"a young waitress approached"

Commerce Miranda Starke received some "entertaining" customer service in a local restaurant in Adelaide. Unluckily for them she writes for the local media:
"As far as restaurants go, Marquis is a bit swanky; the sort of place you expect a top menu and attentive staff.

But after waiting an age for table service, my dad finally got up and ordered with a waiter at the bar.

We had just settled back at the table when a young waitress approached. "If you don't want to pay now then I need to take your credit card," she told Dad. "It's in case you leave without paying," she added."
... and events proceed from there as you might expect. Is that normal? What if, as is the case here, a person doesn't have a credit card?

Updated 6/11/2011  I Asked Metafilter.  The answers were yes, no and maybe.  Depends.

Google Reader Demarginfier

RSS I think we're all agreed that new Google Reader is an abberation with more white space than Peter Brook's 1970 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. That was innovative. This is a major backwards and not a good one. But! Aha but but! Someone clever person who can write Greasemonkey/Chrome scripts has produced ...

Google Reader Demarginfier

Which puts it back to something aproximating the old Google Reader albeit still with the annoyingly distracting big red "subscribe" button which you use once in a never [via].

Updated 6/11/2011  Forget that.  Another clever person who can write Greasemonkey/Chrome scripts has produced ...

Google Reader Sanity

Which pretty much returns the aesthetics to the way they were (including the folder icons), albeit in bolder blues.  It even makes the subscibe button something which can be lived with.

“You’re the fan of Alice In Wonderland, aren’t you?”

Art It’s eleven o’clock yesterday morning and I’m experiencing an attack of nerves. I’ve been invited to the press launch of Tate Liverpool’s new Alice in Wonderland exhibition and despite having been to a few similar events before, even briefly at the Tate during the Biennial, I’m being skewered by the sense of occasion. Partly it’s because I'm excited about the show. But mostly because the part of my brain which usually nullifies my sensation of being just some bloke writing a blog with a funny name has left me very sleepy and stupid.

I was entering a wonderland, experiencing what happens when the “proper” media sees a Tate exhibition for the first time. It’s actually relatively chaotic in the gallery spaces with cameras taking pictures and videos of the works and furiously note making on whatever paper the journalists have to hand ready for when they have to write about the exhibition for whichever paper they write for. I pop my headphones in and listen to music so I can concentrate on the work.

My ability to small talk implodes when people introduce themselves. At times I’m like Walter Bishop in Fringe (quite fittingly on reflection given that tv show’s allusions to Lewis Carroll), unable to put names to faces, simple questions like “You’re the fan of Alice In Wonderland, aren’t you?” becoming epic inquiries into the nature of my personal reality, causing me to gape insensibly. With my also wild hair (I’ve been letting it grow), I must have come across as quite a bizarre figure, barely functional in comparison to accepted human norms.  I couldn't answer.  Said something about liking that sort of thing.

Of course I’m fan. Of course I am.  It’s chiefly because of Carroll’s meandering narrative style in which ideas and images are more important than anything cohesive which make them so charming. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are a dream, and one which doesn’t feel the need to justify the existence of footman shaped like frogs and fish and a court made from playing cards. That’s why Tim Burton’s recent adaptation failed; like so much of modern fantasy it attempted to apply complex plot to material which denies its importance in providing valuable entertainment.

I’m also enough of a fan that a couple of night’s before the opening I listened to Alan Bennett’s reading of Wonderland as research (the copy which was given away free with The Guardian recently). It’s a bittersweet rendering on a single disc which is as much about the reader’s interpretation as the words, giving the overall sense of the story but because of time pressures omits much of Lewis Carroll’s idiosyncratic detail, including the famous mouse’s tale (the wavey lines which appear down the page) and even the disappearance of the Cheshire Cat.

The contemporary work we’re initially confronted with at the Tate, through I suspect would probably be a better place to end, is in The Wolfson Gallery on the ground floor. Amongst other delights, Tate have asked Mel Bochner a 1969 work as Measurement: Eye Level Perimeter (Ask Alice). It’s just a thick black line drawn across all four walls of the room, nine feet high. But our perception of it changes when we’re told that’s the height Alice is at when she grows in Carroll’s story and we’re suddenly dropped right into the fantasy.

The rest of Tate’s exhibition has at least the basic structure of the novels. The first two rooms are the story of the book and the little girl who influenced it then from Room 3 onwards we’re through the looking glass into the material which is inspired or at least thematically similar to Lewis Carroll’s aims. But unlike the cd it also contains the idiosyncratic detail, a dense collection of objects which couldn’t properly be absorbed even in the two hours including curatorial introduction. When you do visit, expect to spend a day.

For fans of art and literature and as is the case with Alice in Wonderland, art and literature together, those first two rooms are worth the entrance fee alone (so much so I will be paying that entrance fee to come again).  For everything else I'm going to say in the coming paragraphs, visit at least for this.  For what must the first time ever, the Tate are displaying Dodgson’s original manuscript of his book together with proof sheets and original drawings, the woodblocks used for the first edition as well as the metal printing block for the famous Tenniel illustrations and his preliminary drawings, as well as the original paste-up for the mouse’s tale.

My first and only copy of Alice is A Puffin Book published by Penguin Books reprinted in 1976 which was given to me and read to me as a child by my Dad at bedtime (see above for contemporary recreation). Only now do I see that it’s a facsimile of the 1895 publication, with the careful balancing of text and illustration.  Like Matisse when creating his story books, Carroll was as interested in Alice as a total art objects as the included schematics for the placement of illustrations demonstrates, the clever positioning of the Cheshire cat on one page then his disappearance on the other so that it’s possible to produce simple animation by flipping between the two.

The effect is overwhelming, especially since they’re packed in with display cabinets filled with the various publications which came after the book fell out of copyright in 1907, an entire industry dedicated to reproducing the text with new translations and illustrations. Copyright can protect authors and intellectual property. But the slackening of the imperative can also lead to an increase in the work’s status, bending it towards new and interesting forms, not least theatre, as is also demonstrated here by posters, programmes and photographs from productions.

The second room is about Dodgson himself and his acquaintance with Alice Liddell - and the pre-Raphaelites which I have to confess was a surprise. Texts explain he was introduced to the Brotherhood early and the composition of his photography directly influenced their style of painting. Both these area are decked out like a room from Tate Britain and the appearance of paintings by Rossetti, Millais and Hughes are a surprise in and of themselves, especially being able to be greet Holman Hunt’s The Triumph of the Innocents at eye level.

Much of the rest of the room is consumed by Dodgson’s photography, of the Liddell Sisters and his experiments in creating fantasy scenes using an Ottewill Folding Box one of the first relatively portable cameras ... and it would be unfair of me to say much more. If you can’t visit, there are plenty of other synopses of the exhibition online. Which is why I want to return. Like the white rabbit I was clock watching throughout, not wanting to miss the curatorial talk, wanting to get as much of the rest of the exhibition in as I could.

Expectation is an interesting emotion because it often overrides logically. Logically an exhibition of Alice in Wonderland at Tate Liverpool would ultimately concern itself with demonstrating how its ideas have been absorbed and expressed in contemporary art. So why was my expectation that the display would more closely focus on how Alice in Wonderland was directly expressed in pop culture. Why was I expecting more on Disney’s interpretation, on Gilliam’s Jabberwocky, more actual illustrations from books than the Dali and Peter Blake?  Why did I want a more specific investigation into Carroll's creativity?

The curators have amassed an impressive selection of work and since I have to admit to only seeing most of it briefly I wonder if, when I revisit, my impression will improve. But scrawled in my notebook are the words “curatorial exercise – let’s find work which is a bit like Alice” and over and over, between those works who’s title gives them a copperbottom connection with the books (Duane Michals’s Alice’s Mirror and Kiki Smith’s Come Away From Her (After Lewis Carroll) there are others for whom the association is as tenuous as the inclusion of a mirror or a rabbit or some other motif.

As is pointed out to me in a couple of my stumbling exchanges, Adrian Searle in The Guardian is far more enamoured by these later sections but less so the historical overview (parts of which he calls “creepy and tedious”) whereas my experience was more or less the opposite. Perhaps it’s that kind of show, something for everyone, but not the same somethings as though it’s designed to separate the traditionalists from the modernists, which is unfair since it’s entirely possible to be find something in both.

The show closes with Douglas Gordan’s Through The Look Glass which places us in the centre of two projections of Travis Brickell from Taxi Driver, the “You talkin’ to me scene”, beginning in synch but slowly phasing so that eventually instead of simply talking to a mirror, Brickell’s bantering with himself, in this context both Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Like Bochner’s starting line, Gordan takes something out one context then deliberately refracts it through the prism of Carroll and places us at the centre of the experience.

By now, after the exhibition, after the tour, after an absolutely gorgeous lunch (for the purposes of full disclosure), I’ve calmed down, more able to hold a conversation, even if the room is still chaotic with people in a constant state of interruption and conversation is overstating the small talk which probably ensues. I wonder exactly what made me so nervous in the first place, since everyone else in the room is in the same predicament as me, the imperative to give an opinion, and worse because most are being paid for that opinion, which has to be more difficult.

Which do you think it was?

Until  29 January 2012.

LOVEFiLM have restructured their pricing options again.

Commerce I think this deserves a whole new blog post. LOVEFiLM have restructured their pricing options again. In this previous post, I talked about how Lovefilm had reduced the price of their packages so that we could received three discs at a time at the new price of £13.22 and how I'd had to manually go in and change it.

I've just phoned LOVEFiLM about something else and happened to ask why we'd not had any emails about it. The advisor said that emails had been sent out and while I was talking to her, I noticed I'd just had an email and that was fine then. But then I bothered to read it and ...
"We know our customers love renting our huge range of films and TV series. Now we're increasing the amount of choice you can have at home.

From the 14th of November we'll be giving you one extra disc at home as part of your package at no extra cost. This means from now on you can have 4 discs at home instead of 3 and you won't pay a penny extra. "
Four discs? No human could possibly watch that many. Still at £13.22. Are they mad?  Has anyone else had this email?

"But where are people expected to go?"

Economy Jade Wright in the Liverpool Echo encapsulates the obscenity of politicians who've never had to worry about money making value judgements about constituents who're reliant on their kindness:
"Housing Benefit is next on the list. The Welfare Reform Bill says people living in social housing with one spare room can expect to lose £11 a week. Boys and girls will have to share a room up to the age of nine, and children of the same sex will share until they are 15. But where are people expected to go?

Housing waiting lists are longer than ever, and one and two bedroom properties are most in demand. Welfare minister Lord Freud says that a spare bedroom is a luxury the country can no longer afford. I wonder how many spare rooms he has?
Last week on Question Time, Ian Duncan-Smith said that "we" need to break the "the culture of entitlement and dependency" amongst the poor.  Until he understands the irony of what he's saying, and feels unable to say it about his parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the house, this is something which won't change.

this was yet another sexual predator

TV When I originally posted this at Behind The Sofa, it was with the title "Αυτό δεν είναι μια κατάλληλη αναθεώρηση. Ακριβώς μερικά περίεργα σχόλια" or "This isn't a proper review. Just a few random comments". Which it is. The episode essentially hangs together thanks to Denby-Ashe's compelling performance which to an extent prefigures Lauren Ambrose in Torchwood's Miracle Day, devilishly sexy with piercing eyes that can melt libidos male and female from a hundred paces, but in search of a decent plot.

As the endless shots of the Cardiff ring road passed by at the climax of Greeks Bearing Gifts I decided that I couldn't possibly review the episode this week on the basis that I've probably lost my sense of objective and because I'm not sure the series is going to get any better and that frankly there's nothing more to be said other than if Toby Whitehouse, who turned out the gorgeous and gut-wrenching School Reunion for Doctor Who this year can't work his magic on Torchwood, then it's more than likely that the series cannot be saved. Plus Sean's managed to eloquently set out any or all of the criticisms I might have.

Then I picked up the Metro this morning and read the four-star verdict of their tv reviewer Keith Watson. After a plot describing preamble he says: "Much more than just a Dr Who spin-off, Torchwood works because it mixes its sci-fi with human vulnerability and a random approach to plotting that means you're never sure you they're going to bump off next." Then he suggests that Owen is obviously gay and the Jack should have copped off with him (or words to that effect).

Knowing that actually the business of reviewing television can be a fairly nebulous activity particularly in the popular press, the last thing I want to do is criticize someone getting paid for something I want to do for a living. But having watched the same programme I wouldn't class the characterization in the show as including human vulnerability - and despite Watson's inference, the interpersonal relationships on show in Dr Who were far more realistic - or at least had a logic to them and rang true.

On the basis of last night's episode, Gwen seems infested with the illogical behaviour virus that Owen's been a carrier of since the beginning of the series, not that I'm trying to imply anything. Although she's under the medic's spell (I still haven't discounted the administering of that love potion from episode one) it seems completely wrong that the moral centre she exhibited in the opening episodes would be cast aside when she watches Owen bullying Toshiko and doesn't say anything.

The main element that is sorely lacking from the series is romance - even though the real highlight of last night's episode was Daniela Denby-Ashe's rum performance as Mary, this was yet another sexual predator in a series that has already had about six of them, one of whom is a main character. How much more interesting if Tosh's romance had been something normal and above all realistic, her partner being someone whom the audience could also be in love with, so that the betrayal would have resonated more with us too.

With the teaser, the show revealed far too much information up front, making the outcome guessable, surprises non-existent. If Mary had been a bloke, she would have had a moustache to twirl - obviously evil from the moment she appeared next to Tosh at the bar and so the episode turned into a waiting game for the penny to drop. Whilst it could be argued that Tosh is obviously happy for the attention (as any of us would I suspect from someone looking like that) given who she and who she works for, and how much the job apparently means to her (as she explains in every actors nightmare - the acting pissed scene) can we really believe that she'd be so easily seduced.

Once again, it's a wonder what this lot are doing in the jobs that they have. Once again I wonder if there's going to be some reveal in a later episode that in fact these aren't meant to be the best of the best and that they've been specially selected for their unprofessionalism as a cover for an even less public, more mysterious organization, the real Torchwood, that they're the middle people between UNIT and that. Which would explain why everyone seems to know who Torchwood is even though no one seems to know what Torchwood is.

I've even got a nagging feeling that there's some giant metatextual joke going on rather like the one being played by that arts documentary series on Channel Four in the late nineties, Art is Dead, when present Muriel Gray revealed at the end of the final rather heated discussion programme that all of the artists were fake (especially the one who picked up and displayed roadkill) and that they were actually criticizing the nature of art criticism. Or even that everything is going on inside Jack's mind accounting for all the darkness and discrepancies. I doubt it is any of these things. I think it's just that it's deeply average.

I can't understand the country mile between a large proportion of the fan reaction to the series and elsewhere. I could say that some see it for what it is and everyone else is in denial, but again I don't think that's fair, although I have read some fan criticism which amounts to making excuses for something that they've obviously inherently been disappointed by. It is eerily similar however to the phenomena that Mark Lawson identifies in The Guardian -- the print media were extremely positive about Robin Hood in its opening few episodes in sharp contrast to the internet reaction.

The ratings are holding up despite the timeslots and repeat showings which means someone must be enjoying it for what it is, rather than just tuning in hoping that it'll get better and exhibit the same vim as the opening episode. But I do wonder if they did turn out a great episode I'd actually notice, or if I'd still be looking for those pesky flaws. On reflection the closing scene in which Jack consoled Tosh was very nice, Barrowman demonstrating that he's still very good at genial - and I had empathy with Sato for the first time in the episode. Perhaps I'll try to tune in next week without preconceived ideas and see were that gets me.

And try to ignore the fact that Owen is being a twat again.

PS, Despite what the linked review says, that Art is Dead series was a televisual classic and a demonstration of what the form is capable of.   Imagine any channel committing themselves to that now.

reassimilating the onrush of memories

Books It’s quiet some time since a spin-off piece of Doctor Who has created as much of an emotional reaction in me as Clare Corbett’s reading of Jonathan Morris’s novel Touched by an Angel. The televisual wing of the franchise habitually causes effusive blubbing. It’s designed that way and you’d have to be a monster not be effected by the Doctor realising he’s lived too long, on the many occasions it’s occurred to him, or when the entire cast of the Russell T Davies era are flying the TARDIS together. But even then, the effect is empathetic because of our connection with the characters, the usual drama stuff. I don’t really know what it’s like to be a eon-old timelord with weight of the cosmos on his shoulders. I don’t even have a mortgage.

Touched by an Angel is different because somehow it manages to introduce situations that put me directly at the centre of the drama. A hunting pack of Weeping Angels sends a lawyer, Mark Whittaker, into the recent past where he has in mind to take advantage of his predicament and save his wife from a car accident, with the Doctor and friends out to stop him and so the angels from destroying Earth and wrecking the web of time. Formally, it’s Blink with a TARDIS, with other elements of the show’s recent investigations into the effects of time travel, especially Father’s Day, Space/Time and A Christmas Carol, looking further back still into the Eighth Doctor series, these angels appropriating some of the Faction Paradox’s modis operandi, causing paradoxes so that they can feed.

But what Morris does, making Touched by an Angel a classic of the form, is to vividly foreground the historical details so that to an extent we live through these experience along with his protagonist. A typical example is early in the book when the older Mark forces himself into a student’s union so that he can warn his younger self about the future. What could have been a simple run around with the Doctor and his plus two attempting to keep the Whittakers apart becomes an deeply immersive evocation of what it was like to be in that kind of space during that era, the music, the smells, the heat. I know because I was there. Morris could just as well be writing about the Friday night Stomp at Leeds Met in the mid-90s.

That was the first of many occasions when I stopped what I was doing so that I could finish listening to a section. I was on my way home and sat on the park bench just outside our tower block re-assimilating the onrush of memories which Morris’s writing brought, both good and bad, the blur of dancing to Blur and of realising that I’d never be with the girl I really loved. Even after reaching the end of the chapter, after shutting off my walkman, I sat and cried. Spin-off Who’s never done that before and although I’m willing to admit that some of it probably has as much to do with my own sensitivity than Morris’s writing, it's not often in Who I've been confronted by a character who's the same age as me, going through similar experiences.  Of sorts.

Only towards the end, when Morris has managed to make me to completely love his few main characters, do I again find myself weeping again (on the train to Southport this morning). But throughout, thanks to the author’s carefully chosen references, I've been in a constant state of, if not necessarily nostalgia, re-experiencing moments in time, just like the book’s main character. A potential point of reference is Andrei Tarkovsky’s film The Mirror, which gnomically presents the memories of its autobiographical main character in three time periods, juxtaposing man and adult. Morris applies plot to that idea and allows the older man to watch and interact with his younger self and at the same time, we’re at least mentally doing the same.

Not since Lance Parkin’s Father Time has the recent past been captured this accurately, though the kids who will make part of the book’s target audience might view much of this as being as much of a history lesson as The Fires of Pompeii, even wondering why someone would go out of their way to store some first editions of Harry Potter. But since Morris also has a much more adult approach to relationships to anything else yet seen in these nuWho novels, he clearly has a much older audience in mind anyway. Both Mark and his wife Rebecca are drawn in realistic post-watershed terms, worrying about such things as careers and finding time to start a family. It’s not quite Doctor Who discovers Mike Leigh, but it’s close.

All of which makes Touched by an Angel sound like one of those novels which coincidentally happens to be Doctor Who. But nothing could be further from the truth. This works because it is Doctor Who. Like Morris’s current run as the writer on Doctor Who Magazine and the Moffat era in general, the fantasy portion of the drama concerns itself with predestination and ontological paradoxes, the Doctor and his friends dropping in on Mark and enjoying a series of ingenious set pieces developed around making sure history does run smooth. The result is purposefully episodic, one incident bouncing on to the other. Fans like me of roadshow stories like The Daleks' Masterplan and Seasons of Fear are well served.

If the Marks are needfully the best realised of the characters, Morris does handle Matt Smith’s approach to the character very well too, the manic energy, gesticulating, the railroading of people’s feelings whilst submerged in the bigger picture. Rory’s bewildered bravery is also well realised, allowed for once to take the lions share of the heroism. Only Amy is diminished, in character perhaps, but given little to do other than fall back into the old companion model of peril and questions and not at all the strong headed woman of The Girl Who Waited. But that’s probably symptomatic of the way the couple have been treated in the spin-off media in general, only of them ever really being prominent in a story at any one time.

All of which said, I wonder if my appreciation for the book would have been quite so high on the page so persuasive and pervasive is Clare Corbett’s reading. Even having previously enjoyed her performance as Amy Pond in The Hounds of Artemis, I wasn’t prepared for quite how sympathetically she’d bring an entire novel to audio, unafraid to turn the prose into a story told, rather than the rather neutral reading sometimes offered by others. Quite rightly Corbett suggests consistent versions of the main characters rather than mimicry.  But she’s at her best when illuninating the intensity of Mark love for Rebecca, making us understand utterly why he’d risk ripping a hole in the fabric of the universe to save her.  Essential.

Doctor Who: Touched by an Angel written by Jonathan Morris and read by Clare Corbett is out now from AudioGo. Review copy supplied. 

[Jonathan Morris has also put together a soundtrack to the novel using Spotify. Click here for the playlist.]

the hammering ring of the old black telephone

Film In recent days I’ve been plagued by phone calls from an unrecognisable telephone number. Or at least a telephone I didn't recognise. At random times of the day I’ve heared my ringtone, and because I don’t keep my mobile with me all the time, I’ve been dashing to retrieve it from wherever I’ve left it, only for it stop before I could answer.  My usual strategy in these situations has been to ignore it, but it has been persistent enough that I eventually called it back and a recorded message revealed it to be the Daily Telegraph’s promotions line.  They rang again today while I was out shopping.  Luckily the phone was in my pocket.
“Hello” said the call centre advisor. “Is that Stuart Barnes?”
“It’s Burns. Hello. Are you from the Daily Telegraph?”
”Yes, I am, I …”
“You’ve been plaguing me with phone calls. Could you take me off your list please?"
“Oh, um, yes, I …” He was going to hang up.
“Hold on. Can I just say this is the third time I’ve asked you.” Which it was.
“I’m doing it now.” He replied sharply and hung up.

All of which means I can sympathise with Mary Kee, the divorcee whose equally inundated with phone calls in Matthew Parkhill’s thriller The Caller even if our stories diverge somewhat. For one thing, she has to deal with the hammering ring of the old black telephone left in the new singleton apartment she’s rushed to rent in the wake of her separation, whereas mine’s now a soothing snatch of Kevin Shield’s soundtrack to Lost In Translation. The Daily Telegraph was just uppity with my attitude, although I am concerned that the Telegraph still have my address from the animated Shakespeare dvd promotion of a few years ago which led to my predicament.  When Mary’s rude with her apparent wrong number it leads, as should be the case in the thriller genre, to murderous consequences.

Beyond that, there’s not much more I’d want to give away about The Caller. Even the press release which was sent with this review copy I think says too much and offering genre details beyond “thriller” spoils at least three of the best surprises. As does this webpage, which you really shouldn’t look at either.  I've even just deleted another reference and replaced it with this sentence, just in case.   What I can say is that although this is a film with small ambitions and judging by its few locations, a slender budget, Parkhill recreating the kind of 90s psychological fare top-lined by Julia Roberts or Diane Lane (Sleeping With The Enemy, that sort of thing), Sergio Casci’s screenplay succeeds in utilising the premise to turn some of their tropes upside down, not least the other abusive caller her ex-husband (played with pantomime creepiness by Ed Quin).

Perhaps we’re on safer territory talking about the cast. The press release also makes much of this being a bringing together casting from Twilight and True Blood, though I will say it has nothing to do with vampires. Twiglet’s Rachelle Lefevre is quite excellent as Mary, if looking disconcertingly like a tall Michelle Trachtenberg in a pre-Raphaelite wig. True to the film’s exploitation roots, she spends portions of the film in daisy-dukes thanks to the air conditioning in the apartment, but when the plot hits the fan she eventually fills her kitchen with to bring a much needed breeze, she’s capable of projecting both vulnerability and strength. Stephen Moyer (From True Blood (or NY-LON)) does what’s expected of the love interested especially during a longer than is possibly required softcore love making scene.

Some of the other reviews online I have been remarkably unforgiving to a piece which understands its genre and has few ambitions beyond it.  Admittedly there is one glaring issue later in the film which means that the antagonistic telephone couldn’t and shouldn’t work.  The deleted scenes do address why Mary’s stuck using this ancient beast when newer technology is available, cut presumably because there’s already one entertainingly pedantic exposition scene in the middle utilising the budding boyfriend’s convenient profession,   If you did look at that spoilery webpage (or even just the link), you’ll know this kind of story risks such questions anyway and that even the master of this kind of material writes himself into a hole. At least Casci takes a crack at offering a justification and it’s certainly no less ludicrous.

The Caller is available now from Universal Pictures on blu-ray and dvd.

The Oxford Paragraphs: Introduction.

Books In an effort to widen my exposure to literature beyond Elizabethan and Jacobian classical drama I’ve begun collecting the Oxford World's Classics, picking up copies in used bookstores, charity shops and ebay with the plan to read them in the order of purchase and utilising an Amazon wish list to keep track of the books I'm still looking for (or in case anyone is in a benevolent mood). With almost all of literature available, and me being the king of indecision, I wanted to introduce a random element, so I’m only buying the very latest edition both because I like the simplicity of the cover design and because they’re relatively new and so rarer and more of a challenge to find.  After completing each, I'll create a virtual milestone by posting a short review here, of about a hundred and fifty words.  A single, totemic paragraph.  Like this one.

"we ask folks to bring books back when they’re done"

Books The Occupy movement in Boston have set up an "autonomous" library. Its engine is something we seem to be able to count on less and less. Trust. Jessamyn West interviews the founder:
"All honor system :) . We do have a check out process (visitors write title of book and date checked out on index card), and we ask folks to bring books back when they’re done. It is most important to get the information out there as far as I’m concerned, rather than get too too hung up on who is borrowing what and for how long. There are several valued books that we’ve nominated for reference only that do not leave the library – such as the Occupy Boston documents binder, or a particular edition of Howard Zinn’s People’s History for example (though we have multiple copies of that to circulate, courtesy of a man who read of the Boston library in the NYT)."

"Quebec, Russia, Switzerland and the Member States of the European Union"

The Law Vegard urges us to read the small print, even on computer games:
Chapter 17 is, in its entirety, devoted to defining how disputes between you and EA should be resolved. This chapter make up the bulk of the license agreement, so EA is really going all in to cover its ass. As far I can tell – but I might be wrong on this one – Section A is the only section that explicitly excludes Quebec, Russia, Switzerland and the Member States of the European Union; the rest of the chapter also covers these regions. By agreeing to the license, you say it’s OK that you and EA resolve all disputes out of court. From chapter 17, section C, Binding Arbitration:
In addition to the class action waiver, EA also stops you from ganging up on them in section D,
I'm never agreeing to anything ever again. Now I'm looking for my old 90s copy of X-Wing to check that I haven't become a sleeper agent for the Empire without my knowledge.

I'm 37.

I'm 37.
I'm 37., a photo by feelinglistless on Flickr.

LOVEFiLM have restructured their pricing options.

Commerce I don't know if this is true for everyone but via this post at HotUKDeals, I've discovered that LOVEFiLM have restructured their pricing options.

Last week, I shifted my package back up to three discs unlimited from two so that I could use the extra disc to catch up on the various television series I've missed. I'm now working my way through the superlative Fringe, with True Blood and whatever else coming after that.

The charge shifted from £13.27 up to £16.33 which seemed like a small price to pay to stop having to run away from Anna Torv related spoilers in a month or so.

Glancing at that HotUKDeals thread which is a bit murky to understand led me to the account change screen and sure enough there was a purple box at the top explaining that my package was no longer available and a glance downwards revealed that exactly the same package was now available for £13.27.

I've changed now.  The price to be taken has changed to the original £13.27 so I'm now getting the extra disc for the price I was being charged for two.  Anna Torv at no extra cost.

Since LOVEFiLM didn't send an email explaining the change, how many people will still be charged at the original rate?  Not you now, of course, but still.

This is possibly to create some direct competition with Blockbuster who've been hammering them with exclusivity deals.

When I first got the three disc package from ScreenSelect in 2004, that was £14.99 and with inflation and VAT increases, this is quite a reduction.  I'm being charged less now than I was then and for blu-rays.

It'll also be a reaction to Netflix announcing that they're opening up in the UK albeit with a streaming only service.  This package includes unlimited streams.  Those streams aren't of the best quality and sometimes from less than brilliant prints but again, nevertheless its a great deal.

Let me know if this has happened for you too.

Updated 31/10/2011 The lofi LOVEFiLM Affiliates blog has been updated with the news.  Here is some of the copy:
"LOVEFiLM - Never a better time to join

There has never been a better time to join LOVEFiLM. LOVEFiLM is all about great value entertainment from the comfort of your own home and the most popular package with access to Unlimited film has just been reduced by nearly 25% from £13.27 to £9.99 per month. Join today and you can get a FREE trial before Christmas!"
Still no emails to customers about the change though and there's no media coverage which suggests they haven't sent a press release around either.

Updated 1/11/2011  Choose DVD rental have the story now and have apparently been in touch with Lovefilm who give the impression that they're going to automatically migrate accounts at some point.  The problem with that of course is that some users will still be paying at the higher rate on their direct debit when they could go in and manually migrate themselves right now.  Still no email to customers from Lovefilm and still no coverage in the wider media.

Updated 4/11/2011  Go here.

"to protest the plot of the film"

Film I'd hoped somebody would:
"A couple dozen La Cañada Flintridge students donning handmade T-shirts gathered at ArcLight Cinemas in Pasadena Friday afternoon to protest the plot of the film “Anonymous,” which claims that Shakespeare didn’t write any of his celebrated plays."
Their teacher also wrote to Vanessa Redgrave and received a reply. The results were predictable.