"I'm the ugliest man that's ever presented a programme"

TV The Guardian has a fabulous interview with Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley on the subject of the ITV morning show Daybreak and its disasterous launch. They're bullish, self-depricating yet defensive and their chemistry underscores that most of the show's problems have nothing to do with them and everything to do with the content. Chiles on the bad press:
"I get up at quarter to four," he says. "I get in the car at five past four, I say hello to the driver, he says hello to me. We both say how knackered we are, and then I read the papers. And I read that I'm the ugliest man that's ever presented a programme, I read that my close friend and co-presenter Christine is a social-climbing slag, and that the programme is the worst thing anyone's seen, and it's tanking, and it's a complete failure. I've read all that by the time I've gone round the Hogarth roundabout, so my day bottoms out at 4.15am. And then people say the problem is I'm grumpy. Well, a) I'm grumpy for a reason; and b) if you have got your arse in your hands, is there anything worse than somebody telling you to cheer up?"
This might yet be seen as the closest they'll get to infamous Bruce outburst on Big Night Out -- unless Chiles goes through with his promise herein to get out of his contract by saying the one word you can't ever get away with saying on television at that time of the morning.

"Judy Garland refused to sing it"

Christmas The Story Behind 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas':
"The original version was so lugubrious that Judy Garland refused to sing it. She said, 'If I sing that, little Margaret will cry and they'll think I'm a monster.' So I was young then and kind of arrogant, and I said, 'Well, I'm sorry you don't like it, Judy, but that's the way it is, and I don't really want to write a new lyric.' But Tom Drake, who played the boy next door, took me aside and said, 'Hugh, you've got to finish it. It's really a great song potentially, and I think you'll be sorry if you don't do it.' So I went home and I wrote the version that's in the movie."
From now on our troubles will be miles awaaaaeeey ...

"stuffed into cereal boxes and left in her attic..."

TV This week, the BBC's Inside Out programme featured a short biography of Delia Derbyshire the arranger of the original and still best version of the Doctor Who theme tune. It's thoughtful and manages, in its eight or nine minutes to speak to all the right experts on the subject:

Experts including Dr. David Butler who was my dissertation tutor at university. I'm not sure, in fact I know, I wouldn't have graduated from my MA Screen Studies degree without his help.

Review 2010: The Opinion Engine: Update: 7/31

About So far seven people have sent ideas for some things for me to give my opinion on during December which is excellent, but that'll only get me to the seventh. I'd like to be posting right through to until the 31st.

If this is all news to you, here is the call for entries.

To repeat I'd like be writing about anything. Something cultural, a film, a book, a tv programme or some music. A current affairs story. A person. A concept. Even just a word.

You can contact me through the usual virtual channels:




Thanks again.

"the Tim Vine route"

Liverpool Life Last night I attended one of the periodic Ignite talks. I decided to simply watch the events unfold rather than write lots of notes this time so I'm pleased to see that Alistair's filed a report so you can read about what you missed:
"Next Robin Brown, of Seven Streets (among other websites), discussed the importance of choosing the right name for your website.
There are, he mused, three types of route you can go down to name a site - the SEO (search engine optimisation) route, the Tim Vine route (puns) or the Ronseal route (does what it says on the tin).
A site such as Medical Device Technology, for example, is a Ronseal and SEO name.
When it came to naming Seven Streets, Robin and David Lloyd chose a name reflecting Liverpool's history. They almost, he said, chose to name the site Corkhill after the legendary Brookside family- but decided, in the end, that "it was a terrible name".
His advice was that people naming sites should "consider audience, content, tone and "Ronseal or Tim Vine or SEO".
As I realised afterwards, Liverpool Blogs inadvertently manages to be Ronseal, Tim Vine and SEO.

"Killing me won't bring back your goddam honey!"

Film Never mind #iamsparticus. I am Nic Cage:

Having not seen it, I hadn't realised the remake of The Wicker Man was essentially the film version of "I'm a Celebrity..." [via]

"the famous amateur film footage"

History The Atlantic rounds up what's actually known about the Kennedy Assassination, 47 years on:
"In a 2005 book, Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why, Gerald McKnight of Hood College suggested that a high-level plot involving senior U.S. intelligence officials was probably responsible for the president's death. In his 2003 book about photographic evidence, The Zapruder Film: Reframing JFK's Assassination, David Wrone of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point argued that the famous amateur film footage of the assassination proves that Kennedy was hit by gunfire from two different directions. Wrone did not advocate a theory of who was responsible."
Sadly, they seem to have missed off the strongest possibility. At this point I don't know what to believe and I don't think anyone alive today will really find out the truth.

Liverpool Biennial 2010: Feedback: The Good Stuff

Art Yesterday's list of qualifications aren't necessary here.

Quality of the work

The standard of work on display in 2010 has in the main been very high, across all facets of the festival, from the official to independents, some of which, especially in the public realm has been truly unforgettable. Do Ho Suh’s Bridging Home was probably, for me, the best of the festival (see above). The most engaging work has had the capacity to pull us momentarily from our own humdrum reality in that way that is only usually possible in the best fiction, transforming utterly how we look at the world. Time and again I gasped, I gaped, I was giddy. If you want to know what my other favourite work has been, I’d point you in the direction of my reviews; with one or two notable exception I’ve generally followed the policy of only talking about the work I’ve thought was worth talking about.


The festival’s iconography was another triumph. The wolf silhouette appeared on posters and street signs, outside venues and across the front of the Biennial catalogue and created buzz simply through their inexplicable existence. Search Google and there are dozens of people asking “Why wolves?” and cleverly an explanation was only forthcoming for those who looked for it, either by engaging with Biennial personal or looking carefully at the merchandising. They were designed by Carlos Amorales who was engaged by the story of Edward I who exterminated the original wolf population of the country in the fifteenth century. Amorales was inspired to give the lupines a revenge of sorts by having the animals spread across the city for the duration of the festival “to create a contemporary folk tale as an image campaign for the Liverpool Biennial and bring back an antique image into our contemporary world.”

52 Renshaw Street

There was perhaps no greater symbol of the ambition of this festival than the placing the Biennial’s visitor centre in as iconic a local landmark as the old Rapid Hardware store. A giant street long advert on the main bus route, it was impossible for the residents of Liverpool this year not to at least have some awareness of the festival even if it was to wonder why some half naked person was lying enigmatically in one of the windows. But more importantly it was literally a shop window for the festival, one of its largest venues containing some of its most confrontational work, festival curator Lorenzo Fusi ably demonstrating the various facets of the Touched theme. Plus there was the sheer novelty of stepping through the automatic doors only to encounter picnic tables and some garden sheds. If only all cafes (which is what this turned out to be) could be this original.

Social Networking

As I mentioned when writing about the Biennial’s representation at the last Social Media CafĂ©, unlike previous festivals there’s been a genuine sense of this being an event spread across three months rather than an initial burst of excitement with the Biennial then falling beneath the radar, only really approachable by those in the know, who care to seek it out. One of the reasons for that has been the social networking strategy, of advertising and getting news of the festival out across Twitter and Facebook and blogs and interacting with visitors, making them feel like participants as well as customers. Being invited to the press day was especially instrumental in leading me to offer this much coverage across the festival period rather than the simple top ten which has often constituted my contribution. More than any other year I’m genuinely sorry to see the festival coming to an end.

Happy Birthday, Doctor.

TV Oh dear, it's an attack by the deadly Sigur Ros. Hankies at the ready, and ...

Happy Birthday, Doctor. You don't look a day over a thousand and forty-nine, oh err, six-hundred and three, um, nine hundred and seven? [via]

Liverpool Biennial 2010: Feedback: The Bad Stuff.

Art Heavy sigh. Having spent the best part of three months being upbeat about the festival and trying desperately to be its ambassador as best I can, I think it’s only fair, now that it’s nearly over to offer a slight post-mortem on what didn’t work, the frustrations, the annoyances. Note before reading this that I accept this won’t be everyone’s experience and also that people have different standards, are potentially more patient about some of these things than me. I know. I know. And so, in order of annoyance from top to bottom. Let's get this over with quickly shall we?


Across the years, the Biennial maps have been of variable quality. In 2004 they were so broken I actually had to create a key for myself so that I could find out which other venues where even open in a given area. In terms of the International venues, this year’s was the best yet with big red numbered dots and a clear key as to the locations of the Touched venues and public realm works (even if I spent over half an hour on the first day trying to find the gable end of 24 Fleet Street).

Hidden in amongst those however were the green spots of the SQUAT venues, unnumbered and entirely confusing. Although generally bunched together on the likes of Seel Street some of these green spots didn’t seem to correspond to a venue at all, and although a ferret through the Biennial catalogue usual brought some indication of what I might be looking for I’d argue that finding an exhibition space shouldn’t be an act of detective work. On one occasion I was so exhausted by the time I got there I wasn't much in the mood to look at the work.


Or more specifically a lack of consistent signage. Whilst I had a magical day on Seel Street visiting the SQUAT and Independent venues, I missed a couple more because I hadn’t realised the otherwise normal looking house or whatever was an art venue to and not happening by when it was actually open. Part of the problem with the map could have been solved if some kind of logo had been placed on the front of a given building indicating that this was part of the Biennial too and which strand. The official Biennial wasn't entirely immune to this as my odyssey around the Black-E demonstrates.

And in this new world, when people have less time to themselves, the more information they have about what to expect at these ad-hoc venues the better. There’s nothing more dispiriting than walking miles only to be confronted with a video work you don’t have time to watch all of the way through or a tiny exhibition containing a few paintings. I know this isn’t just true of the Biennial, but a festival that prides itself on being dipped in and out of should at least be able to say if something can be seen in a lunchtime.


Too often my experience of an exhibition was spoilt by the ambient noise. Sometimes this was due to the poor placement of a work, complex video art in an essentially public place were the noise of life outside meant that it was sometimes impossible to give my full attention to a work. Sometimes it was other visitors, quiet moments with paintings ruined by someone standing nearby with a mobile phone. None of which can be helped.

But sometimes, in fact often if I’m being honest, it was the staff.  When I worked as an invigilator one of the things I was very conscious of was making sure that the visitor wasn’t disturbed from the reason they were visiting, the art. But over and over again I’d be unable to hear a video piece or I’d have my concentration blown because of gossip or some meeting or other about the internal workings of the venue and in one case the invigilator conducting a long, loud mobile phone conversation that reverberated around the building.

Am I being intolerant? Probably. Just unlucky? Maybe and I should add that my experience of the invigilators in some venues was exemplary, especially when they were obviously passionate about the work and keen to make me passionate too. When you're travelling about the Biennial alone, this can often be the only human interaction you have all day and in most cases it was very welcome. On a couple of occasions I even questioned my own customer service abilities because they didn't match up.

But there at two venues in particular the staff were especially insensitive and I had to leave a section of an exhibition in the case of one and the venue in total in the other because I was just wasting my time.  How do you broach a subject like this?  Can you stop screeching about so that I can listen properly to how this woman lost her baby, please?  The presentation of an artist’s work isn’t just about bricks and mortar but the whole experience and I just don't think a visitor shouldn’t be expected to make these kinds of allowances.


Again, please take this criticism in the spirit within which it was meant and with the proviso that I'm not the best navigator, have a habit of overlooking things and can be pretty cantankerous for my age. I just thought it important for the purposes of this blog to give an overall picture of the experience but to do so outside all of the opinionating about the art. None of this was enough to spoil my experience of the Biennial as a whole.  This has been a magical, magical time, as I'll explain when I write about the good stuff.

"emotional data"

History The Royal Society's lost women scientists. Richard Holmes reveals how humanity's advancement has effectively been slowed by academia's patronising attitude to women. Here's how astonomer William Herschel annotated his sister's historic paper on discovering new comets:
"Since my sister's observations were made by moonlight, twilight, hazy weather, and very near the horizon, it would not be surprising if a mistake had been made." But it had not. Caroline also kept an observational journal for more than 30 years. This gives not only astronomical data, but emotional data too: it's an invaluable early view of a brother-sister scientific team at work, including their many trials and heartaches. It is one of the earliest records of how science actually gets done, its secret tribulations as well as its public triumphs."
Some subjects demand to be turned into a series for BBC Four.

"subtle, yet perhaps very revealing"

Film Louise Hamway investigates the two versions of Werner Herzog's remake of Nosferatu. Yes, that's two.
"In 1979, Werner Herzog adapted Murnau’s film into “Nosferatu the Vampyre,” a.k.a. “Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht,” a beautiful interpretation of the landmark film that works as homage while bringing its own touch of New German Cinema to it. Unlike the original, Herzog made two versions of the film: one in English and one in German. Not merely dubbed over voices as one would expect; Herzog shot the two simultaneously, shooting a scene in German then the same scene over in English. The differences are subtle, yet perhaps very revealing about the differences in German and American cinema."
[obvious]The extra car chases were probably a bit unnecessary, though.[/obvious]

“Producing a Modern Newspaper”

History This article at The Bolton News mainly advertises a screening of films from the North West Film Archive at Bolton Library on Tuesday which will include plenty of documentary shorts not seen in decades (the reels have to be defrosted and processed before they can be seen). The evening starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost £4 from the library or by calling 01204 332211, if you're in the area.

But the article also includes a fascinating embedded video from 1930, “Producing a Modern Newspaper”, showing the journey of news stories from the telegraph machine through the journalistic eye to the printing press to distribution and finally to the hands of the paper boy.  It would be interesting to know how different a contemporary remake would be.  Has the distribution process of local papers changed that much?

"busting through stereotypes"

Radio This job advert seeking a female DJ to work at Radio One, that's Radio One in Beirut, cleverly spends much of its duration busting through stereotypes:
"Q – Is it safe?
A – In a word, yes. Petty crime is virtually unheard of and the rare occasions of political unrest are mostly limited to particular areas that you’re unlikely to find yourself in. Most residential areas around Beirut are very quiet indeed."
Sounds idyllic. Ferne?  Interested?