TV When I was at school one of the best anecdotes that an English teacher who was prone to telling anecdotes told was about how he would take students to see productions of Shakespeare and during the interval would notice them all unconsciously talking in iambic pentameters. I'm not sure how possible this on the hoof intellectual achievement might be, certainly I'd expect some stumbling and grasping for words, and I've never been afflicted by it when I've been working my way through a Hamlet. But. Something similar does happen to me when I've been watching some television shows.

Lately, as I mentioned in my stop .... start review of Not Going Out (which I actually keep calling Don't Look Now for some reason despite the non-appearance of a scary little red hoody) I've been spinning my way through the superlative second season of the Gilmore Girls. Apparently they have so much dialogue that they burn through double the usual number of script pages than most US hour programmes (in other words forty-two minutes). I can believe it, because in some episodes there's so much talking that I'm sure the viewers brain has to enter a higher state of conscience to keep up with it all (even though -- and this is really clever -- they don't have particularly sophisticated or complicated storylines).

What I find after watching a couple of episodes is that I have a tendency to slip into Gilmore-speak, not consciously but I can tell its happening. I'll start dropping cultural references and describing every day objects and actions in interesting ways, I'll asks questions and answer them myself straight away and stop taking no for an answer and I'll do all this very fast, with a word per minute count that Rory's nemesis Paris would be proud of. After a few minutes it wears off, but during those minutes it also seems easier to talk and express myself. Conversely after watching The West Wing, I'll pick up the tick of repeating sentences in the way that characters there repeat sentences and back chat all over the place which I simply don't do otherwise -- oh and there are the run one sentences that seem to run on and on.

You can't imagine what it was like after Friends. Good that *be* anymore irritating? It would often .... take me ..... seconds .... to finish .... a .... sentence. Oh .... my .... God.

Worth Staying In For

TV Not Going Out, the new BBC One sitcom scripted by Lee Mack and Andrew Collins has had some bizarrely mixed (pre)reviews from a couple of raves to notices which seem to have been written by people who don't like television period. I went in with an open mind and fingers crossed. And you know, given all that, I loved it. The premise is refreshingly simple. Lee and Kate share a flat, he's a bit of a bloke, she's a bit of an American and they both know this other bloke Tim, because he's Lee's friend and Kate's ex-boyfriend (he dumped her). And err... that's it. In an industry which increasingly relies on high-concepts, it's lovely to see a British sitcom that strips everything away to the important essentials -- the characters.

The script was a riot. Presumably because I've been watching Gilmore Girls again lately, it reminds me of Gilmore Girls, that clever utilisation of flippancy and pop culture and rapid fire one liners which eventually and subliminally cut to the core of the subject. Of course my favourite line was 'As my mum used to say, "Just because Thora Hurd couldn't get up stairs doesn't make her a Dalek!" but there were so many others that I'll have to rewatch to catch them all -- this burned through more good lines in half an hour than most have in a series. Note also the surprising re-introduction of the malapropism, last seen in Restoration comedy -- in one scene Mack says that his latest date 'sells farms'. Vine asks what's so wrong with that then realises at the same time we do that it was actually 'self harms'.

The performances were very fine too. Lee Mack and Tim Vine previously worked together in ITV's late night sketch comedy experiment The Sketch Show and presented real chemistry in the scenes in which their characters propped up the bar and reflected on their differing relationship with Kate. In the middle, majestic Megan Dodds in her first television sitcom role proves that her scene stealing turn in Spooks wasn't a blip. Her timing was excellent particularly in the aftermath of a water spillage. Sometimes sitcom acting can detour too far away from anything like realism, but here the work was perfectly measured and in places touchingly dramatic.

If there is a tiny criticism it's that often the laughter track was loud enough to lessen the impact of the script and the performances, with lines being drowned out and in places actually intruding on the comic timing, filling in important silences and not allowing moments of real wit time to breath. In this case, there is a danger that the viewer won't be able to bond with the characters (which is just as important in sitcom as in drama) because they simply can't hear what they have to say or be able to tune into their rhythms. Here any vaguely humourous word or line was greeted with a guffaw deadening the effect of the whole. Compare to Friends, in which the laughter builds across the scene which means the big punchline is all the sweeter -- they'd often agonise over the sound mix of a scene for just this reason -- guide the audience to the humour rather than hit them over the head with it.

I'm pleased to say that for the first time in some time, there is a British sitcom worth watching on a main channel that isn't by Ricky Gervais. Not Going Out somehow manages to straddle the mainstream and not so mainstream and I'm sure that the harsher reviews were too quick to dismiss it because of the supposedly unfashionable elements of a studio and multi-camera setup instead of taking pleasure in the script and performances. The best measure of any sitcom is whether it makes you laugh and I did, all the way through.

Are you warm, are you real, mona lisa?

TV City of Death one of my favourite Doctor Who stories, certainly in the top five, perhaps even the top three. Rather than transcending the format, it takes full advantage of it, with elements of humour, time travel, history, big ideas, excellent characterisation and horror balancing, for once, just perfectly. I can tell its a favourite because I've stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower with a copy of the opening scene and read it out-loud.

The long travelogue moments in Paris with Tom and Lalla dashing about the city are some of the most cinematic to appear in the series and its a shame that the classic show was so studio bound for much of the time. But they also represent the spirit of experimentation happening all over. Some knock the Graham Williams era but forget that City of Death was one of its products and simply might not have happened under Hinchcliffe or Holmes. See this far-sighted quote which flashed on-screen during the excellent Paris in the Springtime documentary on the dvd.

Imagine -- North Africa or Iceland. Amazing.

There is, however, one element that has always bothered me. The Mona Lisa. Throughout the story much is made of the fact that it's supposed to be the greatest painting in the entire galaxy and it might well be -- but the real painting only features in this story at the very end when Duggan buys a postcard. For the rest of the time we're treated to a rather sad looking copy which appears to have been painted along with Nancy, impressionistic paint strokes which might have worked in long shot but hardly look right in the close ups selected by director Michael Hayes.

It's just difficult to understand why a print couldn't have been utilised which at least looked like it could be in Leonardo's hand. I remember being fooled once by a print which had be plonked in a nice frame with a varnish applied (although not far enough to buy it) and given that there needed to be seven identical works that all look this same this would surely have been the way to go, and less hassle for the prop department painter.

But that seems somewhat churlish given that none of the sets look like they were created other than Studio B in Television Centre and that the Louvre in particular looks a bit small (compare and contrast with the famous running scene in Jean-Luc Godard's brilliant new wave film Bande A Part). There's also the moment when Duggan breaks through the cellar wall and the foam back of one of the 'stones' can clearly be seen. And the boom mike in the Renaissance scene.

The important thing to remember then, is that script, those performances and that fact that actually most of this extraneous stuff is unimportant if you can suspend your disbelief. Under those circumstances, me? I'll believe anything. Probably.


Politics In a rash attempt at political blogging on Monday I suggested the Tories will win the next election. Alistair has a stronger opposing argument.

Life Props

Spring and Fall
Gerard Manley Hopkins

I don't read much poetry. Well actually given that I love Shakespeare I'm not sure that is true - his work is mostly poetry. What I should say is that I don't read or listen to much poetry that isn't spoken by a character within some scene to move a plot along. I'm not embarrassed by this - I believe that some people will concentrate on particular art forms through habit and given my life story and lifestyle I'm just not predisposed. Some people love poetry, some love opera, some love landscape paintings and I don't really love any of the three. Which isn't to say I'm not aware. I think I could tell Wordsworth from Hughes, Milton from McGough.

Most of any poetry that I've read was inevitably at school and that meant John Donne during his jack-the-lad phase and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Knowing me, I'd imagine that I would have fallen into Donne with all his lusty metaphysical verses, all relationships and stories. But for some reason I found Mr. Hopkins to have far more resonance, which is odd because his work is about praising God and nature and all the things that this city dwelling non-denominational spiritualist tends to shy away from.

But unlike much other poetry I've read, to me it's about what isn't being said, the choice of words, and the imagery being evoked which seems to suggest an underlying sadness, an understanding that whilst all of these effervescent, exciting, beautiful things exist, they will eventually end, everything will end. I'm not saying this because I'm a depressing person (I don't think), not really but it's a kind of brilliant realism, that Donne couldn't often muster and in some cases in just a few stanzas Hopkins often evokes something that Shakespeare can't convey in five acts and three hours.

If anyone has heard of Hopkins, when asked for their favourite may mention The Windhover, the bird that's really Christ. There's a magic to the way that the words and the poets experimental stress patterns somehow replicated the movement of 'daylight's dauphin' through the sky (some might remember the Kes-alike sequence in Jimmy McGovern's underrated tv series The Lakes in which the words of this poem are narrated over John Simm character taking a bird-of-prey for a flight). Sometimes Pied Beauty might get a vote with its rhythmic adjectives and painterly descriptions of trout and mole-holes and the hymnal opening and closing. The really cool choice would be God's Grandeur because it brings the pictures of his nature poems to a reminder of human endevour and (I think) our ongoing pounding of the planet which up until that point had not ruined nature which he puts down to the nestling of the Holy Spirit. But for me Spring and Fall is perfect, so much so that I named two television series that didn't happen and a fake company after it (see here).

During school I probably largely passed by the poem, just something else to learn, or something I could read out in class to try and impress Helen Back, a girl I was deeply, madly, passionately in love with. As is sometimes the way with these things, as with Shakespeare, once I left school and finally had a chance to read the poetry properly, understand and enjoy it, the words began to resonate with me. It's a very sad poem really. It's about telling a child that whilst they think they're crying about the coming of autumn and the leaves browning and falling, they're actually crying about having to grow older, because they will get older, and die. It's a harsh message, especially to pass to someone who might think that life will continue to be a long golden summer punctuated by christmases and easters, harvest festivals and leaf falls. By giving the addressee a name, Hopkins makes it personal and we are almost in Margaret's position or being reminded that we were all young once, and ignorant about what a cold, dark place the world can be. That's my dullard understanding, there's a fuller explanation here.

Most art, especially art that someone might describe as their favourite has that quality - you'll often describe it as a favourite for reasons that have nothing to do with the item itself and its true meaning. The reason that this my favourite poem is that outside of its formal qualities, and to this untrained eye it is perfect, Hopkins provides a get out clause, a positive note within the gloom. It's the title - Spring and Fall - for all Margaret's and our grief autumn leads to winter and winter leads to spring and renewal and a return to the kind of beauty evoked by Pied Beauty (although the double meaning is noted - 'spring' isn't just a season here, but its also Margaret's tears).

As I get older the poem for reasons probably beyond its real meaning keeps reminding me that nothing is over, that up until the great coat getting moment that nothing is set in stone, that actually, y'know you might think that nothing can get better and that even though your stuck in a rut and you've (sorry) entered a winter of discontent but that spring is out there waiting for you if you just believe hard enough. Although I'm in limbo right now, I've just completed a lifelong dream and anything which happens now will be amazing.

[This very special Life Props celebrates National Poetry Day 2006.]

Down like a ...

TV Watched Jack Dee's new sitcom, Lead Balloon tonight. It reminded me of Ken Campbell's word, Jokoid -- something which has all the trappings of being a joke without being funny. The performances were all perfectly fine, great in the case of Raquel Cassidy (one of the few survivors from the equally disappointing According To Bex and in places the tragedy and desperation worked very well. But this had the appearance of being a sitcom without raising a laugh. Which is a shame because the specially prepared trailers were very good indeed. Maybe I've missed something -- that the title is supposed to be ironic, for example. It's available to watch streamed at the BBC Four website if you want to make up your own mind.


Liverpool Life "Hi boys and odd, smooth, compellingly bumpy non-boys. I'm in Liverpool, on Alexis' lap... sorry, laptop, checking in and seeing all sorts of nonsense about a sequel to something. I did run into someone at Forbidden Planet, and he said something about that I ought to make more things, possibly art things, and I agreed. He didn't know the fellow I was with was Brian Hitch but it was 'cause I'm so, yeah, awesome." -- Joss Whedon.

Now this particular post to Whedoneque is getting some press because he signals a lack of sequel to Serenity. Not that there never ever be a sequel ever, just not right now -- which is being interpreted all over the place as there not being a sequel never ever which would be wrong. Me? I just think its really funny that Joss was in Liverpool. Reminds me too that Alexis Denisof has a play at the Liverpool Playhouse this week that I completely forgot about.

And personal...

TV The approach, from Liverpool, to the Doctor Who Up Close Exhibition at Spaceport in Seacombe is extraordinary. Well, ok, you can get the train and two buses, or drive, but the way to do it is on a River Cruise, on a ferry across the Mersey (cue Gerry and the Pacemakers). A combined ticket is available and although this was not the warmest of days and the wind really did nearly blow me off the deck it's one of the best journeys, riding past the three graces, the Albert Dock and the wind turbines near Crosby. A commentary explains the landscape, although the gale was so strong it blotted out the sound of the speakers. No matter. Nothing could stop be standing on the bow of the ship, arms outstretched.

There is a great little leaflet on the main Spaceport ticket desk produced by someone at the museum, obviously a fan, with lots of history, including his top ten favourite monsters, Who Girls and Villians, list of companions and Doctors, episode guide to the new series and a summary of the exhibits. It's so detailed, it even mentions John Culshaw's connection with the programme because he narrates the Planetarium show ('Spaceport has its own Doctor!').

The exhibition itself is - abbreviated. After the prerequisite display of merchandise and an old black & white television showing the first Doctorless five minutes of An Unearthly Child, you're confronted by a giant poster pointing out the various incarnations with another one opposite of Tennant, his head the size of the Face of Boe. To the side is a small 'theatre' showing The Satan Pit and straight ahead an Auton arm and the test tube filled with anti-plastic.

Stepping forward I see a Perspex display case, The Doctor's browncoat and Rose's costume from New Earth within. To the left someone from the Forrest of Cheem. Elsewhere are a Dalek, a Cyberman, a Clockwork Man, a Slitheen, an Ood and K9 (which did give me the opportunity to shout 'K9!', quietly at least). Costumes too from a Monk from Tooth & Claw and Rose in The Idiots Lantern. And I was disappointed.

The place lacked atmosphere - for all the plasma screens showing episodes - and good lord doesn't The Girl In The Fireplace look amazing - doesn't all of it - I simply failed to be moved. Is it that I lack the connection with these props that I have with those from the old series, all stocked up at Blackpool, because I haven't grown up with them? Is it that they didn't seem rare enough - knowing that there are bunch of some of these things in existence means that they lose their luster?

Or is it perhaps that the way they're displayed without much in the way of narrative and huge signs all over saying 'please don't touch anything' drawing you out of the experience reminding you that they are in fact just props and costumes and that its how they're used and brought to life that actually makes them special. Is this something to do with my age - have I - eep - grown up? Is this all just y'know for kids?

Makes you think. Although it did make me feel Doctorish enough to do this on the way home so it must have been doing something right.


Life I was passing through James Street Station on the way home from seeing this, and after buying a newspaper I passed through the ticket office (or 'booking hall' as the electronic voice in the lift indefensibly calls it) and noticed one of the station masters talking to girl and pointing at a map. I thought nothing of it, and waited for the lift down to platform level. I found the correct side, as I looked up at the departure board I noticed that the same station master was talking to the same girl and pointing again at a different map. I heard him exasperatedly saying 'Lime Street. It's two stops along. Two stops.' The girl was looking at him blankly, looking at the map, looking at him and sighing and saying 'Sheffield'.

I walked up and grinned. 'She getting off at Lime Street?' I asked.
'Yes, mate.'
'I'm getting off at Central Station. I can tell her the right stop.'
'Oh. Thanks mate.'
I grinned at her. She looked at me with the look of someone who is wondering what the hell is going on but really doesn't know what to do.
'I'll show you where to get off.' I said.
She looked at me blankly. I pointed at the map, at Lime Street printed on the map.
'Here.' I said softly.
She glared at the map. She glared at me. She glared at the station master who was disappearing up the platform. Although oddly he turned and asked: 'Are you getting off at Central?'
'Yes.' I said.
But then I looked at her. She's about my height, thin. Long sandy coloured cardigan, head scarf. I looked at the map. I thought about what to say next.
'Actually' I said knowing full well she had no idea what I was saying but needing to say it, 'I'll get off at Lime Street - I can get off at Lime Street and I can show you the right was to go.'
She nodded. I'm not sure if she understood what I was saying or humouring the clown.

The train arrived. I pointed at the train. 'The one.' After the passengers had alighted we stepped on - I followed her onto the carriage. We passed by a few empty seats and I wondered if she would sit. But she was looking for an empty section. We sat. The train left the station. She looked out of the window into the darkness, I looked ahead. I wanted to say something but there was really nothing I could say.


Lime Street. I jumped up and she followed my lead. We stepped off the train and she stood and looked both ways before then standing in the queue that was waiting to go back on the train. I pointed again, this time at the exit from the underground to the mainline. 'This way.' We walked. Into the tunnel towards the escalator. I didn't think anything of it but somewhere along the line we'd ended up walking next to each other.

We stepped onto the escalator, at the bottom. And I felt a hand grab hold of mine. She was holding my hand and I was steadying her as she stepped onto the escalator. I might have done a better job of it if I'd known because as the stair slipped automatically upward, she was swaying, then stopped just about keeping her balance. And for the first time she was laughing. I was laughing too.

And then there was an uncomfortable silence as we both realised that we were still holding hands. I didn't know what to do and I don't think she did either. Eventually she simply let go - I asked her about getting her ticket out for the barrier which she did - she got it out of the blue folder she was carrying then put it back again. We nervously stumble off the top of the escalator turn a corner and there's another one. This time I put my hand out at the right time, she laughs and we stepped in time. This time the hand holding is resolute as though it's the most normal thing in the world.

There's some fun at the ticket gate because she flashes her ticket for Sheffield but the ticket man lets us through the barrier. We walk though the subway up towards the mainline and use the hop-skip-handhold again up the final escalator. As we emerge onto the main concourse at the mainline station I look across expecting a flash of recognition.

Nothing. She looks even more lost than before.

I ask to see her ticket, she pulls out of the blue folder again. It's a single to Sheffield. So however she'd ended up in Liverpool it wasn't through the station. I can't leave her.

She follows me over to the departure board and look across and realise that the right train is the route I used to get to college, ten to the hour. Right.

'Platform Eight, ten to four.' I say, again with the pointing.
She shrugs. I look up at the station clock. The train isn't for another twenty-five minutes. I suddenly become worried about what'll happen between me leaving her and her actually getting on the train as though no one else could possible shout louder or make the kind of weird gesticulating hand gestures that I'd been embarrassingly attempting.
'I'll show you.' I say and put my hand out in the way you often see people do in television dramas to get someone to follow them.
We're walking towards platform eight.
'So we're you from?' I ask.
'Congo?' I repeat like a loon.
I nods recognizing my loonity.
We reach the platform and I realise I now have to tell her what time the next train is.

I hold my finger up. 'I'm going to count. You count - how long you have to wait.'
I hold my hand up and move it forward. 'Five''
I hold my hand up and move it forward again. 'Ten.'
And again. 'Fifteen.'
She shakes her head. She points at her finger. 'One.' She says.
'Ok.' I point my way through my fingers, 'One, two, three, four ... ten, eleven, twelve .... sixteen, seventeen ... oh this isn't going to work...'

She reaches into her bag. She pulls out a pen and paper. She starts to write: '17h'
I take the pen and write, '15h 52m' then realise that if she turns up at that time she'll miss the train. I write as well, '15h 45m' That's the time. She seems to understand, now I'm confused.

At this point I know you're thinking, oh bless him, he saw her onto the train. I know you're thinking that because I thought about it too. But really I didn't want it to get to the stage were I'm actually on a train to Sheffield with her to make sure she got off at the right station and suddenly my life really is a sitcom. On reflection I might have waited to see the guard, but really at what point does this become obsessive and sad? Don't answer that.

I look around the platform and notice a Virgin Trains kiosk. I have plan. I grin, probably maniacally, at her again, and point at the floor. 'Wait here.'

I step into the kiosk and look about. There's a woman sitting next to a table covered in capital of culture leaflets. 'Excuse me.'

I tell her the story, about meeting this Congolese girl at James Street, about the escalators (not sure why) and about my predicament. 'I was wondering - it's the next train in at the platform - could you possibly - if you see her - make sure she gets on the train ok?'
'Bless you,' she says, 'Of course I will. How will I know her?' I'm pointing again, 'Oh her.'

I walk about up to my new friend, 'Right that woman in there' she turns with me and we look in the kiosk, almost on cue the Virgin woman waves 'will show you which train to get on when.' I make the universal gesture for OK. 'Ok?' She nods. 'Sure?'

'Thank you.' She says, and she grins again.

And I walk away and head into a shop to buy a pint of milk. I turn around for a moment on the way to see what's happening. My new friend is stepping into the kiosk. After the milk buying I look back again and she's sitting on the platform.

I do hope she left the train at Sheffield...

The Green Death.

TV Poor old Mike Yates. After three years of apparent infatuation with Jo, she's grabbed out of his clutches at the last minute by some flash scientist with long hair who grows fungii. Typical. 'The Girls' is probably one of the reasons Mike gave on his application for joining the army. Then when he channels all of his efforts into Jo, the one girl of his dreams, she goes into the jungle with some hippie. And he's inadvertently wearing a suit just to symbolically demonstrate how 'straight' he is. Again, typical.

These are the forgotten moments of a scene whose emotional effects are usually attributed to The Doctor. For a series that often had a reputation for running rough shod over human feelings, here are Letts and Dicks giving time to something which has simply been an undercurrent in a few previous stories, and making Yates something of a tragic hero (presumably to aid the justification of his rail falling later).

This is just one of the many moments which can be quite happily thrown, flan like, in the face of anyone who perpetuates the myth that classic Doctor Who lacked sentiment. Some of the praise that greeted the new series included pleasure that for the first time ever it plucked the heart strings, with the Dalek's demise in Dalek being cited as an example. It's something that is relatively evident in every story in both new seasons, as people die usually in fairly horrific ways.

The difference in the 'old' series is that the best of such moments are unexpected. Yes, there were the events, Sarah-Jane leaves, Tom regenerates, Adric smacking into a planet, in which tears were positively encouraged but arguably just as effective, if not more so, were the quiet times, mid-story when a companion, would all to rarely give lip surface to actually how they were feeling long term about something.

In The Tomb of the Cybermen for example, although the image of the defrosting hoard arguably sticks in most memories, there is also a lovely scene in which Victoria reflects on the loss of her father in previous story; it has little to do with much of anything else happening in the story but it feels real and human, and as a side note Troughton, often remembered as being a but of a shouty clown, was for once able to present some understand and subtly, something that the programme at the time predominantly failed to tap into.

This a similar pattern to The Green Death, as nowhere has Mike's love for Jo been signalled -- indeed this is one of the rare occasions when they're even in the same room together. The point is that for the purposes of the drama, Mike needn't be wearing his heart on his sleeve. The rest of the story, amid the mad computer and viruses and giant maggots has been about Jo falling for Cliff and vice-versa. Mike simply hasn't been in the frame.

For a split second, and Yates gapes and drops his head then looks up grinning, and there is genuine sorrow for him, at a time when the audience should really be sad to see the back of a popular companion. It continues through the rest of the ensuing scene until the Brigadier's pat on the back, which is a pleasure. Watch Franklin - Yates has been given a heart blow and he's showing it, each new bit of exposition from the research grant onwards wounding him.

That the Brigadier is the one to console him, revealing that behind the gruff, the cap and the moustache is a man who is actually paying attention to the lives and feelings of his officers also gives Lethbridge-Stewart a dimension that wouldn't be apparent again until Mawdryn Undead some years later. What's usually forgotten too is that this is Mike's final few moments as part of the Unit family - he's a traitor in Invasion of the Dinosaurs and in seclusion in Planet of the Spiders - so this would also be the last moment we witness them in a moment of mutual respect. From then on, everything would change.


Life I chanced upon the horoscope in Metro Liverpool today. It's by Wendy Bristow. This is what is said:
"As from today, your brain is working overtime. Try not to get obsessive. You know what you can be like. Strategise away, by all means. But there?s no need to walk around with a big frown on your face. It doesn?t become you."
I never read my horoscope.

I simply don't believe in them. They either apply to everyone in the category in which case they're worthless or they only apply to a percentage in which case they're equally worthless -- which is not a win/win scenario but is a decent enough rationalisation for me.

So why does this one so perfectly capture how I've been feeling and offer a way forward?

I'm a Scorpio by the way, which according to the Wikipedia means I'm:
"thought to have a complex, emotional, analytical, focused, determined, hypnotic, and self-contained character, but one which is also prone to extremity, jealousy, possessiveness, stubbornness, and cruelty. In terms of anatomy, Scorpio is said to rule the pelvis, reproductive system and urinary system."
I'm a frightening person aren't I?


Politics I don't know anything about anything but I'm fairly sure that the Conservatives are going to win the next General Election.


This is why.

The main news story that buzzed around the Lib Dem conference was whether Ming is a good leader. At the Labour conference it was about when Tony would stop being leader and who else would have a chance. At the Tory conference all the talk is about infighting over a policy, using this word that has very much been on the back burner for the past fortnight. And no one is questioning David's legitimacy, at least not in public.

I'd imagine it'll be some time before the news story moves away from the personalities in the other parties, and by then the public will have more of an idea of Tory policy than anyone else's and people will always vote for the party they know something about unless they're stuck with a habit.

Which means I'll inevitably by voting for the Libs Dems again. But Charles will be back in charge by then. See -- don't know anything about anything.

Liverpool Biennial #2

Art Yesterday I had the pleasure of strolling down to Greenland Street for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2006. As with the previous exhibition, there are some hidden gems, but two pieces in particular have stuck in my memory.

In Joshua Balgos's very effective video work Cigarettes (2005), an audio recording of a conversation between a shop clerk and a man buying cigarettes ensues over an ever changing collage showing snatches of the same photograph of a beautiful white house.

As what should be a simple transaction gains a depth that neither parties seems to want, accompanying subtitles intimate the double meaning of the actual thoughts behind their words; its the famous scene from Woody Allen's Annie Hall replayed without the benefits of the characters faces and (here's the twist) from a racial perspective.

Kiran Kaur Dra's Passport Lahloh (2004) the video recording of a performance piece in which a girl sits at the side of the road with an upturned box covered in passports. An interested crowd gathers and it slowly becomes apparent that not all is as it seems.

What's brilliant about these pieces is that they're both accessible and yet rely upon the viewer to assimilate the method of representation very quickly before presenting a startling twist which leads them to watch again so that they can savour the moment again with a new perspective, a trick seen in innumerable feature films, but achieved here in around two minutes. Amazing.

Poor Old Mike Yates

Elsewhere I've posted what amounts to a new Scene Unseen to Behind The Sofa about the final moments of Doctor Who: The Green Death.


TV "I won't go on. It also "looks horrifically cheap" and has had "one pound fifty" spent per episode. That, you see, is Nicole Jackson's idea of a joke, to vastly underestimate how much has been spent on an episode to the point that it's actually so low it's mad. We must therefore take her word for what's funny and what's not funny. She is also happy to use the phrase "fantastically brilliant" twice, which rather suggests she is 12." -- Andrew Collins reviews the critics of his new sitcom.


Plug! From Keris:

This week on Trashionista: BAFAB will be fab!

Diane Shipley and Keris Stainton, co-editors of Trashionista, the book news and reviews site whose motto proclaims, "We read books like they're going out of fashion!" are excited to announce Trashionista's participation in this October's Buy a Friend a Book Week (BAFAB).

From October 1-5 2006 on, you'll find exclusive guest blogs from best-selling chick-lit authors (stop by to find out who!), interviews, and seven (and counting?) book giveaways. Plus, find out what books we'd buy for our friends, and why!

It goes without saying (doesn't it?!) that of course you'll also find all of the usual great Trashionista content: book reviews (focusing on women's fiction, chick-lit and memoir) and book news (focusing on anything hot or controversial in the book world in general) all delivered with intelligence and a sense of fun.

Please stop by from October 1-5 for BAFAB week, Trashionista style- and help make it a week to remember!

More about Trashionista:

Trashionista gets to grips with the wonderful world of female fiction. We take an unbiased look at beach reads, bestsellers, new releases and old favourites -and we actually read the books before writing about them. At Trashionista we don't believe that 'chick lit' is a dirty word - but if a book is trash, we'll let you know!
Trashionista is a Shiny Media website created by Gemma Cartwright and edited by Diane Shipley and Keris Stainton. To contact the editors email at

More about Buy a friend a Book Week (BAFAB):


Life Some things I'm thinking about:

-- My cousin became a father last night which for some reason led me to realise that because I'm an only child I'll never be anyone's uncle, least of all a monkey's.

-- Shakespeare's Coriolanus is really about a posh bloke who can't get his life sorted out and eventually gets a clip around the earhole from his mother.

-- My student card ran out yesterday which means I'm no longer officially a student, except my dissertation hasn't completed marking yet, so I'm caught in limbo.

-- Getting my head around not being a student any more has been more difficult than I expected.

-- Every job I'm half interested in appears to be in London and doesn't appear to have a salary which means you could actually live in London.


Ebay "(Be aware that whilst this screenshot may look appealing - flying women into space with ordinary human powers, and without special equipment or training - is highly dangerous. For one there is a distinct lack of oxygen in space, and despite popular rumour there are no Burger Kings or Blockbuster Video stores in outer space. Your date is likely to sue for suffocation - and in the very least will not return the CDs you lent her)." -- from a none too serious listing for Superman IV on VHS.