Hello again, LOVEFiLM.

Film Back in March, you'll remember with all your long memories, that I cancelled my Lovefilm account after twelve years and wrote inevitably about this big moment here and here with dates and solemn recording of the final films I received and the implications this has on the future of consumer entertainment. I said:
"The combined catalogues of Lovefilm, Amazon Prime and NowTV amounts to over six thousand items and even taking into account the dross and Disney repetition, that should be more than enough films and television installments to keep me busy especially with their rolling catalogues. Yes, I'll have to wait three to six months or longer after the shiny disc release to see some films, but at this point I barely pay attention to release dates anyway."
All of which is true.  But the intervening six months, the following became apparent:

(1) Those extra three to six months can be interminable if it is a film you'd actually quite like to see and didn't manage to catch at the cinema

(2) It's sometimes even longer because you're also at the whim of when the streaming service decides to upload the film based on metrics and marketing. Items aren't uploaded as soon as the streaming window is closed. Sometimes they'll wait until the end of a month or even the following month. In the case of NowTV, because television is the primary outlet for the films they'll save some of the big ticket items for a national holiday or some other reason why people will be in the house at a weekend.

(3) Six thousand items seems like a lot, but it's not plenty. There are massive gaps, especially in the independent and world cinema areas to a degree I simply hadn't noticed or realised until that was all gone.  I'd glancing longing through Sight and Sound Magazine at everything that would not be there.  Not to mention when a film has been recommended online, in print, broadcast or by a friend but it's not in any of the streaming services or at least without paying extra.

(4)  Adding MUBI didn't help.  MUBI now and then has films which are still at cinemas or will have a rare film like Downhill Racer which hasn't had a UK dvd release but it's useless to anyone who already has a decent dvd collection and/or access to any of the other streaming services.  Their selection this past week has been The Odd Couple, Petty Persuasion, IF..., The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Munich, Great Expectations and The Parallax View.  All fine films but not quite what I was expected when I signed up for my year's subscription.  I mean it's fine -- if I manage to watch two or three of their films per month -- the stuff which isn't available elsewhere, I'm probably getting my money's worth but it's no substitute for Lovefilm.

(5) I missed the randomness, of having the decision as to which film I'd watch next taken out of my hands. Sometimes this became a reality:

With so much to watch, you really don't know what to watch next.

(6)  There's a huge difference between temporarily being able to access films due to licensing windows and just sort of having nearly of them there, albeit via the postal service.  Despite NewOn existing in the work keeping track of when a film was leaving and managing to watch it in time felt like real work.  Now if it drops off, I can simply add it to my Lovefilm list.

(7)  Of course, I'm also now back to making sure that I don't have items in my Lovefilm list that are currently available to see stream  and seeking out items which are Netflix/Amazon/MUBI exclusives to watch first.  Cameron Crowe's Aloha is on Netflix but hasn't had a UK dvd release.  Alex Gibney's Going Clear is only on Now TV.  But that bit of admin is a small price to pay. (updated: after writing that I decided to add them anyway - I simply can't be fussed with the admin)

This week I've worked through Knights of Cups, Room, Bridge of Spies and The Hateful Eight, finally and can't wait to see what'll be sent from my list next.

listless trekking.

TV Happy 50th anniversary Star Trek!

Typically on a day like this I would have posted something about how Star Trek has influenced me over the years and it's fair to say I'm as liberal as I am after becoming a fan at just the right plastic age.  But thanks to the longevity of this blog, I've already managed to do that. So here's a list of some old posts which already express everything I would otherwise have said at this moment, in this time:

How I became a fan:
"Around that time I also befriended someone at the local library who loaned me the way through her collection of Star Trek novels which included everything from the original James Blish adaptations through the original publications and movie adaptation and thence the pocket books. I read and read and read and somewhere in there became a fan, buying my own novels and lending them back to her. I have a vivid memory of being on a camping holiday reading David Gerrold's The Galactic Whirlpool."

What made me a feminist?
"People just have the experiences they have I suppose. I was reading Woman Woman comics at an early age. Watched a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation as a teenager and I expect a lot of my liberalism can be traced back to that. Reading Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Chaucer and being shocked at the treatment of women in those by societies of the past. Listening to a lot of female singer songwriters dealing with their experiences through lyrics. Tending to identify with female protagonists in films more than men. Reading The Guardian's Woman pages."

Spock's Christian Names:
"To tonight's Pointless Celebrities which has now become the tea time tv fixture on a Saturday night now that we're into a run of new episodes. This was a FA Cup Special so of course had a question board about ears which included the following clue which popped up during dessert ..."

Reviewing Encounter at Farpoint in HD:
"There are perhaps two especially embarrassing home videos of me in circulation (circulation in this case meaning the vaults at the Royal Bank of Scotland and a box in my flat somewhere). The first is of me line dancing to Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head at the end of a corporate team building exercise at a conference centre in Southend-On-Sea , a horror I luckily have never had a chance to see."

My first fan fiction starring Seven of Nine, Ezri Dax (and Buffy Summers, Monica Geller, Joey Potter, Angela Chase, Maggie O'Connell, Sam Beckett and Dana Scully):
"EZRI: If the reports of what the crew have been through are at all true, then I’d say that Captain Janeway would not abandon ship and initiate a self-destruct without a very good reason. By the way, how did you deactivate it?"

The Spotify Playlist
"When I was at college, a friend and I wondered what minimalist Star Trek would look like. We decided that nothing very much would happen and it wouldn’t happen over the course of an hour."

A review of nuTrek:
"ridiculously entertaining."

A review of the first issue of IDW's Star Trek comic:
"Turn the cover and we’re straight back into this strange new world, with a first page featuring a Scotty that looks like Simon Pegg, artist Stephen Molnar neatly capturing his essence without being slavish, and his alien helper, and a joke about whether anyone really listens back to Chief Engineer’s logs. From there everything is as you might expect, the story plays out as it did on screen with various changes reflecting the characterisations from the new film, with Kirk and Spock on slightly less chummy terms with Bones and Chekhov in attendance."

A review of the Hamlet in TOS's Conscience of the King:
"Hamlet is played by Marc Grady Adams and his job is largely to look surprised and not upstage the lead guest actor, one Arnold Moss (pictured) who two decades before this episode was recorded appeared as Prospero in The Tempest on Broadway for a hundred shows."

Vulcanised steel:
"I'm flicking through the free Metro newspaper on the bus this morning, turn to page four find this photo in connection with the knife amnesty which is being run throughout the country ..."

Being exercised about the new film series being a reboot:
"Excuse me while I geek out for a moment. Chud are reporting that the new Star Trek film isn't actually a prequel but a re-imagining. Hmm... why? They've no doubt looked at Battlestar Galactica and so forth and decided that in order to make the story relevant for today that they need to toss out forty-odd years of chronology and continuity so that they can write it they way they want to. Plus they've probably seen the hoops Enterprise often went through to try and tie itself in with a future story rooted in the past."

A review of Nemesis:
"It does feel like the television show. Some would see that as a criticism, but it is one of the strengths. In the TV show, most stories had a slow burn. Three acts of investigation and character development leading up to the big scenes at the end – no pointless action sequence here is needed in case your attention is flagging – you’re supposed to be watching the story. The more enjoyable moments happened, not during the action sequences but when characters just sat about and talked."

And finally that time I wrote a fanfic about meeting Lieutenant B’Elanna-Torres:
"The Wellington Boots were not comfortable in bare feet. The top edges cut into the side of his leg. As he took his first step outside, he had to place his hand over his face to shield a sun which was unusually bright this morning, as it shone across the fields of corn which stretched as far as the eye could see. He cursed his choice of footware as they slowed down his walking speed. The figure had already begun to walk towards the farm house. She appeared to be holding forward some kind of instrument, which she waved from side to side. He could hear beeps and shrills from it which became increaingly annoying as she neared. The sun beat directly behind her, so James could only see fragments of her appearance at first. The uniform she wore was almost completely black, as though it were its own shadow. Black apart from a golden strip which covered her shoulders which also reflected the sunlight shielding her face. "

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
India Building.

"It's like a silence you can almost hear..."
-- Barbara Wright, The Space Museum
Next Destination:
Open Eye Gallery

Soup Safari #70: Mushroom at the Brasco Lounge.

Lunch. £4.50. Brasco Lounge, Mann Island Buildings, 27a Buildings, Liverpool Waterfront L3 1BP. Phone: 0151 236 5085. Website.

Ain't no power on earth can keep me down.

TV As you'll be aware, last night saw another of the BBC's Doctor Who related midnight announcements in which we all knew full well what it was going to contain ahead of time but stayed up nonetheless just in case there was some other surprise embedded in the code. Well ...

Doctor Who News has the full press release with the relevant quotes.

We knew that it would be available on the BBC Store. What we didn't have was confirmation of a DVD release.

Here's the Amazon pre-order for the dvd release.

Key detail?  "Number of discs: 2" which suggests that this will have special features of some kind along with the main feature.  Unless they've also included a standard telesnaps recon for some reason.

But there's more. Gary Gillatt, ex-editor of the parish circular and still sometime writer of their dvd reviews asked the BBC Store a pertinent question and received an unexpected answer:

Power isn't a one off, there will be more.  Even if the #omnirumour does turn out to be some gossamer xanadu, those gaps on our dvd shelves could slowly be filled soon.

Cold feet warm heart.

TV Cold Feet returned to television last night after over a decade off-air (this blog offered a paragraph about the now not final episode back in 2003) and somehow it's one of those examples of the revival genre which has somehow managed to recreate the show just as it was but in a later era.  Logically too, with none of the characters having stayed still, they feel older, lived in, the intervening years really showing in their faces.  How do actors manage to pick up characters after all these years and simply continue playing them in this way?

Part of the series is about filling the hole where Helena Baxendale's Rachel used to be although a fair amount of the show will be about that loss and how even after many years such things endure.  Seems wrong somehow not having her their but isn't that was death is?  Either way, I had slightly hoped that they would have made the show as though she hadn't been killed off, that she would have been just in there just to mess with viewers.  Having her long lost sister turn up wouldn't have been completely out of genre.  Or have her Friends character Emily wander through.  But no, she's not there.

Not that the creator Mike Bullen didn't try according to this Guardian set-visit:
"Following many years of being asked to bring the show back, Bullen finally agreed. The producers persuaded all of the original cast to return – with one notable exception. He did write a part for Baxendale, but she didn’t fancy playing a ghost. “She said, ‘Thanks but no thanks – it’s a crap part’,” laughs Bullen. “She definitely made the right decision. It was just me being sentimental.”"
Well ... true, plus without heading off into proper fantasy she presumably also wouldn't have had her own autonomy as a character, simply hanging around, reacting to Adam.  But the character is still there through her lack and because of that she's in nearly every scene.

My Favourite film of 1930.

Film Back in the day, back in 2005, when blogs were still in L'Age d'Or, before Twitter, Facebook and YouTube stole their thunder, a more successful friend put a publisher in touch with me about writing a book for one of their primer series. Like a scene from Gilmore Girls, the pre-interview happened during a lunch hour when I was at Liverpool Direct, sat at a table in the now closed Nat West Branch on Dale Street.

I was asked to produce a chapter list containing possible areas of interest which I duly presented.  The  project didn't go forward in the end, I think partially because they were expecting something more in mode of the "... for Dummies" series whereas I understood it to be something closer to history of blogging with a side order of Steven Johnson style socio-philosophy.  Oh to be young and have the aspiration and energy.  And motivation.

Now this blog's past it's fifteenth birthday, and the blogosphere and constricted to the size of a village, I thought it would be interesting to post the contents of that proposal.  As you'll see I had big plans for the book which would have involved international travel, interviews, primary sources and an attempt to capture the zeitgeist.  Now it primarily captures a moment in time.  There are personalities and events in here I'd entirely forgotten about.  It didn't have a title but let's call it ...


Chapter One:
What's a Weblog?: Trying to define the indefinable

Increasingly people are finding themselves on the one side of the following conversation:
"I read it on a weblog."
"What's a weblog?"
The "Erm." happens because it's a near impossible question. A good shorthand is 'online diary' but that suggests that if the person asking goes online they'll find the intimate heartfelt details of the person explaining, and although there are certainly websites online which are exactly that, there are millions of others in thousands of other formats. Like finding a single equation which explains all the universe, this chapter will try to put together a single, good explanation. How did the term get shortened to 'blog'? What a weblog isn't will be discussed, then definitions will be brought together from such diverse places as the webloggers themselves, online encyclopedias, journalists and the 'man-in-the-street' (or email) to see what the general consensus is and whether it's something which actually can written down in a few words or if the sheer diversity of weblogs out there mitigates against it.

Chapter Two:
Life is a constant challenge : The Weblog Pioneers

That was the some contents first post by pioneer Cameron Barrett on his site 'Camworld', which even in mid-1997, when the term hadn't been coined, was something completely recognizable as a weblog (interestingly it wasn't until 1999 that he heard the phrase himself, which he admits in one of the great essay about the subject). This chapter will try to capture what it was like in those early days for the twenty or so early webloggers and what compelled them to start presenting their site in that format. At what moment did they begin to capture the imagination of the internet and become a global pastime. Who were the first British webloggers, and was their perspective and approach naturally different to everyone else?

Chapter Three:
That makes no sense to me : The Diarists

In January, Joe Gordon was fired from his eleven year job at the booksellers 'Waterstones' in Edinburgh. The company had taken exception to some of his writing online; he became the first British weblogger to be fired for something he wrote on his weblog. The chapter title from the post at his weblog, 'The Woolamaloo Gazette', when he revealed to the world what happened and tried to understand what he'd done wrong. The media outcry was swift and loud, with authors, whose books appeared on the shelves of the same shop he no longer worked in, sending group letters of protest about how Gordon's freedom of speech and expression had been compromised. So what compels people to be writing their most private thoughts online, is it confessional, therapy or something else? We'll talk to bloggers who've found themselves in trouble privately and professionally because of something they've written online, if they've regretted the choice they made to let the world know everything there is to know about them. We'll also delve into the murky waters of those who choose to write anonymously about their lives, such as Belle Du Jour (sacrificing their online identity for chance to present greater intimacy) and the already famous using the weblog to communicate to their fans and show that they're just like them (see Neil Gaiman).

Chapter Four:
feeling: upbeat : The Blogger Cultures

Like some giant, transglobal teen film, bloggers are drawn together because of common interests or beliefs, into clicks. Just like in 'The Breakfast Club', there are brains, beauties, jocks, rebels and recluses. Why and how did these subcultures develop and are they something which truly crosses borders or do cultural differences and language barriers prevail? We'll take trip through these cultures, meeting coders, camgirls, A-Listers, political bloggers and those with their unique interests. The concept of different blogging software will be introduced via a discussion of how this software creates barriers of its own. For example, LiveJournal which has its own peculiar format (for example, mood stamps on posts just like one which is the title of this chapter), offers the same diversity of interests as the rest of the community, but remains a mystery to vast numbers of people. Do users of one piece of software (Moveable Type) look down on other users (Blogger) as inferior just because of what they use to post?

Chapter Five:
It looks like we've been Slashdotted! : Weblog as community

Community weblogs are a place were thousands of users, usually webloggers can gather and share the items they've found online. They generally look like any other weblog, except there are usually dozen or even hundreds more items posted per day on a much wider range of subject. 'Slashdot' is a community weblog which has the tagline 'News for nerds, stuff that matters.' It's main interest is computers and technology and has the capacity to bring to a halt any websites or pages it links to because of the sheer number of visits which can be generated - or in other words, the site is 'Slashdotted'. Community weblogs are like small online villages, with their own idiots, in-jokes and volunteer policing. People meet and develop a crushing love or hatred for one another through their keyboard over such dispirit subjects as the American election, favourite wines or web browser.

Chapter Six:
[This is good] : The Blogger Innovates

The term 'weblog' was originally coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger as a way of describing his own site 'Robot Wisdom' which logged interesting items he found surfing the web. That site, which is still going strong is actually an example of what is now called a linkblog, stripping away the paragraphs and simply shows weblinks to pages which the writer has visited and liked. This is the zen approach and is becoming increasingly popular because of its simplicity. The look of a weblog is constantly changing and the ways people are communicating through the format become greater and varied. From photoblogs to moblogs, audblogs to mp3 blogs, people are using multimedia to express themselves in new and exciting ways. Noticing the trend, websites and companies are being set up to aid the blogger, with 'del.ic.ious.' making linkblogs easy and 'flickr' letting users show the colour photos of the lives they could only previously describe in black and white text.

Chapter Seven:
the all clear siren just went on : The Blogger Journalists

What isn't generally realized is that the 'Bagdad Blogger' Salam Pax began posting in some time before the Iraq War began. The first post in his archive links to an article at the New York Times about television show describing Saddam Hussein's hygiene habits. But when the bombing began, Pax began to gain the web's attention because he was there in the thick of it, describing in brutal honesty what he was seeing. Then there was Jeff Gannon, White House reporter for Talon News who found himself unmasked as Jeff Guckert, a right wing blogger who seemed to have been invited to the press corps because of his ability to throw easily answerable questions at a press secretary whenever they were in a tense situation. Liberal bloggers had become suspicious after he asked George W Bush a question about working with Democrats which included misattributed quotes and ended with "How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?" Time and again recently, experienced journalists working for major news organizations have found their work undercut by the so-called amateurs, to the extent that weblog posts and scoops are increasingly being reprinted in newspapers. The blogosphere is regularly undercutting investigative journalists, often with just a keyboard, a search engine and instinct. There is also an increasing trend for journalists, such as Kevin Sites, to write about their work online in tandem with their job and in some cases include material they simply aren't able to include in as part of their 'official' work. The weblog format is also increasingly being used by online news organizations such as the BBC and The Guardian to cover the news, allowing journalists greater freedom to express their personalities.

Chapter Eight:
"Ah, you must be very beautiful then." : Blogs as Art?

An increasing number of blogs are experiencing a kind of backward evolution as they are taken off the web and published and sold in bookshops. The chapter title quote this time is from the first post of London Call Girl, Belle Du Jour, whose popularity online made a book deal inevitable with a tv series also in the offering. But just because it’s on paper, does it become literature? This chapter wonders if weblogs can or will ever be considered an art form, referencing those who choose to express themselves in poetry, painting and fictional prose. If we know the person who’s writing is fictional how does that effect the reader’s experience and how do we feel when a blogger such as Plain Layne, who we’d assumed to be real person is unmasked as nothing of the sort? There have certainly been enough rumours that Belle was in fact written by a very male author – if that was proven would it increase or decrease the value of the work? And what about the fans of tv series, actors and pop stars who are imitating their idols in the weblog format – is that just another form of fan fiction, wish fulfillment or both? How do the Bloggies and other weblog awards effect this overall impression?

Chapter Nine:
'Thank you, Ingrid Srinath' : Can Blogs Save Lives?

When the Tsunami hit parts of Asia on Boxing Day, a group of bloggers from throughout the world, who'd never met in real life, went to the free blog hosting service BlogSpot and set up a site, ‘The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog’, with the single aim of coordinating information about the disaster, everything from missing person reports to charity information to breaking news. Ingrid Srinath was a person who emailed the site with accurate material about Red Cross Donations, because she wanted to help. All of the different concepts and ideas from the previous chapters will be brought together to help tell the story of how the blogosphere was united in capturing a moment in history. Personal bloggers within the affected areas were using their websites to get the message out about what was happening in the area quicker than the mainstream media which was finding it difficult to react, and we weren’t just reading about what was happening to them we were seeing and hearing as well.

Chapter Ten:
Is this thing on? : The Corporate Co-operation

When Google, the most popular search engine it’s own weblog as a way of talking directly to its users it seemed like the most natural progression for the company. They’d recently acquired Pyra the company behind the equally popular free blog hosting service Blogger so this was also a way of demonstrating their commitment to the application. But they’re not alone. Thousands of businesses are beginning to understand the possibilities inherent in blogging bringing their message to the public. In addition it isn’t just news organizations using blogs to promote their wares. Film fans are enjoying unheard of access to the production director Peter Jackson’s remake of ‘King Kong’, including a daily video diary from the set, via weblog being created by his fans. Will this relationship continue to be co-operative or can the corporation overwhelm the amateur?

The future

Where are weblogs going? New trends are happening all the time, from corporations such as Google using the format to release information about new services and products, to companies sending new gadgets as well review copies of their music, books and dvds to the most popular bloggers in the hopes of producing work of mouth. The quite backlash is discussed, as some question whether blogs are strangling the ability of search engines to present the best information quickly. There is also the rise of the news aggregator, which allows users to check and even read updated weblogs without having to even visit the website itself. Are we going to reach a stage when the weblog as a single voice will phase out in favour of becoming a voice in a crowd?

Streaming Dream.

Shakespeare It's been announced that the Shakespeare's Globe production of A Midsummer's Night Dream is to be live streamed then made available on the iPlayer. These are the facts:
"Emma Rice’s inaugural production as Artistic Director at Shakespeare’s Globe is to be broadcast around the world for audiences to enjoy for free as part of Shakespeare Lives, the online digital festival co-curated by the BBC and the British Council. A Midsummer Night's Dream will be streamed live on this website on Sunday 11 September at 1830 BST.

"The final night of the Bollywood-infused A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which has wowed critics and played to sold-out audiences at the Bankside theatre in London, will be streamed live on Sunday 11th September. It is the first time any production has been live streamed from Shakespeare’s Globe. Introduced by actress and comedian Meera Syal, the show will also be available on-demand on the digital platform which can be accessed anywhere in the world as well as on BBC iPlayer for viewers in the UK."
If anything I'm curious to see what the fuss has been about the artificial lighting which has been fitted to the building over and above the fill light which previously existed to mimic the conditions of watching a play during the period of the original Globes. If this Globe was created to present the plays in as close as possible to the conditions in which they were originally acted, don't spotlights and the like miss the point?

Liverpool Biennial:
Toxteth Reservoir.

-- River Song, "The Big Bang"
Art In commenting on Biennials and contemporary art in general, I've talked about how just like any other creative media, it's often best approached cold without much of a preview so that we can allow whatever we're being greeted with to wash over us, to luxuriate in our initial reaction however positive or negative that might be. There's not one occasion I think think of when I've thought better of a piece, enjoyed it more, having known about it first. Unlike painting, for example, contemporary art, due its generally inherent minimalism, often has a very short period within which to surprise, shock or amaze us if that's it's approach. If it has enough thematic or intellectual depth, that will develop afterwards, but it's the gut reaction which is usual the fundamental point of its existence.

If only I'd been able to see Rita McBride's Portal before stumbling into the darkness of Toxteth Reservoir but it's been another of the pieces whose image has been splashed around across social media and in publicity, because of its spectacularity, that it was impossible to approach cold and that's a shame.  Having been directed by a door person to keep my eyes fixed on a blue bollard until my eyes adjusted, I already knew what they were about to look at and although I was still astonished by the scale of it, I felt pangs of disappointment that this was still a secondary reaction hoping that the version of me in a parallel dimension who'd managed to avoid seeing the work ahead of time was suitably gaping at it with the correct aplomb.

As the accompanying video explains (and again please don't visit this page if you're at all thinking about visiting) the artist has always had a strong interest in science fiction and wormholes in particular and that's what she's trying to express, really quite successfully here.  Green laser beams bounce between walls across a hundred metre gap, creating a lattice of light broken by dust in the atmosphere.  On first inspection you might imagine that these are wires or fibre glass cables stretching between until you realise that's impossible.  Instead it's a version of the security lasers which appear in modern heist films stretched to their limit, in green rather than red and resembling the screens of code in The Matrix films.  Spectacular and large scale.  To get the full experience you must walk from one end to the other.

About the only reservation I have is that the accompanying sound is the echo and chatter of voices from the door people and people entering visiting rather than something to accompany the sight, a fitting sound effect like the sounds of the universe or time vortex something which echoes about the space in a similar way to the light.  This feels like a work which requires our concentration and yet the space is filled with audible distractions that bring us right back to reality.  Pretty quickly I cranked up my iPod and listened to some instrumental music which helped somewhat.  Of course, this would be a nonsense on busy days when the space is filled with people anyway but I'm a huge fan of verisimilitude, of going all out when attempting to communicate an idea.  Nevertheless, I'd still list this as a highlight of the Biennial and well worth the trip down one weekend when it's open.

Next Destination:
India Building.