Music There isn't anything more frustrating yet amusing when a journalist sits down and writes a piece which criticisms much of your CD collection as worthless. But Scott gallop does just that in 'Originality lacking in female pop stars'. I think they key paragraph is:
"But has Miss Keys -- or any of the other borderlines -- even approached the songwriting achievements of predecessors such as Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Chrissie Hynde? Or even those of older peers still in their songwriting and recording primes such as Aimee Mann and Lucinda Williams? To write memorable songs, it helps to have lived. Miss Keys, Miss Jones, Miss Furtado and the rest don't have a lot of life behind them. But they do have a lot of career still before them, so there is plenty of time to close the gap with their hall of fame predecessors."
The problem I actually have with the article is that he lumps all of the singers he lists in together as though they all have the same sound (with the exception of Norah), which obviously isn't the case. Nelly uses more eastern influences, Norah is closer to New York. Frankly I don't care too much who wrote the songs (something which was never an issue during Motown for example). If I want the difficult sentiments I've got Tori, Aimee and Eleanor. In these cases, it's about the voice, the energy and the hook. "He was boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?" Well no, Avril, but we'd hate you to be ambiguous as well ...
Eva Katzler
@ ‘The Enterprise’
2 haverstock hill, chalk farm
sunday 28th december
Doors open 730pm
£3 on the door
Would be lovely to see you there!
Life Another Christmas tradition was broken today. We went to buy our Christmas tree at the flower shop as usual, but the only fir worth pursuing was so big it wouldn't fit through the bagging machine so we had to have it delivered. So I missed the long walk back home with it on our shoulders.

one hundred and one things I would put into room 101...

1. The hand break in taxis which adds an extra 20p at the end of a journey
2. Automated systems on bank enquiry lines
3. Bob Monkhouse's orange skin
4. Museums which still charge admission fees
5. Branded clothing
6. Directors on 'The Bill' who make at least one criminal an episode come from Liverpool
7. Exploding lids on Muller Fruit Corner yoghurts
8. Val Kilmer
9. Typos
10. Boxer Shorts
11. Bullying
12. Acts four and five of Shakespeare's King Lear
13. The choice of coffee on sale in Starbucks
14. Fascism
15. Mick Hucknell
16. Inconsiderate smokers
17. People who don't flush public toilets after use
18. Floaters
19. Full screen films on DVD
20. S Club 8
21. JFK conspiracy theorists
22. 'It's been a long road ... getting from there to here...'
23. Snot-glue
24. Self congratulatory DVD commentaries
25. Room 101 when Nick Hancock was introducing it
26. George Lucas' delusion that Jar Jar Binks was a good idea
27. Posters at college which never stayed on walls no matter how much blue-tac you use
28. Des and Mel
29. The ice hockey player I was forced to talk to all night once who's every story began 'Me and the team were out drinking ...' and who thought 'faggot' was still an acceptable term for gay people
30. Tuna
31. Star Trek tie-in novels
32. My inability to read Eng. Lit. now because my addled brain has seen too many Star Trek tie-in novels
33. The English Literature A-level I failed
34. Good ideas turned sour
35. Flippancy
36. The Sun 'Newspaper'
37. Three inch discs from Amstrad CPCs which now won't work on anything other than old Amstrad CPCs
38. Hot weather
39. Batman and Robin
40. Stereotypes
41. The death of Douglas Adams
42. People who still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea
43. The Sugababes without Siobhan Donaghy
44.Never being able to find my keys
45. New Labour
46. Male drivers
47. Glasses without lenses
48. My Hero
49. Sleep
50. Feet and Inches
51. Monet's 'Waterlillies'
52. Alliterative names
53. Metafilter when Matt Haughey is away for the weekend
54. Winters without snow
55. Summers without sun
56. Pierced bottom lips
57. Dress codes in night clubs
58. Bad internet connections
59. Mugs with a crack in the side
60. Friends since Season Two
61. The last piece of cheese on a block of cheddar which you can never cut in half
62. The three weeks I spent working at HMV
63. Manchester United
64. The cancellation of 'My So-Called Life'
65. People who shout out of turn
66. My nail biting habit
67. September 11th 2001
68. Arriva trains
69. The teacher as school who said I wouldn't amount to much
70. Lad mags
71. Soap Operas which run for more than one episode a week
72. Organised religion
73. People who use biro to write in library books
74. Record companies who release 'special editions' of albums you've already bought
75. The fact I can't take my drink and can only handle a Bud or Rolling Rock
76. Derek Hatton
77. Minimalist music
78. Liver
79. Famous people with nothing to say
80. Tuesday mornings
81. Stenciling
82. Mobile phones as status symbol
83. My house-acquaintances during my second year at University
84. Highlander II: The Quickening
85. The overly repeated financial service adverts which appear on tiny cable channels
86. Ignorance
87. The smell of cooking fish
88. The smell of uncooked fish
89. People who won't take no for an answer
90. My attempts at poetry
91. Microfiche
92. Charmed
93. Bad organisation on coach tours
94. Change for the sake of change
95. Microsoft
96. Pointless activism
97. Foam rubber
98. Sticker stamps
99. Soluble aspirin
100. Mean spiritedness
101. Lists
Words Regular reader will know that during my teenage years, I compiled a hard back collection of poems, song lyrics, and other unusual things. Somewhere in the doggeral I compiled a list of names. These were names which are just lovely to say – just the right amount of consonants and vowels in the right order. So I bring this list completely unedited to you now. Keep in mind I started writing it at least ten years ago, and be amazed at who is still current . . . enunciate each name out loud and give your mouth an adventure holiday.

Adrian McKenzie
Alannah Miles
Alison Kitchening
Armyan Bernstein
Babu Subramaniam
Bethany Ringwald
Christina Rossetti
Cosmo Genevese
Danny Vendramini
Elizabeth Hurley
Evelyn Soe
Famke Janssen
Genevieve Joliffe
Isabella Rosellini
Jasmine Coster
Karel Fialka
Lena Olin
Libby Gelman-waxner
Marisa Tomei
Melissa Etheridge
Meredith Frampton
Myriam Mezieres
Nelly Furtado
Oliver Havelok
Susanna Hoffs
Tank Girl
Tilda Swinton

... and of course you should email if you can think of any more...

Suw suggests:
Edith Swanneck
Edward Longshanks
Damian Grammaticu
Music I'm currently listening to Cafe de Paris (translation please...) a three cd boxset of classic recording from such artists as Edith Piaf, Josephine Baker and Charles Trenet. The first track, Le Mer is in my top fifty songs of all time working it's way up to top twenty-five status with each listen. These recordings are presented in their original state, so some have literally been burnt from the original 78, all of that mono crackle and hiss intact, which feels right somehow -- the earliest track is from 1922 afterall.
Food The American Pizza Slice close to work not only serves the nicest flat pieces of dough covered in cheese in Liverpool, but also have only one cd on rotation throughout the day. Luckily it's Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill so whenever I'm feeling tired or ironic I'll go there for a cup of the strongest coffee in the area, singalong with the staff and feel so good.
Metafilter or rather Ask Metafilter. I've already rather been caught up in this DVD commentary thread:
"I love the moment in the commentary to 'A Knight's Tale' when the director and writer suggests the listener goes off and get's a beer.

Or in the LotR: TTT when Peter Jackson suggests they could embellish the existing films with another year's filming instead of making sequels and his wife Fran tells him to stop.

Or the whole of Almost Famous:Untitled which Cameron Crowe delivers with his mom in the room.

Or Vanilla Sky in which he calls Tom Cruise halfway through to ask him some questions.

Or any of the tracks on the Ocean's Eleven remake.

Or the bit on the Star Wars: Attack of the Clones which Lucas tries to make a Kevin Smith reference and gets it terribly wrong.

Or The Limey where the writer picks a fight with director Steven Soderbergh who he believes ruined his words.

Or Y Tu Mama Tambien in which the two teenagers deliver the commentary in character, sounding as though they're getting high.

Katie Manning in any of her Doctor Who commentaries. She's daft as a brush.

Or Spinal Tap, again in character in which the band seek to debunk the enterprise.

Or the bit in The Player commentary when Altman says he can't be bothered doing audio commentaries.

Or The Opposite of Sex in which Don Roos and friends talk about how poor some sections of the filming where and how they could have done so much better.

Or Pretty Woman as Gary Marshall sounds like your dad making a film and names names on failed casting choices."
They've even managed to go some way with this ....
TV I Love BBC4. The final paragraph is very accurate:
"However, there is a cheaper alternative - and it does not involve enriching Murdoch. Dixons will sell you a Freeview box that enables you to watch 30 channels, including BBC4, for a one-off payment of £54.99. You do not need a satellite dish; it works with an ordinary television aerial. Admittedly, you will only ever watch BBC4, but it will be worth it. My advice is to get one before Christmas. That way you will be able to see the channel's new, six-part dramatisation of Alan Clark's Diaries starring John Hurt as the satyromaniac Conservative MP. Now that is what I call must-see TV."
Apart from Buffy and The West Wing I only seem to be watching BBC Four lately. You should too ...
Film Something for my American cousins. Free tickets available for preview screenings of 'Girl With A Pearl Earring' in the four 'major' cities, cocktail reception included. Colin Firth does costumes again playing Johannes Vermeer. Trailers look promising with a luminous Scarlett Johansson a million miles away from Ghost World.
Weblogs To continue the discussion prompted by this post at Online, very few of the people I know have any idea what a weblog is and I've had to explain the concept to the couple who do. Most think of this as my website, and obviously it is and the weblog tool is my way of updating the information on here. Even The Guardian's Best British competition will only penetrate the people who read that particular section of the paper. I'll be very surprised when the results are announced if appear in the main section along with the lottery results. All this is a ghetto really.

As far as I can gather there are only about five weblogs in the Liverpool area which are still being updated on a regular basis and within that I'm the only one keeping the US mess of everything style (if anyone would like to email and dispute, please do. For a long while I thought I was the only one.) In the end I just tend to resort to saying that it's my website. I never mention the word Blog because (a) it feels like slang for something else (b) it would need to be explained even more.

So how do I describe a weblog when it comes up. It's a sort of diary. But I also write reviews and talk about things I've found on the web. It's (mostly) a good way to meet people (sort of). I also tell them it forces me to write something to keep myself in practice and to try out various styles I'm interested in. It's about communicating and hoping that the ear that's listening is interested enough to respond in a decent way. And if I happened to say or do something which adds to their lives, so much the better. Well I don't say all of that because actually by the time I mention 'the web' they've fallen asleep, but the sentiment is there.

The other question posed is whether weblogs should be popular -- should the nation know about them -- should they become the massive communication form they've become in the US? Probably. There have been many stories of people meeting, making dates, googling, finding weblogs and having the security of the know before the evening. That's assuming what they write on their weblog is any kind of reflection of who they are -- I like to think mine mostly is. Taking The Rules into account my interests are certainly here and actually a hell of a lot of my personality. Looking over the thing for the secret project I'm actually surprised about how much of the important stuff is in here in some manner or other.

Weblogs will probably only hit the mainstream when a primetime tv show (such as a documentary) is devoted to them. I've a feeling though that this will only happen in some negative manner -- they're worked into Eastenders and the place where one of the characters leaves their suicide note or they 'slag' off they're friends who subsequently find out. Something simplistic.

Luke is terrified but tries not to show it. He quietly sips his drink, looking over the crowd for a more sympathetic ear or whatever.

A large, multiple-eyed Creature gives Luke a rough shove.

Negola dewaghi wooldugger!?

The hideous freak is obviously drunk. Luke tries to ignore the creature and turns back to his drink. A short, grubby Human and an even smaller rodent-like beast join the belligerent monstrosity.

He doesn't like you.

I'm sorry.

I don't like you either.

The big creature is getting agitated and yells some unintelligible gibberish at the now rather nervous young adventurer.

Don't insult us. You just watch yourself. We're wanted men. I have the death sentence in twelve systems.

I'll be careful then.

You'll be dead.

-- Extract from Star Wars: A New Hope script book by George Lucas

[A friend told me a story tonight which was the actual real world equivalent of this. See -- life can sometimes imitate space opera.]
Rings Peter Jackson wants to make prequel. Called The Hobbit. Might work.
TV Speaking of crap television, Ian Jones at Off The Telly reviewed The Christmas Show before I could.
"It's hard to outrank Holmes in terms of all-round uselessness, but Tess (Daly) certainly gives it a try. Whatever the circumstances, it's dreadfully hard for her to avoid giving an impression of having only cast an eye over her script just seconds before going to air, or struggling to think up any kind of spontaneous remark that isn't desperately clichéd. She responded to Holmes' thigh-related saucery with a half-hearted, "Oooh, you liar - your pants are on fire." When her co-host uttered a quick "ho, ho, ho!" she came back with "hey, hey, hey." Faced with the pivotal task of giving the big name guest of the day Sheryl Crow a suitable welcome, Tess opted for the one question guaranteed to get things off to a bleak start: "Are you looking forward to Christmas, Sheryl?" Unbowed, she later confronted another guest, an actress from The Bill, with the conversation stopper: "So, if you could kiss anyone under the mistletoe, who would it be?" to which the reply eventually came, "My husband".
As you know I rather like Sheryl Crow too but by the end of that show I would have been on my phone firing my agent. There are ways and means of attracting the middle of the road audience but this isn't it.
TV As RI:SE finally joins Duck Patrol in TV Hell, Channel 4 unveils new morning block, with the original choice of The Salon, Friends, Bewitched and Everybody Loves Raymond. Which probably took about thirty seconds. Personally I would stuck Channel 4 News in there somewhere, but apparently that's not trendy or cheap enough. Very poor. I like Friends but Bewitched (again?). Why not rerun The Munsters and really turn the clock back?
TV I know that a lot of my regular readers have been enjoying the work of the people at tv cream the nostalgia site, for some time. I love them for many reasons, but mostly because they identified the scary monsters from my toddlerdom which used to make me wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night with their half human/half mammal shadows as the Animal Crackers who were mostly rubbish anyway. The site is now up for a People's Choice Award at Yahoo! and I urge you all to support them by clicking through and sending an email to Mr Yahoo saying why they should be the kings of 2003.
Games An old article from Edge about games appearing in places you would never expect. My favourite are the old Infocom text adventures, converted for the Gameboy:
"The classic series of text adventures including Zork, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy and Planetfall, which dates all the way back to the Apple II in 1980, is now public-domain material, which has resulted in people inflicting all manner of strange indignities on it. Strangest of all, though, is this series of Game Boy ports. Text input is achieved by the astoundingly laborious construction of words and phrases letter-by-letter using the D-pad (leading to some quite stratospheric displays of "parser rage" when the game insists on you typing out an entire sentence like "UNLOCK THE DOOR WITH THE SQUARE KEY AND OPEN IT AND GO NORTH"), and while the Game Boy at least remembers previously-typed instructions so you can scroll back through the list every time you want to repeat something you've already done, you still have to wonder in awe and fear at the obvious gibbering insanity that drove some wild-eyed nutter to convert an entire series of text adventures to a hand-held games console."
I was just wondering the other day why text adventures haven't made a comeback on mobile phones. Now I can see why. Article also features Manic Miner for the N64.

Lost and Found Shopping

Film Over the years I seem to have lost a lot of writing. There are certain pieces which I've been quite proud of, which have disappeared, either through hard disk failures, clearouts or disks left in computers in libraries. The following review is one of those pieces. I found it under a completely odd unrelated file name as I was going an old folder on this cavernous hard drive of mine. In fact I thought I'd lost this review of Late Night Shopping so much I wrote a different review, which is posted here.

==> I’ve always had an embryonic idea for a festival of films set during twilight in that almost negative zone between dusk and dawn, where town and cities somehow become unreal places. Anyone whose walked through their city centre at four in the morning will know what I mean. In that street light, buildings and structures, closed shops and offices, feel like you would assume a film set must be like at the end of the day, skeletal and ghostly waiting for those precious few hours until they can fulfill their presence once again. Invading these once natural places feels wrong, as though you’re intruding on the city’s own slumber. There have been few films which capture this feeling.

Blade Runner, of course, with its perpetual night. And Strange Days. Dark City. Equinox. Go. Some sections of Heat. But these are all very arch films. There have been very few funny and sweet films so frankly the festival would have been a long dark teatime of the soul. I suppose Before Sunrise and Linklater’s lesser known Suburbia could be in there, but they don’t quite live up to the brief of engendering the feeling. And now, finally, without much fanfare we have Late Night Shopping finally a British film which isn’t Human Traffic set at that time of night. And for once it's actually quite good. Spectacularly good.

I should let you know the circumstances I saw this film under. I’ve just started new full time job which requires me to take a two hour round trip each day to work. Currently that means up at six in the morning home by half six, somewhat limiting film watching flexibility. Saw Shrek under these conditions and I’ve a feeling that’s why I’m not sure whether that’s a great film. So having eaten one of the worst burger meals I’d ever visited upon for tea, and walked around the city for an hour waiting for the film to start, you’d think that I was in the worst state I could be to sit down for a film, despite the plushness of the cinema. On reflection I was probably in the best condition, as tired as the characters on the screen with that same slightly jaded view of the world.

The first fictional work of Saul Metzstein (the documentary filmmaker behind the seminal This is Dogma 95) should not work. Four very different people meet every night in a café, their commonality being the a break in the tedium of the night shift. We have some fairly standard characters: Vinnie (James Lance) the wide boy seemingly taking a sabbatical from a Guy Richie movie to stack shelves; Lenny (Enzo Cilenti), the slightly timid nervous one who works for directory enquiries; Sean (Luke De Woolfson) the everyman presumed observer of the action (hospital porter) and Jody (Kate Ashfield), the opinionated tom-boy (As If’s Sooz, all grown up). The makings of a Big Brother spin-off certainly, but not necessarily a film you’d pay to see. So why does it work so well?

Even though, initially the characters do grate, and there is a feeling that you might as well be at home watching Friends for all the freshness on offer. But as the dialogue unfolds, there is something new here. These characters should not be talking to one another. They don’t fit. Other than their situations they have nothing in common. But it becomes clear that this is exactly why they are together. Their interactions are the brightest part of the night, the time the spend together their chance to experience world outside their own personal sphere of existence. When Vinnie and Sean talk about his compunction for checking the soap in his bathroom to see if his girlfriend has used it and so she must still be living with him, its because he’s never had a steady relationship. He doesn’t know what its like.

The look of the film is also extraordinary. The empty twilight is sharply focused, the camera moving into every nook and cranny of the city. Whilst ‘interesting’ camera angles always suggest a lower budget, here they serve to accentuate this place’s otherness. Equally strong is the soundtrack, its eclecticism a mine of your past. You know you’re a child of the eighties you if you find yourself singing along. Which is not to say this isn’t a very contemporary film.

So what of the players? Enzo Cilenti’s Lenny is very much a variation of his persona in Virtual Sexuality and jars somewhat at first because they are so similar, which isn’t to say he doesn’t do nervy well, but perhaps his is the least believable character. Lance has an obvious versatility, and its difficult to think of another actor being able to full of his epiphany. De Woolfson (more usually seen in the adverts before the picture (wasn’t he the monk in the Virgin commercials?)) carries his roles well, a study of the nadir which all of us eventually reach at some point in our lives. That moment when the shitty status quo becomes a comfortable norm.

The revelation is Kate Ashfield. A few words here about plotting. In terms of the main plot she is very much a hanger on, her own story feeling like an afterthought, a punch line to end the film on. Realising this the scriptwriter has given her some of the best lines and she has the role of moving the main plot to its conclusion. So even though we have less glimpses into her personal life, she has the greatest impact and is perhaps in some of the more memorable scene (and there are some doozy’s towards the end). Give this girl more work immediately. Also watch out for an extended cameo by the luminous star of a Sunday night BBC period drama. I’ll say no more.

As with all these things there is something indefinably great about this film. Its difficult to describe exactly why it work. But I’m currently thinking about going again, despite the late night that will entail, which must be some kind of praise. <==

Regular readers can see when that review was written. I really didn't stay in Manchester that often to see films, but this seemed worth it. I was right.
Games If you're in an intelligent mood, you could do worse than try rather intellectual version of Hangman. Well interlectual in as much as the first word was 'propensity' -- which is a bit different to the last time I played Hangman and the longest word was 'useless'.
Film The Gigli Experiment or Can Some Schmuck with a Crappy Web Page Gross More Money Than the Movie Gigli, Starring Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck? Currently Gigli: $6,068,735. Him: $91.34. He may have some way to go ... [via wrzl]
Life Sometimes you can spend the day in front of the computer screen working and you can really feel like you've achieved something. I'm in the first stages of a project for the website over Christmas (if you're a regular reader and we haven't met, please email) and as I've been carrying out the research, some of the excitement that's been missing for me about using the web has returned. I'd been thinking about writing about how boring the web had become, when in fact all that had happened was that I'd stopped exploring, clutching onto the few sites I visit every day like a land-lover not wanting to take to the sea. Today, I've been all around the world and been reminded why I give BT my £10 a month ...