Bye Bye Mefi

Mefi I've just deleted Metafilter's RSS feed from Bloglines. It's quite a sad thing and its not for any great reason other than I've naturally stopped reading. I'm in the process of going through the feeds I read and whittle out all but the essentials. I haven't visited this site regularly for a few months and I've only been reading the feed sporadically. But I looked at it today for the first time in over a week and there is too much of it. On the 22 April there were thiry-eight posts and I don't have the time to give them all the concentration they probably deserve. So rather than let it just sit there unread I'm letting it go. I guess that any of the really good material will re-appear on the singular personal and link blog I do read. Perhaps I'll re-subscribe if Matt includes the ability to subscribe to individual subject tags ala Delicious.


Lunch Here is the text from the label of the drink I had with my lunch yesterday. I'm printing it's entirety because frankly I've never read such florid copy for something which amounts to fizzy iced tea. Can you spot the moment when an imbalance occurs between what's being written about and what's actually there?




Ginkgo refresh - the sparkling drinking pleasure. Ginkgo refresh has a distinctive flavour and contains ingredients which make it an innovative thirst quencher.

Today's knowledge confirms that Ginkgo with dextrose:

  • Improves concentration and receptiveness.

  • Promotes mental performance

  • For over 300 million years, Ginkgo bilboa, "Asia's sacred tree", has been a symbol of special strength and resilience. Even in early times, special powers were attributed to an exact from its leaves. It looks, though as if Gingko may contain the secret of great vitality.

    Recommended serving: 1 bottle daily. Serve chilled.

    Ginkgo drink with dextrose.
    water, sucrose, dextrose (1.4%), carbon dioxide, natural and nature-identical flavourings, citric acid and malic acid, green tea extract, Gingko extract (0.01%), colour: caramel.
    I've actually highlighted the moment for you in case you might miss it. 0.01%? All that text about Gingko for 0.01%? Sure, there's going to be a homeopathic element but what about the other 99.9%? There's more dextrose in there, but it's the smaller of the two substances they choose to talk up. But what might that have read like if they'd gone the other way?


    Dextrose is the natual form of Glucose.

    One of the most important carbohydrates and is used as a source of energy in animals and plants. Glucose is one of the main products of photosynthesis and starts respiration. [from]
    Not quite so sexy really. Which is the clue to this text. It's advertising copy, no more or less. It's designed to be read in the supermarket whilst the consumer is decided which soft drink fits their image. At £1.03 a bottle, it's some image to be maintaining.

    But what interests me is whether the good people at Carpe Diem needed to have their copy checked by the advertising authority -- I'm guessing not. Looking more closely though they aren't actually claiming anything about the drink's peppy effects, in particular Gingko. The key phrase is "Ginkgo refresh has a distinctive flavour and contains ingredients which make it an innovative thirst quencher." This doesn't elude to Ginkgo being the main reason for the 'rejuvenation for the spirit' -- to be honest there is enough sugar in there for that. But it's the overall impression. The Ginkgo is the selling point but it's the side issue when it comes to the drink itself, the consumable. Which is just excellent marketing.

    After all, I bought it, drank it, and now I'm writing about it.

    Devil's Gate

    Film For the past week, I've had a photo of actress Laura Fraser on my desktop. It's a publicity shot for a film which she made in 2003 called Devil's Gate and shows her all wrapped up in a thick coat and scarf in the islands of Scotland, a small church in the background. She looks blue visually and emotionally. It's very evocative and would make a great poster.

    The plot summary for the film, written by director Stuart St Paul is posted at the Internet Movie Database:
    "Rachael is called to travel home by ex-boyfriend Rafe, to a small bleak island in the North sea that she ran away from some 5 years ago to find her wayward mother. The pretense is that her father Jake is dying. Matt, a city boy, island hopping to take in the festival of fire, hears that she has been tricked; for Jake is not dying. Matt hangs around to ensure her safety. A love triangle forms, with Rachael, the least interested and keen to leave, but clues to her mothers whereabouts appear, as do her own problems which both Rafe and Matt wish to help with. Nothing is what it seems, and no one will be the same again, as the truth begins to surface in very dangerous circumstances. There will be a burning."
    Which sounds a bit like a cross between a Bill Forsyth movie and The Wicker Man.

    According to the official website it took director St Paul four years to make the film from script to screen. Judging by that website, the people of the Shetland Islands (where this was filmed) also put some real work into aiding the production of the piece. There is a news page at that site which lists the general production dates and rather candidly the hiccups which happened in trying to find an international distribution. It does note though that it went on general release in Scotland in the same year. In 2003.

    I first heard about the film last Sunday, purely by chance (actually because I wanted to see what Fraser had been up to since finishing Casanova). I looked at the photos and read the website and it dawned on me that I hadn't in fact missed an English release, that it just didn't happen, which is a tragedy because it looks like something I'd love to see. I loved John Sayles The Secret of Roan Inish and I'm getting the same vibe from this.

    Yet another British film had completed production and seemed to have been seen by a very limited number of people. Which is just devastating. It's becoming increasingly clear that releasing films is a lottery -- that money is being spent on works like this which edge away from the norm but aren't entirely alien to the mainstream and they're sitting on a shelf somewhere without even a dvd release to call their own. What happens? Why is there a gap between putting money into the production of a film and it then getting a release?

    Still coupling

    TV Another sparce blogging night -- watching the fourth series of Coupling on dvd. It's interesting having a character like Oliver, or one of the 'we' in the mix. Bless Steven Moffat for nailing his Doctor Who fan credentials on the mast of his latest sitcom (even if it took four years). Incidentally, the voice of the Dalek in episode two, Nick Briggs is doing the same in the upcoming episode of Doctor Who...

    Not pretty

    Film It fooled me to. There will not be Pretty In Pink 2 -- that is no sequel in which Duckie gets the girl. We'll all have to carry on watching Some Kind of Wonderful. [via]

    The Claws of Axos.

    TV One of my insane rules has always been that I won't mix Doctor Who stories. What I mean is that if I've started watching, reading or listening to a story I won't dive into another one at the same time. It's confusing and something gets diffused along the way. My only exception is the strip in Doctor Who magazine, because waiting three months or whatever until I'd worked my way through fifteen pages of story is too long.

    So here I was tonight with a dilemma. In the middle of a two part tv story, before me sat The Claws of Axos on shiny disc. Would watching the third betray the ninth? I watched the supplementary documentary about 'Reverse Standards Conversion' and saw all the clips of The Master and spaghetti monsters and caved. This was the classic show -- the new series is a different thing. Besides there might be a retro clue to what the whole Bad Wolf scenario was.

    It's a great story, and actually a perfect choice to counterpoint the new series -- set on Earth with The Doctor fighting a universal threat to the globe. The pace is also extra-ordinarily fast with very little flab or room for pointless sitting around chatting about what to do next -- everyone just does it. And for all the people who say the new scripts have too many one-liner's witness the government's treatment of token official buffoon Chin and the final line of the story (which I won't spoil for anyone who hasn't seen it, but is a doozy).

    But funnily enough it seemed to lack the spirit of occasion of the new series. Has time dissipated the need to find out if Jo Grant gets out of this or that scrape, or was it there before? Was it really like this in the old days? The week seems awfully long between new episodes and the anticipation is blinding. Perhaps because we're used to the ability to put the next episode on straight away after years of videos, dvds and Big Finish, this wait to see what happens is excruciating, even if partly its to see if the next part makes sense of the first. Or to find out why The Doctor would say, "I can save the world but I could lose you..." which is certain something you'd never hear from Pertwee. Well not out loud.

    Around the world with...

    Life Google Local launches in Beta in the UK and it's mostly accurate. It's certainly a fascinating tool and it's erie to see one of those little red tags growing out of the spot were your home is. Would have been a real help during the Liverpool Bienniel for help in getting to were all of the out of the way places were.

    It's the circle of life ...

    Elsewhere I've been writing in other places tonight, about the similarities and difference between Hamlet and The Lion King here, and the wait between Doctor Who episodes here.

    The Lion King (1994)

    Simba was voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas & Matthew Broderick; animated by Tom Bancroft & Dale Baer.
    Directed by Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff

    On release, The Lion King was widely broached as being a departure for Disney -- it was their first major animated film not based on a particular source material, be it a fairy tale or piece of literature. Which in watching is only half-true. Whilst it doesn't directly re-tell a particular story, it does draw on a number of elements, including Disney's own Bambi and particularly visibly, Hamlet. Except with Lions.

    Almost. The story is superficially similar -- a king murdered by his brother who steals the throne but is eventually revenged by the late king's son. But the action of the play is shaken up, the elements moved about for the purposes of expressing different themes and creating an ending which while not completely happy, is certainly more positive than the mass slaughter which occurs at the end of Shakespeare. For example, the late king, Mufasa does appear as a ghost to the young Hamlet figure, Simba -- but rather than explain how he died (something his son will have to learn later for dramatic purposes) he nudges Simba into following his destiny of taking over the crown.

    The film is more concerned with telling a good story than directly referencing its sources. There is a moment when the Claudius figure, Scar holds up a skull, but it doesn't seem like a conscious homage. Similarly there aren't any noticable times when the dialogue parallels anything from the play, except perhaps 'To be or not...' (when Simba finds his life catching up with him in the plains) but that's more to do with these being universal themes rather than anything specific. Also Timon and Pumba, the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have a much great slice of the action, especially in the closing moments. We effectively see in the film what might have happened if Hamlet had gone to Wittenberg instead of hanging around the palace plotting revenge. Another what if built on here is the appearance of the Hyenas on the prideland which certainly smells of a successful invasion of Fortinbras while Claudius is in power.

    The Lion King is a favourite film and I wouldn't want it to change -- the balance between tragedy and comedy is just perfect, as are songs, which are probably some of the best Elton John has written. In the interviews and commentary for the film on the dvd, you can tell there is a slight disappointment that the creators of the work couldn't nudge it closer to the Shakespeare. Certainly the original concept art was much bolder and starker. Was there a moment during the development when the script was much closer to Hamlet the play and how different would that version have been? Less songs presumably and Nala drowing in the watering hole. Which would be wrong, frankly. Still at least we can introduce the play to kids by saying ... "It's a bit like The Lion King only sadder..."

    Hotblack Desiato

    h2g2 The Observer Blog sorts something out which was bugging not just me. From Douglas Adams:
    "I came across the name Hotblack Desiato when I was driving along Upper Street in Islington, and there it was on a house For Sale sign. It was the name of a new (real) estate agent. I thought it was the most wonderful name I'd ever seen, and wished I could come up with names as good as that. I couldn't get the name out of my mind, and when I was trying to figure out the name for the rockstar who was spending a year dead for tax reasons, every name I thought of was not nearly as good as Hotblack Desiato. So in the end I gave up and phoned the agency and spoke - as it happened - to Geoff Hotblack. I asked him if I could use their name and he was, as you might imagine, quite surprised but said I certainly could. And so I did. I spoke to Geoff quite often after that, in his capacity as an estate agent. And one day he told me that they had had quite a few calls from people saying hadn't they got a bit of a nerve naming their agency after a character in The Hitchhiker?s Guide to the Galaxy?"
    Alright Chris?

    Updated Ironically, just as I was trying to post this, I clicked onto Planet Magrathea to find a message from MJ Simpson saying that he was shutting the thing down and walking away from Hitchhikers:
    "But the thing that has tipped the balance for me is the unwarranted, ill-informed personal abuse and libel which has been directed towards me on the IMDB, livejournal and many other websites in the wake of my review of the film. Although those people who took the trouble to read my long review were, in the most part, extremely complimentary about my analysis and as dismayed as I am about the route that the film has taken, they have unfortunately been drowned out on many discussion boards and forums by people who refuse to accept even the possibility that something connected with Hitchhiker's Guide may not be perfect."
    Considering he was one of the franchises most ardent supporters is fairly shocking and as I said in the quick email I sent to him it shows what an ill informed and stupid place the web can be sometimes.

    Honeycomb Child

    TV How To Be .... Fiona Phillips -- a suprisingly frank interview with the GMtv presenter:
    "The job is much harder on slow days when the running order has been in place since the previous afternoon. And I regret the increased number of interactive elements: the sponsorship and competitions. Now it has become more about selling everything than about the content. I remember having to break away from an interview with Tony Blair to a sponsored item about Christmas leftovers. We got slated for it."
    My morning tv has been taken up lately with the early Liberal Democrat press conferences. Considering everything they're laid back affairs, carefully ignoring what the other parties are doing on a daily basis. Almost all the questions are asked by some flavour of BBC journalist and for some reason Andrew Marr is always picked on first. Not hilarious but considering the alternatives ...

    When you're sleeping

    Life Went to Chester on Saturday. It didn't seem as enjoyable as usual, despite a trip on the tour bus seeing sights and sites I didn't know exist. I mainly went for the shopping and failed to buy anything intelligable. I came to a conclusion in the end -- I hate shopping for myself if I haven't anything I'm necessarily looking for. I usually go to Chester christmas shopping and then it's a joy because I've got the logic problem of trying to work out what people would like. This time I didn't visit some shops because I didn't have to and ended up with a scart adaptor for my Playstation, a Doctor Who dvd and a dongle for keep the fizz in a bottle. Which is depressing in all kinds of ways.

    Aliens of London.

    TV As well as the episode being set in a year's time, there are a couple of other things I noticed (and I don't think anyone else has mentioned) on watching it again:

    The housing project in which Rose lives is called The Powell Estate. Could this be a reference to the controller of the BBC who actually cancelled the show in the late eighties?

    Although neither of the telephone numbers for the Alien Helpline on the Rose posters work, there is another one on the doors of the army vehicle which are block The Doctor's sight of the craft and what's happening. If you call 0800 169 2268, there is an answering machine which thanks people for calling what sounds like the Freephone Army Driving line (whatever that might be). If anyone else noticed it I've a feeling they'll be inundated with calls tomorrow if anyone else was paying attention. Anyone dare to leave a message?


    TV  BBC Broadcast have posted a section regarding their successful Doctor Who tv campaign. The results section has a nicely triumphant edge. Casanova also featured.


    There is a house in Liverpool which has its own postcode. When postcodes were being handed out, the doctor who lived there ascerted what authority he had at the time and they gave him one. Its stayed that way ever since.

    Come On Home

    Commerce Here is something I haven't encountered before. Someone selling a £10 HMV gift voucher on ebay and only getting £8 for it. There are many people doing it for various stores. What's interesting is that the seller is making a loss on the sale, especially as many include free postage, but also the people bidding on the smaller amounts are only saving about a pound.

    On The Run

    Sport So congratulations to Paula Radcliffe on winning the London Marathon for third time, despite needing a toilet break half way through (it happens to us all). I'm watching the other women athletes coming to the finish and what am I noticing? Heather Small singing Proud seems to be on a loop. And it's excrutating. When I was volunteering for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and went to the opening event, Small turned up to sing this for the finale. That was in 2002 and it was a fairly stirring moment, because it felt like we were all part of something and it was huge. We were, and it was. Now the 2012 Olympic bid seems to have inherited it and they wheel it out at every event -- it's their theme tune. Couldn't they have thought of something better? Lyrics are nice and it's not sung badly. Repetition is breeds contempt though and I'm getting really contemptful. But here it is clanging about over ... and over ... and over again. Is it really the thing you want to hear after running twenty-six odd miles?