'Gave me an a A please Bob.'

Bob Holness, ex-presenter of teenager quiz show Blockbusters, as well as being the first James Bond (on radio) is also a keen musician. He even played the alto sax solo on Gerry Rafferty's record 'Baker Street'. [thanks Franchesca!]

Merlin's mad minimalist magic

"But they had it easy. Jack Bennett plays Rosencrantz, a Gravedigger and Mercellus, while Alex Woodhall tackles Guildenstern, Barnardo and the other Gravedigger. The two actors also share one of the props I forgot to mention earlier, a pair of spectacles. The doubling and tripling of roles is particularly hard on the actors, who have to move swiftly and at times seamlessly from one role to another. It is certainly ambitious, but by and large it works. I saw the play on the second night when, as is often the case, the pace was somewhat lacking. My colleague Eszter Bal√°zs had seen it the night before, however, and said it was spot on. "

'Hello, I'm sorry you keep cutting out...'

Life In an ideal world, when we have to make important phone calls, they happen in calm places at the right time so that you can do and say everything thing you want to. They should not, as today, take place during a lunch hour beyond one of busiest mornings in work you've had in months when your brain has scattered into a million pieces; on a mobile phone which seems to be losing power at an incredible rate and which keeps cutting out; and sitting in the only place you can find outside of work which was quite enough that to hear anything enough to attempt a conversation, in other words the entrance hall of a Natwest Bank.


TV Just wanted to point out that an extended version of the review of Joey from the other day has been posted to Off The Telly, which this month also offers an excellent profile of Grange Hill's Gripper Stebson.

Links for 2005-02-16 [del.icio.us]

Links for 2005-02-16 [del.icio.us]

  • Natalie Imbruglia's marriage inspires uplifting music
    Key sentence: "The songs refer to Dan because he's been at the forefront of my mind during the three-year recording process.
  • The Most Depressing Modern American Plays You Must Read
    About Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman': "A play about how salesmen live their lives written by a man who clearly knew nothing about salesmen."
  • Patricia Kaas Releases Live Album
    Includes recordings from her recent tour
  • It's stupid and I love it
    The Goon Show and me. By Eddie Izzard
  • Audio Science Sossamon
    Shannyn Sossamon (from 'A Knight's Tale') names her baby. Why not go the whole hog and get sponsorship from Sony?
  • Lady of the Lane
    Engrossing interview with the luminous Teri Hatcher. Yes, I watch Desperate Housewives. All kinds of reasons.
  • 43 Folders: Five fast email productivity tips
    Not that I'm suggesting anyone in particular could learn something from this...
  • Cubicle Culture
    Or why the weekend is always so depressing ...
  • Penny Drop

    Virginia Madsen from Sideways is the sister of Michael Madsen from all of Tarantino's films.

    'I just wanted to say ... how honoured ... I am .... to be here in ... um ... London...'

    Life Blogger is slow tonight, which is ironic considering how wierdly exciting the day has been. For reasons I can't mention, as the Blog Rules come into force with all the cruelty you'd expect. So much to say, so much risk involved in mentioning. You might have noticed by the date stamp that I'm not standing in the middle of The Barfly watching Juliette Lewis. Every now and then I get a feeling about something, not a sixth or seventh sense but an idea that something might not be such a good idea. It's probably crap, but after the busyness of life lately I just didn't have the inclination. I suspect that the distinctly average reviews I've read since buying a ticket can't have helped, or the mysteriously distracted appearance by Miss Lewis at The Baftas on Saturday night. Come the weekend I'll probably regret this once in a lifetime chance, but if that's the case I can always watch her performance on the mike in the film Strange Days and imagine.

    "I don't get it."

    Film Watched all of Robert Bresson's final film L'Argent in film class tonight. This is when he finally stripped away almost everything you would expect to be important in a film -- acting, music and clear plotting. It's about a how a fake bank note leads a man into prison and finally to redemption through murder. Important moments are expressed impressionistically to the extent that the viewer frequently only works out what was going on some minutes down the line. To be honest, it was all a bit too blank for my taste -- I couldn't relate or become involved in any of the character's stories so that in the end there was a general sense of emptiness -- like I'd eaten a pizza which had been in the oven too long and the cheesy topping had gone hard.

    An appeal

    Appeal Did anyone tape Look Around You tonight? My bastard video decided not to record so I'll be happy to supply a tape, whatever ...

    Forget playing Doctors and Nurses. Now you can be a patient too.

    The University of Minnesota pay actors to pretend to be patients over an extended period so that Medical Students can get practical experience without going anywhere near an actual patient. "The pay depends on what you do," (one of the participants describes) "Rheumatology pays the least, about $10 an hour, because all you do is let them show how the joints work on a real person. When I did a scenario for someone with chronic myelogenous leukemia, it was $35 for two hours.

    'He awoke to find himself trapped in the past ...'

    Site News This is really for anyone who reads via an RSS feed. I've uploaded links to archive for the weblog up onto the main page so that you can do what I did yesterday and more easy find out what I was writing on a particular day in the past, my god, three and a half years. Just to make things interesting, I'm soon going to be uploading some writing I've got knocking around my hard disk into the archive at the dates they were written, short stories and articles and the like, so if you're in Time Team mood and have Tony Robinson handy you never know what you might find.

    'Hello. Positive thoughts erm ...'

    Film I wasn't going to write about The Baftas, but really, wasn't it the daffiest awards ceremony you've ever seen? Throughout there was the dangerous feeling that it could all go Brits '90 at any minute, even with Stephen Fry behind the podium. If your eyes didn't widen when Gillian Anderson, looking fabulous, seemed to momentarily forget where she was or Richard Gere treating the thing like a birthday party for his wife ('Stand Up Dear') then frankly you've seen too many of these things. As category after category was given to the dark horse candidate I really thought Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would win Best Picture. I mean even Charlie Kauffman was there (picking up a well deserved mask for his script... again). Although frankly I've never seen what the real one looks like so it could have been an imposter and I'd be none the wiser. I just feel as though a Best Picture should go to something extra-ordinary we haven't seen before. The Aviator isn't a poor film -- it just feels like a boring choice from the films nominated, like American Beauty the year that was going around winning everything. It's an HBO film of the week on a larger budget and with better pacing.


    Books Excellent article from January Magazine, celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. Amongst many nuggets is this example of sponsorship gone mad:
    From 1946 to 1951, first CBS and then NBC broadcast a very popular weekly radio serial, "The Adventures of Sam Spade," with Howard Duff supplying Spade's voice. The show was sponsored by Wildroot Cream Oil Hair Tonic, which ran a widely distributed series of newspaper comic-strip advertisements in which Spade, in the space of eight frames, accepted a case and solved a mystery, always involving hair cream.
    Suddenly Kim Cattrall turning out for Tetley doesn't sound quite so incorrect.

    Links for 2005-02-13 [del.icio.us]

    Links for 2005-02-13 [del.icio.us]

  • Reasons to be tearful
    Tori Amos is releasing a new album. She's married and happy. I wonder what that's going to sound like.
  • Natalie Imbruglia has a new album on the release schedule
    "Counting Down The Days" is due early April. Keep an eye on this Google search for more information.
  • Charity wristband bonanza
  • Linky
    Firefox extension for opening many links on a page in tabs in one go.
  • 5-star underwater hotel coming to Bahamas
    Wet continental breakfast
  • I'm Not Dead!
    Voice of America's Prepared Obituaries for Castro and Yeltsin. We know these things exist (how else are they broadcast so close to a death) but it's spooky to hear them pre-mortality.
  • The Karate Kid Collection
    Wax on, wax off
  • Photos from obie27
    Photographer posts hos work to Flickr, including some nice work with Joss Stone and a Blink 182 cover
  • Out of this world
    Excellent review of Tarkovsky's film 'Solaris' which compares it to Doctor Who during the UNIT days.
  • Introducing ... NERVO
    Single'll probably be worth buying for that opening line alone.
  • Studios Prepare For Mini DVD Launch
    5" and an hour of video. Developed especially for portables with a three inch screen. How is that a good way to watch any film?
  • The swap shop
    Interesting survey of how the barriers between broadcasters have weakened becuase of water rights sales. Or why an ITV programme like 'Sherlock Holmes' can suddenly turn up on BBC2.
  • Good comicsy interview with Kevin Smith
    ... who calls Joss Whedon, 'Buffy' because he can't remember his name ...
  • Sefton Park Ghost Story
    What looks like a US livejournal post about something happening about ten minutes away from my home. Now that is spooky.
  • Yes, I know it's all just a bit of commercialised nonsense but ...

    That Day I'm going to do this tonight while I'm feeling sorry for myself. I was looking back through the things I've written about tomorrow's date since this weblog began. Last year I said:
    It's amazing how a shower can wash away so many layers of badness. My fever broke last night and now I've just got the sniffles. The significance of the day hasn't escaped me I'm just sort of numb to it. I've decided that as well as staying in on purpose tonight and being boring I'm going to watch a film which can accurately capture how I'm feeling about the day. Tonights viewing therefore will be Apocalypse Now Redux. "Siagon. Shit...."
    I think you can see where this is going. In 2003 I cleverly skipped the day altogether. In 2002:
    I feel strangely ambivilant about today. I'm aware that when I go places there isn't some with me holding my hand, but this year it just feels like something other people do. Perhaps it's because for once I'm not in love with someone -- in previous years I've been looking dewey eyed at the girl from a afar or good friends with them just to be around them for much the same reason. But this year no one. I know it's my situation. My life's on pause -- I'm like Scott Campbell in the film 'Singles', forever locked in a room (in my case metaphorically) wigging away, waiting for the next thing to happen. Which doesn't mean to say that if I got a serious valentine later I wouldn't be interested. My shoulder is looking out of practice -- it looks like it needs someone to lean against it soon.
    What this demonstrates, I suppose, how little some things can change over a three year period. That I don't have anything else to add is incredibly disappointing.

    'How're we doing?'

    TV Joey is already a loss before the opening moments of the first episode simply because its a spin-off from the biggest live-action sitcom on the planet. The pressure the creators and writers must have felt when handed this bohemouth must have been extra-ordinary, since the network will have been looking for something to fill a very big hole. Unless Joey was sitting in a New York apartment with five other people called Chandler, Pheobe, Ross, Rachel and Monica this was never going to happen for them.

    The obvious unfair comparison would be the pilot episode of Friends which for me is a perfect 22 minutes of comedy which somehow manages to define all the characters, set up their relationships and still manage to be barn stormingly hilarious. Joey's pilot isn't like that -- it's more of a slow burn. It simply doesn't fly in the same way. The funnier moments for example happened when references were made to the previous series, which is either lazy or provides continuity depending on your point of view.

    Which is why curiously, it isn't totally awful. The scripts are fairly well constructed and the jokes are pleasingly character based; none of your Chandleresque pop culture references hanging around looking for a punchline. There is some good chemistry between Matt LeBlanc and his co-stars. Drea de Matteo (who I believe was in something called The Sopranos) as his sister Gina has a real aptitude for comedy -- to a degree there is a feeling that some of the slapstick has shifted from the Joey character in her direction. Paulo Costanzo is welcome and again bashes away excellently at the banter. Having a Rocket Scientist in the ensemble is a good choice although they may have difficulties if they don't vary the idiot/genius dynamic between Joey/Michael which could become tiresome.

    Which is just one of the question marks. Some of the funnier moments in the mothership were at the time when we'd cut back to Joey and he'd be doing something funny. Then they were used to counterpoint another more tragicomic scene. Here they are just sort of there and after a while it could become repetitious. Also I'm not entirely convinced by Andrea Anders character Alex, who seems a little blank to me. Perhaps they're hedging for not waiting to see what works or doesn't but that's dangerous as in this situation the viewer needs something to hold onto pretty quickly. So she's married, and a lawyer and .... ?

    But I'm willing to give it a chance, if only for nostaglic reasons. This doesn't feel like the simply cash-in it could have been, with Janice turning up in episode two and Gunther passing by in four. There is a good feeling of treating this as a different show, with a different sensibility. It's quite pleasing that they are taking the time to set up the characters and relationships over a constant stream of empty laughs. But they can't leave it too long before giving us that killer episode which will keep us around. The first two episodes were pleasant but a whole season like this?


    TV Another rerun from Off The Telly and a first night review of the Friends spin-off Joey.


    Sunday, February 13, 2005 by Stuart Ian Burns

    Much like its main character, Joey is already lost during the opening moments of the first episode simply because its a spin-off from the biggest live-action sitcom on the planet. The pressure the creators and writers felt when handed this behemoth must have been extraordinary, considering the network will have been looking for something to fill a very big hole. Unless Joey was sitting in a New York apartment with five other people called Chandler, Phoebe, Ross, Rachel and Monica, then this was never going to happen for them.

    Perhaps recognising that a pilot episode isn’t always the strongest way to begin the run of any series, five decided to broadcast it with the second edition back-to-back. Channel 4 often used a similar strategy at the beginning and end of seasons of Friends, so this added to the familiarity of watching the show. The big difference, then, is its appearance in an unfamiliar Sunday nighttime position. If you consider that C4 have dropped ratings magnet The Simpsons into the old Friday night timeslot, scheduling this series up against that would be suicidal. In addition, five have also acquired the services of LeBlanc himself – possibly as part of their rights deal – and we see him sitting at a kitchen table on the set improvising with the corporate logo. The channel undoubtedly has a lot of faith in the series.

    As to sponsors Ginsters, the weirdness of that choice is a debate for another time.

    Matching like-to-like, this first episode had a lot to live up to. The obvious unfair comparison is to the pilot episode of Friends which, for me, was a perfect 22 minutes of comedy that somehow managed to define all the characters, set up their relationships and still be barn-stormingly hilarious. Joey‘s intro, telling the story of the character moving to Los Angeles to start a new acting career, isn’t like that at all – it’s more of a slow burn and simply doesn’t fly in the same way. The funnier moments, for example, happened when references were made to the previous series, which is either lazy or provides good continuity depending on your point of view.

    The equal comparisons with Frasier probably come to some extent from the choice of placing Joey within a family this time around, instead of another group of friends or a particular setting. However, it’s quite refreshing to find such a tiny ensemble who feel pretty well-defined from the off. With the sister Gina, an obvious attempts has been made to introduce a female character entirely unlike anyone on the previous series, all loud, brassy and extraverted. Her son Michael could have been a Mini-Ross but the expression is different, more introverted. Although Joey’s relatives are strangers to us, they’re obviously familiar to him so the comedy is about what’s changed rather than what’s new – the character’s reaction to his sister’s implants, for example, is priceless.

    Despite the comparisons, differences also keep asserting themselves. The timeframe of the episode takes place over a few weeks, long enough for Joey to appear on a cancelled cop show and for another series he turned down to become a big hit in an overnight Desperate Housewives manner. The conceit just about works with the existing relationship between the Tribiannis, but in places it still felt slightly rushed, like edited highlights from three or four episodes.

    However, no pilot can be described as “typical” which is why the appearance of episode two directly afterwards was helpful for the viewer to get a feel for what a typical show is going to be like. Disappointingly the plotline followed an old standby – older stud teaches younger geek how to pick up girls.

    But curiously, it wasn’t totally awful. The script was fairly well constructed around Gina’s attempts to become co-tutor of Michael’s pick-up training, and the jokes were pleasingly character based; none of your Chandleresque pop culture references hanging around looking for a punchline, here. There was some good chemistry between LeBlanc and his co-stars. Drea de Matteo (of The Sopranos) as Gina has a real aptitude for comedy and, to a degree, there is a feeling that some of the slapstick has shifted from Joey to her. Paulo Costanzo’s Michael is pleasingly sympathetic and again bashes away excellently at the banter. Having a rocket scientist in the ensemble is a good choice, although they may have difficulties if they don’t eventually vary the idiot/genius dynamic between Joey/Michael before it gets tiresome.

    And yet, there are a number of question-marks over whether the series can sustain itself. There remains the nagging feeling that we’re watching a subplot from another series of Friends writ large – like those scenes in special episodes set in London or Las Vegas when the writers were straining to find something for Joey to do while all the important action was happening elsewhere. Some of the funnier moments in the parent series were the times when we’d cut back to him doing something funny as a counterpoint to the more tragicomic scenes; but here they just sort of hang there, and after a while it could become repetitious.

    I’m also not entirely convinced by characters outside the main family. Andrea Anders’ Alex seems a little blank to me. Perhaps the programme-makers are hedging, waiting to see what works and what doesn’t, but that can be dangerous as in this situation the viewer needs something to hold onto pretty quickly. So she’s married, and a lawyer and …? Also the legendary Jennifer Coolidge, as Joey’s agent, is probably going to be an important character as time goes on, but here she seems very tense, nervous even. Perhaps she’ll relax into it in a few weeks.

    So I’m willing to give the series a chance, if only for nostalgia reasons. It doesn’t feel like the simple cash-in it could have been, with Janice turning up in episode two and Gunther passing by in four. Certainly, despite the similarities, there is a sense that Joey is most definitely a different show, with a different sensibility, and it’s quite pleasing they’re taking the time to set up the characters and relationships instead of relying on a constant stream of empty laughs. But the programme’s creators can’t leave it too long before providing us with that killer episode that will keep us around. These first two episodes were watchable – but a whole season like this?

    Well, yes, never did quite manage to gel. Watched the whole of the first series, never did get around to the truncated second. Le Blanc faired much better in Episodes which oddly enough shares many of the same elements as Joey, only much, much darker.

    Laura Baldwin Diary January 2005

    The Road To Beijing Laura Baldwin has published her January 2005 diary:
    "I am concerned about my financial situation. I can?t afford the program I have planned over the next period but I can?t afford not to do it! I have very high aspirations. I want to be the best. I have sacrificed any kind of normal life; socializing and my figure to go full throttle into this campaign. The first UK National Ranking Regatta is in two weeks and I have a couple of Europe?s for sale in the UK but do not own a UK based Laser for the qualifiers. I have had to order a new one from Lasers having given up on finding a good second hand one, so yet more debt. Can anyone help?!"
    Sorry Laura, I'm a bit land-locked. [about]


    TV In case you missed them, here is the fabulous Look Around You's list of new toothpaste brands.

    Cheshire Cat
    Good Evening!
    Good Morning!
    Junior K144
    Junior K146
    Lady Dracula
    Dentists Pride
    Miss Dignity
    Mouth Sentry
    Mr Big
    North Pole
    Piggy White
    Wilson's Gold
    Wilson's Ivory
    Wilson's Platinum

    ... and of course ...


    Even headed review of Olivier's film

    In cutting this immensely long play to a running time of just over two and a half hours, Olivier and his screenplay collaborator, Alan Dent, eliminated some fairly prominent characters (notably Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Fortinbras) and even sacrificed a couple of Hamlet’s most famous soliloquies ('O what a rogue and peasant slave am I' and 'How all occasions do inform against me'), and thus made themselves vulnerable to charges of butchering the Bard. (Olivier, in answer to such criticisms, took to characterizing his film as merely 'a study in Hamlet.')

    Seems, madam! Nay it is ... Jane Birkin

    Jane Birkin, whose croaked anthem Je t'aime (moi non plus) sent a million adolescents crawling towards their French dictionaries, will make a rare return to the stage next month, to play Gertrude in Hamlet for the first time - in Northampton.