Saturday, March 06, 2004

Radio 2 2

Given that Radio 2's now more popular than Radio 1, and seeing how every Radio 1 DJ now seems to end up on Radio 2 eventually isn't it about time a name change was considered? Obviously, the logical thing would be to swap the two around, but that would no doubt confuse too many people, but perhaps Radio 1 could become something like Radio 2 Junior or Radio 2 v1.0. The name would reflect pretty much what it's become, and using a variant on the Radio 2 name could only help the ratings.

In the end, it went home

If there's not been another update by April 4th of this year, can we assume that a year's silence means TV Go Home is dead?

Tell us the names!

I've obviously been thinking about elections too much recently. I saw this article about how there are 79 applicants for the post of BBC Chairman, and wondered why it didn't give a list of all those who were standing for the position. I suspect that there's probably the usual by-election mix of serious to frivolous candidates, though.

More F1

Discovered via Doctor Vee (whose F1 season preview says pretty much what I'd say if I could be bothered to write one), the live timing service from is rather good, and remarkably free as well. Definitely looks like it'll be fun to watch during the race itself.

Unless I'm very much mistaken

Ah, the return of Formula One...

I was going to do a 'Why I love Formula One'-type post, but I can't put my finger on any specific reason why. It's a combination of the racing, the sheer how mad do you have to be do that? factor, that whole appeal to my testosterone and then just the general soapiness of the whole thing.

I think the last one is perhaps one of the least explored areas, though it's one of the big ones for F1 fans. There's a limit to how much us non-engineers can discuss the technology, and jokes based on the emotionlessness of Kimi Raikonnen fail to amuse after a while, but anyone can discuss the rumours, the speculations, the behind the scenes action which, from what filters out into the media, makes the whole thing sound like a particularly hyperactive episode of Dallas with high-stakes issues continually being discussed, but never quite resolved.

Sure, it's not the 70s anymore, with the drivers staggering from nightclub to racetrack to yacht to model's hotel room, but there's still enough going on, normally centred around Bernie Ecclestone, a real-life JR if ever there was one, to keep the attention going. It's often suggested that viewers at home should be allowed to listen in to drivers' radios to increase interest and knowledge of what's going on in the race. Sod that. I want the team principals' phone calls taped inbetween races and then played on the air during the boring parts of the race. Now that's entertainment, though probably only after the watershed.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Big underground

Via Going Underground, an interesting set of maps that compare the underground/subway/metro systems on the same scale. Moscow and New York seem to be the largest, with Vienna and Barcelona the smallest, though Glasgow's underground service isn't yet on there, and I think its simple circle might claim that prize.

So obvious it doesn't need to be checked

Do you remember when. a couple of months ago, an ad comparing George Bush to Hitler was submitted to a contest on Obviously, it caused a lot of controversy with all the usual suspects joining in the grand pileon to state how this demonstrated how everyone on the left was evil and insane.

Well, now it seems that a Republican congressman (obviously, in the grand scheme of things, a person much less important than a poster to MoveOn, but we'll ignore that for now) has said that a vote for John Kerry (or anyone but Bush) is a vote for Osama Bin Laden (via Atrios and Pandagon). I haven't got the time to check, but I'm sure the same people who criticised MoveOn will have made at least some passing reference to this, won't they? After all, if one ad posted to a competition (that's then withdrawn and isn't selected in any way) is such a big story, you think a comment like this from a Republican Congressman might get just a little attention...

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The lost worlds of speculation

You know, I quite often come up with bizarre speculations about life, politics and other stuff that doesn't make it to this blog, because in the cold light of the computer screen it seems pretty silly. Of course, that doesn't stop it from occasionally coming true or, more frequently, forming the basis of someone else's speculation.

So, a couple of weeks ago I was mulling over possible Vice-Presidential running mates for John Kerry and given that he and Kerry are both friends, both Vietnam veterans, and both share a loathing of George W Bush, wouldn't John McCain be an interesting candidate? But the light of reason said, 'nah, save that for the what-if file' which means that today I can't claim that Eric Alterman is stealing my ideas.

The hidden costs of bigotry

So, Mel Gibson expects to spend eternity without his wife (via Backword Dave) as she's not a Catholic. It almost makes me wish that there was an afterlife with the radically Protestant god expected by other religious loons, who'd send Mel to Hell for eternity for being Catholic and hence, in their theology, a tool of Satan. Well, the irony would be amusing for a while.

The end of the odds as we know them

Our secret future Martian overlords will have to ind new sources of future funding as Ladbrokes have announced that they're going to stop taking money on whether there's life on Mars.

Truth, hidden where you least expect it

Yet again, The Onion stumbles dangerously close to revealing the truth about men to the rest of the world: You Are The Most Beautiful Woman In The World Who Will Sleep With Me though if you put brackets round the last five words you've got yourself a country song, or at least an Otis Lee Crenshaw one.

But, I'm too busy too care as I'm cultivating a fear of bacon cheeseburgers for my attempt on the Nietzschean diet. Remember, as you stare into the lettuce, the lettuce stares also into you.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

His Dark Materials at the National Theatre

So, what can I say about the National Theatre's production of His Dark Materials that hasn't been said before in any of the many other reviews of it?

First off, it is an incredible theatrical experience and one that could probably only have been done by the National, thanks to its resources in all sorts of technical fields and, of course, the drum revolve stage in the Olivier Theatre which becomes a wonderful device for moving through all the different worlds of the story. One can only applaud the amazing ingenuity of the set designers (and the stage team) for the way the set changes minute by minute to produce new wonders.

However, it does have to be said that it is perhaps more of a technical achievement than a literary one. Nicholas Wright's script is good - indeed, it would be hard to produce a bad script from Pullman's source material - but it never quite hits the same heights as the books, mainly because it is a constant blur of action, moving seamlessly between scenes, but crucially not giving the story much time to catch its breath. It's understandable, as the slower sections of the books may have been harder to translate onto stage, but they do help to bring out the deeper meanings of the story which does get lost on stage. I do wonder whether there was an assumption that the vast majority of the audience will have already read the books and thus many sections could be ignored in favour of pushing the story forward. If and when the film adaptations are made, it will be an interesting exercise to compare Wright's adaptation to Tom Stoppard's screenplays to see how they both handle the same material for different media.

One thing that's become a tradition of His Dark Materials reviews is to say how good Anna Maxwell Martin's performance as Lyra is, and I'm not going to dissent from that view. The central core of the story is how she (and Dominic Cooper's Will, in another excellent performace) move from innocence to experience and both make you believe in that transformation from child to young adult, despite both actors being in their early 20s.

However, one actor who I think is deserving of special praise and who tends to get overlooked in the other reviews is Danny Sapani who plays Iorek Byrnison. The method chosen for depicting the armoured bears is probably not what most people would expect - rather than a full 'bear' costume, they're dressed relatively normally with the hands doing the 'bear' work, one carrying a head, the other a long claw. It takes a while to get used to, but it provides a dramatic way of depicting the otherness of the bears, that they're not human but a different species with their own methods and motivations. The styling of the costume allows for a different style of movement and Sapani's performance really makes you believe in that different nature. Of course, that style of performance fits in with the puppets and marionettes used for the daemons and Gallivespians which manage to depict convincingly, after allowing for a willing suspension of disbelief, what you would have thought was impossible on stage.

Thinking of the proposed films, it makes me wonder if any of the possible directors (Sam Mendes was the last name I heard linked to the job) have looked at the way these characters have been handled on stage, and thought about using similar techniques on film, particularly following the success of the similar method used to depict Gollum in Lord Of The Rings with an actor on set (Andy Serkis) providing the map for later animation rather than just simply sticking in some CGI.

One other good point of the performance was seeing so many children present at the theatre for it, and not just being there, but being entranced by the performance and hopefully helping them discover just what theatre is capable of. Certainly, from what I saw in the intervals and afterwards, there was plenty of excitement and interest amongst all the audience, young and old, and that will, with luck, help to get more people going to the theatre, which is a good thing.

Anyway, my recommendation is that you should all go see it as it's a pretty unique theatrical experience, thought not faultless. Even though it's sold out for the rest of it's run, this isn't a malicious recommendation to go see something you can't, as the National has already announced that it will be returning to the Olivier Theatre at the end of this year (from October to March 2005, I believe) as, unlike many other successful NT productions, it can't transfer to the West End because of the technical requirements. It will be interesting to see the casting for the new run - obviously, one hopes that a lot of the current cast will return though it will also be interesting to see how new actors interpret the roles differently.

Like Reefer Madness, but with a few differences

Atrios and TBogg have some wonderful are you sure this isn't a parody? quotes from one Paul Cameron, of the Family Research Institute. It's worth quoting again in full, precisely because it's so completely barking:
"Untrammeled homosexuality can take over and destroy a social system," says Cameron. "If you isolate sexuality as something solely for one's own personal amusement, and all you want is the most satisfying orgasm you can get- and that is what homosexuality seems to be-then homosexuality seems too powerful to resist. The evidence is that men do a better job on men and women on women, if all you are looking for is orgasm." So powerful is the allure of gays, Cameron believes, that if society approves that gay people, more and more heterosexuals will be inexorably drawn into homosexuality. "I'm convinced that lesbians are particularly good seducers," says Cameron. "People in homosexuality are incredibly evangelical," he adds, sounding evangelical himself. "It's pure sexuality. It's almost like pure heroin. It's such a rush. They are committed in almost a religious way. And they'll take enormous risks, do anything." He says that for married men and women, gay sex would be irresistible. "Martial sex tends toward the boring end," he points out. "Generally, it doesn't deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does" So, Cameron believes, within a few generations homosexuality would be come the dominant form of sexual behavior.
(originally quoted in this article)

Suddenly, the entries in Matt's reasons to stop gay marriage contest (which included the death by starvation of the whole human race and a plague of killer bees) seem almost sane by comparison.

One hall of academe, barely used

Swansea University is up for sale on eBay (found via Peter Black). Well, it was, but the advert seems to have been removed, unsurprisingly. Shame, really, as it would have been fun to owe the University I graduated from, even if only nominally.

In case you cared

My blogger code: B5 d t k++ s u-- f+ i o x e l c-- (decode it!)

Monday, March 01, 2004

Stopped Clock Syndrome

Back in January, I wrote:
Daily shoutathon programmes survive well enough all over the world presented by people not named Robert Kilroy-Silk, and I doubt the BBC would have to look that hard to find a replacement host - I'm sure Nicky Campbell is having some interesting chats with his agents at the moment.
And today I discover that Nicky Campbell will indeed be hosting the BBC's new 'honestly, it's not just Kilroy with a new name' programme entitled Now You're Talking. Eventually, I had to get one right.