Blog! "I still didn't want to hire her. But my co-worker loved her, although I am not sure that it was not his penchant for cute young girls that was winning out over good sense. We finished our meeting, and told her we?d be in touch. I told him what I thought, he disagreed, and I ended up telling him to 'Do whatever you want.' I packed my briefcase and left, skipping the last interview of the week. He called during my vacation and told me that we had hired her, and she would be starting when I returned. I think I didn't care largely due to the rum, I am sure." -- Hot Coffee Girl

It might not look it based on that section, but you'll be crying buckets...

My picks of the

Yesterday I was lucky enough to enjoy the preview day of the Liverpool Biennial 2006. Rather than even attempting to capture everything that happened I've decided to concentrate on the work itself and so here are my eight picks from across the festival (so far).

Toba Khedoori
Magically creates the seemingly impossible -- a three dimensional image on a two dimensional wall using nothing but large black brush strokes on a giant piece of paper. Ironically it's one of the works which is being used to illustrate the Biennal in previews and reviews that are appearing in the newspapers this weekend, but the small thumbnail picture that is usually printed simply doesn't capture the scale. What in those looks like small pattern of pinpricks of white on a black background are actually spaces of great depth. Walk forward and the illusion is lost, but the masterful control of the paint is revealed. [Tate Liverpool]

Chen Chieh-jen
The Route
As the opening crawl of this film explains, in the mid-90s, during the Liverpool Dock-worker's strike a ship called the Neptune Jade was unable to unload in Liverpool and due to the solidarity of other workers in docks throughout the world was unable to land anywhere else either. Only could it land in Taiwan because the local workers where unaware of the dispute, and the contents were auctioned off. In an audacious move the artist has filmed the current workers of those docks without their bosses knowledge as they watch archive news reports of the Liverpool dispute and gather together a symbolic protest in a yard, placards high. This captivating work, filmed and edited in a slow, deliberate style brings to mind Orson Welles' It's All True with the motions and emotions of the silent workers and cutaways presenting the simple narrative far more effectively than a voiceover. To a minor degree too, Eisenstein's Battleship Potempkin could be an influence, with its reliance on close ups of faces enunsiating the grit and determination of the people against the oppressor in this case the companies seeking to privatise the docklands of the world. Some of the best shots here simply feature the nose a pursed lips of someone, droplets of sweat dripping from nose of a weather-worn face; or a hand gripping the top of a plackards with key quotes such as 'The World Is Our Picket Line' or 'Dockers -- You'll Never Walk Alone' in English and Taiwanese. Moving. [Tate Liverpool]

Ben Spiers
In his notes, Spiers says that he was trying to suggest 'both an eighties pin-up and one of Velázquez?s more ugly princesses' although it is also somewhat reminiscent of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's paintings especially with the long flowing red hair of the model. The darkness of the background and draws the viewer to the face, and those tears so filled with hopelessness. [John Moores 24 @ The Walker]

Nicholas Middleton
Scene From a Contemporary Novel
There was an inevitability to me to selecting this as my favourite picture of the exhibition because of its photorealistic, cinematic quality. Absolutely taking its cue from film with its use of a widescreen shaped canvas its also a paradox; despite the title it evokes the New Wave films of the 1960s with the derelict alleyway and the style of the figure with her short, Lulu-esque hair, rollneck pullover and instamatic camera. Cleverly, Middleton hasn't placed the figure directly at the centre of the work so that she isn't completely the subject, the eye is drawn instead into the deep focus of the alleyway, the viewer wondering where those steps are leading too. Like the Harper's work below, the marvel is the intricacy of the paintwork and on this occasion with such a large scale work. And like a pre-Raphaelite painting, none of the image has been created in broad strokes, each one of those bricks has its own character, the derelict car so realistic that you'll be ringing to the council to ask them to take it away. [John Moores 24 @ The Walker]

Martin Greenland
Before Vermeer's Clouds
A brilliant choice of winner you'll be drawn to the picture because of the verdent green landscape, but like the best landscapes, the more time taken to look at the picture, the more exciting it becomes. There's a wrongness to the work, from the positioning of the waterfall to the strange mix of architecture to that strange multi-coloured tower in the far distance. It combines the traditional (those clouds are actually borrowed from a Vermeer painting) with the avant-guarde (again, that tower -- I mean really). [John Moores 24 @ The Walker]

Andy Harper
Broca's Area
Harper's work could from the distance be dismissed as a messy composition with little to draw the eye to, Another painting that repays closer inspection, revealing a mass of apparently fictional, almost alien plants, somewhat sinister and horrifyingly lifelike. In his statement, the artist quotes from J.G. Ballard, from 'The Drowned World', the prescient story (written in the early 60s) of global warming causing nature to re-engulf civilisation, London returning to swamps, and the effect in the gallery of the painting is similar, encroaching on the space, drawing the visitor's attention away from the paintings nearby. Technically it's brilliant too, the aformentioned realism created through a genius control of paint -- puzzlingly some shapes seem impossible to create with a brush. One of the other visitors I was talking to said it reminded him of Ross Bleckner's work although I'm sure he was thinking of the subject matter rather than the technique which is here is far more intricate. [John Moores 24 @ The Walker]

Matthew Buckingham
Obscure Mooring
One of the brilliant decisions made whilst the Biennial was being conceived was the assumption that the international artists would draw upon the city and its culture in the conception of the work. Buckingham's film uses the writing of Herman Melville to draw out narratives that exist within the area, and in the experience of the spectator that leads to the presentation of familiar images and places in unfamiliar ways. Having been a resolute commuter for some years, it was startling to see a train pulling out Lime Street Station from the position of the drivers cab at the back of the carriage, leaving the city behind, sun sparkling across the dirt on the windows. The shot is held for minutes as the train enters tunnels and the suburbs, eventually cutting to a young passenger inside as the train then returns to the station. Note though, that the exhibit is also worth visiting for the seating arrangement, a wavy carpeted construction that reaches to the seating, which seems dangerous but is strangely comfortable. [FACT]

The Kingpins
Hieronymus Posh
The was the perfect end to the day, this photo explains everything you'd need to know. Imagine four women pretending to be blokes in pink shell suits creating merry hell in Port Sunlight, miming to a thrash-metal pastiche in a kind of twisted version of those inserts from the That's Life tv show when the presenting team invaded the landscaping trying to get the nation to sing. This probably works best for those who are aware of the history of Port Sunlight and what it represents and just how incongruous this group must have appeared during the filming days. Watch out for the brilliant moment when a pensioner is looking out of her window whilst these four are causing merry hell on her lawn. [Fusebox]


TV The official press release is out for The Sarah Jane Adventures revealing that as well as a pilot, a series will also be forthcoming later in 2007. As expected she'll have her own younger companion in the form of Maria played by Yasmin Paige and a nemesis in the form of Ms. Wormwood played by the excellent Samantha Bond. It's being written by Russell T and Gareth Roberts and directed by Torchwood's Colin Teague.

Totally unrelated, but still interesting, Steve Roberts of The Restoration Team has published 'two comparison images from Castrovalva, demonstrating the differences between the original and remastered versions. As his post to the discussion board indicates the new clarity is because they've been able to go back to the original camera negatives. Pity it you can't improve the story which was a castrophic way to introduce a new Doctor after a regeneration, an issue that afflicted the show throughout the eighties.


About I've been to Cheshire Oaks to buy shoes, I'm on the bus home, just entering the Mersey Tunnel and I see this ...

The North-West Enquirer have included this post in the printed version of their Blogwatch column. Amazing.

I gasped and laughed right through to the other end of the tunnel. I'm sure the other passengers thought I was quite mad.

Rambling (by tube) around London

Life It's 8:00 am yesterday morning and I'm looking at the departure board at Liverpool Lime Street.

"8:15. London Euston," it said, "Cancelled."

Bugger. The station announcer spoke:

"Bing, bong, bing. Passengers are advised that the 8:15 Virgin Trains service to London Euston has been cancelled due to an electrical fault. Virgin Trains apologise for any inconvenience caused."

Alright. Don't rub it in. I buy a paper and a Radio Times and traipse into the Virgin office. A man inside is handing out an alternative route. Wouldn't you know. Change at Crewe. And it adds an hour to my journey which means I'll lose an hour of my day trip to London. I ask for a compensation form and get my ticket stamped. Ironically I ended up joining the Virgin Train from Manchester at Crewe which was packed and filled with people moaning because the train seemed fuller than usual.

In the end losing the hour did derail the day. I'd planned my way around London beforehand, timing everything for a change so that I could pack as much into the day as possible. Getting to London an hour later meant that subconsciously, at least at first, I was thinking about the fact that some places might me closed by the time I'd get to them and I'd be rushing about much more than I'd planned.

But as I stepped out into Covent Garden at a little after midday I was in love again. There's something about the hustle and bustle of London, an excitement that I haven't felt anywhere else (even Paris). I know that all of the major capitals are like this, but being able to look about and see something happening everywhere out of the corner of your eye is amazing. Little details like stepping through the market and hearing a string quartet playing the Star Wars themes back to front.

The Theatre Museum really is an amazing place (yes, yesterday almost everything was amazing) and like the best museums, filled with surprises. A ramp from the entrance leads to a basement full of corridors that explain the history of the London stage from the Elizabethan age to present. During the guided tour I actually yelped as I realised I was standing in front of Charles II's decree that women should be allowed to act (yes, the document dished out during the film Stage Beauty).

I suspect that anyone with even a passing interest in theatre would find something which is just as important to them, in the costumes, the set designs and posters on display. They even have the original model for the set of Peter Brook's deeply influential RSC production of A Midsummer Night's Dream from the late seventies. There's also a display about the heritage of the Redgrave family whom I hadn't realised were that influential in the modern theatre world but are the current acting royal family.

The exhibition is filled with video of actual performances which have been recorded for the National Video Archive of Performance: the web page says "Live performance is the most ephemeral of arts and, while video cannot replace the actual experience, it can provide a vital and detailed record of the production." Too true although looking at their list, I do wish that some of this material could be made available commercially or for television presentations (something BBC Four haven't done in some time). Obviously I'm going to suggest the extraordinary looking Lycium Production of Look Back In Anger with David Tennant and Kelly Reilly, but it seems a shame that in the connected world that such drama cannot be made available in some form once their often limited number of performances have occurred, especially years afterwards.

I love navigating the tube map - I know it must be a pain if you're a London resident, but finding where you are and where you want to go and then deciding the quickest route with the least number of changes is an exciting challenge - even if sometimes all you seem to be doing is following the arrows down stairs and escalators. The Jubilee line in particular seems close to hades.

The Courtauld Institute's gallery appears to be one of London's forgotten pleasures (it was empty during my visit). I only knew about it from my years working in art galleries and I only chose to go because I'd already done the Tates and Nationals before and didn't want to repeat myself. In the end I got the same shivers as when I visited the Musée d'Orsay - of entering a room and suddenly being faced with a famous image, that you've seen a hundred times in books and calendars in their glory. I yelped a good eight times here as I shifted through the museum.

Well, alright I'd already known about Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, but I wasn't prepared for how beguiling it was. The painter was messing about with the space within the painting. Although the back of Suzon the barworker is reflected its off to the side with would not be accurate due to the eye of the viewer; but what this means is that we can see whose eyes she's looking into - a gentleman - and it's almost as though we're playing him within her story, like Sam Beckett in some impressionistic painting version of Quantum Leap.

If you think that sudden jerk into a pop culture reference is impressive, they also have Lucas Cranach the Elder's Adam and Eve hanging rather unheralded on a wall next to a mantle piece. I had the same feeling I often have when I'm talking to someone who I recognize but can't quite remember where from. It's actually the image used at the beginning of the opening titles of Desperate Housewives and the inspiration for the dvd menus. The other highlights of the collection are here and really it's one of the countries unsung treasures. And luckily for me, it's free to students (library card runs out at the end of September).

After a trip through the gift shop for postcards and catalogue and its back off to the tube. I ask a passing policeman where the nearest one is and then ignore his suggestion because he didn't seem too certain. Which also meant I bumped into Bush House and the BBC Shop were I managed not to buy a BBC mug (it was dark blue and I think tea looks weird on anything but white ceramic - I'm one of those people). Eventually I tumbled into Temple and headed off to Westminster (Abbey).

The other thing to love about central London is that you can stumble out of a tube station and have a VIL (Very Important Landmark) in front of you almost every time. At Westminster the VIL is Parliament, although I pretty much ignored it (seen it three times and taken photos - I'm one of those people too) and tried to work out which one was the Abbey. Oh it's that big church shaped building in front of me with the red and white tape ringing the lawns to stop people walking on them because they're looking a bit threadbare. Why is everyone standing around outside.

Oh it's closed.

The lost hour had caught up with me. I'd planned to reach here at three(ish) and spend half an hour being flabbergasted by its scale and trying to decided whether it was more or less impressive than Liverpool Cathedral. But because I'd lost an hour and somehow in the hustle and flow I'd forgotten that I'd lost the hour I'd made a pointless twenty minute tube journey and arrived five minutes after they'd shut the door. So as far as I'm concerned Liverpool is better until I can go back and prove to myself it's otherwise.

Back in the tube up to Russell Square which according to my map will drop me off over the road from the British Museum. With even less time than I'd anticipated I decided to pick one thing I had to see there. Had to be the Parthenon Marbles. Having spent endless hours debating the merits of us British keeping them with my Greek friend Fani (and seeing a weird episode of 15-1 with William G Stewart about ten years ago in which he replaced the contestants with replicas of the marbles in order to describe the issues - no I don't get it either) I had to see them for myself. Of course Russell Square is ten minutes walk from the museum and I should have got off at Hoburn. Of course I should.

I'm wandering into the museum fifty minutes before closing and it's vast. I wonder if I'd made another terrible mistake. I try to drop my bag off at the cloakroom only to be told that it closes soon. People are cashing up at tills and generally I feel like I'm walking in the wrong direction.

This is the kind of museum in which you can ask someone a question like:
"Can you tell me where the Parthenon Marbles are?"
And the answer will be:
"Right up there. Turn left at the Rosetta Stone."

I'd forgotten about that. And there is was, the Rosetta Stone, the key that cracked Egyptian Hieroglyphs. I read the information boards then stood before it, my eyes reading each of the languages left to right and back again trying to see if I could understand how each of the sections corresponded to one another (the stone features the same block of text in three ancient languages which is why it became so invaluable). Out of the corner of my eye I spotted someone with a camera. They hadn't actually particularly been looking at the thing but they wanted to take a picture of their friend standing next to it. I stepped away and let them do it. But neither of them read the boards or even looked at the stone.

I slipped back in front and thought I saw how one of the phrases was connected. I probably didn't but I was momentarily excited -- was I going to make a break through? Then I voice from behind boomed:

"Could you step back please?"

I turned around and saw twenty-people standing in front of me all with cameras all wanting to take a picture. Of the stone. I'd been so caught up in my 'work' that I hadn't realised that a queue had formed behind me. The person who'd spoken, a tall man with grey hair and a camcorder grinned at me like he'd made some kind of a joke. Hmm.

Without heading off into a rant (which I'm obviously saying because I'm heading off into a rant) there really is an issue in these big museums and particularly with world important artifacts. When I was reading for my dissertation I came across Jim Collins who mentioned that in museums ceremonial masks lose their meaning and simply become a kind of minimalist sculpture. Like the Mona Lisa, something that people want to have their picture taken in front of without actually stopping to look at it and take in the implications - it's lost its meaning.

As I watched people queuing up to show that they've been in its presence, not one of them actually turned around to actually see the carvings on the stone and I assume that its in that situation all day. I'd hate to imagine what its like if a real scholar turns up to study it - although I presume they work from facsimiles and photographs and there's no doubt much to be said about how important the actual artifact is in the end for such work. I wanted to say to the crowd - 'Do you know what this is and why its important?' but instead I simply said, 'Oh for goodness sake' probably too loudly and slumped off and bought a book about it at the gift shop later.

Left at the Rosetta Stone and into the Parthenon Marbles room. Which turned out to be the big disappointment of the day which didn't involve Virgin Trains. I've read countless books and articles, seen many documentaries about the marbles so I kind of knew what to expect but I wasn't really prepared for the tragedy that sits in the British Museum. Like the Rosetta Stone, these are objects changed by appearing the museum; and like the stone they simply look uncomfortable outside of their natural surroundings.

Sections of sculptures, broken pieces. Most of the friezes are indistinct with information cards that say things like 'This might be ?' There are odd torsos and heads arranged in the order they would have appeared on the Parthenon had Elgin not been hacking away at them. My impulse as I looked at them - let the Greeks have them back. They want them badly enough that they've already building a museum to house them. They have sections of some of the statues that fit neatly with the parts that we have like a three dimensional jigsaw. Although they won't be perfect or complete, wouldn't it make sense on a purely academic level to marry them together.

The museum have a leaflet explaining such issues and I understand the implications in relation setting precedents - and there is even a section in the Museums act that forbids such an action. But as they stand they're rather forlorn and weirdly for massive intricately carved slabs of marble, a bit unimpressive, to these eyes. Artistically they're incomplete and I wonder what anyone can really learn from them in their present state. But as the above rant about museums proves I don't really know anything about anything. Inevitably I've moaned about this more than I praised the theatre museum and the Courtauld which at least proves that I can still have strong opinions about things I know nothing about.

I'd imagine that there are some people of a certain musical or sporting interest who spend their time in Liverpool in much the same way I always do in London, gaping at all of these icons which they never thought they'd ever get the chance to see. I know they do because I've seen a Magical Mystery Tour bus full of people milling about at the wrong end of Penny Lane near Liverpool College's playing field deeply impressed by a street sign and trying to work out where the bank is (the other end). But I'm glad there is still somewhere in the world were I can walk about with my eyes wide open, excited wanting to point at everything and say 'But -- it's that. Look it's that!' I know like everyone else I'm being dazzled by the bright lights and culture and the harsh reality of living in London must be totally different but it didn't stop me wistfully look about yesterday and wondering if in the end that's where I'll end up settling.

Boldy Go. Again.

TV 'The ship hits the fans...' Trailer for classic Star Trek, digitally remumbled for the 21st century. Watch out for the odd use of incidental music from the final episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer at the end. [via]

Vanderdeken's Children.

Books  Back after my personal hiatus from reviewing these novels and already The Doctor and Sam and the Tardis find themselves in the crossfire of two warring ships whilst investigating another Mysterious Alien Vessel.  Eventually the time travelers become embroiled in the dispute over the MAV, taking a trip with both factions into its heart to discover its secrets.  This is another of the many Eighth Doctor novels in which he finds himself battling against a big scientific time-related concept which threatens to destroy the universe.  Or whatever.  And at no point during its two hundred and eighty one pages did it feel like something, new, fresh or in the end exciting.  It's simply one of those books with a great opening, good ending and a flippy-floppy middle.

The problem with the book is that it can't really decide what it wants to be and at no point, despite the Tardis on the front cover, does it feel like a Doctor Who novel.  On the one hand it's the novelisation of an Irwin Allen disaster film set in space -- one of the rival vessels is a passenger cruise liner and the myriad characters on board are straight out of The Poseidon Adventure: put upon husband Lester Plecht could be Ernest Borgnine and his with Rhonda is surely Shelley Winters; there's even a small child who has lost his parents.  But the captains of the vessels and the ghostly figures they meet on the MAV are straight out of Asimov, one of the early shorts from Amazing Stories and all a bit generic and colourless.  And none of it really gels and in fact in places, the apparent B-plot of the Plechts overshadows everything else and is in the end more interesting because it's about people rather than plot points.  Plus it's all so horrifyingly generic -- even the mysterious ship seems like something straight out of a hundred other sci-fi adventures, particularly The Black Hole.

More importantly the novel makes the common mistake of concentrating on the larger story at the expense of The Doctor and Sam who after the admittedly excellent opening, become two of a crowd of characters.  Whole chapters drift past here in which the companions only fleetingly appear, almost as though author Christopher Bulis has remembered whose name, other than his own, will be on the cover.  Much of the time The Doctor is an exposition machine, explaining the nature of the ship to the accompanying humans, and all too often it knocks the drama out of the story.  The best Doctor Who adventures are about the timelord being surprised as he discovers what's gone wrong.  Here, he seems to know everything as soon as he steps onto the MAV for the first time and the rest of the book is simply the reader and the human characters getting up to speed.

It's symptomatic of the book that the one great concept that effects the main characters isn't taken advantage of and ushered off within pages.  There's a scene in which part of the anomaly at the heart of the alien ship causes Sam to regress within her own personal timeline to the age of ten so that she forgets The Doctor and her teenager years.  There's a beguiling moment in which she finds that she can still trust this man with a calming voice telling her that everything will be ok.  Rather than leaving her in this condition for the rest of the novel and giving the timelord something personal to fight for, she's righted relatively quickly and a conversation ensues amongst the accompanying crew about whether this could be used to prolong life, knocking the magic out of it.  On the whole, Sam is pretty well characterized although there are some uncomfortable moments when The Doctor is dithering about making big decision and Sam convinces him to proceed which is either a reaction to the events of Seeing I or a miscalculation of their relationship as though The Doctor is making his companion a scapegoat if his plan goes wrong.  I'm not sure.

But I'm not sure about a lot of things with this novel.  Confusingly as I write this I've reread the title and it actually says Vanderdeken's Children when I've just spent the past week or so misreading it Vandaniken's Children and wondering what any of the story has to do late night documentaries about finding alien artifacts in Egypt.  Luckily this is the kind of book in which the characters take time out towards the end to explain why the author chose the title, but the fact I didn't notice the mistake until about two minutes ago says a lot about why the average Doctor Who story has a title like The Time Corridor of Death/Doom.  It's also the kind of book that has an illustration of a keypad in the opening few pages that only becomes relevant on page 65 and even then doesn't seem relevant enough to need an illustration.

I understand that not all of these books are going to be premise shattering stories like Alien Bodies or neat nostalgia trips like Placebo Effect.  I just think that if you're investing time in something it needs to repay your concentration and under these circumstances, Vanderdeken's Children (or whatever its called) falls short.

The Scarlet Empress next ...


That Day Anything I could say today would simply sound like platitudes or ill considered anger and it doesn't seem right somehow. But since that is inevitable, I'm going to re-post this, which I wrote on the six month anniversary and features both:
"September 11th was the first day off sick I'd had in months, getting over a cold. I'd spent the morning in bed watching the video of Bullett and had moved to the couch for Ever After which I turned off for a bathroom break as the second plane hit the building. I remember swearing loudly and like everyone else who saw it I suppose just kept watching as the footage was played over and over.

I was divorced from what was happening. I wasn't really thinking about the human cost -- all I kept thinking and saying was that the buildings couldn't continue to stand. I suppose the part of me which cared was shut off somehow, like it didn't want to think about the people inside, what was happening in the building. But I clung onto the speculation. 5000 dead. 6000 dead. 7000 dead.

It was only the next day, on my train into work as I sat reading my newspaper, the tableau photography of the site of the disaster that it began to sink in. As the train passed through Warrington Central I began to weep. I began to think of the people, how I would have felt if I'd been them. I worry about the future a lot, how I'll feel when the people I know are no longer there, and these thoughts overwhelmed me. These people I need to talk to sometimes when it hurts. What happens when they are gone. And self-indulgently I suppose I thought about how I had reacted whilst it was happening. Why was I crying now, the next day? For the first time in a long while I felt like an ugly person.

So, even though I wasn't there, I was so far away from what happened I felt the pain. Like everyone I just felt numb, unable to talk about much else. I'd see people I hadn't seen for a while and I'd still feel the need to talk about it even though they hadn't brought it up. Where where you when? What happened? How did you feel? And I knew it brought down the conversation and that it ruined the night (or day) but it felt like it had to be talked about.

Have I changed? I think so. I saw the end of Ever After.

I'm more tollerant with people than before, expecially strangers. But I was always a reasonably calm person before -- I already felt the urge to see beauty in everything. I think the most significant thing is how I am with people in general. I try and make the most of the time I spend with them, and feel bad when I don't spend as many moments as I could. I get annoyed with others who I know should and could be more giving, but their personal survival instinct stops them.

And there is one other thing. Before I never said goodbye to people. I would be acquanted with someone and I knew I might never see them again when they left the country or left my company. And I would always say 'until next time' or 'I'll see you soon...' Now I just say two words, but they are always heartfelt, and I always mean them, even if they seem a bit false sometimes.

Take care."
And I still do. Rest is just something I try and usually fail to live up to. Am I getting back to normal?

It's a beacon of hope...

TV The following was posted on Outpost Gallifrey tonight in regards to the start date for Torchwood:

Episode 1 to be broadcast simultaneously on BBC1 and BBC3 at 9PM on October 21st.
Episode 2 then immediately follows on BBC3.
On all following weeks, the episode on BBC1 at 9PM will be followed by the next episode on BBC3 so that BBC3 is 1 week ahead of BBC1 for the whole run.

Full text here. The 21st is a Saturday night -- if this is true then that would mean the schedule will look something like ...

6(ish) -- Strictly Come Dancing
7:00 -- Robin Hood
7:45 -- Lottery
8:10 -- Casualty
9:00 -- Torchwood
9:45 -- Strictly Come Dancing Update
10:15 -- News
10:40 -- Match of the Day

I'm assuming Casualty will have restarted by then. Still doesn't look right to me with three dramas stuffed in like that... plus it means that the BBC have real faith in the show already to premiere it on BBC One straight away rather than hide it on BBC Three for the muted trial period.

Needs less training

Film This is somewhat old news but I've just finished watching Antoine Fuqua's film Training Day (2001) and I'm in a mood. This is the story of Jake (Ethan Hawke), a Rookie cop, who is being evaluated by a detective, Alonso (Denzel Washington) to see if he has the chops to join his team. There's really nothing worse than a film like this that manages to sustain tension for an hour and fifty minutes and then loses the sense of itself at the climax. The following gives away the ending and doesn't describes lots of things that only make sense if you've seen the film, so if you haven't been there I'd look away now.

One of the issues I've been dealing with over the summer in relation to my dissertation is which character has narrative agency in a particular scene or across a film -- in other words whose point of view is at the centre of the story -- who it's about. In most films narrative agency is deferred to one or two characters -- the hero and the bad guy -- Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and the story develops around them. In ensemble films this becomes more complex because of the number of characters who are in play.

In Training Day, from the opening moments, narrative agency is deferred to Jake. Every scene, from the opening few seconds, is played from his point of view and we see Alonso through his eyes and our attitude to the detective filtered through his opinion and perceptions -- our sympathies are with him. We do not see both sides of the opening phone call; when Alonso visits his girlfriend with Jake in tow, the audience doesn't see the detective in the bedroom and instead watches the rookie fall asleep on the sofa. When the go to the Sandman's house, there aren't any cutaways to what Alonso is actually doing in the bedroom. When Jake bursts back into the flat at the end, there isn't an intercut to the scene that awaits him. Effectively this creates mystery and leads to the twists that occur because narrative information is restricted to Jake -- the audience only ever knows what Jake knows. Which is fine and makes for an interesting, exciting and more importantly unusually experimental film right up until ten minutes before the end when everything goes horribly wrong.

For an hour and fifty minutes this has been Jake's story and then suddenly we are watching what happens to Alonso. We see him going to the meet with the Russians and being shot to hell. It's a crowd pleaser I suppose, because Washington's performance has been so potent that you really, really dislike him. But it feels wrong, and dishonest, and it hurts the movie -- because it stops being about Jake, he's not there, his story has already ended, and we didn't need to see it. It's about giving the audience what they want and it feels unsatisfactory given the storytelling which has gone before.

A much more potent ending would have been seeing Jake walk away, evidence in hand, down that street with Alonso being held at gunpoint behind. It shows that Jake doesn't care too much for being Alonso's kind of detective, that he would much rather, as he says earlier in the film, return to writing tickets. It shows him keeping his morals intact. It also shows that in the end Alonso's approach to policing doesn't work. A straight cut then to Jake returning to his house, the news voice over reporting Alonso's death. We'd still be in Jake's point of view. The only concession I'd make is the sound of his wife saying something like 'So how did it go?' which would lighten the mood slightly at the end of what's been a pretty gruelling film. As it stands I spent the scene when Alonso is killed wondering what Jake was doing and in fact whether he was watching from close by and even if he was in the pocket of the Russians all along and that was why we were seeing them.

On the dvd, there is a deleted scene that reveals that Jake was working for the wise men all along in attempting to capture Alonso in the act. That doesn't really work either because it devalues the rest of the film and knocks open some plot holes -- also as presented it still features the cutaway to Alonso being gunned down. I'll be looking forward to hearing the director's commentary to see if it reveals whether this is how the film had always been written or if someone blinked in the production stages. It really is a shame, because as I said, up until that moment it had been a finally crafted and entertaining film.

Ex-film students eh? Filmmaker's nightmare.


Politics "Phone call from work: 'Have you been chatting to someone at some do about the Tony Blair interview you did that was supposed to be a secret? They've been calling our press office.' Flashback to mentioning to someone last night that I had joked with Blair: 'Prime Minister, having been in the job since 1997, in a position of much responsibility and influence, do you think the time has finally come for... me to leave Blue Peter?' Not a bad joke, I thought. Anyway, how was I to know that this talkative soul knew someone from the Evening Standard's Londoner's Diary? Moreover, that it would coincide with a leaked memo detailing how Blair will 'do' a series of BBC programmes in the near future - Songs of Praise, Chris Evans on Radio 2 and Blue Peter?" -- Konnie Huq displays an excellent sense of humour in The Observer. Some people should be made to blog.