The Spotify Playlist


Quite a simple one this week. It's the musicians and singers in my top 50 chart buddying up with other musicians and singers. In duets. It's worth noting the patterns though -- older men and younger women over and over. That probably has more to do with how soprano and bass voice interact, than anything else. Obviously.


Technology I can't help looking at Asus's new PC-in-a-Keyboard with a kind of wistful nostalgia. In the early 1980s, most home computers were like this (I had an Acorn Electron and Commodore 64s), all of the work done in a single box, with a separate storage device needed to install software (then a cassette player, now an external dvd-rom). Though obviously this is a bit more powerful.

One of the key innovations is to replace the numeric keypad with a touchscreen, rather like having an i-something on-board, but you can still hook it up to a monitor (or one of those flat screen tvs if it has a VGA connection). It even has the kind of non-standard, non-clacky flat keys you'd find on one of the 8-bit also rans like the Mattel Aquarius. Sigh. Computing has come full circle.

go mental

Film For those of you who are interested, Woody's Vicky Cristina Barcelona is released on UK dvd on 22 June 2009. My review is here, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing Penelope Cruz go mental again.

a collective groan, a sigh

Film The AV Club reveal their worst movie going experiences. I saw The Phantom Menace on the morning it opened in a tiny screen at the multiplex on Edge Lane (I think it was still called the MGM) with a print that looked like someone had driven a van over it and a rubbish audience of talkers and eaters. That's nothing in comparison to this:
Just as the film started, a small boy, maybe 7 or 8 years old, burst into tears somewhere down front. He continued wailing hysterically through the opening crawl. Anticipation for Phantom Menace was high at the time—oh, little did we know—and it was a completely full house, so keyed-up people almost immediately started yelling “Shut that kid up!” and “Get him the fuck out of here, you asshole!” So the boy’s father started shouting back, “We paid to be here too!” and “YOU shut up, goddammit!”
Around the same time, I saw The Blair Witch Project in a packed audience at the Odeon on London Road. I loved the film and still do, but I could tell that most of the audience in that screening simply couldn't understand the aesthetic and were becoming increasingly hostile. Ultimately, as the film reached its climax there was a collective groan, a sigh and people were already leaving even before the on-screen camera crashed to the ground.

Evan Davies is doing stand-up comedy for Comic Relief

Comedy Meanwhile, the BBC's ex-finance correspondent and Today presenter Evan Davies is doing stand-up comedy for Comic Relief:

He's very good, actually.

25 more things you don't know about me

Life Hello. For the past couple of days I've had a tummy bug and spent most of my time in bed, which is nice for the bed since I've now realised how much it needs a new mattress, but not necessarily for me, since I've got to find the money to pay for it. Since I've not posted for a couple of days, I hope the following will more than make up for it.

This is the as promised, far later than it should be, 25 more things you don't know about me or whatever this meme is called these days. I know, if you look at it from a certain direction it does look more like 22 1/2 but I was picking teeth by the end and didn't see the point in adding yet another film reference (23. Still haven't seen Godfather Part II etc).

1. I was very choosy about food at the age of eight. I wouldn’t eat anything that wasn’t cooked at home, apart from a Wimpy burger.
2. I often can’t tell my left from right.
3. Which makes me a nightmare when it comes to give directions. I’m reduced to gesturing which isn’t much use if you’re sitting on the back seat. I once put my … right hand out and blocked the view of the driver. I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me for the shock.
4. I know all the words to the opening speech of Never Never by the All Saints.
5. One of my favourite postcards is a painting of a pig making a counter-clockwise orbit around the Earth. It reminds me that all things are possible.
6. Whenever I’m ill these days and I know I’ll be banjaxed for days and spending a lot of time in my bunk, I watch Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
7. I have very hairy arms.
8. I tried shaving them once. That could be why.
9. I also tried shaving far too young. I still have the scar on my upper lips where the disposable razor dug in.
10. I once won three singles from a Radio Merseyside quiz with Linda McDermott. They were supposed to be chart hits, but one of them was Max Bygraves’s Sing-Along-A-War-Years.
11. When I was at school, I was convinced that evolution was the method God used to create all of the life on Earth. Note, when I was at school.
12. The best quote I’ve heard lately is from the film director Lindsay Anderson. Ages before he died, he was asked what he’d like written on his tombstone. He said: “Persistently surrounded by fuck-wits.”
13. I worked out the twist in The Sixth Sense from the trailer.
14. Whilst we’re on the subject, isn’t M. Night Shyamalan’s best film The Village?
15. There is a video somewhere of me at a Royal Bank of Scotland corporate training day line-dancing to Kylie’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’
16. When I was a teenager, I used to kiss a poster of Kylie every night before I went to sleep.
17. All things considered, I can be surprisingly bendy.
18. In the late nineties, I had a Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy t-shirt made. The back read: “Life. Don’t talk to me about life.” It promptly got lost and it wasn’t until years later I realised I left it in the room I was staying at Oxford University one weekend.
19. I was at the University for an Archaeology conference.
20. I’ve just realised I’ve never posted this story on the blog. Rubs hands together.
21. I have a poster of the Glove Theatre the wall above my computer – it’s the free item which was given away with The Independent a couple of years ago.
22. That might have been the last time I bought The Independent.
23. It’s naughties rather than noughties.
24. I can be quite boring sometimes. You know that moment in FRIENDS when Ross is flirting and starts talking about the smell they put into gas? I know that can be sometimes and I just don’t know when to shut up.
25. My favourite not in the real world word is Twunk. It can be a surprisingly effective swear-alternative.


73% Geek

It would have been higher, except I said that Vulcans had the better hearing.


Art This new exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester sounds ... atmospheric:
"Uneasy and disorientated (visitors) have found themselves groping their way through a blacked-out space towards an eerie shard of light. Taking their chances most have entered the room beyond, eventually stumbling their way back into the gloom in search of a way out.
Actually, on reflection it also sounds a lot like my attitude to life. That can't be good.

Climate for Change

Stu from the FACT blog is on the prowl for local blogs for a new exhibition:
"FACT’s next exhibition Climate for Change starts a week on Friday (13 March) and it’s all about networks, cooperation and self-organisation.

In the spirit of things I’m going to feature a local blog for each day of the exhibition and then ask each featured blogger to choose the next one.

Naturally there may be times when the chain breaks down for whatever reason, so I’m looking for recommendations of local blogs that I can restart the process with. If there are any local(ish) blogs that you like then let me know by posting a comment or by sending me an email.

Eventually, each blog will be archived in the ‘C4C Featured Blogs‘ category under Climate for Change."
The email address to contact if you'd like to help is

I skimmed. A lot.

Books It wasn’t until the late 1990s that I discovered that Dawson’s Creek and Buffy The Vampire Slayer were broadcast in the same US network. In the UK, Dawson bounced around Channel 4’s schedules and Buffy rested her stake on BBC Two, even I seem to remember clashing for a few episodes. Not once did it occur to me that they might be stable mates even though, despite genre difference, their DNA was quite similar – articulate teenagers dealing with growing pains both metaphorically and emotionally. But once I’d heard about The WB, I realised that such tonal similarities were part of a channel strategy that’s when I backed off and continued watching the shows for the entertainment that they were, trying desperately not to think of implications of the fact that I was actually being marketed to.

Season Finale is the story of the WB and that marking process and how it compared to the channel it would ultimately merge with, the UPN (United Paramount Network). Susanne Daniels, a television executive with the WB for most of its life, and Cynthia Littleton, a longtime television reporter for Variety describe the launch and life of both of these channels, from their faltering first steps within a television landscape that didn’t want them, through their relative successes and failures through to that controversial merger to form the CW.

For people of a certain age, or in other words me, the book is impossible to put down. Two of the chapters are called ‘Welcome To Sunnydale’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Wait’ and we’re being offered a chance to witness the creation of some of our favourite tv shows from the perspective of the executive who played wet nurse to Buffy and Dawson and also the Gilmore Girls and Smallville and a range of shows that didn’t make much of an impression in the UK, the likes of Felicity and 7th Heaven. The casting, the preview screenings, the stressed out financiers, in other words the gossip which I completely missed during the run of the programmes.

How Joss Whedon’s agent played hardball so that he would be given the opportunity to direct the pilot of Buffy; Kevin Williamson was given My So-Called Life scripts to look out so that he could time out were the commercial breaks should go in the hour and finding himself overworked trying to juggle the Creek and Scream 2, was locked in a hotel room until something was finished, even having to ask permission to go to the bathroom; JJ Abrams’s realisation in hindsight that it was Keri Russell’s haircut that doomed Felicity; UPN’s constant struggle to broadcast something worth watching knowing that if it wasn’t for Star Trek: Voyager and wrestling they’d be sunk.

If only the whole book was like this: understandably, given the source, the rest mostly comes across as an extended Variety article with pages upon pages of demographic statistics, ratings numbers and the details of meetings between executives and creatives that are tricky to navigate even with the glossary at the front. In places, it’s clearly been written by insiders for insiders and the effect is much the same as attending a party where everyone knows each other and you’ve no clue what any of the in-jokes actually mean. I skimmed. A lot.

Yet, this is still an impressive piece of work and a must read for anyone with a passing interest in the business of television and any of these shows. I know that these things were only created to fill the gaps between advertising and the reason I look at them so fondly is because they were designed so specifically to be attractive to my demographic. I don’t care. Their business was our entertainment and I was entertained and still am. through the boxsets and comic books and for that they should be congratulated. So what if I suddenly have the urge to buy the complete Dawson's Creek on dvd?

'a powerful story of hope and courage'

Film & Music Natalie Imbruglia's next album is due May 2009 according to her refreshed website ("It has taken longer than I would have hoped to get to this point (I will spare you the gory details) but it feels very good to be in a postion of control and being able to decide how this record will be delivered to the world. ").

In the meantime, she's been acting again and stars in the Australian film Closed for Winter, which is currently doing the rounds at film festivals: "the emotional and poetic story of Elise, a beautiful young woman haunted by the disappearance of her sister when they were both children. Natalie Imbruglia stars as Elise in a stunning performance in her first leading film role."

The trailer's up on You Tube and though I'm naturally averse to any film which is supposed to feature in trailerise 'a powerful story of hope and courage' because unless there's a meteor involved they tend to be neither, there are some rather good moments when Nat breaks the forth wall and gives us her That Day look.

New Tennant in Elsinore on Film

The Telegraph reports that David Tennant's turn as Hamlet is going to be filmed after all, over two or three weeks in June, which will be just after he's completed filming on Doctor Who.

As you can imagine, I'm very pleased.

I'm very pleased.

Theatre The Telegraph reports that David Tennant's turn as Hamlet is going to be filmed after all, over two or three weeks in June, which will be just after he's completed filming on Doctor Who. As you can imagine, I'm very pleased.

Another Spotify Recommendation.

Radio As this rapidly turns into a Spotify blog (I refer the the reader to my previous comment about obsessions), here's something else I've found:

Vintage Radio Collection
The Best of Radio Film Noir

Between the mid-1930s and the 1940s, the Lux Radio Theatre presented a series of live radio adaptations of new Hollywood films featuring the original stars. Lately they've been released as Mp3s and low and behold here they are on Spotify. Most are an hour long and are fascinating relics from the time before home video. Understandably, some are better than others, usually depending on how visual the original work was though most of the time you can't go wrong with those featuring Orson Welles. I'm pleased to see a version of one of my Forgotten Films, Magic Town (link here). Admittedly, there are loads more that can be downloaded at the Internet Archive, but it's just a measure of the breadth of material Spotify has.

Since I really don't want to turn the blog to turn into a sea of stuff snatched from and about Spotify, I've set up a dedicated Furl feed, which you might like to subscribe to if you'd like to know what I've found, etcetera.

I was so innocent back then

Film Electric Dreams, the techo-love triangle which I hyperbolically described as the Being John Malkovich of the 1980s in this pre-blog 2001 review at the IMdb (I was so innocent back then) is finally being given a proper DVD release in April. Though the film has been largely forgotten, you might have heard the theme song (You Tube). It was Anna 'The Nun' Nolan from the first Big Brother's favourite song.

unusually atmospheric

Liverpool Life Hilary Burrage updates us on the state of restoration or not of the Josephine Butler House at the top of Hardman Street which I pass very close to almost every day. Though its current, slightly nightmarish state with the surface of the bricks missing is unusually atmospheric, as a historic building it deserves some reverence and attention or at the very least a decision on whether it is indeed going to remain standing.