Liverpool Life "I've lost count of the number of times I've felt a huge wave of relief well up inside me as Lime Street has come into view. I've also lost count of the number of times I've arrived back in the terminus and wished, unlike seemingly every other passenger ever, there was someone there to meet me. Everything starts and ends at Lime Street." -- Alistair Myles.

Yes. Every single night. Alistair is currently offering an A-Z of the real Liverpool. This is from his entry about the main line station I have to use to travel to Manchester.


Film "The whole shoot, Ethan Hawke was very enthusiastic, very amped, very excited. He continually praised his actors and background. Thanked everyone the entire time. At the end of the night, he actually stood on a piece of furniture and gave a speech about how pleased he was with everything and how appreciative he was that we provided him with the ambiance he needed. At this point, I was still tucked into that couch. The furnature Ethan was standing on was an ottoman. The ottoman was directly in front of me and so was his ass." -- Kat on the set of new film The Hottest State. I'm going to keep linking to this blog until you're all reading it ...


TV "Audience members, all of who have been standing in line and waiting around for at least 6 hours (some for 12 hours!) are expected to remain happy and animated when answering these questions. Most people answered quickly and the screener went on to the next person I line. I was the last one in my group of 10 and answered "I'm Cameron and I'm from NYC. I'm a blogger and a consultant." The screener asked "A what?" I repeated myself and he said, "A blogger? Well, enjoy the blogs!" which made no sense to me at all. It's important to mention that I was also wearing my old navy blue Blogger t-shirt with the big letter B in an orange square." -- Cameron Barrett on the US Price Is Right audience experience


Film Here's a question. Who directed Capote? Before you dash off and look at the Internet Movie Database or pick up a copy of last month's Empire, I should explain that I'm asking because Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance as the titular character is so strong and pervading that any thoughts of directorial control drift out of the window. Hoffman is mesmerizing and as usual demonstrates his ability to present a three dimensional persona on celluloid which the audience can get the measure of from the opening shot. The problem is that it unbalances the film to the extent that it's difficult to keep an eye on the emotional thread. It's a sympathetic performance of someone who could be considered quite unsympathetic and that's a paradox that threatens to cause the narrative to implode in on itself.

It's a film about the artist's responsibility to his subjects and were that begins or ends. There's no doubt that Capote takes advantage of this terrible situation for his own ends. This man wants to be thought of as a great author and is never happier than when he's being venerated even if he has to pay people to do it. It's a journalistic responsibility - can someone become so involved in the story that they are an essential part of it. Keeping in mind my only exposure to the novel, the 1967 film by Richard Brooks, it's difficult now to wonder why Capote didn't write himself in there for pure accuracy. In one scene he says that he was creating a new genre, the non-fiction novel, and certainly its important to keep your distance otherwise you risk the story being about you and how you feel about what is happening but doesn't extricating yourself from the action completely risk devaluing your work. Clearly critics haven't thought so and a title card during this film says that its considered to be one of the greatest novels ever written but in this age of memoirs I'm confused and the film offers few answers.

The director of Capote it Bennett Miller, whose only apparent previous film was a documentary The Cruise. There has been a definite attempt to offer a 'vision'. The story is presented very simply and there are only a few obviously stylistic moments. Parties are generally presented in a mess of handhelds and master shots to emphasise the chaos and Capote's often chaotic personality as the centre of attention. In the country and prison cells, framing becomes still and simple and filled with emotional close ups. In both cases stories are being told - in the former it's Truman shouting his mouth off about his celebrity lifestyle or over simplifying his work - in the latter words have a more realistic angle even if all we are hearing from Capote are half-truths or persuasive arguments.

But in the end is the film any good? To be honest I found it to be quite an empty experience. Although there are warm areas, such as another excellent supporting performance from Catherine Keener, reacquainted with her Adaptation co-star Chris Cooper and the ever reliable Bob Balaban. The afformentioned photography by Adam Kimmel and the masses of great dialogue by Dan Futterman (adapting from a book by Gerald Clarke), I truly think the problem is that the film can't decide what kind of work it wants to be. For much of the time it wants to be a moral question and psychological study; it wants to be about words and the reader or listener's imaginations and then there are scenes which presents graphically some things which would have worked far more potently in the imagination of the audience - they feel dropped in, a re-shoot, a last minute attempt to attract our attention and this in the end, for me, fundamentally weakens the whole piece.


TV I've just switched on More 4 and Joss Whedon is having an argument with Brian Sewell about public access to art with Boris Johnson's dad as ringleader. That's one of the oddest juxtapositions I've ever seen. Thank goodness for More4 +1 and my dvd recorder ...


TV Joss Whedon never watched Doctor Who according to this Five Live Interview. But has seen the first episode of the new series. Send him a boxset will you Russell T. It's a bit of a general interview with Simon Mayo not really knowing who Spike is (Spike Lee?) and both stuttering their way through -- although it's nice to have confirmation that a movie about the British vampite direct to dvd is a priority. Actually I find these things quite difficult to listen to, especially since non-fans don't really know what to ask him ...


Life Rather than telling you directly how I've been feeling lately I thought I'd be the model of ambiguity and offer a list of characters from films I've watched recently who epitomise things instead.
Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) when she's not putting on the act and sometimes when she is.

Dora Diamond in Loser (2000).

Antonius Block in The Seventh Seal (1957).

Chloe from Chacun cherche son chat (1996).

Michael in Love and Other Catastrophes (1996).

Tom up until just before the end of Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

Mel in Deconstructing Harry (1997).

Oh and James Leer in Wonder Boys (2000), but that could just be wishful thinking.
Ok. Got that?


Hair "First full day out of the house with radical new haircut. I have allowed it to grow without interference for some months now, as ever enjoying the early thrill of seeing it appear behind my ears, then indulging in being able to run my hands through it at moments of concentration, and - finally - watching it "settle" at that precise moment when it moves from neglect to intent, and no longer just looks as if I need a haircut." -- Andrew Collins has a blog.


Film Do you think that 'historical' films have a responsibility to be accurate?
It's an arguable point. The Oliver Stones of the world will say, "No. History is there to be plundered for entertainment purposes the same as anything else." I don?t agree with that. I think that you do have a responsibility to it. But with drama you have to make certain concessions: very often, you have to make things more concise and that means cutting and putting things together. But I don?t think you can completely twist history ? it's very irresponsible because children don?t know very much history today. -- Helen Mirren gives a frank interview about acting and filmmaking to the RSA Journal.


Blog! First Experiment With Podcasting? [via]


Games "According to the cute little story that unfolds during attract mode, a kung-fu master named Thomas and his girlfriend, Silvia, were suddenly attacked by "several unknown guys." While Thomas bravely fought off Knife-Throwing Guy, Silvia was kidnapped! Later, Thomas found a note from "X": "Your love Silvia is in custody now. If you want to save your dear Silvia's life, come to the Devil's Temple at once. 5 Sons of the Devil will entertain you." -- Wil Wheaton on Kung Fu Master.

I'm not terribly good at computer games which is why I have an ok machine and I'm writing this instead of playing Grand Theft Auto and my Playstation generally sits gathering dust. But I've actually completed Kung Fu Master. I was fifteen and I went on holiday to a caravan site with my parents. As well as a club and a small swimming pool, the only other entertainment was a small wooden shed which contained two arcade machines. A broken Defender machine and yes, Kung Fu Master. As the only thing to do in the evenings I'd be there for hours filling up the machine with ten pences (3 credits each!) and working away. Eventually I began to learn the patterns. Eventually I began to beat the machine. This never used to happen...


Work "It looks like I'm going to be having my day in court. A company I worked for is refusing to pay me for a two day 'Introduction to Dreamweaver' course because it was, in their words, 'disastrous'. Well, let's look at the facts, shall we?" -- Jonathan Baldwin on when training sessions go bad. Then worse.


Politics "A mayoral election in Ecuador was once won by a foot powder." -- Snopes

William Shakespeare action figure


Literary superhero!
Originally uploaded by Eloz.


Film Whilst I'm here, the most surprising of the three films was Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. It's an example of a genre I've loved for years which Roger Ebert apparently recently, finally, given a name to. The 'hyperlinked movie' or cinema. This is an ensemble film in which the motives or the appearance of a plotline is changed when a character interacts with another or we see the action from a different angle. He later explained that he saw the description in a Film Comment article by Alissa Quart, and also points out that this kind of film has been knocking around for years perhaps with Robert Altman. To suggest some similar films which Ebert neglects, I'd drop in Kasden's Grand Canyon, many of John Sayles' films, particularly North Star and Sunshine State, Linklater's Dazed and Confused and good grief Miranda July's You and Me and Everyone We Know. [via]

This naming of genres after the fact has its anticedents. The filmmakers behind the film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s weren't aware that this was the genre they were working within -- they just churned out gangster pictures which were finding an audience. It took critics and fans to put a label on them. Later, when the Coen Brothers and their follows began to create the neo-noir films they were aware of the genre -- they were using the influence of the earlier films and setting them within a contemporary setting.

What is interesting is whether, now that this 'hyperlink' label has been coined filmmakers will actively decide that they're making their films within this genre and say as much and how quickly it will enter the general vocabulary. Someone should write a dissertation about this. Hmmm...


Film I spent the day in the company of movies courtesy of screen select. This week they sent ...

The Big Red One The Restoration
The Three Musketeers
13 conversation about one thing

Do you see what they did there? Random or human selection process? We'll never know.


Theatre "An attempt by Macready to play Macbeth at the Astor place Opera House on May 7, 1849 proved unsuccessful, as he was driven from the stage by an unruly crowd throwing, as he later cataloged, "eggs of doubtful purity, potatoes, a bottle of pungent and nauseating asafetida, old shoes, and a copper coin." -- The Astor Opera House riots. Wow. [via]


Sport "Figure skating is like speed-skating, except slower. And with less people. And funny hand movements. And musi... alright, figure skating is nothing like speed-skating, apart from the fact it's on ice. And you can see the outline of quite a lot of people's penises. It is in the form of dance - which makes it easily scoffed at by men who like their sport hard, fast, bloody and with Balls, but it is also extremely difficult, technically. Apparently." -- Anna Pickard tries to deal with the Winter Olympics.


Life I'm wandering around a theatre foyer waiting for Shakespeare to begin. There is a queue at the box office. An announcement:

"We are sorry to announce, but due to technical difficulties tonights performance has been cancelled. Please return to the box office for a refund, credit or comp ticket for future performance..."


This was to be Much Ado About Nothing and the first time I'd managed to get out to the theatre in about a year since a disasterous local production of A Winters Tale which was so annoying I left at the mid-section.

I'd prepared well this time. Sometimes theatre is like a sporting event. You need to be in right mood, your mind needs to be ready. I'd only done some light work this afternoon after my lunchtime lecture, getting my diary in order and deciding what a future essay topic might be. But your body must be constitutionally correct for all the sitting. I'm still on a caffeine high now from all the cups of coffee I've drunk today to stay awake. I'd eaten a hearty meal of posh chicken noodle soup at Wagamama. I'd walked around town a lot to get some air into my lungs.

Instead I'm here writing about a play I haven't seen. The photographs of the show looked good. The programmes were expensive though. One of the lead performers put his back out unfortunately and there wasn't talk of an understudy so the theatre doesn't know when the show can go on ...

Metropolitan Cathedral


Metropolitan Cathedral
Originally uploaded by Andy McCarthy UK.


Music "To begin with, "Music's Biggest Night" is actually "music's longest afternoon." They give out awards in 108 categories. Of those, only 11 are televised. The other 97 are passed out during the pre-telecast ceremony, which begins at 1:30 p.m. We left the house at noon to get there in time. The pre-telecast was held in the West Hall of the convention center, next door to Staples Center, where the main awards would be held. It was friendly and low-key. Anoushka Shankar and Michael Bublé performed (separately), and most award-recipients were quick to get on and off stage." -- John August on attending The Grammies. He was nominated for best film song.


Bloginalia This article from the New York Times regarding Blog Jargon fails to mention Bloginalia, a word I've been attempting to add to the vocabulary since I invented it all those years ago for my sidebar to describe all of the things like webrings and advert tags that didn't fit under any of the other catagories. Anyone? Anyone? [via]


Stephen: Hugh, my old china serving bowl, it seems that we're pretty much in the position of having to say "Here we are again."
Hugh: Stephen, my old styrofoam cushion whose wedge-shape guarantees relief from the misery of lower back pain, you've never said a truer word.

[Somehow I missed the news that A Bit of Fry and Laurie is being released on dvd. Re-reading the scripts I'm constantly amazed by how literate and funny they are. It'll be amazing to actually see them being performed for the first time in years. [via]]


Commerce Get Human database -- fighing the telephone automated system at the grass roots ... [via]


Film Didn't the Baftas feel short tonight? Without the news break it ran to two hours or so. Some would call it lean but what troubles me (other than the fact that George and Rachel were robbed) is that some very important catagories were shunted into the highlights package at the end. If you look at the academy's own page of results you'll see that actually there aren't that many more categories and with brevity everyone might have had a chance to shine in primetime. But you selected what went were, and why would the score and cinematography awards be thought seemingly less significant than editing?


Cinemas "Many adults avoid certain kinds of movies because they assume the theater will be filled with noisy teenagers. Let's say you're 40 and you want to go see a Dead Teenager movie like "Final Destination 3." Would you think twice? Perhaps theater chains could create movie clubs for patrons above a certain age, and advise them of screenings where reasonable audience behavior will actually be enforced by the presence of ushers. Even one usher should do it. It's the thought that counts." -- Roger Ebert offers some ideas on how to improve the cinema going experience.


Museums Take One Museum on BBC Four is the Russian Ark of documentaries as expert Paul Rose looks around a museum, with the help of some tour guides in one take over a thirty minute period. I caught the tail end of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum episode and he seemed like a man of great enthusiasm. Much like New York's Museum of Modern Art's podcast official and unofficial, an audio podcast version of the show is available so that a visitor to the actual museum can cover the same ground with the aid of their mp3 player. Excellently, it's the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester next week so I'll definitely be going there again in a few weeks to see what this is like.


Firefox I've been fighting with this for a few months, but I've finally manaed to put together a Screen Select plug-in search for Firefox, since one else was in the mood. Why should Netflixers have all the fun?


Life I've been quite ill. As usual, the whole family caught a cold at the same time and I've been feeling really tired and edgy these past few days. It struck early on Thursday afternoon during what's going to be my fortnightly day of seminars, and I turned into Snow from the remake of Solaris. In other words, this guy ...

... except without the beard but some of the jesticulating, unable to say anything coherent or reasonable. Probably. Whole conversations were I felt like a projection of myself rather than the real me. I managed to get my dissertation research proposal in but I'm not sure it was right or any good. But when you get to the point that you're shifting words around in sentences but not actually adding more sense or content, it's time to pass it in and hope for the best.

I'm a bit perkier today but still a bit listless with all kinds of ideas of what I want to be doing and could be doing but none of the inclination. Just watching the Olympic Curling out of the corner of my eye and Britain seem all at sea and I'm still having difficult following the scoring, though not in a cricketing sense (which seems to have been designed by elitists so that other elitests can grin smuggly because they understand).