TV Another weekend, another list on television, this time BBC2's Best British Sitcoms -- conveniently the top ten, to be voted for by the public are all made by the BBC, which means that as well as saving a few coins in clip licensing means that we won't be getting an hour over the next ten weeks talking up a programme made for a commercial channel. I would like to see the voting figures to be honest. Surely they could have thrown in Father Ted, so close at number 11 as a token gesture -- after all no one would remember Open All Hours if the BBC didn't keep repeating it again, again, again.

Actually some fun can be had looking at the bottom fifty, listed on the website but not meriting a mention on TV. Anyone remember No Problem, Marriage Lines or A Sharp Intake of Breath? Spaced at 66, Black Books at 58, Coupling at 54. Can I propose another poll which encompassing innovative comedy for small audiences? That way Dressing for Breakfast, Hippies and How Do You Want Me? might be in with a chance ...
Science Sometimes, some things are just very good news. We might have worked out what causes Alzheimer's disease and a possible cure.
Film In the opening moments of Touching The Void there was a titter from the audience. The two climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates describe the adventure they were embarking on and we see a shot of Siula Grande, the 21,000ft mountain they're about to climb. They're laying on thick how difficult it would all be, how no one else has attempted it and how one little mistake could mean that they wouldn't get out alive. At this crucial moment of awe we're actually thinking - "How could you be so stupid? I'm with Richard Hawking (the crucial third man in base camp), climbing is stupid. I'd rather be reading that book of his and cooking sausages for three days," and we laugh. Even though I know the story from the many article which preceded the release of the film, I'm thinking it's their own fault.

Indeed the first half hour of the film, which recounts the accent to the summit of the mountain feels like one of those mountaineering videos you see on sale in Millets, but on a much larger budget. The viewer is just about carried through by the majesty of the scenery and the breathtaking camera work of the reconstruction. The feeling is that in order to recreate the scenes, the production crew effectively had to recreate the feat themselves. On reflection it's a very clever way of setting up Joe and Simon and their relationship to one another and why they're their. It literally is what they do - it's what defines them as people. There are easier pursuits, but to a certain extent their dreaming of conquering peaks in Peru so you don't have to. Before you know you're hanging on their every word.

So that when the accident occurs you're primed and ready for the shock, heart stopping, pulse racing. Contemporary Joe, describes for example how he broke his leg. Then he shows us using his arms as a model. Not one person in the audience didn't squirm. Some have had broken legs, but suddenly we could see it. The narrative continues through the decision at the centre of the film, to cut or not to cut, and on into the climber's separation and subsequent battles through to base camp. Director Kevin Macdonald experiments with what can be done within the drama documentary format using camera and sound tricks to place the audience at the centre of the action described throughout by the climbers themselves in interview. In all moments it's gut wrenching (in fact one audience member at my screening had a coughing fit which wouldn't go away), how the degradation of the human spirit can somehow become a strength. And somehow, even though we know Joe gets out alive (he's narrating the story after all) we're on the edge of our seat wondering if he does make it. Now that's film making.
TV BBC Radio One have covered the Robert Kilroy-Silk story, continuing their remit to be first with new music. Makes a change from 'Posh changes her hair' or whatever else is buring them up in a particular minute I suppose.
Music My Ultimate Compilation CD has been published at Emma Kennedy's official website. It's very long and includes far too many downbeat numbers than I meant to but I wrote it in two post-midnight sessions, in an unusually mellow mood...
Radio Digital Radio reaches Canada. One of the other options for my birthday money is a DAB radio. But then I only ever listen to Radio 4 now anyway. For some reason I'm becoming very difficult to please.
TV Jamie Theakston acts! Amanda Holden trills! (see article)
TV I just discovered Spooks on DVD. Actually I knew it was good all along, but because I missed everything but the very first episode, I didn't see the point in jumping into the random repeats that turn up on UK Gold. It's probably some of the most exciting television Britain has produced in a good five years and I'm glad I've broken into their office. The DVD is especially good, with funny but fact-packed commentaries and useful mini-documetaries. I'm especially pleased to hear a third series in the works. This Beacon Journal article reviews the US release of the DVD (look at that price in dollars -- I bought it in the WHS Smiths sale for £12.99) and talks to a couple of the actors and talks about the differences in the shows presentation in the US. The name was changed to MI5 and ten minutes are lobbed out of the show for commercials. I'm assuming they're mostly scenes about characters, which is a shame because in the first season at least they were some of the most effective moments. [via tvtattle]
Weblogging Ooh look. It's the Fourth Annual Weblog Awards, and they're looking for nominations. Can't think why I'd link to that ...
Life In one of those spare conversational moments at work today I mentioned to someone that I was turning thirty in October. Her eyes widened and her mouth opened. I interpreted as shock, but I could pursue for an actual reason for work related reasons. But this isn't the first time this has happened over the past couple of months (since I took on the mantle of 29).

I'm coming to the conclusion I don't look my age, and I don't act my age. But more importantly I don't feel my age. Which is something everybody says and is a bit of cliche, but they're saying it through mountain sized responsibilities which they heave about every day. Unlike Emily and Vicky, who through the usual blogging co-incidence have also talked about this today, my actual situation, other than in work terms hasn't changed since my early twenties. I'm not married. I don't have kids. I don't even have my own place. Christmas this year was much like every other year.

But does that mean that by now I lack some vital essence of maturity which should propel my life forward? In a strange co-incidence Emily and Vicky are writing about similar things today as well, but they seem OK with it. I don't even have those distinguished grey hairs. It's almost as though I can't age, like some mid-life Peter Pan (although that would mean I'm Robin Williams in the film Hook so perhaps that not such a great comparisson).

Every now and then I look at Maslow's Hierarchy and wonder where I am on the triangle. Self actualistaion seems like a long way to go. The point is probably that not many people actually get there, and who gets there is perfectly random. I say I'm happy but it isn't often I can put my finger on why. I'll let you know in ten months whether I'm finally Gary in thirtysomething or still Brian in My So-Called Life.
Film A free movie preview on the classic fm website for the new Tim Burton movie Big Fish. Well it's got to better than Planet of the Apes. I'm going to get my tickets tomorrow, because for once there is a show in Liverpool at a cinema I can get to...
Obituary TV Cream pay their respects to the late Bob Monkhouse, one of those people you never thought could ever not be there. So sad that we'll never get to see an episode of Have I Got News For You with him presenting. Everyone feels desperately mortal when someone like Bob goes away.
Technology I mean I could buy an ipod mini with my Christmas money, but it just seems like something I could lose very easily.
Press The Guardian is beta testing a Digital Version. It's free to anyone until it - well - goes out of beta (a quick registration required), at which point it's £99 a year, so go and enjoy the gravy train while you still can. The two main innovation are the ability to see the photos that they have the repro-license for and be able to see all of the content, not just the selected articles which appear in the free site. It loads surprisingly quickly on a dial-up and a .pdf version is available for broadband users with BIG monitors (note: the photos appear in pop-ups so you'll need to use your usual work around to see them).
Music That came around quickly. Alanis Morissette's new album So Called Chaos Is out 23rd February (in the US at least). According to The Independent, "(She) apparently wrote all the songs for her forthcoming album in under half an hour" although I'm assuming he means half an hour for each otherwise it will take us longer to listen to the album than it took to write it, and that can't be healthy. Less filler this time please Alanis and a rockier sound. More Hands Clean less Thank U.
TV I'm currently semi-addicted to a Freeview channel Price Drop TV. Not that I'd actually buy anything from them (it's mostly crap) but there are two elements which make it compulsive viewing.

Firstly, there is the gameshow element. When an item appears a guide price is offered, £250 for a set of golf clubs (which appear with some regularity). There are fifty items, and as someone calls them up and offers their plastic the price goes down. Except this seems to be an entirely random process. Whatever price the item is at when they're all sold is the price all of the customer's pay. Now I'm pretty naive so I assume nothing underhanded is going on. So on the few occasions that something actually quite good turns up I will the price to drop so low that all of commerce could implode in on itself.

The other allure are the presenters. Unlike QVC where they have to talk about the same item for hours on end, here the host(ess) only has about five minutes. The problem is, more often than not, they don't actually know anything about the item their selling away from the little description tag. At times it's a bit like me giving a football seminar ('Yes! They play two matches a season against each other. Home AND away. And there are two teams!') The other night I watched someone plug a different make of golf clubs to the ones on display for five minutes (they really do sell a lot of those) and then just shrug her shoulders and carry on as though they're all the same...

Rather like air hostesses they also seem to use the same pointy body language. I assume that like a call centre, they've had to do a month's course in on-air presentation. Some seem more comfortable at it than others. The brunette with gravelly voice who works all hours (seen her in the evening, seen her in the morning) is the most comfortable but even she looks ungainly pushing down on the giant button the channel has to hand to announce the next 'lot' (think massive Boggle).

It's on Sky somewhere I imagine as well, between that channel which sells tat for doing handycrafts and the God Channel. Be sure to catch it during one of their technical hitches when they broadcast no sound. One of these days I just know the presenter is going to resort to sign language and I can't wait to see what that looks like and how many fingers they've been trained to use.
Life First day back at work. Why is it that no one can actually say whether they had a good Christmas or not? The conversation includes: "Did you have a good Christmas?" "Yes. You?" "Yes, thanks." I had a great Christmas, but what if it would was bloody awful, would you actually say?
Film Another ten then. This time for the latest Empire Greatest Film Poll:

When Harry Met Sally
Waking Life
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Walking and Talking
La Raine Margot
In The Bleak Midwinter
Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Lawrence
A Matter Of Life and Death
Groundhog Day
The Seventh Seal

Yes I know it's an infuriating list (no action films, too many romantic comedies or relationshippy films) but we already know either Star Wars or Lord of the Rings is going to be at the top and it would just be really fun for something like Martha to make the list at all. Plus it's stupid to ask a cineaste for his top ten films -- top five hundred more like. It's a High Fidelity issue really, theming being the key. Much easier to ask for my top ten films for cheering yourself up. Which I might need what with my first day back at work tomorrow...
Film Just watched The Shining for the first time (or rather finally) and amid my usual issues with Kubrick as a film maker (too long and extensive to go into at the moment) the real problem was I felt like I'd seen it before. Not because I'd forgotten, but because of the number of clips and parodies I'd seen in other films and television shows. I spent much of the time in a kind of backwards referencing stupor, recognising moments I'd seen before in places like Spaced, The League of Gentlemen and The Simpsons.

Yet there were still enough moments to keep me fairly creeped out but again these had little to do with the plot. I can't imagine how long this film took to be made, but Shelley Duvall is either a tremendous actress or they really dragged the humanity out of her. In the shots were she drags her feet through the corridors she's hardly holding onto that kitchen knife, as though it isn't in her hand at all, almost hover a few millimetres away. Had the trainers of the horse Red Rum seen this film and was that another massive film reference? And to be honest it's a shame I know that all of those extra-ordinary tracking shots were accomplished using a steadycam. Such things would surely have been hidden from the audience at the time, and if nothing else I would have spent half the time trying to work out how the crane or tracks passed under the doorways or around the corners. I mean why has no one throught to turn the shots of the little boy on the tricycle into a racing game for the Playstation?
Music A group email thing has just asked me to list my top ten albums. Here is what I came up with...

Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morissette
The Rough Guide to Paris Cafe Music
Tom Lehrer - An Evening Wasted With
thirtysomething - Original Soundtrack
Lisa Ekdahl - sings Salvadore Poe
Bob Dylan - The Freewheelin
Badi Assad - Chameleon
REM - Automatic For The People
Astrid - Boy For You
the audience - a pessimist is never disappointed

Wierd what you can pull out of the hat when you're hard pushed. Good mix of the mainstream and ecclectic though.