through Bob's back catalogue seems like a good place to start.
'My Confession', the solo album from Jamie Benson someone from Hepburn features the writing talent of Bryan Adams, Susanna Hoffs, ahem Chesney Hawkes and Lennon ... Farrell Lennon, has some curiousity value from the writing team alone. Just a shame it's not too good. An overproduced nightmare in fact which makes Melanie C's career look like a great idea, the only half decent track a misunderstood karaoke cover of Lisa Loeb's 'Stay'. Despite having a decent singing voice, Jamie hasn't appeared on SM:TV. I would direct her to the quote from another singer above...
The Lost Episode of Blankety Blank -- still lost at 12:30 in the morning on the Comic Relief telethon last night. The period perfect production we've come to expect from the team behind 'Look Around You' and 'Rock Profiles' brought a startlingly real idea of what might have happened if Johnny Rotten had been booked as a guest at the same time as Ruth Maddock and Sue Pollard. Peter Serafinowicz presented a scary mimic of seventies Wogan and Simon Pegg enjoyed his turn as Freddy Starr. Just a joy. Hopefully it'll turn up on the 'Look Around You' DVD coming soon ... [as a side note I just saw on Matt Lucas IMDb CV he's playing Anakin Skywalker in the 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' video game. Bet Simon Pegg was gutted.]

Tell me where is fancy bred,
Or in the heart, or in the head?
Now begot, how nourished?
Reply, reply, reply.

It is engender'd in the eyes,
With gazing fed; and fancy dies
In the cradle where it lies.
Let us all ring fancy's knell:
I'll begin it, - Ding, dong, bell.
-- Shakespeare, 'The Merchant of Venice', Act III, Scene 2
Literature When Orpah ... sorry Oprah Winfrey announced that she would be resurrecting her book of the months club, but dedicating it this time to the 'classics' my heart leapt. Continual readers of my meandering will know I'm a fan of mad juxtapositions so the idea of O..prah discussing whether Hamlet was mad with a pop psychologist is just too seductive to deal with ...
"Oprah: So was Hamlet mad? On todays show we have the very real stories of Bobby, Jessie and Martin who's uncle's all killed their fathers and married their mothers. They'll be telling us if a sword fight is the only option ..."
Tod Goldberg isn't happy though. He saw that the original book club as offering a valid service to the writing community in a well reasoned letter to Oprah from the Las Vegas Mercury:
"What the average reader does not encounter, however, is the chance to sample even a few of the 150,000 new books released each year, nor hear the author of one of the works discussing how it came to be. While I disagreed with many of your book club selections in the past--paging Billie Letts--I admired the fact that the selections were current and that real live writers got the chance to come on your show to talk about whatever topics your selected group of sweater-tied-over-their-shoulders readers wanted to talk about. And truth be told, Oprah, if there were ever a time when readers needed to hear contemporary voices discussing literature and the power of the word, the time would be now."
It's not hard to disagree, and to be honest I can't see why she couldn't do both, maybe even on the same show even paralleling a contemporary novel with something from the past -- the new offering a way into discussing the old, the chosen month's author being asked what they thought of the classic. But that might be a leap to far ...
Sport I hate cricket. There isn't anything funny about watching a bunch of men who would rather be at the pub standing in a field glancing at each other now and then, or until someone throws a red wooden ball at someone else who has no recourse but to hit it away and run like hell and back again. But what is funny is the ongoing saga of the blow by blow match accounts at The Guardian. This week. it looks like the writer is beginning to think like me ...
I think they'll be reading it now it's all over the internet ... [via onlineblog of course]
Contact Every now and then, someone whose work I've mention on the weblog actually gets in touch. I just got an email from Cynthia Basinet who I mentioned in January 2002 regarding some inspirational comments she made about being a singer. In the intervening time with all the music coming from reality tv shows, it seems even more apt, so I'll repeat them here:
"The hardest thing is authentic power. To do the baby steps. Have the dream. And then just do the work. Don’t buy into the hype. If you’re an artist, a true artist then it is really a journey. So enjoy it. Take your time, make the right choices. Be proud. And sing to your little hearts content."
What I think Cynthia is saying is that you can still be successful without surrendering your integrity as a person if you keep slogging away at it. Take care. Good luck.
Blogbar Welcome to the world's largest group photo, taken last summer at The Matthew Street Festival in Liverpool. It's a slightly scary prospect to find so many completely strangers looking in your lense. If you can prove that you're pictured a shiny disc is on its way to you ...
Life Last summer when my computer had lost the will to start up, as a stop gap I purchased a GameBoy. Not Advance. Not Colour. Not the small one. The chunky original GameBoy. It was fifteen pounds with four games in the local Game. The friend I was with thought it was a crazy idea, but I was fulfilling one of life’s small ambitions. When I was a student, when this little wonder was released I was more interested in buying food than spending a hundred pounds on this little joy. So when I spotted the chance to fill in that gap from my past I jumped at it.

It happened again the other day. My portable CD player has drifted up to silicon heaven, but rather than busting however much a decent one of those can be I decided to get a portable cassette player instead. I’ve got some book on cassettes to catch up on them, and if I could do that on the move, so much the better. Fiver in Argos for a cheap one as a stop gap. When I got there, yes, five punds would get me an Alba which would probably do the job. But for double the price I could buy a Sony Walkman.

I remember the release of the WalkMan even at a tender age. The only cassette player I had at the time was one of those bacolite numbers with one speaker and that eventually spent most of its time plugged into my Acorn Electron. The idea of actually carrying music around with you was a skill proposition and I did get a cheap clone from the local chemist eventually which did the job of letting me listen to the film soundtrack to ‘The Jungle Book’ on a train. But I still really wanted a Sony Walkman, partly because of the name, but mostly because that’s what the rich kids had.

So when I was handed the thing over the counter in it’s plastic moulding I couldn’t help reality checking with the clerk.

“A Sony Walkman.” I said. “I remember when these first came out they were hundreds of pound. Now £11.50 in Argos.”

“Hmm..” said the clerk, “And aren’t we showing our age that we can remember that.”

I grinned. He was right.

And the Walkman is right. It’s small and silver and sleek.

Now all I have to do is wait a couple of decades and I’ll be able to get a PS2 and an iPod. Can’t wait.
Charity Watching Comic Relief tonight ... so no update ... I would urge you though ...
Food An extraordinary thing happened to me in the Subway tonight at tea time. Nowhere else in the vicinity of the cinema is really open at that time of night, and even though everything about the food is wrong, I ordered up a six inch chicken and ham with mayo. Paid for it. Then realised I wanted a drink. The clerk had disappeared into the back.
"Excuse me?" I said.
He appeared.
"Can I take a coke?" I asked.
"Help yourself." He said. I took a small cup waiting for him to ring it up on the till.
He walked away. Back into the back.
I watched him go. I looked at the cup. I walked over to the dispenser. I filled the cup. I sat down. More people arrived. They were being served and there I am with this full cup of (flat) Pepsi I hadn't paid for.

Free Pepsi. No apparent reason. Let's just say that this combined with a multitude of other things which have happened today have seriously freaked me out. If anyone else feels like reality is caving in on them, please let me know ...
Film When I was thirteen years old, I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time, or rather the first time when I was paying attention and not making a slush using a Mr. Frosty machine. It was the first Channel 4 widescreen broadcast, rendered tiny on my 14 inch Matsui portable TV. Even as I lay in bed that night straining my eyes to see what was happening in that little strip of colour, I was captivated. It was the music which struck me – even through that tiny tinny little speaker on the side it sounded like heaven was talking to me from the corner of my room.

It was also one of the first times I’d used my video recorder so I was able to go back and repeat the experience over and over, closer to the screen this time tracking each flicker as though some greater meaning was hidden in there. I didn’t know the director although I knew that it was by Arthur C. Clarke, who I remembered from that show with the glass skull – the old man walking on the beach. One afternoon, a friend who was more intelligent than I was came over and we watched it together and talked about it for ages afterwards, trying to work out the ending. He had read the novel and tried to explain to me what the bright colours and the smiling baby were driving at. Nothing he said convinced me. There had to be more to it than some astronaut being trapped in some other place. What did it actually mean for humanity? This was science fiction which made me think and I wanted more .. but in the end, at the time the only place to go was 2010, which was still a joy but lacked something. So I went back to Star Trek and boredom. Sometimes when I’m watching 2001 again, it feels like my friend is still there on my shoulder trying to explain everything. But he never quite gets it right because I still can’t.

Neither of us had heard of ‘Solaris’. In the malaise of the time I didn’t even know they made films outside Hollywood or London, let alone Russia. I think if I had seen the Tarkovsky work then I would have been equally transfixed, and I might have come to World Cinema a bit sooner. In fact didn’t even hear about that version until my final year at University when a housemate told me he’d spent an afternoon watching it. It didn’t register and the moment passed into history. It took ‘Farewell My Concubine’ to hook me into non-English celluloid. So really I was in the perfect position to see Steven Soderbergh’s version. Trained on 2001, eager for more of the same but without any expectations of it for being a remake. Something new to think about fifteen years later.

I’m reminding myself of all this, because as I sat in the theatre watching the electromagnetic patterns of Solaris, I wondered what the teenage version of me would have felt. I’m sure that I would have thought it was the second greatest film ever made. Better that 2001. Way better. Startlingly, this twenty-eight year old version cynical through having seen too many films actually felt the same way during its ninety minute running time. This version of me has seen much of everything the director and the star have done. So I can see all of their stylistic nuances throughout. The use of flashbacks are very similar to ‘Out of Sight’ and the less seen but no less brilliant ‘The Limey’; the lead actor here reruns a lot of the darker edged performance he gave in ‘e.r.’ It feels like the summation of something. Like a refresh of an internet browser downloading something new.

But like someone who’s been making science fiction for years Soderbergh understands that ambiguity is the key. Speculate, suggest, but leave enough room for the audience to wonder. His future world looks mostly like our own. Above all, present the events but don’t imprint your own opinion. Let the audience do that. And let them think they are right. It means your work can be discussed for years to come. So that when my future kids are watching they can discuss what they saw and try and wonder what it says about them.

The trouble is that like me, it’ll be their second favourite film. They still won’t think it’s better than Star Wars. You can win their minds, Steven, but not their hearts.
Film Musical "Groundhog Day" is going to re-appear soon as a stage musical by Stephen Sondheim. [via Gawker]
Film Musical The next project for Stephen Sondheim is going to be a stage musical version of "Groundhog Day" [via Gawker]
Film Musical Stephen Sondheim has decided his next project should be a stage musical version of "Groundhog Day" [via Gawker]
Excuses I've been looking over a TV script I wrote when I still had time on my hands. I've shown it to a few friends and the general concensous seems to be that there is actually something to work with in there worth looking at again, this is just a preamble to say that if you don't here from me for a few days I haven't forgotten about you, it's just that there's this other thing I want to have a look at. It's printing out now in all its script lookin' glory and I can't wait to go at it with a red pen. This is one puppy which needs training. I'm currently listening to TLC which might explain that last sentence.
Future My submission to the Book of the Future has been edited and appears here. It's called 'This Indie Future' and looks at what might happen if in the future webloggers start making films instead ...

"space is infinite
without ending
all within it
just beginning"

['Vulcan Child's Koan' -- I was a rabid Star Trek fan too once. The more I read this thing, the more I realise I had no cool ...]
Art(?) Somewhere along the Erie, Indiana has grown a wax museum. But rather than follow the Taussards model, they've gone for the local approach, celebrating the town's own mostly famous people:
"A young, handsome couple adorns the next set; they look perfectly happy and safe, except for that vampire lurking in the distance. It's Buffy, with boyfriend Riley — aka Marc Blucas, the former whiz-kid basketball star from Girard. With his blond good looks and athletic frame, Blucas assembles a nice TV/film resume, including "We Were Soldiers" with Mel Gibson and "Sunshine State" with Edie Falco."
Why does this feel like an episode of Futurama?
Journalism The Economist (like a small child trying to work out why their stones actually break windows) fishes around trying to account for the slump in print newspapers. Because most of them aren't very good ...
News No comment on this (the article speaks for itself) as Pedro Meyer of ZeroZero discusses those photos.
"Precisely because photography has been heralded, time and time again, as such a reliable witness, it's been rolled out repeatedly over the decades, as a tool for manipulating information. I believe it is time, we understand that photographs have to be severely questioned in relation to what we are being told that they represent."
Nice enigmatic link.
Blogbar Gameshow themed new Blogbar courtesy of Graham from OffTheTelly. Everyone else is free to submit or create their own -- just send the picture and I'll do the rest ...

TV Whenever the question of the quality of British television is mooted, those old enough to remember always become misty eyed and talk about the 'Play for Today' or 'The Wednesday Play' -- stand alone dramas telling a self contained story within an hour or so. The BBC experimented with the format in a stripped week just after Christmas, but obviously something in the evening would be of more interest. TV Cream offer chart some of the highs and lows of the format and glancing through this list, it's staggering the talent which was involved. It isn't much of a surprise that the general quality of contemporary drama on tv is so soapy when the training ground is soap opera. Have a look and grimace at everything you missed ...

[Interestingly the strand was begun by Sydney Newman, who just a year before created Doctor Who. What ever happened to him?]
Beauty Click anywhere for an Orange Tree. [via off on a tangent]
Life It's nearly five years since I've worked on a Sunday. Quiet. Very quiet.

Susanne Vega has actually written a song about Liverpool on a Sunday. Although frankly if you read that you'd think Victor Hugo had set his novel at the Anglican Cathedral not some place in Paris. But the general strangeness which infuses that song does describe what I saw today in the brief breaks I had from work. There is a time at the end of a weekday when everyone has gone home from work and people are yet to re-appear on their night out. Today felt just like that only extended to twenty-four hours. Nothing but the main shops open; shoppers milling around on surprisingly busy street seeming not actually to buying anything as though that was actually illegal. Very few smiles, the end of the weekend already beckoning at two o'clock in the afternoon, the inevitability of Monday too much to bare. Depression permiating the air.

My new working week starts again tomorrow. For some reason I'm smiling -- I'm looking forward to the freetime which surrounds it all.