TV Channel 4 and Five discuss merger, presumably to create Channel 9. The cast of The Fast Show are probaby dusting off the white suits and fake tan as we speak in preparation. But serious. What are they thinking?
Music My general blandness and inability to speak whole words somehow makes me wonder if this new story is significant. But I'm not so far gone that I don't appreciate this odd little piece from The Yale Daily News. I remember spending a train journey between Halifax and Leeds with a woman I hardly knew who talked endlessly about Polly and what Polly had been up to and how I had to meet her. It wasn't until days later it occured to me the person in question's surname was Harvey and that yet again I'd zigged instead of zagged. In this piece an american music journalist tries to get to grips with P J Harvey, insists on calling her Polly Jean a lot and generally makes the reader want to go back and listen again to her 1995 album To Bring You My Love. Actually my favourite is the mid-period Is This Desire? (what whisper over riff into hiphop at the start). He does make an amusing point about some of the artists knocking about Mtv at the time:
"A similar phenomenon occurred about ten years ago when MTV introduced a little lady from England named Polly Jean Harvey. I remember it very distinctly, because Alanis Morissette was very big at the time, and Garbage had just released its first album. All of us young teenage consumers were trying to adjust to this new breed of tough woman, after having grown accustomed to the abrasive apathy of the male-dominated grunge movement.

When these women began to generate publicity that was sufficient enough to capture the mainstream attention span, MTV (and corporate radio alike) started to churn out singles by terribly forgettable artists (remember Poe? if you do, try this one out for size -- who the hell was Tracy Bonham?). Tepid and cautious as ever, MTV slipped an independent video into its schedule via those venerable titans of the teenage nation -- Beavis and Butthead.
Got the Poe. Got the Tracy Bonham. He's right of course (and this seqway's nicely into my Norah Jones post the other day) there aren't that many angry female singer songwriters about at the moment. Dido's Life For Rent is a melancholy little album but it's also extraordinarily understated, tackling in a subtle way subjects which Alanis has been growling about for years. Perhaps there are times when you need to shout to get your point across and others when gentle words of wisdom will do.
Music There have been a number of mean spirited reviews accompanying the release of Norah Jones' second proper album Feels Like Home. The Guardian gave it a solitary star and the nitwits on Radio Four's Saturday Review variously described how it sent them into a coma and or cheesed them off because it isn't as innovative as rap music. I refused to review her first piece on the grounds that it was perfect and I'm going to do the same here ...

Travels with Matsui

[Because some music is so good it's beyond review. If you like real music at all you'll like this.]

But .... most of the negative reviews I have read seem to be pointing towards what isn't here rather than what is. I read one piece (online I think) by a writer whose only reason for not liking it was that Jones doesn't write all her own material. But this is a genre in which that's never essential. She's also grouped in with Dido as an example of the softening of musical taste, a blanding out if you like. Which is a fine interpretation if you're stupid enough not to notice that they're completely different types of music. Also why is it wrong that a country/blues fusion record should turn up at number one in the charts and have a crossover appeal which attracts people like me and people like you, and feature the only Dolly Parton performance it's OK to love? I haven't heard either camp complaining so why are they, as though its a Hooked on Classics attempt at accessibility? Yes, it's not profound. It's not going to change the world. It is musical comfort food, as reaffirming as a cappuccino or chocolate fudge cake and the perfect thing for winding down to. And that is OK, especially and I hate to remind, in days like these...
Life I've now lost my voice. At the risk of sounding like John Hurt pretending to be Alan Clarke, 'This is intollerable...' I have this pain at the back of my throat which feels like someone is permanently jabbing it with a pencil. I spoke to Fani earlier on the telephone and she said she didn't recognise me. I don't recognise me. Two days until my holiday ...
Film Which hasn't stopped me from discovering a different kind of DVD review site which seems to gleefully, actively avoid reviewing the mainstream.
Life Despite slogging my way through work again today, I'm up in bed tonight, sore throated, coffee bright watching a version of Checkov's Three Sisters. I should probably be watching something cheery like a comedy episode of Buffy, but misery can be a good cleansing ritual.
Life Spent the weekend in bed again. Just as one cold went another one hit and here I sit all fluey and sniffling. I stumbled my way through work today -- I hope everything went OK -- I'll know for sure tomorrow if anything blows up in my face. My concentration is zero and typing is a chore. Isn't it odd how some things just seem like a real effort when you've got a cold?
TV When the first proposal was muted for a new series of Doctor Who in the early nineties, it was going to be a remake not a continuation. The barebones were that The Doctor's dad, Borusa was going to be his companion and The Master was his brother turned evil and the mission was to stop him screwing up the timeline. When you have that horrifying synopsis it suddenly makes the eventual 1996 film not half bad. At least it was a continuation. With this knowledge I can see why fans of the original Battlestar Galactica could be up in arms at the changes. A female Starbuck? Cyclons created by humanity and which now look like us? Apollo's a callsign not an actual name?

I quite liked the series when I was very young, but not having seen the original in years, I could go to this new mini-series with fresh eyes and was absolutely amazed. It doesn't re-invent any wheels and fundamentally it's still quite derivative (the same plotline as everything from Ullyses 31 to Red Dwarf) as a piece of genre television it's extra-ordinarily involving.

Immediately striking is how bleak the piece is overall. Despite the idea, the original series was startlingly comical in places. Starbuck was largely the comic relief and I remember there being an android dog for no readily apparent reason. Here although there are moments of humour, they're a relief from the larger story going on around -- the destruction of humanity. Time and again characters have to make decisions for the greater good which lead to the deaths of others -- quite heartbreaking in places.

Some of the acting is also extra-ordinarily downbeat and naturalistic. Many science fiction series have been ruined because the performers have decided to go for larger than life characterisation because that's what the material deserves (Brian Blessed). Here, for a change, there is a believability to the way the material is performed. Mary McDonnell in particular comes at it with same seriousness she would to a John Sayles project -- the burden of responsibilty obviously frightens her to bits. But that can be said of everyone in a cast of largely unknowns. The only exception is when the cylons are about, but here the creator Ronald D Moore pulls off the clever slight of hand of making them a both visible and unknown enemy, the only potentially camp performance could have been from the most visible Cylon Tricia Helfer (number 6) who only really needed to vamp it up but turns out to be truly evil.

There are nods to the old series. The old design of the Cylons is repeated here as the one everyone remembers fighting in the war. The original theme tune becomes some form of comemorative anthem. I defy anyone to at least chuckle that the original design of Viper is being used in the series as the best defence because the computers aren't good enough to be effected by the Cylons big weapon (one of the main themes of the piece is how scientific development in some areas is not always a good thing). But it's that kind of show, using the bare bones of what went before to create a new series to capture new fans, and with a twist ending which just begs for a new series I think it will do just that.
H2G2 According this interview with new Arthur Dent, Martin Freeman the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy goes on set or field or wherever in April, barring the destruction of the Earth in the mean time.
TV In the early Nineties when I first moved into my current home, a flat in a tower block, I found that in an effort to placate the people who couldn't have satellite, the feed from a BSB squareal was pumped through two of the channels on our analogue tv. This was just after the merger with Sky so that meant Sky One and what was still the Sports channel. That was my first taste of multi-channel tv. The signal was grubby, but clear enough for me to watch nearly the entire run of 21 Jump Street (featuring a very young Johnny Depp -- that man is older than you think) and Star Trek: The Animated Series (which some trekkers still think is canon and are quite happy to have a 12 foot Spock roaming the universe -- there was a Voyager episode waiting to happen). Eventually Sky turned off the signal to the non-circular ariels and it would be some years until I was stiff by the ITV Digital liquidation.

I was on the cusp then, but still close enough to get misty eyed over TV Cream's new update which takes a long look at the early days of Satellite TV, filling in the blanks on what I missed. Looking through, a pioneering spirit was in evidence -- many of the channels listed still exist to some extent in some form, even Sky Soap, which was basically Granada Plus and UK Gold. But who would have thought the following would return:
"Before the advent of Sky Digital brought us an infinite number of television stations, all of them featuring Paul Lavers, back in the 1990s the restricted capacity of the first Astra satellite meant lots of networks had to squeeze onto the same transponder for a few hours each day. Perhaps the most extreme example was the magical Transponder 47, which depending on the time you tuned in, broadcast imported televangelism, rolling weather forecasts, reruns of Take The High Road, hours and hours of extended adverts for holidays, documentaries about Nazis, reruns of Land of the Giants and ancient football. Creamup also used to love Transponder 59, which showed a rolling promo about the Astra satellite itself, with loads of footage of rockets taking off and stuff. But that's just us.
Freeview's new Top Up TV doesn't work for this very reason. Because of limited bandwidth, some quite good channels are only going to be broadcasting for part of the day. So tough if the show you wanted to watch is on after midnight. Some things really don't change.