"Does everyone know about this grain but me?" -- Kirk, 'Star Trek'

Film Fairly hilarious interview with William Shatner in which says he's adamant that he's not in the new Star Trek film and offers his explanation of why it's just wrong. It's the interviewer though, who tries to get a straight answer but is too star struck to go too far: "But it says down here that you're going to be in it." "Where does it say it?" "On Hollywood.com" "Oh well..."

"Canada is the linchpin of the English-speaking world." -- Sir Winston Churchill

TV Here are the top ten tv shows in Canada this week. It looks like Channel Five's schedule.

“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.” -- Ellen Burstyn

Web I really, really dislike Internet Explorer 7 -- it ironically feels like a hobby version of Firefox, missing half of its functionality and flexibility. The menu bar is even missing. If you're using IE7 right now though, press Alt on your keyboard. There it is. Peek-a-boo.

"Science fiction does not remain fiction for long. And certainly not on the Internet." -- Vinton Cerf

Animation Internet People! What did I miss? [via]

"When you're constantly looking backwards, there's something missing." -- the Icelandic classical violin maker Hans Johannsson

Music Noticing that there hasn't lately been much progress in the field of non-electronic instruments a team are crafting new wooden sound machines for the 21st century:
"The violinist held a bow and the top of an electric violin with strings, but no body. Facing him were five resonators, small wooden objects in strangely curved shapes. One looked like a sack; the others like seed pods. Each resonator was punctured by oddly shaped holes, and emitted a rather beautiful, but unusual sound, like a classical violin, but somehow different."
The photograph which accompanies the article is perfect -- unfinished alien shapes waiting for someone to create news sounds through them.

"You can write to us at BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London, W12 7RJ..." -- Barry Took, 'Points of View'

TV They can't do that. I mean the BBC's doing whatever they're doing, but they can't do that! It'd be like the Queen deciding to sell of Buckingham Palace or the English Parliament moving out their seat. Television Centre is an iconic part of the BBC and with apologies to Channel 4 and their atrium an icon of British television.

"And all I could say was, 'hello'." -- Terry McKay, 'An Affair To Remember'

Film I was so sorry to here about the death of Deborah Kerr. She appeared in many of the great films of old (or classic) Hollywood as this AP obituary describes. I notice that the article is quite block capitals about making sure we understand how to pronounce her surname: "Kerr (pronounced CARR) was the only daughter of a civil engineer and architect who died when she was 14." It reminds me of Sleepless in Seattle (which was inspired by An Affair To Remember) and the few unscripted moments when the various characters have to tussle over how to pronounce her Kerr's name. It seems wrong that this was how I was introduced to her. At least I'm there now and know what a great actress she was.

"I'm Going To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter..." -- Frank Sinatra

Life Liverpool post strike ends. Thank goodness for that.

"The Gateway for Lost Souls... is under the post office?" -- Angel, 'Angel'

Life No matter what's happening in the rest of the country, postal workers are still on strike in Liverpool and have been for the past fortnight. It's the first time in my memory that there's been an all out stoppage of this length and to be honest it's become a tad frustrating. Even though we're apparently in the digital future replacing many of the functions of postal communications, there are still packages and bills and cards stuck in the system somewhere. It seems very odd to me that one of our most vital services can simply stop like this, brought to a halt in this way.

Having worked for a service which was vital to the local people which was near to strike action I can understand to some extent why the strikers are doing what they're doing -- and oddly enough ours was because of a change in working patterns brought in at the last moment. But we all decided that the last thing we wanted to do was withhold service -- we still turned up for work even though it wasn't under the new shift pattern which management had requested. We were taking industrial action but at no point did we stop serving the public. We did threaten to do that but fortunately everything was sorted out before that could happen.

Anyway, hopefully as the two sides meeting now will see eye to eye and everything will get back to normal (or as normal as things get around here). I have a vision that by the weekend we'll open up the post box and it'll be filled with all the post we've missed, my dvds from Lovefilm, the bills, jiffy bags, the newspapers we have on subscription, the mailings from museums and theatres, more bills, and heaps of junk mail with offers that are out of date and vouchers that can't be used. But I know it'll just dribble through. But at least it will be there again.

Prince of Jutland (1994)

Amled played by Christian Bale.
Directed by Gabriel Axel.

This is just one of those occasions when you really can’t believe quite what's unfolding in front of you. That someone wrote the thing, someone decided to direct it, a deal was struck, financing found and then the script was sent around and attracted this cast who then agreed to go on location for principal photography, the footage was edited, a score written, a prints struck then dvds and at no point did anyone notice that in fact they’d created a monster, the kind of entertainment which is unintentionally funny more than on purpose and deserves at least a cult audience just for the ludicrousness of it all. In other words, don’t get too excited. This is not a chance to see Christian Bale play Hamlet, at least not the Shakespearean iteration. You do, however, get to see him eat a tree branch, one leaf at a time. But more on that later.

In this, Axel who’d previously offered the wonderful Babette’s Feast attempts to film the ancient Danish legends that Shakespeare apparently based his play on. As the film opens a caption heralds that this is based on the original writing Saxo Grammaticus, whose Gesta Danorum was the source of the tales of Amled (isn’t the Wikipedia amazing?). The theory has it that, Shakespeare looked at this material at one remove via an earlier play, usually described as the Ur-Hamlet and actually what Axel seems to have done here is draw together elements of Grammaticus with that earlier play (or what’s known of it), Shakespeare and oddly Return of the Jedi (one or two scenes are oddly similar). In other words its about as authentic as Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur which was also reputed to be of some kind of ancient about Camelot but somehow still managed to feature a Druidic version of Merlin.

The story then, like the Kurosawa, Kaurismaki and Disney has many of the familiar elements in not quite the right order. It seems a bit pointless analysing how the two differ since it really is worth seeing both if you’re a Hamlet and film fan and to deny you the surprise of how the narrative plays out would rob you of one its few genuine pleasures. Lets just say that at about fifty minutes in you’ll be wondering what is going to happen for the remainder of the running time; the answer reminded me of the way that television theme tunes would be released as singles and the composer would be called upon to fill the gap and would simply add in some unexpected solo or wacky jazz version that was totally unlike the tune that everyone knows -- track down the long versions of Grandstand, Rainbow or The Archers to see what I mean. Let's just say is that Fortinbras is here in spirit and spoiling for a rumble. And played by Brian Glover.

Anyway back to Bale and his tree eating. I’m probably not spoiling too much by saying that when Amled discovers his uncle murdered his father that his only recourse is to fain madness. In Shakespeare that pretty much amounts to some shouting at Ophelia, calling her Dad a fish monger and all the talking to himself in between. Here the future Bruce Wayne, his floppy long hair has to bark like a dog, crow like a cock and eat wood (and leaves). But he does it with such conviction that you’re entirely convinced this is the best strategy under the circumstances. When he’s expectedly revealed to be sane (in the arms of a naked wench) Bale steps up his game and he becomes charismatic, noble and everything you’d want from a king, cunning too, and certainly not the ditherer that ‘our’ Hamlet is sometimes portrayed as. Bale is another reason to watch - he steals almost every scene that he’s in and like Welles in his radio version of the play, the actor suddenly presents the on-screen persona that we’d find later in everything from The Prestige to indeed Batman.

Elsewhere, it’s madder than a bag of spanners but gloriously so in that special way that these things often are. Much of the fun is obtained from seeing actors, like Bale who would go on to be known for far more illustrious projects doing some very unexpected things. Well, yes Mirren’s back as this show’s version of Gertrude, and goes naked again -- but by this time she was already film the Prime Suspects for television so this was a very curious career choice and she’s not all that bad. Gabriel Byrne hadn’t get gone stellar with The Usual Suspects, although he generally plays Fenge (Claudius) in the same mould as Dean Keaton and there’s even s moment when he does the finger pondering thing which crops up in the closing montage of Byran Singer’s film to make him look suspicious. Tom Wilkinson’s in here too as Hardvendel (Hamlet Snr) which should indicate that it’s not for long. Oh and Kate Beckinsale too as Ethel (Ophelia) but doesn’t do much other than look longingly at Bale.

Now take a look at this tableau:

That's Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting), Mark Williams (The Fast Show) and Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings & King Kong). Tony Haygarth (Bleak House) and David Bateson (The Hitman games). And some beards.

The music is by Per Nørgård. Per Nørgård is one of Denmark’s most famous composers -- his work is in the international repertory and what’s here is remarkable. Unfortunately at no time does it match the visuals and some of the more unintentionally funny moments are when the five above (in clothes) are striding purposefully around the village (they couldn’t afford a castle in those days) to a soundtrack which indicates that they might as well be attacking Norway. Fans of Murray Gold’s soundtrack to the first series of new Doctor Who would be well served here as the chords clash in at random moments. And the whole film is like that -- just as it settles into a rhythm, there’s always some bizarre bit of editing, fake wig action, wavering accent. extremely odd acting choice (see Byrne fake cry), piece of set design or crowd scene which breaks the drama. The closing shot, which might be entirely accurate, might have looked good on paper, is totally ludicrous, as a collection of extras and many of the principles are called upon to pat their chest in unison, the sound of fist on cloak being the final sound we hear.

"Accordingly I now submit my resignation as Leader with immediate effect. " -- Sir Menzie Campbell

Politics "When I was elected Leader of the Party in March 2006 I had three objectives. First, to restore stability and purpose in the party following my predecessor's resignation and the leadership campaign itself, second to make the internal operations of the party more professional, and third to prepare the party for a General Election. With the help of others, I believe that I have fulfilled these objectives, although I am convinced that the internal structures of the party need radical revision if we are to compete effectively against Labour and the Conservatives. But it has become clear that following the Prime Minister's decision not to hold an election, questions about leadership are getting in the way of further progress by the party. Accordingly I now submit my resignation as Leader with immediate effect." -- Sir Menzies Campbell resigns and with that The Liberal Democtrats render themselves slightly more electable.

And I did vote for the Greens in the last election, whatever it was (I'm being flippant by the way). Ming did gain power and after eighteen months he was forced out by what looks like almost the same means as his predecessor. Unlike Charles though, he did not make the statement himself and has very much gone to ground. Personally I think he's deluding himself when he says he's prepared the Liberal Democrats for a General Election -- if Gordon Brown had called one last Tuesday its almost certain 'we' would have lost ground to Labour and the Conservatives. You cannot have such a dip in the polls and see your leadership as a sucesses. What Ming did was return the Lib Dems to their pre-Kennedy position of being an insignificant 'force' in politics.

Age was never his problem, I don't think. He just always seemed too much of a politician of the old school, indecisive, lacking respect in parliament and unable to hold his own in the media. Now and then he was praised for making a good point at Prime Minister's questions, but that should have been every week -- it reminded me of playing football during Games at school and when I managed to kick the ball (once every couple of matches) the teacher congratulating me. The problem now, is that none of the other candidates look like they could be a solid leader either, but that's probably with the exception of Chris Hulme and Charles we've not heard of any of them. Perhaps we should give the job to Lembit Opik the party's own Boris Johnson who gave a Brian Barron a right telling off on News 24 last night just before the statement, saying the media don't know anything. At least people know who he is.

"Could a Mini ITX board, hard drive and power supply fit into the case of a Beeb leaving all the external connectors?" -- Graham Thompson

Computers At the risk of coming all over Boing Boing (if you'll pardon the expression), this project to put a working PC inside the shell of an old BBC Micro is quite fascinating particular because of the occasions when he had to fall in line with what the original designers had intended:
"I started by taking everything out, leaving just the case which was then cleaned up ready to be refitted. It took forever to figure out where to put everything. In the end the only way of fitting everything in was to try and fit the power supply where the old one was, the DC-DC converter on the far left of the main case area and the motherboard on the right with the connectors pointing to the left. The hard drive I could then mount above the power converter leaving space underneath for the connectors. I then had space down the back and front of the case for the original, external connectors."
But there's also the fact that modder Graham has essentially reconstructed the inside of the computer to do exactly what it was doing in the first place -- running BBC Micro games [via].

Thank you, you've been wonderful!

TV It's that time again. National Television Awards voting opens. David in 'Most Popular Actor', Freema in 'Most Popular Actress' (both opposite actors from soap operas) and the show itself in 'Most Popular Drama' (opposite Life On Mars, Shameless and um, The Bill). Also features the category, Best Talent Show ...

"My love for you is like a truck, BERZERKER!" -- Olaf, 'Clerks'

Music Out on the Blue Six offers "a perfect demonstration of why you should never place a penpal-seeking personal ad in a popular high street music magazine": "I am seeing your advert in that the latest issue of Select Magazine and I am thinking that maybe me you would like the penpal too? [...] Can you please send me tape of English charts, and of Manic Street Preachers albums Gold Against The Soul and The Holy Bible."

"Anyone? Something-d-o-o economics. "Voodoo" economics." -- Economics Teacher, 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'

Elsewhere I've just posted something to HeardSaid for the first time in a year. To set the scene, it's a link to a post at Portfolio.com called 'The Economics of Stripping'. Just when you think that there are research projects that men couldn't possibly get a grant for ... oh ...

"I suppose he had a private sort of greatness, but he kept it to himself." -- Leland, 'Citizen Kane'

Film Another indispensable essay from David Bordwell, this time indicating that sometimes you shouldn't always believe filmmaker's hype about techniques that they've invented. On Citizen Kane:
"More seriously, some of Toland’s accounts of Kane swerve close to deception. [...] the first image was accomplished by means of a back-projected film showing the boy Kane in the window, while the second image is a multiple exposure. The glass and medicine bottle were shot separately against a black background, then the film was wound back and the action in the middle ground and background were shot. (And even the middle-ground material, Susan in bed, is notably out of focus.) I suspect that the flashy deep-focus illustration in Life, shot with a still camera, is a multiple exposure too. In any event, much of the depth of field on display in Kane couldn’t have been achieved by straight photography."
What I draw from this is that in trying to say that the shot was created through deep focus they're actually hiding a bit of magic which is just as exciting. They're using a kind of matting process in mundane domestic situations that would usually be used in far more fantastical situations, such as making a spacecraft fly.

It's also interesting that actually they're not doing anything here which the maker's of Michael Palin's new documentary have recently been kicked about the park for (see here, next to bottom). It continues to be true that people won't accept techniques used in a fictional setting within a documentary even though often they share much the same artifice.

“The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.” - Henry David Thoreau

Nature The New York Times Magazine offers an effective outsider commentary on a very British battleground:
"Since the 19th century, gray squirrels, an American import, have been overtaking Britain’s native red squirrels and claiming their territory. The grays have moved up from the south of England, thinning out the reds along the way. The reds now survive mostly in Scotland and the English counties, like Northumberland, that border it. The grays are larger and tougher and meaner than the reds. They can eat newly fallen acorns, and the reds cannot. They cross open lands that the reds are scared of. They are more sociable than reds, allowing for higher population densities."
I don't think I've seen a red squirrel in many years -- Sefton Park in Liverpool is filled with greys. But then I'm just please to see animals in the wild generally anyway. Often I'll point and say 'Look -- it's a squirrel!' no matter what colour they are.

"First we crack the shell, then we crack the nuts inside." -- Rumble, 'Transformers: The Movie'

Toys Men build Transformer from a car. A real car. Thumbs up indeed.