The Spotify Playlist

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Red and yellow and pink and green,
Purple and orange and blue,
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow too!

Pot the reds then, skrew back
For the yellow green brown blue pink and black
Snooker loopy nuts are we
We're all snooker loopy!

See also:

Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color
Miles Davis's Aura
Pocket Biscuit's Colorful

keep an eye on this page

About I've experimented with this before, but please do keep an eye on my Google Shared Items page. Here is an RSS feed too.


Journalism My quote of the week is from this month's Doctor Who Magazine. Gary Gillatt (who's always hilarious and clever -- imagine Charlie Brooker reviewing old Doctor Who) is commenting on the narration for a documentary on some new dvd release:
"The Cyber Story, a trip through the history of the monsters, comes with a shocking script. "The first step in the history of the Cybermen was their appearance," blithers the narration. Producers of these extras wouldn't employ a cameraman who doesn't know how to focus a camera, so why employ a writer who can't focus on a sentence?"

don't you?

Life I've been trying to learn to relax. This isn't to suggest in anyway I have a hectic lifestyle with no time to sit and reflect. I probably have too much time to do that. I'm sitting writing about this for example. If had the kind of lifestyle that would require me to properly relax I wouldn't be in on a Friday night. But I'm going off the point again, so let's relax.

The kind of relaxation I'm talking about is related to priorities. Knowing what's important. For example, at present, Google Reader says I have 1701 ... 1703 posts waiting to be read. 1681. Sorry I got pulled back in again. 1624. I checked HotUKDeals. The point is that in the past I would have felt a bit of anxiety, well no not anxiety -- skittishness at the size of that thing. Lately, I've decided it's not that important. 1547 (jobs folder). Sorry, not that important to keep oh so up to date with everything.

So there it is going up again. And I don't care. At all. I know that there's probably some cool new thing that jkottke's found (assuming it is him this week) or some blog post at The Guardian website about a west end theatre production I'll never get to see or an amazing new way to clean pans at Lifehacker or some such, but I don't need to know this, I don't need to know this straight away. I have others I should be doing. 1552.

Up until a couple of days ago I had about thirty folders in Google Reader, a range of topics, all cross referenced. I've deleted them all. The feeds are still there but simplified down to what I really want to read, what I could read, and what isn't that important and only if I really have the time. The only really specific folders I've kept are for things which matter. Photography. Recipes. Lovefilm. Spotify. Everything else is either culture or technology or people and I know which one I enjoy reading about the most.

You know I mean people, don't you?


TV The draft trailer for the new K9 spin-off series:

"Time for you to go, kids." Um, no.
"Every time there is a bad smell, blame the dog." Hmm.

monkeys writing Hamlet process in reverse

Books Suw has been working on (in other words helping with) some public domain software to aid the proofreading of manuscripts. Essentially it's the monkeys writing Hamlet process in reverse, with the monkeys being being a manuscript a line at a time out of context and asked to search for mistakes. As Suw says:
"The first thing we’ve focused on is how to proofread a manuscript for typos. The problem with reading a whole book all at once and looking for typos is that you can get so caught up in reading that your brain starts to skip the mistakes, seeing what it thinks should be there instead of what actually is. But what if you were presented with just one sentence at a time? You’d lack some context, it’s true, but you don’t really need a lot of context to know if “teh” is a misspelling of “the” or that “their” should be “there”.
One of the problems I've always had with reports and essays are typos and a general inability to spot them in a crowd of words. I've always thought it was my problem, genuine carelessness. The comments for both of my dissertations essentially said: "Great piece of work. Pity about all of the typos." Now I know that it's something that everyone wrestles with.

Book Oven sounds like a godsend, and having tried it out for a while is easy to use a oddly addictive as you read through each sentence testing your own ability to spot grammar and spelling. It could also have the effect of improving your own writing too as you slowly, through osmosis, become aware of the mistakes which can happen when typing large blocks of text.

my favourite

That Day I think this is my favourite:

Pity about the headline. Bit of a give away that.


TV You've probably seen this already, but just in case:

watching all of Alfred Hitchcock’s films in order

Film As I may have mentioned in that slightly odd post from the other day (you know the one) I’ve begun watching all of Alfred Hitchcock’s films in order beginning with the early British silents. As a student of film, the director’s work has of course always been on my radar but this feels like the ultimate right of passage and a chance to watch a portion of the history of cinema through the gaze of one man and the prism of a single genre. With any luck, by the end, I’ll be ready to watch Mel Brooks’s spoof High Anxiety and understand some of the jokes.

In the past couple of days I’ve worked my way through those silents through some bog standard public domain copies mostly from this compilation. I know there are better transfers available, but seeing them with the crackle and pop, frame jump and dodgy intertitles has felt more authentic somehow, the miracle of their survival as much a part of the experience as Hitch’s work itself. Which is something of a surprise for someone who is usually so meticulous about wanting to see a film in the best circumstances. What follows are some first impressions or an inadequate survey which fails to capture in any great detail this fascinating experience.

His first complete film (at least in production terms), The Pleasure Garden, is essentially Showgirls without the rampant sexuality and subtle performances. It’s about the divergent lives of two friends working at the dancehall in London; one becomes a star, the other marries a prince and tragedy ensues. Though it opens well with the hilarious if uncomfortable image of an old lascivious bore in a threatre audience gazing at the dancing ladies though an eyeglass, and it is charming in that way that most silent films are, the oblique characterisation and repetitious action are difficult to take even for an hour. Still, there’s some funny business with a dog and a magical moment with a ghost using some old school theatre trickery.

His next film, The Mountain Eagle is lost.

The Lodger is usually considered to be the forerunner of his later career as a suspense director and clearly Hitch’s best film of the era. The aforementioned lodger moves into a house and acts a bit strangely when a killer is on the loose in old London town. All circumstantial evidence points to him – is he guilty? Artistically a more accomplished work than The Pleasure Gardens, the editing here is more fluid than I expect of the period and as a pupil of the German school he understand how to light the sinister face of lead actor Ivor Novello (a good job too because at least at this point he was a horrible actor). There’s also a documentary quality to the scenes set in the streets, which are seething with fear as the violence escalates. Surprisingly humorous too – both in the pratfalls of the landlord and the bumbling about of some of the cops – and the conclusion is not what you’d think it might be – the message is rather deeper.

As with most of his films from the silent era, Downhill doesn't really have much in common with his later work in narrative terms.  The BFI's synopsis suggests its "an early variation on his fabled ‘wrong man’ plot" but in all of the later examples, it's the spark for a propulsive suspense narrative whereas this is more of a morality or cautionary tale - it's Novello's choice not to reveal the truth.  But it is an excellent example of episodic storytelling in which a character finds themselves in a series of increasingly difficult situations, in this case through pride and fear, betraying its stage origins.  It was originally a west end play written by Novello himself and the actress Constance Collier.

Nevertheless Hitchcock's visual storytelling agility shines through.  One famous scene begins with Novello in a tux but as the camera pulls backwards he's revealed to be a waiter in a cafe, no, no, he's a thief, no no, he's actually standing on a stage set and he's part of the chorus.  The director has taken the audience's expectations of what they're seeing and turns it on his head, breaking our suspension of disbelief before putting is back together again.  He also repeats the symbolic motif of having Novello's character descend, down steps in school, an underground escalator (see above) and a lift after each emotional setback, literally going "down hill" only going up when he emerges into the light from the cargo hold of a ship. [Watched 4th May 2020]

Every director seems to make a boxing film at some point and Hitch’s is The Ring, in which two prizefighters literally come to blows over the love of a woman. Scorsese must have reviewed this before going into Raging Bull; some of the smoky shots of the boxers in close-up and punches landing are almost exactly replicated in one of the fight sequences there. The psychology here is a bit more simplistic -- most of these early films feature some kind of love triangle and in none of them is there a suggestion that the woman could tell both of them to give over and make her own way in the world. It’s a reminder of the time in which they were made – that and in the case of The Ring, the sudden use of the n-word in one of the captions.

There essentially seem to be two kinds of silent films – those whose story could only be told in the medium and those that are essentially talkies with the sound turned off in which you can almost see the actors shouting, desperate for the dialogue to be heard. Since it's based on Noel Coward's play, Easy Virtue can't help for follow the second pattern. The wife of a drunken brute is scorned by society after an affair with an artist and subsequent divorce, only to find love again on the French Riviera. Hitch does his best to replace Coward’s dialogue, with close-ups and crossfades to signal the character’s thought processes and in the court sequences we see the notes of a reporter as she jots down what’s being said. Already the director is introducing quite complex narrative ideas; the conclusion visually mirrors the opening in such a way that we can see the effect the affair has had on the woman, whose life is permanently in shadow.

Someone should remake The Farmer’s Wife now, with David Morrissey as the widower searching for a new wife and Rebecca Hall as the maid who’s secretly in love with him. It’s the first of Hitch’s out and out comedies, somewhat akin to farce in this case and loads of fun. The farmer makes a list of the local potentials and works his way through it, asking each of them to marry him and crossing them off the list when they don’t offer him the reaction he's expecting. Also based on a play, by Eden Philpotts (the novelist who wrote a series of books about Dartmoor), it manages to entertain through proper screwball wit (plenty of caption cards) and delightful physical comedy which has a whiff of the seaside postcard about it.

The same can’t be said about Champagne, which the director himself largely disowned later in life -- he told Truffaut that "The film had no story to tell". He’s right. It's about a 1920s Paris Hilton style heiress who's father apparently loses all of his money on the stock market is forced to get a job as a flower girl in a night club, whilst maintaining the attentions of two potential husbands and there's not much else to it, yet it meanders on and on episodically without doing much to engage the audience's sympathy. The performances have the kind of exaggerated facial and physical gestures people expect from silent films which makes it seem even more dated than The Pleasure Garden. I think someone even twirls their moustache. I can only guess that the director was attempting a kind of satire on both the ingredients of contemporary cinema and the repellently rich at the time of the depression, but doesn't manage either. One of those rare occasions when the poster is better than the film.

Manx melodrama The Manxman was Hitch's final silent (not including the original cut of Blackmail). Magnificently shot in Cornwall (years before the Isle of Man became a tax-haven and pleasant to filmmakers) it’s another love triangle, this time as life longfriends – a fisherman and a lawyer -- both fall for a local barmaid and her promising to marry the former even though she subsequently decides she's in love with the latter. They’re calling this kind of thing a bromance these days; the lawyer doesn’t want to betray his friend even though it makes the girl suicidal. It’s really worth seeing just for the photography; the exteriors are tremendously scenic – especially the opening as the catch is brought into harbour, the sea filled with boats.

Hitch mastered the silent medium just as it was going out of fashion.

the nineties in reverse

TV More proof that the naughties have just been the nineties in reverse: Kevin Williamson is writing a vampire series for the CW. Expect show about four teens living around a lake from Joss Whedon should Dollhouse fail to be renewed.

the job I'd like to be doing

Books I post this story from the Penguin blog about sourcing the art from first editions for a special retro print run of Raymond Chandler's books, not just because it's a fascinating read but also because I haven't yet seen a better description of the job I'd really like to be doing, finding answers to seemingly impossible questions.

potential future ideas

Music The official website for Richard Curtis's new film The Boat That Rocks, introduces the characters, or at least their supposed musical tastes using Spotify playlists. Mark likes his motown, Gavin's a bit more boyish and it's a rather nice way of introducing the era in which the film is set. Almost makes you wish that Spotify was around when Almost Famous was released (adds that to the list of potential ideas).

a little bit of magic

Film Lauren Wilcox of The Washington Post compares Woody Allen's vision of New York with the reality and finds that the two aren't entirely incompatible and a little bit of magic can happen:
Despite the bar's high-tone clubbiness, it felt convivial, more like a place where people came to see others than to be seen. The patrons were, I thought, a fair approximation of the ritzy creative types that had frequented the bar in "Radio Days," passing the time with an unselfconscious pleasure that would, in retrospect, become nostalgia. It seemed like the kind of place, at the kind of time, that people would one day miss bitterly.
The problem with films about Liverpool is that all too often they're desperate to show the reality, or at least a version of it, not wanting to show that it is somewhere that can be as romantic as anywhere else. And if someone mentions Letter to Brezhnev, I'll break this pencil.

the average Asda family

Food You have to admire the hilarious, raving zeal with which Matthew Norman dives into this restaurant review from Saturday's Guardian. It's a massacre. Do the staff know or is this the start of a very bad day indeed for them? It seems as though because Norman didn't like the food, everything else that was rotten with his visit became magnified:
I barely know where to begin with this one, so let's follow Julie Andrews and start at the very beginning, with the oppressive baronial hall in which we sat over drinks staring at copies of famous portraits of monarchs seemingly bought from the Rolf Harris Memorial Car Boot. From there we were led to a wildly portentous, stone-walled dining room in which the royal coat of arms sits above a huge, candle-filled fireplace.
Spot the moment towards the end were the review mirrors his visit and he clearly can't be bothered with it any more and wants to get out as soon as possible. I like the look of the anti-d├ęcor in the photograph, but look at those prices! The cost of a meal at Equilibrium (is this an April fool?) would comfortably feed an average Asda family like us for a month.


Supernatural Torchwood Ghost debunked: "it's a glitch in the photography, a problem remapping the correct elements back into the image."

The Spotify Playlist

Magical Mystery Tour Covered

Since The Beatles famously haven’t yet licensed their music to be distributed digitally, there’s no point searching for their discography on Spotify. Yet the service is awash with their music in the form of soundalikes, karaoke and cover versions. Some songs have attracted hundreds of difference versions in a range of different genres; others are less popular and yet surprisingly someone has given it a go.

Find linked above Magical Mystery Tour rendered completely in cover versions. Though I would assume it would be possible to recreate all of the albums in this way, I decided to reproduce the Tour because its from a period when each album had a consistent, carefully designed sound, and wanted to see what happened when only the essence of the songs was retained. Also, I live just round the corner from the real Penny Lane.

One track is missing, the instrumental, Flying. The most obvious cover to break out from the album in recent times was Candy Flip’s Starberry Fields Forever, but that’s not on Spotify either. I also refrained from being tempted to add something from the soundtrack to the underrated Across The Universe. Instead, enjoy some metal, folk, dance, pre-school, straight rock, pop, Germany, folk again, indie and Gregorian chants.