"When was the last time you squeed so hard..."

TV "... you forgot where you were?" Two girls watching Utopia for the first time. Yes, me too ...

"It is like something oughta StarGate."

Science John Barrowman does CERN. How does he find the time, bless him.

Scarf wearing

TV "I've already posted this elsewhere, but it's so good I'm posting it here."
When you look down the long dark corridor, everyone should know about it.

But it's the funniest thing I've read all day.

The funniest thing I've seen all day was the expression on Jonathan Ross's face during Live Earth (which I inevitably watched) when Chris Rock said something along the lines of 'It's so hot in America right now, all of the white guys are calling each other n****r.'


May contain scenes of mild peril.


Hey Pesto

Food I recently fell in love with Pesto. Here's why: "Pesto's simplicity is its elegance. This elegance hasn't changed for centuries. For those that like the simple pleasures that make life seem like a reasonable alternative, the making of pesto will take you there. It does not matter where you live or how you live it is possible to make (from scratch) this delicate sauce. I will describe how to make the sauce that has managed to survive from antiquity to the present. The ingredients are as ancient as the sauce itself. "

Still not watching, well this at least.

TV Anna Pickard covers last night's Big Brother eviction and surprise: "Ziggy and Chanelle are breaking up. Again. Slowly. Tortuously. It's like being forced to sit through your parents' divorce all over again. If your parents were young, shrill, blonde and two people you would happily seen flown to Siberia in bikinis.

Oh, and now they're kissing.
I give up."

the film that made her a star

Film Although is one of those articles which spends as much time talking about the processes of interviewing someone than actually reporting what they said, Jess Cartner-Morley does go some way towards getting under the skin of Maggie Gyllenhaal:
"Gyllenhaal is good at subverting expectations and asserting control. The first time the world sat up and took notice of her, as Lee Holloway in Secretary, she was bent over a desk in a pencil skirt, playing a submissive in a warped but oddly tender sadomasochistic relationship with her boss. Gyllenhaal breathed life into the role, making a character who could have been played as a passive sex object into something much more subtle and intriguing."
Unfortunately, it completely fails to mention what I think is her best performance, in Don Roos' Happy Endings but you can't have everything.

Will he watch? Won't he?

Music I couldn’t be less excited about watching LiveEarth tomorrow. As someone I spoke to earlier noted, it’s all the usual suspects, which is true to an extent (oh look -- Madonna -- yeah great -- perhaps she’ll swear again to the tea time audience because that just soo rock and roll), but other than that I’m deeply under whelmed by the line-up. Granted my literacy in relation to the popular music of the kids has taken a nosedive, but Duran Duran? Are you being ironic? Plus it’s being presented by Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross, because he obviously did such a great job last year assuming that his ego and humour making were more important than the music and the cause.

And isn’t a bit backwards that most of us, in watching this melody fest, will actually be contributing to the thing it’s trying to get the message out about? Wouldn’t it benefit the planet more if those of us who’ve already got the message played out in the rain instead or handed out leaflets to our neighbours to save them having to watch it? Is catching a set by Bloc Party really more important than stopping a polar bear from drowning? Perhaps I’m just in a misanthropic mood after this hellish week and I’ll be sitting down for Corinne Bailey Rae -- although probably not since her album contains exactly two good songs and screed of amateurish sappy ballads of the order that makes you long for the days of M People.

How come though that New York get KT Tunstall and the Smashing Pumpkins, Sydney has Toni Collette (who I really hope is the actress) & her band, Kyoto have Michael Nyman, Hamburg will be enjoying Shakira and Rothera Point will be rocking out to British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station house band, which has got to be a more exciting prospect than James bloody Blunt. Perhaps there’s more to be gained from surfing the interactive channels trying to chase these down, although if it's anything like Glastonbury, one of two channels afforded to freeview will be taken up by some DJ wittering on about what a great time everyone’s having, even though we’ve already realised there’s no substitute to actually being there.

Well, OK, I do have a soft spot for The Pussycat Dolls who are being introduced by David Tennant, and it’ll be fun to see Spinal Tap back in the saddle again, especially since they’re being introduced by Rob Reiner whose recent career missteps are entirely forgiven by that film, When Harry Met Sally, The Sure Thing, A Few Good Men and The Princess Bride (just about -- The Story of Us was shocking). All of this grumpiness is more than likely just an expression of my general resistance to new and good music of late. In my weakened condition and with Winamp on random, I’m in the middle of Daphne & Celeste’s Ooh Stick You and thinking it’s a work of genius. Perhaps I should lay off the Ibuprofen again.

Strangely wonderful

Film Another great My Year of Flops column, this time for the strangely wonderful It's All About Love: "Like Wong Kar-Wai’s strangely simpatico 2046, Love finds a maverick largely abandoning logic and coherence in a Quixotic quest for beauty and truth. It’s through the looking glass time as Vinterberg follows his wandering muse down a rabbit hole without caring much whether audiences will follow his lead."

Potential forty-two

I'd better start saving:
"Time-travelling David Tennant - the best of all the Dr Whos - is in negotiations to play Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company. To be, or not to be the Danish prince, that is the question for Mr Tennant, who starts shooting his third series as the Time Lord in Cardiff on Monday.

"The plan being developed by RSC artistic chief Michael Boyd is for Mr Tennant to play Hamlet in a production he wants to direct next summer. The exact timing will depend on whether the actor will do a fourth batch of episodes as the Converse All Stars-sporting Doctor. "
"To be or not to be...." "Ooh that's good." [via]

Wrong Des.

TV During a visit to the Channel 4 website looking for more on the news that they’re launching a +1 digital version of the main channel meaning that the same episode of Deal or No Deal could be shown three times in consecutive hours on different channels (and even clash with itself if the More4+1 on Sky is taken into account). Hoping for a press release which might explain where it’s going to replace the hellishly useful timeshifted version of Film Four given that the station only has limited space on Freeview, I stumbled upon their hopelessly out of date FAQ page.

Amongst information that requires updating:
“Big Brother is over for another year. For updates on the housemates keep an eye on the website.” (I wish)

“Countdown is presented by Des Lynam and Carol Vorderman.” (wrong Des)

“Richard & Judy are currently taking a break and will be back in the New Year.” (no it isn’t)

On The West Wing: "The first series is currently showing on More4 on Sunday evenings.” (Season Three has just begun)
At some point in the past this page was probably very useful but as it stands now, what confidence do we have that Jon Snow still buys his ties from Victoria Richards at Clockwork Studios and not M&S? For a channel that is embracing new media in so many other ways, isn’t it a bit sloppy that something this simple isn’t looked at more regularly basis than what looks like annually?

"You stay alive, baby. Do it for Van Gogh."

TV "I hate talking to negotiators Jack. They talk to you like they're your best friend and they don't even know you." -- Howard Payne, 'Speed' (1994)

"I'm sorry. That input could not be translated. Please repeat."

Technology National Rail chiefs could learn a lot by playing games or why are telephone automated services less intelligent than most computer games? Aleks Krotoski considers:
"This "intelligent" computerised operator could only have been realised by masochists for I, while admittedly having an American accent, have a pretty good standard of enunciation. Yet "East Croydon" apparently sounds like "Stroud" and "No, I said Brighton, you digital moron" sounds like "Lords". After a hilarious exchange that lasted for several minutes, I mouthed a silent plea for the nice people who used read train times over the phone to come back on the line and provide me with some real intelligence."
It is awful. I tend to use thetrainline.com. Which reminds me -- there was something I wanted to look up...


Life As you can detect from that review I'm fairly mended now. I really scared myself on Monday. I'm not someone who tends to panic at the odd and ache or pain and I almost never take anything for a headache, letting nature take its course. But to suddenly lose consciousness that way, so unexpectedly ...

"My blood pressure rockets north!"

Film Books In the self explanatory titled The Wah-Wah Diaries: The Making Of A Film, actor Richard E. Grant records the process of producing his autobiographical directorial debut, from development hell through to distribution. It’s very much a companion piece to his earlier With Nails which described the earlier part of his on-screen career and pleasingly features that same honest voice which unlike many such journals really suggests that the reader is gaining an insight into Grant’s thought processes and not simply being fed a candy-floss machine full of fluff.

This is about a man who is burning to tell in celluloid this unusual story of his early upbringing in Swaziland (familiar to anyone whose read his earlier book) which was filled with incidents which, if they were put into a movie, no one would believe, such as the impromptu moment during his father’s funeral when the priest climbed into the grave, shouting up and down and entirely determined to raise papa from the dead. Some of the most effect moments occur as relives his childhood during shooting, setting all of the key scenes at actual locations and employs figures from his past as extras.

The surprising backbone of the book is the battle of wills between Grant and his producer, the exotically named Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, who as he frequently jokes has one French film under her belt which was a flop and seems as least in Grant’s description of their battle, to have no realistic idea of the boundaries producer’s job (frequently asking the director to intervene when things have gone oval fruit shaped) or what the word ‘deadline’ means. Time and again, Grant is hampered by her non-communication and apparently empty promises to the extent that spends much of the time referring to her simply as MC and trying as best he can to work with intermediaries.

But in the end, fortunately for us, it’s during these and other development and production escapades that the book is most entertaining. The casting process in most films is usually shrouded in mystery, except on those rare occasions when an actor has been replaced on a high profile film (see Katie Holmes in The Dark Knight). Here everything is laid bare as various drafts of the script are sent to a diverse range of potential cast members, some of whom are just right for their suggested roles and there’s real page turning excitement as you will Grant to be allowed his perfect cast. As Grant explains, a film in the order of Wah-Wah simply doesn’t get financed unless ‘names’ such as Gabriel Burne are attached, and they’re so sought after that a change in the shooting schedule of another film can be catastrophic.

In the end, despite finding distribution and a round of media interviews, Wah-Wah did not set the box office alight which, in hindsight, gives these diaries a melancholic tone. The shear effort of making the film, from finance to casting to shooting to post production and then it’s seen by relatively few people on release (grossing just over forty thousand pounds in this country on its opening weekend), blunting somewhat all of the mini-victories that occur throughout. But it’s difficult not to describe Grant’s book as a success story since in the end, he manages the task at hand, and creates the film he wants and it’ll still be out there on dvd and television waiting to be discovered.

Lying in my bed again ...

Life Still twingy. Just every now and then I'll turn my head the wrong way and there'll be an odyssey of pain.

I posted at Metafilter last night, by the way, leading to an excellent discussion including this description of being on a television programme.

Very pleased of course to wake up to see Alan Johnson freed and in good health -- although he was almost crushed as he was being led to the car with men with guns on the one side and the media and their cameras on the other. I hope he takes some time for himself and doesn't feel like he needs to be in the field so soon.

Amusingly, Doctor Who fandom has gone into meltdown, again, with the surprising news that Catherine Tate is to be the new companion in series four. Her turn as the runaway bride last Christmas was not universally praised and this thread at Behind The Sofa and article at SFX are fairly typical of the responses. I'm cautiously pleased -- it will, as always, be down to the writing and performances. We'll see.

Now I'm going back to bed.

Me again when.

Life My neck is still stiff and hurts when I look left, look right. I didn't sleep very well last night. I'm taking painkillers and lying around a lot and wondering when I'll feel like me again.

Sudden snooze

Life I fainted today.

As much as I can remember I was watching television, needed a bathroom break, got as far as the toilet, began to breath heavily, the blood rushed from my brain, I felt dizzy and the next thing I remember was lying on the floor with my mum shouting ‘What have you done?’ I remember dreaming though -- I don’t know what it was, but when I suddenly found myself on the floor the sensation was rather like waking up.

I spent the next ten minutes calming Mum down and drinking water and trying to work out what had happened. I decided to ring NHS Direct. I didn’t feel dizzy but I didn’t feel ‘right’ either. After giving my details I was put through to a nurse who asked a range of diagnostic questions such as whether I had clammy skin and hands and whether blood had been coming out of anywhere it shouldn’t be. I told her about a job interview I had this morning, about being nervous, about having the collie-wobbles.

Eventually, because when I’d fainted I’d obviously banged my head on the floor the nurse suggested I get to the A&E at the hospital for a check-up. By now I felt a bit sick and vomited the lolly-ice I’d not long eaten, but at least it was just orange and didn’t have any blood red in there. I was also a but drowsy. So woozy and drowsy.

A caught a taxi and met my Dad at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. This was only the third time I’d been inside a hospital because of something wrong with me. The first time was at the age of about eight because I’d fallen badly in a ball pool at the Garden Festival in Liverpool. The second was during my GCSE’s when someone who had been bullying me threw me into a brick wall and I needed stitches. I’ve been very lucky.

After talking to the receptionist, we were heralded into a corridor outside of curtains where a nurse checked my blood pressure, heart rate and temperature and asked me what had happened. By now the incident had already reached the stage of being a ‘story’ almost as though it wasn’t something I‘d gone through but I told it anyway. Then we sat for two hours and waited for a space to be free.

Around us patients came and went. Someone from the far east was almost prone on a seat not far away who couldn’t speak English and the nurse was trying to make a diagnosis. Eventually a friend arrived who translated. He too had collapsed but needed a head CT. I hoped I didn’t need my head examining. A girl, twenty-some sat next to him and cried. And cried. Other passed by many pale, some unconscious but all in a worst state than me. After a while I stopped experiencing wooziness and drowsiness and instead my neck began to ache.

The nurse apologised for keeping us waiting. I said it was ok because everyone else seemed like they were worse off than me and they ‘were obviously hammered’. Ten minutes later I was ushered into curtains. Five minutes after that another nurse entered with a gown and blanket and asked me to go naked but for my undies and wondered if I needed painkillers and for some reason I wasn’t sure, but she persuaded me.

Ten minutes later, The Doctor, sorry, a doctor bounded in, shook my hand and asked me what the trouble was. And I told him. We passed information almost rhythmically, back and forth, question and answer. At one point when I said the blood had rushed to my brain, he corrected me and said the blood rushed from my brain, ‘You’re the doctor’ I joked. I told him my neck was hurting. I told him about my job interview this morning, about being nervous about that, about having the collie-wobbles.

He asked to look to my right which I did. There was a twinge and he felt about the area, but there wasn’t any pain were he was touching. Then he asked to look to my other right (having looked left originally not actually knowing the difference ever) and did the same. And that was that. He said I just needed to take some paracetamol for the stiffness in my neck, but oddly didn’t make a diagnosis about anything else, I presume because he’s been doing to the job for so long he can tell how bad it is just by looking at them.

I hope.

The Doctor wished me luck with the outcome of the interview, and bounded out again. I thanked the nurse on the way out and we went to look for the shop, shop, so that we could shop (or buy a Liverpool Echo) and here I sit now, unable to look left or right and feeling like I need to go and lay down again.

What struck me about the whole affair is that I wasn’t actually worried that it could be anything more serious. I spent half the time calming my parents down. Touching wood as I type, It’s almost as though I knew there wouldn’t be anything more, and that the process of ringing NHS Direct and then going to the hospital was just all part of life’s routine, the stuff you need to do just to make sure you're all ok.

When I updated my status on Facebook yesterday I said that I was ‘seeking a sense of purpose’. This whole experience, however minor in the grand scheme of things sort of proves how important that actually is and that I need to pull my finger out. Oh and take things a bit more calmly next time.

We Got Lucky

Science During Review 2006, Gia asked me which I felt provides the human race with answers, closest to the truth, Science or Religion. Recently, Rob left a rather lengthy reply to my answer which I rebuked. I wonder what they both think of this article from The Guardian which disputes the notion of intelligent design, even though there are a curious an elaborate set of coincidences apparent in nature's fundamentals, explaining instead the possibility that it's just that in the multiverse we all got lucky:
"The root cause of all the difficulty can be traced to the fact that both religion and science appeal to some agency outside the universe to explain its lawlike order. Dumping the problem in the lap of a pre-existing designer is no explanation at all, as it merely begs the question of who designed the designer. But appealing to a host of unseen universes and a set of unexplained meta-laws is scarcely any better."
Mostly it says everything that I said at Christmas and comes to the same conclusion, that the answer is in nature not philosophy. But the comments are a real 'wow' zone with someone even suggesting that its possible that science might discover that there is an all powerful being at the centre of all this. Do I need to quote from Douglas Adams? Oh alright then:
"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D."
"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
In other words if God only exists in faith and we somehow prove that he was actually there where does that leave us and them?

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Mystery and other stories...

Film If you thought this year's slate of film releases looked tired take a look at next year which includes an iteration of the ever popular 'Movie' (Epic Movie, Scary Movie etc) series with Superhero Movie, a film version of Get Smart, another James Bond film already and a remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still which is bound to commit the crime of not featuring the words 'Klaatu Barrada Nicto' because Brett Ratner or whichever hack they get to direct it thinks it sounds 'kinda funny' and 'not in keeping with what modern audiences want' or whatever twaddle is spun on the inevitable dvd director's commentary which will also suggest that they're also 'a big fan of the original'.

There is however The Dark Knight, Iron Man, whatever the new Indiana Jones film is going to be called, Hellboy 2 and the wonderfully titles Kung Fu Panda which is bound not to live up its name -- oh and absolutely no sign of any films made for adults. I'm already salivating at the prospect of Mark Kermode's review of the ungainly titled The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.

Seriously, was it really that bad?

Elsewhere I might have quite liked it really, but the rest of fandom has gone into meltdown. At Behind The Sofa:
"I could go on at length about the first forty minutes of this extended turd, but instead I have only this to say: It was soulless twaddle. Big pictures were painted (Within a comfortable Earth-based scenario, at any rate) without any of the detail filled in, characters (including the Toclafane themselves) often acted with little or no motive, the Doctor got turned into Dobby the House Elf using some very dodgy logic, and all things considered it was just rather stupid."
And from the comments at the SFX review:
"What a terrible way to end a Doctor Who season! David Tennants role reduced to a C.G.I Gollum type creature. John Barrowmans roll reduced and when he does get some action he picks up a machine gun and starts blowing the crap out of stuff little more than he did in his Dalek episode. Marthas nice and strong but dumped at the end and a cop out ending to boot. Stop writing episodes Russell T your killing the show!"
I think it was a case of the expectations being so high that anything would have been a disappointment. Although the Return of the Jedi moment was a bit silly...