my Dell Dimension C521 died

Life This morning, after being perfectly fine last night, my Dell Dimension C521 died. I press the small silver button on the front and although the amber light comes on, the machine makes a noise like a jet engine and goes no further.

I've no idea what's wrong with it, or why a computer that was only delivered in June 2007 should be playing up like this but if you have any suggestions, I'd be pleased to hear them.

I'm using the back up plan of my Compaq Mini netbook filling in the space which is left which is slower but at least I can stay connected with the world. Somewhat.

the blu-ray versions of the Star Wars films are now up for pre-order

Film And so the George Lucas colonises his next format with the blu-ray versions of the Star Wars films are now up for pre-order at your favourite film emporium in two flavours. The whole damn saga for £69.99 and the two trilogies in separate formats, the classic and the other one. Not much news on extras other than deleted scenes and two sets of commentaries which is presumably from the dvd and something else, something elusive.

The scones have gone

Commerce Apart from the coffee and the Very Berry Scone, there have always been two other things I've always liked about Starbucks. The logo and the mugs. The scones have gone (or at least the original version which I loved) and now ...
"Starbucks' familiar chunky white mugs will disappear from its British stores this year as part of a major rebranding exercise that will also see the American company drop its name from its well-known logo."
The new logo keeps the mermaid but now looks like something ICI might have tried in the 80s. Along with the replacement of the mugs, this erodes their brand identity to a somewhat horrific degree. Well played.

somewhat like the Guggenheim

Liverpool Life Pete Carr has photos of the interior of the new Museum of Liverpool. Looks somewhat like the Guggenheim. Or Tron.

heard a chair squeak

BBC Manchester, Oxford Road

Music If you were listening to the lunch time concert on BBC Radio Three this afternoon (and you can again in the iPlayer) and heard a chair squeak during Shai Wosner’s solo rendition of Mozart’s Fantasia in C minor (K475) then you momentarily irritated by me readjusting myself in situ because I was at that concert whilst it was prerecorded yesterday afternoon in studio 7 of BBC Manchester on Oxford Road.

A free event as part of their Genius of Mozart season it was a chance to sit in close proximity with an orchestra and allowing a wall of live musical sound blow me over. Despite visiting BBC Manchester before for other events, I hadn't realised that they could accommodate this kind of recording or, as the photographic portraits on the walls of previous conductors and supporters and a giant banner above the entrance to the venue indicated that this was the "home of the BBC Philharmonic".

Studio 7 is a giant square auditorium with the audience in stadium seating on one side and the orchestra across a small stage opposite and somehow despite the large number of players and even greater number of listeners a very intimate atmosphere was created. The concert was presented by Catherine Bott, who stood at some microphones just to the side and read her announcements as live from an A4 print out which was an impressive feat in itself.  The audience sat in complete silence throughout.  This was clearly a group of passionate music fans.  Who also knew the rules.

There are two things you need to know about my experience. Firstly that I was a bit distracted because the other reason I was in Manchester was for some replacement fillings at my dentist on Oxford Road. He’d just finished work within half an hour of me sitting down so I spent most of the concert regaining the feeling in my mouth, my tongue fringed with pins and needles and prodding around my teeth getting used to the work which had been done. He’s suggested I give up sweet things. He’s probably right.

Secondly that I wasn't distracted enough from the virtuosity of the playing and the emotional embrace of the music.  Only The Magic Flute overture was familiar to me, with its impactful chords and pauses which seem designed to catch out an early clapper. During his solo, Wosner sat hunched over his piano and once again I was impressed with a musicians ability to remember a whole piece without need to refer to a sheet. The Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat (K482) is unusually because it’s topped and tailed by a slow movement which somehow makes it feel more melancholic something that might have been reflected in the determination of the players.

At the end we applauded as though at a real concert (Was this a real concert? What are the rules?) and then an engineer appeared from the back and asked us to remain seated. There were to be retakes.  Wosner reappeared with conductor Antonello Manacorda and we heard a few bars here and there again. Presumably for technical reasons because their playing sound fine the first time. As I pondered what would have happened during the live broadcast which filled the slot the day before from the same vanue, and considered whether an hour was the perfect length for any concert, it was time to go.

detailed business evaluation

Queueing outside HMV

Commerce In my predictions for this year I suggested that "a major high street entertainment retailer will close". I was, of course, hedging my bets, not naming any names, but obviously I meant HMV. On Christmas Eve I visited the Bold Street shop in Liverpool, which as this Daily Post article explains was originally spawned in the old gas showroom as a temporary measure during the building of the Liverpool One shop but stayed open.  In previous years the queue has been around the shop (even last year when the new store was open) but on the 24th December I was served immediately.

I asked the clerk about that as he sold me a cheap copy of State of Play.  He said he was surprised and suggested the credit crunch and internet sales as the cause.  I asked him if he thought the business was in danger.  He pointed to the share price with has plunged from pounds to pence within a few months.  I asked him if they were Zavvi vulnerable and he said that they weren't.  Yet.  Now HMV group have announced the closure of forty music shops and twenty Waterstones and I think about that clerk and the similar conversation I had with the girl in Zavvi at about this time last year and how she thought her job was safe.

I did enough hand wringing last year across those death of Zavvi posts on the causes of that closure, the digital downloads, the online purchases, Spotify.  It's just shocking to some of us that such a venerable old name like HMV, the place were many of us caught our first taste of vinyl, bought our first cd (not me though -- my copy of Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet came from Our Price) or dvd.  I even worked for them briefly in the 90s and though it was one of the worst working experiences of my life I'd still be sorry to see the pink logo go.

My guess is, with apologies to be people who hate Robert Peston types, that if there's more than one location in the city, HMV will close the least eye-catching or profitable, so Bold Street's music shop will go and the Waterstones almost next door (originally a Dillons before they were absorbed into the larger chain which itself is now in trouble).  Smaller shops are always the first casualties of the war against closure, which is odd because it has to be the larger positions with larger shop floors that cost the most in rent.  Why not downsize, effectively mothball and wait for better market conditions?

My more detailed business evaluation is that HMV Group will eventually fail.  The closure of some shops is the first stage of a long restructuring process designed to protect its core assets.  They might offload the bookshops back to the man who gave them their name (he's not uninterested).  They may sell Fopp on assuming they're not included in the store closure plan.  They'll sell some more of their international appendages.  But unless they can convince people to come through their doors and pay more for product that can be bought cheaper and more conveniently elsewhere, Nipper's bark will be silenced very soon.

I heard Vincent D'Onofrio use the words out of nowhere

TV You might remember how, during A Christmas Carol, this year's Doctor Who Christmas special episode, my emotional investment was tainted by having all of this stuff about the series rattling around in my brain. Kyle Anderson at Nerdist has written a far long article on the topic, explaining in some detail the origins of the "Blinovitch Limitation Effect” in the fiction of the series and why some of us were so perturbed first time around:
"In the 1972 story “Day of the Daleks,” a concept is offered up to explain why it’s a bad thing for a person (or object) to physically interact with itself should it travel in time and cross its own timeline. Should one do so, they would cause a paradox resulting in the destruction of the universe or the sudden death of puppies or something else awful. The fictional name for the concept the story’s writer gave is the now-famous “Blinovitch Limitation Effect.”
So ingrained a piece of Who-lore is Blinovitch, it's even been employed or homaged in non-Who texts such as Brad Anderson's Happy Accidents (and imagine how excited I was when I heard Vincent D'Onofrio use the words out of nowhere in this US indie film which is about a hundred miles away from Saturday teatimes) (other instances are included on the theory's (oh dear lord) wikipedia page).  I once also heard someone using it in an argument against time travel as though it was real thing with a scientific basis.  I didn't correct them.

Doctor Who, with its nearly fifty years worth of continuity baggage will inevitably contradict itself and that's ok.  It should.  Elements are established, re-examined and established again with each new author stamping their own identity on it.  Only a small number of viewers proportionally will have cared about these things and it's only our geek training which causes us to bawk when one bit of fiction contradicts another even if it has nothing to do with the story at hand.  Just relax and enjoy the adventure.  Barring cheap tricks.

"What about Merlin?"

TV Another preview. For Chris Chibnall's Camelot.

It's a good cast. The production design is movie quality. Let's hope it's the Chris Chibnall of the half decent Law and Order remake writing rather than the Chris Chibnall of Torchwood's first season. See if you say "What about Merlin?" at the same points I did.

"you'd rather like this movie"

Film Woody Allen's latest, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, seems to have a release date for the UK, 18th March, just six months after its limited US run. Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian lists it as his choice for 2011 and offers a lovely little preview:
"Fans should come to this film with a thought experiment: what if you didn't know it was by Woody Allen? What if this unassuming film was not required to bear the heavy burden of his reputation, and that of an army of pundits who have staked their own reputation on declaring Allen should quit? My guess is that you'd rather like this movie: it's a funny, offbeat exercise in irony that doesn't require any great emotional investment."
Having spent a large chunk of last year watching all of Woody's films I agree with the spirit of what Bradshaw is saying here. That his latest work might not always scale the heights of his heyday but at least they have something interesting to say and are better than most of the crap we're otherwise being fed from the US through the multiplexes.

"remain loyal"

Film Watching as much "world cinema" as I do, I'm always very grateful for the efforts of translators in producing subtitles. Some are clearly better than others, and sometimes I can tell that my enjoyment of a film is being impacted by this extra creative voice between me and whatever the makers of the film have meant. There are some outrages. In La Haine, when Asterix is clearly being heard as a password, the subtitle says "Mickey Mouse" then mention of the diminutive Gaul is meant give a particular cultural resonance and noticing the difference pulls you out of the scene as you ponder the mismatch.

In this fascinating interview, Federico Spoletti, the founder of Sub-ti, a subtitling company that specialises in film festivals explains that subtitlers aren't simply translating transcribers. They're caught between their own "respect (for) the accuracy of their translation, the director who wants to remain loyal to the original dialogue of the film, the distributor who may want to revise the language itself and the subtitler who would like to reduce the text to ensure enough reading time on screen for the subtitles themselves" and they often have to do this within just a couple of days looking at a low quality version of the film which is difficult to see.

scrabble around

Blog! Darren, who prompted me to scrabble around for a useful or interesting opinion about Alan Moore towards the end of last year, has begun a blog dedicated to the writer. A Moment of Moore promises to "publish something related to Alan Moore every day" and has so far included frames from Halo Jones and V for Vendetta.

"I'm gonna need a bigger jotter at this rate..."

TV For fans of web ephemera, here's Toby Anstis explaining to the BBC kids of 1995 how to reach the CBBC website:

Has subdomain redirects not been invented yet or was someone being lazy or is that just my hazy knowledge of how the web works?

Or am I just distracted by this clip of his predecessor Philippa Forester suggestively waving a banana around in front of Terry Nutkins?

clutching their Deutsche Grammophon recordings

Music BBC Radio 3's Mozart season is well under way and I can already feel myself becoming more intelligent with every beat, my eyes popping out of my head every five minutes, though I imagine there will be some listeners turning off for two weeks, clutching their Deutsche Grammophon recordings of Stravinsky and Bartok to their chest until the diminutive show-off goes away again.

For all their hatred of his music, surely they can be outraged by the news that a section of Mozart's birth house, or The Mozarthaus, is to be turned into a SPAR shop. Even taking into account this isn't some relic and the same property was previously owned by a family run delicatessen it just sounds wrong and not in the same way as the demolition of Ringo's old abode.

Meanwhile, the brilliantly named Lucien R Karhausen wonders what killed Mozart.  It wasn't Saliari according to historians who no doubt chortled their way through Milos Forman's film and might have been one of over a hundred and forty causes of death most of which could have been treated through modern medicine. The man died at 35. I'm 36.  That seems significant somehow.  [via]