Books Currently watching 'The Big Read' and nominating. Simply because it would be boring to pick the same as everyone else and something everyone else will have read, I've picked 'Father Time' by Lance Parkin. In the notes box there I wrote: "It's a cut above the usual tie-in novels, creating a realistic portrayal of 80s Britain within a very specific science fiction setting evoking nostalgia in the reader not just for the television programme but the time when they were watching it. Also an interesting us of a Phil Collins song." I would have added that it also shows that real literature can exist in place usually ignored by the mainstream. If I'd wanted to be the same as everyone else I might have picked 'Return of the Native' by Thomas Hardy; 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Graham; 'The Midnight Folk' by John Masefield. Despite being called 'The Big Read', non-fiction has been discounted. So I'm not allowed to pick 'Longitude' by Dava Sobel, 'With Nails' by Richard E Grant, 'Adventures in the Screen Trade' by William Goldman or 'The Victorian Internet' by Tom Standage.
Site News I'm trying the commenting thing again ...
Radio College Radio USA
Blog! [NB: I'm a Liberal Democrat. You'll see why I'm telling you this in a moment] "Nobody ever seems to do anything for The Kids! All the decisions are made by suits, man. That's so lame!!! We know you think of yourselves as responsible citizens, but what you wanna do is turn that thought into an action, dudes." Reads the second paragraph of Labour MP Tom Watson's 'Teens!' page at his website. I'm on the fence about this one. Either this is the worst example of trying to be in with the yoof since David Owen released that single which ultimately failed to convince no one to vote for the SDP/Liberal Alliance, or Tom knows he can't win either way so has attempted to parody the way MPs would presumably try and talk to kids in an ironic way as a way to get in with them. Whatever it's the most excruciating thing I've read all day (and that includes The Guardian's G2 supplement about Charles Saachi (what were they thinking?)). Lost in the scrum to link this (I've spotted it on Boing Boing and Sore Eyes) is that a week ago Tom began to write his weblog himself which seems like the first time for any politician (in this country at least). He's already broken my first rule of blogging (1: don't talk about your job too much) but I suppose it would be difficult not to. Now if Charles Kennedy ever does something like this, I'm there ...
Who In case anyone is interested, a flash trailer is up at BBCi for the new version of Douglas Adams' lost Doctor Who story Shada reduxed to feature the current incarnation Paul McGann. Not much there, and nothing new for anyone who saw the charity video release with Tom Baker filling in the bits which were missing. If you can watch it in this much crisper broadband version which still works quite well over dial-up. I'm hoping they'll be using this flash format for the actual broadcast -- it much more watchable than the Real One format they've used in the past.

While I'm getting my monthly Who post out of the way, I should draw your attention to the Action Figure Theatre, a slightly strange, slightly genius use of posable figurines to create new photostories in the style of 'The Collector' from the new Eagle comic which was cancelled years ago. A sort of deadly serious (?) version of the kind of thing Adam & Joe were doing with Star Wars toys all those years ago.
Life Why do people feel the need to wear a coat at the first sign of a drop in temperature? Before I left this morning I stepped on the balcony in my jeans and t-shirt and it wasn't that cold; a slight nip on the skin but not freezing. So I went out as I was. As I clambered onto the bus, I got few looks of disdain from people in heavy winter coats, sweating visibly. When I got to work, someone asked me if I'd just on out in a t-shirt and that I was 'mad'. If I'm particularly tollerant of the cold so why should I wear something which'll just make me deeply uncomfortable just because society wants me to?
Plug! On a similar subject, 'Me Old Chimney Productions' version of Macbeth (gushed about here) will be pitching up at the National Student Drama Festival in Scarborough. Performances are on Wednesday, 9th of April, 8.30pm and Thursday 10th of April, 9pm at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Westborough, Scarborough YO11 1JW. Ticket information can be found at the NSDF website. Flatteringly they're using the review on a press release, which I don't mind at all because it's very, very good (the play I mean).
Theatre Every now and then, someone writes a sequel to something Shakespeare -- we find out if Isabella picked The Duke in 'Measure for Measure' or what happened to Rosalind after 'Twelfth Night'. But these appear in modern verse. Funny thing is that people were doing it while the bard was alive, and an example 'The Tamer Tamed' which was created as a kind of payback for those who found 'Taming of the Shrew' a bit uncomforable. Now that both plays are playing back to back at the RSC, and it's suggested that it wasn't just Will who was writing gold.
History Whatever happened to Virtual Reality?
Commerce Before I visited Paris I always heard tell of a bookshop, 'Shakespeare & Co' which had berths were apiring writers could sleep providing their were looking for inspiration in the city streets and would help out in the shop for a few hours a day. My tired feet couldn't ever trundle much further than the tourist traps so I missed visiting the shop myself. I'm still disappointed that I could visit, but this virtual tour helps a bit. Literary Traveller's ongoing series of article about Earnest Hemmingway offers a good potted history of the place. It seems this isn't the original which was eventually closed by the Nazi's when the owner, Sylvia Beach refused to sell an German officer her last copy of 'Finnigan’s Wake'. Hemmingway was a regular customer and helped with the re-opening of that original shop. The current premises were another shop, renamed by a friend of Beech, George Whitman as a tribute after her birth, and he estimates that over 10,000 writers have slept amongst the stacks for at least one night. All have left a photo and short biography, some very famous names amongst them.
Literature Aphorisms Galore! For some reason I've never really known what an aphorism is. Actually reading this article at Frieze, I'm not sure anyone really knows. It supposed to be a memorable, humourous or philosphical point or quote which gets to the point very quickly. But glancing through the examples about it seems to be a catch all term for anything. But people like to find labels for things which don't need labels.
And... Mocha Valencia. In a break from tradition I'm starting back to front tonight simply because I have to get this lunchtime 'treat' off my chest. Regular readers will know of my love for 'Starbucks', the smells, the decor, the music and of course the coffee. But there is a darkside. The Mocha Valencia, the most rancid, indigestion inducing mug of hell you'll ever taste. You know when you were a kid and you experimented with Orange Milk Shake, by diluting cordial with milk instead of water? It tastes just like that (only warm) and with the same belly-ache inducing after effects. Finally a coffee you can share with your enemies. The little writing which appears underneath it on the menu should also include a disclaimer: "Not for people who hate Terry's Chocolate Orange or those creams you find in Cadbury's Roses".
The Other Boleyn Girl told the story of Henry VIII's second wife Anne through the eyes of her sister. This was a semi-improvised, Dogme 95-style anti-Andrew Davies costume drama which gripped from its opening video diaries; Henry had eight wives -- this brought home to the viewer what kind of a man does that kind of thing.
Die Hard With A Vengeance is not the best action film in the world -- but it is very, very close. I think the problem is that despite everything the first film had a sheen of realism -- McCain actually got hurt badly during the course of that film. Here he's shot and stabbed and exploded and through all the dirt on his shirt is still able to walk. In the audio commentary on the DVD the screenwriter describes how his original script ('Simon Says') which he wrote in eleven days was re-written to become this film. In the original script, the bad guy was actually revenging the hero for something which happened in their childhood -- hence the nursery rhymes. They stayed in the film because the director thought they sound cool. Makes sense ....
TV The new issue of 'Off The Telly' looks at political dramas ...
Art A Momentary Vignette eyeballs a Sparton 'Bluebird' Radio
Music For people who like really good music to appear from nowhere, ArtBabyArt have an automatic stream excerpt from Townhall's first studio album 'The New Song'. It's the web equivallent of the scene in 'High Fidelity' when John Cusack puts on track from 'The Beta Band' -- right now I'm on Amazon trying to find a copy. Now that's impulse buying ... quick question though ... in the photos, who are the band and who are the groupies?
Wars My name is ... My name is ... My name is Darth Vader. Or the Star Wars song Eminem needs to get around to recording.
That Day Other than afformentioned re-positioning of a well known community weblog I haven't seen this year's Harmony Cousins. The local radio station's breakfast show did tell people that if they turned up at the Yellow Submarine replica in the city centre in a bikini they'd win 'racing tickets'. Obvious April Fools joke in bitter wind and rain which characterised today ... not for these three. To quote: "We knew it was an April Fool but it's a laugh. It's so cold." Which says as much about my city and it's people as you could ever want, I suppose.
Life I'm having a wierd night. So wierd I watched 'Attack of the Clones' earlier. But the real reason is that it's the first free Tuesday I've had in weeks because my World Music course finally ended last week. The assessment this term was 'Evidence' sheets to be filled in during the classes. Since I have great difficulty concentrating on more than two things at one (myself and whatever I'm doing) this proved to be a problem, bourne out in my disinctly average mark of 65%. In summoning up, my tutor liked my commitment, and my active and original contributions during the sessions -- but was disappointed that I couldn't display any of that in what I wrote down. I couldn't agree more. I can talk the talk, even walk the walk, but writing it down coherently. Nope. Yesterday I posted something to Googlefilter which contained four typos which had to be corrected by the site co-ordinator bringing a scolding from him and a stream of sarcastic comments from other posters.
Buffy Article which argues that when the BBC edits the show for teatime it also opens up more moral ambiguities than it glosses over. Also useful for people like me who forget when the late repeat is on to see what they've been missing. Season 6 has been pretty awful, but it might have been leavened slightly by this grim humour.
TV Re the pop video on 'Pure 24' ... Wasn't that Monica Bellucci soon to be seen in the sequels to 'The Matrix' glimpsed for a moment in Miguel's pop video? Co-incidentally she was in 'Under Suspicion' a courtroom drama directed by Stephen Hopkins, one of the directors on season one of 24 ... round and round in circles ...
Blog! Iraqfilter. No really ...see also Musicfilter, Gamesfilter and Kittenfilter ...
That Day Happy Mother's Day to anyone with offspring. I bought my mum a copy of Schott's Original Miscellany . Mum likes flowers, but she also hates wasted money and knows they'll wilt eventually. This at least had her ooohing and aaahing ... all day.
Literature William Gibson quotes Virginia Woolf who somehow encapsulated how some of us are getting information about this war ...
Film In the FACT Centre's bid to be the eighth wonder of the world, the late show last night was 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. I knew there wasn't a new print on release and so it proved as the curtains opened on a late seventies ratings card. 'Raiders' was a certificate A apparently. Considering the age of the thing, the picture quality was extremely good -- better in fact than some brand new films.

It occured to me as I stood in the queue with my free promotional ice cream watching the inevitable scary wierdo who wanted to go in and get a seat before the film before had even finished that I hadn't actually seen the film in ten years -- and that I'd actually forgotten quite a lot about it. I hadn't seen it in fact since I watched it in pieces during my English Literature class when it was used as a way to describe the vaguries of storytelling.

I remembered slices of what Mr. Crighton had described in the opening moments which are utterly stunning. It's quite shocking to discover that we don't see the hero's face until the credits have rolled; until then he is a mystery figure, his silhouette established up front like some white american Zorro.

If ever there was an example of film makers not making them like they used to, this is it. Now, we like our superheroes with a back story, an origin, an ultimate motivation for who they are and what they do. Here we know nothing of Indy's history (although that would come in 'Crusade'). He is an unauthodox archaeologist with a whip and hat and that's all you need to know. Realistically we don't even get the details of his and Marion's breakup (now we would have had five minutes of exposition).

Also, being just about pre-video there are amazingly few notril dusting close ups. There is something going on in almost all of the shots here and the actors are allowed to breath with the frame. If you've got this thing in widescreen, just look at the moment when Indy walks into Marion's bar. For thirty seconds she has a conversation with his shadow. We already know what he looks like, we know who he is, so why cut back to him? In a modern action film, I suspect, that would have been told in a two shot and over the shoulders, flat and functional. Many of the shots we see in here would only appear in an indie picture. Also hand held is used very sparely -- which makes you wonder at how many film you've seen with steadycam shots lately. Bit tired and easy surely?

This is an action film and characterisation is in what the people do and how they speak -- they let the audience and subtext do the work.

Also: Whatever happened to Karen Allen? She was in Starman after this, then nothing until that bit part in the bitty 'A Perfect Storm'. She's utterly gorgeous in that opening bar scene, with the help of some lighting your eyes are just on her. And doesn't Harrison Ford look young? When is Indy 4 going to be set? The Sixties!?! Also at no point can you look into his eyes and see all of the history of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicals. If ever something was bolted on ... but then this is a George Lucas production, so pointless continuity which doesn't fit should be power for the cause. And wasn't John Rhys Davies wasted for three years on 'Sliders'? I think what I drew mostly from the experience is how much a double edged sword home video was. It brought films a mass audience, but it also effected film making to an extent that the art totally fell out of some genres, especially action. And in some cases the simpler pleasures have gone. Steven Spielberg also made 'Minority Report'.