"Destroy him, my robots." -- Digital voiceover, 'Impossible Mission'

Books My first computer was an Acorn Electron. It was the cheaper home version of the BBC Micro with a similar cream finish but smaller and I loved it. I think my parents bought it from Dixons for about eighty pounds one Christmas in the mid-eighties and I spent every waking hour using the thing for years. It’s were I learnt to type and although I know now the games weren’t all that good I used to spend hours playing the likes of Kissin Cousins and Hacker, Repton being far beyond my price bracket until they appeared in the Hits compilations years later. My Dad too would sit up until the wee small hours playing Pacman knock-off Snapper and later Chuckie Egg, a time he also looks back on with nostalgia.

My next computer was a Commodore 64 and I loved that too, the music, the games. I was there during its glory years when Zzap! 64 magazine was the place to read about the best new games and I ‘enjoyed’ the arguments about whether it was better than the ZX Spectrum, especially since it clearly was. I’d borrowed a Sinclair whilst one of the Electrons (since we went through a couple) was repaired and it just didn’t seem as good. My cousins had an Amstrad CPC and I did envy that since it had its own monitor and built in disk drive. Anyway, I was still trying to beat Wizball on the C64c right up until and after the boat had sailed and everyone was hammering away on Sony Playstations. After that was a low-spec PC and it was PCs all the way until the relatively high spec machine I’m writing this and somewhere along the line I stopped playing games.

But I was still ripe Jack Railton’s excellent The A-Z of Cool Computer Games, a nostalgia trip through a period that he himself claims can nebulously described as the golden age from the early seventies through to time of the Playstation, when the simple act of moving a white line of pixels up and down a screen to deflect another pixel was considered revolutionary and having a small black kit built computer without a proper keyboard was the cutting edge of home computer entertainment. At this point I should reveal that Jack Railton is revealed inside to be the pen name for Jack Kibble-White one of the contributors to the Off The Telly website (which I’ve also been known to write for), a fact I was entirely oblivious of until I bought it and was looking inside the back cover sitting on Chester Station, closely accompanied by a exclamation of ‘That’s what you look like!’ after seeing the photo.

As Jack explains on a page marked ‘the point of this book’ this is a subjective collection – it’s no encyclopaedia and certainly not exhaustive. In each entry, rather than providing a detailed production history of the game or computer system, we find instead an evocation of the experience, what the packaging and loading screens looked like, how difficult a game was to play and the technological pitfalls of the system it plays on, like the fact that Jet Set Willy couldn’t be completed because it had been rushed to the shops or the famous colour glitches on the Speccy. It’s also pleasingly British in its perspective; too often similar books have hailed from America were Arcade machines and consoles were the story and no one would know what a Dragon 32 was. It’s Sega Megadrive not Genesis here and Jack even takes the time to give the Acorn Archimedes some of the credit it deserves – Risc OS was robbed – those machines seemed as fast then as modern PCs are now.

Some of the best entries aren’t about the games at all, but the social mores paraphernalia which surrounded them, the magazines, the shops and the television programmes. There’s a very detailed entry on Gamesmaster, the Channel 4 show hosted by Dominic Diamond which clearly stopped being indispensable when Dexter Fletcher took over. Jack’s the only other person I know who seems to remember First Class with Debbie Greenwood, late of QVC, at the helm. Long held aspirations are punctured – it turns out the Mindlink peripheral didn’t in fact control games through thought but the twitching of an eyebrow and the Virtual Boy which sits in the window of most GameStations is going to go unbought upon discovery that it’s not really proper virtual reality and all done with mirrors. It’s also good to hear that I’m not the only one who finds the process of seeing how far a digital environment has been designed more enjoyable than playing the game and that the goal was called a ‘painted-on wall’. My least favourite was an upturned car in Resident Evil which could clearly be jumped over but could only be traversed by hiking back through half of the Raccoon City.

Ultimately, the book cleverly recreates a time when computer games weren’t really mainstream and neither were the computers they were played on. You either spent most of your time outside playing football or inside playing Football Manager – rare was the kid who did both. It was also a solitary activity; no matter how many games had a two player mode, a lot of the kids at the keyboard were using both players. Throughout, a seasoned retro-gamer like me will find latent memories coming to the fore – the smell of the computer games shops, the interminable wait for a game to load via cassette, copy typing a programme from Electron User only to find it didn’t work or the computer would crash before finishing. He addresses piracy as it was then – a school friend stacking up a mass of games on a C90 cassette some of which might even work. And even if neither the Acorn Electron or Wizball receive their own separate entries, this is still a valuable social history which is sure to get us old timers firing up their emulators to relive the glory days.

Review 2007: Update: 7/31

Review 2007 Don't forget I'm still looking for contributions to this year's Review 2007 and it would be great to have you along. The full details are here. So far I've been lucky enough to get seven definites, a possibly definitely and a couple of possibly maybes. If you feel you have something to say, do let me know and I'll add you to the list.

“Questions are never indiscreet: answers sometimes are” -- Oscar Wilde

Politics So Kate Moss apparently mistook David Cameron for a plumber. Here is the problem I have with the story as Cameron tells it and feel free to warn me to lighten up if you like.

On the one hand he's labeling Moss as stupid for not being able to recognise the Leader of the Opposition and of the Conservative Party which is hardly very discreet considering he's the Leader of the Opposition and of the Conservative Party and therefore taking the piss out of a potential voter then constituent or useful supporter.

On the other, he's essentially reminding people that even though he is the Leader of the Opposition and of the Conservative Party, he's not a recognizable enough figure yet that even celebrities know who he is. Either way it's enough to make us wonder if he's enough of statesman to be Prime Minister.

one hundred and one more things I would put into room 101...

It's nearly five years since the last list so it's about time for an update. Although frankly this time I could have gone to five hundred and one:

1. Tourists who get their picture taken next to a thing without bothering to look at the thing
2. Ring openers on food tins
3. Using the words geek and nerd in a derogatory way
4. Mobile phones in auditoriums
5. Misogyny
6. Boring dvd commentaries
7. Oily ham
8. Potichomania
9. Musak
10. People who congregate at the front of a bus near the door when the rest is empty
11. Websites that assume that everyone is using broadband
12. Alistair Campbell appearing and smirking anywhere on the BBC
13. Incomplete art due to mortality being completed by someone else
14. Bad ideas that seemed like good ideas at the time
15. Romantic comedies longer than an hour and half
16. What Women Want
17. Having a lack of invention
18. ITV1
19. Jeremy Kyle
20. Exploitation on television
21. So-called reality television
22. The death of Alan Coren
23. Staying in on a Friday night (again)
24. Right wingers (with one or two exceptions)
25. Left wingers (with one or two exceptions)
26. The lack of a clear choice in politics these days
27. Harry Enfield playing Dirk Gentley
28. David Jason playing Rincewind
29. Me not being very good at video games
30. Still biting my nails
31. Time flying when you’re having fun
32. £60 to get to London from Liverpool
33. Being less well read than I appear
34. Experimentation being used as a smokescreen
35. George Lucas' delusion that the prequels improved the Star Wars saga
36. Itchiness
37. Glitchy Freeview
38. Not giving credit when it’s due
39. Ballads ruining perfectly good pop albums
40. The Sugababes without Siobhan or Mutya
41. Musical prejudices
42. Country music
43. Baseball caps
44. Soccer in general
45. People who call it soccer when they don’t have to
46. Stinging nettles
47. The death of narrative cinema
48. The Underworld films
49. Unacknowledged emails
50. Farting at just the wrong moment
51. Sharon Osbourne
52. Pointless arguments
53. Tabloids
54. Sorkinless The West Wing
55. Mertonless Room 101
56. Racism
57. Jokes about Liverpool. Now.
58. People who clap between movements in classical music
59. People who couch theatrically between movements in classical music
60. Discovering classical music at the age of 32
61. Stagecoach
62. Weblogs going mainstream
63. Peter Andre and Jordan appearing on other chat shows to publicise their own chat show
64. Poorly planned art galleries
65. Whispering when you should be shouting
66. People not ‘getting’ me
67. Dvd caddies
68. Simon Cowell
69. My handwriting
70. The first series of Torchwood
71. Idiocy
72. Gaps
73. Woody Allen’s films not getting a proper release in the UK
74. Widespread flooding
75. People who piss on the seats in public toilets
76. Experts who clearly aren’t
77. Conversations that entail someone describing an episode of The Simpsons to you
78. Self service tills in supermarkets
79. Bad writers who’ve been told they’re good writers
80. People treat the cinema like their own living room
81. Piles
82. Misanthropy without satire
83. Jimmy Carr
84. Demolishing modernist architecture
85. Not having enough hours in the day
86. People who hate the French
87. Shouty television presenters
88. Self-righteousness
89. Caffeine making me sleepy
90. Global warming doubters
91. The HD-DVD / Blue-Ray war
92. Cello taping free gifts to the covers of magazines
93. Homophobes
94. Comic Sans
95. Tesco’s Healthy Eating range
96. Remembering the things I do
97. A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
98. Pointless pink
99. Glenn Gould singing along as he played
100. Rudeness
101. Not being able to think of something post on the blog and having to take drastic action

“Attraction is not a choice.” -- David DeAngelo

Dating Marvo at The Impulisive Buy considers Match.com: "Sure I could do it the old fashioned way and walk up to a complete stranger, introduce myself, tell her she’s beautiful, ask her if she would be interested in a date, she replies “With you?,” I say “yes,” wait during an awkward pause while she thinks of a good excuse, and then says, “I’m sorry, I already have a boyfriend” or “I’m sorry, I’m not into guys,” but getting a date via an internet dating site is so much easier because, if you do your search correctly, women on these sites are most likely single and not a lesbian."

Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? (Part One)

TV Deep in the mists, probably the late nineties, I was at one of those parties having one of those conversations with someone who’d clearly been drinking more than I had. I could tell I was having one of those conversations because somehow we’d managed to discover that I was (what was then) a late blooming Doctor Who fan and they were talking about how great Jane Asher had been in the series – I think they must have spotted one of her cookbooks on a shelf in the random strange house where these kinds of parties tend to happen.

Despite my protestations they were adamant that Jane had been in the programme, all posh like, and had been absolutely brilliant. Briefly, like Maria in this week’s episode, I began to question my own memory and wondered if the milfian cake maker had actually been in the series somewhere in its long history and I’d somehow blanked it out. Then, when they said between burps ‘You know with the bloke with the scarf’ and ‘Paris’ it became apparent that he’d gotten her mixed up with Lalla Ward, which is interesting because only lately have they begun to look at all alike.

Of course, as with pretty much every actor in the uk who isn’t Christopher Lee, Asher has been in something connected with the good series, replacing a character usually played by the clearly alive and therefore available Carole Ann Ford in the radio drama-documentary Whatever Happened to Susan Foreman?, the title of which could have been of some inspiration to Gareth Roberts when naming …

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?: Episode One

… otherwise it was a massive coincidence and he’ll have a surprising moment when someone points it out to him.

Since the great New Earth scandal I’ve tended to be quite suspicious when anything is previewed/reviewed as well as this episode has been. I’ve seen this one stamped with classic status and one of the best bits of new Who everywhere from The Stage blog through to the popular press and certain other discussion boards to the extent that you have to question whether a half hour series can really sustain the plaudits. I mean I gushed over last week’s episode, but that’s the kind of thing I tend to do when I’m tired and desperate (see FearHerGate). But for once, everyone was right, this was amazing.

Was it the series getting around to the alternate reality timey-wimey story just seven episodes or four stories in? Yes. Wasn’t it similar to Doctor Who’s Human Nature in that we were seeing a world with the title character at a time of great peril? Yes. Did the performance of not as little as you think she is apparently Yasmin Paige threaten to tip into the kind of shouty melodrama not seen since Gates McFadden tried to justify the existence of Welsey Crusher in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Remember Me? Yes. Was the sight of her screen Dad spinning up and down on a skateboard the singular most bizarre image on television this year? Oh yes.

Yet, this was exciting and surprising and funny and truly scary in all the ways it should be. It was these things because instead of cynical adult going through a world that was almost but not exactly like there own cracking jokes about Tony Blair and airships, this was an early teen discovering that everything she knew had changed, a girl not yet a woman, the least likely to be believed and whom adults always seem to assume are telling tales, even though in this day and age shockingly they actually probably are more clued into what’s going on in the world than we are, even when they’re sitting at the back of the listening to bloody Leona Lewis through the speaker on their mobile phone.

I was probably rather harsh on Yasmin because she had a rather a job to do carrying the episode and mostly did it with aplomb. At no point did Maria crumple under the pressure, not really, dragging her dad to a library, shouting Andrea down in a way that Sarah Jane would have been proud of (shades of the Doctor’s rant from the end of Bad Wolf too), generally being the force of nature she needs to be. For this girl, the event was a problem to be solved and all she needed to do was think her way through it (all the while us older viewers shouting ‘It’s in the box’). That said, I've had mornings, including probably the one after the aforementioned party, when I've woken up and felt like I've been living in a different reality, but a bacon butty rather than this box of delights usually sorted it out for me.

Actually Jane Asher was probably perfect casting, a figure very much in the mould of what Sarah Jane might have been like had she not become a journalist, fallen in with the Doctor and been spat out at the other end of the continuum. Her teary reaction to remembering what she’d done as child was a wonderfully played contrast to similar scenes in which her old best friend glared down an alien. Not sure about the accent, though it must have been chosen to make the difference with our hero as stark as possible. Purposefully, Andrea seems to be weaker and more interested in frippery than Sarah probably as a way of explaining how she could come under the spell of The Trickster.

He’s a grim bastard isn’t he? The Trickster was a classic example of how lighting, costume, a gravely voice and a well shot prosthetic can certainly be a match for CG. Isn’t it heart warming to see after all these years that the old trick of filming a mouth upside down is still a valid way of creating an alien? Actually he reminded me of Bruce Dern’s gatekeeper from The Lord of the Rings films with the evil dial turned up to eleven. Could he be the Black Guardian for the new age? I mean were does something like this come from other than the realm which hovers above the Whoniverse?

Sadly, true to his name The Trickster rather created the main plot hole in the episode. Why hasn’t the universe imploded given the amount of things that Sarah got get dungarees mixed into during her time with the Doctor and since and how come he hasn’t noticed her absence? Did someone else fill in the gap or did he travel alone, leaving countless unbound stories in his wake? Is The Trickster so powerful that he can make this kind of change and not create ripples? Clearly Maria hasn’t simply slipped into another reality – it is her reality in new clothes, otherwise how did her Dad also experience a similar problem at the mind bending and truly unsettling close.

Still there’s no denying this was an excellent episode. Even the brief appearance of Sarah at the opening was a joy as the bond between her and Maria grows ever larger and we discover that to Alan she stopped being the crazy lady who lives across the street, she's become a bit mumsy and that Maria's become her best mate (perhaps indicating that she understands what her relationship meant to the Doctor all those years ago). It also resisted the urge to shoehorn in Luke and Clyde into the main action in these early stages preferring instead to keep with Maria front and centre, even as she was epically dragged through the not very good at his job Graske’s strange realm (I mean wow -- look at that!) and dropped into a costumed past.

Next week: How we used to live.

“We Barbie dolls are not supposed to behave the way I do.” -- Benjamin Jowett

Music My ears! My eyes! Too much pink!
"A children's animated classical music experience, Barbie™ at the Symphony is a special Film with Orchestra presentation of the best-selling Barbie™ “Princess” movies. This series of 6 CGI animated films features Barbie™ singing and dancing to some of the world's best loved musical scores, with ballet sequences choreographed by Peter Martins of the New York City Ballet. Released in over 30 languages, these popular films have introduced millions of children to Ballets such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake and the timeless music they are set to. Now, for the first time ever, families can enjoy the classical music from the films, played live by a full symphony orchestra, while watching favorite scenes on the big screen."
I can't help but wonder if the motivation here is to get kids interested in classical music or not to have to pay a composer for doing something new. As Samara notes at The F-word, there are some perfectly good unaugmented works from the canon which have been tried and tested for years. I'd also like to throw the original Fantasia into the mix which at least seemed to respect the music.

When I was a pre-teen in the early 80s (in other words before the age of twelve when I automatically became awkward around the opposite sex) I remember girls loving ballet anyway because of the ballet and the dances and the shoes and the mystique and a bit of Degas . Have we really reached a stage where a CG version of a Mattel creation is the only way of creating this kind of interest?

It'll be Optimus Prime rocking out to Wagner next. Although, actually I'd like to see that.

"Thou Shalt Signal Thy Intentions To Manoeuvre" -- Meg Pickard

Lists Meg Pickard offers Ten Commandments of Modern Social Decency: "Honour Thy Fellow Citizens (Or At Least, Thou Shalt Not Be A Prick To Strangers): Like, when someone asks you for directions, telling them to fuck off. Or loudly passing comment about someone’s dress-sense/hair/age/etc. When did it become even slightly acceptable to be rude to or about complete strangers in public? One of the only things which keeps society functioning is a modicum of politeness and sense of socially-acceptable behaviour, and when that goes - when it’s OK to punch a pensioner because he’s slow to move out of the way when you’re trying to get off the tram - we’re clearly doomed."

"For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake." -- Alfred Hitchcock

Film Lisa Drysdale reveals a quirky New York cinema:
"At DRV-IN, good weather is assured (it's actually indoors) except for the upcoming Halloween shows, when a decent shroud of (fake) fog is forecast. And if you want to make out under the potted oak tree, you can do so in complete privacy. Your $75 buys the entire automobile for the duration of the movie and, although it seats six, it's entirely up to you who you invite along. Such is the demand for this particular set of wheels that a 4pm weekday matinee performance has already been added to the two evening shows screened daily."
Then in the comments someone says: "Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds used to be £1.50 on a Monday night with student discount - those were the days..." They certainly were.

"Which internet is Keen an expert on?" -- Kristine Lowe

Journalism Kristine Lowe offers a welcome argument against Andrew Keen's Cult of the Amateur, which says that amateur journalists and bloggers are ruining it for the professionals: "Well I say, good riddance, if those were artificially imposed tastes that didn't reflect reality, we are much better served without them. Except, I don't buy into the argument that internet is destroying our economy and our culture, that it will replace professional journalists with an army of stampeding citizen journalists bent on destroying everything in their way, leaving all mainstream media outlets and publishing houses bankrupt."

“When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain” -- Shakespeare

Plug! Some long overdue mentions. Firstly, Katie Lips, she of The Bold Street Project amongst a whole vast range of over things has helped launch a new online service, Treasure My Text which let's users store those very SMS messages which they might not have room for on their actual phone for memory reasons. It's an excellent idea, especially in this latest version of the world were everything seems to be done in less that a hundred and sixty characters; there must be messages which change your life and now there's somewhere to put them. Updates continue on her the official blog.

Also, long term friend of the blog Eva Katzler's debut single Angel was released yesterday. Here's the groovy flyer ...

New Single - Angel - Out Now!

... and some places it can be downloaded ...

iTunes | Napster| HMV | 7 Digital | TuneTribe | OD2

... and when I discovered her voice.

"Social norms may force you to go to rehab for your stupidity, but the law can't touch you at all." -- Elizabeth Wurtzel

The Law Prozac Nation's Elizabeth Wurtzel seemed to drop off the planet a couple of years ago (some say for reasons which are explained in her Wikipedia entry). Turns out that like Rory Gilmore before her, she's at Yale and wrote this characteristic op-ed piece earlier in the year:
"It's hard out there for a law student. All the stuff to stumble through on the way to that J.D.: torts, property, contracts, evidence, civil procedure, AutoAdmit. [...] That last item is a new development: a Web site of postings for law schools prestigious and otherwise, where students blab about whatever. An awful lot of it is about other students, most of it mean-spirited. This is all extremely weird for those of us born before the Carter administration, who tend to assume that scrutiny about breast implants--there was a whole thread of discussion devoted to whether one Ms. J.D.-to-be was silicone-enhanced--is reserved for celebrities. The flat, affectless sexual bravado of the trash-talk on AutoAdmit is also a bit of a shock, coming from allegedly intelligent legal minds."
Previously on feeling listless, a book review.

"Hello, my name is Dave Gorman." -- Dave Gorman, 'The Dave Gorman Collection'

Film Dave Gorman reveals what he was up to last year: "You might or might not know that last year I went off on an American road trip. I wanted to see if it was possible to get from coast to coast without giving any money to "The Man"... by which I mean I wasn't going to eat at a chain restaurant, stay in a chain hotel or - and this is the really hard bit - get fuel from a chain gas station. [...] To begin with the idea was that I'd do the trip, come home and then write a book about it. But when I talked about it with a few friends they suggested it would be a good subject for a film."

"At last, we can retire and give up this life of crime." -- Zoe, 'Serenity'

TV It might not have escaped you're attention that Joss Whedon's finally been handed a commission for a new tv show with Eliza Dushku in the lead role. He's commented at the church's website and seems very happy about the whole thing as well he might after working on the whole Wonder Woman thing for months before the studio predictably decided to go in another direction.

The details are here and although it has hints of other things in its DNA, Joss and the gang will no doubt put their own spin to it and I don't think there is anything that the writer's done which hasn't had something fabulous about it. But I'm a disciple so I'm bound to say that.

My only real concern comes from a film and tv studies place in terms of the treatment of the protagonist and how the audience is going to empathise with what sounds like a character with a range of different personalities. Will we treat them as separate individuals and sympathise with the whole 'ensemble' or is that too much of a leap?

" You may be a redneck if... your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand." -- Jeff Foxworthy

Life Bonfire night, and the city's main display sprang from a box on the parade field at Sefton Park exactly opposite to our flat so we had an amazing view and could feel every bang as the building vibrated. It is the closest we've been to the event and could here the 'symphonic' music (well the theme from ET, The Phantom Menace, Flight of the Bumblebee and Pomp & Circumstance) and the whoop of the massive crowd which we could only really see in the street lights as they arrived and the cars which they parked all the way around the park, on central reservations and in front of the gates of our highrise which either blocked us from getting out or stopped the hoards from getting in.

"During that summer the channel broadcast one of the most beautiful documentaries it has ever funded." -- Me, below.

TV I've been meaning to mention this for at least five days. Off The Telly have updated their Channel 4 at 20 article to include the next five years. It's amazing how much the channel has changed even in the past couple of years. Goodness I miss RI:SE. At least it was unpredictable and you had something to shout at for its ineptitude in the morning. I was asked to contribute and my memorial for a very odd but lovely documentary has been posted in 2003. It had to be edited for space and so just as a special treat for you loyal reader, here is the writer's cut:

Alt.TV: The Is A True Story, 2003

Channel 4 for me has always worked best at the margins. At the edges of the property shows, dating games, imports, landmark dramas, chat shows and sitcoms, those quiet moments of magic which throw light on some unheralded part of life or the world. Their Alt TV strand, broadcast in 2003, like the later Three Minute Wonder does exactly that and some time during that summer the channel broadcast one of the most beautiful documentaries it has ever funded.

This Is A True Story was seeded on an excellent premise. The filmmakers led by Paul Berczeller wanted to investigate an urban myth surrounding the death of a young Japanese woman in North Dakota. So the story went, after watching the Coen Brother’s Oscar winning film Fargo, Takako Konishi had travelled to the state capital, Bismarck, searching for the unclaimed money which had been buried by Steve Buscemi’s character in the film (which had been shot in and around the town, called Brainerd on screen).

The town police (who had been called after Takoko had been seen wondering in the snowy wilderness just outside town) said she’d even had a map pointing out the spot where the money could be found and regardless of the protestations of the town’s people that the film was a fiction, and despite what the Coens had mischievously written in the opening caption card of the film (giving this documentary its title). Sadly, she was later found dead in some woods across the state line in Minnesota.

The resulting documentary does contain all of the elements that can be found in more lurid examples; there were head and shoulder interviews and reconstructions of Takako’s movements and a voice over filling in the narrative blanks. Except that in reconstructing the final days of this mysterious girl, Berczeller was inspired by La Jetée, Chris Marker’s 1964 film about time travel (later remade by Terry Gilliam as Twelve Monkeys) which told its story entirely in still frames. He took a music promoter, Mimi, who had more than passing resemblance to the student and had her stand in the same wintry landscape as the dead girl and in photographs with the very townspeople who had originally interacted with Takoko.

This meant that the documentary was filled with a range of atmospheric and importantly memorable images, this confused girl standing in hotel lobbies and streets and eventually woods unable to communicate well with the people surrounding her and them with her. In choosing photography over film, Berczeller created an eerie sense of really being there, following the original girl on her path of uncertain doom; the music too eskewed melodrama in favour of mellow tones so that when the inevitable moment when the Takoko’s death scene was recreated it was heartbreaking but not in a cloying way.

Arguably the piece blurred the line between television documentary and video art but as this thorough article from the filmmaker written for The Guardian at the time underlines he was not interested in simply producing a representation of the original urban myth. This was an investigation into what psychologically led this girl to travel to the US chasing this money, both by Berczeller and Mimi, who empathised with Takoko’s plight. As well as providing haunting images this was as solid a piece of 'journalism' as anything you might find in primetime or with three times the duration on the big screen.

As the film revealed, in fact, sadly her interest in Fargo was just part of the miscommunication. She’d used a word similar to the indie film whilst talking to the police who’d put two and two together and made five – that version of her story had been perpetuated by the press. The truth was that she’d originally visited Minnesota with a boyfriend, an American businessman who’d later broken up with her, and unable to cope she’d revisited one of the places of their happiest times together. The final phone call she made from her hotel in Bismarck was to him, and she’d posted a suicide note to her family in those same few days. Some might say though that the truth, flying halfway across the world to die in one of the only places she was truly happy with her ex-boyfriend is the kind of grand romantic gesture you only find in myths.

But, in revealing the truth behind this urban myth, the film gave Takoko back her dignity, something which the best documentarians should be capable of. It’s a cheap shot, but recently we’ve become rather obsessed with watercooler moments, people on television becoming punch lines passed across bar room tables, on blogs or by email, and this was the antithesis of that, taking one of those kinds of stories and revealing that beneath it all there was a once happy girl who was handed one of life’s knocks, and couldn't cope. I can't imagine there are many of us who haven't felt the same way.

We've got to be ready. Y'know and stuff.

TV Freema Agyeman dot com has the premiere cover of the new Torchwood Magazine. Exclusive comic strip threatened. Anyone know who is writing this?

"The spirit of the theme park - queues, noise, spooky music - is upon me and, however hard I concentrate, I just can't shake it off." -- Rachel Cooke

History The Observer's Rachel Cooke visited the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at its Philadelphia stop off ahead of the appearance at the 02 Arena in London and experienced much the same problem I've had lately in pretty much all of the exhibitions I've been through:
"I go inside, hoping to escape the chaos; it's no better. A guard tells me that, this morning alone, they are expecting 500 schoolchildren. Is he exaggerating? No. A moment later the doors swing open and the first batch advances on us like a miniature army. These kids don't make my journey around the exhibition easy - especially since (pray that this trend never crosses the Atlantic) many of them have iPods with big microphones attached, into which they read aloud the notes that accompany the exhibits. It's maddening. So, too, is the sound from the headsets worn by those taking the audio tour, which is narrated by Omar Sharif - and the fact that each room has piped music: pan pipes when you're learning about Tutankhamun's wacky relatives; choral stuff once you're 'inside' his tomb."
Often there are so many people that it's impossible to see or enjoy the objects for the noise and the hustle and bustle. I know that visiting exhibitions is part of the educational journey, but just sometimes I wish that kids, tweenies and teenagers would pay attention to the art and not be automatically bored as soon as they walk in and start chatting about everything but where they and generally getting in the way. I remember really enjoying these things when I was at school and in some cases it changed my world view. What happened?