Blog! Waxy interviews Alan Taylor, creator of Boston Globe's The Big Picture:
"Browsing the wire is really fun, and leads to some incredible finds. If there's a specific story I want to tell, I'm at the mercy of what I can find. Sometimes there's a lot, other times, not. For instance, I'm dying to do some "daily life" entries about Iran, but the wire feeds I have available have almost no images from there at all, other than photos of Ahmadinejad — but that's not what I'm after. I try to stock up for a rainy day too. I have some stored searches, some favorite photographers, some perpetually interesting subjects, and so on. I'm trying to automate the gathering as much as possible."
What I love about this blog, even more than the flickr interestingness photo feed is that no matter what he says there's obviously a journalistic mind at work, finding thematic links between images making them all the more fascinating.
Web This kvetch from Jemima about Web 2.0 names ties neatly with a line that was in The New Quiz last night. According to Carrie Quinlan, the Wikipedia should be a description of someone who shags baskets. It's all in the pronunciation.
Life Truth be told it's been a bit of a miserabilist kind of day. Bussed it out to Garston to take some cds back to the library and to compare their selection with the Central Music Library (lots of Vaughn Williams and Goldfrapp). I've not been to the area at the weekend for quite while and was a bit dismayed to find the place deserted. When I was a pre-teen, Garston was somewhere you'd go shopping as a special treat. But now most of the shops are closed and derelict and the only people I saw seemed to be on their way out of the place, or teenagers on bikes.

Bonk, bonk, bump. Bonk, bonk, bump. There are currently a couple of thousand people in the Sefton Park field my flat overlooks, trying as best they can to ignore the rain as the Africa Oye Festival continues. It's the kind of drizzle which is silent but relentless though, which must be dampening things a bit for them. But the music's loud enough to puncture our windows and walls and everyone actually seems to be having a good time. Thump, thump, thump. Rain, rain, rain.

Despite having a music festival but a couple of hundred metres from my front door I'm not sure if I want to go. As I've said before, I've never really gotten along with African music which I know is like saying don't like classical or country. You can't and shouldn't shut yourself off from the possibilities ever and in the nine hours of music each day, there's bound to be something I'd enjoy. And there are stalls selling interesting things. Well ok, maybe I'll trot over tomorrow afternoon. But not tonight.

Tonight's Doctor Who night, and Rose is back...
Life Lately I've enjoyed the intrusion of random phrases.

Last night talking to Chris over coffee in the Albert on Lark Lane (and there's a whole other post to be written about how you can get a coffee in pretty much every pub these days, especially since the the smoking ban) I was momentarily distracted by the name "Zefram Cochrane" piercing the through the din of voices and the sound of Germany harassing Portugal on the television. Luckily, said voice (predictably male) quickly followed it with a biography -- "Inventor of the warp drive" -- as though the StarTrekiverse or Roddenberryverse (or whatever it's called these days) was real. Suddenly, I was sixteen years old again, reading excepts from the Star Trek Technical Manual to my school friends.

Today, I was eating lunch in a leafy courtyard in the city centre when the kind of hearty loud sneeze I usually reserve for situations when I think I'm alone. Moments later, from what I realised was an open upstairs window I heard a woman's voice shout "But I'm your life partner!" Then silence apart from a few sniffles from my direction. I thought about it for a minute and wondered if I'd misheard a criticism of my mucosa technique but on reflection I think it was a real argument and like the discussion from last night, just a couple of words had been caught suspended in the air. I love this.

They're like isolated moments of drama open for you to fill in the gaps either side, sometimes when you know who the players are but more often not. But unlike the late lamented website In Passing and its cousin Overheard In New York, there's not enough context to understand the source story. So, life partner?
Politics Who Murdered the Virunga Gorillas? "Muir explains the challenge: Nkunda's forces won't leave Virunga National Park until the Hutu guerrillas leave, and the Congolese army won't leave until they're both out. It's a stalemate no one really wants to end. Not when there's so much money to be made off charcoal. (Nkunda claims he has banned all tree felling in his regions of control. While that may be true for the Mikeno sector, he has reportedly taken over charcoal operations near Kirolirwe.) And if the charcoal production isn't stopped, the forest will be gone: no habitat, no gorillas."
Travel Pyramids? What's the Point? Steve Burgess from Tyee encounters tourism in Cairo: "Sad but true, there are many annoyances awaiting the visitor to Cairo. As in the old medinas of Morocco and some sections of Istanbul, Cairo's tourist attractions and markets are gauntlets of mercantile pressure. Here the art of salesmanship frequently crosses the line into outright bullying. One's natural trust crumbles under the realization that virtually every friendly enquiry and casual conversation will rapidly morph into a very hard sell indeed. Ask for directions to some particular spot and you will eagerly be led to your destination, which always turns out to be the shop of your new friend's brother, where great deals await."
Journalism Future of Journalism is an internal Guardian conference on the future of their craft. There's a rather tense moment during the panel on celebrity news:
"Robinson asked (Camilla) Wright (from Popbitch) about the scariest call she's ever had from a disgruntled celebrities, commenting: "You do get away with publishing things that a newspaper wouldn't."
At this point Marina Hyde saw her moment to set the record straight and took the Popbitch bull by the horns.
"What about my non-affair with Alan Rusbridger?" she said, looking straight at Camilla Wright.
There was a discreet but distinctly sharp inhalation of breath around the room.
"Perhaps you'd like to say sorry to the group? You never apologised," Hyde continued.
"I'm sorry - I thought I did," said Wright.
"No. No - you didn't. You promised not to repeat it," Hyde responded.
"Do you want me to write one tomorrow?," Wright added.
"Just to me. Just a little email or something," Hyde said.
Robinson interceded at this point, attempting to diffuse the atmosphere a little: "No-one believed it."
"Really? I think a lot of people believed that," retorted Hyde. "How many people read [the Popbitch weekly email]? 350,000? I just wanted to get that out there on a recorded thing. On the record."
Recorded by Jemima Kiss. Good on her. I've noticed in Hyde's Lost In Showbiz columns that although she can be pretty merciless, she's very circumspect about not just repeating rumours but material that's already out in the public domain. All of these panel transcripts have been worth reading if only to gain an appreciation of what, to an extent, these writers are like in real life. Charlie Brooker contributed to the one about comment:
"Charlie Brooker was on fine form: "I get the most abusive comments from people who take me seriously. I once wrote a column calling for the assassination of Bush, and had comments saying they would blow me away with a shotgun so powerful it could get me from 1km away. Anything anyone said after that is meaningless background noise.

"Negative feedback is character building."

He also said that commenters are freer to say what they want than writers. That said, Brooker does seem to get far less flack than other CiF writers. Is it because his work is more comedy than comment, as he says?"
Probably. But it's quite a regular occurrence these days for people to have a sense of humour bypass if the comedy interferes with whatever propaganda they've been receiving and believing from a different source.
Come 'n listen to my story 'bout a man named Greg
A software engineer, clearly kept his Lexus fed
And then one day, he was genetically modifying microbes
And out through their arse come a bubblin' crude
Oil, that is, black gold, Texas tea ...
Film When I was passing across St George's Hall Plateau yesterday, I noticed a bus advertising Brendan Fraser's new adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth, a film I knew nothing about. I also didn't know it had been made in 3D:
"Not far away, in Los Angeles, Cary Granat, the co-C.E.O. of Walden Media, is in his own 3-D nail-biter. Walden’s Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D—which is basically Indiana Jones Goes Spelunking—will be the first major live-action digital-3-D release when it comes out on July 11. He hoped to open Journey in 1,700 theaters, but only about 1,000 are 3-D-ready."
3D is presumably being used again here to attract people into seeing a film that they'd usual wait to see on dvd. But you know what would get me back into a multiplex?

Proper stewarding, zero tolerance on talkers and people using mobile phones, people in projection rooms who know how to work the candle level so that it doesn't look as though someone's turned the contrast down on the cinema screens and can work out how to make the sound come through all of the luxurious speakers which are filling the room and oh sorry, ticket prices which aren't so high that I might as well wait for the dvd to be released because with the travel to and from the cinema it'll cost pretty much the same.

Incidentally, Cary Granat? Ahahahahahaha.
Books Lance Parkin is probably one of my favourite Doctor Who writers. His novels topped and tailed the BBC's Eighth Doctor range (you can read the first one here though it wasn't published by the BBC -- it's complicated) and he produced the great non-official chronology which I keep banging on about AHistory. It's a tragedy that despite having tv experience (storylining Emmerdale of all things for a period) he's not yet been tapped to write a television episode, especially since his work has certainly already influenced what we've been watching every Saturday night.

Finally, though, he's been commissioned to write a spin-off novel for the Tenth Doctor, The Eyeless, and has set up a blog to talk about the process of writing and offering tips to other budding scribes. Predictably his analysis strays into the whole concept of what the franchise is about:
"The synopsis is a quick way to make sure that the stories are all sufficiently different. In a series that’s been running as long as Doctor Who, it’s very easy to come up with an historical character or setting or type of monster that’s been in a story before (it's harder not to, at times). All series and genres have formulae and only tell certain types of stories – Doctor Who is a great deal more flexible than most (Paul Cornell once said ‘the format is there’s no format’), but I don’t think I’m being massively controversial when I say that there are some old stalwarts – the alien invasion; the base under siege; the planet that seems nice but is secretly ruled by aliens; the everyday object that turns deadly as part of the invasion plans; a shipwrecked alien having to kill to survive. In any given year, the Doctor will face evil insects, evil robots and aliens disguised as people. There will be stories set in the past, present and future. It’s the rules."
Which pretty much nails down most of the types of story which have appeared over past forty odd years. Something which I do hope Steven Moffat resurrects when he takes over is the pure historical, or a story where the only fantasy element are the Doctor and his TARDIS. It wasn't until the third series in the 60s that the sci-fi elements began to intrude into the historical setting, in fact. The problem was that these histories usually had lower rating than those describing what was happening to the Daleks that month and were generally done for laughs so were eventually dropped early in the Troughton era. Done right though these could be exciting even if it doesn't turn out that an alien is behind it after all. Imagine especially the companion walking around wondering when the spaceship is going to turn up because that's what happens in every adventure...
People The Microfame Game: Rex Sorgatz from Fimoculous investigates in New York Magazine those of us (!) who are household names just amongst internet users:
"When we say "microfamous," our inclination is to imagine a smaller form of celebrity, a lower life-form striving to become a mammal—the macrofamous or suprafamous, perhaps. But microfame is its own distinct species of celebrity, one in which both the subject and the "fans" participate directly in the celebrity's creation. Microfame extends beyond a creator's body of work to include a community that leaves comments, publishes reaction videos, sends e-mails, and builds Internet reputations with links."
It's a very good survey and as should be the way of these thing, I've not heard of some of these micro-celebrities. Does that mean they're almost almost famous?
Liverpool Life I'd hate to say predictably, but one of the SuperLambBananas has gone missing already -- and to make matters worse its the littlest of the flock and one which wasn't held down with a block of concrete, just screwed into the ground. A campaign's been launched to find the little thing. Hopefully the idiots who fulfilled the local stereotype will see sense and return it.
Religion Even though we know dinosaurs survived the flood (on Noah's Ark) we don't know if Jesus ever rode them.
Film This single paragraph says everything you'd need to know about Adam Sandler's new movie, whose poster is currently blocking out the sun in the window of the local Odeon:
"I laughed precisely once. Presented with a dreads wig in a black salon, a terrified Zohan throws it to the ground and stomps on it, convinced it’s a strange beast. It’s the only moment he shows any fear or acts like a klutz, and it’s pretty funny. By contrast, his unflappable Jewish gigolo superhero hairdresser act is an overconceptualized drag."
Then again, the title, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan is also a pretty good indication to stay away. The Wedding Singer and Punch Drunk Love are looking like very distant memories, aren't they? The rest of the review is at Richmond's Style Weekly.
Blog! Raindogblue: Momentary Glimpses of Police Life. It's almost like a haiku COPS:
"Paint or not, marked or not, if someone crosses a street perpendicularly from sidewalk cut to sidewalk cut, they are in a crosswalk. You have to yield to them. This means stopping, not rolling with passive aggression forward attempting to herd the pedestrian faster forward."
Yes, sir.
Music Whilst I wait for Firefox 3 to download (I'm on dial-up -- so it'll be half an hour) I've been reading about the early Elizabethan composer Thomas Tallis. Tallis wrote church music, masses and litergies, works which even now astound because of the complexity and beauty of their vocal harmonics. The man lived to the ripe old age of eighty, bucking the trend of his fellow man (or woman) but it wasn't until he was in his forties that he really hit his stride when in 1943 he began working directly for the crown under Henry VIII.

Only five years later though, the old king died, the new monarch Edward, whose uncle declared the state Protestant banning the old Catholic liturgy forcing Tallis and his contemporaries to adopt a whole new musical style. As the English Language service took hold, Tallis simply adapted to the needs of the new regime and changed his style to fit what they wanted.

The works flooded churches desperate for these replacements and Tallis had 'arrived' in a very real sense. But then Edward died. Mary his half-sister reversed the Catholic reformation and all of this new material was set aside and the country returned to the Latin, so Tallis reworked his style again, and it's said that it's in this period that he composed his best material.

Hold on though -- within another five years Mary was gone too and in strode Elizabeth I to reinstate the Protestant reformation and Tallis was back to writing in English, and many of the works which had made his name a few years before went back into circulation and over the next two decades he composer a fair few more, though not many of those have survived for one reason or another.

What I find so impressive in all of this is how ready Tallis was to simply adjusted his processes to fit within the prevailing religious weathers which were buffeting the country and its churches. My interpretation is that Tallis understood that to continue working he simply had to change his way of working to fit the prevailing market forces and though his religious leanings aren't clear, it didn't matter anyway because he just wanted to compose, so he composed what was required.

If only everyone could be this flexible. As far as I can see, many of the financial problems which we're experiencing are as a result of a certain intransigence in which businesses are unwilling to change themselves to fit the new situation that we're in, on global and local levels. Partly that's because they simply don't see why they have to, or because they think that it'll all blow over. More fool them. I wonder what Thomas Tallis could teach them.

Download complete.
Elsewhere I've reviewed new dvd release The Banquet at The Hamlet Weblog for reasons that should become clear. It doesn't help that the transfer on the disc is a bit rubbish, as someone else reviewing the film at Amazon explains. Ugh, they're right, it's dreadful.
Film Cinematical has the poster for Woody's latest. Well the next one. Ok, I won't do that joke again. But here's the poster. It's classy. And nowhere other than in the credit block at the bottom does it mention that the film was made by Allen. No "A film by Woody Allen". Or "From the director of Match Point". Has his star fallen that far?
Liverpool Life The city has been invaded by a couple of hundred offspring of our Superlambbanana. These small replicas appeared at some time during Sunday afternoon, and you can't go anywhere in the city centre now without bumping into one of their cute visages. The BBC has photos which will give you some idea of what to expect. There are some at flickr too. So far I've seen them in silver and bronze, multi-coloured and mono and impersonating John Lennon and a street cleaner. There's a map currently in circulation showing where they all are, including Euston Station in London. Knowing the kind of person I am, how much do you think I want to go out and visit them all?

Ye yan (2006)

Prince Wu Luan played by Daniel Wu
Directed by Xiaogang Feng

Publicised as a re-imagining of Hamlet set in feudal China and produced in the style of such costumed martial arts epics as Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Yimou Zhang’s Hero, Xiaogang Feng’s film seems to have all of the elements of the play as though they were rewritten by someone who once saw the Mel Gibson version on television years ago. The treacherous marriage and coronation don’t happen until the middle act, and it's here also that we find something akin to The Mousetrap and Hamlet’s subsequent banishment. Most of the recognisable figures appear, though arguably the attitudes of Claudius and Gertrude have been reverse and she’s an old girlfriend of the prince rather than his mother. There are some nice tips of the hat in the production design with an opening battle in a bamboo theatre shaped like the globe and masks evoking a human skull.

The Banquet
(to offer its uk title) is sumptuously languid. There certainly flashes of brilliance, when Tan Dun’s music conspires with Timmy Yip’s art direction and Li Zhang’s cinematography to produce some arresting images. Ziyi Zhang’s multi-layered performance as the Gertude figure is often wrenching and stands out from a crowd of rather dower blokes. But the computer generated shots of the palace and landscape look dated and the fight sequences are pretty unspectacular in comparison to those featured in Yimou Zhang’s films, and most damagingly, the story simply isn’t as compelling or mysterious as it could be. Partly this is as a result of trying to move someone else’s narrative furniture around, but it can’t quite decide who the audience should be sympathising with.

Feng has clearly found a muse in Ziyi Zhang but his visual worship of her unbalances our attention away from what Shakespeare knew was important, Hamlet (or in this case Wu Luan)’s vengeance. It’s not necessarily a fair comparison, but when Kurasawa took an interest in the Bard, his adaptations faithfully followed the original plot and whenever his dialogue couldn’t evoke Shakespeare’s poetry he let the photography fill in the metaphoric blanks. In that way, the characters remained psychologically complex even as we gasped at the wind in the trees and the sand storms in the desert. It’s interesting to note that when Akira tackled Hamlet, he transposed it to present day. You can’t help but wonder if Feng hadn’t ignored Shakespeare completely he might have produced a more interesting and to be less boring film.
Commerce The Advertising Standards Authority upholds a complaint against News International. Take that Murdoch! Pity it's only about the pricing of some cutlery.
Dating The male at VCarded has set up a fake profile at a dating website in which he pretends to be a 23-year-old female and is posting the responses he's getting from prospective dates. Though there's a certain cruelty involved in highlighting the deficiencies of his fellow men, some of the banality in the responses is fairly shocking. Why isn't anyone trying to be an individual any more? [via]
Commerce Three years? Anna Tims, The Guardian's consumer champion helps with a long running complaint: "My first call to Aimlight raises a woman who says she is a manager, but is answering the phones and can't recall her own email address."