Prove to the world

Film Film critic Roger Ebert lists The Usual Suspects as one of his worst films of all time. Excuse me while I let that sink in ... nope ... [via]


TV Joss Whedon posts enthusiastically to Whedonesque about Veronica Mars, a US show which has yet to be picked up in the UK. I'd heard good things, but if Joss likes it I'm quadruply interested. Any US readers want to fill me on what this show is about?

Beware! Ides! March!

TV Twitch Film (p)reviews the BBC co-funded drama ROME! (I'm sure it doesn't have an exclamation mark but considering the scope ...):
"The time, 52 BC. The current political situation is calm...however, there's some rumblings in the closet about who truly has the power. You see, Caesar and Pompey are friends and through amicability, they rule side by side. Pompey the theoretically more powerful one who sits comfortably while they make statues of him, and Caesar, the war-raging leader who's been spending the past several years kicking ass all over the known world, has the respect of the Common Man. Whisperings of a power struggle are denied heavily by both sides until the wonderful world of religion/politics (technically the same thing back then) and miscommunication come into play and loyalties begin crumbling and civil war becomes imminent. (and that is where episode 2 ended.)"
Anyone else think of the Blair/Brown struggle when they read that? It does sound like an exciting series and at least it's a full on drama, not the kind of quasi-documentaries the Beeb has been broadcasting lately ...

It's not even a gameshow anymore.

TV For the first time in five years, it's the Big Brother finale night and I'm not watching. I wrote this instead. I haven't watched a single episode of the run either which regular readers will know is deeply unusual. I just think that the show's peaked and unless something really interesting happens I don't see the point in wasting my time on it. There hasn't been anyone I could identify with in there since the fourth house and since then they've understandably, ratings wise, been chasing the sensational it's worth has diminished. I did managed to glimpse the start as the losing inmates were dragged out and I've never seen Davina look so underwhelmed. Meanwhile, The Real World is still in production.


Books  I've just finished watching the Mike Nichols film Closer and in starting to write about Paul Leonard's Genocide it's striking how similar my feeling are towards both. At it's basic level that means I sort of enjoyed it, there are some good bits, I quite like it but I'm really not sure why.

This is actually a simple story told in a complicated way. The Doctor and Sam land on Earth in the early 22nd century and find things totally changed. A race of horse-like bipeds, theTractites are the dominant species on Earth and in much of space. Realising something is wrong, the TARDIS crew (and one of the aliens) take a trip back in time to try and repair history. In the mean time, Jo Grant and a couple of archaelogists blunder into the plans of some time travelling Tractites who are in the process of mucking up the timeline in pre-historic era as a revenge for a human attack on their planet in the future.

Unusually it feels like an episode of the series when the main characters participation is stripped back to allow the main actor a few weeks off. The Doctor's participation amounts to some investigation, soul searching, running about, soul searching, half dying and arguing with Jo. This champion of time is initially offered the choice between saving the human race or the Tractites, and having to decide who is the worthier. The decision is largely made for him because of the instability of the new timeline and usual bizarre actions of Sam.

Sam Jones. I'm beginning to understand the the writers were trying to create a character with fairly realistic reactions to unrealistic situations. But really -- you have to make her half likeable at the same time. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- at no point do we understand what The Doctor is doing dragging her around the universe. Here she somehow nearly managed to destroy the human race! Perhaps there is some greater plan in motion, there is something about her we're not privy to, something about her future, which we'll find out about in due course -- he's nurturing her towards something. Up until then we'll be putting up with her idiotic questioning of a man who's a thousand years older than her and offering a home big enough for her to park a mini.

Incidentally, this is the fourth novel Sam appears in and I still don't particular have a sense of what she looks like. In The Eight Doctors, Terrance Dick's description is a bit vague; Vampire Science is better: "She was a young blonde with unbelievably short hair and a wiry, athletic body. Unapologetically butch." The Bodysnatchers cops out and so does Genocide. After a bit of hunting around the net and I found the photo on the left from an old copy of Doctor Who Magazine of a girl from the BBC Worldwide office who was supposed to be the visual model at least, but I still can't square Kath with the person the book describes. She looks too old and isn't blonde.

The novels are have the unique problem of having to describe a tv series which has characters which exist visually already. So The Doctor is Paul McGann -- we know what he looks and sounds like so we can imagine him in most of the scenes (although he's worryingly emaciated by the end of Genocide so Christian Bale in The Machinist might be closer). When Jo Grant turns up, twenty years older than the tv version you can absolutely see and hear Katy Manning as she is now (although without the baby voice perhaps). I can evenimagine the walking talking horses in here. But Sam Jones? Visual black hole. I've seen other candidates listed by fans. Someone thought of Claire Danes -- in Stage Beauty perhaps with the English accent. Various soap actresses have been cast. Rachel Stevens. A couple even thought of people they know in real life. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd like to hear them.

Anyway back to the novel as hand. When I saw that Jo Grant was 'appearing' I immediately thought of the imminent return of Sarah Jane Smith in the new series and wondered if the approaches would overlap. I certainly hope not. She might sound right, but Jo is entirely wasted here. She's given a son and fungus grower action hippy Cliff is inevitably an absentee father, and much like Caroline in Vampire Science she's never gotten over the short time she spent with The Doctor. She gets precious few moments with him in the end and as I said earlier, things don't go well. Most of her time is spent with the doomed archaeologists and Sam and at no point does the topic of the differences between their respective incarnations come up (although the novel does skip about through about six days worth of their encounter so we might have missed it). Unlike Rose Tyler might suspect, Sam knows she's not The Doctor's only companion but it's amazing that she hasn't looked forward to the time when he drops her off in her own time or some planet somewhere. This would have been the perfect novel to explore that.

Which isn't to say that it isn't a book which takes chances, especially when you consider that the invading aliens are using a time tree that passes by with little explanation. There is a real sense thoughout that not all of the characters are going escape unscathed mortally and morally. In the end, both and Sam and Jo in particular take a real beating in the latter regard at the end when she makes a big decison which goes entirely against what The Doctor is trying to achieve. They part on terms which are entirely opposite to the end of The Green Death, no giant green crystal on this parting. The author seems to wash his hands of her too as we don't see her being dropped off home or re-united with her son, her last mention happens when Sam notices that The Doctor is covering up for his former companion's indiscression to Kitig, a largely friendly Tractite from who's been the situational baromiter throughout the adventure. Ironically, Kitig makes the greatest sacrifice, stranding himself in time so that he can carry out a plan which has already succeeded (simple story, told in a complicated way, remember).

War of the Daleks next. Wish me luck.

Wonga! Wonga! Wonga!

TV The Big Breakfast set to return to Channel 4. Well what else can this be?

wiki wiki wiki

Wikipedia This nifty article from The Guardian looks to the future, but also lays out the general usership:
"According to the movement's own statistics, there are 3,800 hardcore users making more than 100 edits a month, and another 18,000 who make at least five. Then there is a long tail of casual users who use Wikipedia as just another authoritative source - as they might have once used Britannica or Microsoft's Encarta, making the odd edit only if the urge takes them."
My problem is that whenever I go to add an article or titbit, someone has inevitably been there already and created something great. Sometimes I'll get lost in all the hypertext.


Obituary Matthew McGrory, the giant in Tim Burton's Big Fish has passes away. He was young too.

Living on the edge

Life The view from up here on cloud 9 is still looking great. Thanks to everyone for your messages which gave me yet another thing to smile about when I woke up this morning. I've answered everyone's comments in the post below.


Music After the underwhelming (read non-existent) release campaign for Shakira's new album over here, Rolling Stone reports: "Fijacion Oral Vol. 1, entered the charts at Number Four on June 15th -- the highest-ever debut for a Spanish-language album." I'm still working with the album myself -- I prefer her pre-Laundry Service work. But it's good to see the album selling in the US on its own merits and not dismissed from popular support because of the language it was recorded in.


Life In June, I sent an application to Manchester University for their MA Screen Studies course. It's multi-discipline covering film, television and digital media. Taught in places, but flexible enough for you to research any areas which interest you. I thought I'd left it too late; what with work and sorting out referees and finding my degree certificates from way back when. But I hoped that all the of the night school courses I've been following over the years would show that I've never wanted to stop studying.

Then today I get home and find the large white A4 envelope I've been waiting for. It seems very thin, and my heart skips a beat because I know that means rejection. After a single letter, and the no word, what is there left to say? But as I pull the envelope open I realise there are four sheets of paper, some coloured. I look at the top sheet and read quickly. My Mum, who was sitting on a chair nearby seems more nervous than me. There were lots of words but the gist is ...

I'm going back to University.

I swear loudly and cheer. Mum cheers too. And immediately reaches for the phone and starts calling everyone. I sit and read through the letter properly. Enrollment starts on 18th September. I finish work 22nd August, so I'll have some holiday time inbetween. Good. There is another sheet with important addresses and contacts -- and so to the colours. A reddy-pink sheet for turning it down (I put this to one side) and a pastel green for acceptance.

I ring Chris who's amazed. I ring Fani in Greece and we laugh at how we're both going to be students again (she's got to take all kinds of exams so that her UK degrees are valid over there).

Now I'm telling everyone else. This is something I really haven't mentioned on the weblog for fear that it'd be jinxed. I only let a few few people into the secret that I was applying for that same reason. It's what I've been working towards for about five years, as I slowly gathered the funding together so that I could study fulltime.

But it's months, years even since I've felt this happy. This contented. This is one of the things I've always dreamed of doing and suddenly it's out there in front of me. It's not quite sunk in. I'll be watching a film now it's part of my studies. Writing about television as part of a qualification. My whole life is going to totally change. It's finally going to be moving forward.

Pretty good day really.

Emphasis on the @

TV The end of an era as the BBC's Pebble Mill building in Birmingham is demolished to make way for progress. Here are the pictures -- One, Two, Three -- quite a shock really to see a hole where Ross King, Jan Leeming and Judy Spiers once sat and 'entertained' the lunchtime viewer in the years before Neighbours and Bargain Hunt. The Internet Movie Database entry for Pebble Mill At One says: "If you like this title, we also recommend... Death in Gaza." [via]


Google Finally! Google News RSS feeds, including search terms. I've been dumping email updates into a Bloglines faux-email account, but it's not very discriminating and would often repeat information. This is going to be 'fun'.


The Buses I spotted my first Stagecoach bus in Liverpool yesterday after their recent take over of Glenvale. Which means, with Arriva, we've got the two biggest companies in the country battling for customers. Given what I've heard about in other cities I'm expecting the popular routes to become even more overstuffed with transport and the less subscribed to continue to be a nightmare. A question for Liverpudlians -- has anyone else noticed that there are suddenly lots of old buses on the roads? It's almost as though the new vehicles have been driven somewhere else ...

The Monster Inside

Who This shot from a location for the new series of Doctor Who shows that one Waterstones employee has a mischevous streak. Unless the programme makes are being particularly meta and we'll see Rose reading one of the novels as a form of product placement ...

The darkness.

Film All excited today because Screenselect would be sending through Michael Winterbottom's Code 46. That's what's written on the caddie when I open the envelope. Find Tobe Hooper's Toolbox Murders remake inside instead. What a nasty little film. Is this the only work Juliette 'Drusilla from Angel' Landau can get?

Down, down, deeper and down.

Web Some of these dotcom flops were really great ideas which weren't thought through very well initially. Kozmo's a great idea, and I think I remember seeing a documentary about the setting up of the company:
"The shining example of a good idea gone bad, online store and delivery service made it on our list of the top 10 tech we miss. For urbanites, was cool and convenient. You could order a wide variety of products, from movies to snack food, and get them delivered to your door for free within an hour. It was the perfect antidote to a rainy night, but Kozmo learned too late that its primary attraction of free delivery was also its undoing. After expanding to seven cities, it was clear that it cost too much to deliver a DVD and a pack of gum. Kozmo eventually initiated a $10 minimum charge, but that didn't stop it from closing in March 2001 and laying off 1,100 employees. Though it never had an IPO (one was planned), Kozmo raised about $280 million and even secured a $150 million promotion deal with Starbucks."
Starbucks delivered straight to your door? As they rightly point out, free delivery is a great concept but there has to be someway of covering the expense -- too many people take the piss and you've got a problem. I wouldn't be too surprised if in a few years a major supermarket like Tesco doesn't introduce a version of this very concept. Then we'll never have to leave the house. [via]

For everyone.

Books It's not often that you open up the front cover of a book and find that the listed authors are people who edit and write a website you've contributed to and that there's even someone you've met. While I ponder on how I've been shirking my responsibilities to Off The Telly, time to review the first book based upon their other, better known website, TV Cream, The Ultimate Guide To 70s and 80s Pop Culture.

I know I'm in comfortable territory when Doctor Who is mentioned on page two in a short explanation of what does merit inclusion. That tv show is 'too ubiquitous' which is fair comment. This book is about the stuff you've half forgotten, those items on the edges of your memory. So don't expect Blake's 7 either (dvds available). It's about the truly effemeral, those things which had their moment then disappeared only to surface again in the inevitable pub or work conversations ('Do you remember Galloping Galaxies?' etc)

The genius decision taken by the writers is to widen the cultural interest of the entries away from television. So it's impossible for anyone to look at page 156 and to not suddenly get a craving for Quatro. Open up anywhere at random and it's like a bit of your past jumping up and giving you a welcome hug. It's surprisingly expansive; 2000 AD spin-off Crisis features, along with Angel Delight, Radio Assemblies (Come and Praise) and Making The Most of the Micro - although nothing on Chip's Comic (which I'm slowly discovering no one remembers - nice one Channel Four).

Based on this description, the book could be dismissed by some as the BBC's I Love ... series in book form. But this is a far more entertaining and informative work, ably demonstrating the differences between an authorial voice and Kate Thornton saying that she thought Toyah was cool. The problem I always felt with that series was that I remembered the culture on display but it wasn't often because I wore it, listen to it or ate it. They'd cover The Dandy, but I was always a Whizzer and Chips reader; I might have looked through Smash Hits but spent more time getting my fix of Kylie from Fast Forward.

This is the first time I read a book which feels like a biography of my own life; I don't just remember the Eagle comic revival but also what I was doing when my Dad bought me the first issue and where I threw the free spinner. As we get older, we sometimes forget what our childhoods were like and who we were. This book provides a touchstone, and I really feel like bits of my past are have given back to me. Thanks Graham and everybody.

scripting mews

Greasemonkey Userscripts. The web need never look the same again. [via]

Where they all guest presenters?

TV Matthew Rudd's history of Have I Got News For You climaxes in revelations and infamy:
"Though the guest host has now become quite symbolic after five and three-quarter seasons since Deayton was dumped, maybe the time has come to make a decision and give HIGNFY the key quality which made it untouchable and vital in television schedules - consistency. Week-by-week for 12 years, we had the same three guys dissecting the stories and perforating the egos and prominence of those who had got too big, too suspect, too powerful, too egotistical, too highbrow, too snobbish. It worked because we believed in these fellows as individuals and as a team, no matter what strain existed beneath. The break-up, caused by Deayton but overplayed by fearful, high-minded killjoys in the media and the public eye, has dissolved the initial edge and purpose of the programme into a powdery sideshow while the viewers concentrate more on who the guest host is or how they might do. Watching Deayton on form in the otherwise rotten-to-the-core Bognor or Bust reminded us in a harsh manner of what we were missing."
I hear that HIGNFY are looking for a new permanent host. They wouldn't welcome him back, would they?

Pour me a drink, 'cause I want to siiink ...

Music In between helping the animal kingdom, Nelly McKay's been recording a second album, Pretty Little Head which is due for release in October. Includes duets with kd lang and Cyndi Lauper which sounds inkeeping. Get Away From Me was one of the best albums of last year and it's great to see she's not following the schedule of some performers of a release now and then, just before anyone forgets about them.

Flushed out ...

Who For anyone who missed it, or for speed, here is the page at BBC7 which includes a listen again for the radio Doctor Who from last night.


Games Not quite. This driving demo reminds me of a trip my friend Chris and I took a few years ago to Norwich, specifically getting lost in the A-roads in that area of the country which all look the same and are quite spooky late at night. [via]