Sunday, December 31, 2006


Still got a cough. Blurgh. Better, but not well. I'm hoping 2007 will be healthier.

See ya'll soon on the other side of the New Year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Passing on Penguins

From the lovely Cloud who put up with me being grumpy till Doctor Who cheered me up comes this hilarious collection of penguin references.

You'll be pleased to know...

... the hair is fine, short and red (not streaky, tufty and falling out)

... the cold and cough are passing (albeit that I still choked like a seal through most of our attempts to talk to the rellies in New Zealand yesterday)

... goodies appeared from all corners (including a very fetching long-coat Doctor Who figure...)

... and best of all the TV worked fine after three days of frustratingly gained a high-pitched 'wwwwwwwwhhhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' sound after around 40 mins to an hour of being fine. Yesterday my lovely lovely tv that I haven't at all criticised was switched on for Doctor Who and played perfectly all evening. Happy. Just in case it was poorly we did drag out the old portable to the dining room, ready for me to run in at the first sound of 'wwwwwwwwwwhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeee' but that proved unnecessary. Much happy. And whatever anyone says about the Xmas special this year, I loved it. Donna was a pain (she was meant to be and she warmed appropriately); the Doctor was suitably melancholic whenever his thoughts crossed to Rose (broken voice and almost tears); and the villain was spectacular (if a little unscary - and I speak as someone terrified of those creatures. I think I may have been more scared if an actual invasion of them had started to appear before they were disposed of.... you'll have spotted I'm keeping this as spoiler-free as possible for those viewing it later).

Anyway, all good stuff. I'll recuperate accordingly and be back on form for the New Year. I hope. Seasons Greetings to you all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Atchoo! Life gets *better* (deep irony)


On top of the cold and cough I now find my TV has eveloped a nasty high pitched 'wwwweeeee' sound that comes on and hangs around for about an hour before intermittently coming back. Fabulous for watching Doctor Who (not).

Then part way through having already started to throw red hairdye at my newly cropped hair, Neil hears the faint and distant sound of the most useless tannoy in all the world saying that the water is being turned off (for two hours, supposedly). Cue frantic filling of pans and kettles and bottles and the bath to provide enough water for tea and rinsing my hair (I did fearfully consider that I may end up bald if I couldn't rinse out the hair dye...)

So now I'm borrowing Cloudy Neil's 'puter, enjoying all the e-cards sent to us and the kind wishes for my recovery (atchoo!) and hoping I don't end up looking like some mad woman with tufts of red hair. ATCHOO!

Wish me luck to at least be able to see Who tomorrow minus whistling 'wheeeee' sounds...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sniffles and Christmas

Blurgh: sniffling like fury with cold. Mucked up the Christmas cards (mis-sent some, failed to send others, minimised generally anyway). Belated with pressies. Bathroom not able to be finished (now due New Year). Just want to curl up and snuffle.

At least no work till 4 Jan 2007...

Thursday, December 21, 2006


"I did the same kind of painstaking internet research that led me to buy the giant paperweight masquerading as my printer."

So said Marie.

Reminds me of my much loved postcard (and oft commented on by students) by the brilliant Jacky Fleming (top left image).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


OOOOOH!!!!!!! Clare nominated me for an Insignificant Award!

The Insignificant Awards is the world's most unheard of blog competition. It's a place for the undiscovered to be discovered.

As the annual weblog popularity competitions begin once more, we at The Insignificant Headquarters wish to praise, encourage and salute the unknown blogs that sit in the unrewarded wilderness. Those blogs that will never be voted for by the masses. Those bloggers who will never be nominated for anything (but should be).

I spotted this from lovely EineKleineRob who also got a nod from Clare (blog-mommy!) so in reciprocation for that concept I have nominated Anna from "Theatre is Life..." not because I couldn't think of gazzillions of deserving blogs (loads of you were in my thoughts) but because I wanted to use this post to encourage each of you to add to the nominations list which closes 10 January 2007. A shortlist will be drawn up and announced 17 January and voting will run until Monday 12 March when ONE winner will be announced.

Let's make it someone brilliant!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Thank you Media Guardian

... for making my day.

Always nice to have an unexpected surprise, so imagine my glee when I found an article about ITV's new drama plans featuring significant discussion of Primeval AND illustrated by a pretty fantastic picture of the lovely Douglas Henshall. Ah, sigh: happy now.

You can view the Media Guardian article on ITV drama here (but only with registration).

But I really wanted to give you the picture...

Cultural Confessions

Another great Marie post, this time drawing on the Cultural Confessions of Scott Pack. She 'fesses up to five gaps in her cultural knowledge. I can empathise with several of those listed by people, even as there are some I am staggered at them not having liked/watched/read.

1) I've still not watched 'City of God': this is despite (shamefully) having borrowed it from lovely George over a year ago. I do want to correct this particular failing.

2) I've never read a Thomas Hardy novel from beginning to end. Actually that exaggerates things: I've scarcely read more than a few pages, even of Tess (though I like the story and extracted passages I have encountered over the years). For a long time we had several (even multiple) editions on the shelves of MANY Hardy novels. Who were we fooling? They're really REALLY depressing.

3) The Shawshank Redemption: I don't even WANT to see it.

4) I don't get Mitchell and Webb: I feel I'm supposed to, but I don't. Sorry.

5) This one will get me serious bother. I'm going to quietly add that I've never seen The Mighty Boosh. (Ducks for serious cover from incoming fire: Matt, Anna, Fuzzboy - I know you're gonna be top of the list hitting me hard for admitting that!)

I could easily have come up with a longer list, especially films I just don't get / haven't seen or seen all of (Raging Bull, 2001, Pretty Woman). It's probably not very controversial to admit I have never read Proust. Jeez, there's just so MUCH of it! Despite every bloody highbrow paper almost CONSTANTLY banging on about how great it is, I could barely cope with reading Henry James' wafflingly long prose (Daisy Miller is about as far as I have ever got - and that's short) so Proust is just off the chart boring to me. I've never read Tolkien's LOTR for the same reason. I always seem to like a Bowie track when I hear it but despite virtually every artiste since then admiring him, I can't quite bring myself to worship at the feet of mister Jones the way everyone else does. And most female opera singers grate on my nerves.

All that mockery of ISBN references on Torchwood recently...?

Is it true 10 digit ISBNs are being replaced by a 13 digit number? According to my subscription newsletter from Shaker Publishing it is:

The established ISBN - in conjunction with the development of electronic publications - was on the verge of going beyond the scope of the ten-digit ISBN system as an identification feature for publications and their world-wide distribution (with 170 countries now affiliated to the ISBN system). The international ISBN agency thus decided to revise the standard using the EAN/barcode version and hence extend capacities with the 13-digit code.

Up to now the ISBN has consisted of four elements: the group identifier, publisher identifier, title identifier and check digit. For example, in the ISBN 3-8322-4968-0, 3 stands for German-speaking areas (the group number can identify language areas as well as countries or geographic regions and relates to the location of the publisher). 8322 identifies the publishing house and 4968 a certain publication or edition from this publisher. The 0 is the check digit that is determined according to a fixed arithmetic process and permits the detection of typing errors in an ISBN.

With the new ISBN-13 the number is now preceded by the prefix 978. This prefix is set aside for published products within the EAN (European/International Article Number) and become a firm part of the ISBN. This means that the check digit also changes since it is calculated from all of the preceding numbers. For example, the ISBN 3-8322-4968-0 becomes the ISBN 978-3-8322-4968-7. The X symbol is no longer used as a check code. EAN and ISBN are now identical in all positions.

Apart from the 978, EAN International had already assigned publishers the number 979, thus doubling the range of possible numbers. In the majority of countries the prefix 979 will not be issued until all ISBN areas with the prefix 978 have been used up.

Titles published this year usually bear both the valid ISBN-10 as well as the future ISBN-13 in the transitional phase. Only the ISBN-13 will be used as of 1 January 2007. This applies for all new publications and the so-called backlist. Although books that have already been printed can still be sold with the ISBN-10 information; the titles will be identified by their newly converted ISBN-13 in all catalogues and automatic storage systems. This will primarily effect the catalogues and ordering systems of the publishers, suppliers and retailers as well as the bibliographic databases in libraries. The old ISBN will be replaced by the new ISBN-13 on and in reprints (including unchanged ones) of titles that have already been published.
How did I not know this???

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Predictions and choices for James Bond theme songs

Marie has a great selection of suggestions for the artists who would produce the best and worst James Bond theme songs.

My nightmare selection would be Coldplay - or any of the other soundalike bands of that genre.

I can't beat the choices of Pulp, The Divine Comedy or The Flaming Lips, but I could add Ladytron who I think have enough girly electronica savvy to offer a suitably anthemic track to the catalogue.


We saw some of the 'highlights' (term used loosely) of the cricket last night. Anyone else out there astonished by the Dumbo qualities of Adam Gilchrist's ears? They're just enormous! Surely someone else in the world has got very tiny ears to equal the balance, but who?

Additional note: if they were more pointy, surely Gilchrist's ears would belong in LOTR?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Postman Pat and Torchwood

Not yet read Charlie Brooker's Screen Burn in the Guardian today? Put down your tea before reading his comment on Torchwood.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Where did Slayage go????

Okay, I know I haven't had chance to go there in a while, but where the F did the Buffy Studies journal 'Slayage' go? The site has been swallowed by a flipping search engine / spam thang.

David Lavery, Rhonda V Wilcox, or anyone else on the technical team for Slayage: HELP!!!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Monty! Monty! Monty!

Cloud and others are vindicated. Monty P gets 5-92.

Now all we need is some better aggression on the batting.... Cook and Bell: not a good response.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rewinding: in praise of compilations (especially on tape?)

Cloud knows when I haven't read something, because usually certain subjects will always get me raving and if I read them first I'll immediately get him to read the inspiring article.

So when he presented me with Laura Barton's article from the Guardian Film and Music supplement published last Friday, I knew from first glance I hadn't read it and that if I had I would have still been ranting about it. So belatedly I will now have a rant. You know this is a topic I love.

Anyway, the topic of Barton's piece was the music compilation: specifically the differences between tapes (the beloved C90 cassette) and CDs (those brittle bits of... what are they made of again?)

Barton identifies two particular types of compilation: firstly, there is the introduction. This sets the scene for a new friend by passing on what you think of as tracks that identify the compilation as by you. Barton picks out "Heroin by the Velvet Undergound, Them's Gloria, Pixies' Hey and Frankie and the Classicals' What Shall I Do?" I'd probably go with something by Pulp (I'm especially fond of 'Seconds' from the Babies EP), something by Ballboy (possibly the exquisite duet version of 'I Lost You but I Found Country Music' with Laura Cantrell), a quirky cover version (I'm currently with Paul Morley on the beauty and majesty of Susanna and the Magical Orchestra's version of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart') and classic tracks by The Clash, The Beatles 'To Know Her is to Love Her (from the BBC sessions) and a good bit of jangly 80s pop (say ABC, The Smiths). I've also regularly passed on 'Tarmac' by Hazeldine from the cracking Uncut compilation 'Sounds of the New West', mostly for the classic line at the end of the first verse (I generally avoid swearing here, so let's just say you blink at the invocation of Batman...)

Then there is, as Barton notes, the compilations that are "crafted for your musical co-conspirators, when the compilation itself becomes part of your conversation - a Masonic handshake, if you will." These definitely describe the conversation we have with George, but I was intrigued by what Barton goes on to say:
A friend and I have a CD compilation conversation that has been going on for three years. But he said to me recently that even a decade ago he could not have made me such compilations because his wife would have divorced him, and quite rightly so - for back then they would have been cassettes, and they're different things altogether.
I have a certain sympathy with this idea of intimacy being part of the compilation tape, not least because, as she goes on to say, the physical act of making a cassette is entirely different to that of a CD: "making a compilation tape was akin to writing a poem...They took all Sunday afternoon, crouched beside your tape player with pins and needles in your feet, your finger hovering above the pause button ..." She's right about that physicality element as I fondly recall - before my tape player died along with the rest of the antiquated stereo system I had - the hours and hours I would spend in front of the tape recorder selecting tracks from both CD and tape to transfer to a new compilation. Cloud's "Derrida's Deconstruction" wasn't made for me (it was for his own pleasure) but every join was lovingly crafted and selected, the pausing not always (quite) right but sometimes you would end up almost breaking the tape as you paused, rewound, reset and restarted playing a track to get the join 'just so'.

Barton also wisely comments on the construction of the cassette: "At night you would lie awake puzzling over its structure: What song should you put on first? What should come last? The first of course has to be arresting. The last has to be the one you want to linger in their thoughts." But what she doesn't explicitly comment on is the fact that the cassette allowed you not one beginning but two, not one ending but two; moreover, the very first track of side one had a greater significance than that for side two, and the final track of side one had a lesser significance than that for side two.

Inevitably, by circumstance of my tape machine dying and not being replaced (though I am tempted - oh so tempted - to get one from Richer Sounds while such technology still exisits) I have shifted to CD making. She's right that it lacks the labour intensive practices of making a tape, especially when you work out that you need to play each track through in real time, plus the time it takes to cue up the next and start recording (though frankly I had that off pat by the time I made my last compilation tape: usually only just over 100 mins to make a C90, which isn't bad all things considered.

But where I part company with Barton's argument is on the issue of CDs inherently lacking thought: compilations may now indeed appear to be "made in minutes" but I would deny that "dragging and clicking and burning" means that "beautiful things go unsaid." In most instances, the time I spend preparing the CD is no less than I would have invested in making the tape: it is a careful process of playing selected tracks, playing them next to each other, mentally singing or humming the opening or closing bars to see how they sound as an overall narrative flow. What is made easier by the CD is the playing of the tracks (where I have them on the computer: as yet only a proportion of our music collection - ever expanded by Rough Trade, 1-Up and Selectadisc - is on either of our computers).

Although I no longer have to carefully stack up the CDs and tapes, shuffling their order before I even start selecting tracks, I still do that mentally (and before I got my own computer capable of making CDs I had to carry over a bag of CDs to H's to make those early George collections). Now - providing I don't need to upload (or frustratingly I realise I only have it on tape) - I can easily pop tracks into a provisional playlist. But I still spend hours pouring over the selection and ordering process, carefully weighing the choice of tracks depending on the person and the purpose of the collection. Equally, care is taken over the production values of the sleeve: selecting and framing images, borders, and sometimes even the choice of compilation title.

I still residually miss the compilation tape with its perfectly framed 45 mins per side, echoing the approximate length of a pop album. But technology and its frailty has guided me to the CD and I am learning to love it. I sometimes even wonder if, given the pace at which I was eventually able to construct a tape, whether I'm not now probably even slower making a CD.

Does the CD talk back to me the way a tape could? I would argue 'yes', not least because I remain committed to the process of the compilation, regardless of its format. There is still a romance to it for me, a measured sifting and thinking about the recipient's taste, my taste, and how I may even sneak in some material they would never have thought of listening to but which may open up new musical avenues to them. I doubt I'm always successful, but that was the chance one took on making any compilation - whether tape or CD. Whether rewinding, or reselecting a track or sequence of tracks, there is nothing like the home made collection. And for me they will never lose their romance.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blogmeet pictures

A little belated people, but hopefully these photographs of the bloggers meeting held Dec 9 2006 in London will amuse. Especially the excellent shot of me (deliberately) pulling a face. You can compare and contrast to the shots at Mars Hill and Wongablog.

Paul Burgin: Photo by Rullsenberg

Rullsenberg pulls a face

Deep in conversation at the December 06 London blogmeet

Noshing and chatting at the December 06 London blogmeet

Bloggers in conversation: December 06 London

Monday, December 11, 2006

12 cities

Thanks to Paul B for this thought of a meme. My favourite twelve cities would be:

New York: stunning, uncanny, breath-takingly awesome - a city oft visited in the movies and TV and thankfully on a handful of occasions in 'reality' (though it is such unreal place, you can confuse the two).

London: easier to get to, and cheaper (free museums!), ergo a possible over-taker of NYC. Not quite the same pizzazz but a buzzy kind of place. Had a great weekend there so feeling more pro London right now!

Birmingham: I do have some residual disappointments - they lost two of the remaining pieces of inner city greenary when they redeveloped the area in front of the Rep and Symphony Hall, and where they put the Floozy in the Jacuzzi. They also demolished the Triangle cinema at Aston Uni. But I still love what has happened to Brum over recent years. A triumph of optimism and will.

Manchester: it was my in-transit home for quite some time whilst studying at Leeds and still living in the West Midlands (funnily I felt more at home in Manc than I ever did in Leeds itself). Always interesting, if not always in a good way. We had a great blogmeet there earlier this year which is the chief reason it makes the cut.

Amsterdam: my favourite European city of those visited. Relaxed. Fun. Full of culture. And the houses have big windows so you can see inside to all the big bookshelves. Heavenly!

Glasgow: it rained when we were there (quel surprise) but I say 'Charles Rennie Mackintosh'. 'nuf said...

Edinburgh: Hills! Views! A Castle! Fascinating to visit even though it was during the festival ;)

Aberdeen: this really makes the cut because of the lovely George, but we have had such great weather up there and have SOOO enjoyed the beach that I had to include it!

Venice: It smells. It's full of tourists. It's over-priced. And yet... It is beautiful and full of obscured delights down hidden passages. Plus, you know, Peggy Guggenheim lived there...

Paris: Spectacular but even though I love Before Sunrise/Sunset, I can't say I warm to the place overall. Nevertheless, a truly fabulous city to see and one not to be missed. Besides, Jarvis lives there...

Oxford/Cambridge: sorry but I can't separate the two as they (and their bookshops) are inextricably entwined in my minds eye!

Berlin: the only city on my list I haven't been to. I did want to try and keep this list to places I have actually been - that's not to say other places aren't well loved or haven't offered me some great experiences. And given those I haven't visited this is clearly a very small list. But I have to include Berlin as it is such a central place in German history. One day I will check out my German origins properly and actually visit the country!

So there you have it. 12 cities. What are yours?

Blogmeet(s) recaps

Quick recap: had a great time in London this weekend. Went to see the 1930s exhibition at The Photographers Gallery; went to the BM for a gander at the Parthenon marbles etc; visited the NPG to see the Portrait Photography exhibition. Had breakfast at Brunos, great snacks with the blogmeet, and a fab meal at Cafe Pasta on Monmouth Street (recognised by the main man there since we went back in the summer...). Stayed at a decent hotel (Thistle Barbican). Walked lots.

And of course had huge fun meeting Matt_c and Baby W (formerly of here, now mostly writing for Fisking Central and preparing other projects with Matt_c). This was added to as a fun day by moving on from the Chandos to St Stephen's Tavern and the blogmeet itself. Some hilarious pics can be found here at Mars Hill where Paul B (who kindly organised the event) has written a fun review.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Blogmeet day!

We were up at 4.30am today (actually we woke earlier than we needed to - typical) to get a taxi at 5.30 and a train at 6.25 to London. So here we are in the Easy cafe reminding ourselves where Crockatt and Powell Bookshop is located before we go to Brunos for breakfast.

Then its off to meet Matt c at the Chandos and then Westminster to meet up with the rest of the blog crew at St Stephen's Tavern.

See ya later - or possibly Monday depending on web access tomorrow.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Marie's computer

Marie now has an irretrievably entangled image of her and David T dominating her computer.

She felt this would be problematic: "David Tennant is *so* never allowed to check his e-mail from my study."

However, as commentor prm pointed out: "Hmm. If DT is in a position to check his email from your study I rather think you'll be past caring about him seeing that..."

Too true!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The End of Arab Strap

Just been listening to their cover of a Spaceman 3 song when I stumbled across this finale tribute to Arab Strap. Jeez, I remember the first time I heard 'The First Big Weekend' and fell for their approach completely. Thanks again John Peel.

Film Review: Pan's Labyrinth


Elsewhere some people have been less than impressed with this, but we found it to be such a visual and intelligent feast of cinema that we fell for it completely. Of course it may help that we have a certain sympathy for the views of Mr Kermode (who I know isn't everyone's taste). But more importantly we had also been tipped off on how good it was by some friends whose opinions we value (N&S that means you!).

So for those who haven't yet indulged, what should you expect?

Well it is bleak: there isn't a lot of laughter in the film and there is plenty of the kind of gruesome violence that fairy tales and myths historically have indulged in. Don't forget the woman who danced herself to death in a pair of shoes that shredded her feet to a bloody pulp (something I always re-imagine when reading the Calliope story by Neil Gaiman).

It also needs to be said that the trailer is somewhat misleading: it is much more than a fantasy film as a large proportion of the narrative concerns the life of a young girl in 1944 under Fascist rule. It is violent, political, historical and (can I say it again?) violent. Disturbingly so. The violence is casual, brutal and utterly appropriate. But there is a violence to the fantasy sequences as well as they highlight that trait mentioned above about fairy tales. Monsters are scary. Really scary. And the ones here are amongst some of the most scary I have seen on screen in a while.

I'd also say take a hankie. It gets weepie (but not, I would say, in a sentimentally gushy way). You may also need to be aware that you may feel the urge to cheer at what happens to some characters, so unrelently evil is the way they are portrayed. But this should not suggest that this is a weak and simplistic representation, but rather it is extreme.

The acting was very good, and the special effects make you realise just how overblown and poor so many effects-driven films can be. This, in contrast, is convincing and beautiful to watch, and will probably remain so for far longer.

Rufus will be back

Again, I know he's an acquired taste, but we're rather fond of el Rufus W so were chuffed to read of this news over at Anna's place.

Torchwood revisited

You know what, Medium Rob was pretty on the money about the most recent episode of Torchwood: it wasn't all bad.

Good points:
  • the title "They Keep Killing Suzie" - bleak and suggestive
  • the script wasn't entirely bollocks and had a decent level of developing through the episode
  • Indira Varma was fantastic (I would think that as I have fond memories of her from this)
  • the resurrection glove effects were pretty cool

  • Bad points:
  • that whole stop-watch thing at the end. I refer you to MediumRob's dirty mind...
  • badly handled humour about naming - it didn't work
  • "... there's only a few minutes..." said in darkness: next scene takes place in broad daylight. Clearly Wales has a different relationship to the whole sun/moon thing than the rest of the world. Was there an eclipse they didn't mention?
  • this Torchwood secrecy thing must be one of the biggest jokes of the series. Are all the police gonna get retcon pills? (and btw in discussing the Whedonverse 'retcon' was when they fitted in backstories that had previously not been mentioned or even directly contradicted previous information: not sure how well that reflects the action of the amnesia pills)

  • Of course the Behind the Sofa team have screamed loudly about how bad the whole series has been and I do love their humour enough to appreciate their points (could this really be the end of the Tachyon TV podcasts according their latest release?). But I have tried to remain sympathetic to Torchwood despite it being way off mark at times with both its intentions and actions.

    Have you stuck with it?

    Dalek boy hates students

    Priceless story. Now, just picture what he looks like - perhaps filling the dalek space rather well?

    Hat tip to Cloud.

    108 Grammy categories = a lot of crap

    Look, with that many categories in the Grammy awards you would think there would be a decent proportion or at least possibility of good stuff.

    I'm unsurprisingly - given my taste - not that impressed, but tell me how many of those entries are YOU impressed with?

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    On that note: "Happy birthday to Medium Rob"

    Not sure where he has legged it to, but it seems he's left us to our own devices for the week whilst he celebrates a birthday! Happy Birthday Medium Rob!

    Girl, you get the real thing and you STILL do this?

    In fact, as she whiles away months of filming in Nova Scotia on Outlander, she will keep a Doctor Who figurine with her for company.

    "I make no apology," she giggles. "I'm pretty excited about the fact that my boyfriend has an action doll. How cool is that? Now, all I'm waiting for is for the Doctor Who people to make a Madame de Pompadour doll so I can do a bit of Barbie and Ken action with them ... You know what I'm talking about."
    Thanks MediumRob for alerting me to that gem. At least it suggests she's got something in common with the rest of us: we also have to make do with the action figure...

    Marie and her photograph

    Check out this and other recent Marie postings at Struggling Author. I think she looks great and can't wait to see her poster, Carrie style (Sex and the City), on all the poster sites in London and beyond!

    Wednesday already and losing track of the world

    ARRGH: work is just bonkers at present. I'm knee deep in reports and students issues are incoming so fast I can barely keep track of them.

    The blog meet is this weekend and we have to be up at an INSANE hour to get to London with the prospect of breakfast at Brunos being the main draw to encourage me to survive the journey.

    Still, we're looking forward to it and after that there is only one week of term left. Okay, I don't break up till the week after but at least I will get most of that week to myself to finish reports before Xmas...

    Wish me luck and if anyone has urgent or spectacular news, email me because even bloglines is struggling to keep me fully posted (it only works if you get chance to review things there!).

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Unexpected pleasures

    Feeling somewhat under the weather last night, we watched The School of Rock: an irrepresible bit of nonsense. Most amusing. We then, out of idleness as much as anything else, ended up watching Zoolander.

    Can I admit that neither of us would have said in advance we fancied watching that, but it was hilariously entertaining? Anyone else out there surprised by how much they enjoyed it?

    TV for grown-ups

    Oh yes please. I'm with Gert.

    Sunday, December 03, 2006

    Guillermo del Toro

    I'm still not able to fully focus, but following our viewing yesterday of the astonishing Pan's Labyrinth (which I cannot recommend highly enough), I thought I would check out the availability of his first film, the incredible Chronos.

    It's not available!

    At least not in the UK. The nearest you get is a seller on Amazon selling for £29.99 and saying that's a LOW PRICE!


    In the wake of PL, can someone rectify that?

    Cookie time: Choc chips as supplied by Joe

    Lovely Joe sent me some VERY yummy choc chips. Being a bit the worse for wear today (it ain't at all stress-related to my impending day at work tomorrow: no siree...), I probably haven't done them justice with the way these turned out as bickies, but they are mighty fine yumptious!

    Photoby Rullsenberg: yummy made with Joe's lovely choc chips!

    The hand belongs to Cloud and holds up a current local events calendar just to prove when these were made!

    Update: got a cold; saw Pan's Labyrinth; made cookie biscuits; not updated blog

    Yep, that about sums me up.

    Will post photos of bickies and a review of the film (which was fab).

    In meantime ATCHOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Friday, December 01, 2006

    Music Review: Bardo Pond at The Maze, Nottingham

    The lovely George contacted me last week to say that psychedelic Post-Rock maestros Bardo Pond were playing in Nottingham at The Maze. We duly went to get tickets last weekend: a fabulously cheap £5 (surely some mistake?!).
    Now, a little history of The Maze. It's basically a back room of the Forest Tavern on Mansfield Road in Nottingham and has had something of a checkered history of closures and refurbishments. Currently, it is high on the list of favoured venues amongst those working on LeftLion, the free and wonderful thinking-person's guide to cultural life in Nottingham.

    You could reasonably guess that this would be a small venue, pretty intimate. And although I guess there are smaller places you can play, given the established name that Bardo Pond have in their field I was pretty surprised by just HOW small the venue was. Imagine the scale of The Social (for those of you who know Nottingham: for those who don't it is "smaller than a volleyball court" - to quote Cloud). Now imagine a stage half the size of that in the Social as a round-edge stage from one corner of the room ("two kingsize beds" said Cloud). That was the size of the space for the gig. Interestingly, both Bardo Pond and the second support act placed some band members off-stage, so small was the space!

    Anyway, to the gig itself.

    First support act were You Judas, a band from Derby. They were... okay. Not ground-breaking, a bit post-rock cliche by numbers, but enjoyable enough. They had some passion, but didn't come across as really tight. Maybe I was just too psyched for Bardo Pond...

    Second support act were Souvaris who were on another level entirely. Perhaps it was the addition of the keyboards/organ sound but they just had so much more well-placed energy. Given the size of the stage it was astonishing to watch how the guitarists still managed to thrash around so well without actually knocking each other out. The vocals were well delivered and the sound spectacularly layered and coherent depite the rising noise levels. The keyboards bust at one point, and one guitarist had to switch to a second guitar: it just didn't diminish them at all. As an indication of how good they were, Cloud sent me to buy their CD before their first track had finished. Very good indeed. They also got a very good reception from the audience, almost to the point where (sadly) some people decided not to stay on for Bardo Pond. Fools. As good as Souvaris were, Bardo Pond raised the bar again.

    We have a bit of Bardo Pond stuff, initially some stuff heard from the George, so it was nice to get the chance to buy some more of their work. We picked up Selections: Volumes I-IV, a double CD, and Ticket Crystals, their new CD. Selections comprises a selection from the band's self-releases from their website (also sold at gigs) so is pretty obscure stuff. Also nice was buying the CDs from the band's Clint Takeda, along with a snazzy and stylish poster which Cloud is getting framed for his office (that's the space which is currently the desk dumping ground, formerly known as George's room...)

    So what do Bardo Pond sound like? Well, going to this website as well as the one listed above will have given you a clue. Wikipedia describes them as likened to "Pink Floyd, Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine amongst others" (though that seems off beam based on my limited knowledge of the Floyd - fill me in guys). Flautist and vocalist, Isobel Sollenberger is utterly captivating and astonishing to watch as her hair comes down and her music soars. She fought a little with the sound system last night - and a rather inattentive sound and lighting booth guy who forgot to put the lights down to convey to the audience that the 'soundchecking' had shifted into the actual gig itself - but the band seemed enormously touched by the enthusiastic attention of the crowd. They were breathtaking to watch and hear as the layers of sound piled higher and higher, criss-crossing between melody and noise.

    We came out at 11.30pm after just under 3 hours of bands: still early compared to north of the border, but a great 'late' night. Am loving listening to Ticket Cystals as I type this...

    Thursday, November 30, 2006

    eMusic finds

    What I quite like about eMusic are the serendipitous finds that you can
    come across that just make you go all wibble.

    For example, what is not to love about An Pierle's cover of Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?" which as eMusic describes it "sees the song deconstructed into a Tori Amos-meets-Bjork piano-and-voice stunner". Too blooming right.

    There's more of her stuff on snippet sample via eMusic and I rather fancy getting some more of her stylings. The current website is here and they also have a Myspace site which allows you to hear some full tracks by her and her band White Velvet. Pity that so far they only seem to play mainland Europe; someone entrepreneurial should get them a gig here!

    NOTE: tried to post this yesterday but Blogger had a wibble!

    Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    Musical joys

    Just been listening to the wonderful Momus collection of his Creation Recordings, "Forbidden Timemachine". I had thought it had been deleted as everywhere I tried earlier in the year had blank expressions and information indicating it had gone the way of back catalogue 'not-being-re-pressed'. So imagine my delight when I spotted it and now have got it in my sticky hands. "A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17-24)" is worth the price of entry alone.

    Then again he is a boy from Paisley...


    That issue is almost becoming spooky...

    Sunday, November 26, 2006

    Harley Gallery and Nicola Dennett

    Hee. I love it when you can do nice things. Today was nice things: we went here because Cloud had seen an artist's work on sale in Nottingham on Friday and hadn't had cash to hand to buy more than a postcard.

    So having driven to the spectacular Harley Gallery venue near Worksop (yes, really, Worksop!), we managed to purchase a couple of nice prints from Nicki Dennett. You can see her work here. She really is lovely and her work is delicate and beautiful. We're really looking forward to getting the work up on our walls... though we know we will have to do some work first to sort the images we currently have and hang then better...

    Still, something to look forward to!

    Thursday, November 23, 2006

    Fenimore Cooper

    If anyone can take him seriously after reading Mark Twain's essay, let me know. Cloud has a good piece on Mohicans, Mohegans and Cooper/Twain here.

    Marie reviews the Bond film and Brian Jonestown Massacre with great panache

    Jeez, to write as Marie does here and here. Checking bloglines after a few days break always reminds me of how good she is.

    "Its political incorrectness gone mad!"

    HolyHoses Rob gets that quote in via the responses to this scary post over at Struggling Author.

    Quite, quite scary. Like Clare said, "I wouldn't like that".

    Wednesday, November 22, 2006

    Disproportionate acts

    How can a 2am raid be appropriate? (And for the record as the comments discussion makes clear, the raid was conducted ONLY on the grounds of 'overstaying'. Yes, because clearly working as a nurse doesn't make it a valued contribution to society...)

    URGH. I hate this country's pandering to anti-immigration and anti-'workers from abroad'.

    Darren's redesigned site...

    ... and the inevitable Jarvis mention.

    Courtesy of Will Rubbish, Darren has got a spiffy new site design. It's very clear and cool.

    And he posts the sing-a-long video for Jarvis's classic contribution to political discourse, "Running the World".


    Sorry folks

    Been off work. Not been up to blogging. Nothing major, just back/shoulder pain but bad enough to have me off work.

    I'll try and resume business as usual soon.

    In the meantime let's hope no one steals my URL as they did to Emma. You can now find her here, where Chrissie in particular will be chuffed to find another Todd Rundgren fan.

    Sunday, November 19, 2006

    Paying to go the wrong way

    M6 Toll Road. Getting multimap is not enough. It helps to know whether you are going North or South. Because even though we were overall heading south, we actually needed the Toll Road Northbound. So we ended up PAYING to go in the wrong direction.

    How typical is that of us?

    And now was just like then...

    My sides hurt from laughing. Not only was it just lovely to see my friend and her family but we laughed like drains so much it hurt my ribs and sides.

    She'd repressed how bad Neil's jokes are though (can't blame her for that).

    Anyway, a good time and a good weekend.

    After all the driving, Mr Cloud is taking a day off work. Thankfully he's agreed to rescue me from the office promptly tomorrow.

    Saturday, November 18, 2006

    The past is then and now is here

    I'll hopefully be back online tomorrow; today I'm off to meet an old friend I haven't seen for several years. I can't believe how bad I have been at keeping touch.

    It feels odd because she met her partner through me - he totally saved my sanity when I had a bad day at Uni once - and they are so totally suited it seemed to be fate that they met. They probably would have done anyway even if I hadn't been there.

    See ya tomorrow.


    Hee. Just watched Jarvo on Newsnight Review (thanks for the tip Chrissie!). Especially nice to see Candida on keyboards...

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    JJ and Marie - a great exchange of comments

    Following Marie's definition of an orgasm as "a miniature eclair-like cake" (something she reconsidered to be the definition for profiterole), JJ leapt in to add this:
    Chambers dictionary defines an eclair as "a cake, long in shape but short in duration". So depending on circumstances you might be on to something.
    Priceless, just priceless. That sort of remark should not be lost to the comments box.

    Last year's dilemma again

    Arse. I really don't dig 'Children in Need' so how do I again get over my urge to throttle Wogan and the overall 'itsforcharidy' excuse for doing dumb things in order to see the between events appeals by the Doctor and his new companion? (Last year's mini-ep was kindly taped and loaned to me).

    Ah yes, YouTube after the event... Sure to help out!

    PS I'm not against charity, but rather the excuse of doing 'mad things' for charidy. I'm very happy to donate to charities in all manner of ways - selling and buying raffle tickets, donating to charity shops, buying from Oxfam gifts, sponsoring people for walks and runs, contributing to fundraisers, giftaid etc etc. But the whole "I'm going to dress up as a Xmas pudding and do forward rolls for 24 miles and then sit in a bath of beans and eat them (but I'm not crazy really: itsforcharidy!") ...


    My TARDIS keychain

    How absolutely fabulous is this? I have a bad day (Wednesday) and immediately my lovely friend Chrissie packs off a parcel to me! Not only does she forward on a stunning little pair of stripey socks from her sweet daughter Eve, but also pops in a goodie of cheer for me.

    A TARDIS on a keychain!

    Not just that but a TARDIS with the sound effect and TALKING!!! So at the push of the button on the top (the light as would be on the proper one) I can get the sound of the TARDIS (so evocative) or lovely lovely Mr Tennant's voice saying either "No second chances; I'm that sort of a man" or "Did you miss me?"


    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Bloggers Xmas Social 9 December

    Well, we have accommodation --- we just have to get there now and all being well you will be able to find me and Cloud at the Bloggers social as discussed here!

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Lang Lang in concert with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

    Wow. I'm still a bit reeling from the experience of seeing Lang Lang and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra on Monday night. As the second of our visits to the Nottingham Classics season of 2006-7, it more than matched our previous experience where we saw the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra with Igor Tchetuev on piano playing Tchaikovsky's ‘Dance of the Jesters’ from The Snow Maiden (it may have only been four-five minutes, but it was an exhilerating start), followed by Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 (32’) and Shostakovich's Symphony No.10 (52’). All very fine, and with some lovely encores as well (there is a mini review here).

    This time around, the programme was as follows:

    Dvorak Symphonic Variations (24’)
    Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (24’)
    Dvorak Symphony No.8 (36’)
    Jiri Belohlavek, conductor and musical director of the Orchestra, truly demonstrated how each conductor has their own style. Whereas Alexander Dmitriev with the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra seemed to send his conducting through his fingers, out of his hands and into the musicians in front of him, Belohlavek seemed more contained, less flamboyant - but no less effective. Perhaps some of this is explained by age (Dmitriev is around 70, Belohlavek is around 10 years younger), though perhaps not in the way one might expect since the older conductor seemed far more expressive. Of course, I am a complete ignoramus on conducting so cannot judge which is 'better' - if indeed that is an appropriate judgement at all - but I did find it interesting to observe.

    Where an even greater difference appeared was in the two pianists. Whereas Tchetuev brought a serious fluidity to his playing, it still felt as if he was 'playing' the piece. Lang Lang's approach is on an altogether different level - it is as if he lets the piano take him over. When pieces are slow, his style is subtle and languid; when fast he is breathtakingly dexterous to the point where you wonder where his fingers actually are. And to watch him is a sublime experience.

    Now I have to confess that my knowledge of classical music is limited; I can't recognise most pieces even though I know quite a lot as familiar. And I am a sucker for the swooping sounds of certain works: so that 18th variation in the Rachmaninov gets to me every time. Sorry, I know its cheesy and over-used in film etc, but damn it just breaks me each time I hear it.

    Anyway, after the brilliantly idiosyncratic opening piece, the symphonic variations, the Rachmaninov was a beautiful transition. Unsurprisingly, there were a series of ovations for the young pianist (he is just 24 and has now outgrown some of his earlier puppy-fat to become a somewhat lithe and elegantly starry performer). Bless him, he even came out at the interval - having finished his performing with a contemplative encore (Chopin? God, I'm so useless at recognition) - to sign copies of his CD and programmes. There were some very glitzy eyed young Chinese girls and not a few anxiously thrilled elderly persons pushing to the fore for that.

    Returning after the interval the second Dvorak was excellent as well, making wonderful use of the percussion (which was also well used in the encore pieces as well). I have a real admiration for percussion work, because if you get it wrong it can absolutely sink a performance in a way that more subtle or group instruments may not. You hit a drum or a cymbal wrongly and you're pretty much done for; here it was done very well and the strings - especially my beloved cellos - were in fine form.

    So, all in all, a great night. Sorry it took me a while to write up. And even bigger apologies for my lack of musical knowledge. I'm still learning!

    I never knew that: from BBC's Coast

    Caught the end of tonight's repeated episode of "Coast" from last week - well, there's a Scottish accent presenting and I'll take my kicks where I can - but was fascinated by the tale of the munitions factory that spawned the towns of Gretna and Eastriggs.

    I have to admit I never knew that Gretna only dates back to World War One, and - along with the neighbouring town of Eastriggs - was especially built to support a newly constructed munitions factory designed to relieve the government's shortage of cordite for the WWI mililtary campaign:
    Their solution was to create one of the worlds largest munitions factory's in 1915. Codenamed Moorside, the scale of the project was enormous. Not only was it nine miles long and two miles wide, but it brought a massive influx of people to this quiet stretch of coast on the Solway, creating two new towns to house them, Eastriggs and Gretna.
    Along with the detail that, of course, it was largely a female workforce that kept the factory running, it was a particularly interesting narrative in a programme full of visual delights and unfamilar stories. Even if the tales of Galloway and 'The Wicker Man' were of course highly familiar, that tale of Gretna and Eastriggs was something very new to me.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Michael Moore and the pledge to Conservatives

    Moore can sometimes be a tricky character and not always as infinitely reliable as he at first appears, but this letter from him is largely witty and smart and very pertinent.

    I particularly liked 9 and 11.
    9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.

    11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.

    The 'warbling Barbie'

    Gert is my new heroine. Well, she has been for a while, but her posts on 'the Warbling Barbie' (TM Gert) have been hilarious to read.

    Here and Here.

    I have a bit of a phobia about a lot of female opera singers (especially the pseudos) and this eloquently explains it.

    I especially like her plug-your-ears recommendation of listening to Everything I Do - aka Quello faro on the KJ website. Just painful to even think about!

    Fanvid trailer: Doctor Who is...

    Oh my... this is hilarious and disturbingly well-made. Very good to watch indeed.

    Go and watch here.

    Hat-tip to the makers via the LiveJournal community.

    Clearly not quite the 19th century in this man's head

    That would be the 'delightful' Mr Newell, who, belated and forced apologies aside, is basically a sexist twat.

    See lovely Kerron for a good discussion on this and this priceless line in his comments from Jimbo Jones:
    I love the line "I know that sounds sexist but I am sexist" possibly the worst argument I have ever heard espoused (and working in the HoC you hear some pretty shabby arguments)

    I just cant wait to use that in future. "I know this sounds stupid but i am stupid"

    Hidden in the comments - best predicted song on the CD "Christmas inspired by Lord of the Rings"

    Mordor on the Dancefloor?

    Offered by Stu_n in the comments at Marie's place.

    Just brilliant.

    Oh yeah, you should also read her suggestions on areas for anti-social gig goers.

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    Eat! My inner Sesame Street character!

    You Are Cookie Monster

    Misunderstood as a primal monster, you're a true hedonist with a huge sweet tooth.

    You are usually feeling: Hungry. Cookies are preferred, but you'll eat anything if cookies aren't around.

    You are famous for: Your slightly crazy eyes and usual way of speaking

    How you live your life: In the moment. "Me want COOKIE!"

    Who isn't surprised I got this answer?

    Irony? George and crew take on Craigellachie and the whisky



    Because there is nothing like listening to Clare

    Woo and hoo!

    Clare has found a link to the wonderfulness of Woman's Hour featuring none other than Clare herself!

    Go here and then go listen!

    In praise of Ghost

    Yes, it may seem unlikely but here's the 'fess: Ghost was the first film that Cloud and I went to see together at the pictures.

    No, we did not go to the local Indie cinema to see a foreign language, deeply worthy film with subtitles: we went to see a cheese-fest with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze about good and evil, death and mourning and very soppy scenes of mushy romance.

    Oh yeah, and the most singularly hilarious (inadvertantly?) scene of sexual activity ever. With a potter's wheel...

    So, Ghost. It was on last night. I saw it in the schedules. Cloud saw it in the schedules. I was still full to burst from eating the most enormous dinner at The Swan in Mountsorrell with Nick, Sue and Cloud.

    "Shall we watch Ghost?" he says.

    So there we are, hunkered down on the sofa with the cat, the pair of us sobbing. Jeez, I have lost count of how many times we have seen it (certainly nearly every time it has been on TV). And you know what?

    It still works. It's a total fromage-fest, but it works. It's funny, it's silly; it has bad guys and good guys and THAT ridiculous song. And yet.

    Shucks. We're just softies at heart...

    Sunday, November 12, 2006

    NCIS - when is the next series going to be shown in the UK?


    Last night we get the end of season 2 of NCIS on channel Five. Caitlin (Kate) is killed! Five clearly got the series as part of a package because it has that difficult-to-compete-against-anything-else slot of (usually) 7-9pm on Saturdays. They've shown two complete series since around April, recently with double episodes before the CSI/L&O slots.

    But what will happen next? They're already into series 4 in the USA. Will it move to one of the Five off-shoot channels? In which case, by hook or by crook I WILL be getting bloody Freeview is I have to track down an aerial installation guy and the most perfect Freeview box in the world. Or will it just be back later in the year on Five?

    I'm sorry, I have to know.

    Saturday, November 11, 2006


    I will...

    Can you guess who for?

    "Asked to leave and he wouldn't stay"

    Why does that sound perfectly logical and yet simultaneously completely baffling?

    It's from here btw.

    Cute pictures alert

    Here (the lovely E as always) and here (dog and child: way cute and a lovely tale told as well).

    What more can you say?

    Pulp Movies: re-invented

    Paul over at PulpMovies has had a redesign and clearing of his focus.

    It looks cleaner, brighter but with just as much brilliance as before. Go enjoy and encourage!

    Rock chick

    Which Rock Chick Are You?

    Courtesy of John.

    I wonder how the hair has gone down?

    JJ's that is...

    At the moment I'm in one of my 'hibernation' moments with my hair. I'm trying to ignore that it is really too long and needs cutting but with my working hours and a hatred of having haircuts on Saturdays I'm putting it off til closer to Xmas.

    I may throw some colour at it to disguise the somewhat lank shape it now has. I really cannot get into having it chopped regular.

    The firework season

    I doubt Nottingham is much different to many other cities, where the 'firework season' starts in September and continues until Spring, with plenty of people letting them off in daylight (why?!) and plenty of harrassment and injury caused along the way. [Thanks to LeftLion magazine for providing the initial variant of that line].

    Kerron has a close shave and his cat injured: unsurprisingly he wants to ban the general sale of fireworks.

    I empathise. Better policing of existing laws aside, I still think that a general public sale ban would be worthwhile - or at least having to apply for some kind of formal licence in advance. I mean, basically, a firework is an explosive: why not put some greater control on their sale?

    My envy of Marie

    No way around it, I'm just bursting with little green envy bubbles at this post from Marie.


    Anna Waits: star of TV Scoop


    Go read here. As ever, well written and sharply observed. Go Anna!

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    (It was) A (Very) Good Year

    Oh it really shouldn't have been, but I have to admit I had a huge hoot of a time going to the flicks on Wednesday with the lovely Helen Lisette to wallow in the daft and slated film A Good Year.

    It has had some stinky reviews, although I also initially came across some more tolerant ones as well; most of them focus on not feeling that Russell Crowe has a grasp of comedy. That seems awful harsh. It's not a Marx brothers film, or a Jack Lemon/Walter Matthau classic; it's not up to screwball standards, and it can't rival Shaun of the Dead. But taken on its own terms, by heck I did laugh. And heaven knows there are enough 'comedies' which have induced in me Not One Giggle.

    Okay, watching it with Helen has its own frisson of hilarity-inducement (she has a certain L'amour fou for the brusque Australian), but even accounting for that it still made me laugh.

    I really can't say fairer than that. Stereotypes in every direction; some very ropey dialogue; the usual Peter Mayle 'Englishman abroad' brushstrokes of character and place: check, check and check. But it was lush, entertaining, and had a happy ending. Shucks, it was even 241 Wednesday and this time I got it right (unlike last time). I had a blast!

    Touchwood (sic)

    Took time off doing family history research last night - more on that in a mo - to watch the episode of 'Torchwood' I taped Wednesday night (more on that later too).

    I've called it 'Touchwood' in the title after the inestimable Nick M called it that, and the 'sic' could easily have been 'sick' for this week's ep. Yes, yes: you're a grown-up programme. But do you have to keep shifting to look at the dead and bloody and semi-cybered body over and over again?

    Still, it was more exciting than other episodes, but lordy you have to admit it really isn't up to the Who standard (even the Who standard of recent years). Enjoyable though it is - "urgh" factor aside (and this from someone who has 'happily' sat through the Tetsuo films: maybe it was because the TV-ish film stock used gives a different level of realism) - it really is a stocking filler rather than a 'must-see'. And I was seriously disturbed by the complete forgetting of the cyber-scientist's body once the sheet was pulled over him, never mind the hapless pizza girl who had her head chopped open and whose fate seemed to raise none of Gwen's earlier concerns to 'focus on the victim'.

    Nevertheless, as said, in the absence of much else - and my inability to access BBC4 and the impending British Science Fiction fest - it will have to do. And at least Cloud tolerates me watching it.

    Next task: get him to ask a toy shop for a Doctor Who David Tennant giant cut-out. Mmmmmm...


    Oh dear god, it's like pR0n...

    Seriously though, this kind of debate just gets me going so much. With around 3,000 books - nothing like the collection of my boss and her husband (for example) who have 15,000 - we have a suitably sizable collection that is not easily accommodated in one room, even if we had perfect shelving (which we don't).

    Funnily, we have several of the books about books mentioned in this article as well. Not like we obsess about it. Actually, WE don't. I'm the anal organiser even though my messy urges also don't help. Heaven forbid if Cloud moves a CD to the wrong location or complains about not being able to find a book ("well, if you put it in a logical place..."). I've never forgiven him for buying a second copy of "Immortality". This issue is now doubly painful for him as he recently bought a second copy of the pocket-sized book on 'philosophy of science'.


    Last night's tea

    This will be really boring for many but can I say that we cooked ourselves a really lovely tea last night? We read and abandoned Hugh-Fearnley-Whittingstall's Guardian recipe for stuffed squash (apart from the concept of being "ripe for experimentation"). So we cut the squash in half, removed the seeds etc, put in butter and chopped garlic and cooked for an hour. We then removed from the oven, scooped out the inside flesh, mashed it up and then added it back in with layers of chickpeas, halved cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, sliced mushroom, and slices of goats cheese. Topped off with more goats cheese and finished in the oven, served with the remainder of the left over filling which had been heated in a pan with lemon juice.


    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    Roll up, roll up! Musicals poll result is now in!

    Norm has the low-down.

    Go read, enjoy and then go and remind yourself of how good your favourite musicals are!

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    A gigantic David Tennant cardboard cutout

    Do you think that Toys 'R' Us will notice if I sneak into their store this weekend? I have had it on good authority that children's toy stores have large DT cut-outs on display with him pointing his sonic screwdriver (ahem).

    They won't miss one, will they?

    Emma's Movie Tag

    I may well take this up myself when I get chance, but I wanted to say I really enjoyed reading Emma's take on this movie-tag.

    I particularly liked her answer to question 11:
    11. You are given the power to greenlight movies at a major studio for one year. How do you wield this power?

    Alright! Well, first, I’d get Marty Scorsese and Rupert Grint in the same room, and introduce them to each other. The movie is called “GCSEs,” and it’s all about a dude who’s trying to study for major exams in his life, whilst there’s stuff going on his life at the same time. Sound familiar? Now. I’d also get Tarantino directing Gyllenhaal, Bernal and McAvoy in a convoluted love triangle story (hot menage a troises, please), and Thomas Newman scoring that. No doubt. I’d disallow Orlando Bloom, Hilary Duff, Scarlett Johansson and Daniel Radcliffe from finding work, and I’d let Massive Attack score any films they like. I’d get Chris Doyle as chief cinematographer more often. I’d write scripts and force people to make them into films. Oh, and I’d find work for Miranda July, Ang Lee, Ethan Hawke. And there should be a biopic of Jen Aniston made, with Frank Lampard as Brad Pitt. That’s right, Frank Lampard. He's got to be good at something, hasn't he? And I'd also like to see Nicholas Hoult and Rupert Grint fight crime. That'd be nice.
    Hilarious but also sharp. I especially like the idea of Maqssive Attack appearing in my film scoring.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Looking back, and the future

    Marie writes, as ever, a glorious post - in this instance about rewatching "This Life" before musing about where we see ourselves in the future and where we might have seen ourselves in the past.

    "it's always interesting to see what your view of the future is, it tells you a lot about where you're at in the present."
    Matt_c picked out the above comment of hers as being particularly insightful - hereby retrieved from the ultimately swallowing doom of the comments box.

    He's right; like reading a history book will probably tell you as much about the time when the history was written as it does about the period it comments on, our predictions can be exceptionally revealing of our selves at the time of prediction. I recently found a small box of old diaries and unlike Clare* have not yet faced the thought of re-reading them (let alone posting extracts online). I doubt I am half as radical as I thought I was - hindsight being an amazing eyeglass.

    Anyway, can I just add on the topic of "This Life" that I STILL can visualise the way I leapt off the sofa, punching the air and yelling "YES!!" when Milly punched Rachel. Still makes me tingle!

    * Clare's posts can be found under the heading "Girl's Fun", but I'm having trouble with what links become visible on her site again as purplecity fights it out with!

    Wrongly digested?

    In bloglines I got a notice from Guardian Books about the 'digested read' on Victoria Beckham's book.

    Hmm. The actual digested read is so-so.
    'The digested read, digested' read: The bland leading the brand.
    But bloglines' summary read: 'We all make mistakes. I once wore Armani to a Dolce & Gabbana party! How dumb was that?'

    I actually think bloglines better summed up the vapidity of the book by choosing that sentence than the 'digested, digested' version offered.

    "Come on in, David Crosby, your time is up!" aka Fuzzboy strike again

    Another epic piece of writing on popular music culture by the Fuzzboy.

    WARNING: do not attempt to read aloud as use of punctuation may make your nose bleed and your lungs seize up.

    It's a brilliant bit of polemicism though!

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    A great review

    The lovely Gert can always be relied upon to turn in an excellent music review, and her latest 'opera stars' post is no exception. Not only does it have some cracking photographs, but the commentary is informative, warm and witty - and she gives a detailed set list at the end.


    Sunday, November 05, 2006

    The Rules of Rullsenberg

    Matt_C asked for some, so here are a few:

    1. Be passionate: about something, anything, many things, but avoid becoming obsessive.

    2. Be angry and do something: they can always pretend there is nothing wrong if nobody tells them

    3. Pursue knowledge and information but think about where you get it from: the internet, the news, books, and people are all great sources of knowledge and information, but always ask questions. Interrogate your witnesses/sources and think what might be influencing them and their opinions.

    4. Be yourself (or many selves), but always be true: we can all have - and sometimes need - different personas, but don't be untrue to your overall self. Other people may be unhappy living with the consequences in the short-term; you have to live with yourself for longer

    5. Life is too short to to just keep doing things out of duty or fear: obligation and feeling scared of the consequences are not particularly good reasons for doing stuff you hate or maintaining a front for the sake of it (see above for related points). If you really HAVE to do something you have always loathed, find some reward for yourself for doing it. And, as a non-believer, for me that has to be something more concrete than 'I'll get my reward for being so selfless in heaven'.

    6. Try to enjoy things on their own terms: if you don't come out of a gig full of excitement and delight, it's probably been at best mediocre. In the high of something immediately finishing you should feel exhilerated by the experience. The critical faculties will come back, but the delight should suspend them temporarily. Basically, if you start reading a chick lit book to be intellectually challenging and deep there is a high chance of disappointment before your critical faculties ultimately return. Be sensible and engage with it for what it is or don't start. Why waste your time and money?!

    7. You can never go back: less a rule, more a statement to be aware of. Life goes forwards, as much as we may wish otherwise. We have to live with events and find ways to move on. Otherwise we end up like Dark Willow*, trying to bring Tara back to life and taking it out on the world when we cannot. Mind, I really wish she hadn't ended up with irksome Kennedy.

    Less serious rules (but nonetheless to be considered as mine):

  • Thou shalt know Jarvis as a great musical genius and meddle with the works of Pulp at your peril (William Shatner, that means you)

  • Scottish actors are hot, especially using their own accents, but also when they just look bloody gorgeous and can act the pants off many other so-called stars. They shall be acknowledged and adored because there is always the horrible possibility they will get swallowed up by the American movie industry when they become too successful. Sigh.

  • There will never be a better political drama than The West Wing, especially when looking at those first two stunning series but also its overall arc. So TV dramatists should all stop trying to do that right now.

  • Good TV comedy will invariably be better than a comedy film. The last really great comedy film I saw at the flicks was probably Shaun of the Dead. Given its pedigree that says a lot about the quality of TV comedy.

  • Hmm. Those were my first thoughts. They probably suck and I may change my mind about any or all of them! But I hope you enjoy them!

    * Sorry about the music, not my choice but the clips are great.

    On names

    UPDATE REMARK 9/11/2006:
    The ITV error mentioned below has now been corrected!
    Interesting note here identifying that ITV can't always spell its stars' names correctly. They're not the only ones to do so as I have come across other references to Douglas that spell his name that way. And not just the often unreliable range of DVD sellers and film sites. do it here for the recent release of Down Among the Big Boys. For the US book "The Scot Pack: The Further Adventures of the Trainspotters and Their Fellow Travellers" (2000), has two reviews: one by Publishers Weekly gets the name right as Douglas Henshall (there is apparently a chapter on him in it), but the second promo lit review by the Library Journal mentions him as Douglas Henshaw (did they not even read the contents page of the book?!).

    Over at Textualities, they have an interview with Christopher Brookmyre where they transcribe his remarks about his preferred actor for the role of Jack Parlabane in "One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night". There's an MP3 link at the bottom of the page saying you can "Download the original audio recording of this Q&A session to hear the author's opinions expressed in his own voice." I wish they had bothered to check the spelling of Douglas Henshall then, rather than going for Douglas Henshaw.

    But even photographers seem to get the name wrong, as here for example where you can scroll across to view the delightful image that hangs in my left sightline behind this computer in my study. Maclellen's picture is divine, but the spelling to me suggests one of two things: either the name is deliberately spelled to avert excessive interest (seems unlikely for a photographer who might want to sell their most desirable prints); or the photographer believed that was the accurate spelling.

    Either way, it wouldn't take much to work out that the majority of spellings are as "Henshall". For both Dougie and Douglas Henshaw, the combined google results are just 510. For the same with Henshall, its 91,640. Now go figure why Amazon (or even ITV) cannot get the name right.

    Great food


    Sorry, am still feeling pigged out from last night's superb tea. Our lovely Cele came over with a bag of veg and proceeded to make her incredible Veg-based Irish stew. Tons of potatoes, parsnips, carrots, onion, leek, garlic and veg stock. Cooked on the stove in a big pan until everything was cooked through. Served with a whole loaf of bread. The three of us demolished the whole lot.

    I think I've worked out why this was a concern...

    Still, it was a great night and we got to snuggle in on a cold autumn evenings in front of the fire with the cat on my lap and watch NCIS.

    Saturday, November 04, 2006

    The Sound of Silence: or, how HAL took over our smoke alarm system

    At last, at last.

    Over the past two nights our sleep has been disrupted by an intermitant high-pitched beep every minute. To say it was driving me a little crazy would be an understatement.

    At first, we thought it was the battery in the battery powered smoke alarm at the top of the stairs. We had mains powered ones put in when the house was re-wired last year so we didn't think it could possibly be those.

    Except that even after we dismantled the old battery smoke detector the noise continued. Not ALWAYS continuous, but near enough. We investigated the mains one. Nope. Couldn't suss it. It stopped, temporarily, again. Then last night it restarted again. Slightly hysterical by now, we discovered there was a back up battery slot inside the mains unit. Could we get into it? Could we heck.

    Back in bed, still trying to drown out the incessant beeping, Cloudy Neil suggested if it was mains run, why not try the fuse box downstairs? I tried that whilst Neil tried again to take the battery out.

  • * Dying battery inside - it beeps

  • * No dying battery inside but mains switched on - it beeps

  • * No dying battery inside but mains switched off - IT STILL BLOODY WELL BEEPED!!!

  • Okay, that is a little HAL-esque for my liking. "I can't let you do that Lisa".

    I understand the logic: it's a smoke alarm, and yes I would quite like to not die, suffocating from smoke inhalation [notice that word inHALation? Co-incidence? I think not]. But really, it was like something from a nightmare: sleep-walking up ladders, Cloud would try everything to stop the noise, but still it continued.

    We bought a new battery. It has now stopped beeping. The sound of silence: bliss. Nerves a little frayed, and we're a little scared by our own smoke detection system. But at least we hope to get some better sleep tonight!

    Friday, November 03, 2006

    It's the "Go, Go Clare!" cheerleading!

    Go on!!!!

    The Writer's reply: Michael Bywater

    For those who don't always get chance to read back over old post comments, you may like to know that Michael Bywater took the time to respond to my rant!.

    In other news, this writer is feeling a bit tired after being woken at 5am by a grumbling fire / smoke alarm. Not a battery one; a main-powered one. Apparantly it thought we hadn't tested it enough recently so beeped at us. After removing the battery from the nearby battery-powered one and not resolving the problem Cloud investigated the other. We think it is now resolved!!!

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Growing Up, Growing Old: A Rullsenberg Rant

    ARGH! Michael Bywater!

    I can't even begin to express how cranky this piece made me yesterday, not least because of its inconsistencies.

    It's not all bad. For example, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 are okay. 8, 9, 10, and 12 have merits. 11 presents an uncomfortable possible truth that maybe even undermines my own railing against the piece. 23 is very apt in a world where Jimmy Carr is deemed suitable for a Front Row focus on Radio 4. Urgh. And as for Kirsty interviewing Madge: I know it has political ramifications but really, isn't it an excuse to have celebrity at the forefront of debate? And 24 and 25 have a positive idea within them even if they are - ironically - rather childishly phrased (yes, the words we use ARE important: that's why I want to scream at the "political correctness gone mad" crew; yes, excuses for 'surveillance are to be thwarted, though I think phrasing this as "Hide" doesn't help articulate this as a rational adult argument).

    Equally, 27, the idea of "commensality" promotes the valuable idea that eating is public is unnecessary and should be dropped in favour of eating with family and friends. I can't disagree with that, except to say that the basis for the circumstances that urge people into eating in public (longer working hours, managing lunch-breaks etc) maybe deserve a more thoughtful analysis than provided here. 28 and 29 I have no problems with, although 30 does raise some problems less to do with the idea - "Demand - and display - good manners" - than with the manner in which the list that is given after it creates a litany less effective than its individual parts ...

    Still, those were the ones I more broadly agreed with. The others got onto my less-than-happy radar...

    Firstly, example 1: Pro-autonomy. Seems fine on a superficial glance. But am I alone in thinking this smacks a little of "you should not depend on anyone for anything"? Which seems only a snapshot away from sounding a tad like community/society is a myth propagated by lefties who believe in (horror, horror) helping and supporting other people. Not a route I wish to go down.

    How about example 3: "Don't be affronted". Again, seems superficially okay, expecting the world to conform to your world view has proved the basis of many a reactionary ideologue. But scratch at it and you come to the idea that getting angry about things, wanting to change things, is itself a bad idea. I am affronted by the daily acceptance of poverty, of talking about human beings as if there was a 'deserving poor' and an 'undeserving poor'; as if to get help you have to be 'worthy'. Presumably, by Bywater's stance, being angry and wanting to talk about the basis of such ideas, wanting to change those attitudes, is immature. Erm, no actually. It's called humanity.

    13 and 14 present some problems as well: "Do not love yourself unconditionally." Well, I think his emphasis is on the 'unconditional' element rather than saying 'do not love yourself'. At least I hope so, because [a] if you can't love yourself how can you expect others to do so? and [b] I'm in favour of good quality self-pleasuring. Anyway, back to Bywater. "Unconditional love is for babies and comes from their mothers [emphasis added]". Urgh. Okay, bit retrograde for a start in identifying mothers (and not, say, fathers, might have a role in this. And surely it relies on the idea that mothers inherently give their children unconditional love. Am sure that all those mothers who have felt ambivalence and struggled with post-natal depression or even difficulty of loving their child at all will feel greatly reassured by Bywater's statement. Obviously they are damaged and not normal and socially inferior. Yeah, your remarks are gonna help them a lot.

    And as for 14... Whilst saying "Self-hatred is a problem too" is fine, that he continues with "But rather too much self-hatred than too much self-love" suggests that I wasn't too far wrong to question whether he was emphasising the word 'unconditional' in his attack on loving yourself. I don't get it. How can self-hatred help anyone? That too has often been the basis for damaged people hurting themselves and society. How does this help?

    How about 15 and the dismissal, even despising, of "Desiderata". Whilst I personally find the 'verse' a bit on the syrupy side, a bit too 'Hallmark' for my liking, there are a number of elements that articulate wise suggestions. It also seems at odds in a piece about how people should 'grow up' that he should take against a verse that says "Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth." Has Bywater actually read "Desiderata" recently or is he just working on old memories? Okay, the idealism of the hippies hasn't prevented some catastrophic managing of the earth. And the idea of the "universe unfolding as it should" rather suggests passive acceptance of the status quo that I find unsustainable. But seeing ourselves as part of the wider eco-system of life and universe doesn't seem so unreasonable. Surely it has been humanity's lack of consideration for the planet and prioritising of our own needs that has brought earth to the brink of potential eco-disaster that we now face. A little more care for seeing ourselves as just one element of the universe - instead of (God's) special creatures with inalienable rights (to bear arms/plunder natural resources) - might just help humanity survive.

    Let's take 16 and 17: "Ignore fashion". I've been reading Marjorie Garber's collection of essays "Quotation Marks" (picked up from the LRB) and it's full of great stuff. I've just finished reading her essay on 'fashion'/'fashionability' and the meaning of these concepts. It's an insightful interrogation of the critical views embedded in uses of the terms. In regards to clothes, I kinda get his point. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have little time for fashion or even for dressing appropriately (which is why I'm dealing with Bywater's example 18 separately). But in terms of his discussion on music, I really got cross. If you're going to bemoan adults liking pop music as an attempt to be 'down wiv the kids' or even as an extension of childhood at least have the decency to talk to a young person to find out what is hip at the moment. Invoking Eminem is just so off-base. Or maybe that was his point, to choose a ever-so-slightly-several-years-ago-hot-thing? He goes on "A middle-aged person 'Keeping Up with the Trends in Music' is as lamentable and as infantile as a middle-aged person in Lycra." Hmm. Well, it kinda depends on the body of the person wearing lycra as well as what it is they are wearing. Few people over 12 probably wear items entirely made of Lycra anyway, but as a part of the material it can help add shape to an outfit. Or presumably as soon as we hit 40 we should just all wear sacks? Thanks. Why not put bags on our heads while you're at it (or does that cross over to other debates)? But back to music. Again, as with fashion I make no pretence to be up-to-date. I know what I like and am open to discovering new things. For Cloud, at the moment, a lot of those new things are quite old: e.g. classical music or from well-established genres e.g. country, folk, Yiddish music. For both of us, we continue to like things that sound new and exciting. Things like they cover on Radio 3's Mixing It featuring Lullaby Arkestra and the Modified Toy Orchestra, and obscure examples of music from Africa. Some stuff is new, current, and from young artistes. Others as I say are just new to us. And there is always the complex issue of what current trends actually sound like: there is a lot of offensively inoffensive/bland rubbish out there. We have long since reached the point where, say "the stuff we liked when we were young" (to quote Bywater) is actually far more radical than much current music, or that current stuff is merely a re-hash of that stuff from our youth. Sometimes these returns of styles from the past are great reinvigorations: Post-Rock may be a reinvention of some of Prog's finer moments but when it's top quality stuff it can rival the best of classically inspired music (GodspeedYouBlackEmperor, Rachel's, Mono to name but three artistes). We're not "keeping up with current trends", we're prepared to like what we like regardless of fashionability, whether its fashionable or not. So being a story-song kinda girl I stand by my right to love "When the Sun Goes Down" by the Arctic Monkeys without caring whether anyone else likes it or not.

    So we get to 18: don't follow fashion especially if you're a woman. Hmm. Well, we're back to the semi-agreement points in terms of me saying I'm against fatuous pursuit of 'youthfulness' whatever the cost (plastic surgery! 55 hours at the gym per week! Creams and cover-ups for wrinkles - aka polyfilla for skin). But "You don't want to look like a teenager forever"? I accept that some may find my style, my dress sense, rather ridiculous. And I can 'scrub up well' for occasions that demand plainer or formal attire. But I neither look nor feel right in 'plain clothes' (in all senses). Maybe that is down to a lack of confidence, but I am as much 'performing being Lisa' as anything else. And doing that demands I get into 'costume'. I have enough character traits that make me lose confidence without not being able to use clothes as a boost to my persona. (Indeed, colleagues will usually ask if something is wrong if I'm NOT wearing something of a vivid colour or stripes, so much has it become associated with myself.) Besides, my style is more under-12s than teenager. A bit Helena Cardboard-Box crossed with the dress of your average 5-8 year old...

    How about 19 and 20 (I'll come to 22 in a moment and 21 is just laughable: it's the full expression of someone's beliefs that I want to challenge and if they want to believe in God, Allah, green fairies, or Harvey the rabbit that's fine by them. I'll reserve the right to get them to talk through their justification and their beliefs but I won't inherently distrust them until they start spouting garbage that damages humanity, like condemning homosexuals to death) Anyway: "Denounce relativism at every turn" - specifically in religious debates since if we believe something is right we will try and defend and argue it is right against those that disagree rather than accepting things having equal relevance. Well, that seems fine to a point, but seems awfully tied to the agnosticism of 20 which is less convincing. Why not atheism?

    22 on God loving us? I refer readers to the fine series of graphic novels "Preacher". A fine discussion of God's role in the universe.

    And what might 26 mean: "Eat it Up"? Whilst the rise of western culture's 'faddism' is one thing, there is a difference between eating choices and allergies, physical reactions, and in some instances death. I prefer not to eat nuts because generally I don't like the taste. But if the food is tasty I have been known to unknowingly - or with wilful ignorance of my tastes - eat the damn things. But I won't develop a body destroying allergic reaction as some people can do, have done, which in some instances can seriously impair their health if not kill them. Are our bodies more picky because of our over-developed selective tastes or is there a genuine health risk for some people to eat certain things? Well, I suspect that evolution isn't working THAT fast so I'm prepared to reserve judgement and in the meantime not force people to eat anything and everything. Otherwise you end up eating the diet prefer by Heston Blumenthal, and that would just be wrong.

    And finally, let's take his example 31: so it's a good thing to lie and let people down. Yes, that's an adult trait I really want to commit to.

    Hmm. That was quite a rant. And I should fully expect some people to take issue. Oh well, I can deal. I know what to expect...