Soup Safari #8:
Mushroom and Leek at
The Italian Club.







Brunch. £3.95. The Italian Club, 85 Bold St, Liverpool, Merseyside L1 4HF. Phone:0151 708 5508.

24ed.



TV Another Off The Telly review, of the second season finale for 24, best remembered in the UK to some extent for the stirling work of Tamzin Sylvester in the Pure 24 live discussion programme which ran on BBC Three afterwards.

24

Sunday, August 10, 2003 by Stuart Ian Burns


As far as the extras who stood by knew, the President would collapse, then recover, get back in the car and drive off. So they would have been somewhat surprised when they watched the actual episode on television as Palmer lay on the ground gasping for breath, his heartbeat ticking out the final moments of this season of 24.

The subterfuge is revealed on the excellent documentary that appears on the DVD release of the series. The producers had lied to the crowd to protect the fidelity of this, arguably the most shocking of endings, from anyone who might want to post it on the internet – how could they trust them again?

Trust. It’s about an expectation from the viewer that the programme will take them on a particular journey from start to finish. In a cop show, the standard will be that a crime with be solved during the time we spend with the characters; in a sitcom something happens and hilarity ensues. 24 doesn’t care about any of that; it doesn’t have a genre exactly; it’s impossible even to tell what is going to happen from one episode to the next.

Events will occur in real time, but that’s all they’re promising. In the past there have been a number of artistic attempts to capture the real time events of a person or character or group of characters over an extended unbroken period, usually a day. German performance artists The Gob Squad recorded their vocal meanderings over a extended drive around Germany and presented it unedited in 18 half hour slices; on television the E4 feed of Big Brother captured much the same effect over a longer period. In TimeCode, Mike Figgis actually recorded an ensemble drama with overlapping plotlines in real time and presented the results in shots at four corners of the viewing screen. The John Badham film, Nick of Time offered a plot in which Johnny Depp’s daughter is kidnapped and he’s told he must kill a US Governer within 75 minutes or his child will die instead. The last two are the clearest influence on 24, at least in the first year; but it encompasses all of them to some extent, twisting them to offer a much richer experience. Real time is only part of the issue.

In the first five minutes of far too many shows to count it’s possible to clock the ending. In this series of 24 that has never been the case. By the end of the first hour the viewer knew that a bomb would be going off somewhere and that Jack Bauer needed to find out where. At this stage our assumption could only be that come hour 24 we’d be watching Jack’s last minute attempt to America the nuclear threat. At no point could we guess that instead he would be at a stadium trying to prove that a recording had been falsified in order to implicate three innocent countries in the bombing. And convince a new president that the retaliatory war, which could begin within moments, was illegal. Heck, the “baaamb” (as Jack insisted on calling it) was exploded mid-season.

The potential death of Palmer was another example of the sheer unpredictability of the series; that he may have been assassinated by Mandy, who had lit the fuse of the first series, simply could not have been foreseen. It was an utterly audacious move and offered the possibility that the hoods who had been buzzing about both series were at the behest of an even larger organization to be revealed in the following season. And we thought they were making it up as they went along.

This final episode was breathtaking entertainment, which wore its filmic influences in its sleeve. The aforementioned stadium scene looked like it had been cut in from a 1970s political thriller directed by Alan Pakula. You almost expected Warren Beatty or Robert Redford to turn up in a corduroy suit with some other piece of evidence. After all the scrabbling about in the dark at the end of the first series, they were making the most of the sunlight with this massive location. For some reason, though, it felt slightly wrong that after all the corridors, rooms and basements the final scenes should take place here. It created angles and vantage points, and places for Bauer to pick people off, but overall it was a vastness which didn’t seem true to the rest of the series. It could be mostly excused though because of the entertainment value of seeing Sherry Palmer legging it across the stalls, running away from having to have a confrontation which didn’t involve her silver tongue.

The most important aspect of the episode was that, before the cliffhanger, all the loose ends which might have been forgotten in lesser series were tied up. Having been proven right Tony and Michelle (whose brother was still knocking about the holding cells) got their old jobs back, the former glaring down his boss Chappelle: “Either fire me or get out of my chair.” They had their moment in which potential romance continued to blossom.

The Warner family so disliked in the early episodes because of their interminable wedding day were reunited. Silence of the Lambs was referenced as the now utterly psychotic Marie Warner simply sat chillingly as her father wanted answers and while sister Kate advised him that they wouldn’t get any. “You think you’ll be safe out there.” Marie whispered. “You won’t.”

Meanwhile Calamity Kim Bauer was finally re-united with her father after 24 hours and didn’t manage to trip over anything. Kim has been a real weakness this year taking part in storylines without any real connection to the main thrust. Her role just seemed to be something to cut to when everyone one else was driving their car or searching for something on a computer. The most shocking example of this kind of shoehorning appeared in hour 22 two when her father’s plot effectively paused while he talked her into defending herself.

Some have written that to end this series with a cliffhanger was an unsatisfying move. Personally I would have been disappointed if it hadn’t. For me the end of the first series hadn’t worked because the death of Teri Bauer had felt like an after thought and an appalling pay off considering what she’d been through that day (including the amnesia). The wait for the next series was more about what else can be done with the format rather than what is going to happen with the characters. In this series the opposite is true. We want to know what Jack whispered to former lover turned enemy agent Nina Myers all those hours ago; who were the men in the café and on the boat, how do they fit into all of this; will the president survive? If the viewer is wondering from week to week, why not month to month?

Will Palmer die? I hope so. What I mean to say is, the governmental shenanigans have now been played out and its difficult to see what else can be done. The next series needs to be even tighter, even more about the characters and their lives, about the small emergencies rather than those on a global scale. Interestingly we know it’s happening three years hence (therefore in the future) which will be plenty of time for Palmer to recover (or not) and to give Kim Bauer a plotline which isn’t completely irrelevant to the main story, and for the status quo to change utterly (fingers crossed for Tony and Michelle). But whatever happens during those next 24 hours, I think we can be confident it’s going to be something very special indeed.

Ten years later and ...

"We lived in Arizona, and the skies always had little fluffy clouds in 'em..."



Music One of the big sellers on Amazon at the moment is the compilation album Moods which has all the tracks you'd expect it to (Enigma, Vangelis, DJ Sammy) and includes The Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds which I first heard when it was played to me by a friend at university when I visited his house. We sat on his carpet and he pumped it out of his very good sound sound system and it was like nothing this Debbie Gibson fan had experienced before.

Listening again just now on Spotify, I finally decided to try and find out exactly where the sample interview came from, this voice I've been listening to all of these years.  I've always assumed it was a news voxpop, perhaps from some US cable channel.  Or a documentary about the weather.

Inevitably the Wikipedia has an answer:
""Little Fluffy Clouds" is centred on clips from an interview with Rickie Lee Jones in which she recalls picturesque images of her childhood. Critics and fans sometimes attribute the odd nasal tonality of Jones' voice to drug use, though Jones later claimed that it was the result of a heavy cold. The samples are widely believed to have come from a conversation between Jones and LeVar Burton on the children's television programme Reading Rainbow., but in fact originated from an interview disc that was issued with some promotional boxed copies of her album Flying Cowboys. The interview was not actually conducted by Burton at all."
Which then leads to YouTube and the first interview most of us can actually speak along to ...



Interestingly, the uploader makes the LeVar Burton mistake too even though the voice we hear sounds nothing like Geordi LaForge.

What the Wikipedia doesn't mention is what the first voice we hear is. That would be John Waite whose audio show reel is also on YouTube and mentions The Orb in his CV:



He's currently the reporter on Radio 4's Face The Facts.

My Twitter Archive #3:
First Mentions of ...

About Just for fun, here are the first mentions of some of my interests on Twitter (as far as I can tell):

First mention of the Sugababes:
(The BBC was the second. Old friend of the blog Anna Pickard was the third.)


First mention of the Shakespeare:
(which is pretty philosophical until you look further into the search and find...)
(So the first use of the word Shakespeare on Twitter was in relation to a pet. The next two, here and here, are people watching a film. This is in relation to study.)

First mention of Dr Who:
(First person to call it Doctor Who.)

First mention of the next Doctor:
(Still is. I'll come back to this topic I expect.)

First mention of the BBC:
(Which is pleasingly mundane. This is the second and here is the first ever link to a BBC News article (or indeed anything at the BBC website.))

First mention of Liverpool:
(The second mention is someone moaning about the team's performance. The third was @Ev himself. Oh and while we're at it...)

First mention of Sefton Park:
(Because of course it was.)

First mention of The Guardian:
(Here's the first time an article was linked to, about Second Life obviously.)

First mention of the word "film":

(Perhaps other films were mentioned earlier but they'd be much harder to find. Which is why I'm cautious to suggest this is the first film review.)

First mention of Star Wars:

First mention of Natalie Portman:
(Twitter was so small at this point, presumably all of his followers knew who Crystal was...)

First mention of Starbucks:
(@biz's tweet was actually the third.)

More soon.

Slinky.



25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Google Doodle.
"Determined to share this experience on the doodle and others like it around the world, we enlisted several folks and are grateful for their help. Our friends at veed.me arranged 17 international film crews to gather footage. The German Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv) provided powerful archival photographs by Klaus Lehnartz and Heiko Specht to set context for the video. Googlers from around the world translated more than 50 international versions. Morgan Stiff edited it all together."

What happens when you accidentally become internet famous?
"Aspiring neurosurgeon Balpreet Kaur had no idea her picture had been posted on Reddit until she was told by one of her Facebook friends. The picture, taken without Kaur’s knowledge, was uploaded to the site’s r/funny subreddit under the headline “I’m not sure what to conclude from this.” The user was apparently confused that Kaur is a woman with facial hair."

Artists Whose Debut Albums Sound Nothing Like Their Later Work:
"Before Alanis Morissette was giving us her raw emotions, and telling us about her dalliances in movie theaters, she was trying to make it as a dance-pop singer in the mold of say, Gloria Estefan or Paula Abdul. It’s honestly jarring to listen to some of this, mostly for the shock of hearing Alanis’s trademark howl performing such fluffy, inconsequential material. Luckily, Morissette’s dance-pop stage only lasted one album. Her work turned far more personal with 1995′s Jagged Little Pill, which became one of the most popular albums of the 90s."

Doctor Who blogging: “Death in Heaven”
"Chubby Rain is the hilariously awful movie-within-a-movie in Bowfinger. It’s about an alien invasion in which the aliens hide themselves in the raindrops. Really."

Doctor Who: How was Peter Capaldi's debut series?
"Doctor Who's eighth series reached its finale on Saturday with an hour-long episode that saw Peter Capaldi's Time Lord battling two old foes: The Cybermen and Missy - a female incarnation of his arch-enemy The Master. So what do TV critics make of the Peter Capaldi's tenure as the Twelfth Doctor so far?"

Charity records and the Radio 2 playlist.
"No Man's Land (Green Fields of France) by Joss Stone and Jeff Beck was played at a recent Radio 2 playlist meeting, at which the 11 show producers attending all agreed that, due to the poignancy of the lyrics and the subject matter, the song would be best played closer to Remembrance Day and that "free choice plays" - where shows choose their own tracks to play - would best suit the single. This approach would enable due respect be paid to the song's subject matter and the presenter could then properly showcase it, rather than it just appearing unannounced in a show's running order."

Interstellar is screening in 6 different formats. Here's how to decide which to see it in.
"Perhaps you already caught Interstellar over the weekend. Which format did you see it in?"

$2 Billion and Counting:
"When I hear stories about artists and songwriters who say they’ve seen little or no money from streaming and are naturally angry and frustrated, I’m really frustrated too. The music industry is changing – and we’re proud of our part in that change – but lots of problems that have plagued the industry since its inception continue to exist. As I said, we’ve already paid more than $2 billion in royalties to the music industry and if that money is not flowing to the creative community in a timely and transparent way, that’s a big problem. We will do anything we can to work with the industry to increase transparency, improve speed of payments, and give artists the opportunity to promote themselves and connect with fans – that’s our responsibility as a leader in this industry; and it’s the right thing to do."

11 Clever Uses for Your Old Phone or Tablet:
"As you don't need your old smartphone or tablet to travel around with you any more, you can fix it on a window or in a corner and use it as a home surveillance device or a baby monitor. Plenty of apps are available to cover the software side of the equation: iCamSpy, Presence and Manything are all powerful options that enable you to keep an eye on your property or your kids from somewhere else."

33 Things The Kids Of Today Will Never Understand:
"How you could occasionally find a fiver in your crisps and life would get that little bit better."

Remember Folks, Batgirl Is Smart – But Not *Too* Smart…
"She never even thought to backup her laptop, or store anything on the cloud…"

Brazil's Amazon opera house: 'I've done every job'
"In 1973, Raimundo Pereira do Nascimento, known as "Nonato," walked into the Manaus Opera House with a contract to hang drywall and help with some restoration work."

Art of the Title on Too Many Cooks. Interview with creator:
"I had the idea of doing this for Adult Swim, where I work, but I thought… it’s not going to really carry 11 minutes and so I just sat on it. I told some co-workers about it who told my boss Mike Lazzo at a party and he liked it so he said do it, but he said you’re right, that will only carry you about four minutes and then you’ve got to start zigging and zagging and layering other ideas. You know, right when the audience is starting to get bored or kind of figure out what you’re doing you’ve got to zip them in another direction."

Dappenstance:
"The only question that still seems to be plaguing people is this: why on earth would ITV commission Dapper Laughs in the first place?"

Sarah Polley, Leslie Feist back domestic abuse doc:
"Khan says she is making the film after having lived for two years with an abusive boyfriend who hurt her every day. Twenty years later, Khan says she bumped into her ex on a street corner and the experience inspired an idea of how to get answers to nagging questions about why he was violent to her, and how to get a film audience into the mind of a serial abuser."

Born before 1985? Then you’re a ‘digital immigrant’:
"2014’s best new music sounds lonely. As a firm believer in the theory that music’s evolution follows the path of technological progress (the Vox distortion pedal begat Hendrix and the face-melting solo, the Linn drum begat the Human League and 80s pop and so on), I had put this down to the fact that artists at the cutting edge these days work alone, by night (music doesn’t pay much, so they all need day jobs), on a laptop or home studio. That’s not a qualitative judgement, by the way. As much new music as ever is excellent – but, I believe, the circumstances of its construction leaves an audible imprint."

Romeo and Juliet Has No Balcony:
"It's perhaps the most famous scene in all of English literature: Juliet stands on her balcony with Romeo in the garden below, star-crossed lovers meeting by moonlight. Colloquially known as "the balcony scene," it contains Romeo and Juliet's most quoted lines, which are so closely associated with the balcony that they're frequently repeated (often incorrectly and in a hammy style) by non-actors who seize upon any real-life balcony, porch, landing, or veranda to reenact the moment. There's only one problem: There is no balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet."

The Problem With the Problems With Serial:
"All of this writing and podcasting is, of course, an interpretive endeavor. The same piece of evidence can mean different things to different writers, can be used to support different claims. (This is the creative work in academic writing, and a big part of why I love my job - seeing young minds learn how to make these moves.) And so, as an author, Koenig definitely colors our understanding of the material. And maybe she’s taking things out of context - who knows! Since I don’t have access to the full tapes and files, I have to trust her."

My Twitter Archive #2

About Last time I delved into my Twitter archive was on the occasion of being able to download your own tweets. Now the company has made the whole archive available to search, it's even easier to look for landmarks, like the first ten replies to my tweets, either because the peopled followed me or I tweeted them first:

(This was still in the period when I was just reposting Facebook updates to Twitter.  Two long months and then...)

(Well the second post on the blog was about the Sugababes so why not?)

(I didn't know it had been this long since I watched I CLAVDIVS. I'd make time now but...)

(Was this something on television?)

(Pole Posssiitttiiioooonnn ... sit back and watch them gooo....)

(I wonder what this was? Pete?)

(Suw had written this piece about email addiction.  She suggests Twitter as an alternative.)

(I think the 2008 election was my favourite election)

(Because this.)
(I was preparing my application for the BBC's recruitment drive for Salford.  Sigh.)


Soup Safari #7:
Thai Green Chicken at Waitrose Cafe.







At lunch. £3.40. Waitrose Cafe, Waitrose, Three Tuns Lane, Formby, Merseyside L37 4AJ. Phone: 01704 873017.

Poor Jen.

The Films I've Watched This Year #43



Film It's Saturday night, it's after nine o'clock and I'm tapping away at a keyboard.  As I think you may have detected, this particular stretch of Doctor Who's been particularly difficult to parse, certainly as difficult for a range of complex reasons as Torchwood's Miracle Day.  Perhaps I've been out of practice, the recent shorter series and odd episodes not quite preparing me for knocking that out every week for twelve of them.  By the final episode, as I think you might have detected, I was pretty exhausted but there's no doubt that if the episodes had been up to snuff I might have been inspired to do something useful.  But I am genuinely looking forward to revisiting series eight when it's finally released for the home so I can reappraise.  At this point, my favourite episode is still Robots of Sherwood with Listen, Flatline and probably Deep Breath close behind.  Even taking the horrors of The Caretaker and Kill The Moon into account, the low point will always be In The Forest of the Night, potentially the worst episode since the show came back, beating even Fear Her because at least that's unintentionally funny in places (Bob).  Anyway, mainstream, symposium and ...

Restless
Riddick
The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey: Extended Version 3D
Only Lovers Left Alive
Dan In Real Life
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Extended Version 3D
Ernest & Celestine
Fantasia 2000
Dinosaur
The Last Days on Mars
The Other Man


Now that this series has finished, I've decided to catch up on what I've missed from the career of future Doctor (Who), Romola Garai, starting with The Last Days on Mars, which is essentially The Waters of Mars if the Tenth Doctor hadn't turned up for his moral implosion.  The story is in the title, a group of astronauts fighting off a zombifying alien infection hours before they're due to leave the planet.  Garai is one of the astronauts, the Veronica Cartwright role, and although essentially a bystander, has one very good speech in which she's trying to talk Liev Schreiber into doing a brave thing.  Mainly funded with UK and Irish money.  Well done us for the ambition and that includes for the special effects which offers some of the best man against Martian vista in film history.  It has an eclectic cast.  Olivia Williams is in the more challenging Doctorish role of the science officer who says whatever everyone's thinking but don't want to look like assholes and Elias Koteas is the mission captain.  But it is better than the RT score of 20% but for once I agree with Peter Bradshaw's sympathetic review, especially that it's far more interesting before the viruses and mayhem.

Back in 2008, Garai was playing daughters, touring in Trevor Nunn's King Lear and in Richard Eyre's The Other Man as the offspring of Liam Neeson and Laura Linney.  Utterly ludicrous in pretty much every way, after some initial moments when it looks like it might be a proto-Taken, for much of its duration Eyre's pretending to be Hitchcock via Adrian Lyne before a jaw-dropping twist sends it off into other generic territories.  There are about four things to say about it.  (1)  Romola's character's random film job is as an assistant in Ely Cathedral's gift shop (set report) and her boyfriend seems to be some kind of restoration engineer.  (2)  Antonio Banderas plays the man Neeson suspects of having an affair and at one point having heard the voice of Puss in Boots on a voice message blames the not at all alike sounding Patterson Joseph instead (3)  The twist is so, well, ludicrous that I thought it was something we were supposed to have learned early on anyway and I'd missed and skipped back to the beginning at that moment to check and (4) the ever accurate IMDB says Laura Linney apparently replaced Juliette Binoche though I haven't found the necessary evidence.

Binoche turns up in the pleasantest surprise of the week, Dan In Real Life, which is essentially to Hallmark tv movies what Independence Day is to grindhouse.  She's the object of Steve Carrell's widower's affection having met her at a bookshop while visiting his families vacation house (with the rest of his extended family) (I'd be rubbish writing the Sight and Sound plot synopsis) and then something happens which clearly works best if you haven't seen the trailer.  Hilarity ensues, and oddly, considering my usual aversion of Steve Carrell films, it really does.  Bits of it are maudlin, and like I said, the scripting in places is at about the level of a Hallmark movie, but I happen to like those, especially when the children are cleverer than the adults.  As Carrell's daughter, Alison Pill who gets to make that face a lot.  You know the one.  The director's previous film was Pieces of April, in which goth Katie Holmes attempted to cook thanksgiving whilst being filmed on a consumer camcorder and Patricia Clarkson was nominated for the Oscar.  The even younger Alison Pill got to make the face in that a lot too.  You know the one.  With the eyes.

With my 3D television, I've now also caught up with The Hobbit films.  In 3D.  I still remain unconvinced.  By the 3D.  Apart from odd moments like wildlife flying out of the screen and pointy swords and spears, much of the action takes place on a relatively flat but textured plane, the landscapes rendered miscellaneously murky due to the glasses with large sections lost to hazing.  As with The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey: Extended Version 3DThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Extended Version 3D is much improved by the tampering, a whole new layer of back story added for Dwarf King in waiting Thorin (which I won't spoil because it's delicious) and better pacing overall correcting many of the problems I identified back in The Films I've Watched This Year #29 which now looks unbelievably harsh especially in how it ignores some of the brilliant fight gags during the barrell sequence and Smaug himself.  Having dodged it at the cinema, I won't be making that mistake again and will be there when The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies turns up in cinemas wondering what's been left out.

The Oscar nominated Ernest & Celestine is a charming French-Belgian animation based on the storybooks of Gabrielle Vincent in which a bear and a mouse inadvertently become partners in crime and which rather makes me wish Disney had retained E H Shephard's original drawings for Pooh (though I know when those films were originally made animation technology wasn't quite up to the task).  #disneywatch continues with the fun if empty Fantasia 2000 which has Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance paying host to a version of Noah's Ark starring Donald Duck but also an utterly glorious interpretation of Rhapsody in Blue set in the melting pot of the Jazz age which really cleverly Mickey Mouses the twists and turns of Gershwin's score.  Dinosaur was Disney's first grand experiment in character digimation, presenting big lizards and monkies against photographic background.  The slightly rudimentary facial animation in places might explain its relative obscurity, but like the best of the studio Dinosaur tumbles along amusingly despite its especially nihilistic premise in which extinction itself is the antagonist.

Finally, I've seen Restless now too.  As suspected, it's rubbish, entirely wasting the talents of Mia Wasikowska in the same year (2011) as Jane Eyre didn't.  The worst film Gus Van Sant's directed, it's a romantic tragedy in which she's romanced by a loner played by Henry Hooper, a screen presence so exciting he makes Peeta from The Hunger Games seem like Oliver Reed.  Stuff happens which is attractively filmed, but none of the characters have anything witty or interesting to say, apart from in this case Ryô Kase's character due to the virtue of him being an actual ghost, of a Japanese WW2 pilot not that the screenwriter really do anything useful with this other than offer history lessons.  Glancing at Wasikowska's career since Restless, it's almost as though she's said to her agent that she's not doing one of these again and it's telling that Stoker and the peerless Only Lovers Left Alive (which is pretty much unreviewable so I won't) both gothic character roles came very close on.  Every young actress at a certain point has to decide what kind of career they want and Mia's clearly looking enviously towards Cate Blanchett or Tilda Swinton.  Good on her.

"Dear the BBC, I must complain about the Coca-Cola product placement in this year's Doctor Who Christmas special..."



TV She's back then. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, we no longer have to sit and watch Children in Need to see the Doctor Who contribution although to be fair these days it's usually just some odd scene rather than some specially written piece of magic. Surprising no one, especially those of us who noticed the reverse of her head in the trailer, Clara's quite obviously back and happy to see the Doctor as far as it goes. Of course, if this is indeed also Santa, the Doctor presumably should have asked the rotund reindeer wrangler instead if he was a good man rather than Clara. At which point Santa would have pulled out Steve Lyons's article in this month's party newsletter and begun pointing ... "Weeeeellll...."

Lost in New York.

Travel In a lot of ways this Gothamist piece about the lost and found section at the Long Island Railroad isn't that different the many of the piece about lost and found sections in railway networks. That doesn't mean it isn't fascinating:
"Books never come back," Henry Felton said as he propped a surfboard against a shelf of laptops. "The books that I get, people aren't looking for. And the ones people are looking for, they never come in. People come in for nothing things like a shopping bag of toilet paper or a coffee cup. But the most expensive things—an iPhone 6—nobody's come in for it yet." Felton is the supervisor of the Long Island Rail Road Lost & Found; it's his job to collect, catalog, and try to return everything that comes in from the trains and stations. His work affords him a keyhole view into the private worlds of others. "You see people's lives play out right in front of you with the things they leave behind," he said."

"...that’s where I learned to hate potatoes."

Food If you didn't think it was possible to hate potatoes, how about if you worked in a potato processing plant? Excellent commentary from "turbid dahlia" at Metafilter:
"Once your bucket had reached critical mass, usually about twenty kilos of spuds in there, you would manhandle it to the end of the line – potato starch and solution water draining and slopping all over the place and your eyeballs fucking frozen – and angle it to kind of funnel/shake the spuds into these sturdy, transparent plastic bags. You had to guesstimate five kilos per bag – they had scales there for another guy to confirm the weight – and then the guy sealed the bags and piled them into a huge crate and that stuff sat there until the crate had ten bags and then you hefted it on top of another already-full crate and the crates either got taken out for delivery (to restaurants all over the city) or it went up into the coldroom behind the greengrocer’s and was stored there for delivery the next morning."

2001: An Evening's Viewing.

Film One of the triumphs of the film sector in YouTube, the Toronto International Film Festival has just uploaded two videos from its screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey with Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood in attendance. Although even a big flat screen won't be a replacement for the massive screen at the ArcLight, this seems like it would be the perfect way to spend the evening.

So firstly watch this:



Then:



And afterwards:

Bigger Brother.



TV Here's my second week reviewing the fourth UK series of Big Brother for Off The Telly which contains one of my favourite television moments ever, when John Tickle effectively coached Nush on how to deal with the outside world, realising that he was in the unique position at that point of not only having been there but also having nothing to lose. The Channel 4 show cuts away from the action just as it gets interesting here, but you can see the start on the screen. I remember that night vividly, following along and chatting on one of the Big Brother discussion boards in real time as the drama unfolded on the live feed, the sort of event which would migrate to Twitter later.  But the whole week was extraordinary as a figure who'd previously been treated as the nerdy comic relief both inside and outside the house was sent back in with the assumption that he'd be more of the same but hacked the entire process (albeit within the boundaries of what the producers would broadcast and whatever it was the tabloids were up to).  Incidentally, some soul has uploaded the whole of Big Brother 4 to YouTube, though I suspect it's best left locked in the memory.

Big Brother

Friday, July 18, 2003 by Stuart Ian Burns

Information has become the true currency in the Big Brother house. Whoever has the most information wields the most power, and with that power the ability to control the outcome. It’s ironic then that within the house the most powerful voice isn’t actually going to be allowed to win.

Friday night’s eviction show had ended on a cliffhanger with Jon Tickle re-entering the house. As he sat and gave his old housemates the rules he was all but offering his strategy for the ensuing week. “I can’t tell you how I got here. I can’t tell you why I’m here. All I can tell you is that I’m here now.” They took him at his word. They assumed that he’d been advised by Big Brother not to divulge anything. Cleverly this wasn’t true at all. He couldn’t tell them about the outside world, but he could tell them that because he’d lost already, he couldn’t nominate or be nominated, and more importantly that he couldn’t win. But because they didn’t ask, he didn’t tell them. In moments he had become the focus of the group, commanding more attention than ever, his every word being hung upon, contestants keen to jump upon anything he would “stupidly” let slip. He knew this and capitalized upon it.

The viewer began scrutinizing his every move. How much of what he was doing was deliberate? As soon as he went into the house he went to the toilet. He told them it was so that they could talk about him behind his back, which they did as paranoia began to envelop them. Why was Jon back, what were his motives and how long was he staying? Later he left his luggage bag open and they quickly started to glance into it. Was that deliberate? The detectives amongst the group were hard at work – he had three pairs of underwear which meant he would be staying for at least the weekend. But Ray had a feeling it would be for the whole of the final two weeks and he wasn’t happy. Jon had enjoyed his time in the house, been put out on a public vote, it was out of order he’d returned with full privileges. Was there some other motivation involved? That night, Jon spent an hour in the Diary room. All we received in the Sunday night highlights was a glimpse of some master plan (with Tickle sounding unnervingly like Davros creator of the Daleks). He was going to be winding them up. A lot.

As the week progressed, we saw a different Tickle. There were still inspired moments reminiscent of the first four weeks, such as sunbathing whilst whistling the music from the Cantina scene in Star Wars – but this was a darker version of Jon. Once he had Scott and Nush to himself he expounded his theory about the Cameron’s game plan. With just two weeks to work within, he was acting quickly, no room for subtlety. “Everyone thinks that Cameron sits in a little shack in Orkney and guts fish for a living. Cameron is an international businessman. He is not the simpering fool who cuddles women and is no good with women. The whole Bible-bashing businessman, I’m not buying it in the least. I think he’s being quite fake. I’m not convinced by Cameron in the least. I don’t think you can send someone to Brussels to an international trade fish fair and have that bloke on the stand.” Nush seemed amazed as though Jon was either nuts or had hit upon something. Did Tickle really believe what he was saying or was he the one playing? If only he’d known that in a few days a handwriting expert would appear on BBLB and back up everything he’d said based on Cameron’s application form for the show.
The Tickle master plan seemed to consist of pointed comments at inopportune moments coupled with downtime to let people speculate about why he was there. As Lisa had been for the previous two weeks, he was now their primary point of contact for any scraps of information about how they were being perceived on the outside world, and how this would effect the voting. So anything he said, even if it wasn’t all that relevant, was picked upon. In this regard, the following is particularly revealing. It was featured on the Big Brother website, but not in the highlights show (presumably because it makes him out to be much nastier):

“The gang were playing their favourite alphabet game, this time based around TV shows when Jon dropped another conversation stopper. Out of nowhere, and it was never made clear to what he was referring, the 29-year-old announced: ‘Another thing I can’t talk about.’ Understandably the gang gave up on their game for a second. ‘It’s something that someone said randomly ages ago and now it’s boiled over,’ Jon finished darkly without explaining his drift. ‘It fills me with absolute f***ing peril when we have moments like this,’ Scott quivered in response. ‘I’m scared silly,’ trembled Nush. ‘Jon I don’t like this, you know stuff that we don’t,’ Ray shivered, summing up the words on each of the housemates’ lips.”

This happened late on a nomination day which had been quite tricky for the “29-year-old”, because it would the first time the housemates would find out about his immunity. As the computer man read out a laminate which broke the news to everyone that he was exempt from the process it was fairly obvious that Ray and Scott were waiting as long as they could to leave the vicinity without looking like they were leaving for that reason. The Irishman felt like the rug was being pulled out from under him. At no point did it occur to him to ask Jon whether he could win. This was very interesting indeed.

Now Ray became the target. A classic moment followed next day when the nominations were announced. Ray already rattled because he knew that everyone else had worked out his votes (and handling it a lot worse than the week before when they really did know) which had meant Nush would be up for eviction instead of Steph, tried to share a moment with Jon. There was a smile, then Jon explained that one of the people who had voted for Nush shouldn’t have because it now meant that they couldn’t win. Ray tried to give a look which said that he knew exactly what Jon meant. He didn’t have a clue. He ran directly to Steph and Cameron, misquoted what he’d heard, and began to sweat, visibly. It’s a very oblique comment, but giving it some thought, I think Jon meant that because Cameron had nominated Nush instead of Steph himself it meant that he had a stronger opponent in the public vote and there was a greater chance he would be leaving on Friday (Jon knowing what we know about the public’s general attitude to the housemates).

Ironically (considering later events) Jon seemed to have become the eyes and ears of Big Brother, and more than a spanner in the works. The fun-loving Ray was slowly giving way to an utter sourpuss. He was biting his finger nails to the bone. The façade was deteriorating and by the end of the week the public perception would be markedly different. Later, we found Tickle looking at the same two pages of Shakespeare for 14 minutes. It was Julius Caesar. He was covertly communicating to the outside world that the only way to win in this game was through backstabbing. Perhaps.

Jon understood that by controlling the flow of information, he could to certain extent control the emotions of his fellow housemates, but that whatever he did would stay within the house (bar some ill will towards him when they left). The ideal of a series like Big Brother is that it’s a cocoon. The people inside should have no idea about what has been happening in the world outside the house until they step out of the front door into the awaiting crowd. At no point during the four years the programme has been airing has this ever been the case. In the first year, The Sun flew a model airplane over the compound dropping leaflets exposing the double dealing of Nick Bateman. In Big Brother 3, Tim used his knowledge of the World Cup and his coded attempts revealing the scores as a way of currying favour with his new housemates. Now in Big Brother 4, The People newspaper nudged a story which was playing out far too slowly for them, and it might have been one of the worst moments in the history of the show. Unlike Jon who was particularly trying to effect changes within the house, the paper was trying to take control of the housemates lives to increase the potency of a story.

How bad can the security around the compound be that a journalist was able park up nearby, pull out a loud hailer and start shouting statements into the house? That it took so long to bring in the crowd noises to mask the sounds of the hack? Then subsequently that it suddenly became part of the Big Brother experience as Nush entered the diary room (assuming she would be called anyway) and wasn’t seen to be offered any kind of an apology for such a violation. And then, tellingly, the incident become part of the highlights show. Granted not to show any of it would have been tantamount to censorship, but as a viewer it felt terribly exploitative, especially as Nush went into her bedroom and felt the camera following her as she walked to her bed. None of the housemates had followed her there, why should we? It was a turn off and made the viewer question their own motives in watching the series, and what the producers were showing them. Which is no good thing, especially for a reviewer who knows he is going to contradict this holier-than-thou attitude at some point in this review. But the reasons became fairly clear. The incident had adversely affected their plans for the evening.

For Endemol the romance between Nush and Scott was hotting up, and they would do everything they could to manipulate the outcome. No matter what Jon or the journalist might think, the people with the absolute power are the producers. Even on the E4 live feed they have the ability to blank out the sound lest the public should hear anything they wouldn’t want us to (although they do let something slip now and again. Only this week via the feed shown on Channel 4 late at night did we find out that in the first four weeks a press photographer had been taking photos over the fence). Hence the housemates constant jitters as to how they are being portrayed. This was one of those occasions in which they would be attempting to manipulate the action. Did the producers allow the incident with the megaphone happen on purpose? You decide. But there have been precedents. In the final week of series two, Paul and Helen were given a candlelit dinner in a secluded spot. Nothing happened except a bit of rolling about. Helen was still attached and Paul knew better than kick into the apple cart. Two years later and it looked like it was happening again. Except yet again it backfired.

As ever on the Saturday night edition, the players were competing for the right to enter the Reward Room. The catch this time around was that there would be only one winner, who would then have a choice as to who would accompany them. This ruling was doubtlessly conceived under the assumption that the outcome would be something in the region of Scott and Nush going into the room together, and “things” happening between them. However, almost as if he was intent on usurping this plan, Scott sensitively volunteered himself as the Bingo caller in their game, thereby negating his entrance into the room. As a result Ray won deciding to take Cameron in with him.

For my money watching the two winners indulging themselves in a women’s night-in was far more entertaining than what the producers were fishing for. This was certainly the most gay friendly evening since Josh and Brian’s dinner together in BB2. Ray might have been using the cosmetics to make himself look hard with a black eye and all, but Cameron was enjoying the soothing oils. Watching their Morecambe and Wise inspired night in bed together was a joy, their discomfort at sharing the bed recalling John Candy and Steve Martin in Trains, Planes and Automobiles. Ray’s champagne consumption and Cameron’s pleas for more apple juice demonstrated that they were different people and so they would remain.

But wait – there was still second chance Sunday. And so predictably Scott won the task this time and picked Nush to go in with him. On the Monday night highlights show the producers again seemed to think that the nation was gripped by what was for me a non-story, and decided to devote almost the entire show to an utter non-event. Nush and Scott had refused to sing the tune of the producers and instead they just talked. A lot. We were subjected to the usual post-modern conversation about the questions Davina McCall would be asking when they finally left the house. They had an idea what would be asked, but why were we being shown this at the expense of some of the action that had appeared on the E4 live feed which was just funny? They also had a no physical contact agreement (which was mostly adhered to). The cushions went up the centre of the bed as they tucked in, and they reminded us that it was a statement about something.

Like the final night of a summer holiday before going off to University for the first time, it was clear this would be the highpoint of their relationship in the house and that nothing would be the same again. Over the next few days, they were much less physical when sober (and only hugging when tipsy), talking rather than touching. The final nail seemed to be during a conversation between the “couple” and Jon about Steph and Cameron. Nush had said she wished she could force them to be together. Tickle advised that he thought they knew it was nice that they had each other inside the house, but once it was over that would be that. He seemed to talking about Scott and Nush instead. They sat and shuffled. And to give the BBLB body language experts something to talk about, looked downwards. As the week progressed Nush had moved on. But Scott hadn’t – or at least this is how it was portrayed on the Thursday night highlights show.

Actually, in terms of manipulating the footage it’s difficult to remember whether in previous series the structure of the highlights shows were so much like television drama. In recent weeks there seems to have been a reliance on primary story, with secondary material buzzing about. This was clearly evident on Monday night’s edition, with the Nush/Scott situation being counterpointed with Steph’s reaction to the task. I have to admit to not being a great supporter of Steph as a contestant because up until this week she’s too often appeared to be a bystander, on the edges of the action; there to give Cameron someone to talk to. When she has been up for eviction she seems to have won through because the housemates she has been up against have been less liked. There’s nothing particularly to dislike about her, but nothing to lock onto. So it’s been very uncomfortable watching her come to the realization that she is under the shadow of Nush. It’s a self-esteem issue, of course, polarized by the Sunday night Bingo task in which she felt that out of the lads only Cameron might pick her. It was another reminder that these are not scripted characters, but real people and should be judged as such. At that time we didn’t believe for one moment Ray would have actually picked Steph, but as the nominations developed this was muddied somewhat. The triangle was being rocked to the core.

For the final nominations, Channel 4 decided to show something from everybody (a change from recent weeks which have been pretty lean). The biggest surprise was seeing Nush and not Steph up for eviction. The deciding vote came from Ray, who sadly wasn’t articulate enough for it to be clear whether he was actually being sincere to Steph the night before or if this was pure tactics. In the late stages of previous series, evictions were about who the housemates would have to spend their final week with. Was I really missing something about Steph? Or had we not seen any of the really entertaining things she’s done? In year two, for example, no one wanted to nominate anyone else because they had become such good friends (apparently). Now they were at it like hardened game players. The love-in I talked about last week had become a much harsher place.

And then it was Wednesday night in the Big Brother house, and the disembodied voices had lovingly supplied some booze. I can’t be certain, but I’m willing to bet that in a fortnight it will be possible to look back at the second half of that night’s edition and select the exact moment when Ray lost Big Brother. Could it be when he threw the heart to heart he’d had with Steph back in her face? When he got up and walked away angrily, pulling the lid off a beer violently before storming into the house and slamming it on the table? Dragging a hobbled Nush halfway across the house despite the protests of his friends that he was going too far and then threw a glass at her head? No, for me it was his classic line to Nush: “I just want to punch her in the f**king face!” He had become everything Scott had feared he could be after a few drinks and at no point was it fun.

Which brings us to the flipside of the accusation of the producers using their skills to portray the housemates in a certain way. The house is all about behaviours. Although the highlight shows are heavily edited, they aren’t fictionalised. Everything within them actually happened. If Ray (or Steph for that matter) had just been happy to have a quiet drink, sit about a lot, perhaps ask Jon for his impression of how the sky was looking, nothing would have appeared in the highlights show and their impressive work during the opera task would have been the big story taking up much of the show (as such, it was barely featured). They argued and the producers had to include it, and not just for ratings purposes. Not to include the actions would have just proved the accusation that they were controlling information flow from the house in order to control the outcome.

That said does anyone remember a housemate called Cameron? Went to South Africa, up for eviction this week, appeared in the girly reward room. You might have noticed that he hasn’t warranted a mention in the past few paragraphs because since the weekend his impression on the action seemed to be pretty minimal. From all the Lisa-hating which appeared last week he just seems to be around. The most interesting thing he’s done is appear as a Pavarotti knock off and turn up in the diary room understandably sermonizing about the evils of drink. His much self trailed secret was still out there, but he was keeping that close to his chest. He did get some coverage on BBLB and in the highlights sections of E4′s interactive service, but in terms of viewer coverage, that’s a bit like a rock fanzine reviewing a band the editor’s girlfriend saw in a suburban pub on a wet Tuesday night.

Where at one stage everything seemed to be about Cameron, Steph now seemed to have a point: everything really was about Nush. Which could be why she was evicted.

There is a pattern which has built up this series: Once the nominations have been made the focus seemed to shift to one of the housemates up for eviction, who after getting all of the attention somehow ends up leaving. Last week, the house spun around Lisa, she was the main topic of conversation, and her every move was writ large. For the latter half of this week, it was all about Nush. Even in Friday night’s mini-highlights she became the main character and the only time we saw Cameron doing anything of any import, he was talking to the orange stringer.

And so to the Friday night eviction show, which was the most enjoyable in some time. Whether it was that Nush left to cheers, or that she just seemed to want to love the moment and not try to make a point about something, I’m not sure. The voting breakdown seemed quite brutal: She received 66.87% of the public votes (951,512) in comparison to Cameron’s 33.13% (471,346). To some extent she was a victim of the press who developed a profile of her as an utter flirt using her sexuality to get what she wants. That might not be entirely fair. Granted she warmed to the male housemates a lot over the weeks but that was possibly more of a survival technique than anything else. I think on this occasion it was just a case of one housemate being more popular than the other overall, and more of case of the Cameron fan block vote going into effect.

Trust Jon to be involved in one of the moments of the series. Just seconds after Nush had been announced as the ninth evictee, seemingly with the backing of his fellow housemates, Tickle followed her into the bedroom and began a pep talk which within the space of a few minutes focussed the various themes and information from across the week into a point …

He told her he couldn’t win (his control of information within the house). He told her that she had the chance to make a lot of money over the following week and that she needed to make her mind up as to which Sunday paper she would sell her story to by 9am Saturday. Using the Helen Keller approach of finger on palm he told her how much his fellow evictees had made and advised her to get approval about any copy the papers write, but to understand that they would still lie (the press trying to control the story). He told her to be careful about the agents, but listen to their advice and not to go to every showbiz event. That Davina was one of the nicest people you could meet and to speak to Gos for support but stay away from Anouska and Justine (still no love lost there then). To stay in London so that she was close to the other ex-housemates who are a good support network – and do RI:SE (controlling your image and message within a wider context) …

By then, Big Brother’s call to attend the diary room had become a mantra and he had to go. She hugged him and said: “If they tell you off …” “They’re going to do more than that.” He replied. He received a reprimand, but frankly, the worst they could do is ask him to leave which would look very bad indeed for them.

As Big Brother 4 enters its endgame apart from more Jon Tickle it’s looking to be the least appetizing final week yet. In week one it would have been difficult to foresee that Steph would be the final woman in the house. That feels like luck. With her out of the picture the final prize will be between Scott, Ray and Cameron. As has been said, Ray may have ruined his chances after Wednesday night (and certainly the E4 ticker, which has backed Ray for some time has turned very hostile) and although there is a lot of popular support for Scott, I think that the widespread appeal of Cameron will lead him to the £70,000. But then I thought Anna Nolan had it in the bag and that Alex Sibley was a shoo-in.
Who would I like to win? Can I take the Nush approach? “Oh I don’t know … you decide …”

Blimey.

Soup Safari #6:
Chicken, Broccoli
and Brown Rice at
Pret A Manger.







At lunch. £3.25. 50p extra for bread. 10p for the glass of tap water. Pret A Manger, Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet Village Kinsey Rd, South Wirral CH65 9JJ. Phone:020 7932 5203

(B)Links.



The Creepy New Wave of the Internet:
"Every day a piece of computer code is sent to me by e-mail from a website to which I subscribe called IFTTT. Those letters stand for the phrase “if this then that,” and the code is in the form of a “recipe” that has the power to animate it. Recently, for instance, I chose to enable an IFTTT recipe that read, “if the temperature in my house falls below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, then send me a text message.” It’s a simple command that heralds a significant change in how we will be living our lives when much of the material world is connected—like my thermostat—to the Internet."

The Chapter: A History.
"The chapter is tied intimately to our notions of literacy, as signalled by the fact that we give the name “chapter books” to the texts that offer school-age children their first mature reading experiences. More than this, the chapter has become a way of looking at the world, a way of dividing time and, therefore, of dividing experience. Its origins date back to long before the printing press or even the bound codex, back to the emergence of prose in antiquity as both an expressive and an informational medium. Literary evolution rarely seems slower than it does in the case of the chapter. What does the chapter’s beginnings reveal about the way our books and stories are still put together?"

Bread, circuses, and Oscar buzz:
"Oscar buzz is also great for filling of column inches or composition panes with text that costs very little to generate. Reviewers have to be sent to festivals so they can see the latest films, and they go armed with expense accounts. As long as they’re there, why not have them write about Oscar buzz as well? They’ve already seen the films, written their reviews, and perhaps interviewed some of the talent. Writing about Oscar buzz is easy and based on chitchat and speculation. It’s presumably a lot cheaper to run such stories than to have a reporter spending a lot of time tracking down information for a hard-news item about business trends in the industry."

Day One:
"And lo, did my first day of business at Sterling Silver Comics come to pass, and things went fairly well. For what was basically a “soft” opening, without all that “BIG GRAND OPENING” hoohar that will likely come later in the month, I did have several customers throughout the day, with one or two dead times that more or less corresponded to the doldrums I would have at the old shop at about the same points in the day, so no big whoop. Overall, I did manage to meet some new folks, welcome some customers from my previous job, and make a little more money than I was expecting for my first day. Hooray, I’m marginally less in debt!"

Death in Heaven.



TV Sigh. Unlike the Doctor and Clara right at the end there, I’m going to begin with some truth. I genuinely can’t be fussed with this tonight. I’ll probably find some way to fill the next six to eight paragraphs with something, but honestly if I could just go with my original plan of writing the sentence “Osgood. Really. Well, I hope you’re pleased with yourselves” hit post and shuffle on with my life I’d be quite happy. At which point I’m sure you’re at least thinking, well don’t let us stop you, but the quest is the quest and here I am, Saturday night, tapping away. Again. A friend’s just tweeted, “I'd have been disappointed if the last episode of this series hadn't been just as deeply unsatisfying as the rest of it.” Which pretty much does the business. Thanks Lis.

Which isn’t to say it didn’t start well, with, as we presumed Jenna Coleman revealing herself to be the Doctor, fulfilling a fair few fan theories and the opening credits gleefully going along with her plan, including her attack eyebrows. Certainly having Clara suddenly have the TARDIS Datacore in her head after giving every indication twelve episodes before that she’d forgotten watching The Ultimate Guide was a pretty convincing indication that we’d had the wool pulled over our eyes somehow. Imagine that episode or idea and ramifications for the rest of the run. But no, in a series were the really brilliant ideas have forever been replaced with the average instead we have a rerun of the Rory the Auton with a character which the show has gone out of its way to make us really dislike across its previous eleven instalments instead (despite the whole rotten PE business resurrected here (ho, bloody, ho) as dissected by GKW in DWM in his brilliant review of The Caretaker).

Similarly the mid-credits sequences had me hooting and gleefully looking forward to the Christmas special because even after the disappointment of The World’s End (Paul’s still a better film) you have to love Nick Frost and having Nick Frost play Father Christmas is funny. Oh and every now and then we had a ghost of the good Moffat of old offering his Blink era poetry with the likes of “Never trust hugging. It’s just a way of hiding your face” even if that only works if you don’t actually care about the person your hugging and don’t trust that the expression on their face is pleasure. Oh and the performances, especially Michelle Gomez who really does capture the post-Drums psychotic Missy who thanks to some ambiguity in relation to Cyber-Alistair’s laser blast clearly isn’t dead.

But apart from all of that? Yeah, no. From the death of Osgood which was entirely unearned, an insult to Ingrid Oliver, pretty much kills (ironically) stone dead part of our enjoyment of The Day of the Doctor and very epitome of how some series attempt to Whedon but fail miserably to the realisation that the whole absence of the Doctor arc we’ve had to endure this series has been leading up to him learning something he already had licked a dozen incarnations and a couple of millennia ago, Death in Heaven is a joyless experience, full of cynical emotional manipulation of the worst kind and unfunny banter which makes the critical error of offering us a flashback to when the show was none of those things. I miss the Matt Smith years, I really do. Now, I think you can see why I’m really not fussed with this tonight.

I promised you six to eight paragraphs and we’re already at the fifth but genuinely. After all the build up, Missy is wasted here. Gomez does her best with it, all boggling eyes and knuckle chewing but much of her contribution amounts to killing Osgood, revealing that she was the woman in the shop and that she brought him and Clara together for no particular reason unless I missed it then stand around in a graveyard essentially making the same offer Mr Finch did in School Reunion whilst making the same accusation as Davros in Journey’s End. And the problem is we can see it and we’re wondering, or at least I was, why isn’t this working? It isn’t working because it’s predictable. And obvious and we’re on to paragraph six.

The cyberfication of Alistair is tasteless isn’t it? Having given the much loved character a decent send off in The Wedding of River Song and respectfully resurrected his spirit in Kate, forgivably retconning No Future and The Shadows of Avalon, we now have his spirit encased in a flying Cyberman. On the one hand, it’s of course a continuation of the idea, from Battlefield, that the man will never die, and certainly worse crimes have been wrought on other companions in the spin-off universe (poor Dodo) but the whole idea of it, and the business of the salute is just horrendous and … it’s really interesting how having so perfectly judged this sort of thing was last year (barring some dodgy rotoscoping and stand-ins), we’re now in a position to suggest Adric got a better deal in the audios.

Plus, as Santa indicates, Clara’s not gone yet. Just as in The God Complex, Amy and Rory received a perfectly useful exit before being brought back ready for everything end in tragedy, there’s no way Oswald will be allowed to simply walk into the distance like that. Unless she is and we’re going to meet another alternative Clara in the Christmas special ready to die for the cause. One of my pet theories has been that Jenna Coleman isn’t going anywhere, but that yet another version of Clara perhaps from the future will be the “new” companion and that like Anna Torv in Fringe we’ll all be marvelling at her versatility. Failing that how about Kate Stewart? She was brilliant here for the precious few lines Moffat gave to her until she was blown out of the plane and literally dropped out of the rest of the story.

Phew, made it to paragraph eight so might as well find one other positive thing to say about the episode before I go and I can’t take credit for this either because it’s SFX Magazine which noticed. The Doctor’s four marriages. Liz 1, Marilyn Monroe and River Song are three. What about the fourth? Well, that would be Scarlette in the Lawrence Miles Eighth Doctor opus The Adventuress Of Henrietta Street, a novel as divisive as this series of Doctor Who's been. Dave Golder gives the potential alternative of the Tenth Doctor’s alternate future with Joan Redfern in The Family Of Blood but really, like his “conceptual space” homage in the Comic Relief spoof, Time/Space, it’s Moffat showing his love for Miles once again. Plus it makes the Eighth Doctor range canonical now too. Just the comics left to do.

Updated: 09/11/2014 Damn:

The Films I've Watched This Year #42



Film  The new Star Wars has a title, The Force Awakens, which has led to the usual idiocy about it being awful (which it isn't) and inferring there'll be "more of that Jedi shit" (as though the original three weren't about a teenager learning to be a man through the medium of the force and becoming a Jedi).  Despite getting the band back together, despite the brilliant new casting, despite the set photos, despite everything feeling right about the way JJ (Babylon 5'll be next) Abrams is going about things, the stench of the prequels still lingers for them sadly.  My hope is the first shot of the very first scene will have an elderly Jar Jar's face grinning broadly saying something "Meeza welcoming you back..." whilst holding out his hand to the audience through the medium of 3D just for this reason, but perhaps that's just me.  But yes, The Force Awakens is ambiguous enough to not reveal much of anything we don't already expect but also feels like it might suggest a narrative journey for someone in the film and more so than The Phantom Menace which is still inherently meaningless.

Hercules
Mulan
Tarzan
Suburban Mayhem
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D
The Pretty One
Tracks

If there's a running theme to this week's films it is female protagonists with only Hercules and Tarzan fulfilling the usual masculine story arc which, now that I'm come to think about it is pretty similar in that it's also essentially Superman.  All three are about young men fostered by parents from a different species becoming heroes, not actualising until they've successfully defended the realm from some dastardly villain.  What's interesting about Mulan, of course, is that apart from the fostering, it has a very similar story but her heroic fight for acceptance also includes having to convince a male dominated society that she too can become a warrior.  I love all three.  Hercules is funny, funny, funny, especially James Woods as Hades.  Tarzan always makes me cry and is at the spectacular apogee of the integration between cell animation and cgi backgrounds.  But Mulan, which I haven't seen since release is the biggest surprise simply because it's a template of how female orientated action films can be done and now I wish there were more of them.

This week Vulture published Jesse David Fox's 27 Great Indie Romantic-Comedies From the Last 10 Years and having seen and enjoyed many of the items on the list already it prodded me to see a few more.  As Fox identifies, Zoe Kazan's appeared in a quadrilogy of brill alt.romcoms and The Pretty One has all the hallmarks, notably a high concept which you can see being done horribly in a mainstream film but presented with great emotional depth in this idiom, in this case a "dowdy" identical twin not correcting anyone when she's mistaken for her more successful and confident sister.  Unlike the other three films, even though there are male co-stars, in this case Jake Johnson and Ron Livingston, the focus remains on her throughout and we see through the world through the prism of her personality.  Even when she's supposed to be the object of desire, the male gaze is nowhere to be seen, which is really refreshing and create an unpredictability in what could be an inherently predictable premise.

Similarly, despite the title, Celeste and Jesse Forever favours the latter, with the mighty Rashida Jones in what's effectively the Bill Murray role of not being able to deal falling in love with a best friend and just the wrong moment.  Co-written by Jones herself (with Will McCormack who c0-stars and she's now writing Toy Story 4 with), like The Pretty One it has the not quite mainstream atmosphere of going with the emotional rather than comic beat whilst still being completely hilarious.  In places the screenplay even seems to be commenting on mainstream romcom cliche.  Elijah Wood plays a gay friend and Ari Graynor is the foul mouthed mate but neither of them fulfills the cliche, for reasons which border too closely to being a spoiler.  If nothing else, it's made me want to revisit NY-LON which is still on 4od bless it, in which Jones plays a character not too dissimilar to this and indeed everything else she's ever made.  Or at least the good things.  A few pointers would be helpful.  I can't imagine I Love You Man is any good.  Or The Big Year.

My film of the week is Tracks.  Having watched most of Mia Wasikowska's back catalogue in the past few weeks, including the utterly rubbish Suburban Mayhem in which she plays a beautician, I think Tracks is her defining moment.  The real life story of Robyn Davidson, who decided to walk the Australian outback in the 70s in order to get away from people, Wasikowska convincingly portrays someone who simply wants to be left alone and has to leave those people behind in order to understand why she really needs them.  Which sounds like a snatch of the voiceover script but is the best description I can come up with.  Adam Driver plays the National Geographic photographer tasked with photographing her and pretty much confirms his position as his generation's Jeff Goldblum.  No desert film trope is ignored, but it's mostly because they're part of the experience she's searching for.  It's a confirmation for people like me that there's nothing pointless in challenging yourself and experiences what, from the outside, look like entirely pointless exercises.

Transmitting Andy Warhol at Tate Liverpool.



Art I hate Andy Warhol. I loathe him all out of proportion. As a deeply held, foundational personality trait, my hatred of Andy Warhol has been an important part of my life almost as important as my inability to eat fish and to call people “honey”. It’s just always been there, the sense that at a certain point art history ended, expiring in the form of a painted representation of a Campbell soup can, a brand of soup that I dislike intensely no less and Warhol’s conviction that “art should be for everyone” leading to a stream of subsequent art which in trying to satisfy everyone ends up impressing no one and which also devalues existing art because of the prevailing attitude that it must be accessible. Oh really, must it?

There’s a frustration to standing in an art space filled with iconic, apparently important pieces of art not feeling anything positive but that’s what happened today at the press view for Tate Liverpool’s Transmitting Andy Warhol, whose first room, "Expanded Painting", contains all the work which crowds will be flocking to see but which makes me seethe. Oh it’s the Brillo boxes. Oh it’s those soup cans. Oh it’s the dayglo Monroe screenprints. Oh it’s the, well, you get the idea. It’s everything I hate about Andy Warhol within a single art space, have loathed across the years, as I say, all out of proportion. I’m fine with it. As Taylor Swift says, “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” and it’s ok sometimes to be one of those.

Except, of course, it’s an irrational, incoherent hatred. Look closely at the earliest of the Monroes in the Marilyn Dyptich from 1962 and you can see that he’s not simply creating identical replicas, brush strokes introducing variations and I like that. His Dance Diagram, a painted reproduction of the foot movements in the Foxtrot just made me want to try it out, which I did, even though it’s ultimately impossible to do without a partner. When creating his Rorschach prints in the 1984 he misunderstood how the original test worked assuming subjects created their own blotches, which led to him creating his own version. That gives him an attractive fallibility.

Which is really the narrative of my approach to this very good exhibition. No matter how much I like to say I hate Andy Warhol, I don’t really. I like the idea of him and I like some of his work and what I probably hate is what’s been done to him in respect to exposure and the effect he had on the art world, plenty of which wasn’t really his fault and was a result instead of the art world’s inability to cope with his subversion. Plus he’s an extremely important marker in how we now approach celebrity and fame, especially at a time when the famous fifteen minutes have become literal, when a figure like Alex from Target bubbles up from nowhere on a Sunday via a Twitter meme only to lose credibility in days when a marketing company falsely takes credit.

So I took Taylor Swift’s other advice, shook it off and really quite enjoyed myself. In the next room is Exploding Plastic Inevitable or EPI, a recreation of a mixed media installation, in which a room is filled with footage from a series of similarly named events Warhol held in Chicago in 1966 featuring The Velvet Underground, projected across every wall amid mirror balls. About twenty-minutes long, it’s like standing inside a dream, as close-ups of Salvador Dali and a Nico are interspersed with performances pieces starring a man in a gimp mask and someone who looks disconcertingly like late era Lennon being hogtied and whipped. Bob Dylan wanders through briefly with his harmonica.

The experience notionally mimics what it’s assumed it must have been like in the Factory and certainly how it appears in some film representations (notably Men in Black 3 of all things) even though you know it was probably boring as sin with all the high and drunk celebrities talking rubbish while having their picture taken. Ironically, EPI will probably work best when the room’s filled with people, perhaps even a college group, folks from the same generation as would have attended the original happenings. Even with the professional press pack, the reflective light of the mirror balls flashing against their faces, pixels from the projectors making them look like products of Andy Warhol’s mind, the imagery was utterly transcendental.

And so I continued and in each successive room found my resolve broken. “Dispersal” is about Warhol in the wider world, through his commercial design products for magazines and for book and album covers, Chigall-like line drawings which show a draftsman with real flair and in the case of his fashion spreads accuracy. His classical and jazz images, providing in a still image what promotional videos still can’t all these years later, are so alluring and so perfectly capturing that moment in time, that I was jotting down titles for future reference (this is what Spotify was designed for, Taylor!). Not The Velvet Undergound and Nico with their banana, of course. I already own a copy of that.

I’m even charitable towards the concept of his novel, a, now, even though in many ways its appalling. A response to Joyce’s Ulysses (art is for everyone remember), it features a transcript of everything Factory stalwart, the actor Ondine says over a twenty-four hour period, poorly transcribed by non-professionals so as to render it entirely unreadable. Sigh. Except, having produced the worst book of all time, he stood behind it, putting poor reviews on the posters and generally taking advantage of his own celebrity to sell a few books, effectively taking the piss out of the kinds publishers for whom the ghost-written celebrity biography is their foundation and the kinds of people who buy them. You have to love that.

The final room is "Transmission" which sees Warhol wrestling with the artistic possibilities of new media, of putting his beliefs into practice. Piles of cathode ray tube televisions presenting recordings of Andy Warhol’s TV, his chatshow and magazine programme which ran in the early eighties. Although there are headphones, most visitors will probably simply glance at the given screens as, people who may or may not be a celebrity are interviewed about their lives. While I was there someone called Jim Fourett from something called Dancetaria was holding forth from a couch about something. Was anything he had to say any more useful or interesting than any of the other anonymous faces which cropped up on the other screens?

The pieces I spent the most time with are a collection of covers from Interview Magazine, which Warhol founded in 1969, this selection spanning from 1979 to the mid-Eighties. By then Warhol had withdrawn from the publication, it seems, only really being an ambassador but this display underscores, as so much of his work does the fleeting nature of celebrity, how some faces Jack Nicholson would go on to become iconic whilst others like Maxwell Caulfield slowly fade. Half of the covers on show don’t have the name of the cover star emblazoned on them and our inability to name them ourselves is very powerful. I spent a good five minutes with someone trying to identify one face. We think its Carole King. Perhaps.  Bette Midler?

His film work is largely represented by Empire, the legendary eight hour shot of the Empire State Building, shot in 24 frames, projected in 16. A gallery space is presumably not the best place for this though it’s only rarely been presented in the style of a typical “movie” (the wikipedia has a handy screening history). Within this setting and with the pressures of seeing it within the context of an exhibition, it’s difficult to see the subtle changes in image, as the accompanying text suggests, the drama. Inevitably there is an modern fan-produced sequel available on YouTube, Empire II: The Empire Strikes Back, which is more of the same, with the subtle addition of daylight, of only three hours. See it here.

All of which should illustrate that the problem with deeply held hatreds is that they’re inherently inconsistent. I will eat fish if they’re covered in a batter. I don’t hate Andy Warhol as much as I thought I did. I still hate his screen prints, but as this exhibition demonstrates, his work was so multi-faceted, because he applied himself to so many different media, because he was so clearly talented, it’s impossible to hate everything. It’s also impossible to hate the man too because all he really did was what we should all do which is take advantage of the opportunities presented to him, forever with his fingers crossed behind his back that he wouldn’t get found out, knowing better than anyone just how fleeting celebrity can be.