One of the most important articles Buzzfeed has ever published.

People An example of I can't believe this has to be said and we still live in a world in which this still has to be said, Bim Adewunmi (of The Guardian and Buzzfeed here) writes one of her best pieces about the perception that articles about non-white people should for some reason be described as being about non-white people. For some reason.
For those who urged the inclusion of the word “black” in the headline of the beauty tutorial article, I want to ask: Do you require the lists elsewhere on the internet to include “white”, ever? Does “diversity” matter to you when these kinds of lists, and others, are populated entirely by white people, sporting “fair n silky hair” and “super pale palettes”? On how many posts have you felt the need to call for diversity, when those posts had black and brown faces sprinkled through them like stray beans in a pot of rice?
Yes, exactly.  Why doesn't something somehow become not for you or about you if it doesn't feature someone who looks like you? 

We Need To Talk About Joss Whedon.

Film Yes we do. Hey Joss. Thanks Joss. Somehow in the midst of everything you still managed to create in MARVEL's The Avengers: Age of Ultron something which is comprehensively, comprehendingly and colossally a Joss Whedon film, tonally and philosophically different to the other films in the MCU franchise and with all the Whedoneque stuff which permeates all of your work.  Not that you're reading this, but thanks all the same.  It's just the pick me up I needed.  Now for the rest of you here's a big long list of discussion points which is full of spoilers so should be avoided if you haven't seen MARVEL's The Avengers: Age of Ultron yet.

(1)  There is no end of credits sequence.  There's a bit after what would have been the opening credits sequence in the olden days which now seems to be slapped on the end of films now with the actors names and so forth but no, as Joss and Kevin have widely publicised in interviews there is no Shawarma II.  Not that this didn't stop the twelve of us in screen one at FACT's Picturehouse this morning sitting all of the way through the credits anyway.  Just in case.

(2)  Can we stop with the creating of so many brilliant characters who we know will and can only have a limited amount of screen time?  Elisabeth Olson's Scarlet Witch is magnificent creation and although she'll apparently be turning up in Captain America: Civil War (along with pretty much everyone left on Earth at the end of The Avengers) at close, as with Black Widow as with Hawkeye as with the Ruffalo Hulk, you really, really want to see them in their own film.  Or television series.  Or whatever.

(3)  Something the film does especially well is in foregrounding the characters who don't have their own film franchises without really short changing those who do.  In the first film, Joss and the gang quite rightly put their stall in the excitement of seeing Iron Man, Thor and Cap in the same film together.  That's especially true of Jeremy Renner whose distaste for how he was used in the first film actually becomes a plot point in the second.  Giving him a wife and family grounds him and also makes him the heart and humanity of the team putting him in line with Xander or Cordelia.  Plus there's the appearance of Julie Delpy (goodness) in what's essentially a version of Jeanne Moreau's character in Luc Besson's Nikita during Romanov's dream/backstory.

(4)  Rolling Stone has a good interview with Joss about making MARVEL's The Avengers: Age of Ultron where he eludes to a slightly manic editing process.  I think you can tell.  It is a film in which potentially useful character moments and exposition aren't there.  Apparently the original cut was about three hours and it's not so much that anything is underdeveloped but some of the pacing is all over the place.  Just every now and then I wished it would stop so we could see more of something (see (2) above).

(5)  Isn't it roughly the same plot as Buffy's Once More With Feeling?  Which I'm about to spoil?  At the end of Once More With Feeling it becomes apparent that all the singing and dancing and death and the emergence of Sweet is as a result of Xander dabbling in magic.  As he says, "I didn't know what was going to happen.  I thought there would be dances and songs.  Just wanted to make sure we'd work out, get a happy ending."  In MARVEL's The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Stark and Banner meddle with science which results in action and death and the emergence of Ultron for similar reasons.  They too don't really know what's going to happen.  In both cases the super teams are actually spending most of the story clearing up a mess made by one of their own number.

(6)  If there's a problem, and this has nothing to do with MARVEL's The Avengers: Age of Ultron, it's that it doesn't especially change any games in the same way as MARVEL's Captain America: The Winter Soldier or MARVEL's The Guardians of the Galaxy or indeed the first film.  Although the destruction of the Hydra base may have some effect on Agents of SHIELD (is Henry Goodman's Dr List dead now?) there's a business as usual feel to the thing.  Of course, it's amazing business and it is important to pace yourself.  But we're being wowed in the Iron Man 3 or Thor: The Dark World sense of the word.

(7)  For all Joss has said about the film being complete in and of itself, it does still quite rightly feel like a middle film and also an "episode".  Plenty of the story is as a result of the first film and there's a lot of 'splaining ready for Infinity War and also foreshadowing for future other installments of the franchise, not least the fractures in Rogers and Stark's relationship and that slightly odd moment in the middle when Thor buggers off and picks up Selvig so he can go and stand in a magical cave pool.  There's a lot of trust put in the audience here that we understand the language of these MCU films now, the interconnectedness and that we're willing to going along with these narrative detours.

(8)  What happens after 2019?  It's a bit soon of course, but pretty much everything in all of these films since 2008 is leading up towards Thanos presumably visiting Earth with that glove (probably chased by The Guardians of the Galaxy for measure).  My guess is that MARVEL's hedging.  It knows that every genre has a cycle and that however much money these films are making now fatigue will set in, especially with so many, what could be deemed, third string characters in the Third Wave.  In that case the Infinite War films could become the massive finale wrap up for the franchise as is if need be.  They'll certainly presumably be the last of The Avengers films although ...

(9)  Anyone know why the film has two composers?  Brian Tyler's score has been augmented by Danny Elfman or vis versa.  Was Elfman's contribution it just to rework Silvestri's The Avengers theme?

(10)  Did anyone else with a like mind think of Doctor Who's The Sontaran Stratagem when SHIELD's Helicarrier put in its appearance?

How to draw a dragon using your Dragon 32.

That Day It's St George's Day and a twittervesation has just reminded me of the old Marshall Cavendish part collection, INPUT Magazine which was all about how to programme 8-bit computers using BASIC and after about two seconds of looking at the scans on the Internet Archive, found this article about drawing a dragon sprite. They're from the third issue.  Click on them so you can read what they say should you want to:

Must have been a real pain to be a TANDY user and have to make those sorts of modifications each and every time.

Art of the Title on Orphan Black.

TV Good lord, I hope BBC UK hurry up and announce the broadcast:
"It was a bit overwhelming at first, trying to create a concept that would complement the show in a cool way. I tried to keep certain guiding principles in mind during development. How to create a pretty blossoming flower based on fungus, was the first thing that jumped out at me. I felt this image was important to convey, for it was symbolic of Tatiana."


Film Animated Spider-Man. At a moment when it looked like everything was becalmed in the MCU in relation to Spider-rights, Sony have announced an animated Spider-Man film for release in 2018. My initial thought was "Lego!" after seeing Phil Lord & Christopher Miller were involved, then I thought it might be a way to wrap up their version and Andrew Garfield's Peter Parter's story. But there's a sentence in the press release which is supposed to be a denial but opens up an intriguing prospect:

“The film will exist independently of the projects in the live-action Spider-Man universe, all of which are continuing.”

Which projects?

Does this mean we might still see a live action Spider-Man film with Garfield et al alongside the MCU version? Or was the press release prepared before the MCU announcement and what this should read is something along the lines of "live-action Spider-Man in the MCU universe" or some such.

Kevin Feige's name doesn't appear anywhere on this film which has roughly the same executive team as the Garfield films which is also rather confusing, just as the project will doubtless create confusion when its released in three years time.  "So is this Thor going to be in this?" that sort of thing.


My Favourite Film of 1999.

Film How often do you analyse films? I mean really analyse them with a pad and paper and enquiring mind? My film studies degree demanded this of me, especially my dissertation which as we've discussed, at length, investigated network narratives, ensemble pieces and hyperlink films of which Magnolia is a prime example.

One of the inherent structural problems with these films is in allowing their various characters to have complete stories. In some cases, usually if Robert Altman's directing, the strategy is not to bother, to demand that the audience fills in the blanks, force us to utilise our imagination to explain potential inconsistencies or time gaps.

But mainstream films won't allow this.  Mainstream storytelling wants, needs, complete stories with a beginning middle and a satisfying conclusion which often leads to systematic works in which narratives pile up on top of one another and in the case of Crash or Love Actually have multiple climaxes mechanically ramming into one another.

Characters are also often very insubstantial.  Because we're essentially watching a bunch of short stories edited together, they rely more than most on casting shorthand, Aston Kutcher playing the kinds of characters Ashton Kutcher usually plays.  Or Matt Dillon.  Or Sandra Bullock when she has her serious face on.

Magnolia sits somewhere in the middle of these extremes.  At three hours long it doesn't seem terribly mainstream and the casting with the exception of Tom Cruise doesn't either.  But director Paul Thomas Anderson still realises the inherent problems in the form and makes a single, magnificent leap to deal with it.

Knowing it was a key "text", I watched the film several times during that dissertation summer looking for various things, trying to recognise how the various characters interact, how their stories fit together.  Pages and pages and pages of notes all of which pointed to it being a classic of the form.

I'd remembered how substantial all the characters felt when I'd first seen the film and after viewing again, whilst mapping out the relationships, I noticed it again.  All of the characters had depth and none of the stories really felt short changed, with proper arcs and completely satisfying conclusions.

One the fourth pass, I realised why.  The middle hour of the film is only half an hour within the world of the film.  Or in other words, it takes us a whole hour to watch a half hour quiz programme.  Paul Thomas Anderson does the reverse of what's usually expected and slows down time within the world of the film.

Here's how I explained that within my dissertation:

"During the second act of Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson reorganises time to such an extent that the plot duration is actually slower than the screen duration.  With the intercutting of scenes, the moment when Jimmy asks Stanley to join him for the final round of the quiz lasts nearly five minutes and the closing titles for the television programme over three minutes.  This allows all of the plotlines to receive due attention, experimental editing actually defragmenting the narrative making it far more coherent than if the plotlines had been allowed to run in the usual causal manner, missing out those events that run in parallel.  The dissolution of these barriers, using avant-garde editing to clarify the narrative is another example of hyperlink cinema flirting with post-modern ideas."

"Plot duration" might need some explanation.  In film, narrative manifests itself in two ways.  The "story" is all the story that a narrative is about.  In a murder mystery this is everything from when the motive shows itself right through a conviction or not.  The "plot" are the sections of that which actually appear on screen.

In Magnolia, Anderson essentially shows us a bunch of scenes which are happening simultaneously one after the other doing what films rarely do but comics all the time, the "meanwhile" which allows him to show us the scenes which might otherwise have to be inferred later or explained in exposition.

Which is brilliant.  Brilliant.  Plus it's done in such a way as to be hidden from the viewer.  It's not obvious because in these scenes there isn't much cutting between characters and stories, everything is relatively self contained, keeping everything within separate worlds.

It's not until the credits roll on the quiz, once the final credit runs that everything speeds up again, and mayhem breaks loose with the frogs and guns falling from the sky and Amiee Mann and once you've noticed this, the whole film becomes even richer.  Oh and I first saw this at the Odeon on London Road should you be keeping track.

Gyorgy Kepes at Tate Liverpool.

Art My first encounter with a photocopier was at Tate Liverpool. It was during an school visit, when the education staff utilised various example of Manga, which was the comic trip ascendancy at the time, to illustrate how Roy Lichtenstein and the Pop artists chopped and changed and as we’d describe it now, mashed-up, various images and themes to create new images and themes. They demonstrated how the photocopier could isolate various colours, or reduce or expand images, edit together characters and frames to create new implications. For speed, this was usually done without the lid down, so you could see the giant strobe scanning light shift back and forth below the paper.

But I didn't stop there. I put my hand against the glass or my cheeks and which created strange human-like shapes against black backgrounds and for ages whenever I saw a photocopies, or scanner, I’d want to use it for something other than creating facsimiles of paper, for seeing how various objects looked when pressed against the glass how the light refracted against them in conjunction with one another and how they looked within the resulting imagine. To be honest, the results weren't ever that remarkable but every now and then there’d be some surreal or abstract image created in which that strobing light had hit something at an unusual angle and produced an attractive effect.

That’s presumably why out of the three exhibitions in Tate Liverpool’s current Surreal Landscape season (with Leonora Carrington and Cathy Wilkes), it’s Gyorgy Kepes I’m most drawn to. Back in 1937, the late Hungarian-born artist, designer and educator hit upon the idea for “photograms”, a sort of “camera-less” photograph in which images were developed in the dark room by as the press notes describe “arranging and exposing objects directly on top of light-sensitive paper; juxtaposing geometric, industrial and organic forms to create images that are poised between abstraction and representation.” Like me, he was interested in seeing how a model for capturing images reacted when faced with disparate objects. Unlike me, Kepes was an artist.

The exhibition includes eighty of Kepes’s photographs, photomontages and photograms from his Chicago period 1938-1942. After fleeing Nazi Germany in 1935, he settled in the city of big shoulders and became head of the Colour and Light department at the New Bauhaus School. Also during this period he wrote a book, Language of Vision, which was about his theories of how the new technologies of photography, cinema and television were having on visual culture. As this New York Times obituary notes, Kepes had a “long-held view that traditional art forms could no longer adequately speak to the problems of the modern world, a world too much conditioned, he believed, by chaos and alienation.”

If anything informs the work most, it’s the human eye. Although this features very specifically in two works, a photograph of an eye ultra close-up and a photomontage of various eyes from numerous sources, throughout the works are motifs of lenses and the mechanics of vision. Leaf and Prism exemplifies this, with its refraction patterns mimicking (albeit at the wrong angle) the veins of an organism which needs light to survive. There are also straight photographs of collections of objects, usually with an inventory of them for a title, Cone, Prism, Rock or Prism, Compass, Grid 2 in which the shapes of items rather than the items themselves which are important, how they merge into one another as we stare at them for longer than a glance.

As Kepes said himself (I’m quoting from in gallery text), “the master of nature is ultimately connected with the mastery of space; this visual orientation. Each new visual environment demands a reorientation, a new way of measuring”. We shouldn't look at all of these images in the same way. We have to recalibrate our expectations and perceptions as though we've never encountered something quite like that before. That’s important to keep in mind when encountering the exhibition. Few people stop to look at the close-up of an ear presumably because they've seen a few ears in their lives, but what is it about this ear? What’s important about this ear? What are its distinguishing features?

For old times sake and because there are a lot of images of what we must assume are Kepes's own hands in the exhibition, I decided to scan my own.  Using the HP desktop scanner next the computer I stood with the appendage on the glass and waited for the light to stutter across the glass trying not to more.  There isn't a black and white setting on the machine which is why its in colour.  I'd expected it to be surrounded in black but I think the grey area is actually the ceiling above my hand.  I suppose i'll have to take another scan with something pinned up there to check.  Which suggests that my experimentation days aren't over yet...

Gy├Ârgy Kepes is at Tate Liverpool from 6 March – 31 May 2015. Admission Free.

Soup Safari #22: Spiced Roast Tomato with Carrot, Garlic & Borlotti Beans at Tate Cafe Liverpool.

Lunch. £3.50. Tate Cafe Liverpool, Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool L3 4BB. Phone: 0151 702 7400. Website.

The Last Reel: An Ode to 35-Millimeter Film.

The Party Manifestos 2015: SNP.

Politics And finally ... I've decided just to cover the parties featured in the original leader's debate on ITV because otherwise I'd be here until election day.

We end with the SNP.

The BBC.
We believe that responsibility for broadcasting in Scotland should transfer from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament and we will support moves to more devolved arrangements for the BBC with greater powers and funding for the different national and regional broadcasting areas, such as BBC Scotland.

We believe that the licence fee should be retained with any replacement system, which should be based primarily on the ability to pay, in place by the end of the next BBC Charter period.

BBC Scotland should receive a fairer share of BBC income, reflecting more accurately the licence fee revenue raised here in Scotland. This would provide a boost of over £100 million, which we believe will provide important new opportunities for production companies and the creative sector in Scotland.

The Scottish Government and Parliament should have a substantial role at all stages in the review of the BBC Charter and we will work to ensure that any new governance arrangements for the BBC better reflect Scotland’s interests.
We believe the licence fee should be retained ... but ... this is about what's expected. There is a problem in general in terms of national coverage and how programmes are made although it's also notable (and I've said this before) that England doesn't have an equivalent of BBC Alba or an "England" genre on the iPlayer either.

Global Emissions.
As the Scottish Government, we are consulting on measures to reduce emissions in Scotland, including looking at the creation of Low Emission Zones. We will continue to develop our zero waste strategy, supporting a range of initiatives, for example the ongoing pilot project for reverse vending machines to encourage rewards for recycling.

We will use our influence at Westminster to ensure the UK matches, and supports, Scotland’s ambitious commitments to carbon reduction and that we play a positive role in the UN Climate Change conference in Paris. We will also look for the Bank of England to continue its work on the potential impact of climate change on financial stability in the UK and report on how it can best respond.
Which is all fine, as is backing of renewables, except there's also a fair amount of backing for the oil and gas industries. Generally the policies here align with Labour and the LibDems because of those inconsistencies. They do support a moratorium on fracking.


No specific mention of libraries at least based on a text search.  Note this is a document without a contents page (or index as per the LibDems).

Film Industry
We support the creation of a Creative Content Fund for the games industry to encourage the formation of new studios and also back the retention of the Video Games tax relief. We back industry calls for an increase in the SEIS investment limit and changes to the Shortage Occupation List to recognise specific skills needs in the sector.
Nothing about the film industry exactly. The creative section is the BBC paragraphs above and this about the games industry.

Gender Equality
We have also called for early action on Equal Pay audits for larger companies to ensure women are getting the salaries they are entitled to. We will demand that section 78 of the Equalities Act 2010 is commenced and that regulations to compel employers of more than 250 people to publish annual gender pay gap information, starting in 2016-17, are consulted on and brought into law.

With powers over equalities devolved, we would bring forward an Equal Pay (Scotland) Bill to finally deliver equal pay law that works for women in Scotland. It is unacceptable - 45 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970 - that the gender pay gap remains. This would include consultation on how new regulations or structures can be created by the Bill to expedite the equal pay claims process, and ensure that settlements are enforced quickly.
Aha, so that's where the 250 figure from the Labour and LibDem manifestos is from. Again, I don't understand why it isn't 200 or 150 or some other arbitrary figure (even having had a glance about online). There are some other useful policies in this are including, "50:50 representation on public and private boards" and the abolition of VAT on sanitary towels.

Anyway, here's a direct link to the manifesto:

I can't vote for them.

Talks Collection:
James Shapiro.

Literature James S. Shapiro is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University who specialises in Shakespeare and the Early Modern period and is on the front line of scholars defending Shakespeare's authorship. Here is a partial bibliography.

Shakespeare and the Jews (1996)

For Columbia University's Theatre Talk:

1599 : A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (2005)

For Columbia University's Theatre Talk:

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (2010)

For Simon & Schuster:

For Blackwells Podcast:

For The Aspen Institute:


For Columbia University's Theatre Talk:

For The Old Globe in San Diego:

For Shakespeare Brasil:

For Ohio State:

For Daves Gone By:

Shakespeare in America: An Anthology from the Revolution until Now, ed. James Shapiro, with a foreword by Bill Clinton. (2014)

For the Baker-Nord Center for English at Case Western Reserve University:

For 92Ynd Street Y:

For Columbia University:

For The Library of America:


On the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse:

On Macbeth:

On Richard III:

On Andrea Chapin's novel The Tutor: