Sunday, 31 January 2010

Daddy not-so-cool

Today's further revelations on the scale of footballer John Terry's involvement with an ex-Chelsea colleague's partner raises a moral dilemma. Should private lives that would grace the scripts of Shameless affect the professional position of sportsmen; specifically, should Mr Terry lose the England captaincy as a result?

The question is a legal can of worms. The Venn diagram of 'current sportsmen' intersecting with 'positive role models for society' is a vanishingly small group (in which the likes of Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Johnny Wilkinson, David Beckham and Lance Armstrong can be found). Giving a young man a fortune is a dangerous thing. (Incidentally, there is a far higher proportionate of high-profile sportswomen who are great role models for girls: the likes of Rebecca Adlington, Paula Ratcliffe, Laura Robson, Clare Taylor, Elly Simmonds.)

Probably the decision will come down to whether John Terry has lost the authority and respect he needs in the eyes of his team-mates. Given that the England team is not blessed with saints, he'll probably keep his job. But the sport's image is diminished, and Mr Terry's sponsors may join Tiger Woods's in sitting on their hands until the flak dies down as well as his wife perhaps taking the legal high ground.

Facebook in the dock

Who needs a file in a chocolate sponge when you can have access to Facebook?

Maxim-security prisoner, Colin Gunn, has been able to intimidate his enemies by sending messages via his social networking site, presumably via a mobile phone smuggled into the prison.

Crime bosses would theoretically be able to mastermind hits and heists from the comfort of their cells, seen most iconically in 1969's movie The Italian Job where Mr Bridger (Noël Coward) directed the traffic from inside.

Presumably the prison authorities will be confiscating mobiles from now on. And registering a Facebook site while in jail may soon constitute grounds for extending inmates' sentences.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Emma's got talent? You decide

What happens when talent shows get too serious? You guessed it, contestants start suing the judges who booted them off the show on the grounds that potential earnings from their cruelly denied stardom had been strangled at birth.

Welcome to the world of Simon Cowell and the unwanted attention he is now receiving from former Britain's Got Talent contestant, Emma Czikai.

This is a natural progression from childhood dreams of fame and celebrity. In the digital age, aspiring performers expect to be stars as their birthright. In a strange way, the viral behaviour of stories spread on the internet creates notoriety: unintended and fleeting fame for lack of ability.

Unless, of course, you can brazen out the bad publicity, like The X Factor's Jedward.

Not-so-super injunctions

The press bites back on privacy cases. The so-called superinjunction Chelsea football star John Terry's lawyers, Schillings, obtained to try to protect his sponsorship image from the reality of his private life has been breached.

Superinjunctions were devised to prevent the media from even mentioning that an injunction had been imposed on a story about to be published in the press. Trafigura tried this tactic through their lawyers Carter Ruck with the Guardian to suppress a story about toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast, which was only foiled by Paul Farrelly MP raising a question in the House of Commons knowing he would be free from prosecution.

These are two cases where the surperinjunction legal tactic has fallen apart. But who's to say if there are unexploded cases where stories continue to be suppressed using this 'privacy by the back door' approach? No doubt, the UK press itself will be investigating just such a scenario even now.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Catcher waves goodbye

I felt as sorry as hell to hear the news. With a minimum of fanfare, J D Salinger, the creator of Holden Caulfield, is no more.

The Catcher in the Rye, and his earlier novels, have already shot up the Amazon sales charts with up to 3000 per cent increases.

There are a rumoured fifteen unpublished Salinger novels locked up in a vault. Now that the famously reclusive writer has passed away, what's the betting his Estate will allow publication of his work? If the publishing trade has its way (specifically literary agent Andrew 'The Jackal' Wylie), the first of these books would appear before the end of the year, probably in time for Christmas.

And it's a no-brainer for Hollywood to try to adapt The Catcher in the Rye now there is no obstacle to do so.

Je ne regrette rien? Peut-être le tatouage

Spare a thought for Manchester City superfan, Chris Atkinson, who emblazoned his chest with tattoos for the Premiership football team's Brazilian 'players'.

He has 'Kaka' and 'Robinho' etched on his torso: Robinho has been sent on loan to Brazilian club Santos FC for six months, and probably won't return to the English league; and Kaka, offered a £100m transfer, turned down the City out of loyalty to his then-club, A C Milan, before moving to Real Madrid.

Some decisions are best taken after careful reflection.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Live Ode for Haiti

The Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has arranged a Live Aid-style poetry event to take place at Westminster's Central Hall on Saturday 30 January 2009. The poets taking part include Andrew Motion, Brian Patten, Roger McGough, Maura Dooley and Gillian Clarke.

Here's a feeble addition to the cause:

Not exactly Edward Lear, but the event itself will have inspired oodles of heart-felt scribbling. I feel a book of the gig will follow pretty soon chasing the charity dollar ...

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

From iPod to iPad in one easy move

Steve Jobs likes to share the occasional geek joke; in this case a sleight of hand regarding the name of the new Apple product.

So, it's the iPad, not iSlate or iGuide: and the moniker makes sense, taking its place alongside the family of iPods already in the market place.

Scrolling through the product page, the apps available at launch are going to make a lots of competitors very nervous and cause new media industries (e.g. books, newspapers) to re-evaluate how they do business. For example, iBooks could both expand the market for e-books and yet destroy market share for the likes of Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader.

And everyone is going to want one. And the first review is already online, clocking in at iDay +30 minutes

Tesco's cut-price Tinseltown

So that's what Tesco's ClubCard is for: cross-promotion.

By knowing what FMCG goods book buyers spend their money on, Tesco have started to adapt best-selling titles for straight-to-DVD films. The first of these projects is a Jackie Collins' bonkbuster called Paris Connections.

The fun is trying to guess which products trigger heavy enough book-buying to stimulate interest in producing a film. Perhaps Jackie Collins readers buy disproportionate amounts of chocolate and red wine? Maybe Karin Slaughter fans hoard kitchen utensils? And it's tempting to think Jacqueline Wilson's audience stock up on ice cream, jelly and sponge cakes.

But, seriously, it's a bit depressing when decisions to make movies boil down to how many spuds a supermarket is selling. Where's the art, the creativity, the passionate auteurs in that? And I can't image retailers wanting to get over-embroiled in negotiations with authors' agents, although perhaps the number of projected DVD sales will make agents receptive to such deals.

This development moulds Hollywood into the role of product managers and promotion statisticians, where every new film is an extrapolation of public tastes in groceries. It brings stardom down the to the level of the weekly shop, which is perhaps just what Tesco wants.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Minx stink: parental furore over web game

My Minx makes the case for the licence fee. How so, I predict you'll be asking?

Blighty Arts, the producers of the game. say My Minx is 'harmless, tongue-in-cheek entertainment'; but they can't even spell the name of their products (sic, 'My Minix') despite all the glitz of their user-interface design.

The relentless push for eyeballs means content gets dragged to the gutter in an unregulated market. Hence the internet and the likes of Fox TV can dream up grotesque virtual and reality freak shows with impunity from regulators.

The licence-fee arrangements in the UK enshrine public-taste standards, which at least keeps some of the wildest ideas off our screens. A constant barrage of tasteless programming eventually become boring, so it always needs to recruit new viewers and participants; hence the relentless, deliberate content pitched at children.

This is the media content equivalent of the drug pusher, and it isn't a pretty sight. The logical extension of such forces to give the mob want they want is ever more graphic sex and violence aimed at progressively younger audiences. This vision of society celebrates a regression to a pre-Enlightenment, violent past.

But perhaps, as the internet is so pervasive, the gloves are already off when it comes to content: at least until the next swing of the pendulum that attempts to impose a moral framework on a feral, free-for-all society where anything goes ... and frequently does.

War on tiny terrors

The old Constable Savage sketch on Not the Nine O'Clock News needs updating.

Two children's television presenters, Anna Williamson and Jamie Rickers on the GMTV cartoon vehicle Toonattik, got stopped by police on London's South Bank on the grounds they were 'Dork hunting' in flak jackets and sunglasses while being followed by a film crew. They were armed with spangly hairdryers and kids walkie-talkies.

Police issued the pair with a warning under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.

Despite the predictable furore, the twist is that this might have given real terrorists some ideas. What better ruse to disguise yourself as a comedy superhero when in reality you're up to no good in the name of whatever Al-Qaeda cause is their latest rallying point.

Unfortunately, given the level of security Britain now faces, seemingly facile stories like this will continue to emerge. But, even so, you still couldn't make it up.

Branding celebrities

The News of the World's recent headline about the state of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's relationship is the latest example of celebrity profiles behaving like brands. Brangelina is like a corporate entity for which rumour and gossip does not allow for the fact that the partners are actors with professional engagements, separate job roles and PR responsibilities, as well as needing downtime away from the media.

So what if Brad and Angelina didn't go to the Golden Globes? Who cares that Brad supported George Clooney's 'Hope for Haiti Now' charity musical extravaganza with Angelina less prominent and that Jennifer Anniston was at the same event? Who knows (or minds) if Angelina has depression, which is surely a private matter?

The tabloids and the blogosphere care, of course, because celebrity brand stories sell newspapers. But my guess would be that the human beings behind the stardust don't read the press, or at least employ people to sift out the rubbish. I suppose occasionally star couples really do split up, but that's life -- and only every blue moon when it comes to the number of times the media predicts such break-ups.

Tinseltown is only reality with tassles.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A Whistler-stop tour of Tate Britain

What better way to spend a dreary Sunday afternoon than to bounce around the free exhibits at Tate Britain. Within the space of an hour, I ventured round galleries featuring:

All of which is fine and dandy, but it does make your head spin. An hour is about right as a time-frame for coping. Unfortunately the tea bar was closed for the day at the end of my trip: it might be an "ace café" for all I know, but the museum itself is pretty tasty.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Earl's Court: last chance to see

After the Olympic volleyball contest in London 2012, the art deco Earl's Court exhibition hall will go the same way as Highbury Stadium. The mecca of the Brit Awards and Ideal Home Show will be sliced up into a complex of ideal homes for Hammersmith and Fulham council.

Arsenal FC sold off sods of their hallowed turf. Will Earl's Court demolition team flog any stray kitchen gadgets they find to a grieving public?

Friday, 22 January 2010

Zigga zig aargh: Spiceworld reborn

I'm suddenly feeling ancient. The music of the Spice Girls, if not the members of the band, is being resurrected for the stage as a Mamma Mia-style musical: Viva Forever, indeed. The group that will never say goodbye.

The original Spice Girl fans are now of at least college age and perhaps feeling nostalgic for their first obsession with Girl Power. The demographic could be huge, especially if the storyline is strong enough.

With Simon Fuller's participation, the show will not want for marketing nous, commercial merchandise exploitation and cross-platform promotion. Mr Fuller was the Spice Girl's manager and is an executive with his mitts all over the Idol series that Simon Cowell fronted until recently.

Perhaps the Spice Girl musical is a punt at a post-Idol world if The X Factor replaces American Idol in the hearts and minds of the US viewing public.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

From HD to 3D: television's future today

Now that you've forked out for the latest HD-TV technology (plus your Kindle/iSlate, iPod Nano, Nintendo Wii, insert your favourite piece of kit here .........................), along comes 3D-TV to sprinkle napalm on your wallet.

They're all at it: the BBC, BSkyB, whover buys the small screen rights to Avatar, etc. The technology has suddenly become mainstream, with James Cameron's film providing the tipping point.

Welcome to capitalism, western style. We'll sell you products you don't need, that you'll desperately want, that'll burn a hole in your budget, that you'll bore of quickly, that won't make you happy, but will keep you up with the Jones's next door.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Go Vinny Gogh

The Royal Academy of Art's new Van Gogh exhibition is already sold out. The emphasis is on marrying Vincent's letters to his family and friends with his art, especially as only one of his paintings sold during his lifetime.

The most poignant letter was the one, half-finished, found on his body when he died: Vincent van Gogh didn't find an adequate answer to the question 'Who am I?, which is perhaps the most fundamental puzzle we all face daily on our individual journeys through life.

And the lights all went out in Massachusetts

One year on, and the Bee Gees seem to have captured the flavour of Barack Obama's mood: 'And the lights all went out in Massachusetts, The day they left him standing on his own' (spot the minor tweaks in the lyrics to the band's 1960s classic single).

But will the fact that the Republicans have won such a totemic Senate seat in Massachusetts, held by Edward Kennedy for the previous 47 years until his death in 2009, actually make much difference?

Only time will time. But at least Mr Obama knows the honeymoon is over and he'll have to earn his spurs all over again with the American voters. It could well be the making of him.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Krafty dealing

Now that Kraft has eaten Cadbury, what'll happen to the respective confectionery brands:

1. Kraft
2. Cadbury's
And what'll happen to Fair Trade? Chocolate lovers are running out of ethical options if they choose to shun Kraft-Cadbury and Nestlé.

More Molesworth

Another possible antecedent for a favourite series from the Molesworth books. In 'Extra Tew', a chapter on extra-curricular activity in How to Be Topp, our hero talks about a 'ruffs guide to the turf'.

The closest thing to a Rough Guide to gambling I can find is the Rough Guide to Poker. Perhaps a book in the series on horse racing might be a popular addition to the stable? Cheers, cheers, cheers.

Post-nuptial diagreement

Ailing Easy Rider actor, Dennis Hopper, and his wife Victoria Duffy are getting divorced on his deathbed on the grounds that she does not like the amount he has bequeathed to her and their daughter in his will.

This makes the Child Support Agency's struggles to get divorced men to support their ex-partners and children financially look like very small beer indeed.

Not so much 'alimony' as 'eximony'.

Monday, 18 January 2010

TV Book Club bares its teeth

So, Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger got savaged (relatively) on the new Amanda Ross show, TV Book Club.

Will this make a difference to sales? Yes, of course. They'll go up.

A combo of cover stickers, bookshop promotions and people remembering the title appeared on the programme (but forgetting it got rubbished) will remind readers the book made the cut. If a book appears on telly, the public will think 'somebody important' must have decided it was worth the publicity.

How do I know this? I was once the programme consultant to London Weekend Television's book show, You're Booked!, produced by Mike Mansfield Television Ltd. We got savaged by 'Square Eyes' in Private Eye, in a whole-page rant expressing the magazine's hatred of the You're Booked! concept, the contents and the presenters (i.e. Craig Charles, briefly; Eve Pollard; James Whale; TV executive, Linda Agran; and, er, Nathan Moore from boyband Brother Beyond). The result? Our viewer ratings trebled and remained high, beating the LWT regional figures for The South Bank Show.

PS: Viewing figures for the first TV Book Club show were around 350,000 and, yes, sales of The Little Stranger did leap as predicted.

Queen of Tweets

Prince William of Wales has announced that his grandmother is more au fait with Twitter than he is. Does this mean the Queen actually tweets, or at least gets minions to do the typing (e.g. for official engagements)?

This is probably unlikely, as she would have been smoked out by now. If writing it herself, news might include the likes of 'One is orff to Sandringham for Christmas.' If she is tweeting, but not writing what she is up to, then what's the point.

It's more likely that she's a spectator, keeping tabs on various court favourites, enemies, politicians, celebrities and members of her family.

I feel a sketch coming on, or at least a segment in the next edition of Have I Got News for You.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Friday night without Jonathan Ross

So, Jonathan Ross has vacated his £18-million seat at the BBC on the probable grounds that middle England wasn't happy with his salary and his perceived light punishment for the disastrous Andrew Sachs radio prank. The truth is probably more complicated, and his replacements are already being touted.

Mr Ross claims he wants to be a house husband, but the rise of his partner-in-crime Russell Brand as a film actor and fiancé to Katy Perry (pop strumpet du jour) probably means he'll have other irons in the fire. So, what might be the options? His family tree may hold some clues:
This is a built-in family network, even if Mr Ross has no real need of nepotism due to his spell of 20-plus years in front of a microphone.

My guess? A few months of purdah followed by either a big contract with Sky TV as film critic/presenter (i.e. big media fish slightly on the way down, replacing alumnus Barry Norman) or presenting big documentary and chat-show specials on ITV (i.e. following the resurrection route recently trodden by Piers Morgan) or devising some new panel quiz format that takes terrestrial TV by storm (i.e. following his previous comebacks on They Think It's All Over and Shooting Stars).

I don't see him having the patience or the humility to write books/screenplays and stay off the air for very long. And, as the Ross family have always lived in the Leyton area, I can't see him moving permanently from his London roots, say to Hollywood, for the sake of his wife's screenwriting career.

But whatever he does next it will be for less than £6 million a year, a figure that represents a South Sea bubble high point for any television presenter: it will not be exceeded in real terms for many years -- if ever. Viewer ratings will not, in the end, trump talent gold-rush economics.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Schama's America: one year on

Simon Schama has filmed a couple of documentaries for the 'Obama: how's the kid doin' series on BBC Two. One on war, comparing Afghanistan to Korea; and the other on financial meltdown, contrasting J P Morgan's 1907 bailout of Wall Street and William Jennings Bryant's advocacy of the Federal Reserve with the Obama injection of Uncle Sam's cash into the recent banking fiasco.

Is it possible that today's Simon Schama, arguing that Obama needs to enjoy being hated by the bankers (like Franklin D Roosevelt) and that he needs a 'shoe up his ass' to keep him focused, is the same Schama waxing so lyrical about the prospects of the Obama presidency on election night in November 2008?

Actually, yes. Schama is, I'm guessing, a Democrat-supporter, and simply wants his man to be the best he can be.

And a week is a long time in politics. Suddenly, with his response to the Haiti earthquake catastrophe, Obama looks serenely presidential, with the master stroke of setting up a private disaster fund to be run by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush.

Fred the Ed-ifice

Fred the Shred is back in business. Before Christmas 2009, Sir Fred Goodwin started a new job as an international advisor to architecture firm, RMJM.

Two thoughts spring to mind:
The likely answers, unfortunately, are 'No' and 'Who knows?'

Friday, 15 January 2010

Lady Gagaargh

A celebrity trend. Lady Gaga is the latest singer to have cancelled a gig (at Purdue University, Indiana) due to physical and/or mental exhaustion, following the recent examples of Lily Allen, Madonna, Amy Winehouse, Susan Boyle and various Sugababes ... and the tragic case of Michael Jackson, whose impending 50-gig residency at The O2 was a factor in his death in June 2009.

This phenomenon is not solely due to the extreme stress endured by high-profile performers who get stage-fright at the prospect of facing fans with astronomic expectations. Although this is a major factor, singers and bands have always had similar pressures.

The new aspect of celebrity culture in our electronic age is that pop singles are sold primarily as web downloads from the likes of iTunes. This means that the stars are making less money than in earlier times from copyright, both in terms of composition rights and mechanical rights of producing a product.

While the music industry tries to work out how to make money in turbulent times of an industry undergoing seismic shifts, performers have to commit to an enormous number of concerts to earn their crust and to keep their profiles in the spotlight.

Hence no downtime, relaxation or opportunity to enjoy success, constantly on-call to an adoring fan base: a recipe for mental and physical collapse. The wonder is how any modern pop star avoids making acquaintance with The Priory at some point in their careers.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Thalidomide, an apology

Fifty years after the thalidomide disaster, the UK Government apologises for hailing the drug a 'wonder'. Er, thanks.

The cynic in me wonders what proportion of the original number of victims the 466 thalidomider survivors represents? In other words, perhaps it was simply too expensive to admit liability before and £20m is all the economy can afford? There has been an ongoing campaign for compensation since the 1970s. All the compensation so far has come from the private sector.

Maybe there'll be British law suits pinned on the UK Government for being insufficiently clear in warning of the dangers of smoking and drinking alcohol? No wonder politicians get jumpy about the science behind the relative risks of various recreational drugs

How to be Topp at Hogwarts

This isn't exactly a 'Stop the Press' posting, but here goes.

While recuperating from a fiendish chest infection over the past week, I've been reading the Molesworth books written by Geoffrey Willans and illustrated, famously, by Ronald Searle. These books are the mispelt, illustrated musings of Nigel Molesworth a schoolboy at St Cuthbert's, a fictional prep school for boarders. The series was written originally as a boy's-eye version of the earlier St Trinian's stories created by Ronald Searle.

In one of the original quartet of the Molesworth 'novels', How to Be Topp, our hero complains that Latin often comprises reading ancient plays in the original vernacular. He emphasises his point by writing one himself, entitled 'The Hogwarts', under the nom de plume Marcus Plautus Molesworthus.

Lightbulb flashed yet? Despite what Joanne Rowling may say, I reckon she must be a fan of Molesworth, and used the name 'Hogwarts' for her school of witchcraft and wizardry as an homage to the series. Many of the incantations used by characters in the Harry Potter stories are in a form of cod Latin, which could be subtle references to the 'How to Be Topp in Latin' source. And Harry Potter himself even looks like N. Molesworth.

All very interesting and new to me, if already spotted by Potter fans and academics in cyberspace up to ten years ago.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Good Evans?

Chris Evans is a couple of days into his tenure as the nation's alarm-call on BBC Radio 2's Breakfast Show after the end of Wake Up to Wogan. He even received an answer phone message from Sir Terry that he played on air yesterday.

So how are things going?
  • There has been criticism of the level of cross-promotion for the show on the BBC's television channels, hoping to stem any loss in audience ratings;
  • The rehiring of Moira Stewart as the show's newscaster was hailed a success;
  • The ratings figures are not in, and may well be delayed until they show good news.
But Mr Evans has seemed to cope so far, without wishing to add his own zany brand of humour to the mix just yet. He'll wait until enough TOGS have turned to COGS (or perhaps Chris's audience figures, CAF) before risking many new features, just to work out what listeners actually want from him.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Body of evidence

David Beckham has a new tattoo on his torso: a 'Man of Sorrow' Jesus image commemorating his grandfather, who died in December 2009. This is the latest in a series of tattoos signifying the main relationships in Mr Beckham's life: his wife, his children, etc.

This is body art as blogging, stitching your friends and family into posterity on your flesh. It is also an incentive for his to keep in shape, to prevent tattoo stretch.

Body art has been used for other purposes, noticeably as an aide memoire for Guy Pearce's character Leonard Shelby in the Christopher Nolan film Memento.

This could be an even more devious plot device: say,
In the meantime, David Beckham is well on the way to being covered in tattoos, to the extent that even he may have a threshold of skin area beyond which he will not tread.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Pharoahs were no slave-drivers

Hmm. Thousands of years of people thinking the Ancient Egyptians who built the pyramids got a raw deal and rough treatment in a slave-master working scenario seem to be in doubt. Newly discovered graves by the side of pyramids in Giza show that pyramid builders were valued, high-status workers who worked on three-month rotations and were fed plenty of meat.

Any standing on the shoulders of giants may have to be rethought if entrepreneurs of more recent times have mistreated workers on the basis that 'whatever was good enough for the Egyptians was good enough for us' (e.g. the cotton industry of the Industrial Revolution, involving cotton mills in North-West England, gin distilleries and the slave trade in Liverpool, slave traders in West Africa and cotton-fields in the southern States of the USA).

Does this finding mean other historical working relationships need to be re-examined? The Christians in the Colosseum or slave-powered galleys or Ancient Rome? The sacrificial rites of the Ancient Aztecs? The child labour and sweatshops of the Industrial Revolution? Er, probably not.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Slapstick for our times

In this crazy age of rushing around from job to home to bed, eating on the run, our comedy tends to fall into several categories:
But, reflecting on a birthday present I bought my father, where has the silly yet deadly serious slapstick gone: the likes of Jacques Tati's M. Hulot, Marty Feldman, Peter Sellers' Inspector Clousseau, and Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean? Deceptively simple comedy for our complex times, yes please: especially where dialogue is almost irrelevant. We spend far too much time talking and communicating online, so I slice of visual tomfoolery would go down very well.

Who would be the contenders for such an enterprise? Rowan Atkinson, of course, Harry Hill, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, Lee Evans, Stephen Fry, Steve Martin, Jim Carrey?

And there is ripe material for exploitation ... say, a slapstick take on Doctor Who-style science fiction (Mr Bean in space with CGI effects might be fun), a sitcom based on the lives of mime artists (e.g. Marcel Marceau types), storylines where visual gags are included giving disabled actors central roles and the best lines. Give your brain a stretch.

In a world gone mad, slapstick would be a perfect antidote, and some playwrights have ventured into the field already (e.g. Enron)

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Everything stops

It's not just in Britain that circumstances have scuppered people's plans for the weekend. The weather has been cold, snowy and treacherous, but even where it has been good for business (e.g. Aviemore in Scotland; Yad Moss in Cumbria) skiers have not been able to reach the venues.

In Angola, the African Cup of Nations was almost put on hold due to the shooting of the Togolese football team's bus driver, assistant coach and a media spokesman; Nigeria plays a game of hunt the President; and Stormont wonders whether the Government in Northern Ireland is on the brink after the Robinson affair.

So, that's a relief, not. Satellite images of Britain show the country under a white blanket. The forecast continues to be grim, but nothing to do with climate change apparently, even though experts reckon the Gulf Stream may get switched off if the planet warms, giving the UK bleak winters on a par with Scandinavia. Brrr!

Friday, 8 January 2010

I'm a Celebrity revamp

So Gino D'Acampo, a TV chef, was crowned King of the Jungle in 2009's I'm a Celebrity, who made his mark by cooking a rat when rations got low. So last month, and the format's looking a bit tired, too.

How about swapping the Bushtucker trials for some really impressive stunts?
In reality, ITV have bought format rights to 71 Degrees North, a survival show where celebrities brave Arctic conditions in Norway: I'm a Celebrity on Ice meets Comic Relief's climb up Mount Kilimanjaro looks like a genuine feat of endurance and bravery.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

When oysters bite the dust

The Olympia oysters of the Pacific coast of North America are a mine-canary symptom of the health of the continent's coastal ecosystems, according to The Living Shore by Rowan Jacobsen.

The populations have been diminishing, but there is hope apparently. Strong Oly numbers have been counted in pockets of British Columbia and the US Government is committing money to oyster conservation projects across the country.

As always, human nature is to over-exploit natural resources -- in this case estuary populations of oysters -- but recent American policy is positive (e.g. in Chesapeake Bay). At last, US politicians seem to be getting serious about environmental issues. We might be seeing a glimmer of hope at national level for sensible decision-making on climate change and ecology policies.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

QI wishlist

The BBC panel show QI is a witty, skewed look at life through an intellectual lens, but the guest list might need refreshing.

Wouldn't the likes of Alexei Sayle, Jimmy Tarbuck, Dawn French, Rory Bremner, Ruby Wax and Omid Djalil be fantastic on the show, if only for a change?

Just what is the criteria for being invited to appear? Availability? Cheapness? Friendship with Stephen Fry?

Separated at birth

Compare and contrast. Nymphomation by Jeff Noon versus 'Himgonation' by Geoff Hoon.

The name's Brown, Gordon Brown

'No, Meester Brown, I expect you to die' seems to be the analogy desired by Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, cast in the roles of supervillain and sidekick mavericks of the Labour Government.

Sam Mendes is apparently up for directing Bond 23, the latest outing for the character played by Daniel Craig. The theory goes that Mr Mendes won't be allowed to mess with the genre formula, even though his Hollywood reputation is one of having a free hand to tell stories in his own way.

If Sam is cast in the Geoff and Patricia mould playing against a Peter Mandelson-Barbara Broccoli eminence grise/producer puppetmaster, then Sam will be directing a traditional Bond and Peter will be greeting the breakway duo with a 'Ah, Mr Hoon, Mrs Hewitt, I've been expecting you', before offering them both martinis 'shaken, not stirred' and laced with cyanide.

This close before a General Election, I can't see Labour ditching M.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Amazon kindling?

The worst-kept secret in Wired world is out: Apple are soon to launch a new hardware product called perhaps iSlate or iGuide to fill the gap between MacBook and iPhone. In other words, a larger Apple interface for watching TV and videos, reading online newspapers and magazines, video-conferencing and -- crucially -- downloading ebooks.

Battle will soon be joined with Amazon's Kindle 2 reader, and there will be no real contest. The relative share prices of Apple and Amazon make interesting reading; perhaps Kindle will be seen in hindsight as a loss leader in PR terms as Apple iSlate/iGuide apps get devised to convert Amazon-format ebooks on to other platforms? Will Kindle go up in smoke?

Monday, 4 January 2010

Celebrity Big Bovvered?

More people watched the launch episode of Celebrity Big Brother than last year (around 6m tuned in), but that's not susprising given that this series is being billed as the last one on Channel 4. But given television's ability to taken volte-face decisions, if audience ratings remain high the Celebrity version on the programme may continue.

The line up comprises: 3 actors (including 1 sportsman), 3 groupies (including 1 madam), 3 musicians and a glamour model -- and 0 politicians (this is an election year, after all).

If the series does continue, it would never attract stars of a less tabloid nature: if would be hard to imagine the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Nick Hornby, Mick Jagger, Hugh Grant, Emma Watson, Kylie Minogue, Dawn French, J K Rowling ... it really is all about who needs the publicity/work and who doesn't have a high-profile vehicle to promote (e.g. new book, film, album).

It would be great if a different sort of celebrity tried living the CBB House, as the programme may take on a different character; but there might be more chance of getting this type of guest on a series life the Ruby show, where Ruby Wax chatted intellectually with an eclectic bunch of stars over dinner in a television studio.
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