"I think we should get back to prisons."

Journalism In this recent interview I posted with a PR, they noted how they hate being mentioned in interviews and underneath I noted that if they're in on the interview "it means the subject can't and won't be as open as if they weren't which is presumably why the journalist mentions their presence".

Today's Guardian has an excellent example of this as Decca Armstrong attempts to interview Gordon Ramsey about personal stuff outside the tv show he's selling and a woman who must be one of his PR keeps interfering and trying to steer the conversation away from what the journalists wants to ask about:
"I wonder if that was partly why he chose to publish the infamous letter to his mother-in-law in a newspaper, instead of popping it in a post box. In a flash, the woman next to him is on her feet, snapping: "I think we should get back to prisons." I don't see how I can be invading his privacy by mentioning the letter, I point out, when it was Ramsay himself who put it in the papers. "We're not going to comment there," she barks. She's starting to remind me of one of those attorneys in bad US courtroom dramas who jump up and down squawking, "Objection!" so I decide to ignore her.

"I was going to ask, I explain, if any part of him gets some satisfaction from making a row public. "No, no, in terms of the ruck, that situation was pretty shit."

"Like I said," the woman interrupts again, "can we get back to prisons?"
There's a well recommended comment underneath who suggests that that Armstrong was out of line to shift the attention away from from Ramsey's programme or his cheffiness or whatever to other things.  What I see is a journalist battling with a PR over what an interview should be about and that journalist rightly backing out when she feels her freedom being compromised.

That's Entertainment, has opened a store on Bold Street

Film The discount entertainment chain which rose phoenix-like from the flames of Music Zone, That's Entertainment, has opened a store on Bold Street in Liverpool opposite Starbucks. Given what we know now about the cost of rent on the street, this is not inconsiderable commitment.

If you're not aware, That's Entertainment knocks out essentially anything released up to six months ago at bizarrely cheap prices.  The list is huge but yesterday I noticed the Little Boots album for couple of pounds, most of Simon & Garfunkel's back catalogue for £3 each and well everything.

The dvd selection was a long wince inducing session as I compared how much I've spent in comparison.  Thankfully I've rarely bought anything full, full price thanks to the web, but it's impossible to really see how they could afford to make a profit on these margins and pay the rent.

Even with my limited budgets, of course I bought something.  The first season of the The Sarah Connor Chronicles (£2) and Ultimate Kylie (£2), the 2004 collection of all her pop videos which was I think the accompaniment to the costume exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery.

As with that exhibition this was an exhilaratingly naked trip through my blushing teenage years into my adult idolatry and despite a couple of obvious missteps (the Celebration cover, Breathe), there can't be many musical artists with such a peerless collection of singles.  Yes, even Shocked.

My favourite of these promos? For sheer technical finesse, Michel Gondry's Come Into My World, which shows all the vision he'd later bring to his better films, which begins looking disappointingly similar to Alison Maclean's video for Natalie Imbruglia's Big Mistake, then goes entirely amazeballs:

Best moments? When Kylie picks up the pink bag. When she ducks under herself at the lamp post. Noticing that it's not just Kylie who's duplicating. Oh and that by the end their are five Kylies.  Another two and there'd enough for every age of this man.

Lovefilm will now be carrying Universal's back catalogue.

Film Back in March, I tried to get to the bottom of why Lovefilm weren't carrying Universal films and received the usually disappointing emails from Universal and Lovefilm highlighting intransigent disagreements over the usual stuff like money and money.

Recently there was some hope for change after Lovefilm signed an agreement for streaming rights to Universal's catalogue and I'm pleased to report that agreement seems to have been carried over somewhat into physical shiny discs things with a range of titles cropping up for rental.  So it looks like Lovefilm will now be carrying Universal's back catalogue.

They've not gone wide with this information yet (I only noticed when I was trawling through this month's Empire Magazine and adding title).  Paul's there now and One Day but not A Serious Man.  For someone who doesn't much go to the cinema this is excellent news.  Some of these aren't great films, but they are in a discourse I've need denied otherwise.

It seems to be occurring as stock is delivered.  Simon noticed Kick Ass was on stream last night and now it's available through postal media.  Only the dvd of Ridley Scott's Robin Hood's available which suggests to me they're waiting for the blu-rays to be posted to them or some such.  Note brand new titles are nowhere.  I'll check back in a couple of weeks to see if that changes.

Updated!  09/06/2012  A Serious Man is now available as the blu-ray of Robin Hood.  Lordy, lordy, lordy.

Mark Morris’s Mr Invincible

Audio  In Mark Morris’s Mr Invincible, Jack drifts back to Earth seeking the truth of his revelation about Gwen’s assassination from Red Skies and finds himself embroiled in an adventure which might just be related.  A time distortion is spreading across Cardiff causing people to oscillate from mewling and puking to sans everything and back again in a flash.  Meanwhile, Ross Chapman, an unlikely superhero is making like Kick-Ass across Cardiff but with the added bonus of actual powers.  Obviously the three have to be connected, there wouldn’t be a story otherwise, and it’s up to Jack to make that connection.

In other words, Morris’s vision for new Torchwood, is essentially old Torchwood with less bodies on the ground and somehow like old Torchwood, Mr Invincible rubbed me up the wrong way.  Partly it’s the rather obvious double meaning in the title – there are two invincible men walking around South Wales, but also the over-familiarity of the material, Morris even referencing the Roman Centurion from Season One’s End of Days.  Not his fault but AudioGo’s Who range has featured plenty of time anomaly related stories now and for its certainly breeding some contempt, especially when the material isn’t quite up to scratch.

Sadly for Morris, AudioGo have also recently investigated the superhero genre, and better in the Starfall episode of Paul Magrs’s Starfall and I’m not convinced the more adult approach required by Torchwood really benefits it.  Morris attempts to make Chapman a more normal bloke; he’s not especially noble, he’s generally doing it for the publicity (cf, Spiderman early in his origin story) but that also makes him difficult to like.  Certainly Morris seems to enjoy writing the Cardiff residents Chapman encounters more, and the highlights of the audio, as is so often the case with Torchwood, is in “seeing” how they interact with the fantasy elements.

But I suppose the biggest disappointment is in the characterisation.  Jack rarely sounds like Jack and that’s not helped by the fact that Jack does rarely sound like Jack because Tom Price has refused to even attempt a Barrowman impression, reading the whole thing in his own accent making the Captain sound more like Philip Madoc in A Mind To Kill than the Glaswegian-American figure that should stand out against the Welsh audio landscape.  As with Morris’s Darkstar Academy in which coincidentally Alexander Armstrong backed out on attempting Karen Gillan, it means we rarely get a fix on the character that’s supposed to be a protagonist.

Which is a disappointing end to what’s been an otherwise entertaining block of adventures which at their best have been as good as the Radio 4 series and even better than the television original with remarkable images in all and suggestions for what the future format of the series will look like, a return to a spooky-doo of the week seeming the most obvious.  But what of the future?  With the tv show unlikely to return soon, will BBC Books and AudioGo continue to bang out new content to fill the void or is Mr Invincible the final word on this corner of the franchise?  It’d be fairly typical if it was.

Torchwood: Mr Invincible by Mark Morris is out now from AudioGo. Review copy supplied.

"Win or lose."

Film Roger Ebert remembers being invited to John Wayne's house:
"He took another rifle from the wall and held it up for inspection. "And this," he said, "is one of the guns the Russians are sending to kill our boys in Vietnam. People just won't see we're at war over there. Win or lose. Look at that--isn't that a mean-looking rifle? And it's a good one, too. And this is the piece of shit we're giving our boys to shoot back with. But people just won't realize. I heard a poem the other day. How did it go? Every day I pray, I won't go my complacent way... Hell, I can't remember it all. Something to the effect of, I'll never let those kids down."
There's also plenty of analysis of his own films, but I thought this was a poignant reminder of how even stars who died decades ago can still echo, both on screen and in their own words.

"Or the Merlin set."

TV The BBC's posted this first official location photo of Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman on the Doctor Who set.  Or the Merlin set.  Or whatever.  Some comments:

(1)  The Doctor's new "costume".  The silhouette is still somewhat similar but note the emergence of the waistcoat, apparel last seen worn by a Doctor on a regular basis by Paul McGann (on a hundred cds and novels).  It makes him seem older, somehow, which it should do since this incarnation's aged over two hundred years since his regeneration.

(2)  The jacket.  Apart from this person having to make yet another imitation, again it feels like a departure.  It's darker, more mature.  And now we've reached the limit of my ability to identify tweeds.  Is it Leven, son?

(3)  Given that I haven't been in a high street clothing store in several decades, I'm not sure what we can infer from Jenna's clothes but they don't look off the peg.  The jacket is a bit mid-period Martha Jones but underneath she's also wearing another jacket and a flowery dress and note -- the bag.

(4)  Of course, we've no idea which episode this is from.  If this companion is from the past as had been rumoured by no one but me, she'd probably wear clothes which are in period or an approximation.  You could also infer the same about someone from the future who's usual streetwear is baco-foil.

(5)  In terms of first photos it could have been worse.  He could be wearing a bad costume and she could be dress as Peter Pan.

they're probably googling me

Fashion Given the speed with which the web works, you've probably already read this collection of tweets by Melissa Stetten, the model who offered a running commentary on the "moves" of a charming gentleman who attempted to chat her up on a red eye who was revealed to be in adulterous mood thanks to the research skills of her followers.

As @Glinner says, this "unfortunate actor fails to grasp that humans are now a mix of judge, jury, CCTV camera, Stasi operative & media outlet." Now I'll know that if someone I'm speaking to looks at their smart phone for longer than to check the time, they're probably googling me and I'm never going to speak to them again. This explains a lot.

What's not generally been reported is that Stetton has a history with hapless unfortunate men.  On her blog in May she talked about relationship she had with a "shock jock".  She's an excellent writer, tragic and funny in equal measure (except ick -- see below).  It's a textual montage sequence which explains a lot about why she's unlikely to take much bullshit from men.

Updated!  09/06/2012  Brian Presley, the person in question denies the conversation took place.  Or at least that the conversation took place the way she says it did.  We're now in the midst of the expected he said/she said.  For her part, she's posted a screenshot of Presley's message on her twitter and not treating anything too seriously.

Updated!  13/06/2012  A commentor at Jezebel bothered to check backwards in Stetton's Twitter timeline and oh good god, ugh.  Now it's entirely possible there's an ironic intent to that tweet, that she's commenting on the expectation that someone like her might say that sort of thing, in other words be a racist, but given that's not entirely clear, and that's not an especially funny thing to say, let's put this whole issue to bed shall, we?

"clicks, burrs and burps"

Audio One of the sounds I've missed, really missed, since moving to broadband is the sound of a dial-up modem. The clicks, burrs and burps whilst not conventionally pleasant sounding, were an important part of the ritual of connecting to the web, a kind of audio gatekeeper for this other reality. The simple click-connect of mobile broadband doesn't quite have the same mystique. Now The Atlantic have de-mystified the process even further by explaining to us lay-people what all of the clicks, burrs and burps actually were:
"The frequencies of the modem's sounds represent parameters for further communication. In the early going, for example, the modem that's been dialed up will play a note that says, "I can go this fast." As a wonderful old 1997 website explained, "Depending on the speed the modem is trying to talk at, this tone will have a different pitch."
Not that I would want to go back to dial-up speeds. I haven't the patience now to wait twenty minutes to download a mp3 track.

"as opposed to Facebook status updates, tweets and the like"

Grammar The New York Times explains the correct usage of commas:
"As a professor at the University of Delaware, I read a lot of writing by college students, and in it a strong recent trend is reversion to comma-by-sound. I attribute this not so much to students’ love of the Constitution and the classics but to the fact that they don’t read much edited prose (as opposed to Facebook status updates, tweets and the like). Two things that you really need to read a lot to understand are punctuation and spelling. (Not coincidentally, spelling is the other contemporary writing disaster.)"
Part Two is here. I like to think my punctuation is ok, even my syntax is all over the place. Which doesn't mean I'm not paranoid about the comma in that previous sentence.

"Dimbleby talked too much"

TV The BBC defends jubilee coverage. In 2002:
"The BBC took more than 3,000 jubilee-related calls from viewers, according to a spokeswoman.

"However, among the 1,000 people that called to pass judgment on the coverage, only 300 congratulated the corporation."

"BBC insiders said at least 400 viewers complained Dimbleby talked too much and many of his comments were disrespectful to the royal family. The total number of complaints is likely to be nearer 700."
My twitter followers will now that I wasn't best pleased with some elements of the BBC's coverage this time, not least the constant cutting away from images of what we were supposed to be watching, the pomp and circumstance, for some lengthy interview with a celebrity, however entertaining it was to see Paloma Faith going rogue.

Many, including his sister-law-Bel Mooney have wondered why Bio-Dimbleby didn't present this year's coverage but is this old article proves anything it's that you can't impress all of the people all of the time.  The BBC was criticised for their -- I thought exemplary -- coverage of the Royal Wedding last year, for being "too funerary".

"Did you see Charlie?"

Travel At the end of last month, Ian Jones did what I've often considered. He bought one of those Lancashire rail rovers tickets and saw how far it would take him. As I suspected, you can get quite far in a day, but you won't really see much at your various destinations. But you certainly will hear some things from your fellow passengers:
"On the train from Liverpool to Manchester:
“Don’t start, cos I’ll wait outside your fucking work and twat you. I ain’t arsed! I’m from fucking Birkenhead!”

From Colne to Preston:
“Did you see Charlie? Did he bring his woman with him? He’ll be an old man when he finally gets to sit on the throne. That’s if poor Liz will let him.”

From Lancaster to Morecambe:
“I’ve got the lasagne, the bread and a bag of Italian salad, but I just couldn’t decide on the wine.”
Unfortunately, I fear, I've been involved in rail conversation just like those.

"leap frogging ahead of Holly Valance"

Music Amid the Jubilee jubilations (oh BBC where art thou?) I forgot to mention the important news that as part of their celebration of sixty years of the pop charts, The Guardian selected Freak Like Me from the "Sugababes" as the best single of 2002, leap frogging ahead of Holly Valance, DJ Sammy and Las Ketchup.  Actually, that's unfair.  The slow version of Heaven is extraordinary.

Given that Paul Morley thinks it's one of the best singles of all time (or at least he did in 2008) that shouldn't come as too much of a surprise and for all my fierce loyalty to the original line-up even I acknowledge the rot hadn't completely set in by the time of the second album which contains much great work and a coherent sound even if it's a different coherent sound to One Touch.

Glancing down that list, I'm reminded that every year offers a balance of rubbish production line nonsense and genuinely great records.  2002 brought Girl's Aloud's Sounds of the Underground, Liberty X's A Little Bit and Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland's Dilemma not to mention JXL's storming remix of Elvis's A Little Less Conversation.  Sadly it also saw Daniel Beddingfield at number one, twice.  Thank goodness for the "Sugababes".

“Is this God?”

TV The AV Club's random roles visits Bruce McGill who talks about appearing in the final episode of Quantum Leap, one of the greatest television episodes ever:
"When he did the last episode, [my character] was supposed to be raising the question, “Is this God?” That’s the question people were asking. And this character did what his father did: He had a bar in a coal-mining town. I reminded [Bellisario] so much of his father that he wanted me in that part. I loved that last episode, and I think that last moment, with Sam and I on the front porch, is just really poignant. I have to tell you, there wasn’t a dry eye on the set, and that’s a hundred crew people. Of course, they might’ve been crying about the fact that their job was over. [Laughs.] But it was just really touching, and I really enjoyed that experience."
Then the crushing final caption. It's peerless.

"young, attractive, well-educated"

TV A couple of months ago IO9 published this rather good interview with Waris Hussein, the first director on Doctor Who about attitudes to the show at the BBC when it first launch revealing that to an extent it was already a pariah thanks to interdepartmental and contemporary attitudes:
"There was this dichotomy between Drama and the Children's Department. The ladies who ran the Children's Department were well into their fifties and sixties, and they were rather like those people in The Kiling of Sister George. They were very worried about Verity Lambert, who came in looking absolutely marvelous. She was young, attractive, well-educated — she'd been to all the right schools, she'd been to Roedean, for God's sake, and spoke with a cultured accent. I remember standing in the bar one night, and hearing this gossip [from the Children's Department women]: "We all know how she got there, and it wasn't by walking."
You could argue that the show's fortunes within the corporation have always been indexed linked to the fortune its potentially brought to the corporation.


Life I prefer silence, but living where I do, it's of limited availability and earplugs are of little use since all they do is amplify my own breathing. So to an extent the life of a trappist monk "sounds" like bliss and indeed in speaking to The Awl about their lives (via email) these examples note that much of the noise most of us have to endure is simple talking, though there's nothing simple about that:
"On another level, silence reminds me that the misuse of words, the abuse of language can also be the sinful abuse of people; silence for us means not talking, more than not making noise... On yet another level, silence means listening. We follow the Rule of St. Benedict and the first word of that Rule is "Listen." That's the great ethical element of silence: to check my words and listen to another point of view. I'll never have any real peace should my sense of well-being depend on soundless peace. When I can learn the patience of receiving, in an unthreatened way, what I'd rather not hear, then I can have a real measure of peace in any situation."
Sometimes I'll hide all the clocks in a room and close the door, close the rest of the doors and sit and try and concentrate. But that can't stop the cars outside, the fridges and freezes and sometimes I imagine the hum of electricity from becoming a disturbance.  But it's true, there's still a benefit to not hearing the sound of your own voice for a while especially when it says as many stupid things as mine.

The Sunday Seven:
Emily Speed.

Emily Speed in an artist whose work I've really admired at various exhibitions in Liverpool across the years, most recently in the Topophobia exhibition at the Bluecoat,  especially Panapoly (pictured above).  She was nominated for the Liverpool Art Prize in 2010.

How did you become an artist?

Hmm, I always was one I think, but aged about 7 I did a pretty amazing painting of a gymnast and other people's reactions made me realise there was something there.

What was your inspiration for 'Human Castle', one of the commissions for this year's Edinburgh Art Festival?

I've been slightly infatuated with bodies and architecture and those two things combined in human pyramids and the Catalan 'Castell' tradition for a while now, so when Sorcha Carey, the festival director contacted me about doing this commission that idea fell into place somehow. This human castle explores the idea of architecture as a protective layer around people a little further and the brevity of the performance - performers coming together for just a few minutes before going their own way -  will hopefully reflect the precariousness and instability of things. The motto for Edinburgh’s Royal Military Tattoo - Castellum est urbs (the fortress is the city) - sees city and castle as one in the same and the work will be sited directly under Edinburgh Castle.

What will be the trickiest element to achieve?

Working with other people! I have 11 acrobats on board and we're about to have our first workshop in June, so I'm very excited. I'm pretty sure that the way they move and visualise the work will have a lot of influence on the final result. I'm making architectural/sculptural costumes for the performers as part of the work, which will add to the castle shape, so making those in a way that allows them to climb will need some careful planning.

Of everything you've done what have you been most pleased with?

That's fairly impossible to answer as I'm always preoccupied with the things I might make next and all the unformed ideas that fill my head. I did love being in Panoply though and it was great to have the chance to try the work out with some really great support from Sara-Jayne Parsons at the Bluecoat.

Panoply forced you to become part of its fabric.  Why did you think it important for it to become partly performative and what were the reactions of visitors?

I guess my work is becoming more and more about the body performing or carrying the object so it's was a natural progression to end up in the exhibition. Most adult visitors never actually looked up or noticed me at all so that was interesting - continuing to move around despite it being for no one but myself. Children were the most incredible audience, especially because they would start imagining out-loud all the reasons that I might be in there and what it would look like inside. I got a brilliant drawing in the post from a boy called Ben, who had drawn me (a very bearded man) inside the work with a dog; amazing. Unusually I got a lot of feedback about Panoply from my peers, so I was very grateful for that and it felt like it moved my work along quite a lot.

Who’s your favourite artist?

That changes most weeks, but I am pretty enamoured with Oskar Schlemmer and Becky Beasley at the moment.

What stops you from feeling listless?

Fresh air, swimming outdoors and seeing new places. Also all the amazing books I have collected over my lifetime - they contain a lot of possibility. Listlessness still happens though, I just try not to feel too guilty about it!

Emily will also be part of  'Camp Out' at Laumeier Sculpture Park, St Louis, Missouri from June 2nd to September 16th (pictured above).

Picture credits:
Panoply, 2012, wood, scaffold and body. Image by Mark Reeves
Inhabitant (St Louis), 2012, cardboard and acrylic. Image by Dana Turcovic.


"blinded by a champagne cork"

Politics Say what you like about Boris, and you can say a lot about Boris, he's always available for the unexpected answer to the predictable question. Here he is being interviewed by NPR (who call him the "the mayor with scarecrow hair") about his new book:
"As for Johnson's political future, he's not looking toward party leadership or anything else beyond his mayoral term.

"I've got a four-year mandate. I've got a huge job to do," Johnson says. "How can I put this: It's not something I think is likely. Conventionally, what I say is, I'm more likely to be blinded by a champagne cork, or decapitated by a Frisbee, or reincarnated as an olive, or locked in a disused fridge."
Or fall in a river.

The Queen at Manchester Town Hall.