21 April, 2009

OK Magazine tribute issue

It'll never happen, but the sad news that Dr Stephen Hawking is ill made me wonder how his passing might be treated. He doesn't have the tabloid wow-factor of Jade Goody, yet he's a British hero who should surely be celebrated. Surprisingly, the news that he's ill has disappeared from the BBC News Front Page, hidden in a side-bar in the science and tech section.

I hate the thought of vulture-esque death-watches, but it'll be interesting to see what happens when the time comes...

14 April, 2009

Grumity Grump

It's a sad fact that most of the ignorant twunts online don't appreciate anything with any joy in it, because they wouldn't be online if they were happy in themselves. I'm prompted to write that after seeing some of the mindless crap that's been spewed in reaction to the Doctor Who Easter special. "Worse than 'Battlefield'," apparently. All I can say is, I bet they haven't actually watched 'Battlefield' since it was on. They just hand over their money, slot the DVD into its place and allow their prejudices to remain unchallenged - while pouring scourn on anything with even the thinnest vein of joy in them.

I loved the Easter special. Exacrly what I needed to be watching on a weekend that's supposed to be inspirational for Christians. Happy, energetic and all about putting your trust in someone and not about being cynical or self serving.

A while ago, I was in FP in Glasgow and was subjected to the smug whining of an Emo kid, shouting across the aisle to his pals: Christ, have you SEEN the latest Batman issues? C'mon DC - give us some 'Dark'!!"


I was half tempted to 'give him some dark' by telling him he was already past his sexual peak, that he's only got eight years before his hair goes grey or falls out, and that he should go easy on the wanking. Or at least wash his hands before he picks up comic books someone else might want to buy.

But I didn't.

Instead, I stood silently while flicking through a copy of 'Essential Howard the Duck', to spite him. Then, once he'd walked away, I swapped it for 'Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man'. I had my reputation to think of...

You do the Math...s

Sometimes, I have to wonder if the ordering of the punctuation on a keyboard is specifically designed to make you think just one step further than you were going to. There are so many times my poor typing leads me to construct a list and then find I've used the + symbol instead of the = symbol. And then I look at the still-open equation and realise A + B + C = D would have been much less interesting than A + B + C + D.

I reckon it could just be another of those obscure lessons one has to learn. Go a bit further.

Although, apparently, this doesn't apply to jokes about paedophiles, gynaecology or famous dead people. There, the line exists for a reason.

To Kill a Mocking Bird

We used to have a tree outside the back of our flat. it provided some coverage to prevent our neighbours from looking in, but in truth we were glad to see the back of it, partly because it gave us a clear view of the sky, which is quite a luxury around here, but also because it removed a perch for the single most annoying bird ever.

Every morning, just at that point when you're slowly leaving deep sleep but aren't quite awake yet, I'd be startled awake by the sound of the doorbell being rung repeatedly. A grasp for clothes and a frantic dash downstairs would reveal... no-one there. And only then, as the sleep-addled brain was finally awake, would I realise it had been a bird outside tweeting in the style of a doorbell.

Honestly, it got me almost every Saturday for three years. Even after the tree was cut down, the routine meant that I rarely sleep in nowadays (helpful now that eBay has now resulted in a genuine wake-up call from the postman).

But this morning, that bastard bird got me again. One of the trees in next door's garden has grown sufficiently tall for the branches to be on a level with my window.

Tonight, we might well be having Starling Curry...

04 April, 2009

Not the Best-Selling Show

So, Life on Mars finished this week. Not the British version that starred John Simm, but the American version with Jason O'Mara. I have to admit, I've kind of cheated on this show; I watched the first three, then kept 'acquiring' the next episode without watching it. But based primarily on the first and last episodes, it does feel as if they got it right in quite unexpected ways.

The American series has a lot less of the surreal elements of the original - there's no test card girl, fewer incidents of ironic pop references. What it does have is an excellent period score straight out of Starsky and Hutch and a proper ending that makes utter sense, is memorable and very different to anything around it.

It was also an ending we'd heard rumoured for the original series. I'm not going to say which ending that is, in case it spoils it for anyone who might breeze past this, but I much prefer the American one.

What the USA version has over the original is the chance to use the success of the 'first draft' and make different choices. The emotional beat that comes from the 1973 reveal in the first episode is much stronger in the remake; the billboard for a new construction development is replaced with something that will make even non-Americans gasp.

One other difference is that I've met the star of the remake; he's a friend of a friend and we chatted at a party about eight years ago. He's a charismatic, attractive fella, though he's done well to hide his Dublin accent with an authentic-sounding American one. I have to wonder what it would have been like if original choice for Gene Hunt, Colm Meaney had been kept on for the series: two Irish blokes playing two New Yorkers.

Speaking of Gene Hunt, the odd clunker here is Harvey Keitel. They've made him much more likeable, more honourable, which strangely makes him less loveable than Robert Glenister's cruder, brasher approach. Most of Gene Hunt's Jurassic aspects have been shunted onto Ray, here played by Sopranos star Michael Imperioli. It means Ray as a character is beefed up a lot more, but we lose the iconic Gene Hunt that so made the Beeb demand an ill-advised sequel.

The way this version ends is conclusive, confident and original. It might also feel a little obvious, but the nice thing is, it's seeded in lines of dialogue, plus visual and aural hints throughout the series (well, I'm assuming it is - there's that big gap of 13 episodes in the middle I haven't seen).

I've painted myself into a corner here. I'm not going to discuss the ending, but I'm not going to blow the beginning either. I'll just finish by congratulating the production team on making a series that appears to have been much better than its ratings deserved. Which is a good thing. It meant they could tell the story from beginning to end without having to fudge it with doing Ashes to Ashes too.

Although I'm now curious to see if they can stretch the British version into a third version where Gene Hunt is in the 1990s. Call it Hello Spaceboy, maybe?