found herself a job

The Law Having graduated, Elizabeth Wurtzel has found herself a job as an attorney at New York firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner. Here, she's interviewed by the Wall Street Journal about the appointment and also writes for them about the impact of the financial crisis on herself and her neighbourhood. I hope doesn't completely give up writing.

only a matter of time

Politics I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be called upon to take the US election in another direction.

"There is no double skive. There is no double go home."

Meme From Leah: Have you ever ...

1. gone on a blind date?
Ha, ha. No. Though I have met people I've only otherwise known through the web which I'd say has only gone well about 50% of the time. The people know they are because I'm still speaking to them.

2. skipped school?
No. Not a day, not a lesson for the whole of school. Even when I was away for a week at infant's school it was pre-arranged. As an undergraduate I only missed one lecture and one seminar in three years both due to ill health and as post-graduate missed the second half of a film screen which I turned on for the tutor because I had a clash, but went back afterwards to shut the dvd player and screen down. Oh and watched the film myself the day before with my own copy.

3. watched someone die?
Not someone I know. I'm on one of two tower blocks and I've seen the aftermath of someone falling of the building once or twice. I've also witness the aftermath of a stabbing on the car park nearby.

4. been on the opposite side of your country?

I've been to London. I've been to all of the nations capitals and Dublin.

5. swam in the ocean?
No. The sea though.

6. had your booze taken away by the cops?
No. Though I have been boozy and woozy.

7. lettered in high school sport?
Weeks on end at school, mostly due to bullying. It just wasn't worth the hastle. When it came to Games in the sixth form, I took the Bridge option. Yes, Bridge was offered as a choice against football, swimming, squash etc. But as the PE teacher said as he read out the choices at the start of each afternoon lesson: "There is no double skive. There is no double go home."

8. played cops and robbers?
No, unless you count my razor sharp detective skills

9. sung karaoke?
Ahem. God, was that really four years ago?

10. paid for a meal with coins only?
Depends what counts as meal. But oh yes. I tend to spend cash quite a lot actually, I like to see it leaving my hand.

11. made prank phone calls?
Well, I used to play the 0800 game when in pubs when I was pissed. You dial 0800 then six random numbers to see where you get through to, and if it's an answering service leave a long, drawn out stream of nonsense talking about basically whatever's on your alcohol addled mind at that moment. Oh and there was the time I rang Talking Pages and used Obi-Wan Kenobi's dialogue from the Cantina scene in Star Wars verbatum: "I'd like a fast ship." "Boat hire, sir yes."

12. laughed until some sort of beverage came out of your nose?
Yes! Though I can't remember when or why.

13. written a letter to Santa Claus?
Every year when I was younger and the Post Office had an arrangement to send back a letter from Father Christmas in lapland to any letters which included addresses.

14. watched the sunrise with someone you care about?
Oh gosh, you're making me cry.

15. been kissed under the mistletoe?
Oh gosh, you're making me cry.

16. ever been arrested?
No, but I think I've come close. When I was researching public sculpture in the late nineties, I went to Birchwood Science Park to see this piece by Liliane Lijn. Once I'd taken all of the photos I needed, I realised that I was terribly lost. I went into the reception of the nearest building which turned out to be British Nuclear Fuel. Questions ensued about what I was doing there and though everyone was very friendly I was ultimately escorted from the area and driven back to the railway station (which I might add is the only time I've ever ridden in a police car).

17. gone ice skating?
I wasn't very good.

18. been skinny dipping outdoors?
No. That I can remember.

19. been on TV?

20. stayed up all night; been sprayed by a skunk; eaten an entire gallon of ice cream at once; made something art-like out of the inner parts of a computer's hard drive; gone hang-gliding; intentionally eaten a bug; or done something else strange or unusual?
Yes. No. No. Yes. No. No. Lots of things.

Always picky

Life A couple of weeks ago I went into some shops and bought some clothes and also ordered a new jumper from Marks & Spencer’s. Always picky, I decided on the one colour, grey, which wasn’t actually in the shop at my size. I was told that the garment would be in the shop between Wednesday and Friday this week unless I heard otherwise. Sure enough at 10:03 am on Wednesday a message was left on our service. It’s still on there and here is a transcript:

“This is a message for (you, meaning me), I’m sorry to tell you we could deliv… Hello, this is a message for (you), this is Marks and Spencer’s, I’m sorry to say we could get your order today, thanks. Bye.”

The gist is there. No jumper. But not much else. I rang them back yesterday. What followed was something of a wake up call for someone like me who doesn't do a lot of clothes buying and assumed that like everything else in the modern world that things had moved on in the clothing retail industry. Here’s what I discovered:

(1) The jumper was indeed not in stock, with none in the warehouse, and no idea when more would be manufactured

(2) That, at least at M&S, an order can’t be kept open on the computer, so that when stock does come in I can be contacted, which means that ..

(3) … basically the order is cancelled and it's up to me the customer to go into the shop again and place a separate new order although ..

(4) … apparently there is a written diary and a reminder can be put in there, but it depends whether someone on the counter quote: ‘remembers to look in it on that day’

(5) That having checked her computer the nearest available jumper is in Leeds

(6) No they can’t transfer it to my local store. If I want it, they can post it out to me at £3.50 postage and packing

(7) There’s also one at the website. When I asked if they could transfer it from their warehouse to here I was told no ‘because we don’t have access to the internet'

(8) I checked the website. That colour isn’t even an option. Though oddly there is photo of a man wearing it. It doesn’t look half as good on him (blink).

I could completely understand if I’d made this phone call in the 80s or 90s – but in 2008? I’m assuming that the reason that this kind of stock transfer doesn’t happen is the expense of shifting a single item between stores and they’d much rather the cost burden was with the customer who wants the damn thing. But I can’t see how this is that different to an inter-library loan in a library, and there you have an extra expense of having to ship the item back its source.

Clearly I don’t know anything about how Marks and Spencer’s supply their stores, but I have to assume that a van takes the stock from a warehouse somewhere to the individual store and then an almost empty van returns to the warehouse for the next load (assuming there isn’t some kind of stock return). That kind of run must happen at least once a week, if not daily.

I’m amazed there isn’t a network in place whereby when a van turns up at a particular shop, customer requests from other stores in the chain are loaded up for the return journey to the warehouse and then loaded onto another van going to the shop it has been ordered from. I know this sounds like the kind of bizarre idea cooked up by a disgruntled customer in the aftermath of a unsatisfying phone call, but I'm genuinely surprised by all this (I'm generally surprised by most things, but still).

So I’m Asking Metafilter (and you too), do I have an over extended expectation of how distribution systems work in department stores?

sounds like one of S Club 7's old album filler tracks

The Sun falls victim to Robert Mugabe palace hoax
Epic fail, and not before time.
Take that Katy Perry and Rose Tyler. Actually I do find the use of the phrase repugnant and good luck to these people in trying to do something about it, even if the ads don't quite work and come across as a poor skit from a late edition of The Fast Show. I much prefer lame, though that's also probably discriminating against lamers.

Interview: Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon
Old (well two and half year old) but sweet interview with Neil and Joss from TIME Magazine from just before Serenity opened and ... a year or so later it did well on dvd.

BBC screws British bloggers (again)
I hate reading stories like this; how can every other source in the programme be crediting properly and not the people from Shiny Media (and yes, I've read the BBC statement in the comments which doesn't make sense to me).

Girls Aloud Game
I'm so old, that I remember when computer games were considered nerdy and Lucas Arts-style point and click adventures the nerdiest. It's 2008, kids are fighting over consoles called Wii and to increase the culture shock, at least for me, not too long ago the Girls Aloud PR team used one of this genre of games in a competition, with cartoon versions of the group trying to give some blokes a "makeover". WARNING: above link goes straight to the flash game with one of their tracks on a loop which, despite being quite good, you'd probably best turn off before it rots your brain. Though it can't rot your brain more than their latest single which sounds like one of S Club 7's old album filler tracks.

Very Short Introductions Quiz
If trying to find Cheryl a replacement for Ashley's not your thing, here's a pretty challenging quiz. By the time I'd finished, only the frontal lobe of the man's head was still there, though it was late and I was very tired. Obviously.

and generally doing the Democrats's job for them

City Shrinker
Ben Thomas, the creator, talks to Creative Review
I posted one of the videos to the tumblr. Now Thomas explains how their done with a raft of examples.

Shakira endorses Obama.
Though the format was bizarre, last night's debate pretty much confirmed everything we already know -- that McCain doesn't know what to do any more. He's spent much of the campaign slagging off his own party, taking pot shots at the policies that he previously supported, and generally doing the Democrats's job for them, under the pretence of being a 'maverick', not really explaining how he can be a force for change when the 'fundamentals' of that party would still be in charge should he come to power. That means that even in the circumstances of a controlled debate he can't help seeming stale and desperate while Obama is cool and dynamic. McCain looked nervous; strolling around the stage like a school boy public speaker not sure where to put his hands. He's lucky that the format did restrict room for redirects and proper debate; in a proper verbal fight, Barack would demolish him.

She was the face of 70s Hollywood, alongside Nicholson, Beatty and McQueen. Just don't ask Faye Dunaway about Roman Polanski.
Xan Brooks of The Guardian gets on the wrong side of Dunaway. I love the moment when she says: "My God, I turned down the Mail to do this!" As though they wouldn't ask that question either.

The Page That Has A New Favourite Manager
On the subject of journalists getting on the wrong side of interviewees... This is amazing and would the perfect raw material for an Edinburgh Fringe show. The Guardian have a recording of it being read by a computer, which sounds like HAL 9000 hectoring Stephen Hawking, a Speak and Spell and the old Ananova animated news reader.

to keep me busy

About I'm adding my voice to the choir. Bloglines is broken. One of the central destinations for many people's interaction with the web is not updating many of its subscriptions within the hour specified in their FAQ if at all. It's also regularly halting in the middle of an operation or the website is inaccessible for long periods, even in the new beta mode. Watching Twitter over the past week, I'm not the only one who's getting grumpy with some bloggers receiving emails from readers wondering why they haven't been updated for a while and other saying they're reluctantly going to Google Reader.

I don't want to do that. I like Bloglines, I like its functionality when it functions and having tried others over the years I've kept coming back. It seems to be a problem with parsing (if that's the right word) some types of feed, and when it doesn't seem to like The Guardian (some feeds - music, film - not updated since Saturday) or The Daily Kos (some time last week), big websites with lots of updates, clearly something has gone wrong at the back end. But there's been no word from Bloglines themselves about any of this and their news page just talks about a scheduled maintenance at the end of September.

Thankfully, I've got the above to keep me busy instead, bought with my government 10p tax rebate. "Andrew Jackson, brought a big block of cheese..."

The Last Sontaran (Part Two)

TV If we’ve learnt anything this past few weeks, through The Writer’s Tale (my review) and the extras from The Trial of a Timelord boxset, it’s that Doctor Who isn’t easy. Eric Saward says as much at least twice in the documentaries, and the agonising that Russell T Davies went through at three in the morning whilst writing series four confirms it. People have fought battles over it, shouting to get their voice on screen, their impression of what they think the franchise is supposed to be like, making it all the more remarkable that anything of quality turns up on screen. To some, Who is seen as being as less complex a show to write than, for example, Battlestar Galactica, because it's for a family audience, usually has fairly linear plotting and only two main characters.

Actually that makes it even more difficult, because you really do have to care about tone and balance and getting a man who despises guns and violence (unless as a last resort) from one end of a story to another. Russell himself realised that the Bad Wolf Bay scene in Journey’s End was a mistake in hindsight and did what he could to suture the wound despite running out of time because of other commitments, just as Saward ended up hiring Pip & Jane Baker to write Terror of the Vervoids and in both cases the solutions, whilst not perfect were still far more interesting than anything else going on in television at their respective eras.

Rose’s choice is all the more heartbreaking because like many of us she does choose second best, not the person she really wanted, but someone as close as possible. You can agree with Open Air's mini-Chris Chibnall (first time for everything) that Vervoids is vaguely derivative of what’s gone before with a whodunnit aboard ship (not that it stopped Agatha Christie), but gives us a sixth Doctor acting like proper hero, a companion who’s proative and adventurous for the first time in ages, is the most all round entertaining story of that season and watching it the other night I couldn’t help thinking that it was The Caves of Androzani of Colin’s era, in that we finally saw what a sixth Doctor tale should be like. Why is this relevant to …

The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Last Sontaran: Part Two?

Because like those episodes scribbled in difficult circumstances, it had to write out a well loved character and her whole family in the opening story of a season, whilst offering much the same formula seen before in making it palatable for kids, as well as a sequel to a yarn from the mother series. Assuming Phil Ford did write all of this, setting aside your envy that he’s getting a chance to work in the inner circle, you can imagine him sitting in front of his electric typewriter with note book full of ideas, buzzing with potentially scenes and speeches and trying to put them down on paper in a coherent order including how to fit in a line about "small man syndrome" without it sound dodgy (he failed).

Perhaps as he's replacing the ribbon, he's pondering: "At what point do I disclose that Maria’s leaving? How to I give the titular character something to do in a story which needs to foreground the younger characters without constantly making her look like she’s holding something back? Where do I put the exposition scene explaining the plot? Where do I put the reveal of the probic vent as a solution to immobilising the Kaarg the Sontaran – do I wait until episode two? Who should I get to do it – would working out a way for Maria’s mum Chrissy however cute to do it be too reminiscent of the Donna scene in the other story and making her forget similar to Ms Noble’s non-demise? Would a final scene in which our remaining characters look into the sky imagining that Maria’s doing the same thing be too cheesy?"

You might agree or disagree with his choices, but given what he had to produce, you can’t criticise the writer for at least trying his best. The main story was about the only weakness, far more simplistic in design than most of last year’s stories. This is, we assume, is SJA’s equivalent of the romp, with plenty of running, being captured now and then and trying to outfox an alien using his own raw materials. On reflection, though Kaagh wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination (to quote Ford) "the best Sontaran that we've ever seen in the Doctor Who world", Anthony O'Donnell was certainly enjoying himself and like The Time Warrior’s stranded example, it was nice to have a member of that race who didn’t simply want to conquer Earth just because; his rational at least from a Sontaran’s point of view was perfectly sound, even to the point of almost quoting from the great Zaroff. Unlike Revenge of the Slitheen, his ultimate defeat didn’t offer any kind of moral question, or room to ponder speed with which Professor Skinner was brandishing a gun (am I reading too much into this?) (probably).

Still, there were plenty of great scenes such as Alan having to deal with the process of getting Mr Smith open and the computer’s reaction (helped by Alexander Armstrong finally giving a proper performance, always a problem last year) and the chases through the forest, Ford giving loads of ammunition to director Joss Agnew who seemed to enjoy the opportunities to pretend he was lensing a Vietnam war film, with that fantastic deep focus shot of a foregrounded Clyde hiding behind a tree, with Kaagh on the hunt in the background; it’s a beat which has appeared in numerous other places, but it shows the ambition of this series that it should appear here. That was all back up by a flamboyant musical score that was, or at least sounded, orchestral, giving the proceedings a scale which even the classic era of Who couldn’t muster.

Presumably by design we’ve not been clued in too much about Alan's big US job (no doubt so they can return later in the series, Sarah-Jane’s contact stateside) and Ford could have overwritten the scenes in which Maria revealed her emigration to her pals, but in the first episode he used to it to say something about Sarah-Jane (who suddenly realised what it must be like when a companion chooses to leave the Doctor) and here in which Luke was devastated as a piece of his universe wasn’t going to be there anymore. The girl’s final scene, driven off in the back of the car, was clearly a homage to a hundred similar moments in Neighbours, the taking one final look at the neighbourhood before being whisked off to Brisbane (or in this case the colonies, which is, in a way, the same thing).

And if all that sentimental final scene lacked was the theme song to the Don Bluth animation An American Tail (“And even though I know how very far apart we are / It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star”) (still makes me cry that) (I’m a softy) it understood that kids might need a buffer into the next adventure, a thinking period as Maria left the series (and giving us adults a nod to the period where Sarah-Jane hadn’t a clue where the Doctor might be).

The character will be missed, which is credit to Yasmin Paige who brought charisma to Maria which could have been inherently whiny and annoying; unlike some actresses her age, she was/is understated and real which is not something you see often in this genre of television. I hope she does well with her GCSE's. It's ultimately very cool that she's put her qualifications ahead of her career in this way, realising that acting isn't the most stable of professions and that its good to have something else on your CV, even if it means leaving a plumb role like this. Yes, she will be missed, along with the rest of the family who are necessarily going with her. Especially Chrissie. Predictably, since it might be her last, this was her best episode yet.

Next Week: "Leave the girl, it's the clown I want."

The Last Sultana

Elsewhere I've reviewed tonight's The Sarah Jane Adventures, and it was a far less torturous process than last week.

basically my Friday

Life Having gone back to work and the Wed-Sun week, today's basically my Friday. So I'm frazzled, so don't expect anything too creative from me. So I'll defer the right honourable ladies and gentlemen to the tumblr which has recently been updated with more "exciting" videos.