Friday, 31 October 2008

Last week's X Factor

Sorry, I am sooooo late commenting on last Saturday's X Factor. Most remiss of me. Not, of course, that you care, but if its OK with you I'll press like you do anyway :D

Big Band week then. Not my favourite week. I just don't see the attraction. You usually end up with the band drowning out the singers...

Main performances:

Scott Bruton - I think he was somewhat flattered by the band, but still better than previous performances - 3/5

Daniel Evans - OK, nothing more, still won't win - 3/5

Laura White - another good performance. Roll on week 4 - 4/5

Eoghan Quigg - competent - 3/5

Ruth Lorenzo - I can't remember what she sang, but I do remember that I enjoyed it. Quite sexy too - 4/5

Alexandra Burke - her weakest performance yet, thought the judges thought she was great. Polished but I didn't like the song much - 3/5

Austin Drage - can't remember it, but I noted down a '3' in my notebook.

JLS - not liking boy bands, I found myself rather enjoying this performance. I like how they stage their performances - 4/5

Diana Vickers - three full-mark performances on the bounce. You know things are going well when the judges give a standing ovation. Just wonderful - 5/5

Rachel Hylton - that's more like it. Rachel return to the kind of songs she's good at - 4/5


Scott Bruton - showed nothing to indicate he could win and consequently deserved to go. Acted like a mardy baby when told he was out and came close to the audience turning on him. Back to Pontins, methinks - 2/5

Daniel Evans - saved, surprisingly, by a teary Louis, but although he has to go eventually, he did do the better performance against Scott so did deserve to have another week of relative fame - 3/5

Disco is the theme tomorrow night. Here's the latest betting on outright winner...

Diana Vickers - 7/4 (yay!)
Laura White - 10/3
Alexandra Burke - 4/1
Austin Drage - 7/1
Eoghan Quigg - 8/1
JLS - 10/1
Rachel Hylton - 14/1
Ruth Lorenzo - 20/1
Daniel Evans - 100/1

Watched yesterday

The Midnight Meat Train - adaptation of a Clive Barker short story. A photographer becomes obsessed with a killer who bludgeons people to death late at night on the New York Subway. For me, the interest comes from this film starring my second-favourite actress in the whole world, Leslie Bibb. In this, she has more screen time than in any of her films to date and doesn't disappoint, confidently tackling her role as female lead and looking gorgeous throughout. The film itself is OK. Horror isn't my favourite genre but this is well made and suitably atmospheric, but perhaps stretched a bit thin over 98 minutes - 3/5

Grand Designs: The New England Gble House, Sussex - nice woman, nice house - 4/5

Supercarrier: Into The Danger Zone - 4/5

Dead Set: Episode 2 - still fantastic - 5/5

The Daily Show: 29th October - 4/5

Nightmare In Suburbia: The Stiletto Goddess - 3/5

Katie & Peter: The Next Chapter: Katie & Peter's African Adventure - K&P head off to South Africa to renew their wedding vows. Perfectly fine programme, but I was twice compelled to shout at the television by the narrator referring to planes quite clearly driven by propellors as 'jets'. Katie wore Ugg boots for the ceremony, quite obviously drawing inspiration from Patricia Potter when, in Holby City, her character married Owen, Tish wearing Uggs under her dress - 4/5

Question Time - QT live from Washington D.C. The most striking thing about this was the difference between Omaba and McCain supporters in the audience. By and large, the Obama supporters were well-behaved, but the McCainiacs would boo anything they disagreed with or cheer like jocks at the stuff they agreed with. Uncouth rabble! Best line went to Simon Schama when he called a loud-mouthed Republican a 'blowhard'.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Watched recently

Have I Got A Bit More News For You - 4/5

Britannia High: Let's Dance - ITV aims for the High School Musical demographic with this museical drama set in a performing arts school. It's really, really bad. The script and acting are particularly dire and, if you think think about it, these are pretty important! That said, Gary Barlow's songs are poptastic and the choreography is good and rather than get depressed by the fact it is, unquestionalby, crap, against my critical faculties I did find it rather uplifting and will watch again - 3/5

Railway Walks: The Whisky Train - seemed to puff by in about 7 minutes and I hadn't touched a drop - 4/5

Grand Designs: The Wool Mill, Yorkshire - a very nice conversion, though the shower was in a stupid location. Looked like one of those modernist portaloos you find in civic squares these days. Situating it above a wide atrium was just plain weird - 5/5

Little Britain USA: Episode 1.4 - 4/5

Katie & Peter: The Next Chapter: 23rd October - I don't know why I've never watched one of Katie's shows before because I've been a fan for years. I enjoyed it though and despite a certain degree of tackiness (too much pink, Katie) she comes across quite well. She clearly works hard and enjoys what she earns. Peter Andre seems like a really nice guy too - 4/5

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Samson and Delilah - viewing figures have dropped significantly in the US, but that didn't stop Fox putting in a full 22-episode order, so here we are again for more robotic goodness, headed up by the ever delightful Summer Glau. Sarah who? - 4/5

Secret Diary Of A Call Girl: Episode 2.8 - an ultimately dispappointing series fizzles out into nothingness. Billie, you need to get back into shape for next year - 3/5

No Heroics: Monkey Gone To Heaven - I really hope we get a second season of this. It's great stuff - 4/5

Grey's Anatomy: Physical Attraction... Chemical Reaction - it's official, I hate Meredith Grey. She must be the most unlikebale character on TV and that's saying something given the wide variety of sociopaths we invite into our living rooms these days - 4/5

Grand Designs: The Gothic House, Monmouth - ended up about as gothic as a suburban semi, but never mind. At least the staircase was nice - 4/5

Grand Designs: The Self-Build, Birmingham - 4/5

The Daily Show: 27th October - 4/5

Entourage: Gotta Look Up To Get Down - 5/5

Tim Marlow On Rothko - yay for Sky Arts! Short documentary companion piece to the current Rothko exhibition at Tate Modern, which I wrote about last week - 5/5

Flight Of The Conchords: Girlfriends - Murray is a legend - 4/5

Argumental - moderately amusing comedy game show, won't be watching it again - 3/5

Great Railway Journeys Of The World: Confessions Of A Train Spotter - 1980 and Michael Palin travels from London to Kyle of Lochalsh by train, taking a route through Birmingham and Crewe, crossing the country to York then up the ECML to Edinburgh and beyond. I like these old programmes that give a glimpse on how things used to look. Having recently been to Euston station it was interesting to see how much it still looks like it did back in 1980. Being an ex-trainspotter myself, I was interested in seeing some of the diesels I either used to spot or which left service before I started, like the Class 26 and the Deltics... I'll get my anorak - 4/5

The Daily Show: 28th October - 4/5

Dead Set: Episode 1.1 - Charlie Brooker's zombie horror set in the Big Brother house. Far, far better than I had expected, this is perhaps the best thing ever on E4. It's much darker than I had expected, but Brooker's script also infuses it with wit and knowing touches. The production values are high and as someone who regulary watches Big Brother, it also gives an interesting behind-the-scenes insight. A great cameo from Davina McCall too. A quality effort all round - 5/5

Grand Designs: The Regency Villa, Surrey - I'm always a little disappointed by Grand Designs when the project doesn't get finished. Usually these become the subject of Grand Designs Revisited, but not in this case so there's no way of knowing just how it all turned out. On the other hand, season 2, which this episode is from, is being re-released early next year so there's a chance that some new Revisited segments could have been filmed - 4/5

Tatchell on Brand / Ross

From The Guardian:

"The BBC has caved into the mass hysteria and hypocrisy of a baying, irrational mob. It has suspended radio presenters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, prompting Brand to quit. For what?

This storm in a teacup was started by two members of the public who complained to the BBC when the programme was broadcast. What gave it legs was sensationalist media coverage by rightwing journalists who will use any excuse to attack the BBC and by the tabloid media which is obsessed with the trivia and froth of celebrity lives and misdemeanours. This coverage prompted a herd stampede of manufactured outrage by people who never listened to the original programme."

Read the full article

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

It's all over bar the voting

From the Guardian...

"I hate to be a spoilsport, but this election is over. In six days from now the polling stations will be opening on election day. Later that day - sometime before midnight on the east coast of the United States - Barack Obama will be declared America's 44th president."

Read full article


Seems the torch-wielding masses are out on the streets, ready to lynch Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand at the first opportunity.

Clearly, the whole thing has been blown out of all proportion. When the show was broadcast it received two complaints. It wasn't until the Mail picked up on the story that the hordes started complaining about something they hadn't even listened to in the first place. It's hard not to conclude that people who dislike Ross (no doubt driven by the usual bitterness over how much he is paid), Brand and, more broadly, the BBC are jumping on this latest bandwagon and using it as a platform to throw rocks at them.

Now we also have politicians wading in, sensing an opportunity to exploit the situation and pollute the airwaves with their own particularly unctious brand of mock self-righteous indignation.

So let's get back to the nuts and bolts of what happened. There are two distinct issues involved. The actual phonecalls to Andrew Sachs and the broadcasting of them.

There's no doubt that the phonecalls to Sachs were wrong. It's not like they were calling, say, Ricky Gervais or Gordon Ramsey, who they know would no doubt play along with the joke. Sachs isn't a regular guest for either of these two and they were wrong to assume that he could be treated in the same way.

The second issue is that of how the whole thing came to be broadcast. It's quite obvious that there was an editorial failure that allowed this to happen. The picture that seems to be emerging is that the show was being overseen by a junior producer who perhaps didn't feel they could go against Brand and Ross and remove the sequence. I wouldn't blame Brand and Ross for this though. They are big personalities who routinely push the boundaries of what's acceptable and to an extent, that's where much of their popularity lies.

But with such personalities it is also necessary to have another equally strong influence in the studio to reign them in when required, such as an experienced producer or, as is usually the case with Brand's show, a switched-on co-presenter. In the absence of either of these, the dominant personalities of the stars will assert themselves, becoming both broadcaster and de facto producer.

Had the calls not been broadcast, apologies from all concerned to Sachs and his granddaughter, Georgina Bailey, would have sufficed and everyone would have got on with their lives. That's where the culpability of Brand and Ross ends. What happened beyond that is the responsibility of the weak producer and whichever executive put them in place.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Monbiot on the 'gibbering numbskulls'

From George Monbiot in today's Guardian...

"How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the US come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind's closest living relative to spend two terms as president? How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama was a Muslim and a terrorist?

Like most people on my side of the Atlantic, I have for many years been mystified by American politics. The US has the world's best universities and attracts the world's finest minds. It dominates discoveries in science and medicine. Its wealth and power depend on the application of knowledge. Yet, uniquely among the developed nations (with the possible exception of Australia), learning is a grave political disadvantage."

Read the full article

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Kevin Spacey's golden age

From The Observer:

"One evening at the end of the summer a boat chugged down the Thames bearing precious freight. On board, staff, stage crew and actors from The Old Vic Theatre Company drank and danced their way around the decks, careful not to disturb the slumbering figure of Kevin Spacey, the theatre's artistic director.

'He was having a little nap at one point with Minnie, his dog, on his chest,' says Jessica Hynes, a star of the theatre's current hit, Alan Ayckbourn's 1973 trilogy The Norman Conquests. 'What was great was that he was there, though. He had come to support all of the staff. It was well before the previews or any reviews of our show, so it was just a general pat on the back for everyone. From the minute I started working at the theatre, that was the atmosphere I loved.'"

Read the full article

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Watched last night

Peep Show: Warring Factions - never watched Peep Show before, not even for a second, which, I admit, has been somewhat remiss of me. Give the huge critical acclaim, I was open to watching it, but never got around to it. Cue Zavvi and their offer of the first five season for £19.99 and I can now begin to address this omission. I'm rather glad I did because this first ever episode was excellent - 5/5

Grand Designs: The Oak Framed House, Argyll - finally, More4 start showing something other than the first or eighth season, with this episode from season four - 4/5

Breaking Bad: Cancer Man - 4/5

Service For Southend - short film from the British Transport Films stable on the electrification of the Liverpool St to Southend line. I'm curious as to why the film doesn't give any shots of the electric trains. They show parts, such as the pantograph, or the wheels, but never the whole train, whereas steam engines appear throughout. Would like to see more of these films - 4/5

The Daily Show: 23rd October - 4/5

Old Vic bits

Further to my Norman Conquests post a few days ago, the Old Vic have now announced the 2008/9 season line-up. Already known were the Sam Mendes directed 'Bridge Project', comprising The Winter's Tale and The Cherry Orchard, which will see Ethan Hawke treading the boards under the Old Vic's proscineum arch, but before that there are two more plays taking advantage of the current in-the-round configuration.

Firstly, Kevin Spacey will direct Joe Sutton's Complicit in its world premiere. It's about a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who finds himself up before a Supreme Court grand jury and is, by all accounts, rather good. also It's likely to attract one or two big-name cast members.

After that comes a London revival for Brian Friel's Dancing At Lughnasa. The cast for this includes Niamh Cusack (whose sister Sinead is in the Bridge Project) and, randomly the dreamy Andrea Corr.

I have my tickets booked already! :D

A few links of interest:

Mark Shenton at The Stage looks at the Old Vic's in-the-round conversion.

Ianist has a better review of The Norman Conquests than I could ever write. Not sure about the last paragraph comemnt that Kevin knocked Alan Ayckbourn over though! I have no idea where that comes from.

Another good review at the International Herald Tribune.

BTW, it was the birthday of The Norman Conquests and Speed-The-Plow director Matthew Warchus yesterday :D

Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino - still a badass at 78

Friday, 24 October 2008

Watched recently

Grey's Anatomy: Kung Fu Fighting - better than the previous week's episode, but this whole Meredith/McDreamy thing is beyond tedious. It's been going on since 2005 FFS! Either get married or one of you die already - 4/5

Entourage: ReDOMption - 4/5

The Daily Show: 20th October - 4/5

Grand Designs: The Modernist Sugar Cube, Bristol - gorgeous design for a house, but a bit too white for my liking - 4/5

Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends: Off-Off Broadway - dawned on me as I watched that I've seen this one before, but I carried on watching anyway. This episode followed actors trying to make a name for themselves on Broadway, in TV ads or, to be honest, doing anything at all. I wrote down a few names so I could see if they've had any success:

James Lorenzo - seems the past couple of years have seen get the occasional bit part on TV, having done episodes of As The World Turns, Law & Order, The Sopranos and Gossip Girl. Other than that, a whole lot of nothing, it would seem. He seemed very focused back in 1999...

Sarah Adams - nothing at all! Bad luck!

Nicole Greenwood - 28 years old now, but she looked that back in 1999 as well. Again, a few things on TV such as Monk, Pushing Daisies and Two And A Half Men, as well as a couple of small films.

So, no superstars came out of that programme. Oh well! - 3/5

The Daily Show: 21st October - 3/5

The American Future: American War - 4/5

Stephen Fry In America: Deep South - there's something missing from this, but I can't put my finger on it - 3/5

America's Next Top Model - bye bye Marvita. Of course, it was obvious that both her and Whitney were off to the bottom two because they were featured at the start. It's pretty safe to say the first two models who appear in each episode will be up against eachother at the end. But anyway, Marvita would have never won, so it's all good that she's gone - 4/5

Fringe: The Ghost Network - still daft, still great - 4/5

The Daily Show: 22nd October - 4/5

The Family: The Rules - 4/5

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Norman Conquests

As regular readers will know, I spent the past weekend down in London for a weekend built around The Norman Conquests at the Old Vic.

I got down there on Friday morning and met up with my friend Tish Potter for a chat / coffee / hot chococlate / Danish pastry at Carluccio's in St Pancras. We were then joined by another of my friends, Lotty.

Tish headed off and Lotty and I headed to the Thames in search of a beach. For those unfamiliar with the South Bank, there is actually a small, sandy beach just down river from the London Eye. It's underwater much of the time, thanks to the Thames being a tidal river, but it does attract people to it's unlikely sandiness on sunny days. However, most of the time it's just visited by detritus, such as that we found - a rake, a plant pot, a toy dinosaur valiantly trying to claw its way up the beach to escape the rising waters.

After that we went to my hotel so I could check in and dump my ridiculously heavy rucksack, then went to the Old Vic for a quick drink before Lotty took off. I wandered around for a while and killed time before heading back the Old Vic to meet another friend, Doug. We drank fruity alcoholic drinks in the Pit Bar then went to Paradiso for dinner. Somehow, we then ended up in a flat in Brixton with a few people Doug knows and some others neither of us you. We all trudged off to a pub called the White Horse which was noisy and had about forty people waiting to be served and two bar staff. Not feeling the evening, I just had the one drink then caught a cab back to the hotel.

The next morning I was up early and off to do some quick shopping in the West End, before heading back to the hotel and then to the Old Vic for the first play, Table Manners at 11am. I was sat in just the best seat on the front row of the stalls, quite literally in touching distance of the actors from time to time. I was to be sat next to a charming retired couple from Edinburgh for the day, who are Alan Ayckbourn fans and travel around the country watching his plays.

Some back story. The Norman Conquests are a trilogy of plays by Ayckbourn, first performed in 1973. They features the same cast, characters and location and take place simultaneously, but in different areas of a house. People walk out of a room in one play, and into another room in another. Each plays can be viewed as a standalone, or you can see one or both of the others to build up a bigger picture of the whole and how the events in each interconnect. The plays are performed in-the-round, meaning that the stage is a circle in the middle of the theatre, surrounded with seating, as opposed to the Old Vic's usual, traditional, proscineum arch configuration.

The cast for this revival was made up of Stephen Mangan, Jessica Hynes, Amelia Bullmore, Ben Miles, Paul Ritter and Amanda Root. It's all directed by Matthew Warchus, who last 'appeared' at the Old Vic earlier this year directing Kevin Spacey, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Michelle Kelly in the awesome Speed-The-Plow (which, incidentally, they're planning to take round the world).

So, the first play was Table Manners and it was terrific. Very, very funny and it zips by. The male cast in particular stand out. Stephen Mangan as the uncontrolled, uncontrollable, lothario Norman who spends the trilogy working his way through the female characters, Paul Ritter as the henpecked husband who finally snaps in an electric argument with his wife (Amanda Root) and Tom, the hapless neighbour in love with Annie (Jessica Hynes) but suffering from an almost paralytic inability to take action. My closeness to the stage was illustrated when at one point, Amelia Bullmore as Norman's wife Sarah, in a rage, flings a bowl of soup from the table, giving someone along the row from me a small, unwanted shower.

One play down and I was back off to the West End for another quick bit of shopping, which included picking up the first five seasons of Peep Show from Zavvi for £19.99 and Zombie Strippers, starring Robert Englund and Jenna Jameson. Back to drop them at the hotel, a sandwich and a quick dash to the theatre just in time for the next play. It was during this time I managed to injure my foot with all the rushing about in not entirely comfortale shoes. I'm still limping now :(

The second plays was Living Together, in which the action shifts from the kitchen to the living room. Again, Stephen Mangan in fantastic, getting gloriously drunk and frolicking on the rug. The biggest laugh goes to Paul Ritter's Reg for his great, physical tirade against the illogicality of chess.

Two down and it was a walk down the river to Tate Modern for the Rothko exhibition...

Rothko is one my favourite artists, one of my big three including Jackson Pollock and Cy Twombly (who was also the subject of an impressive recent retrospective at Tate Modern). This exhibition of Rothko's later work is stunning, powerful and surprisingly moving and I can't recommend it enough to anyone with an interest in modern art. The Seagram murals in particular, in all their glory, are an elemental, defiant presence. No other works at Tate come close.

I purchased two heavy Rothko books from the shop and, having some time to kill, took a slow walk back up the Thames to drop them at my hotel (Premier Inn, County Hall), partly because it was a pleasant evening to take take in the atmosphere, partly because my foot was killing me so I couldn't walk much faster anyway!

Onto the final leg (and foot) as I hobbled back to the theatre for the final play, Round and Round the Garden (set in the garden, unsurprisingly). I didn't think this one was quite as good as the other two, mainly due to some Chekovian longuers, but it was still very good and Stephen Mangan had the audience in stitches once again. Another example of how close I was to the stage, there's a scene in which four of the characters are playing a ball game. At one point, Reg has to fumble a catch and he does so but the ball escapes the stage and hits me on the foot, sending Paul Ritter into a scramble.

After the play finished (with a much deserved standing ovation for the day as a whole), I got up to leave and someone fell behind me, up on the gallery. There was a little panic and staff running about. I hung around a while chatting to a girl I met but whoever fell didn't get up before I left. I rang Rejane at the Old Vic yesterday and she said that an ambulance was called and the man walked to it himself, so I guess he's OK.

Overall, I found The Norman Conquests to be a wonderful, exhilarating, theatrical experience. The in-the-round format really makes you feel part of the action and creates a strong sense of shared experience with the actors on the stage. For the first time, I think I prefer theatre to film and I never thought I would say that. Happily, I can confirm that the next two plays at the Old Vic will be using the same in-the-round format, though I'm sworn to secrecy as to what those plays are. All will be revealed later this week.

After that last play, it was back to the hotel - via Burger King - and some phonecalls before going to bed. Got up the next morning, skipped breakfast and headed to St Pancras for the train home. All in all, a great weekend and I've never been happier to be a patron of the Old Vic.

Watched recently

Flight of the Conchords: Bowie - 4/5

Stephen Fry In America: New World - 4/5

Fringe: Same Old Story - episode two maintained the high standard of the first. Definitely the new X-Files - 4/5

America's Next Top Model: Where's The Beef? - making the models wear clothes made out of meet. I think it's supposed to be ironic, or something. Either way it's great TV. I half wanted Amis to stay because she's quite attractive, but the other half of me thought she was really quite annoying, so fair enough. Bye bye. Not sure who I want to win yet, unlike Britain's Next Top Model where I wanted Alex to win from the start (and she did!). Maybe that gawky rock chick who can't walk in heels... - 4/5

The Daily Show: 14th October - 4/5

Heroes: One of Us, One of Them - continuing the strong start to season 3 - 4/5

Paul Merton In India: Episode 1.2 - 3/5

Heroes: I Am Become Death - hmm, bit dull this one. Still, let's not start writing it off just yet. All shows have their off-episodes - 3/5

The Family: Teenage Kicks - finally, the dad actually stands up for Emily for once. Best documentary on TV right now is this - 4/5

The Riches: The Lying King - strike-abridged season 2 has been very dark indeed, well done to all involved, especially Minnie Driver who is continually terrific in every episode - 4/5

The Daily Show: 15th October - 4/5

The Daily Show: 16th October - 4/5

Have I Got A Bit More News For You - proving my above statement wrong, this show never has an off-episode. It's just the funniest thing on TV - 4/5

Little Britain USA: Episode 1.3 - off-episode here though - 3/5

No Heroics: Origin and Tonic - 4/5

Friday Night With Jonathan Ross - Ricky Gervais, Gordaon Ramsey and Sarah Silverman make for a great guest list - 4/5

BTW, here's the video Sarah Silverman was talking about, that she made for her ex-boyfriend's (Jimmy Kimmell) birthday. It's been around forever, but always worth a watch...

Jimmy Kimmell gives his epic response...

Railway Walks: The Birth of Steam - hmmm, surprisingly uninteresting, this walk - 3/5

Secret Diary of a Call Girl - this series started off so well but it's gone totally downhill in the past few episodes. Would have helped if they hadn't filmed it when Billie Piper wasn't pregnant because it's all a bit creepy - 2/5

The X Factor

A belated look through the acts on last Saturday's Michael Jackson themed X Factor...

Alexandra - another good performance - 4/5

Scott - better song choice and performance this week, but he's just so generic and bland - 3/5

Ruth - unlike Simon, I think it was good that Ruth dropped the spanish because it seemed like a gimmick that was wearing thin. By all means, don't drop it forever, just don't do it every damn week. A bit of a surprise to see her in the bottom two - 3/5

Girlband - as with the previous week, Layla showed she's the only one of them who can sing properly. Although they were better, there was nothing about the performance that suggested they could go very far. I wouldn't have put them in the bottom two though - 3/5

Laura - not quite up to the awesome standard of week one, but still pretty damn good - 4/5

Austin - see Scott - 3/5

Daniel - truly woeful. Survived because he's a 'nice guy'. Louis is right too, he does look like Ricky Gervais - 1/5

JLS - loved by the audience and teenage girls, did nothing for me. Just not my thing, though their stage performance was pretty good - 2/5

Diana - now we're talking, Diana knocks it out of the park once again - 5/5

Rachel - butch Rihanna is back with a song arguably no better than in the previous week and a performance to match. What happened to the woman who sounded like Amy Winehouse in the first audition? - 2/5

Eoghan - singing Ben. How unpredictable in Michael Jackson week. Hasn't got the vocal power to make it all the way through the series, but may habg around for a while because people think he's a cute boy - 2/5

So Ruth and Girlband in the bottom two...

Ruth - unleashed the X Factor equivalent of a nuclear bomb. How Simon could choose Girlband over her is beyond me, but if she can replicate that performance in future weeks she could go very far indeed. Terrific stuff - 5/5

Girlband - salvaged some self-respect with their best performance of the series, but they were never going to win after that performance from Ruth - 4/5

Overall then, I would have dumped Daniel Evans, but Girlband were going to go sooner or later so it may as well have been now. Cheryl's still hot favourite to have the winning act, but Ruth could be a dark horse for Dannii.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Bits and pieces

The BBC has a decent review of Quantum of Solace. There's a negative review by Christopher Tookey in the Daily Mail, but I usually find Tookey to be wrong about most things, so I wouldn't take it too seriouly.

Fox have given a full season order to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which gives us a full 22 episodes of Summer Glau's babe-inator :D have an extensive article on the new Star Trek. Check out the USS Kelvin!

McCain v Letterman

I wasn't born in a manger, I was born on Krypton

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Bits and pieces

Stills from JJ Abram's Star Trek reboots have started appearing all over the place. AICN has a number of links. I have to say, it's looking damn good and it's nice to see the short uniforms of TOS have been retained ^_^

This news passed me by, but Boston Legal won't be coming back next year. However, David E. Kelley will have a new hour-long legal drama, this time over at NBC.

The Daily Mail is reporting that the BBC wants to shift Question Time to Scotland. While it's always wise to take the Mail with a pinch of salt, if this story is true then it's a quite ridiculous move on the part of the BBC. Let's be honest, most of the people who appear on the programme are based in London. It's a political show and whether or not the BBC wants to admit it, London is the political centre of the nation. This move would serve to do nothing but diminish a programme which will struggle to attract high-profile panellists to make the schlep north of the border. It's even dafter than the decision to move Five Live to Manchester.

Bafflingly, Quentin Tarantino has changed the name of his forthcoming film Inglorious Bastards to Inglourious Basterds.

Elsewhere, Ian Williams has a good analysis of last night's presidential debate, which I recorded and watched frst thing this morning. Certainly the liveliest of the debates so far. McCain was more fired up and aggressive, but I got the impression he was flailing around somewhat. Banging on about links between Obama and Bill Ayers is a dead-end, save with the people who were always going to vote for McCain anyway. Anyone with powers of objective reasoning can see the idea that Obama 'pals around with terrorists', to quote Sarah Palin, is patently absurd, as are the accusations he's an 'extremist' on abortion or participating in 'class warfare' on economic policy. Obama himself remained cool as ever, concentrated on issues of substance and, to be honest, simply appeared more presidential.

There's more good analysis of the debate by Jonathan Freedland and Melissa McEwan.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Watched yesterday

Wired: Episode 1.1 - a rare experience for me, watching an ITV drama. Still, for reasons that escape me I chose to give this tale of a bank employee blackmailed into taking part in a hi-tech robbery a go. It was actually quite good! - 4/5

Railway Walks: Discovering Snowdonia - Julia Bradbury walks from Dolgellau to Barmouth - 4/5

Grey's Anatomy: Heart You Every Day - hmmm, the past couple of episodes were good, but this was a bit boring. Not enough Izzie, too much meredith, that's the trouble. Well, partly - 3/5

The Daily Show: 13th October - 4/5

Breaking Bad: ...And The Bag's In The River - last week, this programme taught me that if disposing of a body using hydroflouric acid, I should place said body in an LDPE container first. Sadly, this week it didn't teach me much as was a bit dull, though it did pick up at the end - 3/5

Daniel hearts Danielle

Most people who know me will know I have a thing for glamour model Danielle Lloyd. I am now going to regularly foist this Daniphilia on you, dear reader. Sorry.

First up, Danielle's launched her own modelling agency, Irresistible Talent. As much as I hate Flash as a medium for site building, I must say that I think designer David Roberts has done a pretty fine job with a stylish, fast-loading site that certainly does justice to the models on display.

The Sun has a story on Danielle's recent Loaded cover shoot. A bit behind the curve as the magazine's been out about two weeks, but never mind. She's also this week's Nuts cover-girl - full scans can be found here or here, but here's the cover...

Newstoob has a preview of Danielle's 2009 calendar, which I already have on order! I'm starting to get bored of the Avril Lavigne one in here...

Monday saw her promoting a new line in Ultimo lingerie at Debenhams in Dudley - exotic! Splash News has the photos. Related articles at Female First and Thaindian News.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Watched recently

Gomorrah - think of The Wire, but without the police and set in southern Italy and you have a pretty good approximation of what this film is about. Not a bad film, but probably about 30 to 45 minutes too long - 3/5

Britain's Got The Pop Factor... (Part One) - Peter Kay returns with his first new material in four years, a spoof of The X Factor. Split in two parts, I got to the end of this first part and decided I didn't want to watch the second. It's not that it isn't any good, it's just that it's too close to what it's trying to parody. In many ways The X Factor is beyond parody, so while Kay's trademark affectionate humour is appreciated, it feels like I've seen the show before, not least because I spent two hours the previous night watching The X Factor - 3/5

No Heroics: Back Issues - the best ITV comedy in years and one of the best British comedies in a decade. I'm loving Electroclash - 4/5

Entourage: Tree Tippers - one of the best US comedies. Consistently great - 4/5

Fringe: Pilot - taken me forever to get round to watching this, but it was worth the wait. In many respects it's a reworking of The X Files for current times and it's as mad as a bag of weasels, but on the basis of this opening episode it's all very promising. Olivia Dunham is the new Dana Scully - 4/5

Prison Break: Five The Hard Way - really enjoying this series. It's entirely ludicrous in every conceivable well, but fantastically entertaining. Jodi Lyn O'Keefe's Gretchen Morgan is my favourite pychopathic bitch on TV! - 4/5

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The X Factor

After what seemed like eight months, we finally reached the live stages of The X Factor last night. Things got off to a seemingly dodgy start when Dermot O'Leary seemingly gave the audience a Nazi salute, but improved exponentially when Cheryl Cole appeared sporting the sexiest, shiniest, black PVC jeans ever seen on network television.

On to the acts!

Girlband - as generic as their name suggests I can't seem them getting very far and, indeed, they ended up in the bottom two last night. They have one decent singer, but the trouble is that she shows just how poor the others are. The harmonies aren't too bad though - 3/5

Austin Drage - bland singer, instantly forgettable, but the judges seemed to like him - 2/5

Daniel Evans - got to the finals because of his sob story. Simon was right to say he's just a pub singer but he's likeable enough. Won't win anything though - 3/5

Alexandra Burke - now we're talking (well, singing). This girl can actually sing and does so very well. A great performance and she already looks, acts and sings like a pro - 5/5

JLS - another generic band, this time a four-guy R&B combo. I have little time for R&B and while they seemd fine technically, I'm never going to have much interest in them - 4/5

Scott Bruton - the most woeful performance of the evening and, perhaps, in the history of the live shows. Simon Cowell picked the wrong song with disastrous results and much embarassment all round, even from Simon himself. The public took pity on him though and sent him through to next week. I would have ditched him, personally - 1/5

Rachel Hylton - her makeover's made her look like a butch Rihanna and Dannii Minogue's song choice was almost as dire as Simon Cowell's above, but the girl does have potential as evidenced by her first audition and a great stage presence. Let's hope next week is better - 2/5

Diana Vickers - I adore this girl and absolutely want her to win. She has a very unusual voice for The X Factor, but both it and the girl it comes from are beautiful - 5/5

Bad Lashes - poor girl band, worse than Girlband and no surprise they ended up in the bottom two, subsequently going home. They looked good, but had no vocal talent at all. Might possibly have survived had they not wheeled out that dreadful Wonderwall cover from the previous week at the end - 2/5

Eoghan Quigg - again, nothing to interest me here. He's a competent young singer, but his voice is a bit weak. Not much power behind it. I don't really like solo male singers anyway - 3/5

Ruth Lorenzo - good performance, but I hope she doesn't start every song, every week in Spanish. That was a good twist the first time, but it's becoming a bit tiresome now - 3/5

Laura White - over at the Guardian blogs last week, I predicted that Laura would win this, and on the strentgh of her truly phenomenal performance last night, she must surely be the favourite. Staggeringly good. I want Diana to win, but if this girl wins instead I will be more than happy - 5/5

Heh, I'm sittting here watching that clip and getting all teary. Sap!

Overall, it's quite clear that The X Factor is Cheryl's to lose. She has far and away the best singers in Alexandra, Diana and Laura and it will be a major shock if all of them aren't there on final night in December.

The return of 'watched recently'

After a hiatus of decades, I'm bringing back my regular review of what I've been watching on TV. Here's last night's viewing:

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Episode 2.6 - not a great episode, the sole highlight being Bambi in her thigh boots. However, it's blatantly obvious that Billie Piper was pregnant throughout filming. She's usually filmed from the chest up, clearly put on lots of weight and when you do see her full length, she's invariable wearing something baggy. It's a bit off-putting though, mixing the sexuality of the character with the knowledge the actress is pregnant at the same time. I may be kinky, but that doesn't really float my boat! - 3/5

Railway Walks: The Peak Express - in these times of economic gloom and doom, a programem like this provides a pleasant diversion. Julia Bradbury takes a walk along long disused railway lines around the country, starting with the Midland line between Bakewell and Buxton. Much like her previous, similar series assaying some of Wainwright's Lakeland walks, it's beautifully shot and makes you want to don boots and go out for a wander - 4/5

Flight of the Conchords - fell out of love with this show first time around, but catching the current repeats on BBC4 I'm much more into it - 4/5

The American Future: American Plenty - documentary series in which Simon Schama takes a look at some of the challenges facing the US in the future. This is the BBC at its best - high quality documentary making, accessible, but not dumbed down. This first episode looked at the impending water crisis in the American west. It provided an interesting history of the western frontier and the race to harness the power of the Colorado river to provide water for development across the west. Particularly notable was the story of what happened to Oklahoma in the early 30s. Investors had rushed in to cultivate the dry, barren land to grow wheat and, for a few years, did very well. However, the ploughing of the hard soil loosened it to such an extent that it was vulnerable to the wind and a series of storms through the early 30s quite literallyy blew all the soil away. The biggest of these storms were on 14th April 1935, known as Black Sunday, when 20 individual stormed wreaked havoc and covered much of the US in a think dust cloud. Another one to catch on iPlayer! - 4/5

Little Britain USA: Episode 1.2 - just as good as the first two series of Little Britain. G-d knows what the American's will think the sketch at the end in which Matt Lucas shaves David Walliams genitals... - 4/5

Friday, 10 October 2008


Now that Blogger has lifted its spam flag, I can happily direct you all to my new blog dedicated to the hotter-than-hell actress Leslie Bibb. You've probably never heard of her, but she's a star on the rise with a whole host of TV shows behind her and movies that include Iron Man and Talladega Nights.

The blog's a bit rough at the moment as I'm using this template, but it will get polished up over time. You can find it at

Going randomly off-topic, readers who have been with me since the beginning will know that earlier this year I signed up to do an Open University degree. Well, I started it in earnest last Saturday, going through the preparatory unit of the MU120 Open Mathematics course. What's surprised me is the amount of stuff I thought I knew, but which I had in fact forgotten, some of it fairly basic. As a result, I've been re-learning fractional multiplication and division, scientific notation and powers.

There are two things I'm hating so far. The first is estimation. While I understand the concept and it's importance as a reality check on calculations, I always seem to pick the wrong figures to estimate with. For example, a question I answered yesterday asked me to estimate an answer to something like 27.44 squared, so I estimated an answer between 25 squared and 30 squared, but the answer given was to estimate between 20 squared and 30 squared. I always seem to get this wrong, if indeed it is wrong. Maybe my estimations are just more precise. That might be the answer though. I like to be precise with calculations, I'm not naturally inclined to estimation, which is more about personal judgement than absolute specificity.

The second thing I hate is questions that require a narrative answer. Typically, these ask you to explain some mathematical concept or other in layman's terms. Again, I understand the value of being able to communicate mathematical concepts to other people and hence its inclusion on the course, but I haven't embarked on this degree with the intention of communicating what I learn with anyone else. It's a purely personal thing. I find these questions irrelevant to what I want to achieve and somewhat tedious (and difficult) to answer.

Monday, 6 October 2008

From the Guardian

A little story I noticed in the Guardian the other day...

"Relatives beat a Malaysian couple to death in a ritual apparently meant to help stop the man smoking."

Well I guess it worked!