Commerce There are places in the world in which time seems to stop; antarctica, the grand canyon, the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset. And Borders in Speke, Liverpool. I entered at lunch time, started browsing and didn't look at the time until two, time slipping away. Just in the CD section. It's the listening posts. It seems as though 90% of the albums have previews available and it's a fabulous place to get musically educated. I now know what Bepop sounds like; I know that Nina Simone was a lot more than a one song wonder; that Alison Krauss seems to have had over a hundred albums out; Glenn Gould really was a great pianist; not all dance music is awful and Pete Seger is a forgotten joy. And now this is only a twenty minute bus ride away. Liverpool ... it's nearly as good as some other places.
And… Out Of The Present tells the documentary story of the missions which took place on the MIR space station as the USSR collapsed. There is some really astonishing camera work in here (the cosmonauts took a standard 35mm movie camera up with them) as the station orbits the Earth. Trouble is the editor couldn’t decide whether he pastiching Tarchovsky and Kubrick or making one of those chill out programmes which turn up on Channel 4 in the middle of the night so the pace is slow and repetitive and with moments filled with extremely bad Russian techno music. Worth seeing perhaps for the first British woman in space, Helen Sharman, turning up for her first meal on the station in a ball gown.

Thinking Over’ – Dana Glover who is to Sheryl Crow what Natalie Imbruglia is to Alanis Morissette probably. Fashion model with great singing voice produced very catchy record, so far, so Caprice. Obscurity awaits.
Quote! I'm actually going out tonight, so nothing really new, so I thought as a change I would utterly embarass myself and post some incomplete fiction I wrote a few years ago. It was an attempt to put some Star Trek characters in a very Channel 4 like British movie. Speak to you soon ....

James looked out across the field with the binoculars. It was still early in the morning, but he had been awakened by birds crowing loudly, being startled by something. This didn’t happen often, so here he stood, in his pyjamas, the cold air sweeping through his body, staring desperately through the dirt of the kitchen window with blurred binoculars. In the middle of the percievably dirtiest window pane, he could make out a figure jumping and spinning in a strange dance. He used the cuff of his pyjama top to wipe a clean circle in the glass, through which he could now see what seemed to be quite a tall woman in some kind of uniform looking crazily in all kinds of directions, being startled by all she could see. James tried to adjust the lenses of the binoculars for a third, unsuccessful time. At that moment, he realised that he wasn’t going back to bed.
The Wellington Boots were not comfortable in bare feet. The top edges cut into the side of his leg. As he took his first step outside, he had to place his hand over his face to shield a sun which was unusually bright this morning, as it shone across the fields of corn which stretched as far as the eye could see. He cursed his choice of footware as they slowed down his walking speed. The figure had already begun to walk towards the farm house. She appeared to be holding forward some kind of instrument, which she waved from side to side. He could hear beeps and shrills from it which became increaingly annoying as she neared. The sun beat directly behind her, so James could only see fragments of her appearance at first. The uniform she wore was almost completely black, as though it were its own shadow. Black apart from a golden strip which covered her shoulders which also reflected the sunlight shielding her face.
The figure had finally seen him and was approaching. It was only now he saw her. In a moment when other’s might have winced, he looked on intrigued. Above a perfect face lay a dome like bone structure jutting from her forehead, ridged almost like a tortoise shell, only covered with skin - it was certainly part of her face. Long, ebony hair flowed from the back of this, complementing her dark eyes. There was no denying that despite her ‘appliance’, she was beautiful. He wondered at that moment how she might think of him, this strange monster with rubber feet.
Eventually, they were within yards of each other. She put the intrument she’d been waving away. They stood for moments simply looking at each other. To him it felt like being at a party, and they were the only guests who had arrived. Although he knew that ‘Do you know the host?’ simply wasn’t going to work.
‘Where am I?’ she asked. Good ice-breaker.
‘You’re on my farm,’ he said holding out his hand, ‘I’m James Perry.’
The hand startled her, seemingly to attention.
‘Lieutenant B’Elanna-Torres. Starfleet. Registration - 22925283542.’
That was the introductions over and done with. They continued to regard each other. Most of what she had said sounded like a jumble, no matter how clipped, military and practiced they probably where.
‘Pleased to meet you Lieutenant. Do you need a doctor?’ Her head was beginning to worry him - if it was an injury or disease, she might need help. ‘Your head looks in need of attention.’
‘No. I was born that way. You are human?’ B’Elanna jumped from subject to subject furtively. It startled James to be asked that kind of question. He’d never really thought of himself as Human before. He stopped himself from answering ‘There’s something else?’
‘I guess so.’ James said instead. ‘Where did you come from? We are miles from anywhere.’
‘I appeared here. I don’t know how.’ That answer was too quick, she was hiding something. She had calmed slightly. ‘Where is your farm?’
‘This is Hale near Cheshire. England, if you want something even more general. That accent of yours sounds vaguely American.’ It was an important observation.
‘England.’ Belana said quietly, ‘I’m on Earth. But when?’ She grabbed James shoulders, quite violently. Her eyes looked deeply into his. ‘What year is this?’
‘Nineteen-ninety Nine.’ He blurted out, quite startled.
‘The past?’ She said drawing away, realising instantly that she had said too much. ‘I must go.’ She went to leave.
‘Leave?’ James said, ‘But we’ve just met. And besides, I wouldn’t walk anywhere - its miles.’
‘Do you have transportation?’
‘I’ve got a landrover in the yard. And I’ll take you anywhere you want to go. But first - let me cook you breakfast.’

The kitchen was filled with smoke. James had never been terribly good at making cooked breakfast cleanly and today was no exception. He was amazed at how calm B’Elanna was now, but she was still on her guard. He had been really surprised at how easy it was to actually get her into the house, he’d simply put out his hand and she’d headed that way. He knew that accepting her appearance, there was something strange, alien even about her, but he wasn’t going to ask her straight out. For one thing he didn’t want particularly to look like an idiot, but it was nice to have some company, and he didn’t want to scare her away.
He poured two big mugs of tea (which had been brewing for a good ten minutes and was by now extra strong), and placed one in front of his vsitor. She lifted it by the handle and sniffed it susitiously.
‘What is this?’ She asked.
‘I don’t know - some cheap brand ... I got it from the garage up the road.’
B’Elanna gave him a look which reaked of misunderstanding, but he guessed that something in his voice re-assured her. She placed it subtly to her lips and took a sip. Her eyes closed with relief as though she had suddenly found something familar.
‘Tea?’ She said.
‘Tea.’ He nodded. Understanding now what her original question had meant. ‘There is really nothing to be afraid of, you know.’ He added.
B’Elanna glanced around the room, her eyes momentarily attracted to features such as the faded poster of two kangeroos in the Austrlian outback, the washing - drying slowly on the clothes horse and the cluster of empty glass Coke bottles on the floor near the door. ‘You live here?’ She asked.
‘After a fashion,’ he said cracking an egg into a frying pan. He’d only planned toast this morning and didn’t have anything meaty to hand - not dead, anyway. So egg on toast would have to do. ‘I’m looking after the place for an uncle for a few months while he’s off skiing.’
B’Elanna took another sip of tea. Again, her eyes closed with comfort as the liquid ran down her throut. James smiled. He had attempted to do everything he could to relax his guest, and he appeared to have succeeded. She was still on her guard, of course. But he couldn’t blame her. Wherever she was from, this whole environment was strange, and anything could happen. For the moment, she seemed content to sit and drink her tea, so continued to work his magic on the eggs.

A light ripped through the sky above the farmhouse. It was noticed by a hill walker, but was gone before he could put on his glasses.

B’Elanna proded the egg with her fork. James smiled broadly.
‘Pepper?’ He asked..
‘No, thankyou.’ She began eating - and wherever she was from, they taught good manners. Her knife and fork worked at the meal with great precision. It was lucky that this was his most successful attempt at them.
‘So,’ James cut into his bread. ‘The question arises. Where did you appear from?’
‘I can’t tell you.’ She said, with in a tone which suggested that she really did want to.
‘And the answer I was expecting. Do you like the egg?’
‘You’ve been very kind.’ She continued. ‘But I am in a very dangerous position.’ At that moment, for the first time James saw in her eyes something else - was she scared?
He put down his knife and fork. ‘Are you being chased by someone? Are you at risk, somehow?’
She shook her head. ‘Its more serious than that.’ Her voice trailed off. For a moment, she looked through him, deep in thought. ‘Look - I really can’t say any more.’ B’Elanna looked down and continued eating. Neither of them spoke for the rest of the meal - which irritated James - but he knew he would simply have to be patient. She might tell him eventually. As she collected together her knife and fork on the plate, she looked him in the eye. She was ready to speak.
‘Can I use your H.R.E. ?’
“Excuse me?’ He answered.
‘Human Refuse Extractor.’
He ran the words through his mind, almost like a crossword clue.
‘Toilet.’ He blurted, then blushed slightly. ‘Yes - its outside I’m afraid - at the side of the house.’
As B’Elanna left, James turned on the small portable TV on the side board and clashed the plates into the sink. A woman in a bright pink suite was giving a report about the homeless in London. He never paid attention to reports such as this. He never believed such a person would be able to give any truth about a subject like that. It was nearly half past seven and the headlines began. The signal disrupted, which always happened when someone flushed the toilet. At least they had that in common. Moments later, the screen cleared. When he saw the image, he almost jumped out of his skin.
‘B’ELANNA!’ He shouted.
‘Here.’ She said as she ran through the door way.
On the tiny screen was a grainy photograph of a tall dark man standing in London’s Trafalger Square amongst the pigeons, wearing the same black and gold uniform as B’Elanna, his hand outstretched, using the same instrument that she had when she arrived. The picture lost even more defintition as the camera moved to make a closeup of his head. They were not human ears - they were pointy.
‘Tuvok!’ B’Elanna shouted, with surprise and relief.
‘A friend of yours?’ James deadpanned.
Apparently, he had appeared in the square much as B’Elanna had in the field, and a tourist had snapped the photograph a moment later, before he ran off. The police had apparently pursued him and placed him into custody. There would be more news when it was announced.
‘Do you recognise that place?’ She asked.
‘Yes,’ he replied, already seeing the motorway in front of him, ‘I’ve been there many times.’
‘We have to go.’ B’Elanna said firmly. James began to search for his car keys, and deciding how to hide her forehead.

Detective Clare Hogan stubbed her fifteenth cigarette into a huge marble ashtray and stared at what had become her hardest interviewee. He simply sat there, opposite her in the interview room, staring at the wall behind her, evading every question she could muster about him. What was his name? He could not say. Where had he come from? He was not at liberty to answer. What was he doing there? He did not know. This was the third time they had sat opposite each other and the third time she had asked all of these questions. She knew that the frustration must have been show, and so she resorted to the one question which had played on her mind from the beginning.
‘OK - so what is it with those ears?’ The question was more aggressive than she had hoped - but she’d argued with herself about asking so much, that when it finally came out, it had become a triumph.
‘They allow me to hear.’ He answered, still complety stony-faced.
Clare felt like exploding. But that would have been unprofessional. She reached for another cigarette. As she lit it, and shook the flame from the end of the match, she noticed a flicker in the eyes of her interviewee.
‘You don’t like me smoking?’ She smiled as she took a long, calming drag.
‘It is an unhealthy habit, responsible for a great number of agressive bodily traumas.’ he said effortlessly working through the verbosity of his speech, ‘Further, it has been proven that the pollutants affect the health of those in contact with the gaseous substances produced by the tobacco combustion.’ The detective stared at him. The guy doesn’t say anything for hours and suddenly he gives a government health warning. What was it with ...
Her trail of thought was broken by a tap at the door.
‘Yes?’ She said, turning her head towards it.
Her colleague, Kline, put his head around the door. He looked vaguely nervous.
‘Clare - Robert’s here - and he isn’t happy.’ Robert Martin was their department head, and if he wasn’t happy, there had to be something wrong.
She turned to the uniform in the corner, and asked him to keep an eye on their ‘guest’. She nodded and Clare made her way for the door.

‘So what is he in here for?’ Robert trusted Clare - she still handled her job well - but this was slowly becoming a circus and wondered if she could handle the pressure.
‘I took him in for obstruction. But to be honest it was for his own good. The press were all over him.’ Clare’s whispering voice was dwarfed by the hallway.
‘I know.’ He answer. ‘I’ve just been with them. They won’t leave this alone for a while. That video is everywhere.’
‘We seem to be the only people who can’t get a copy. I’ve got Kline trying to contact Sky TV, but the lines are jammed.’ She looked away. The frustration was showing. The tiredness was showing. Robert attempted his sympathetic voice as best he could.
‘Maybe you should have another break. Let me have a go at him.’ He placed his hand gently on her shoulder. She would have shrinked away from that months ago - but they’d become friends these past few weeks and built up a raport that transcended the chain of command. It was nice to have a friend in the force he could let his wife invite to dinner parties.
‘No,’ she answered, ‘that’s alright. I think I’m making some progress.’
At that moment, the bottom doors in the corridor burst open. It was Kline.
‘Sir - Clare - we have another one.’ he shouted. Through the doors they could see a bald man in the same uniform as their first guest - this time blue - somewhat irritated by the entire booking-in process.
‘I’m a doctor,’ he said, ‘not a criminal.’

And it ends there. I suppose the idea was to dump the characters in very un-Trek settings and see how they react -- whenever sci-fi tv characters time-travel or visit new world necessity dictates they end up somewhere not unlike the place they were the previous week. Here was have something completely alien to them but very local to us. I do quite like some of the writing but (a) it's hardly going to sell (b) I sometimes find fiction writing a real chore. And isn't this block of writing going to snare up the front page?
TV 24:The Movie. How? And besides, hasn't it been done?
Film I always like 'Hostile Hostages' (US title: The Ref). This featured Kevin Spacey and Judy Davies as arguing parents in a family which is held hostage by Denis Leary when the family arrives for meal. Spacey is playing a proto-Lester Burnham to put you in the right mind. It didn't do any box office and went DTV in the UK. However, the creative minds behind the film Ted Demme and Richard LaGravenese became firm friends and talk about the films which made them want to join the business, the New Hollywood (the Seventies). Their collaboration "Decade Under the Influence" is due out soon, and here LaGravenese talks about completing the film as a collaboration even though his co-producer Demme died in the middle:
"Though the two-year production experienced a serious loss with the untimely passing of co-director Demme, LaGravenese continued working as team: “It still feels like we’re partners and that we’ve worked all year together. I’m sure some of it was just denial, but I don’t care. I miss his something terrible. The documentary has kept us a team. He’s still around.”
Arguably some of the values are returning (see Clooney and Soderbergh). Sometimes it's good that not all the loose ends are tied up.
Games For the interested: a new dongle for the GameBoy Advance allows the watching of and listening to video clips and MP3 files on the games machine. A deal has already been struck and at launch time you can expect to be able to see 'Natural Born Killers' off of the ickle screen. Already know the audience demographic apparently.
Theatre Elton John sucks. Actually I've quite liked some of his work in the past, and 'The Lion King' worked for me at least. But I can imagine a large number of goths and vamps getting touch cold under the collar when they find out that he and Bernie Taupin are writing a musical version of 'Interview With A Vampire'. Joss Whedon has already been down the singing vampire road; to be honest I haven't had the time to read the books (and this seems to based on those not the film so I couldn't possibly comment). But something in here doesn't quite add up. Like Cliff Richard doing Wuthering Heights. Oh right.
TV When he was working for Saturday Night Live, Alan Baird found himself having to cope with John Belushi and getting David Bowie to become Ziggy Stardust:
"David Bowie and I manhandle his life-size plastic punching doll into the elevator. The next night, NBC’s costumers will bolt David into this rigid contraption so he can spin and wobble across the stage on live television, while lip-synching one of the songs that made him into the icon known as Ziggy Stardust.
For a second, I gaze into Bowie’s left eye and notice his famous blown pupil. ‘Why drag this all the way back to your hotel? The Props department could lock it up for you.’
He laughs. ‘Nothing personal, but if it goes missing, I can’t just buy another one down at the corner shop.’
I giggle. ‘Good point.’
Sometimes it's the really normal people who survive abnormal situations.
Sex I love that this is an issue.
Food I've never quite understood how Burger King manage to create such yummy flame grilled tasting unhealthy burgers. Todd Wilbur to the rescue with the 'Top Secret' cookbooks, in which he 'hacks' and presents everything you'd need to do to recreate fast food at home. January Magazine reviews.
Referrer Logs So yet again I find myself at the epicentre of a web search frenzy. Currently running at 111 hits today. It's all people trying to find out information about the mysterious CBM channel which has baldly turned up on Freeview. I'm fifth on the list at most search engines behind the official page and the two threads at Digital Spy which peaked my interest. And oh hell, I've even been linked at a discussion board at 'The Fortean Times'. I'm suspecting it isn't UFOs though... then again ...
Commerce I stepped into Clarks Shoes and glanced about the shelves. Nothing. I approached the sales clerks.
"Would anyone like to help me with an impossible query. " For some reason I've come all over Paul McGann's Doctor Who. Oh well.
"Yes.." Splutters one.
"I was wondering if you have these boots..." We both look down at my feet, and the eighteen month old and looking it leathers on my feet. ".. only new."
"You're pushing it for boots. It's nearly summer."
"I know. It's just I like these."
We collectively look on the shelves. The only boot we find doesn't look like it would last much further than the front door of the shop.
"I'll look in the stock room." She says and heads off.
I stand. I wait.
She re-appears with two boxes, which she deposits on the counter. In the first are a pair similar to the ones we'd just looked at, but they're massively shiny, plasticy and have that snakeskin motiff that makes you want... She opens the second box. It looks like it's dropped through a wormhole from a year ago. They are my boots, only new. At the same price.
Just wanted to prove that sometimes this stuff really works.
Reality Check The real caped crusader, stalks the streets, fighting hoodlums and upholding justice in .... Tunbridge Wells?
"The Kent and Sussex Courier said Friday it had received letters from "stunned residents" of the town of Tunbridge Wells, southeast of London, who saw the man in a brown mask and cape scare off hooligans and return a woman's dropped purse. "To my great surprise," the paper quoted 21-year-old psychology student Ellen Neville as saying, "a masked man wearing a brown cape rushed past me to assist a woman who was having a bother with a group of youths. "He swept in, broke up the commotion and ran off, leaving myself and the woman in a state of shock," she said."
This one is really going to run. Expect a film adaptation with Ralph Little in about five years time...
Film Joe 90: The Movie. Do you think Gerry Anderson might get a look in this time, after they ignored him totally when writing the Thunderbirds film (he only bloody created the thing).
Film The Frequently Asked Questions file the IMDb deleted when they went professional is just a joy and has been mirrored and updated elsewhere. For example, I never knew:
"In 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off', the music played during the museum scene is an instrumental version of The Smiths' song "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want", performed by The Dream Academy.

The Longest Movie is "The Cure for Insomnia", at a running length of 85 hours. It's listed in the 2002 Guinness Book as "Longest Film Ever Made." It was directed by John Henry Timmis IV, and premiered at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, between Jan. 31 and Feb. 3, 1987.
Now if anyone can tell me why Elizabeth Perkins is in the final press conference scene in 'The American President', I'll be really happy ... [via Wrzl Weblog]
Film Saw X2 the other day. I was going to write a review, but someone at Chud has said everything I wanted to so I thought it would be quicker just to link there and save myself some typing.
Museums Not all of the Iraqi artifacts may have been looted. The inventory of lost pieces has fallen from 170,000 to ... 38. As Columbo would say, something about this doesn't quite add up. Like the maths in this article. At the start fortyish is the figure given. Then at the end:
"Investigators found that the basement storage area, which held thousands of small items not deemed suitable for display, had been disturbed in one of the four rooms. They broke through a cinder-block barrier to the room to find hundreds of cardboard boxes intact and about 90 plastic boxes, containing about 5,000 less-valuable items, missing. "
Just saying.
That Day I had an invite to go to friends house this afternoon, but you know how sometimes you look out of the window, you look at the effort it would take to heave yourself out of the front door and you see all of the things which you need to get done around about the house and you realise that for once the rational part of your brain has to take presidence. And if you're like me you spend the afternoon obsessing over whether you made a bad choice, only get half the things done you wanted to do and and up watch a DVD instead. And tell yourself that next time you'll just go out anyway.
Nature That’s disconcerting. A cow in a forest.
"The banteng once roamed the forests in many parts of the Kingdom. These days, however, the only place where you have the chance of spotting these wild cattle is the western forests, particularly Huay Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Uthai Thani province."
A photographer descibes the processes he had to go through in order to capture the picture included. The banteng is an endangered species due to poachers; their utterly blind but have a good sense of smell and hearing. It doesn't say whether spend their lives running into the trees ...
Blogbar It occured to me that at about this time last year I set foot on the seafront at Southend. So here we have the foot. And a little bit of the beach.
Film I wa sprobably the only sane person on the planet who thought the first Charlie's Angels film was as fun! as fun! could be. Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle looks equally fun! It has a fun! trailer. With a fun! cast. Ahem. Anyway. No Bill Murray this time -- instead we get Bernie (only really known in the UK as that guy from 'Ocean's Eleven') Mac, and answers the question 'What ever happened to Demi Moore?' she's in this as the baddie (and I bet she didn't get paid the £12,500,000 she got for her last picture. Wonder if the 'discussions' on the set were as heated as last time ...
Theatre Charles Dickens had the audacity to die in the middle of writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and at a crucial moment. People have been writing their own version of whether Drood was murdered and who did it, but it came as something of a surprise to find out that a musical was amongst the spin-offs. The Liverpool Fame School, LIPA have just had a production in short run and it was truly excellent, sweet and funny.

The set up is almost as complicated as Charlie Kauffman’s Adaptation, so bare with me. The actors portray actors in an old fashioned music hall putting on a production of the musical. So we have a musical within a musical. It’s like Kiss Me Kate, no one ever slips out of character. In the LIPA production the show begins as soon as you enter the theatre because the actors interact with the audience totally in the characters of the music hall actors and they’re already canvassing for you appreciation. Not in the mood? Much of the rest of cast will appear on your shoulder and make you in the mood. It feels creepy to begin with (I would suggest a beer to loosen yourself up before hand), but it’s very fun. It’s in these parts before the show and in the intermission that mini-dramas occur as the actors fall in and out of love and propose to each other.

The show proceeds. As far as I could tell we had a pitch perfect recreation of what would have occurred at the turn of the century. But with an all important irony. Because the actors are having to put in a performance within a performance, the lines between the character and the actor character playing them are a bit blurry; but it seems just right that in the middle of a scene the action should stop so that the actor can be introduced (told you this was complicated) – the modern equivalent is Happy Days when the Fonz arrives. The bizarre mannerisms and odd gestures are played to some extent for laughs; sometimes its not quite clear if technical hitches such as the smoke machine on overload are supposed to be part of the joke, but we laugh anyway.

It’s midway through the second half that things get really loose and interesting as the audience has to vote on who the murderer will be. The actors ballot and harrange the audience again so to win so that they can have the big solo under the spotlight at the end. The bit actors come down from the stage and much as they did at the start get us voting in character, dragging an audience member up to do the counting. As far as well can tell it isn’t rigged (the number of votes each actor/character got is up outside as we leave) and adds some much needed tension as we will the one we want to win.

I haven’t seen this show before so I couldn’t compare. The friend I was with had been part of a production in the past and was suitably impressed I think. Presumably in keeping with the place the show was being produced there were no week links. Every actor no matter how small the part in the actual show was putting in their all – even when they weren’t on stage they stayed in character haranging from the sidelines. It’s going to be really fun when these guys go off into the real world because some of them are going to be very, very famous. It is by its nature an amateur production but it felt utterly, utterly professional.