The Spotify Playlist

The Guardian's New band of the day

Hometown: The Guardian's website

The lineup: Cobra Dukes, White Rabbits, Goldspot, The Japanese Popstars etc.

The background: Every day for the past two and a bit years (baring weekends and public holidays), ex-Melody Maker writer Paul Lester has been posting at The Guardian's website with a recommendation for a new band or singer that might be the next big thing. He offered a good explanation of his mission recently on the occasion of the column winning a 'Record of the Day' award for his troubles:
"I'd known for some time that the music industry's future depends not on the glory that is the back catalogue of The Beatles, but on the new Strokes or the next Amy Winehouse. Luckily there was a stack of CDs of new, young or unsigned bands on my desk halfway up to the ceiling that I could use as an argument for a new daily column assessing the artistic worth and/or commercial potential of such new musicians and groups."
The selections are only part of the story; each day Paul also offers an incredible little music columns, which as well as offering a biography of the musician also describes where they fit in musical terms or ruminates on the state of the art form. I'd love to know how he manages to be this perceptive on a daily basis, yet here he is on day five-oh-five ruminating on how music isn't as deliberately pretentious as it used to be.

Last week, the column reached five hundred so to celebrate I decided to try and construct a Spotify playlist which included all of his choices. As you'd expect, not everything is on there -- some unsigned bands remained unsigned, others have produced music which is only available on vinyl and the rest probably just hasn't been licensed yet. The 'not' list (see below) is extensive, but considering how much of this music didn't chart, get airplay, has been ignored, it shows the depth of Spotify's catalogue. Some of the EPs are obscure enough that they're only illustrated using a picture of the centre of the 7-inch.

It's an eclectic selection; though there is a fair amount of guitar and garage bands, Paul has been careful to balance out the genres, with a little bit of country, some folk and even the soft centre of All Angels. He admits that he's not always been successful -- some of these bands prove how poignantly truthful the fictions created using the random album cover meme can be, with albums and tracks called 'You're supposed To Be My Friend', 'Waited Up 'til It Was Light' & 'Gee Wiz But This Is Lonesome' and bands with names like Prinzhorn Dance School, The Orange Lights, Annuals and The Tough Alliance presumably still trying to chip away at edifice of the music industry trying to create a foothold.

Paul has also been very successful in his predictions; on this list you'll also find New Young Pony Club, Just Jack, The Maccabees, Robyn, Dragonette, Amy Macdonald, The Hooiers, Scouting for Girls, Eugene McGuiness, The Ting Tings, Adele, MGMT, Duffy, Little Boots, Lady Gaga and The Maybes? who are all at least famous enough that I've heard of them. If you decide choose to listen to the playlist from top to bottom -- they're in the order that they appear on the website -- it's quite exciting to turn up on something familiar after a mysterious half hour. Reminds me of the moment in John Peel's programme when he'd suddenly decided to drop in something by The Clash.

But I think what this collection shows is that there isn't really a formula for success; compare the work of any of the artists who have 'made it' with some of the others and there's not that much difference, it's just that Kate Nash happened to know the right people or be in the right place at the right time or is just that little bit more commercial. In fact there are plenty of hidden gems, like Janelle Monae who manages to traverse a dozen different genres sometimes in the same track, The Checks with their glam rock revivalism and Skeletons whose 'Fill My Pockets Full' turns the raw sounds of the city into an avant guard backing track to something that might be dance. I guess.

The buzz: "As far as I'm concerned, the Guardian's "new band of the day feature" makes the world go round." -- Lizzy Minneapolis

The truth: Very little duff music and some real gems you've never heard before.

Most likely to: Find the next Lady GaGa, god help us.

Least likely to: David Vandervelde, Love Minus Zero, Late Night Movies, Goldenboy, Jack Savoretti, Alex Delivery, Last man Standing, Shakes, Malpractice, Tussle, Heloise & The Savoir Faire, Parka, The Procession, The Lionheart Brothers, Radar, Low vs Diamond, Sister, Taylor Mills, The Tigerpicks, Jacob Golden, Bjorn Torske, Patrick Cleandenim, Dúné, Sorcerer, My Federation, The Daniel Pemberton TV Orchestra, Lord God, The Heavy, How I Became The Bomb, Erika Jayne, A Thief, Good Neighbour, Chris Letcher, The Lovers, Alloy Mental, Arthur & Yu, Circuits, Oh No Ono, Green Pitch, Black Daniel, Forever Like Red, Kennedy, Swimmer One, Sam Champion, This City, Liz Green, I Am Finn, The Cloud Room, Nelson, SoundOfzZz, The Broken Hearts, Big Linda, The Brightlights, Ben Esser, USE, XX Teens, The Author, Sarabeth Tucek, Morton Valence, Lauren Rose, Slow Club, Bombay Bicycle Club, Dude 'N Nem, Thao, Elle s'appelle, The Outside Royalty, Friends of the Bride, The Holy Ghost Revival, Asa, One eskimO, Paper Round Kid, The Elephants, Ebony Bones, Primary 1, Josh Weller, The Beasts of Eden, Temposhark, Grant Langston & The Supermodels, Lesser Panda, NiTasha Jackson, The Wave Pictures, Idle Lovers, Kav, The Explorers Club, OK Tokyo, Oh Laura, The Postmarks, GoldieLocks, Isosceles, Lucy & The Caterpillar, Mumford & Sons, Nicole Atkins And The Sea, Arms, Barringtone, Trouble Over Tokyo, Sian Alice Group, Collapsing Cities, Underground Heroes, Get Well Soon, Rosie and the Goldbug, Cashier No 9, Magistrates, James Combs, Pygmy Globetrotters, Boy Crisis, The Winchell Riots, Babygod, Oh, Atoms, Charli XCX, Pavilion, The War On Drugs, James Yuill, Archangel, Mama Shamone, All the Saints, Petit Mal, Hearts Revolution, Fenech-Soler, Hockey, To the Bones, Daniel Land & the Modern Painters, Amazing Baby, The Fantastic Laura B, The Coast, Stonefoxx, Les Gars, Stars and Sons, Women, Kenan Bell, Girl Talk, Burning Pilot, Soda Boys, The Operators, The Tenants Supermen, Deadfisch, Jay Jay Pistolet, The Jessie Rose Trip, The Big Pink, The Chemists, Chew Lips, Plugs, Alex Roots, Cosmo Jarvis, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Temper Trap, Hothouse, Solid Gold, Catherine AD, Deer Tracks, The Invisible, Milke, Will and the People, Sad Day for Puppets, Apes & Androids, The Voluntary Butler Scheme, Absent Elk, DM Stith, The dø, Ellie Goulding, Terry Lynn, My Toys Like Me, Sky Ferreira, The Good Natured, Kidbass featuring Sincere, Goldheart Assembly, Banjo Or Freakout, Steve Appleton, Fredo Viola, Dave I.D., Daisy Dares You, Sonos and Mirrors are not on Spotify. Yet.

What to buy: The playlist includes the tracks which Paul has mentioned in this section. Unless he's suggested an album or EP, which case I picked the top item on the artist's page. Unless they're not on Spotify. Obviously.

File next to: The Unsigned Band Review, Daily Tunes, Pop Justice Song of the Day


Next Saturday's new playlist: The Big Chill

Farting Corbett

Elsewhere I've not done one of these for a while, but I've reviewed tonight's Comic Relief special episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures for Behind The Sofa. To balance things out, I somehow forgot to include any jokes. Oh well.

From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love.

TV Who wrote those questions? Was that you Pixley? I'll get to the special episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures in the next paragraph, but it’s worth pausing for a moment to take in the Mastermind Special that followed it. As well as offering journalists a mallet to hit Davina McCall over the head with because she couldn’t identify the inspiration behind the tv show that made her famous (bless), we were also treated to the awesome moment during David’s specialist subject round where, after a series of questions about the new series, whomever it was (Gary Russell? Gary Gillat? Spilsbury?) wrong-footed us all (well, those of us playing along at home) with a poser about Delta and the Bannermen (one for the kids), allowing us and David, after a few seconds to get our bearings, to shout ‘Ken Dodd!’, as incongruous an entertainment name as you’re likely to hear on the modern floor of Comic Relief. Well done you.

And well done the production team of The Sarah Jane Adventures for collecting a prestige slot on this year's telethon, ten years since The Curse of the Fatal Death seemed to be the last time we'd ever see anything Who related on the small screen, and turning in something rather fun. Sure, the plot was rather less complicated than Moffat's time twister, amounting to Ronnie Corbett beaming into someone’s house and inflicting his one man show on them, but there’s not a lot you can do in five minutes, with just your main set, seven regular cast members to give something to do and a special guest star. Quite rightly given the context, writers Clayton Hickman (first tv credit!) and Gareth Roberts offered some good puns and a parade of fart jokes. I honestly didn’t get the two Rani’s until the second time around, but the sudden appearance of the chair and meandering story worked, as did the veiled references to Ronnie Corbett's golfing buddies.

It’s interesting, how, after so long in the post-Barker wilderness, in the past few years Corbett has been rehabilitated enough by his prat fall in the Peter Kay video for Comic Relief (Is This The Way To) Amarillo) for him to be a perfectly reasonable addition to the earlier evening end of Comic Relief. He certainly looked the part in that suit (perhaps a shrunken version of the one John Cleese wore on The Frost Report?) and I quite like the idea of an ambassador for the Galactic Alliance whoever they are and whatever they do. You might grumble that he turned out to be yet another Slitheen and the mass of exposition that explained the appearance, but like it or not, they’re the most recognisable nu-Who invention to have previously turned up in SJA and for once the gas ventilation whatsitthingamydoodaa actually sort of made sense in context.

Squint closely enough at whatever this was called (‘Funny for Money?’ ‘The Two Ranis?’) and for better or worse you could see a microcosm of the first couple of seasons of the series; visiting comedian playing the bad guy, Luke looking earnest, Clyde and Rani trading jokes, Sarah Jane momentarily holding back the tears, plenty of nostalgic references for the adults that constitute the real audience, a combination of Mr Smith and the Sonic Lipstick saving the day and a speech reminding the villain not to mess with this world saving dysfunctional group dynamic that meet inside the roof of Georgian-style property.

They’re already nitpicking on the Doctor Who Forum (“The Slitheen aren’t a race, they’re family.” “cringeworthy writing and acting” “really slowing down and dissipating the atmosphere” “obvious 'plot'”) which is a shame because it’s heart was in the right place. True, it was no Time Crash, but it’s wasn’t trying to be – different motives and deliberately trying to make you just laugh not cry as well (for a change) (damn you, Moffat) and I did. Laugh I mean. Hah, ha. Plus, has there been a funnier and disrespectful use of K9 than clamping him and having a red nose appear on his schnoz? It's certainly more entertaining than what his creators have done for his own spin-off. Have you seen that? Ugh.

unable to get my bearings

Art On Tuesday I visited the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.

It’s the first time I’ve been to that end of the city since I left university in 2006. Walking up Oxford Road from the station, I remembered Graduation Day, standing outside the main hall in my gown and mortar board waiting to go in and meet Anna Ford. Seeing the name of my course base, the various buildings where I attended lectures and seminars, I felt, well alright, I felt like I’d come home. I hadn’t realised how much I missed the place, even though I hadn’t lived there, just commuted. It was more to do with the person I was within those buildings, learning, working towards something. It would be nice to have that back some time.

Past the university and into the precinct beyond and into the Gemini Café for lunch. I’ve been told this café is world famous, and I suppose it must be considering how many international students have drifted through the doors. It is as you’d expect – 60s brown rigged tables and chairs bolted to the floor, surrounding a giant kitchen dishing out everything from pizza to carrot cake. The first and only other time I ate there was in the first week, with a group of people from my faculty, when friendships were being made and I realised that, because I wasn’t living there, it wouldn’t really be with me (and so it turned out). I was adventurous and ordered a fry-up. Having skipped breakfast, I devoured the bacon and sausage, wondered why they’d put the fried egg onto the plate upside down. I also drank a large mug of black coffee.

Which is where the trouble started.

I don’t know if it’s my age, but my caffeine tolerance has collapsed. I’m drinking tea as I write this and feeling a little bit tingly. This was, a strong, sterrrong cup of coffee. Stronger even than the kind I make at home using my cheap Argos filter coffee maker. Rich, full of flavour and totally toxic.

By the time I entered the gallery, I was why-errd.

Strolling up the road to the gallery which isn’t that far away from the café, I felt perfectly fine, but as I stumbled up stairs into the foyer, I could sense something was wrong and by the time I was inside, reality seemed to have disassociated itself. I wasn’t high, at least I don’t think so. It was more in the region of being wide awake and half asleep both at the same time. I knew what I wanted to do, absorbed everything that was happening in my surroundings, functional, able to think about my ‘condition’ but not in a position to do anything about it. I could tell that I must have had an aura by the wide-eyed, slightly scared look the girl working in the shop gave me as I shuffled in looking for change for the lockers so that I could store my coat and bag. It’s impossible to describe any of this without sounding melodramatic or unlikely, but when you’re talking to yourself and having to think whole seconds before asking someone a question and these aren’t your normal modes of behaviour, you know that something has gone wrong, and there’s nothing to do but enjoy the experience.

According to Edward Morris’s book, Public Art Collections In North West England, as with the Lady Lever in Port Sunlight, the gallery is named for its patron Sir Joseph Whitworth, a local engineer famous for standardising the design of screw threads and revolutionising the making of gun barrels. When he died in 1887, Whitworth left his technology and art collections to the city on the understanding that they built some architecture in which to house them to do some public good. The council wanted nothing to do with it, more interested in building some architecture for their own collections, which left the status of the estate in jeopardy. Still, land was bought and the Trustees commissioned the present building, and by 1908, Manchester had a second gallery for the public. Bequests flooded in from throughout the country, but as is often the case, funding dried up and eventually in 1958, the University of Manchester (which had nicely filled up the rest of the local area) acquired the place, remodelled the interior, and developed its new dual purpose as public art space and teaching tool.

The shift in architectural styles certainly didn’t help my condition. The exterior, designed by JW & J Beaumont, is of the style you’d expect from that period, all columns, red brick and neo-gothic styling. The interior, apart from some structural holdovers at the entrance, looks like it was copied from the rejected design for the lair of a 60s Bond villain, with modernist wood panelling throughout, apart from an extension in which mixes a white box aesthetic with the original back wall, its now salmon coloured brick as much a feature as the paintings hung nearby. It’s the kind of mishmash I love in an art gallery, where part of the excitement is simply wondering where a doorway, stairs or corridor will take you next, and what treasures will be there. I’ve visited before, but my caffeine confusion and generally poor memory meant I only had a hazy notion as to where everything was and the display policy didn’t help either.

Like Oldham Museum, so that the Whitworth can give a fair presentation of its collection within its relatively small display space, instead of a permanent display, it has a rolling programme of themed exhibitions. Even though they have a rather extraordinary collection which includes works by Turner, Watts, Picasso, Blake, Riley, Moore, Hepworth, Hockney and Lanyon, they’re not all on display at the same time. Not only does this mean that the less well known perhaps but just as interesting parts of the collection are revealed, it’s audience can never be bored because there’s always something new to see. Later on in the visit, I saw a rather wonderful collection of prints and drawings by Walter Crane who defined the iconography of the union movement; a show of works paintings by Lynn Hershman Leeson and monoprints by Tracey Emin and ‘Putting on the Glitz’ a display of outrageous wallpaper in primary colours and gold leaf and art deco narratives pulled from the walls of old hotels.

Initially unable to get my bearings, I decided to begin with the main reason for my visit (other than ticking the gallery off the list), the touring Subversive Spaces exhibition which I’ve already mentioned on the blog and in particular the new installation from Gregor Schneider, Kinderzimmer. As the publicity describes, the artist has taken the usually sunlit South Gallery and “attempted to create a replica of a nursery that was part of a village demolished to make way for an opencast mine near where the artist lives in the Rhineland.” It’s a popular work. Visitors are only allowed to enter the space on their own and are handed raffle tickets with an appointed time on them in order to gain entrance.

When I ambled up to entrance at about a quarter to twelve I was told that all of the tickets had gone until 2:30. But I persisted, assuming that someone would surely forget to turn up and the invigilator luckily realised that because the school group which had block booked ahead of me had left early I could go in right then. He warned me that it was very dark inside, that it wasn’t for everyone and that if I felt uncomfortable, I should shout and he’d be in with a torch. I thanked him and shook his hand. To recap, I’m on a caffeine buzz, feel like my heads about to explode and I’m about to be deprived of one of my more useful senses. And I shook his hand. I’m a firm believer that even art galleries and especially installations can be spoilt, so if you’re intending to visit, I’d stop reading here for a couple of paragraphs so you can experience it for yourself.

As for the rest of you: just past the small tunnel that led from the entrance I found myself staring into a void. Schneider has somehow managed to create a space that feels completely safe and dangerous at the same time, rendering a sighted person blind even though their eyes are wide open, unable to see anything, not even their own body. Just about. Slowly as I edged forward, involuntarily giggling and say ‘Oh my god’ over and over under my breath like a cheerleader being chased through the woods by a slasher in a slasher film, I noticed a rectangular light ahead. Edging closer I realised it was a door. Not knowing if it was the exit, I looked about for some other light and noticed some shading to the left. Walking towards it, I realised it was the reflection of a window onto the wall.

Through the window is a brightly lit room, the nursery presumably, covered in pink wallpaper. It is sparse except for a mattress on the floor and the kind of place you’d expected to be locked in if you were being forced to go cold turkey for an addiction to something stronger than coffee. I could see the door and decided I wanted to go inside. Picking my way backwards, my hand out at right angles stroking the wall, which was covered in black felt presumably for safety, I realised Schneider’s design circumvents our normal perception of space and that the entrance to the room to the window had been shortened by the lack of light; I’d walked further than I thought, which meant that I might not be looking at one room. When I reached the door and entered, it was completely empty. The mattress had gone. There were two rooms. “Wow.” Suitably impressed and knowing that my time was at an end, I made my way, as safely as I could, to the exit, where another invigilator was waiting to usher in the next victim.

The mistake? That was my first exhibit. The rest of the visit happened after I’d had my perception shot to pieces and somewhere between that, the caffeine and the nagging mood of nostalgia the rest of the visit was somewhat wasted on me. Despite my best intentions, I couldn’t latch onto anything, blundering around hazily in a daze knowing that I was in now in no condition to appreciate my environment. The last thing I needed to see at that moment was something like Calin Dan’s Sample City video which features the artist strolling about a city with a door strapped to his back or Anna Gaskell’s dissonant photographs of contortionists seemingly deceased on the floor of a stately home. Elsewhere in the gallery I stood for ages trying to focus on Ian Stephenson’s Screen Painting I, an insane example of pointillism, which looks like the kind of work a child might make if they could glue hundreds and thousands to a canvas or what might happen if you could shake a George Seurat painting like a magnetic beard game and watch the figures and landscape merge into one.

I was perfectly fine about ten minutes after leaving the gallery, at exactly the moment I misjudged crossing the road and was nearly run over by a bus. I did consider returning, but decided I needed to put some distance between me and that room in terms of distance and between me and the gallery in time. I certainly won’t wait two years to return, but at least until there’s some new exhibitions. I’ve already made a list of things I’ll need to do to survive: be as awake as possible, get a bus up Oxford Road and definitely not drink any coffee beforehand. Or at all, ever again. Well, maybe sometimes, but certainly not before entering a darkened room. Unless it’s my bedroom. Isn’t life complicated?


Science Isn't this one of the tipping point Al Gore identifies in An Inconvenient Truth? Worrying.


TV The plot synopsiseses for the special episodes of Red Dwarf have been published and they're more spoilery than you'd really want them to be so beware. It looks like they're returning to the old school generally back to the mood of the first few seasons, though I wonder what they're doing sitting around the TARDIS console if it had been designed by Gerry Anderson.

enjoying the sixties

Liverpool Life Five things I've noticed whilst watching this literal version of Penny Lane:

(1) It's hilarious.

(2) It actually sounds like The Beatles

(3) The director runs out of ideas about a minute in

(4) Random cop!

(5) Between the horse montages, the video features shots of the real Penny Lane, or at least the area. Here's the street sign mid way down the street opposite Dovedale Towers:

The tram stop and bus station at the junction of Penny Lane, Smithdown Road, Church Road and Allerton Road:

Here's a close-up. The rebellious woman in red is clearly enjoying the sixties.

That building is still standing but derelict. The section where they're waiting was for a few years the Sergeant Peppers Bistro Bar though that's long since closed as has the public loo at the back. The Liverpool Echo once published a story about the roof [via]

ouldn't be less excited

Books The Penguin Blog reports on the launch of the front cover of the new Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy book. I couldn't be less excited about this, and a photo of author Eoin Colfer putting his thumb out doesn't make it any more legitimate.

the television ‘spectacle’

Books TV FAQ promises ‘uncommon answers to common questions about TV’, though the writer John Ellis (a Professor of Media Studies at Royal Holloway University) is more interested in the kinds of problems given to Media Studies students, so rather than attempting to explain the confusing rules of Jasper Carrott’s miserable gameshow Goldenballs, he concerns himself with why sitcoms aren’t as good as they used to be (they are), what a ‘precinct drama’ is (tends to be workplaces) and considers whether TV exploits people (yes).

The result is a bit like reading a Socratic debate with the less sarcastic, more serious version of Charlie Brooker who turns up sometimes on his BBC Four programme Screenwipe to explain how television works. Each section opens with a question and then Ellis offers three or four pages of essay that usually begins with the perceived wisdom or expected answer and then offers the ‘real’ answer or in some cases confirms what we suspected anyway.

Sometimes the question is simply provocative way into talking about the subject: Ellis asks ‘What is the point of Jade Goody?’ but he can’t really tell us (the book was published in 2007). It’s instead a good hook into a discussion about transient celebrity of the sort which drifts through reality television and how few permanently gain a foothold in ‘public’ life. When he wonders why 'foreign television such rubbish’, what he’s really considering is the jarring difference between one nationality’s perception of the grammar, style and reach of television with anothers. Not rubbish necessarily, just different.

As you'd expect, what you gain from reading a book like this really depends upon your level of media literacy. I’d consider myself to have a good working knowledge about television, certainly stronger than most, and whilst there wasn’t much I didn’t already know in the sections about the nuts and bolts of making television, I still drew a lot from Ellis’s chatter about the psychological effects television has on the viewer, either in changing their perception of the world, their personal security and in shaping their aspirations.

He inevitably mentions the coverage of 9/11 (and choice of that all encompassing label), and how even though most of us weren’t involved directly we still became witnesses that day, and felt a high level of guilt, not simply because we knew that to an extent we were intruding on someone else's tragedy, but because to an extent we'd perceived it in much the same way we might a fictional drama. I was deeply effected for some time after watching the towers fall that day, live on television, and I wonder now if it was for this very reason; the television ‘spectacle’ (for want of a better word) had cushioned me from having to consider the horror of what had really happened until the next day.

And the next.


Music Isn't this slightly less interesting now that it's on automatic? Although...

Greasemonkey script for Firefox for removing duplicate posts in Google Reader.

AskMe I'm going to get right to the point:

Greasemonkey script for Firefox for removing duplicate posts in Google Reader.

This has been something of a holy grail for me. Life's fully of tiny annoyances, most of which are born out of our natural expectation of order. One of my minor, irrational annoyances is in subscribing to different RSS feeds from the same website and then for the same content or post to appear in all of them for various reasons and then having to plough through them when there's already enough writing to get through.

It's particularly annoying with The Guardian's feeds because they're often given different titles tailored to the section of the website they're on and sometimes it's not until you're actually reading the thing that you realise that you've been there before.

Like I said, minor, irrational annoyances.

I asked Metafilter for some ideas, linking to a Greasemonkey script which used to solve the problem until Google made some cosmetic changes to Reader and broke it.

One user, Michael, suggested I email the original author of the script, but if I didn't get a reply I could contact him and he'd cook something up. I didn't get a reply so I emailed him. He modified the script and after some backwards and forwards with him being very generous with his time and me explaining what I thought it should do and also that he really shouldn't be spending so much time on it, he not only repaired that original script but made it better, made it work.

Needless to say, I'm very impressed. Which is why I'm writing about it.

Michael describes the challenges in his post, as well as how to use it. There is one caveat and it's quite a big one:

"All messages to be checked for duplicates must be loaded in the viewer. If they are not loaded, they will not be checked."

In other words, you have to select 'list mode' on the folder you're interested in then hold onto the page down key until all of the posts have loaded before pressing the new button. But it's quite exciting watching the item count go down knowing that you'll be reading whatever's disappearing anyway.

Thanks Michael.

Now if only I could get someone to sort out the cd boxes with clips so tight you feel as though you could snap the disc in two when you try and remove them.


Language I noticed this in The Guardian's family/kids activity section on Saturday:
Say this five times quickly ...

Cheap ship trip

no baggage

TV I know I've been wrong about this kind of thing before (Laurence Fox) but the suggestion that former Skins actress Hannah Murray is to the new Doctor Who companion, Matt Smith's plus one, just sounds right. I know that the source (News of the World) has also been wrong more times than it has been right, but the production team including Moffat are all big Skins fans (see Russell T Davies's diary, The Writer's Tale) so will already be aware of her, she's about the right age, not a household name yet (so, like Smith, comes with no baggage) and is apparently very good indeed.


TV I don't know if this is Jon Stewart's defining moment (that's probably still the Crossfire incident) but Smashing Telly is right to stop and take note of the CNBC section of The Daily Show last week. It's one of those moments when the programme crosses over from parodying news to producing straight journalism, with the white on black writing quietly expressing the wrong-headness of what's being presented on that network as news. Devastating stuff, and makes you wonder if some of the British media would hold up if placed under the same scrutiny.

discusses, looks

Film David Bordwell discusses the changing style of documentary and looks at Adam Curtis's The Power of Nightmares: "... regardless of what pictures Curtis shows, his films are documentaries in virtue of a soundtrack constructed as a discursive argument that makes truth claims. The picture track often works on us less as supporting evidence than as a stream of associations, the way metaphors or analogies give thrust to a persuasive speech."


Film Noise To Signal describes the wayward history of The Watchmen as celluloid experience: "The first version to be developed came in 1989, just two years after the series had completed, and was penned by Sam Hamm in the wake of his mega-successful Batman. He’s since admitted that he found it difficult to condense the book into a two-hour movie – and boy, it shows. In order to trim things down, many elements of the book are dropped completely, with no reference made to the 1940s masked vigilante team The Minutemen."

completely misjudged

Travel The London tube map reworked so that it reflects the geographical truth. Then rendered using the Google Maps API. It's predictably fascinating and explains why I seemed to spend so much time walking on my last visit to the capital having relied on the classic design and completely misjudged the distances between stations and where they were in relation to the sights for seeing.

Meanwhile, the increasingly addictive Creative Review blog offers a history of the Paris Metro map. Unlike the lucid two-tone identifiers on some London lines, the Paris map utilises just slightly different shades of pink for three of the lines. Inevitably, when I had to deal with something that complicated I got lost and ended up at the opposite end of the city than I was intending. At least I managed do some shopping in a nice suburb that I would have missed otherwise.

I can only imagine what would have happened if I'd had to deal with the 1936 version, which looks like a spider's web. I'd probably still be riding around now.


Games Following on from yesterday's Asus Keyboard PC thingy, Digital Tools brings news of a $10 video game system that is also based on the keyboard model. And the Playpower really is an old school computer:
"About the technical details: The Playpower Platform will be basically a keyboard with mouse and 1Mhz processor that connects to a TV screen and takes plastic-encased chip cartridges that plug directly into the keyboard. The cartridges will use the 1980’s era 8-bit Nintendo Famicom cartridge form. One single cartridge can contain hundreds of software titles and it seems, that modding of old cartridges will be also possible."
Expect conversions of Tetris, Chuckie Egg and the original Football Manager ...


Technology Jason Scott on the joys of owning a domestic T-1 connection: "It’s served me well; I was assigned an actual person in charge of my account. This person got a call from me if anything went wrong, which it almost never did, because this was a T-1, goddamnit. If there was a problem, I was able to get a pro-rated refund on my monthly costs. Try getting THAT from your cable modem. I do recall a couple multi-day outages, but in both cases, it was because of actual damage out in my street, that I could see; it wasn’t just a black box of “and now I shall reboot yer modem and hope for the best” from someone I wouldn’t hear from again. And yes, I got money back."


Film Just after I'd finished my film course, I found it quite difficult to talk about movies without dropping related jargon in everyday small talk. I'd always dread being asked about I thought of this or that film because I know at some point I'd inadvertently drag myself into a sentence which included phrases like 'the trajectory of the protagonist' or 'deployment of the narrative structure'. Lately I've managed to keep such things to myself, generally, not necessarily unlearning what I've learnt, but at least with a greater awareness of when it should be used.

Lizzie Widdicombe's Vernacular piece for the New Yorker is a reminder that actually like any jargon, there's nothing wrong with using it, so long as you're in the right company. Not that you could really call something like 'hair in the gate' jargon in the technical sense, but it's certainly words grouped in a way that the general population might not be aware of. My favourite is fifty-fifty since it describes the kinds of films I tend to enjoy, in which there's an element of theatre and the reactions of both characters are on screen at the same time (def, art house).

unalloyed joy

Games Contra recreated in Little Big Planet -- or a video preview at least. Since it's turning into that kind of weekend, does anyone else remember the unalloyed joy of actually producing something that worked using Shoot-Em Up Construction Kit? Nope, me neither.