deserved my flowers.

Film "Sorry. I'd have to say the only nice thing about it was Jonathan's warm and sweet embrace. First of all, I was in this very conveniently thin shirt, and it's pouring rain, and it's that kind of movie rain, where it kind of pelts you with this freezing cold rainwater. And I have a slight weed allergy, and it was just miserable. I had, like, a swollen eye for a couple of days... [Jonathan] really bit my lip, actually -- busted my lip open. And he sent me flowers the next day because he felt bad. It was so sweet. Damn hurt, though -- I deserved my flowers. Never very sexy to do that. But Woody's very shy, he's just kind of like, ''All right, come and do it.'' Just a little bit of blocking, which is very silly, because it's like, ''And you fall, now roll over, in slow motion...'' Blocking is very awkward." -- Scarlett Johansson talks about Match Point. I'll let you know what I thought of the film tomorrow.

Not to be.

Elsewhere Watched Aki Kaurismaki's Hamlet liikemaailmassa (1987) tonight and found myself unable to write a coherent review for The Hamlet Weblog. Really, I had no idea quite what to say.

Hamlet liikemaailmassa (1987)

Hamlet played by Pirkka-Pekka Petelius
Directed by Aki Kaurismaki

This film, whose English release title was Hamlet Goes Business is darkly comic noir thriller set in contemporary Finland, transposing the story to the corridors and offices of industry which takes just as many liberties with the plot and dialogue as The Lion King and even has the audacity to offer a twist ending. Imagine Ealing's The Man In The White Suit without the slapstick.

Considering the brevity of the plot, it is incredibly slow. This is one of those occasions when action which should be sifted through in a few moments take whole minutes of screentime -- to no great effect. I'm reminded of some of the Coen Brother's earlier films, or perhaps Jim Jarmusch -- but whereas on those occasions you were interested to see what would be happening next, in this adaptation of Hamlet the element of surprise is generally lost.

I'm not that sure I actually enjoyed watching this, except for the liberties taken with that ending, some of which are laugh out loud funny. Pirkka-Pekka Petelius gives a very blank performance as Hamlet Jr. and actually most of the cast feel like graduates of the Robert Bresson school of non-acting.

Characters live and die and no one seems to be caring too much. When Polonius is offed the reaction is much the same as if someone forgot to order another pint of milk for breakfast. About the only figure I really cared for was Ofelia (their spelling) who gets kicked about as a pawn between Claudius and Hamlet. Her death scene is undeniably moving.

I watched the VHS of this film on the 7th January 2006.

I wished to make a statement this afternoon...

Politics "However, it is clear now, that such support is not reflected strongly enough across the parliamentary party in the House of Commons itself. In all of this the interests of the party have to come first. That is where my personal, political and constitutional duty lies. Accordingly, I am announcing today that when nominations open for the leadership of the party I shall not now be putting my name forward. And I am standing down as leader with immediate effect." -- Charles Kennedy resigns and with that The Liberal Democtrats render themselves unelectable.

I haven't written about this affair because I was hoping against hope that the party would eventually do the right thing. When Mr. Kennedy made his statement on Thursday, the reaction should have been to batten down the hatches and offer their support. A united front at a time when the Conservatives are increasingly looking stronger and the Labour Government is weakening, despite the circumstances. As was reflected in his resignation statement, the general public and rank and file supporters still looked favourably upon him as a man and a statesman. Instead, they decided to press the self destruct button with flanks of MPs briefing against him in the media, looking entirely small minded as time and again they spoke against the man who had helped them into their parliamentary seats or their positions as spokespeople for the party, in the Treasury for example.

This places me in the position of having to decide if this is the kind of party I want to vote for. As was commented on by someone just after Christmas, I still stand behind the kind of Liberal values which Charles mentioned in his speech. Principally, if those values mean anything to me, I should still throw my support behind the party regardless. The problem I have is that whichever leader fills his shoes, and it looks increasingly like that will be Sir Menzie Campbell, will not be someone who was a Kennedy supporter and more than likely initiated the whispering campaign which led to his downfall. Are those the kind of values in leadership that I'd be interested in? At this rate I'll voting for the Greens...

Confusingly I've also just seen Bille Piper use the F word on television ...

Film For reasons that will become clear I saw the trailer for Memoirs of a Geisha. Why did the editors make it look like Showgirls with geishas?

Did you see ?!?

Billie Piper is presently half presenting The Friday Night Project tonight. We've just reached the first commercial break and it's pretty surreal stuff. As if doing the opening monologue (material about Gary Glitter in Vietnam and Michael Barrymore on Celebrity Big Brother) wasn't enough, there's also been Doctor Who on Ice with assorted men in costumes, including Sontarans which Billie later agreed looked like something you can't repeat on a family blog and that her hometown of Swindon as a bit of an 'armpit'. I mean really I can't believe I'm watching this ... oh good lord now they're got Jade Goody singing her old hits ... and Billie's just said the F word ...

Sefton Park at Dawn in 2004


Sefton Park at dawn 2004
Originally uploaded by shoecake.

There are many mornings when the park looks just like this. I forget how lucky I am sometimes.


Film So it's going to be The Oscars with Jon Stewart. Weeee.... Not that I'll get to see the full version now that Sky have the right tied up for the next gazillion years. Unless they show them on the Freeview friendly Sky Three ... oooh ...


Plug! The Bloggies are looking for nominations. I mean everyone else is shamelessly shilling so why not me?

Schott's Doctor

Books Ben Schott's Almanac 2006 is an extraordinary book, rubberstamping much of last year perfectly covering seeming all of the topics anyone would want to remember -- and some they wouldn't. Of course, I checked the index for an entry about Doctor Who and sure enough, there it is on page 119. And on their website.

Considering the obvious care and attention which has gone into the rest of the volume, some things about the entry are a bit troubling. Firstly, it says that the first episode attracted 9.9 million viewers. According to Outpost Gallifrey the final ratings for Rose were 10.81 million viewers. Schott seems to have used this BBC article for his research but he's quoting the overnight figures for Who and the opposition. Secondly, even more annoyingly (I suppose), he perpetuates the myth which seems to have become fact somewhere that Eccleston quit fearing that he would be typecast, even though a number of sources available before the book's publication date in September had reported the BBC's apology and that the actor was only contracted for one series.

At the start of the book, there are two disclaimers. The first on the copyright page suggests that there will be errors be we can't be held accountable. In the Preface much the same suggestion is made, this time with a quote from Goethe saying that 'error is to truth as sleep is to waking' with a note to the effect that the editor would like to be contacted about any errors.

The email is in. I'll let you know what happens...

Who me, JT?

People "Whoever this is, sitting so sweetly beside me in the back of the car, I'm not wholly convinced it is the person who wrote the books. I would say two things with some certainty: I think it's a woman, and I think she's a real cutie pie. But whoever she is, our conversation seems cursory, a mahogany finish sprayed onto the solid wood beneath. It dawns on me that the real interview was my early-morning exchange with Emily." -- Laura Barton meets the shadowy JT LeRoy.

It's the kind of article which messes with your sense of reality; I haven't read anything like it in a long time. I like the idea that a group of writes and artists from various disciplines would have a front identity -- there was a Woody Allen film about just such an occurance during the Mcarthy era. The motives here seem less clear other than as a weeze. For the interested, here is the Stephen Beachy article mentioned in The Guardian text which is an equal decent into madness. I'm reminded of Harmony Cousins the self-accounted for it-girl of April 2002 ...

Blogging offline.

Elsewhere I visited the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight on Monday -- one of those spur of the moment things were you really just want to be in motion, out and about, doing things. There's an exhibition there from artist Peter Ellis, Pulling The Lever. It's pretty good, TracyEminish in its use of found personal objects. More extraordinary than the show was the visitor book which honestly read like an internet discussion on a pretty hot day.

Correspondents had been polarised between those who hated the exhibition and those who quite liked it. The main bone of contention seemed to be that the decision had been taken to mix this 'modern art' in which the rest of the exhibits somehow defacing them visually. The postive comments were to the effect that actually its quite a brave decision, and well done to the gallery curators for trying something new.

The book was full, every page filled with biro. I left my comment, which ran somewhere in between on that page next to the title sheet. As I was writing, it occured to me that the language I was using was much the same as I'd use here. Conversational. I'll probably be shouted at by a couple of you, but was that blogging? Do these entries have to be posted on here? What do they become otherwise? And really can you have a blog entry which appears in a visitor book that can only be read if you happen to be in the gallery at the time?

As an experiment I've decided that actually you can. So at the end of the entry I scrawled something to the effect that this was an offline blog entry and included the url of the site. I'm going to try this for a while and see what happens. I've printed up some labels for future use to be included with my jottings ...

... and each time I've left an entry somewhere I'll post something on the blog to let everyone know were it is. And then in the unlikely event that someone is in the area they can go and read it. Is this something we could all do -- a way for our online presence to interact with the real world? Is it Bookcrossing but with your own words? So if you want to really know what I thought of the Peter Ellis Exhibition at the Lady Lever Art Gallery you can read the entry in the visitor book. But you'll have to be quick. The show closes on the 8th of January.

In other news, I've finally published a new book review for Behind The Sofa as well as pointing out the error of Schott's ways.

This is heaven to me.

Music When I was commuting last time, oh so long ago, there were certain albums or songs which helped me through the monotony (for a time it was Natalie Imbruglia's White Lillies Island or Shelby Lynne's Love Shelby). It's been a difficult couple of days getting back into the routine this time, but thankfully I've had Madeleine Peyroux's Careless Love with me. Her voice has been washing through my ears like some cleansing spirit, bucking me up when I've been feeling down.

The songs on the album under this production have an emphatic quality; shut your eyes and you're transported to some warm, cosy place were your being cuddled by someone who's whispering that it'll be all ok. The final track, This Is Heaven To Me sounds exactly like Christmas with its chimes. When I was at school during the festive season I'd walk home past a street of houses and there would be a pine tree in every bay window and fake snow stencils in the windows. This is the song I now imagine playing the background.


TV Balderdash and Piffle is a new BBC2 series in which various guests with the help of the general public try to find the origin of words or else older written evidence than that quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary. It's an excellent programme which looks at the English language in a fun accessible way. Victoria Coren (Alan's daughter), the presenter, is someone I've only really met through her column in The Observer, but she's a very good, precise speaker. And funny and gorgeous, up there with Sarah Beany and Daisy Goodwin as someone I'd love to ..... go out for a drink with some time.

Her Wikipedia entry is particularly illuminating though. She's a semi-professional poker player and here's the real surprise the co-author of Once More With Feeling the book about the attempt to make the best hard-core porn movie ever. With Charlie Skelton. The ringer from Space Cadets...

Longest Day.

Books  Before we start, I just wanted to say. That really is a dog of a cover. I'm sorry artist Colin Howard but having that sitting around in my bag for the three months its taken me to finish reading, having to sit with that on public transport was the best kind of aversion therapy. I'm sure the brief you received from BBC Books was something like 'Can we have the Kusk aliens from the book?' and you tried your best with the description, and it really jumps out at the reader but not in such a way that they'd want to actually buy the book. More in a ugh -- get that way from me. Which is not really the idea is it?

Sorry, Michael Collier but your book isn't much better. Although actually it begins quite well. Here is the opening sentence: "Then time crashes through, like a roaring wave of pale water over the far-off spindly trees, ageing them and pushing up new saplings in the blink of an eye." It's a amazingly imaginative notion. The book is filled with these nuggets. Here's another one from page 190: "Clouds bathed pink and orange in the twilight had gathered menacingly over the horizon, stretching out from an epicentre somewhere in the west." Another arresting image.

The difficulty is that the text is so thick with these descriptions that they eventually fog up the story and characterisation to the extent that it becomes difficult to tell what is going on and what anything means. Unlike a film, for example, Vincent Ward's What Dreams May Come, were the images are so mystically they more than make up for a thin plot, here poetry disappears eventually, just becoming words, strangling the narrative like weeds. Collier isn't John Milton (who's about the only man in literature who can get way with this sort of thing). I actually learnt more about the plot from the blurb on the back of the book, and kept having to return there to remind myself where everything was happening and why. It took a look at this synopsis to understand what happened at the end. To be honest I wish I'd read it first.

The book demonstrates perfectly what Russell T Davies meant when he said that stories set on alien worlds can be horrible if not done right. Both of the usual sins are committed. Weirdly spelt and unmemorable character names? Check. Planet with complicated eco-system that's difficult to follow? Check. Much of the time the reader is trying to remember who everyone is and which faction they are part of to really care for anyone. No actually, Anstaar, The Doctor's substitute companion this time is quiet well drawn and reminds me a bit of the female scientists The Doctor glads about with sometimes in the Big Finish audios when some plot short-handing is required. But this really is one of those occasion when a character shows up, everyone's surprised that they're still alive and you don't remember them dying in the first place and you find yourself flicking backwards through the novel for when the moment occurred and it was in an odd paragraph a hundred pages before.

There are a couple of positives. The Doctor comes out quite well if a bit generic. There's a fun moment when he refers to his Cat broach to demonstrate his capacity to live again only to remember that it was on the coat his Sixth self wore. The book is about the timelord fighting against giant cosmic forces which seems to be what the Eighth Doctor is about -- small humanoid fighting against giant planetary or galactic forces. I keep thinking about Gary Sinise's character Lieutenant Dan in that scene in Forrest Gump when he sits on the viewing mast of the fishing boat, Jenny, railing against the storm. Except The Eighth Doctor's boat is the TARDIS, and the storm is the time vortex. Or in this case the Kusk's ship and gravitational shifts.

The difficulty with Sam is that she rather gets pulled along by other characters. When she's not being held captive and tortured she's searching for a way to get back to The Doctor. Her isolation from her friend seems perfunctory, a requirement of the plot rather than something which happened naturally. This is very much a Scooby-Doo style "Let's split up -- you go that way..." Sam does get to be quite forceful at times, and there some funny pop cultural reference and in the meta scheme of things it would be quite natural if The Tenth Doctor's predilection for Disney and Douglas Adams found its roots here.

The book begins the first mini-arc of the Eighth Doctor novels in which The Doctor is separated from Sam. Looking back over my previous reviews one of the running themes is how much more engaging these things are when the time travellers are together, the dialogue bouncing between them. So you can see why I'm might wonder if the idea of parting them for entire novels might not be such a great thing. I think they're parted in the first fifty pages here and frankly after that the readers or rather my engagement with the story died. At the back there is an advert to the effect that The Doctor will search for Sam through the following three novels beginning with (oh god) John Peel's Legacy of the Daleks.

Can't I just skip to Placebo Effect?

No waste or shame

Shakespeare Speak The Speech is a group in Portland, Oregon which is striving to put full recordings of the bard's plays online for anyone to listen to under a Creative Commons license. Currently they have The Tempest and Twelfth Night available. Oh for broadband ...

Still fantastic

Review 2005 "I somehow manage to title my first new season review with the show's soon-to-be infamous catchphrase: 'Fantastic'. I describe the episode thus: "It isn't perfect but it comes pretty damn close at times". As the reviews pour into the blog the sense of collective relief is almost palpable." -- Neil Perryman reviews the year in Doctor Who. Fantastic indeed.


Film I caught a taxi home tonight. After I'd given the destination the driver began shouting angrily about an incident which had happened to at Liverpool Hospital. Something to do with a woman leaving important documents in the back of a cab. I'm not actually sure because he was talking so much I had difficulty understanding what he was saying. Anyway he took me (without prompting) onto the subject of what I'd been doing this evening.
"What were you do thing this evening?" He asked.
"I was out."
"Were you working or drinking?"
"I was at the cinema."
"Oh. What did you see."
"A film called The Constant Gardener."
"I seen that. Didn't like it. I couldn't understand why it was called The Constant Gardener...."
Luckily he was parking up outside home so he didn't get to hear my review.

Here is my review.

The Constant Gardener is a conspiracy potboiler in the mould of The Defence of the Realm in which a diplomat (the titular gardener) played by Ralph Feinnes, in The English Patient mode, discovers that the very government he's working for has deep, dark, shadowy corners were very bad men do very ugly things. It's also a very tricky film to talk about because the opening moments present a surprise which is worth preserving for the new viewer. Anyone whose seen the film will know what that is and will understand why I'm being cagey. Suffice to say that it's the source of what follows, a match which burns the candle of the story through what become an inevitable end. Fiennes is note perfect, the establishment Englishman discovering his wife's secrets.

It's a vivid work, with an extraordinary visual style. Africa is portrayed by orangy National Geographic-style cinematography, jutting against the dark blues and greys of a London not too far removed from the images you'd expect from an ITV detective drama. It's an important distinction -- Kenya and Sudan are teeming with life, vibrant. Britain is dark, depressing and tragic, only ever golden when the Rachel Weitz, playing Feinnes wife is about. It's because she's at the heart of the piece, almost as though the sun follows her about. It's a typically luminous performance from Weitz and needs to be in the hell which belches forth at the film progresses.

It is a film which will receive some well deserved awards -- screenwriter Jeffrey Caine and director Fernando Meirelles have taken what could have been a still impressive potboiler and applied some mataphoric brilliance. If there's a problem it feels too long. The film clocks in at just over two hours with credits but there are key moments when the plot takes a break for some visuals or an action sequence when it needs to be driving forward. Critic Mark Kermode never tires of saying that most film would be better if fifteen minutes were edited out of them and I'm beginning to see his point, in relation to this film in particular. Once the point of the conspiracy is uncovered and Feinnes reaction and role in it, too many predictable things happen and the central themes and characterisation are fogged as the thing can't decide what kind of film it really wants or needs to be.

But really, that's a niggle. Perhaps this is one of those occasions when a second viewing will allow for the film to work as an experience, allow the viewer to luxuriate in the visuals and performances. I look forward to that.


Review 2005 I've a feeling there may be a few of these update posts. Here, for example is the ultrasound for Karen's baby. Congratulations again!

In their display window

Fashion "I never make it to Oxford Street. I go to Whistles in Covent Garden...5 seconds from my front door. I've often coveted the things in their display window on the way to Tesco. Everything is on sale. I fight my way in. Women are expertly whipping through the racks of skirts and belts, their men leaning against the walls: arms crossed, the space between their spread-eagled ankles packed with shopping bags. I tentatively select a dress, then a skirt. I'm getting the hang of this. I go for a blouse, but another girl sideswipes me for it. My glasses fly off my face and crash onto the floor, broken. I am resolute. I swipe them up, put the pieces in my change purse and continue shopping." -- Daneeta Loretta Saft goes shopping


Music "Coldplay's new CD comes with an insert that discloses all the rules enforced by the DRM they included on the disc. Of course, these rules are only visible after you've paid for the CD and brought it home, and as the disc's rules say, "Except for manufacturing problems, we do not accept product exchange, return or refund," so if you don't like the rules, that's tough." -- the newly self-employed Cory Doctorow on an insert which comes with new copies of the band's new album. Isn't this the cd equivalent of the non-skippable copyright notice on dvds? Is the next step to have something similar at the start of cds, someone telling us not to copy or else before the first track starts?

The story of Cory's employment status can also be read here.

Happy New Year?

Life Bit of the post-Christmas blues today. I was just restacking the mess in my room and I found a copy of the Radio Times, the one with the TARDIS on the cover and I felt a bit melancholy. That's the problem with the holiday season; there's all the excitement of the build up, the expectation and then just a few days, even a week later it's all gone and you know you can't capture that feeling again. Plus it's the last day of my college break tomorrow, back to the library and essays on Tuesday because I need to. On the upside, I've now got the moneybox in the shape of Darth Vader's head...

So good they named it twice...

Review 2005 "I lead a boring life. Not complaining, just stating a fact. In many ways, I like it that way. In fact, I will create elaborate reasons why I should not do something new and exciting. At my age, frankly it's sort of sad. I'm too young to be affraid of trying new things, but I am. I'm comfortable with my little life." -- Skyekat goes on to talk about a visit to New York.

Liverpool Fireworks tonight


Fire and Light show
Originally uploaded by Indigo Goat.

The sky was filled with lights and bangs at midnight. This is a shot of the official display earlier in the evening. We saw these from a few miles away.

Review 2005


Well, I really hadn't expected that.

I've been trying to write this conclusion or epilogue or whatever it is for days. I wanted to offer something to sum up what's been written by everyone else here but really I can't. Not without sounding fake, fatuous or false.

When in mid-October I began to think about the substance of this year's Review 2005, how I'd be getting the world involved I simply hadn't assumed that there would be thirty-two people willing enough to put themselves out in that way -- take the time to write something for this weblog, and such great writing, about big issues and big emotions. I mean really, as each email came in and I sat reading about how their lives had changed this year, about those fundamentals, I was humbled.

Two thousand and five was a difficult twelve months. In the closing of the year, look at a newspaper, watch the television and there will be someone describing the bodyshocks the planet and its people have experienced, trying to comprend how we'll cope if similar things occur in two thousand and six. What the people who've written here over the past thirty-one days have proved is that life goes on. We will cope. People do. We just carry on.

Thank you everybody.