Not tote-ally unexpected.

Life I received a not totally unexpected letter today. It was about a job, working at the Grand National and it very politely told me that they would not be employing me for the three days of the event, at least not with their company. Usually when you receive such letters (this one wasn't even specially written, a photocopy) you're deeply disappointed but I couldn't help laughing. Let me explain.

Whilst I was signing on the Thursday before last I glanced through the 'just in' jobs which are listed on a sheet at the table. At the top, ringed by a zig-zaggy line was something about work at the Grand National, coming to Aintree soon. I asked the man behind the counter wondering if, even though it said that I'd missed the recruitment, if there would be a chance. He explained that the recruitment was every week and I should go along.

On Wednesday morning then, I was sitting in a waiting area filling in an application form waiting for my turn to enter a room for an ad-hoc interview. As I was trying to remember my GCSE grades I was half listening to the comments of the people who were leaving and they were saying that they were being asked about previous experience and being told if they'd got the job there and then.

Problem. I was under the impression that the recruitment was for all kinds of jobs connected with the National. On the bus there I'd thought that perhaps I might get something on their ticket and information line what with all my call centre experience. I was strangely quite excited by the prospect. This was just me being a fantasist - the man at the job centre had mentioned that they'd be looking to fill a range of jobs including litter picker.

But as I sat filling in my references, it slowly dawned on me that everyone was talking about their bar and restaurant experience. One girl mentioned that she'd talked about working in Ibiza and how it was that it which got her the job. Someone else mentioned that she usually gets good tips - over £200 worth - which is good because the insurance premium for her car was payable soon. Exactly what work was I actually being interviewed for here? I inked in the boxes of the accompanying p46 awaited my turn.

As I stepped into the glass-walled interview room, there sat a friendly looking woman behind an office desk covered in forms and biros. We smiled at each other, shook hands and I sat down. I passed over my application form and a copy of my CV and she began to fill in the covering sheet. She took my name and other particulars, and I thought it was time to ask.

'Erm.. I had a problem with the application form.'
'Oh yes?'
'There's a section which asks what work I'm interested in. Well, erm, the problem is … I'm not sure what the job is I'm actually applying for.'
'Oh.' She paused. 'Right.'
'Because when I went to the job centre…' I told her about the job centre.
'I see. Well, we're a catering firm.'
'Oh.' I said.
'We provide the food and drink services to the Grand National.'
'Right. Well that's a problem too.' I was dejected.
'It is? Why?'
'I don't actually have any experience. I've never worked in a pub or restaurant. Nothing like it. The closest I've had is eighteen months working at Liverpool Museum's shop. That's my retail experience.'
'Right. I see.'

She began to fill in the rest of the cover sheet. It said: 'Previous experience:' Next to which she wrote. 'None.'
I laughed. She laughed.
Next. 'Position most interested in:'
She said: 'Anything.'
I said: 'Anything you think I'm qualified for. I haven't a chance have I?'
'Well, we do have fifteen hundred slots to fill. I should be able to find you something. There are training days too which you might find interesting.'
'So that's positive.'
She told me about the uniform and whatnot and the hours of work. We talked some more about this and that and I managed to discover that the firm covered everything from Wimbledon the Cheltenham Festival and that they'll be catering the Summer Pops.
'And if you're enjoying the work, if you let your manager know you should be able to get work there too.'
We left on good terms I thought. And I was filled with the thoughts of picking up wine glasses discarded by people in posh suits and frocks, the sound on horses pounding around a race track, the smell of muddy grass and stale beer, being able to make a bet at the actual tote myself.

Then that letter came this morning. 'As the Grand National is such a prestigious event we have far more applications than vacancies, for this reason we are unable to offer you a position. Your application will be kept on file for any future vacancies we may have.' There was then some gratefully received luck wishing that I'll really need for any future job applications.

Such a shame, but as I said not totally unexpected. After all, only I could turn up for a job interview not knowing what I was actually applying for and lacking any relevant qualifications whatsoever.

"How about A Tale of Two Cities - in outer space?''

TV Fourth Season Commissioned. Something I think we sort of knew already but a confirmation is buried at the bottom of this Daily Telegraph interview. Not much else we haven't heard before other than that a Christmas special has already been written and Russell wishes that he'd done a Dickens adaptation. [via]

[Broken links in original.]

Links for 2007-03-09 [] - Rmail

  • WikiCharts: Top 100
  • filmlog: Just Like Heaven (2005)
    An old fashioned film which seems to have been shot on about three sets, this is a classic case of a good cast and direction not quite being able to gloss over a poorly structured wandering script that doesn't make the most of its premise.
  • filmlog: The Libertine (2005)
    I think the wikipedia entry says it all: 'WARNING: This movie contains a scene with dildos being used in an explicit non-nude fashion.' It's a while since I've seen a film photographed with such painterly attention to detail. Just wonderful.
  • filmlog: The House of Mirth (2000)
    Gillian Anderson sparkles in the central role of Lily Bart in a kind of anti-costume drama demonstrating that actually in most of these things, no matter the apparent jeopardy it could be much, much worse. Takes a long time going about it though.
  • filmlog: Yes (2004)
    Sally Potter's iambic pentameter experiment injects even more lyricism in a film that's far greater than the sum of it's parts, infusing a story of infidelity with commentary on east-west politics. Shirley Henderson's to camera asides are genius.
  • filmlog

    Elsewhere I haven't really drawn attention to it too much, but the filmlog I have at delicious is becoming invaluable. Attempting to reduce your opinion of a film down to two lines really focuses the mind -- what to include or highlight? I find myself being less didactic simply because I'm also linking to something that explains what the film is about, so it's all about expressing the experience instead.

    Links for 2007-03-08 [] - Rmail

  • BBC NEWS Northern Ireland: Elf defence for 'lingerie thief'
    "He told the court he had been involved in a role-playing game at the time, and his character was an elf named Beho. [..] within his small social circle he had been participating in a game known as Shadowrun."
  • Observations on film art and FILM ART : This is your brain on movies, maybe
    Explores the concept of anomalous suspense -- the situation in which you become excited during films even if you either know the outcome of the story or have seen the film many times before -- focuses on 'United 93' but I'd offer Apollo 13 too.
  • Anti-anti-piracy ad
    Oh yes, very true. It's got to the stage were you can put a dvd in the machine and go make a cup of tea and by the time you've returned there's still a heap of copyright notices and crap to sit through - none of which tends to be skippable.
  • BBC NEWS: Gormley's statues stay out to sea
    Another Place isn't now going to another place.
  • Vanilla Days : Lewis’s Closing
    It is an here's the photographic evidence. So sad. I'll have to visit tomorrow and buy some biscuits.
  • Scribd
    YouTube for documents. It probably won't be that useful until half the internet is using it...
  • Boldly going sideways.

    Film Excuse me while I geek out for a moment. Chud are reporting that the new Star Trek film isn't actually a prequel but a re-imagining. Hmm... why? They've no doubt looked at Battlestar Galactica and so forth and decided that in order to make the story relevant for today that they need to toss out forty-odd years of chronology and continuity so that they can write it they way they want to. Plus they've probably seen the hoops Enterprise often went through to try and tie itself in with a future story rooted in the past.

    But hold on -- isn't the forty-odd years of continuity what makes Star Trek, Star Trek? Granted when the show started everything was parred back. It's amazing in the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before how little information there is about the world outside the Enterprise. But slowly episode on episode a universe was built, characterisations deepened and even in the often disappointing third season you still had a sense of a point of time in the future. Dropping all of this for the film, even for the latent fan and the disaffected will be a real wrench.

    The prema example of a reimagined franchise is Doctor Who -- simply because Russell T Davies was clever enough to create something that didn't contradict the past but still managed to have a ring of now about it. So fans weren't pissed off because it wasn't the show they fell in love with and new viewers could see it as something brand new and for them. This also seems like a strange decision given how much money is being ploughed into sprucing up the classic series with new CG effects and whatnot.

    Certainly they're probably scared shitless by the weight of that continuity and having to write something which doesn't contradict what we already know about these characters and unlike Doctor Who which regularly and charmingly contradicted itself on regular basis there is an accepted set of facts which can't really be changed. But it can be done. You just have to refocus yourself and actually enjoy the fact that some of the work has already been done for you and decide that you're adding to what we already know.

    The decision probably has more to do with not wanting to create a film that has a retro look so that it's fits within what has already been seen. That makes sense. But I've never understood why the 60s style of the classic series has been such an albatross. And indeed in Trials and Tribblations the Deep Space Nine story were the crew went back in time for an adventure on Kirk's ship, Jadzia Dax, who'd been around at the time for various reasons, comments about how great the 23rd century design is with its sleek lines and minimalism.

    In other words, design the film any way you like. It'll still make sense. The 60s designs aren't not cutting edge -- they're choices for the 2200s reflecting a particularly aesthetic. Later they became something else. There have been countless examples of wild design ideas being used and jettisoned when the application becomes more important than style. Just visit any design museum and look at the chairs.

    So please JJ Abrams, make this the Star Trek that we know and some of us love before it's too late. I mean this could be Galactica, creating something that's even better than the original. But it would be all too easy to be stuck with another Lost In Space, trying to be many things to many people and turning out something that entertains no one but us Lacey Chabert fans.

    Links for 2007-03-07 [] - Rmail

  • My Boring Ass Life » Hail Britannia: U.K., I’m coming your way!
    Of course it's great that Kevin likes coming to the UK -- but do you think there's a chance he might travel outside the M25 next time? Liverpool would welcome him -- the FACT centre's a pretty good venue ...
  • Javno: Jean Baudrillard Dies At 77
    One of the minds I consulted last year whilst I was writing my dissertation, particularly his work on post-modern society. Always lucid, if not easy to read. To paraphrase him -- life is only really a simulation of freedom.
  • BBC Press Office: Sherlock Holmes And The Baker Street Irregulars
    Yes, everyone, it's a remake of 'The Baker Street Boys' although the casting suggests Holmes and Watson are going to be writ much larger in this version.
    The original Baker Street Boys.
  • Used and New: Tom Dick and Harry
    I don't know which is odder -- that someone at Amazon made up this film while they were probably testing some database update -- or that Marketplace sellers are claiming to be selling copies ...
  • The Secret Of Roan Inish [1994]
    One of the films I inevitably forgot to write about in Forgotten Film February is belatedly coming out on dvd. One of the best kids films ever made and heartwarming/breaking for adults too.
  • BBC NEWS Nick Robinson's Newslog: Beware of source speculation
    Nick blogs the injunction: "What is interesting is to see how cautious some papers are and how brave (reckless?) others have been."
  • Don't go breaking my heart

    Elsewhere I've been writing at The Hamlet Weblog tonight about the wonderful film The Libertine (2005) which if nothing else shows that you can still light a whole film using candles. Didn't manage to work in anything about the central scene in which a small person is wheeled on stage riding a giant papier mache fallus though. Or the orgy. Really, it's a very ... surprising ... movie ...

    The Libertine (2004)

    Ophelia played by Elizabeth Barry
    Directed by The Earl of Rochester

    A bawdy potential companion piece to Restoration and Stage Beauty, The Libertine portrays the fast life and slow death of the second Earl of Rochester, a soul who paraphrasing his own words, drank and shagged his away around London, all the while falling in and out of favour with Charles II before contracting the pox. As the lead, Johnny Depp gives one of his electrically intense performances but the real draw is the photography which unusually for a costume drama is mostly hand held and the entire work is lit only with candles, scene evoked magically through pools of light.

    The incursion of Hamlet occurs in a Pygmalianesque story strand when the Earl takes a fancy to one of the new prostitutes turned stage actresses, Lizzy Barry (Samantha Morton) whom he coaches in the way of performance, as part of, unknown to her, a wager with his pals that he can turn her into the greatest actress on the London stage. She's to play Ophelia and he has her repeat the 'Oh what a noble mind is here overthrown' speech all day until she learns to speak it from her heart and not through some mechanical process.

    As is customary these kinds of stories, her progress is described through a montage sequence that ends with glimpses of Lizzy's performance, a devastatingly good naturalistic reading which would certainly have overshadowed whoever might be playing Hamlet for a change (although she is all we see of the show). Like the production of Othello at the close of Stage Beauty, it's certainly anachronistic, but it's important at this moment for us to understand why the Earl has fallen for her and this simply wouldn't have worked if her passion had been filtered through the recognizable stage form of the time.

    It's one of the those moments that sometimes crops up during play within a film scenes when the layers of costume and setting drop away and its between the actress and the camera and it's impossible to tell were the actress begins and the actress playing a character who is an actress playing a character ends. It would be a definite tragedy were we not to see Samantha Morton's interpretation of the role under other circumstances. Any chance of a new film version with Depp as Hamlet and Morton as Ophelia?

    "trouble ahead, squire"

    TV Ian Jones of Digi-Cream Times imagines what Doctor Who might have been like had it actually been written by Richard Stilgoe: "The Doctor finally arrives at his destination, only to find the Brigadier (Geoffrey Palmer) looking grim. "Sorry Doctor, but you're too late," he intones. "The entire place has been overrun - by red tape!" "Good heavens!" cries the Doctor, "is there nothing you can do?" "Afraid not, old boy. This stuff just keeps on coming. Whitehall is spewing it out, non-stop!"

    Links for 2007-03-06 [] - Rmail

  • unitnews: Sky Viewing Figures Slump
    Bit of an own goal then for Sky who once again misunderstand who their viewers are and the extent of their loyalty. They're probably expecting Virgin viewers to switch but since most of them are on broadband, they'll be looking online instead.
  • the f-word: Loosing at football = watching gang rape
    No, no, and please Tom Duncan from the Newham Recorder, no. It must be difficult coming up with good footballing metaphores week in and out, but really this is very wrong and you should be ashamed.
  • Mystery Man on Film: Script Review - Transformers
    Less than complimentary and about what I expected. People are not going to transformers for human stories. They're going to see Transformers. Did you actually read the comic book or watch the cartoon?
  • Mssv: Fire Alert at Heathrow
    "People looked up quizzically; was this real? Most people decided not to take any chances and began to collect their bags and look around for the nearest green sign. This was hastened when shop staff started closing up."
  • Visited Manchester

    Life I spent the day in Manchester today just to spend the day in Manchester. I've missed the journey since leaving university sometimes it's just nice to be able stroll about a different city. Visited Vinyl Exchange for Norah Jones, All Saints and Astrid Williamson albums. Visited Stationary Box to see if there were any bargains before they close for good. Bought some batteries.

    Visited the art gallery for the Sophie MacCorquodale's exhibition. Waiting for the day is a group of short films made in and around Rhyl in North Wales, the most effective being a simply documentary about the Labour club which demonstrates the shift in how local people are being entertained. The manager emphasises that what he's trying to do is provide a safe environment for older people to socialise in away from the 'discos' which are filled with younger people.

    Visited the Cornerhouse to see the aforementioned. It really benefits a fairly unheralded film like Orchestra Seats to be seen on a big screen and as far as I can tell only the Cornerhouse locally that would (a) show somthing like that and (b) show it on their main screen. The cinema has a scheme in which chairs can be sponsored and the seat in front of my favourite spot contains a plaque in which a family memorializes a lifelong cinema fan. I'd like to think that some day someone would do something like that for me.

    'Is anyone else hot in here?'

    Film Sweet comedy drama Orchestra Seats demonstrates that major life changes are still possible no matter were fate has put you and how much your future is mapped out. A girl heads to Paris looking for her fortune finds herself working in a café at the centre of an arts district were she meets amongst others a pianist who is doubting his profession, an old art collector selling of all of his possessions and an actress desperate to move from the soap opera she's renowned for into movies. It's a faux-hyperlink film in which everyone meets in and around the café and swapping advice and making friendships.

    With its Amelie tinged set up, the film certainly isn't going to win any awards for originality. But this lacks that film's much criticized stylization enjoying instead Allenesque romanticism and quick fire dialogue and the kind of comments on society that Cedric Klapisch achieves so well. It's the kind of stereotypical French film in which people sit around in interiors drinking wine, philosophically going over life's troubles to a soundtrack supplied by the likes of Charles Aznavour. The cast is also a who's who of contemporary French cinema with such familiar faces as Cécile De France, Albert Dupontel, Claude Brasseur, Annelise Hesme and even and oddly Sydney Pollack who are all playing variations on the kinds of roles they're known for elsewhere.

    It could be argued that this does for Paris what Richard Curtis did for London what with constant appearance of the Eiffel Tower in almost every shot and references to other familiar landmark. But unlike Love Actually, you never feel as though your emotions are being manipulated and despite the light trappings most of the characters have some dark edges. It could be argued that director Danièle Thompson is specifically trying to satirize exactly this mode of filmmaking, with the actress in particular voicing some biting asides about the kind of casting that occurs in these things. That said, sometimes it's good to spend two hours in a fantasy and that's exactly what the film delivers right through to a climax in which all of the characters find what they're looking for and unstereotypically for a French film of this ilk without ambiguity or consequence.

    Links for 2007-03-05 [] - Rmail

  • DVD Times: Boston Legal: Season Two
    "Throwing caution to the wind, again and again it’s absurd, nonsensical and very funny." I can't wait. Denny Crane. Denny Crane. Denny Crane.
    "Find individual articles from many freely accessible magazines by browsing the categories or using the search engine."
  • filmlog: The Godfather (1972)
    Filleted and parodied in the decades since, this remains a powerful and exciting piece of work helped by some amazing photography from Gordon Willis. They didn't call him 'the prince of darkness' for nothing.
  • Oscars in pieces

    Film I've heard talk of how great Jerry Seineld was at the Oscars, upstaging Ellen Degeneres in much the same way that Ricky Gervais did at our Baftas, producing more comedy hold in five minutes than Jonathan Ross did all night. I can't really comment because I haven't seen it, but this letter to the academy from John Sinno producer of James Longley's Iraq In Fragments paints an unflattering picture:
    "To have a presenter introduce a category with such disrespect for the nominees and their work is counter to the principles the Academy was founded upon. To be nominated for an Academy Award is one of the highest honors our peers can give us, and to have the films dismissed in such an offhand fashion was deeply insulting. The Academy owes all documentary filmmakers an apology."
    It's a balance, I suppose, between offering entertainment and respecting the thing which you're actually handing out awards for.

    Release the Kroll

    TV ChoicesUK are showing a Region Two release for The Key To Time season boxset. The restoration team aren't commenting, presumably because it hasn't been announced by 2Entertain but it seems a bit erroneous to me. The current schedule does only run until May so anything's possible.

    [All links broken in original version.]

    Extermination by Chocolate

    TV A variation on Blue Peter's old Dalek cake recipe: "There are two possible methods to follow with regard to this recipe; one. Read the following instructions or two. buy as many chocolate items as you can carry home in a large family estate car and simply make it up as you go along." [via]

    Links for 2007-03-04 [] - Rmail

  • Liverpool Web Site and Forum: Sefton Park railings
    AskMe-style discussion about the holes in the wall around Sefton Park, Liverpool.
  • filmlog: Inherit the Wind (1960)
    Still a remarkable film for all the monotone approach to religion & politics with amazing performances from Tracy and March. If I could criticise it's that sometimes the histrionics and shouting drown out the message.
  • filmlog: Jurassic Park III (2001)
    Partly written by Alexander Payne (between 'Election' and 'About Schmidt'). Certainly a hell of a lot better than it could have been thanks to some fun performances and tight direction and a development of the creature concepts.
  • Mustard: R.I.P. NEON Magazine
    Nice, short appreciation of the best film magazine few have read. Think 'Hotdog' but actually good.
  • Google Search: "neon magazine" article film
    Some of their journalism lives on throughout the web. One day I might try and see if I can reconstruct a few issues using bootleg online data.
  • Rolling Stone : Q&A: Norah Jones
    "I don't consider myself in the same league as all those great old records. That album wasn't made with pop goals, but it was made with different goals than most of those jazz records. I consider myself lucky."
  • Words, words, words.

    Meme It's all in the reading:

    You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451; which book do you want to be?

    It would have to be short -- I'm horrible at remembering anything; The Miller's Tale from Chaucer. It's comedy and literature and steeped in historical detail. Perfect. Plus no one will be able to understand anything I'm saying so if I make any mistakes they won't be able to tell.

    Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

    Eustacia Vye from Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native. Hardy spends the whole of Chapter Seven of Book One describing her:

    "She had pagan eyes, full of nocturnal mysteries, and their light, as it came and went, and came again, was partially hampered by their oppressive lids and lashes; and of these the under lid was much fuller than it usually is with English women. This enabled her to indulge in reverie without seeming to do so--she might have been believed capable of sleeping without closing them up. Assuming that the souls of men and women were visible essences, you could fancy the colour of Eustacia's soul to be flamelike. The sparks from it that rose into her dark pupils gave the same impression."

    Let's just say I was at the right age when I read this. Catherine Zeta Jones who would play her in a not very good television adaptation. She was not who I had in mind...

    The last book you bought was:

    The Pelican Guide to English Literature 6: from Dickens to Hardy. Edited by Boris Ford.

    The last book you read:

    What Just Happened?: Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Frontline by Art Linson

    What are you currently reading?

    Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts (Second Edition) by Susan Hayward. Today I discovered that most films in dominant (ie) Hollywood cinema open with an emblematic shot which sets the tone by showing something that captures the whole narritive. And it's true. Inherit The Wind? Courthouse. Star Wars? Big space ship.

    Five books you would take to a deserted island:

    Survive on a Desert Island by Claire Llewellyn
    The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare
    Doctor Who: Dying Days by Lance Parkin
    The Kid Stays In The Picture by Robert Evans
    Encyclopædia Britannica: Complete Edition

    Which should keep me busy...

    Who are you going to pass this meme to?

    Karie, Caro, Rob & Kelly.

    And anyone else who would like to play along... [via]

    Links for 2007-03-03 [] - Rmail

  • CultureSpace: Twenty Favorite Films
    Food for Lovefilm. What I love about such lists is that you can never agree with them -- like I'd never include any Godard outside of 'Breathless' and Glazer's 'Birth' -- really? Then again, I can't really talk for reasons that will become clear soon when I finally put my list together.