TED minus x equals ...

People Steven Levy writes for Medium about attending this year's TED. For fans like me, it's almost like a film festival review, previewing upcoming attractions on their YouTube channel:
"Sitting through them makes your brain feel like a mushy piñata, whacked by one mind-blowing idea after another. Did you know that babies use sophisticated data analysis to guide the way they use squeeze toys? Meet the Frank Gehry of the rain forest, who creates the bamboo edifices in Bali. Believe it or not, when adulterers say to their betrayed spouses It’s not about you, they’re telling the truth. Oh, and here’s a guy who landed a spaceship on an asteroid."
The Monica Lewinsky talk has just been posted:

I can't paint.

Art Tomorrow morning Cass Arts opens a Liverpool outpost on School Lane near The Bluecoat in Liverpool. Full details here. It's in the newly vacated old Cath Kidston shop.

As part of the PR process, they were nice enough to send me some art supplies for me to try out the sort of thing they'll be selling.

Suitably prodded I decided to have another go.  I say another go because it's during art at school it became abundantly clear I can't paint, I don't have any artistic DNA in my genome.  Much of my GCSE was spent copying out Disney characters and drawing terrible renditions of chimney boxes and my single (non General Studies) A-Level, which happens to be in Art, was gained due to a sympathetic teacher who allowed me to create collages for two years.  Needless to say, nothing has changed.

Still. I did watch this instructional video on YouTube where a man paints a tree and had some idea about light and shading but in the end, as you can see I still did the collage, except in paint.  Is it the sky?  Is it the sea?  Is it a bit of both?  Who can tell?  I don't have the patience now to learn how to do this effectively or indeed the time.  So for all my readiness to criticise the art of others, it's always with a sympathetic eye.  At least they can do this.

Soup Safari #17:
Rosemary and Chestnut at East Avenue Bakehouse.

Lunch. £4.25. East Avenue Bakehouse. 112 Bold Street, Liverpool, Merseyside L1 4HY. Phone:0151 708 621. Website.

The Underwater Menace DVD. Now available to pre-order?

TV File this under "unlikely Amazon purchases":

A friend on Twitter noticed this pre-order page for the looong delayed release of Doctor Who's The Underwater Menace, the only surviving episodes of Doctor Who still awaiting release (that we know of). So of course I put a pre-order in even though I don't really expect it to be posted to me by the 7th April and not at that price, which is back to the funny numbers for single stories of the original VHS releases (£39.99 for Revenge of the Cybermen? Yes, please!). Here are the problems:

(1) Kasterborous has a statement from the BBC which says its been removed from the schedule.

(2) The BBFC website doesn't list a recent classification. The episode three assessments are from over a decade ago when it appeared in the Lost in Time boxed set and before that The Ice Warrior cardboard box.

(3) Gallifrey Base is very ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

(4) It's not available at the BBC Shop.

So it's probably a database error.  But nothing the world could stop me from pre-ordering.  Just in case.

Updated 07/04/2015  Sigh.  As expected, but sigh:

My Favourite film of 2004.

Film Irrespective of Richard Linklater's achievements, Before Sunset is a reminder of how films have forced a dedication in me which I should probably usefully apply to other things. Glancing through the review posted when the film was released, I'm reminded that because the film didn't turn up straight away at FACT in Liverpool, I travelled out to the Cornerhouse in Manchester after work, nearly an hour by train there back again (this was when I was at Liverpool Direct storing up the money to go to university, or not depending on whether my application was accepted) (oddly enough moving to Paris was plan-B and at this point I'm not sure that wouldn't have been the better option) (but I digress).  This wasn't an unusual trip.  Years before I'd done the same with a friend for a screening of Singing in the Rain (and Hamlet even earlier) and would later kill myself to get to a screening of the first episode of Torchwood (not literally clearly though given what happened with the rest of that series it might have been preferable too).

With Netflix and rentals-by-post and the price of tickets, would I do this again now?  Probably.  I saw the sequel, Before Midnight, in the same screen at the same cinema in the same seat nine years later at the end of a day spent shopping in Manchester though it's fair to say I probably went to city on that week, on that day because Before Midnight was playing.  That would also describe my approach to Cedric Klapisch's Chinese Puzzle.  What Netflix lacks and by-post only just manage to retain are the sense of anticipation and the ritualistic aspect of going to the cinema, of buying a ticket, hoping your favourite seat is free and if you're me going to the toilet three time before the film starts because I've drunk too much coffee again.  Oh and reading the cinema's brochure advertising upcoming attractions which in the case of the Cornerhouse is often films which I know I won't be watching for another six months while I wait for them to turn up on dvd or streaming (creating a different kind of anticipation).

But much of the trip has to do with the Cornerhouse itself.  As you'll read in the coming weeks, the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds was for a time my cavern of dreams.  After that the 051 in Liverpool.  Then FACT.  But the Cornerhouse is the Cornerhouse.  It's my favourite cinema.  For me, it is cinema.  Partly it's because living in a different city I can't take it for granted so it'll always be special.  Partly it's because in earlier years with its cushioned fabricy blue seats, basement screens of various sizes and box office across the street from its largest venue it didn't seem like any cinema I'd ever visited.  The smell.  Plus back in the day before the internet, those brochures always seemed filled with films which I'd never heard and would never see.  Even now, the Cornerhouse is the place I go when I want to see films which are important or feel like they're going to be important to me.  The idea of getting on a train just to see a film at the Cornerhouse has never seemed ludicrous because they experience of seeing a film there will be unlike seeing a film anywhere else.

Soon it'll be gone of course, replaced by a much larger, and to be fair, probably better designed venue up the road.  Presumptuously called "Home" it'll be interesting to see if it retains the mystique.  There'll be more screens, so a greater selection of films (one of the joys of the Cornerhouse was the limited selection at odd screening times which meant that sometimes I'd stumble upon a film I wasn't expecting because it's all that happened to be on when I happened to be in Manchester).  Plus a theatre.  Plus a cafe.  Plus the gallery space.  It sounds like it could still be like no other cinema, bar FACT or the BFI, I've ever visited.  But it'll also be nothing like the Cornerhouse because initially it'll be without the memories which can only be gained by visiting a building repeatedly.  That place may well be called "Home" but the Cornerhouse at the moment has a better claim to the description.  The last film I saw there, quite deliberately, was Chinese Puzzle but if it had been another installment in the life of Celine and Jesse that would have been just right too.

Talks Collection:
Dr Hannah Fry.

People  This week BBC Four broadcast Climate Change by Numbers in which three mathematicians - Dr Hannah Fry, Prof Norman Fenton and Prof David Spiegelhalter utilised a set of numbers each to explain why climate change should be the most pressing issue on the planet Earth we should all be dealing with and why we should believe the 97% of climate scientists who believe it to be due to human activity.  The whole thing is available to watch here for the next two weeks, assuming it isn't repeated in which case it'll be a bit longer.

As her biography page at UCL explains, Dr. Fry, "is a lecturer in the mathematics of cities at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA). She was trained as a mathematician with a first degree in mathematics and theoretical physics, followed by a PhD in fluid dynamics. After a brief period working in aerodynamics, she returned to UCL to take up a post-doctoral position researching a relatively new area of science - social and economic complex systems. This led to her appointment as a lecturer in the field in October 2012."

Here she is herself with a richer explanation of her interests from a German science conference's channel:

Which is fascinating and for the past few years she's appeared at a range of conferences and courses demonstrating this approach to data and I've gathered as many of these talks as I can find. There's some repetition in places, but she's excellent at finding new ways of presenting similar data for different ends.

Port Hyperlink.

Film When I wrote my MA Film Studies dissertation about "hyperlink" films, as you might expect I had to watch a lot of them and although the process was mostly about analysing them looking for commonalities, pretty soon I did realise that some of them were better than others. Which is why I can just about agree with Nicholas Barber in today's G2 about how some films which would have worked perfectly well as portmantau films found themselves mixed and matched in unuseful ways:
"... prefer a good honest portmanteau. It’s less tricksy than a hyperlink film. Every section has to stand or fall on its own merits, as well as complement the whole. If one segment doesn’t entertain, it risks being cut out: the other segments will survive without it. Sub-Altman hyperlink films, on the other hand, can use their constant back-and-forthing to disguise the weakness of the individual strands. You don’t get such shilly-shallying from Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, where every gruesome story packs a punch and has a twist to remember. Great title, too."
But as I researched my dissertation, one of the questions I had to deal with in relation to considering if this was a genre and what its tropes might be was what the "pleasures" might be for the audience, the repeated element that people look for. In hyperlink films this is the moment when you realise how the people are connected, that two characters you've been following are actually (sorry) siblings or married or co-workers or whatever something which often doesn't happen until deep into the film causing you to re-evaluate what you've seen before.  Todd Solondz is a master of this - Happiness being the primary example.  Oddly, he doesn't pention Paris J'Taime which brilliantly is a portmantau film, until it isn't.


Film Kristin Thompson's written a rather brilliant (and detailed!) comparative study of Boyhood and the Harry Potter film series:
"Of all the series mentioned above, “Harry Potter” is most pertinent to Boyhood. Their production periods overlapped considerably, and their directors faced similar major challenges. This despite the disparity in their finances. “Harry Potter” had a huge budget supplied by Warner Bros., ranging from the lowest at $100 million for Chamber of Secrets to the highest at $250 million for Half-Blood Prince. (These are the budgets as publicly acknowledged, taken from Box-Office Mojo, which has no figures for the last two films.) Boyhood had a lean budget of $200 thousand for each of the twelve years and totaling about $4 million with postproduction and other expenses added in. Still, as we shall see, the challenges really had nothing to do with the budgets."
Previously. I love the nugget that the the IFC Center in New York ran all eight Potter films in a row as a homage to Boyhood. Kristin makes a convincing case for the two to be somehow inextricably linked, and the appearance of the Potter books in Boyhood suggests it is something Linklater was clearly conscious of.