Nothing exciting ever happens here.

TV About 10 minutes ago all hell broke loose in the National Lottery studio.

I’d just turned over after Doctor Who Confidential for Eurovision and realised I could catch the results live for a change. Sure enough Sarah Cawood was telling the public how much they might win in this week’s super draw (oooh), when it became apparent a scuffle was happening in the corner of the set. Sarah gave a look that was almost exactly the same as the one Sue Lawley had when the Six O’Clock News was invaded all those years ago.

“Fathers for Justice!” Someone shouted.

Eamonn Holmes looked uncomfortable as the camera pushed in closer to the lottery machine and the voice of the balls tried to cover. Then the wacky director cut away to the protestors, who consisted of a duffle-coated man with a plackard, who was pushed out of the way by security to be replaced by a tall woman in a skin-tight t-shirt with some slogan or other on it. It then cut back to the machine as Eamonn and Sarah were drifting behind the curtains at the back, out of harm’s way.

Then a title card came up, and the voice of the balls felled as best he could without a script, even wishing Daz Sampson luck for tonight. Five torturous minutes later it was back to the studio and a flustered Sarah and Eamonn. The draw proceeded (I didn’t win) and at the end Holmes grinned: “Nothing exciting ever happens here.” “We’re all off for a brandy,” Cawood continued, sensing a chance to build her part.
I’m off to watch Eurovision. I can guarantee that even with Ludo or whatever the Finnish entry is called, it won’t be as exciting as that…

Bottomless pit

Life To account for my whereabouts last night: About a year and a half ago I invested in a shiny new 120 gig hard disk for my retirement age PC. I'm still running Windows 98 (and hoping to celebrate the decade in a couple of years) and when I installed it initially, Bill's extraordinary machine told me that it would only allow access to 8 gig. I sighed and decided I'd wait until I'd inevitably upgrade before I recieved the full benefit.

'Well' I thought, 'In the olden days sixty pounds was a cheap price to pay for 8 gig.'

But it knawed at me. I kept hearing it spin around inside my PC tower, stopping just before it reached that line, almost like a child who's been naughty at school and has been told that it can't leave a chalk circle as a punishment.

I thought about the problem. I thought about it some more. I thought about what Guy Goma said about how the internet is there "to inform people what they want and to get the easy way and so faster if they are looking for."

So I googled. And I googled again. And I actually found out that there such a thing as a boot disk (really?) and if I used that inconjunction with something else called fdisk (really again?) I could create something called a Primary parition on the drive that would take up the whole drive and that would make it work.

I backed up my data. I backed it up some more. I pretended I was the kind of person who knew what they were doing, selecting options in fdisk and then restarting the machine. Trying something else and then re-starting the machine again. I had my fingers crossed. I went away and watched a pretty average episode of The West Wing whilst my computer had a think about it's direction in life. When I came back, sure enough. It worked. Ain't technology wonderful.

So now I have a hard disk which seems like a bottomless pit. How long to do give for it fill up again?

The Only Elephant In Alaska

Nature "The Alaska Zoo has been trying to coax its elephant, Maggie, onto the world's first elephant treadmill for two months. But so far, the stubborn and sometimes moody elephant has shown more interest in treats than exercise. She's not about to take up jogging. The treadmill was custom-made for Maggie amid much fanfare, then delivered to the zoo in September. It is one of the key items in the zoo's plan to improve the controversial living conditions of the pachyderm." -- Megan Holland of Anchorage Daily News

I'm not surprised. The thing looks like a death trap. If I was the only elephant in Alaska I wouldn't go anywhere near it either.


Music Gosh, I want the Finland entry to win -- much as we like the endless parade of half naked women singing basically the same song, Lordi seem to encapsulate the spirit of what Euroviosion is about. Then again there's always Lithuania, who are singing a song with the lyrics 'We are the winners of Eurovision' and looking like a mad cross between Gilbert & George and Buggles.

not different enough

Music Oh good lord. Unlike the rest of the country and in an effort not to be addicted to Big Brother this year, I'm watching The Eurovision Song Contest Semi-Final. As I ponder why it just has to be so relentlessly awful and why Wogan clone Paddy O'Connell just isn't quite as good I notice that someone called Kate Ryan is singing for Belgium. I recognise the name. Then I recognise the face. Then I run to my cd collection.

I bought the thing from Vinyl Exchange in Manchester about three years ago, listened to it once, then dumped it on the shelf where its sat ever since. I've just played it again (briefly) and sure enough just as I remember its an hour of dodgy europop. But that doesn't detract from the fact that I have an album from a Eurovision performer in my collection. Not sure what she's been up to since different was released in 2002 but she hasn't aged. I'll let you know if Martina Sorbara, Abigail Hopkins or Jane Child, some of my other cheap cd purchasing experiments, show up.

Links for 2006-05-17 []

  • Val Guest, 1911-2006
    Shocked to hear about this -- I loved his Quatermass remakes.
  • Slightly By-The-Numbers Commuting Diary Blog Yawn Etc from The Triforce
    The horror, the horror
  • Piranhas of guilt

    Music "It's a strange situation, because on one hand you can't help feeling crushed that you came a long way to see your most favourite band and now you won't see them and even though the show has been rescheduled for August you won't be able to come because it was a fiscal stretch to make this sortie to Amsterdam, let alone do it all over again in a few months. But on the other hand, you feel the PIRANHAS OF GUILT gnawing at your stomach for feeling so devastated, because somebody has lost someone, and you know how you'd feel if it happened to you." -- Shauna on being in Amsterdam for the cancelled Radiohead gig.

    Film funding crisis mayhem

    Film "I could list a number of young, critically revered filmmakers whose applications have been rejected by the New Cinema Fund, though clearly it might be damaging to their careers to do so (as is the case with anyone seeking public funds in any sphere). However, I know these filmmakers to be overflowing with the ideas needed to follow in the footsteps of filmmakers such as Derek Jarman, Sally Potter and Peter Greenaway -- all of whom, in the 1980s, were cultivated by the BFI production board. Instead, the New Cinema Fund has succeeded in cultivating anger and frustration in British film talent. So far, it?s a damaging legacy." -- Dave Calhoun for Time Out

    A fabulously angry post at the TO Blog regarding the New Cinema Fund's attitude to handing out cash to young British film makers. Lest anyone wonder I'm posting it because of the passion on display. I don't really know enough about the subject to comment, other than to say that it's been an awfully long while since I saw a micro budget British film that I've adored -- actually it was probably My Summer Of Love. Perhaps it's my tastes. It just seems as though there's an attitude in this country that our indie films need to either be set in the inner city, about gangsters or horror or sometimes all three. Why can't we produce something either very challenging or warmhearted? Where are our Brick, Clerks or Kissing Jessica Stein?

    Howard returns.

    TV One of the joys of the web is that it allows televisual figures, who have loomed large in your past then seemed to disappear, to re-emerge and actually explain what they’ve been up to.

    As well as presenting the seminal children’s quiz Beat the Teacher in the early ’80s, Howard Stableford was a presenter on BBC science programme Tomorrow’s World in the 1980s and early 1990s, roughly contemporaneous with such giants as Judith Hann and Maggie Philbin. He’s just begun writing at Planet Earth Under Threat, a new blog connected to a Radio 4 series which is due to begin soon.

    It’s good to see Howard’s doing well. According to his first blog post, he’s in Colorado, where he’s been living for the past seven years. “Through my office window” he describes, “I can see the spectacular heights of Pike’s Peak, a 4000-plus metre snow capped mountain along Colorado’s Front Range. At least I can today. Yesterday it was snowing!” The man lives in a ski resort.

    I always saw Tomorrow’s World as the programme you eventually graduated to once you’d grown out of Blue Peter. In those days, the programmes were incredibly similar, and might have even broadcast from the same studio, with their presenter led demonstrations and outside broadcasts. It’s this period that the second series of Look Around You so mercilessly yet affectionately satirized, before the rot set in and went in the inevitable new direction with Carol Vorderman spoiling it forever.

    Light Radio

    TV I caught an early bird on Doctor Who Adventures this fortnight and spent my torturous trip home listening to the free radio. It's actually of much sturdier quality than you'd expect and like the TARDIS clock last week doesn't disgrace the taxi-cab logo, even if the headphones are a bit tinny and it weirdly picks up stations much more clearly when you click the little light on and off. Next issue they're giving away what looks like a mini-filofax which begs the question of how long this freebie madness will continue. Really how can they afford to be putting out all this for just two English pounds?

    Inside the comic/magazine/whatever continues to be a slightly frustrating experience. I know that it's not really directed at us older readers, but I can't see which age group would be reading this. Some of the photography is exciting, but the short sentences in boxes approach feels too simple for anyone over the age of eight. I'm possibly complaining too much but I remember the original Doctor Who weekly being a smidge more sophisticated.

    The one area that DWA is excelling at is the comic strip which skews to the complexity of the old TV21 strip, yet still retaining the characterisation of Tenth and Rose. This issue's story is by Alan Barnes, the man behind the seminal Wormwood series of Eighth Doctor strips and former editor of Doctor Who Magazine. An inevitably slight tale about the workforce of a space station going missing, there's still some excellent comedy and a neat ecological message. The canonicity debates will run and run.

    Elsewhere in the blogosphere, Tom Coates believes that the Cybermen are just a load of old hype and should be ignored until the next cycle.

    Writing an email to a film critic about football




    Reading your review of the film Goal I noticed you mentioned that the Newcastle United manager has been written as German and is played by a Romanian instead of being the usual Colm Meany/Bob Hoskins role you might expect. That's actually one of the many fictual items in the film since a proportion of managers in the British premiere league are of an international origin. Oddly enough though, the real current Newscastle manager is British -- Glenn Roeder was born in Essex ...

    Take care,



    Life Spent the day in Manchester feeling like I'm about to get a cold and hammering through a frustrating six hundred words of my latest essay (due 6th June) -- frustrating because I know I'll probably be rewriting half of it by handing before it's completed. With the film too, I've had one of those days. So I'm listening to some Carthy and Kerr and hoping a upturn in excitment before midnight. I'm really not sure how anyone can get that kind of rapid sound out of a fiddle. Amazing.


    Film Eulogy (2004) is frustrating because on the one hand there's a laid back, engrossing comedy drama about grown up siblings gathering together with their families at their mother's home for the funeral of their patriac that is weirdly derailed throughout by unfunny slapstick. There's nothing here that might not have been fixed by an extra draft of the screenplay and more thoughtful editing. In the main, the film is saved from unwatchability by the performances of the spirited and amazingly rich ensemble cast, particularly Zooey Dechamel as the granddaughter who is puzzling about what to write in the eulogy. Actually it's weird seeing the likes of Hank Azaria, Famke Janssen, Glenne Headly and Debra Winger (who's almost unrecognizable) doing such great work in a film that went straight to dvd in the UK. To be honest, it's actually probably worth seeing for the identical twin kids who were obviously written to be Bart Simpson squared and end up stealing many scenes -- including the 'buriel' itself.

    new dvd player

    Life I visited John Moores University Library this morning to have a look at the facilities. I'll be doing a lot of reading over the summer and I might not always want to go all the way into Manchester so this seems like a good compromise. The book collection, film wise, actually contains some volumes which aren't at 'my' university -- in fact, it's almost as though the two collections have been co-ordinated. As you'd imagine, it's a very strange experience looking around a different university library, especially this late into the academic year -- definitely an interloper, not really understanding the geography (history, biology or algebra for that matter). There seemed to be lots of computers but not that many places just to sit and read -- I eventually ended up in a compact storage room, which is closed off from the rest of the library and away from what I've discovered is a universal constant in these places -- the talkers.

    This afternoon, with the rationalisation that it will help with my dissertation, I bought a new dvd player today to replace the tacky old one that I bought at WH Smith about three years ago (which finally gave up the ghost a few weeks ago). It's a Panasonic DVD-S29 and as I flick through the accompanying booklet it appears to be the work of a magician. It actually has the facility to zoom into a non-anamorphic picture so that it fills my widescreen -- so although the image quality isn't amazing, it's still miles better than the facility that's built into the tv. Also it's multi-region but plays the disks in the full mode of the originating country, which means that NTSC disks only have a very slight reduction in quality. I'm in geek heaven.

    Meanwhile, Louise has emailed to remind me that I have actually seen Singing In The Rain -- we went together about five years ago to view it in Manchester at the Cornerhouse in a lovely technicolour print. I actually remember that night pretty vividly -- I was excited because it was the first time I'd simply gone to another city to see a film. We got the train there from Liverpool after I'd finished a shift at the art gallery and just managed to make the screening. Afterwards we walked around Manchester in a route which made the city seem even bigger than it is, and I now know, having spent more time there, was around in a circle. I remember us strolling around the back of the library and feeling dwarfed by the size of it. I think it was just before Christmas because the tree was up in Albert Square looking gorgeous with its many twinkly spiral fairy lights. We went to Starbucks whilst we waited to catch the train home and I had one of their Gingerbread Lattes for the first time. Good memory.

    Links for 2006-05-14 []

  • Deal or No Deal Simulator
    Not quite the same thing
  • List of best-selling computer and video games @ Wikipedia
    Amazing resource. Really. Although why no Commodore 64?
  • Ratings Rise

    TV More extraordinary figures, well up on this time last year. Most watched programme yesterday, even beating the football.

    BBC One BBC Two ITV1 Four Five

    19:15 ... 7.6 (39.5%) ... 2.6 (13.3%) ... 3.2 (16.4%) ... 1.4 ( 7.3%) ... 0.6 ( 3.2%)
    19:30 ... 8.2 (40.7%) ... 2.6 (12.9%) ... 2.9 (14.4%) ... 1.6 ( 8.0%) ... 0.6 ( 3.1%)
    19:45 ... 9.0 (43.4%) ... 2.1 ( 9.9%) ... 3.1 (15.2%) ... 1.7 ( 8.1%) ... 0.6 ( 2.9%)

    I finally went to get my hair cut yesterday and after the inevitable chat about the football the barber went on to ask if I watched much television. As usual I was going to try and talk up The West Wing, but then he said 'Have you been watching that programme Doctor Who'.

    He then sped off into a monologue which took in his love of the one about the Queen of Scotland, how much his wife liked last weeks episode about the French aristocrat, Doctor Who Confidential how much he liked that new young chap in comparison last years bloke, how clever the Americans are at special effects and the fact that they used to have conventions at the Adelphi Hotel.

    I mumbled the odd thing about essential Britishness whilst grinning beside myself. Then one of the other barbers mentioned that he'd cut Sylvester McCoy's hair a few years ago and had a nice chat with Seventh about the series and the play he was in at the time.

    Remember those old adverts for Eastenders which said that everyone was talking about it? I was never entirely convinced. It's a pity they wasted the slogan because everyone really is talking and it seems watching Doctor Who ...

    wide open to ridicule

    Film Leaving myself wide open to ridicule, here are the films from Jim Emerson's list I haven't seen.

    The Battleship Potemkin
    The Best Years of Our Lives
    The Bicycle Thief
    Bringing Up Baby
    Un Chien Andalou
    The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
    The General
    The Godfather, Part II
    It's a Gift
    The Lady Eve
    The Manchurian Candidate
    Modern Times
    Once Upon a Time in the West
    Out of the Past
    Pink Flamingos
    Rebel Without a Cause
    The Rules of the Game
    The Scarlet Empress
    Singin' in the Rain
    A Star Is Born
    The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
    Trouble in Paradise
    West Side Story
    The Wild Bunch

    Given that there are a couple of items in there which I haven't even heard of and that it's exactly one quarter it's not too bad. It does mean through that my ScreenSelect queue is now topping three hundred. Yes, The Godfather Part Two. I know.

    But you know 'Snakes' on a 'Plane'. How can that be bad?

    Film "We too enjoy the Interweb hype and homemade t-shirts and quasi-ironic excitement. But we know that, on opening day, after we've just sat through two hours of a movie that's very claim to fame is that the entire premise is contained in the title, we're not going to feel elated, or giddy, or satisfied. We're going to feel empty, and slightly ripped off, and so are you." -- FameTracker

    It isn't often that FameTracker gets things wrong, but this list of the most inessential films of the blockbuster season is a mess. The above comment on Snakes on a Plane being an obvious example.

    That was my house

    Gambling "This was my first time in a casino, everything was alien, and very crowded. I decided to watch from the corner at a blackjack table. The dealer slapped cards in front of a group of jaded, blood-shot-eyed players, and then waited impatiently for each to play or stand. It seemed clear to me that there must be a skill to this game as a number of the players tisked, tutted, groaned, shook their heads, and thumped the table when the player nearest me apparently chose the wrong move - which he seemed to do quite often. There seemed to be more skill involved with blackjack than roulette; afterall, who could predict where the ball was going to land?" -- icifm

    RSS feeds for sites that have none

    RSS I can't remember if I've posted this before but FeedYes is an excellent tool for creating RSS feeds for websites that have a news page or blog but aren't enabled. So for example, The Natural History Museum's news page now has a feed here. The only downside is that you need to register free, but the functionality is amazing and very easy to use. I've lately been able to knock something together for BBC Four, Big Finish, Liverpool City Council and Off The Telly's main page.

    This is insane.

    TV Truth be told all hell's broken loose at Behind The Sofa, becuase one of my fellow bloggers, John-Paul was actually in Doctor Who on Saturday, in a cameo he completely failed to mention to anyone. This is hillarious too.

    feaked out

    Music "O.K, so now I'm freaked out, I'm really scared. I know I shouldn't complain because everything seems to be going so well for me, but this is not my doing, all I did was sign a deal, put up a few songs on myspace, and everyones gotten all excited, I on the other hand am shitting myself. I've been hyped so much, i feel fucked. I feel like my live thing isn't living up to what people think it should, but I've only ever done two shows. People are giving me shit for being a mockney and denying my middle class roots, but the songs I sound mockney on I recorded when I was 18 and probably WAS pretending to be something I wasn't, the album gets progressively posher though, infact the last thing I redcorded I practically sound like camilla parker bowles on." -- Lily Allen

    An epic demonstatration that if you're an artist you can be effected by what people write about you. Keep it together Lily. It's going to be a bumpy ride.