'We'll always bring yer home...'

The Trains 'This is for the folk who joined the train at Manchester Oxford Road. You're on the 18:11 Transpenine express service to Liverpool. We'll be stopping off at Warrington Central, but before then Birchwood. Sorry we're slightly late, but we had a bit of trouble in York. Driver Brian assures me it'll be smooth sailing through to Liverpool so we'll be making the time up. Sorry, but there isn't any refreshment on the train, but we'll be getting you home safely, and that's the main thing.'

'In a few minutes we'll be arriving in Liverpool, into platform nine, right on schedule -- see -- we can do it sometimes. We hope you're enjoyed your journey and will be travelling with us again soon. I know that some of you have even further to go now, so safe journey home.'

[These are the actual announcements of our fantastically chilled guard on the train home from Manchester tonight. I imagined him sitting at the back there with his feet up in his slippers with a cocktail.]

'We have to go back for the dog.'

Film Not a criticism, but The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou feels like a big screen remake of an old Hannah Barbara cartoon. You could imagine, some time in the 70s, in the style of the old Godzilla> series, Steve and the crew discovering a new species each week with each episode ending with a short film of the animal they've found and one of those moralistic things saying how we should treat wildlife and the environment with respect. It's an oddly melancholy you see, filled with a sort of restless contemplation on lost innocence, which is possibly why people who have seen the film tend to be disappointed. It's funny, but in a sad way. You tend to laugh in that way people do over a beer remembering something which happened ten years before when everything was crazy.

Much of this is to do with Bill Murray's performance. His work here is largely very understated -- he understands that Zissou's best years are behind him and that he's effectly playing a version of his old self for appearance sakes. To a degree that's actually were Murray was a few years ago turning up in the things like Larger Than Life with an elephant as a side kick, so thanks to Wes Anderson for Rushmore and saving Bill and us from the decline. There are moments when we get to see the Murray of old and in fact his Ghostbusters persona even pops up in one particularly unexpected scene.

And thanks to Wes Anderson for this film. It's yet another recent example of a director excercising their own film making style, presenting the audience with a choice of following him or missing out on the discreat charms he is going to be offering. There are scenes which are entirely based on the audience needing to be in on the joke and judging by the almost silent crowd I watched it with I can only imagine we're a very small but lucky group.

'Hot oil shuffle...'

Art Stuart Jeffries absolutely nails the issue to do with big exhibitions and why I tend to shy away from private views. I like art and want to see it properly without five thousand other people getting in the way:
The National Gallery warns visitors to the Caravaggio show: "Due to the popularity of the exhibition there will be timed-ticket entry. We recommend booking in advance to ensure that your visit is on the date and at the time of your choice." It doesn't add, but perhaps it should: "And if you're thinking of standing in front of a picture for more than an hour, you can just forget about that kind of nonsense, sonny."
Unlike other art forms, painting and sculpture take time -- there needs to be an unspoken dialogue between the viewer and the work. That simply can't happen if you're dodging people who are just there so that they can say they've been there. Which effectively means you end up going to exhibitions like this one, because they're inevitably empty. Shocking.

Card slot

The section above the numeric keypad on a computer keyboard which includes the Caps Lock & Num Lock lights doesn't have keys blocking the way because when the peripheral was originally designed one of the main applications was in banking and this would be the perfect place to slot a credit card, punch card or business card when keying in details.


Life Friday night and my eyelids are itchy. It must be the weather but I'm feeling the need for hibernation I usually get in December. That wierd inclination for nothing. Oh dear, I seem to be literally feeling listless. That doesn't bode well. I'm off to Manchester tomorrow so if there is anything you need me to get...
Who And so here we are one month until the (possible) start of the new tv series of Doctor Who. All signs point to 26th March 2005. On a Saturday. At tea time. I had a brief panic attack today. At the back of my mind, the words 'What if it's no good?' shuffled past. But then I contained myself. While am here I want to re-post something which was knocking around about three years ago in the dark ages before this dream began. It was my vision for a new tv series ...
Main Characters: The Doctor, Female companion, The TARDIS
Familiarity. Turn on your average post-Troughton story this is your set up. The companion explores the problem at hand, The Doctor explains and solves it. The average viewer isn't expecting three 'teenagers' and a robot. Better to give depth to one companion than have two or three ciphers.
Which was my not at all secret attack on the Davison era. The Caves Of Androzani was the best story. Why? Less people running around and getting into trouble. Chris and Billie look great together on all those magazine covers don't they?
Six one hour episodes.
Clarity, attention span, budget. With judicious and careful editing most tv Who stories could be told in an hour - the audio version of 'Genesis of the Daleks' proves this. Yes, it's nice to see Tom and Lalla running around Paris in 'City of Death' but it doesn't exactly drive the plot forward does it? If 'Buffy' can do it, so can 'Who'.
Who imagined there would be thirteen? Apparently there were only going to be six but Russell and his producer Phil turned around and asked if they could have thirteen if it cost the same amount of money and the BBC said -- well OK! There will be cliffhangers in there but I was mostly right about the format. But what's fifteen minutes between friends?
First episode - Cybermen. Last episode - Daleks (with cliffhanger ending)
Nice and familiar. Monsters, and monsters the public have heard of. Could redesign the Cybermen a bit, but keep the Daleks as pepper pots (that's half their appeal). Daleks in last episode not first so as not to show all your good cards.
Not Cybermen but something else. But were the metal men all that great anyway?
In between, The Doctor takes his companion to see the first civilisations (Stonehenge, Ancient Egypt, even earlier) and the end of time (last surviving human, aliens trading the last human DNA remains). Episode set on a strange alien planet, episode on a starship.
The Hartnell era might be a good pattern to follow. So two sci-fi, one quasi-historical, one pure historical. Random order. I'd have the historical as episode two, sci-fi three, then follow in 'The Time Meddlers' footsteps and sell the quasi-historical initially as a historical. Then Sci-Fi, then that Dalek story. Returns the show to unpredictability; the TARDIS guidance circuits have malfunctioned so he doesn't know (and therefore we don't know) where he'll end up next (that's real adventure isn't it?). Historicals potentially an easier sell now alongside the monster stories.
No pure historicals apparently, but there is a story set at the end of time. But thirteen shows offers the chance of even greater flexibility.

Ignore continuity references, but don't contradict anything too much.

Base everything on what the general public probably knows - yes, we know The Doctor is a Timelord, but do we need some boring old episode on Gallifrey to prove the point? Only exposition relating to plot at hand then, and make the stories self contained. No need to keep referring back to 'the canon' all the time, but don't contract it.

This is the Ninth Doctor, and I'm guessing that any in-jokes will be exactly that. It's a continuation but not abject slavery. Excellent.
No romance, but lots of flirting.
See Pertwee and Jo Grant; Tom Baker and everyone (apart from Harry); whilst I personally had no problem with 'that kiss' this is a family show.
Indications are that The Doctor and Rose will have that kind of 'understanding'.

Family show, but scary enough to need a sofa.
Everyone says they hid behind the sofa. Nothing wrong here - scary monsters and cartoon violence. But keep to the model of The Doctor using his mind to outwit his opponents.
Well see. I'm suddenly really excited again!

Pale face

I've often wondered why the families in portrait photographs from the mid-1800s always seem slightly unreal. Apparently because of the limited amount of light in photographic studios, the subjects would have their faces covered in white make up to reflect better in the camera. So that the subjects could keep perfectly still, a brace was used to hold the waist of the woman in the chair or any children standing by in place. The other reason that family isn't smiling is because to do so would seem foolish because they'd be making fun of something which was massively expensive at the time. Also -- and this explains everything -- the subjects often had their eye lids closed during the taking of the photo and their eyes would be painted in later when the image was printed which is why the iris never looks quite right.

"Busy, I hear."

Life Oh lord. One of my other sites, HeardSaid was visited nearly a thousand times today after Jason Kottke linked to us. Which sort of demonstrates how many visits his site gets and how giving up his job to try and live off the proceeds of the blog might not have been such a bad idea. Thanks Jason.

Links for 2005-02-23 [del.icio.us]

Links for 2005-02-23 [del.icio.us]

  • HE LOOKS LIKE.... The Morbid Game of Psychoanalyzing Strangers in Pictures
  • Metacritic: Worst-Reviewed Movies
    Can I admit to liking at least three of the films on this list?
  • Plausible lies and false truths
    Another Jason link as I find out he's recently run a thread similar to HeardSaid.
  • Artidote.com by Tanzy Keiko - Art, Poetry,Artwork and more
    Worth visiting for the chilled background music. Aaaaah!
  • The first newspaper in Scandinavia (1749) now online
    As always first with the royal story: "Speculations about where Prince Edward might be. In Avignon? Maybe in Switzerland?" Whatever will Sophie do?
  • Nat back with new release
    First review I've read for Natalie Imbruglia's new album and it's a bit positive.
  • The Observer test Blog
    ... is just majestic.
  • Google Reviews
    See you 'Rotten Tomatoes'. It's been fun.
  • Why I Hate Personal Weblogs!
  • Daily Show transcript about blogger journalists
  • 'Fortinbras' puts spin on Hamlet's legacy

    This thoroughly enjoyable production starts with the final scene of Hamlet, in which the dying prince, surrounded by his dead family, implores Horatio to tell the world the truth about the tragedy. He dies, and at that moment, Fortinbras strolls in, planning to make a royal visit on his way home from the Norwegian war against Poland. Fortinbras learns what has happened and decides to take over. He orders the servant Osric to store the bodies somewhere and clean up the mess, then he can take over the throne and announce the tragedy to the people of Denmark.

    Harrison Students Take on the Bard's Difficult Tragedy

    "Always at this age, one of the biggest challenges is to find a way for kids to relate emotionally to what's going on. `Hamlet' starts at a bad place and just gets worse. There are four deaths in the last five minutes of the play. It has to tumble to this horrible end, and that's hard for kids," he said.

    'Hmmm ... mmmm .mmmm ...'

    Film Last night's film course looked at the use of music on film. Or rather the mis-use. Tutor John was talking about how director Robert Bresson abhored the use of music in film as he felt it detracted from the story being told and basically messed about with the emotions of the audience too artificially. Much like his approach to actors, I can see his point and there are some stonkingly awful film moments whose use of a tune has made worse, but there are some equally great films even more enhanced by the use of a soundtrack. Howard Shore's work on Lord of the Rings in particular, as he created themes for individual races and characters is a modern classic of the form. What isn't commonly noticed is how often he and Peter Jackson actually throw out music in favour of the soundscape and in some cases sound altogether, allowing the visuals to tell the story.

    'There are fings you know noffin' about....'

    Life Just wanted to say hello. I always feel when I haven't updated the weblog for a few days that it's some form of neglect. Everything is fine, I'm just tied up knots with something related to the phone call. Which just adds to the mystery. One day I'll be able to tell the story. But not today. Things to do.