Annotations: 'Pop, What Is It Good For?'

Music TV Lately, BBC Four has been broadcasting a luxurious collection of documentaries and concerts about pop music and one of, if not the highlight is an essay by journalist Paul Morley in which he describes his own history with the genre called Pop, What Is It Good For? You might actually still be able to watch it the programme via the BBC’s iplayer or during one of the dozens of repeats there are bound to be over the coming months.

The show has a pleasantly rough and ready style in which filming mistakes are included, interviews begin whilst the director is explaining what it's going to be about to the guest and overall it's as though it’s deconstructing the documentary form whilst its reconstructing the pop song. It has what is already one of my favourite tv moments of the year in which Morley tries to have a serious conversation with the Sugababes during the noise and distractions back stage at last year’s Children In Need, mayhem surrounding them.

There is a website to accompany the programme and although there are profiles (borrowed from the Wikipedia) of some of the artists whose music is mentioned and played, it doesn’t actually offer what you’d really want – a playlist. So I’ve decided to create one of my own for you. Here are all but one of the tracks which can be heard in the programme in order of appearance, plus the songs which appear as captions (either as a title of lyrics) and just musicians who are mentioned by Morley and the contributors. And a list of the contributors.

The only ommissions are when the musicians are seen but not heard and the names of all those who appear in the dream like montage in the middle written in marker pen. There were what seem like hundreds and I think most of them are mentioned somewhere else on the list anyway, apart from Eminem. I've also linked to the relevant page at the Wikipedia which has the story of how the majority of these songs were made. If I was you I’d ignore this annotation until you've seen the programme – like a great mixtape or club night, it works best when you don't know which song is going to be played next, which is why I've left the primary list until the end.

Pop, What Is It Good For? -- The Playlist


‘Tiger Feet’ – Mud
‘I Feel Love’ – Donna Summer
‘Ice Cream’ -- New Young Pony Club
‘Like A Prayer’ – Madonna
‘Pull Up To The Bumper’ -- Grace Jones
‘Only You’ – The Flying Pickets
‘Waterloo Sunset’ – The Kinks
‘Lola’ – Nicky Thomas
‘Lola’ – Madness
‘My Girl’ – Madness
‘How Soon Is Now?’ – The Smiths
‘Virginia Plain’ – Roxy Music
‘Bye Bye Love’ – The Everly Brothers
‘Poor Me’ – Adam Faith
‘Are Friends Electric?’ – Gary Numan
‘Freak Like Me’ -- Adina Howard
‘Close (To the Edit)’ – The Art of Noise
‘We All Stand Together’ – Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus
‘Close To The Edge’ – Yes
‘Loves Gotta Hold on Me’ – Dollar
‘In The Air Tonight’ – Phil Collins

[Sorry, I don’t know the title of the Cristina track -- it wasn't caption. Does anyone who has seen the programme have any ideas?]


‘War’ – Edwin Starr
‘Knees Up Mother Brown’ (Folk Traditional)
‘My Old Man’s A Dustman’ -- Lonnie Donegan
‘Push The Button’ – Sugababes
‘About You Now’ – Sugababes
‘Overload’ -- Sugababes


‘Pinball Wizard’ – The Who
‘Karma Chameleon’ – Culture Club
‘Under My Thumb’ – The Rolling Stones
‘Virginia Plain’ – Roxy Music
‘Brimful of Asha’ -- Cornershop
‘Blue Suede Shoes’ – Elvis Presley
‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ – The Sex Pistols
‘White Riot’ – The Clash
‘All Along The Watchtower’ – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ – The Who
'Fire' -- The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
‘Rebel Rebel’ – David Bowie
‘Virginia Plain’– Roxy Music
‘Days’ – Kirsty Maccoll
‘I Saw Her Standing There’ – The Beatles
‘Heroin’ – The Velvet Underground
‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ – The Righteous Brothers
‘Maggie May’ – Rod Stewart
‘Don’t You Want Me’ – Human League
‘Brass In My Pocket’ – The Pretenders
‘The Guns of Brixton’ – The Clash
‘(They Long to Be) Close to You’ – The Carpenters
‘Back To Life’ – Soul II Soul
‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose’ – Dionne Warwick
'Tears of a Clown' -- Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
‘I Am The Walrus’ – The Beatles
‘What Difference Does It Make?’ – The Smiths
‘Shakespeare’s Sister’ – The Smiths
‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ – The Smiths
‘Hand in glove’ – The Smiths
‘William, It Was Really Nothing’ – The Smiths
‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’ – The Smiths
‘I Started Something I Couldn't Finish’ – The Smiths

Top of the Pops 70s

The New Seekers
Dandy Livingston
The Electric Light Orchestra
Donny Osmond
Chuck Berry
The Moody Blues
Roy “C”

Top of the Pops 80s

The Look
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Captain Sensible
New Order
Shakin’ Stevens

Hit Parade, December 1959

‘What Do You Want?’ -- Adam Faith
‘What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For?’ – Emile Ford
‘Oh! Carol’ – Neil Sedaka
‘Travellin’ Light’ Cliff Richard
‘Seven Little Girls (Sitting in the Back Seat)’ – The Avons
‘Red River Rock’ – Johnny & The Hurricanes
‘Put Your Head On My Shoulder’ – Paul Anka
‘Snow Coach’ – Russ Conway
‘Rawhide’ – Frankie Lane
‘More and More Party Pops’ – Russ Conway
‘Mack The Knife’ – Bobby Darin

UK 1960 clipping

Cliff Richard & The Shadows
Frankie Avalon
Freddy Cannon
Bobby Rydell
Elvis Presley
Adam Faith

Also name-checked:

Iggy Pop & The Stooges
Steve Reich
Philip Glass
Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Donna Summer
The Beatles
The Who
The Rolling Stones
The Zombies
Ian Drury & The Blockheads
The Birds
Siouxsie & the Banshees
The Marvelettes
John Barry
Béla Bartók
Igor Stravinsky
Charlie Parker
Cecil Taylor
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ludwig van Beethoven
Johannes Brahms
The Mothers of Invention
Il Divo


Rob Davis, songwriter
Dawn Shadforth, Pop Promo Director
Tahita Bulmer, Pop Singer
Mike Joyce, Drummer, The Smiths
Simon Armitage, Poet
Peter Blake, artist
John Worth, songwriter
Robert Wyatt, singer/songwriter
Richard X, Record Producer
Anne Dudley, Art of Noise
Paul Morley, Art of Noise
Heidi Range, Sugababes
Keisha Buchanan, Sugababes
Amelle Berrabah, Sugababes

Lastly ...

Paul Morley’s half dozen:

‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ – Kylie Minogue
‘Ride A White Swan’ – T.Rex
‘Lola’ – The Kinks
‘This Charming Man’ – The Smiths
‘What Do You Want?’ -- Adam Faith
‘Freak Like Me’ -- Sugababes

And when he left Stockport, after hearing T.Rex, Paul discovered Bowie, Hendrix, The Velvets, Iggy, Ballard, Burroughs, Rimbaud, Puchant(?), Duchamp and Elvis.

[It sounds like Puchant although I'd welcome a second opinion. Couldn't find anything substantial online about John Worth either. If anyone notices any errors or omissions, please do let me know.]

"You can get all A's and still flunk life." -- Walker Percy


blog readability test

[Blinks.] [via]

May include scenes of graphic novels

TV I was visiting the local comic emporium to purchase the last regular Joss Whedon scripted issue of the Astonishing X-Men and asked about whether the US IDW Doctor Who comic books would be making an appearance over here. The man in the shop explained that the company have a reciprocal licensing agreement with Panini which means that they get to publish those Classic Comics things and in return their books can't be imported. Instead the people behind the party newsletter will be putting out a Graphic Novel in six months time binding the six stories together. I'm sure everyone else knew that but it was news to me. They suggested I try ebay but to be honest with all the other Who-related material knocking around I think I can wait.

Speaking of which, I'm sure you've all read a certain spoilery post at the SFX blog but just in case, there's more about it after the jump ...

Liz Sladen confirms to them that she will be back for the close of the fourth season in a story which is looking increasingly like the nu-Who equivalent of the anniversary story. At this rate I'm half expecting the Fifth Doctor to put his head around the TARDIS door.

But of course the slightly more exciting news is that The Sarah Jane Adventures has been renewed for a second series with an order for twenty-four episodes which is almost the same number as the mother series in the olden days. Although some of the comment there wonder if this is a misprint, but I'm not so sure -- it only roughly matches up to the same workload as a Torchwood.

"It's not Mars .... or Venus....' -- the man in the video below speaking in French.

Science Watch this You Tube video and I'll see you afterwards.

Clearly I'm not going to agree with the somewhat xenophobic headline which accompanies the video, since in fact all it proves is that 58% of the people in that studio didn't know the answer to that question. Did you like me expect that the bar graph during the phone a friend would offer a hundred percent in the moon column though? It does seem extraordinary that so many people would not know the answer to what you would have thought was such an elementary science question. If I do have a theory it's that the subject wasn't covered in school because the educators assumed that the students, no matter how old they were, would already be aware. Clearly they're not and so they're happy to pass through their lives in blissful ignorance.

The shape of the solar system was covered for me in infants school, along with a round Earth and the change of the seasons. It's in English Literature lessons that I was presented with the more interesting material - that this view of our corner of the universe was not the prevailing impression for thousands of years. Pre-Gallileo, people generally followed Ptolemy in putting the Earth at the centre of the existence with the sun and moon and planets and stars revolving around us, God having placed us there to emphasis our importance. That's the view of the universe Milton used in constructing Paradise Lost (hence the teaching context). In other words not too long ago in the grand sphere of things, the man at the centre of this clip would have been considered a genius, or at least the follower of one.

What is in fact more troubling about the clip is the placement of the question. At the end, he walks away with a grand and a half's worth of Euros which means this poser wasn't dropped in the selection of warm up questions but instead after some money is safe, in other words the producers who set the questions themselves believed it to be slightly tricky, that it is the kind of thing which might stump some people. The presenter doesn't know quite what to say, since he's apparently in the minority of people in the audience who knew the right answer (unless that's just because it appeared on his screen). It's hard to imagine that happening in the UK, although it would be an interesting experiment if this same question was placed in the same position on one of our Saturday night spots just to see the reaction, a kind of cross-cultural quizzical social experiment. [clip via]


TV Lately I’ve been watching the first season of The X-Files and been reminded about just how good that series was at the beginning before the mythology overwhelmed the narrative to the point that it became apparent that no one had any idea where it was going and behind the scenes shenanigans led to the breaking up of the central couple. There’s something pleasingly generic about the treatment of the spooky dos as Mulder and Scully are called to a place were something weird may be happening, the find out what it is, deal with it and then leave with a hint that some issues have been left hanging. Although it’s clearly plot driven the best moments are perhaps the most mundane, when the FBI agents are sitting around in offices and cars debating the supernatural and rational, with Scully not completely disregarding the former and Mulder realising that what he’s saying isn’t within a country kilometre of the latter.

On the basis of Sleeper, one of the lessons learned in this new series of Torchwood it’s that you can dare to be mundane if the story demands (so no random snogging then, which disappointed Guardianista Anna Pickard, who live-blogged the episode). In the previous series there was a certain desperation each week that at no point should nothing actually be happening. Whenever there was a lazy lull in the story it would be filled with some shipping, dry rutting against a tree or that bloody stupid gun training montage. In this episode, amid the pyrotechnics and Terminator and Total Recall influences some of the best scenes happened when people just sat around talking about the situation and what it means to be human and in love.

Prime examples were the two-ways between Gwen and Beth in which some attempt was made to deal with the unrealistic using a modicum of realism. Comparisons can be made with John Smith’s dilemma in Doctor Who's The Family of Blood but on that occasion he was making a supreme sacrifice to save everyone and here the sleeper operative didn’t have a choice of utility and Nikki Amuka-Bird’s portrayal of this inevitability was bracing. Not that there weren't a few scares -- the brain scan scene was nothing less than a technological exorcism, the sudden emergence of the sleeper operative and Beth’s complete change of character utterly chilling. It's carefully striking a balance between the two and although it's easy to criticize the scenes around the hospital bed involving Beth and her husband for their soapy dialogue, they're required for us to understand what the character is trying to live for, even if we didn't learn all that much more about her.

Some of the few good incidents last year occurred when fantasy elements more usually seen in a futuristic or US setting turned up on the streets of the Welsh capital; what Torchwood is an expansion of that moment in The Unquiet Dead were the timelord says ‘Cardiff’ so indignantly as to wonder how anything supernatural or exciting could possibly happen there. Not unlike the film Hot Fuzz, James Moran’s script was essentially experimenting to see what this kind of action would look like on the streets and outskirts of this ciry. It’s simply not usual to see a young mother in that mode standing on that block paving turn into suicide bomber with quite that much intensity, her pram heading off towards traffic Ghostbusters II-style. The Yeti has very much emigrated from the bog in Tooting Beck to a nice set of public lavs on Queen Street.

The script was also careful to give everyone a moment of charm; Owen’s drifted from being utter twat to lovable rogue quite successfully and as someone at TV Cream’s noted in their previews Ianto seems to have swallowed a joke book between seasons (and an inappropriate one at that), although actually it’s more like a complete change of character – witness the exploding chair moment which is a far cry from the winging we endured during Countrycide. It’s still a pleasure to see Tosh being given something to do other than look vulnerable and Gwen? Well, Gwen’s Gwen, growing in confidence and fretting less about what Torchwood is doing to her – she’s embraced the darkness and is all the better for it. Jack’s about the only character who lacks consistency; back to his Who ways last week, in Sleeper he seemed to dip towards his old mood swings but perhaps with a touch more humanity.

Most of the problems you might find if you were looking for them were production based. The opening, meaningless voiceover is back with the royal ‘we’ve’ replaced with ‘Torchwood’ although it’s not clear which is the most comforting in terms of world saving. Now and then the editing seemed to cross the work of the actors, cutting to a reaction shot just as the important line was being spoken – most significantly during the scene were Gwen was reassuring Beth in the prison cells.

Colin Teague also betrayed his uncomfortable approach to action scenes and the same interesting use of camera angles we saw in SOD & LOTT, and though the explosion in the building, all done in one shot was suitably shocking, the assault on the ‘secret’ nuclear base was just waiting for Mat Irvine to shout at in much the same way has he does on the recent dvd commentary for Warriors of the Deep. Clearly it's tricky to do these things on a budget but this needed to be rather more visceral and I’m sure when HAVOC were choreographing the action you had more of a sense of the futility of war. Or something.

Overall then, Sleeper was another entertaining chapter in the lives of the men and women of Torchwood. I yelped and giggled like a baby. As with early X-Files, the story wasn’t completely resolved and there is the threat of more to come from these alien terrorists and well done to the production team for at least trying to be allegorical. This is the second week running when you get the sense of a much larger story being built, or a momentum developing, of story elements being planned out in advance. For all the similarities with other stories about aliens infiltrating society, it was still shocking to see these random people become killing machines and wouldn't it be rather fun to see pitched battles between them and the Weevils?

It just has to be oh so very careful with the tone and to make sure that it’s not trying to be too flashy for its own sake and taking self parody to the point of rendering the whole exercise pointless. At some point it's going to have to stop apologising for some of the excesses of the first year (to paraphrase Owen – ‘It’s the end of the world, let’s all have sex’) and forge forward with its own confidence and then I might be able to write a review which doesn't spend its time looking for places in which its improved. Next week’s episode already looks like another stab at the ‘person out of time’ story which was done at least twice last year but this time it should be rather sweeter and with tighter plotting. At least Tosh isn’t likely to say anything too naughty to her annual shot at a boyf …

"Well we know were we're going but we don't know where we've been...." -- Talking Heads, 'Road To Nowhere'

That Day Burns night then. This year we toasted Robbie over real mash potato after a few years of the convenience varieties. It really does taste fluffier and less powdery. I've had an odd day other than that, not because of anything in particular which has happened but it just felt as though my interface with the world has a kink in it. Perhaps I just need to get a proper night's sleep. Listening to Talking Heads' Road To Nowhere might well set me straight.

4 Minutes and 21 seconds later...


"He was not of an age, but for all time." -- Ben Johnson

Books One of the great myths perpetuated about the audience reaction in the original Globe Theatre is that the groundlings, the peasants standing just in front of the stage were like a modern football terrace, shouting loudly through the action, cheering and jeering with equal measure, the gentry sitting in the rafters taking in the linguistic and artistic brilliance of the verse and the allegorical details of the storytelling. In fact, as Jonathan Bate’s sublime general introduction to William Shakespeare: Complete Works explains those groundings would look up in silence awed by the sounds and language they were hearing, oh so otherworldly whilst it was the apparent nobility who would be criticizing and analyzing the quality of the words.

Lord knows what they would make of this edition of the canon, the so-called First Folio edited for the first time since its fourth edition over three centuries ago. The first edition was published posthumously by two of his friends as a way of commemorating the work of their friend. It’s on its shoulders that the legacy sits, fulfilling Ben Johnson’s famous expectation from his introduction that ‘he was not of an age, but for all time’ and were it not for their endeavor there are a raft of plays which we simply wouldn’t have in any form (and indeed there are couple which have been lost because they weren’t included).

There have been reprints and facsimiles in the meantime but what Bate, Eric Rasmussen and their team of editors have set out to do is present a modernised version of that original text as close as possible to what Shakespeare intended, correcting the work of the sometimes flaky printers and offering finally a sense of the state the plays were in at the time of his death. As they note, it’s impossible to have a definitive version of any play since like many play writes he would be rewriting and correcting throughout the life of the work which, along with poor handling of publication during his lifetime, some of the plays particularly King Lear and Hamlet appear with varying structures and lengths.

The plays that were included in the Folios are presented in a single column with fidelity to the acts and scenes but ignoring the locations and most of the stage directions which have been added to some editions in more recent years. The five act structure was an invention that occurred during Shakespeare’s time when productions moved inside to intimate locations and time was required to relight the candles and so those plays in which these were a later addition also include a note as to were the original breaks were. Since this is a complete works, those plays which didn’t make the cut way back when – the collaborations Two Noble Kinsmen and Pericles are supplemented at the end followed by the poems and sonnets, all given the same care and attention.

Despite appearing as it should at the front of the book, the centrepiece is the general introduction which even to this fan is a revelation. Most of the dozens of biographies I’ve read or watched cover the main points of his life: son of a glove maker, decent schooling, goes to London, acts, writes, becomes a theatre owner, acts, writes some more with the backing of the Queen then King, goes into semi-retirement, maybe has a few too many to drink and dies, with plagues, theatres closures, a family and potential mistresses or boys weaving in and out. Bate includes some of this, but spends much of his time teasing out exactly what it was like for Shakespeare starting out in the business and working his way up to celebrity and unlike most of those other life stories, isn’t afraid to diminish some of the idolatry.

Comparison is made, for example, with the Hollywood scripting process, in which more often than not the text is passed amongst many hands often to the point of not resembling the original intent at all. In Shakespeare’s day it wasn’t unknown for plays already in the reparatory to be passed to some new writer in the company for a sprucing up and indeed there’s an implication here that some of his earlier plays are really just that. What set Shakespeare apart is that it was fairly rare for an actor to be carrying out this work and with an ability which would eventually lead to him authoring his own work. The aging writers of the original plays were none to happy with that actor who would presume to improve their work (especially since they wouldn’t profit from it) and even published a pamphlet to say so.

This then naturally flows into one of the best arguments I’ve seen about lone authorship; I’ve always found the suggestions that some other person could have written Shakespeare’s plays a bit specious, especially since much of it seems to stem from his ‘background’, even though the education he had as a boy filled with Latin and the like was probably far more complex than you’d find in some universities these days. As Bate notes the overwhelming evidence is that Shakespeare has to have written the plays simply because there were too many people watching him and as the number of eyewitness sources increases there would have to be a massive conspiracy at foot simply designed to cheat future scholars. It’s not unknown for people to be fronts to other writers (as portrayed in relation to the Hollywood black list in the Woody Allen film The Front) but how would it have worked in the collaborations in which the two writers must have spoken about the work and indeed rewritten each other?

Each of the plays is prefaced with a similar introduction, crucially considering a wide range of topics often concentrating on a single aspect of the work rather than futily trying to create a rounded picture (there’s the excellent Rough Guide available for that kind of thing). That completes the impression that this is as much an authored as edited book, which offers the viewpoints of two scholars more interested in presenting a cohesive vision than a confusion in completeness. Although an extract from Sir Thomas Moore is here, they don’t include the newly canonised (by some) Edward III because they’re not convinced by the evidence that Shakespeare was a co-author and Arden of Faversham is similarly only given lip-service. Such material is available elsewhere (including the excellent website which accompanies the book) and would muddy what is being accomplished here – a modern edition of one of, if not the greatest book in the English language.

Even as an object this is special. It comes in a box and though the pages are thin, they’re sturdy. There's an amazing selection of stills of various RSC productions contrasting the different approaches. The impression is of a family bible but instead of the word of a god this is drama from the mind of one man (plus his sources and collaborators). You can’t help yourself – you just have to sit and hold it, turning the pages watching the verse pass by. The cover eskews the usual clichés of a late painting of the man or of Elizabethan London to tastefully give the impression of the original publication may have looked. On the shelf, nestled next to countless other complete works I’ve collected, it stands out, definitive and authoritative in contrast to the brown and black of the others. I’ll glance up at the yellow of the cover and as you might a nice car or stereo and wonder how I could possibly own it. If you don’t have a complete works in the house, this is the one to have.

"It's all... part of the plan." -- The Joker, 'The Dark Knight'

Film I'm usually fairly unshockable (well that could be open to debate but for the purposes of what I'm writing about I'm usually fairly unshockable) but when I heard about this in work earlier today having not paid attention to the news last night (I was reading a book) I didn't believe it. Until I reached for a search engine and saw it in black and white and red. Since I don't usually follow the lifestyles of the rich and famous, these kinds of things are always surprising, but doubly in the case of Ledger since as far as I knew his lifestyle was fairly stable.

Heath was someone whose time had nearly come. Having shown great charisma in the likes of A Knight's Tale and 10 Things I Hate About You, he quickly shifted from simply being a leading man into becoming a well respected actor. With the odd exception, rather than taking the clear leading man roles he'd always be cast in more character based work.

Brokeback Mountain and I'm Not There are the kind of quirky things the likes of Brad Pitt fit in with their other starrier work. For Ledger they were his career. I've been a fan of his because of that -- when an actor doesn't seem to be appearing in every film you see it makes their fewer appearances more special somehow. The Dark Knight was probably going to really make him a household name. Seems now everyone knows his name but for completely the wrong reason. Shame.

Update: Joe Queenan had a wonderfully eloquent article in today's The Guardian explaining what we've lost.

"All that stuff is probably non-existent. I probably destroyed that twenty years ago." -- Woody Allen

Film Surprising rare interview with Woody Allen actually in Manhatten (he's back there for his next film) in which he mentions how he'd like people to see his films:
"I would rather they're seen on the big screen. That's the whole idea of movies. Now, eventually I guess you'll be sitting in your media room at home and you'll have high-definition and a 1.85 screen that's seven feet by ten feet or something, and there won't be much difference, but the truth is it's made to be on a movie screen, a larger than life screen, with audiences filing in and buzzing about it and coming out and giving their opinions. It's a social experience and a communal experience. So, I don't love that they're seen for the first time on DVD, but there's nothing you can do because the culture has moved that way."
In the past decade I think I can count the number of his films I've seen on the big screen on one hand, which is very wrong. He also explains that Match Point was originally written to be filmed in New York, which does explain a lot about confusing cultural elements in that film.

"But I ain't losing sleep and I ain't counting sheep." -- Cliff Richard

Life Still doubting my ability to write without repeating myself, apologies if you've heard this story before, inspired by this Wired article. The time was 1995 and I was writing my undergraduate dissertation. Sitting in one of the computer annexes, bored with trying to explain the reasons why someone decided to paint loin-clothes on the The Last Judgement in The Sistine Chapel, I began scrolling though the university's student email address list. This was a full decade before social network actually caught on and was about the only way to make new friends. Everyone did this at some point, I think, just went through the list and randomly picked out a name they liked from a course they were interested in -- no messing about with photographs or what kind of fruit they liked back then.

I picked someone whose name inevitably I can't remember now but which I thought was really memorable then -- I think it was Zoe Something (was it Panda?) and just asked how she was and she was working too we got into a conversation about university and this and that and passed a couple of hours. In those innocent times this didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary and is probably a technological miracle considering email then wasn't within a million miles of Windows, all green text on black screen and you could see who you were writing email to whilst you were doing it. I used to get a few myself. After that day we kept in touch for a few weeks, not quite in real time but it was fun, especially since it was clear we were totally different people who certainly wouldn't have spoken in the real world.

About a month later I was working in an annex on a different campus, by then trying to explain how search engines work, I think, for a totally different assignment. The room was packed and once again after a few hours my attention began to wonder. A really, really nice looking was girl sitting next to me was writing an email and since the text was massive it was too easy to see her typing ...
'Hope you're ok and not working too hard. There's this strange bloke sitting next to me whose typing really, really quickly. I haven't seen any other blokes who can type that fast, it's unnerving.'
I knew she was talking about me (there was a girl on the other side of her) and she was right, and still would be, I can type remarkable fast considering I'm using three fingers and a thumb at most and that is strange (it's probably also strange that I was reading someone else's email). I got up and went to toilet and when I came back decided to email Zoe and tell her about what the girl sitting next to me had said, ha, ha. I opened up the email software and there was already a message from her waiting for me. I think you're probably way ahead by now (especially if you've glanced downward). But just in case, the email said:
'Hope you're ok and not working too hard. There's this strange bloke sitting next to me whose typing really, really quickly. I haven't seen any other blokes who can type that fast, it's unnerving.'
I can remember it just about word for word (but not Zoe's full name. That's very odd). I glanced over to the really, really nice looking was girl who I now know was Zoe -- I suspect the look was something like the one Marti McFly gives in Back To The Future when he realises that he's looking at his father in that diner in the 1950s.
Of course, I wanted to say hello and of course it would have been far easier for me to just turn to her and say, 'Hello, excuse me, are you Zoe?', which is exactly what I would have done if this had happened now. Instead I replied to her email.
'I am the strange strange bloke sitting next to you and you're right I am a fast typist'
I watched her open up her email account. I watched her read her email and waited for her to look over so that I could wave and we could laugh and then go for coffee (!?!). Instead, she kept her head straight ahead and began typing.
'Oh god, I'm really embarrassed .... stop reading what I'm writing until you've got it ...'
I was reading (again). I stopped. She sent the email. I got it straight away.
'It would probably be best if we don't talk anymore.' Which I know is a Cliff Richard lyric but is probably a close approximation of what she said.
You're embarrassed? Did I now choose to speak to her now? Nope. New reply.
'Really it's ok. I don't want you to be embarrassed. Can we talk offline. We're sitting right next to each other.'
'No. I'm too embarrassed.' She sent back.
Then a friend arrived and she stopped typing, packed up her troubles and left, without saying another word or looking at me.

A week went by and I didn't hear from her. I emailed her and asked how she was, the usual. She replied saying: 'Sorry, I'm too embarrassed now. It's not the same. Please don't email again.'
And I didn't.

Of course, along with turning down that late night halls room invite (different story) I'll never know if the outcome would have been different if I had simply just spoken to her and I know that the reason I didn't do that was because of the self-confidence issue I had at the time which I don't have now quite so much -- she seemed far too nice to speak to a dope like me and afterwards I just decided that she didn't like the look of me. She had called me strange in the email, after all. Now I just think, some acquantances are best left virtual.
TV Study shows that Fox News is indeed 'fair and balanced' after all. During the one half hour in which they chose to look ...

“When you see a good move, look for a better one” -- Emanuel Lasker

Life I've just written the following:
"After reading about the death of Bobby Fisher over the weekend, as well as reflecting on how for some of us eccentricity can overcome talent, I realised that I haven’t played chess in years. My Dad got me interested when I was very young and we worked through hundreds of games until I became a teenager. I think he preferred it because unlike Monopoly in which I’d usually end up buying Mayfair and Park Lane and simply sit on them until he we bankrupt, in Chess we had a game in which we were fairly equally matched although he tended to beat me. We played using a set and board he’d used when he was my age.

I bought the books and magazines and crucially watched Play Chess, the kids programme, which, would you believe was broadcast throughout the school holidays just before Why Don’t You (etc). This studio bound programme (video-taped on what looked like the same set as Blue Peter) featured giant chess pieces and a grand master patiently taking us kids through a range of chess games using wiz bang 8-bit computer electronics, with history interludes and the like. It was probably the first place I heard names like Karpov, Kasperov and Fisher, all of whom I idolised.

Then when I reached secondary school, joined the Chess Club and tried playing against people who really could play chess and lost the knack. Turned out I simply haven’t got the kind of brain which can survey a board and work out the many hundreds of combinations and outcomes, although I was oddly quite good at speed chess, presumably because it’s somewhat based on instinct and I’m somewhat good at that. Eventually I took up playing against a computer but in the end I found it slightly more interesting to put two different bits of software up against one another to see who would be a victor, underling that I’m always the spectator never the doer."
Then looked for something similar to link to and read this. I've almost but not quite repeated what I said in 2006, the first time in five and half years. That's not bad going, I think. Will try harder though.

"A comedian does funny things. A good comedian does things funny." -- Buster Keaton

Film Phil Hall encounters Film written by Samuel Beckett and starring Buster Keaton: "Frankly, Film is strictly of curio value and is merely a blip in Beckett and Keaton’s respective careers. Having Keaton in the film is strange, since the viewer is obviously waiting to see him. But his face is not seen until the end of the movie – and then, inexplicably, he is wearing a black eye-patch. Schneider’s direction is lethargic and the payoff of two Keatons makes little sense."