Precious Lung

"Great cities usually owe their parks to royalty or nobility. The centres of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester are the poorer for lacking such patronage. Edinburgh is blessed with Arthur's Seat, and Cardiff with Cathays Park. Liverpool's Sefton Park and Newcastle's Leazes Park are precious lungs. They do not make these places any more. Parks are pearls beyond price." -- Simon Jenkins.

City Parks

Liverpool Life "Great cities usually owe their parks to royalty or nobility. The centres of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester are the poorer for lacking such patronage. Edinburgh is blessed with Arthur's Seat, and Cardiff with Cathays Park. Liverpool's Sefton Park and Newcastle's Leazes Park are precious lungs. They do not make these places any more. Parks are pearls beyond price." -- Simon Jenkins.

I live in a precious lung. Excellent.

The West Wing

TV Somewhere along the line, The West Wing (season seven of which has begun playing on More4) became its own spin-off show. I mean it's set in the same universe and sometimes Josh Lyman from the old show pops up to talk about everyone staying on message and looking pained when his candidate makes another mistake but really this isn't the show I was watching last season (or last week for me) let alone six years ago.

I mean I can understand the problem the show had. Given that a president only has eight years in office and they began a year in, if the show was to have any sustainability at some stage another President was going to be in the White House, and the audience was going to need to empathise with whoever that man might be. Also, there's possibly only so much that can happen in the Oval Office and the corridors leading to it. But really it's getting very confusing.

For the unitiated, rather than watching the campaign from the White House lawn and skipping large chunks as happened when Bartlett was re-elected, the programme is following the Democratic candidate Santos (played by Jimmy Smits), and the Republican Vinick (Alan Alda) on the trail with odd episodes here and there still devoted to shenanigans in the White House. The problem is the two versions of the show don't match, mix, meld. It's like watching (film reference coming) The American President one week and The Candidate another week followed by Tanner '88. Or if you want to really stretch the comparison, Deep Space Nine with the odd episode of Voyager now and then.

Even more strangely (or bravely) some episodes, like tonight's, are from Vinick's point of view. The show's had some criticism in the past for not being too moderate in their characterisation of the Republican. They tend to be portrayed as the nasty men who come along and ruin the plans of the Democrats. Vinick is a fairly moderate Republican, the idea being that he's more incidious because his policies attract both sides of the spectrum It's a smart idea. The problem is because he's a relatively new character and all you're emotional investment is elsewhere you spend much of the episode not caring (and it's worse if you're a democrat I suspect). Often something bad would happen to him and this would be the ad break cliffhanger -- and you're thinking 'But that good for Santos ... so why should I care if something bad happens to Vinick?'

It's not a problem with Alda's performance. Or in many respects the writing. And Janeane Garofalo (who plays an advisor on the Santos campaign) is still gorgeous (I fell for her in The Truth About Cats and Dogs and before that TV Nation and she's still amazing). It's just that it feels like a completely different show. It breaks the imaginary contract that the programme makers have with the audience that they'll be delivering a certain formula each week. In essentially dumping the format the show began with that contract is broken and the viewer is in the position of watching some programme every other week which doesn't relate to anything much which has happened in the previous six years. Basically the show's called The West Wing -- but tonight there wasn't even a phone call from there.

With this being the last series I'm hoping for something controversial. I want Vinick to win. Dramatically it's a more exciting conclusion. It ties up Bartlett's legacy and it allows the programme makers to describe what happens when an administration with one political leaning has to give way to another, one set of staff giving way to another. It should happen before the end of the series and the last few episodes should be about the characters we've watched for the past seven years coping with the job and political wilderness.

Indeed dramatically this whole season (and granted I'm only on episode three but you read things) might have been more gratifying if the lense had stayed firmly within the corridors of power watching a campaign in which the Republican are winning and seeing the clock tick away to the moment when their idiology gives way to another and knowing there was nothing they could do about it.

Perhaps next week will be better. But I miss Donna. And Will. I miss CJ being the press secretary. I miss those episodes which were about some obscure bit of constitutionalise which didn't make much sense but were dramatised with passion. When Toby's in his office it still feels like The West Wing but astronauts dying in space stations being saved by military space shuttles really doesn't.

Is Commander In Chief any good?

Sharon Tate photographs

Photography Sharon Tate pictures @ flickr. Massive and actually quite poignant collection of photographs. More here. [wikipedia]

The Davros Theory of Doctor Who Casting

TV If you'll indulge me, Resurrection of the Daleks is the inspiration for my Davros theory of who can play Doctor Who. When the new series was announced I realised that the best way to decide whether someone is good enough to 'wear the scarf' was to imagine them in a room with Davros. If they could win a shouting or glaring contest with the 'genius' or at the very least outwit him, then he was going to be fine doing anything else.

So of course I'd disregarded Alan Davies straight away with his weedy voice and disconcerting manner...

Alan: See thing is what I don't understand is why you keep going aroun' y'know doin' these things.
Alan: Right. Hmm. I don't 'spose you just couldn't. Y'know.

But as soon as Christopher Eccleston was announced. Yep. Made sense. In fact if you look at Dalek, that scene with the, well, Dalek -- that's pretty much what I had in mind. When you've got that presence in the room, you need someone who can overpower it.

I think David Tennant has the same mojo too. But his key weapon is sarcasm. The only reason that Davros has any power is if people believe he's scary and can do some very bad things indeed. If he's being put down or his foe doesn't believe that he has the capacity he tends to crumple. A quick quip about Stannah Stairlifts and the battle will be won.

Or something like that.

the 43 bus

Life "I flashed my pass at the driver and trundled upstairs only to be greeted by a strong smell of unwashed person. At least that's how I describe it, but it's probably a medical condition or something. It smelt bad, and I felt sorry for who ever it was, stinking like that all day long. That small piece of sympathy somehow made the smell bearable (kind of). I can accept such an experience as just one of the many intricacies of bus travelling; you take the rough with the smooth, and that's ok. Not so when the rough is a smoky bus." -- the 43, a blog dedicated to a bus I get up Oxford Road in Manchester sometimes if I'm in a hurry to catch the train. Amazing. I once walked most of the route. [via]



Lush hyperlink film 'exploring the complexities of modern-day relationships by following three women aged twenty, thirty and forty' (Amazon). Excellent performances, script and photography. A hip version of The Joy Luck Club but funnier. Somehow managed to round off the day watching a film which I can mention in my dissertation. Amazing.

driving me insane

Life I decided to work from home today. On Monday, this was a good idea. I managed to write over a thousand words of an essay which is driving me insane. On Monday. Today? Not so much. Every now and then I just can't get the brain into gear and keep my mind on who I am. What I am doing. I did manage to work out a better structure for the thing this morning and write the odd paragraph so that's good but I still feel like I've wasted the day. I'm going to try some course reading later, after tea. If I can.

By two o'clock, once I'd listened to tail end of the budget speech and David Cameron's sudden audition to appear on the '70s 'laughfest' The Comedians, I ended up watching Michael Winterbottom's Nine Songs which is the kind of film which feels very good and experimental but is certainly spoilt on dvd were it just looked like a cross between Later...with Jools Holland, The Red Shoe Diaries, Before Sunset and Touching The Void. Is it missing the point to say that it really needed more characterisation? Funny how The Chatterley Affair had much the same structure but with court scenes instead of indie bands.

Star Wars TV Series

TV Plot of new Star Wars series announced. It's the story of the first twenty years of Luke Skywalker's life. So ...
Ext. Desert. Night.

Luke Skywalker stands on a dune outside his home looking soulful. In the distance, twin moons hang in the sky. Music swells.

[times 100]
Really George? Wouldn't The Adventures of Han Solo be more fun and wouldn't we get to see a bit more of the galaxy? Oh wait, Joss Whedon almost already did that. I can already see the episode guide for this though:
Episode One:
Luke and Biggs realise their friend Camie is more than she seems.

Episode Two:
Luke is in trouble with Uncle Owen after racing Deak.

Episode Three:
Luke discovers that Biggs has a secret.

Episode Four:
Luke loses his Imperial Starfleet draft card.

Episode Five:
Luke goes to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters.

Episode Six:
Luke visits his friend Ben Kenobi for some advice.

Episode Seven:
Luke takes a droid to Anchorhead to have its memory flushed.

Episode Eight:
(Part One) Luke gets lost in the Jundland Wastes.

Episode Nine:
(Part Two) Luke encounters some Sand People. Or worse.

Episode Ten:
(Part Three) Will the bantha tracks lead Luke to safety?

Episode Eleven:
Luke bull's-eyes a womp rat in his T-sixteen.
Unless he busts continuity, what possible interesting things could have happened to Luke in the desert? Is the intention to make Dawson's Creek in space? Because I'm not sure the fans are going to be totally on board for that.

Casual Racism

Sociology "I was in Pearl Paint in Chinatown waiting for an elevator today, along with three other women, one of whom was yakking away in her cell phone. Yap, yap, yap.
"Yeah, I'm with Marsha in Chinkytown right now. She begged me to come down with her," she said.
I turned and stared at her, but she didn't notice me.
"Marsha's always begging me to go down to Chinkytown with her. She loves it here."
Since I was the only Asian person in the small vestibule around the elevator, I wondered if Cell Phone Twit was trying to goad me. But she seemed either indifferent or oblivious to my presence, and totally invested in her conversation. I passed her a couple of other times in the store, on different levels, and she always had her phone attached to her ear and the same stream of vacuous pitter-patter spewing forth from her glossy mouth." -- Catherine

I've posted the whole thing because it's really, really shocking. The rest of Catherine's post is worth reading as a document of the kind of casual racism which I always naivly think has gone away. But apart from that some people on cellphones/mobilephone really annoy me. Especially on trains. When they shout and want everyone to know what they're shouting about because it must be important and make them sound important. Twits indeed. Although the vowel in that t-word is changable if required.

The Chatterley Affair

Elsewhere I've written a review of last night's excellent The Chatterley Affair for Off The Telly. BBC4 really seem to have got their mojo back of late, running lots of World Cinema again alongside classic films and theme nights. Life On Mars is scheduled for a rerun there along with related seventies programming including The Green Death story from Doctor Who.

Star Trek Kid

TV Star Trek Kid? Re-enactment of the scene in First Contact when Picard is haranged for going mad on the holodeck. I don't know what's more disturbing -- the accuracy or the fact that the performance is fairly good -- if you can get past a white guy doing an Alfre Woodard impression that is. This could be the new Star Wars Kid...

The Chatterley Affair.

TV With Christmas and Review 2014 over and done with I thought it was time to begin reposting these old Off The Telly reviews again and given today's events (which I otherwise entirely lack the capacity at this moment to adequately comment on) (as if I ever will) this seems rather timely.

The Chatterley Affair

Monday, March 20, 2006

On Sunday night, during the closing credits of the programme which proceeded a timely rerun of Ken Russell’s once controversial adaptation of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the announcer reminded the viewer that it featured, “Joely Richardson… and Sean Bean… and Sean Bean’s bottom”. I checked the corner of the screen, but the BBC4 logo was still in place. It seemed like the kind of remark that would play into the hands of The Mail on Sunday, who ran the usual piece about the drop in standards at the BBC preceding tonight’s new drama from Andrew Davies, The Chatterley Affair, which describes some of the events that might have occurred inside and outside the courtroom during the Penguin obscenity trial.

In their article, The Mail had inevitably counted the number of swear words, the sex scenes and calculated the so-called depravity. Ironically these were exactly the items in Lawrence’s novel that the prosecution would highlight as a reason for the book to be banned. Amazingly, even now the film felt slightly forbidden. Like the book (I’ve heard) it was a window into another world.

Rather than simply offer an unexpurgated dramatisation of the court transcripts, the film wondered about the interaction of the jurors and speculated whether the book might have prompted a pair of them – Helena and Keith – to enter into a relationship during the length of the trial. Captions in the opening were careful to explain that this story was entirely fictional, although a framing device – older versions of the couple describing in interview what happened during their fling and how it made them feel – leant the plot an authentic feel (a device that seemed to have been borrowed from the recent film Une Liaison Pornographique which equally allowed a couple to reflect backwards on a doomed love affair).

Overall it was a fairly mesmerizing piece of work. Despite the obviously low budget, the London of the early ’60s was evoked perfectly well, with costume and montage sequences that used newspaper print to summarise each day in court. Rather like seeing brand new “old newspapers” in similar films, watching the jurors picking up copies of the original printing of the novel was quite exciting, even though they were obviously mock-ups. Nothing in publishing could beat the clean, orange design of those Penguin originals that are often so old, yellowed and moth-eaten now.

Just as thrilling was the film which played over the closing credits as a reporter interviewed people queuing to buy the book on publication day, one wanting to hide his face in shame, another saying that she was buying for someone else. Of course you are.

In quite difficult roles as the doomed lovers, Louise Delamere and Rafe Spall had excellent chemistry and the viewer could definitely believe they would engage in the affair. In fact, as they sat offering longing glances across the jury room, it seemed inevitable. If anything the sex scenes felt completely natural and again in keeping with the novel (I’ve heard from somewhere) and not all sordid. The swearing was entirely in context and mirrored (or copied) the passages from the book highlighted in court.

The jury scenes very cleanly set out the reasons for the trial and the arguments for and against. It was interesting to see that the prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones presented his case by repeating large chunks of the book even though it sounded ridiculous with his clipped regimented accent. Cleverly, the witnesses were truncated to allow for only the important information to be reflected and it was excellent to see David Tennant being deployed as Richard Hoggart, which emphasised the of testimony of a witness who it is said helped swing the case in Penguin’s favour.

If there is a criticism it is that in places the shifts from court to bedroom to kitchen (of Keith and his wife) felt slightly too regimented. This was no doubt the intention to present the flow of the trial, but it did lend the proceedings a slight predictability, particularly as certain sections of the book would be highlighted and then reflect into the bedroom. Equally the day dreamy reconstructions of sections of the work felt slightly out of place, hitting the nail rather too sharply on the head. More successful were the readings from the book, from the couple and jury members as the words flashed up the screen. In these moments, Davies and director James Hawes understood that it is best to leave the words themselves to offer the message, the imagination of the viewer being the most visionary.

When I was at university I had a copy of Chatterley and another book about the trial (also published by Penguin Books). I didn’t have time read either of them but I thought they looked impressive on my shelf next to Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer and Terrance Dicks.

After this film, I’m now wondering where I left my copy…

No, sorry, still haven't read either though they did survive the recent clear out.  I'd entirely forgotten that David Tennant had been in this.  Experts - was this filmed between seasons of Doctor Who? He seems to have his quoff from The Idiot's Lantern.

the burgeoning event

Liverpool Life "MORE than 6,500 entered the Adidas Liverpool Half Marathon yesterday as fitness enthusiasts travelled from all over the world to take part in the burgeoning event. Celebrities, elite athletes and amateur runners gathered in Sefton Park, Aigburth, at 9am to prepare for the 13.1-mile run on a crisp March morning." -- Liverpool Echo

somewhere in Liverpool

Liverpool Life "The grim North turned in a near perfect day for a brisk 13 mile run. The sun was out as we were all standing in the mud of Sefton Park, somewhere in Liverpool, and it was only masked by cloud as we got off to a good, organised start. Drinks were provided along the way by eager youngsters who seemed to be having more fun than I was." -- Alan blogs about the Half Marathon.

under starter's orders


Competitors at Liverpool Half Marathon
Originally uploaded by feelinglistless.

I didn't really think this through, but I think you get the idea. When I went to buy the Sunday papers I had to cut across the park, through the finishing line. I'm such a fraud.

Half Marathon begins


Half Marathon begins
Originally uploaded by feelinglistless.

This isn't the best picture in the world, but I think I've managed to post this photo before all of the runners have crossed the startline.