Who Marpled in the Creek?

TV The Doctor meets Jonathan Creek meets Miss Marple. From The Stage: "Tom Baker, Alan Davies, Saffron Burrows and Julian Sands are among stars lined up for the latest Agatha Christie Miss Marple thriller, entitled Towards Zero." Julian Sands!?!

Is it safe?

Life Every morning I wake up at 6.55 am. My alarm clock is set for 7 o'clock but I think it's been timed wrongly so there I am every morning waking up at 6.55. In the blur of tiredness I grasp around for my remote control until eventually I can turn the television on in time for the news headlines. So that I can keep myself informed about what the BBC thinks is happening in the world.

So this morning when I turn on the television, the big flashing white on red banner is saying things like 'Breaking News' and 'Terror Alert' and I wonder what happened overnight. Bill Turnbull looks like a cat in headlights as he talks about the alert level being critical and the disruption at airports and I'm wanting to go back to sleep, to try and wake up again into the world were the only news story is the usual speculation is about some government policy that won't happen anyway.

I was actually mildly petrified. I gripped my pillow and sat transfixed as people sat around the big table being interviewed by Susanna Reid about having to test powdered milk and only being able to carry documents through the checking in desks at airports and John Reid's stage managed 'press conference' which spent five minutes saying many things without saying much at all and I just wanted it to be ok.

Then, somewhere in the twenty minutes I woke up. I thought about the work I had to do today, saving my dissertation (which I think I did by the way) and went to the loo, and I only thought about the alert again right now as I write this and look simultaneously at the BBC website to see that nothing much has changed, that the only thing we do know is that we're safe for now.

No K-9, Not Trees -- Treens!

Comics Dan Dare meets The Doctors. Nearly all of them. Real comic strip in the name of charity ...


Books Sorry I haven't been around speaking the real speech for a few days but as usual the dissertation has me in a spin -- every time I think I have it pinned down I'll read something or have an idea and I'll be sideswiped. But while I'm here...

I was absent mindedly reading a newspaper last week during a coffee break -- I'm sorry I can't remember which one (which sort of demonstrates what the words absent and minded mean) and I found an article which was talking about the fall in library visitors and how the man in charge of was under the impression that the way to attract people back into libraries was to make them more digital -- create a network of digitised stock -- perhaps in collaboration with Google. I hurumphed and took a bite of chocolate muffin.

I began to wonder why there has been a drop in visitors to public libraries at a time when there's apparently an increase in reading expecially amongst children etc. This would mean that people are prefering to buy books rather than go to a library and borrow them for free. Some of this has to do with supermarket sales and online purchases. But there must still be people using bookshops.

So here's my point. Sure libraries should transform -- they should become bookshops were they ask you to bring the items back after three weeks. What I'm wondering is why some branch libraries don't adopt the model of have small intimate sites on the city centre high street with a format similar to Waterstones -- or in reality closer to a posh used bookstore -- were people can pop in whilst they're shopping or during their lunch break and borrow a few books. Ideally the stock would be arranged in a similar format to bookshops too with the fiction in an author a-z and subject headings were necessary. No internet access. No library catalogues (except with the staff behind the counter). And a decent coffee shop. And lovely pine flooring.

This would also obvious mean a change in how libraries are stocked -- as with bookshops there would be a central distribution area which would track when an item is borrowed and send another one out to fill the gap on the shelf -- not necessarily the same item -- and when they user brings an item back it would be returned to the main depot not to the shelf, to be redistributed where necessary.

This won't be for everyone -- but it does have the potential to attract the important age bracket that find the usual library system unappealing. It will never happen of course -- the replenishing stock model is pure madness and impractical, especially with the amount of staff that would need to be employed and because its not for profit the funding model would be equally impossible. The bookshops won't like essentially free versions of themselves on the highstreet and the rents are bound to be far higher than the library service at present can afford.

What I'm really suggesting I suppose is that the library service starts thinking out of the box and stops assuming that digitisation is the way to go.

People like reading books. They're portable and user friendly. They just want an easier way to access them.


Food "THE BK Veggie!!!" I said excitingly, like I was a spoiled, little 10-year-old boy getting a $300 iPod from his parents because it was the only way for them to shut him up about how everyone at school has an iPod except him, how he?s so uncool, and how he?ll probably die a virgin." -- The Impulsive Buy is hit in the face by the downhill ski-run of the expectation/delivery curve.


Film Not that I'm keeping a record of these things, I remember being fascinated when children's author Jacqueline Wilson signed books for many hours in Liverpool City Centre. I thought that was exciting. Then I read this on film director Kevin Smith's blog:
"By the time I started signing at 3pm, the official head count outside was over 2000.

By the time I signed for the last guy (whose sentiments made my morning), it was 4am today.
Thirteen hours. Then people still had the temerity to complain that they didn't get to see him, mostly because they went home. As Charlie Brown was apt to say, 'I don't know. I really don't know.'


Film What a wanderously magical picture of Gable and Colbert on the set of Capra's It Happened One Night.

Quite Good

Theatre "Suppose a review contains the following opinion: 'It is a brilliant play with a talented cast but the production is poor and did not realise the work's full potential. Not great entertainment. A disappointing evening.' Now suppose the theatre's publicity material for the play from the review concerned merely repeats 'a brilliant play with a talented cast' that would in my view be acceptable, despite the absence of the reviewer's negative comments, because the reviewer's express opinion of the play as brilliant and of the cast as talented was accurately repeated and attributed to the reviewer concerned. There is no obligation in such a case to publicise the separate negative comments." -- D Michael Rose @ The Stage

I've only recently discovered that The Stage run a series of blogs and this post is an example of the great writing that can be found here. I'm always wary of film posters that have one quote from a reputable source because it sometimes indicates that the publicist has followed the kind of practive Rose speaks negatively about. If however there are many pull quotes and star ratings and they're all positive, I'm there. Although I did see a film advertised once that simple said, 'Quite Good' which is the kind of honest that should probably be rewarded.

Hamlet @ The Edinburgh Festival

A quick round-up of productions with links to a page where you can book tickets. What's surprising is that there isn't a 'pure' production, all have some kind of a gimmick. For example ...
Bouncy Castle Hamlet
Hamlet was published in 1603. Bouncy castles were invented in 1961. Somehow, they had been kept apart... until now. At last, Hamlet performed entirely on a bouncy castle. Ghosts! Pirates! Shakespeare! Jumping! What could possibly be better?

Hamlet: The Gloomy Prince

Join Mark and Daniel as they attempt to stage a version of Hamlet 'for kids'! What at first seemed easy becomes an utter nightmare as their production, relationship and set literally collapse around their ears.

The Hamlet Project
What if Hamlet had a second chance? Using Shakespeare's text, five actors from Drama Centre London examine the greatest and most complete tragedy ever told in this vigorous, bold and unusual show.

The Play's the Thing
Hilarious, award-winning new comic thing from Oxford. An egotistical theatre director tries to put on Hamlet. He ends up as insane as Hamlet himself. Curious? The play, in the end, is the thing...
Which sounds like another version of the In the Bleak Midwinter/Slings & Arrows story. Oh and ...
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Two old school-friend backpackers are summoned to keep an eye on the Prince of Denmark. Set in and around the action of Shakespeare's Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is one of Tom Stoppard's finest works.
Good luck to everyone.

Other Rules

Blog! Belle de Jour's version of The Rules. Amazing. And clever. [via]


TV I was flicking through an old Guardian book from the mid-nineties called alt.culture earlier and was startled to stumble upon an entry about Jon Stewart -- I wasn't too aware of his career before The Daily Show but here it is and just a decade and I can't tell if the writers of the book, Steven Daly and Nathaniel Wice, believed he had a future ...
Stewart, Jon

(b. Jon Stuart Liebowitz, 2963)

Former stand-up comic who graduated from MTV's hopefully-titled, viewer-led show You Wrote It, You Watch It (1993) to the channel's first formal talk-show. The shambling style of the twice-weekly Jon Stewart Show suited the channel, and the programme's intimate, low-intensity feel seemed to parody the big-time talkers further down the late-night dial. Stewart's monoilogues were almost apologetic and the threadbare sketches had a high-concept, low-budget charm (as in Seventies TV-cop parody McGrungie and Waif). When, in September 1994, MTV/Viacom's 'synergy' with newly acquired Paramount gave the Stewart show the syndicated slot recently vacated by Arsenio Hall, he struggled. On such a big stage, the low wattage of Stewart's wit was exposed and his self-dprecation turned alsmost to self-annihilation as his succession of 'Playboy Playmates' and Baywatch babes mixed uneasily with Indie Rock and Hip Hop bands. With the national audience of around a million Stewart's show never threatened that of his putative rival, Conan O'Brien -- and it was finally cancelled in June 1995.
Which is when the book was published. What a difference a decade makes. Just look at his Wikipedia entry.

Not Hard.

Film For years it's been called Die Hard 4.0 -- which has a certain ring to it although it wouldn't exactly fall off the voiceover man's tongue. Finally the film has been officially announced and it's to be called Live Free Or Die Hard which is just terrible really but no worse than the plotline which 'will feature McClane attempting to stop a techno-terrorist from shutting down the nation's computer systems on the Fourth of July' something that would have sounded ten years out of date ten years years ago which is shockingly when '... With a Vengeance' was released. Might work. Just hope they don't get someone like the director of Underworld to do the honours...

Choose Your Own Adventure:
The Abominable Snowman

I've never been very good at playing computer games. I'm co-ordinationally challenged at the best of times which is why could never drive a car or play the piano either. The reason I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure series was that it only ever required the turn of a page and unlike Fighting Fantasy books you didn't need to carry a dice around with you. Also you could always skip backwards and try a different path. The new Choose Your Own Adventure series of dvds attempts to bring the interactive narrative to the small screen and the first adventure The Abominable Snowman is pretty good fun. The story follows a trio of orphans as they head to the Himalayas to meet their uncle and search for the Yeti and the viewer or player is asked at various points to decide in which direction the plot will go.

It's a concoction of Lost Horizon and Indiana Jones style adventure with a dash of Spy Kids, and what's particularly satisfying is that each choice actually does lead to a different version of the story - this isn't a case of making a selection but ending up with the same beats anyway - the opening decision means that the viewer will see a totally different story and characters. When those choices arrive, I actually found myself weighing up the pros and cons of the decision that I'll be making. Sometimes the resulting selection leads to some quite horrific or spooky outcomes for a kids dvd.

The animation is better then you might expect and the script is genuinely amusing in places although there is some levity in that the kids are orphans because their parents died on just this sort of adventure and there is a message about living with these life changes and carrying on. It's quite a surprise to see the level of voice talent on display and the performances are quite infectious - even if William H Macy loses his familiar twang in the role of the uncle. My advise would be to enjoy the adventure in small doses - playing the game in one go as I did for this review and it tends to become a bit bewildering as information in one story contradicts another. But other than that, it's a good first story ...