Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Had You Come Some Other Day Then It Might Not Have Been Like This

In the week that the apocalyptic Survivors-like German E.coli story broke in the West, there was something genuinely comforting (well, sort of) in Adam Curtis's cataclysmic final episode of All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace being a heady combination of doomsday visionism and an avoidance of finger-wagging, despite the temptation. As the Metro reviewer noted: '[its] pogoing narrative left many thoughts tumbling around the mind when the credits rolled.' Typical, beautiful Curtis. The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey began with a description of the tragic events surrounding the death of Bill Hamilton, the controversial biologist. During the 1990s Hamilton became increasingly interested in the - somewhat left-field - theory that the origin of HIV lay in oral polio vaccine trials conducted by American scientist Hilary Koprowski in Africa during the 1950s. Letters by Hamilton on the topic to the major peer-reviewed journals were rejected. To look for indirect evidence of the hypothesis by assessing natural levels of SIV in primates, in early 2000 Hamilton ventured on a field trip to the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. The dazzling stream-of-consciousness sequence which followed took in the Congo's civil war and the, main, reason for it, the Coltan mining operations needed to extract the component essential for all new digital machines, particularly with the impending launch of Sony's PlayStation2. We had a shot of Adrian Chiles looking miserable (so, what else is new?) a description of American scientific experiments in the 1950s and, erm, chimpanzee faeces. Lovely. 'Then, one day, [Hamilton] caught malaria. He refused to take anti-malaria pills and, instead, took an aspirin. But the aspirin lodged in his cut and caused a haemorrhage that killed him. But, even as he died, Hamilton knew he would live forever. Because, he had shown that human beings are really just self-replicating machines like computers whose function is to transmit a vital code across time that will live throughout eternity. Meanwhile, the chimp faeces waited at Nairobi airport for someone to come and claim it. And everyone got their mobile upgrades, their new laptops and their PlayStation2.' With a laser-like precision watching Curtis's documentaries is a hypnotic experience even if the film-maker's style has hardly changed over the years. The course through history Curtis charts in this final episode also follows a familiar route - one needing a detailed road map. Or, you can just sit back, assume the person driving knows the way and, you know, enjoy the ride. Beginning in Zaire - then still the Belgian Congo in the early 60s, the episode takes in conceits as diverse as space monkeys, Tomb Raider, biology and biochemistry, tribal and civil wars, David Attenborough, Dian Fossey and Gorillas in the Mist, Richard Dawkins, precious minerals, despotic rulers like Mobutu Sese Seko and Jean Kambanda, plus a few more primates. Among a hundred other interlinked themes, Curtis revealed how the survival instinct has been the motor force of human history. In an interview with the Gruniad this week, He puts forward the - admittedly rather dispiriting - idea that because attempts to change the world for the better haven't worked, it has led to the fatalistic view that we are, essentially, pre-programmed to fail. In particular, the focus was on the work of evolutionary biologist Hamilton who hypothesised that people's behaviour is shaped and guided by mathematical codes within their genes, and that the primary function of human beings was to make sure those codes were passed on. The theory was later popularised by Richard Dawkins as 'the selfish gene.' The film interweaved these theories with the stories of decades of genocide in Rwanda and the Congo, showing how liberal Western attempts to help post-Colonial Africa resulted, over and over again, in disaster and horror. But while that may seem to confirm the pessimistic view that any attempts to interfere with human nature are naive and challenge the mathematical logic of the codes, it seems not everyone was entirely convinced. It's complex, gripping stuff but, as Curtis himself notes: 'People's leisure time is up. Hollywood movie lengths have gone up, people are really happy with longer things. Audiences don't need patronising explanations in their documentaries, they're prepared for more complicated things. It's even in drama. Look at The Killing.'

American TV bosses have confirmed Cheryl Cole will no longer be a judge on the US version of The X Factor. Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.

Doctor Who took the top three places of the most requested programmes on the BBC iPlayer in May. Top of the chart was the Neil Gaiman episode, The Doctor's Wife, which was requested over 1.22 million times during the month. Close behind was The Curse of the Black Spot with 1.21 million requests and Day of the Moon with 1.18 million requests. The highest non-Doctor Who programme was episode two of The Apprentice which had 1.18 million requests. Another Doctor Who episode, The Rebel Flesh was fifth with 1.10 million requesting and The Almost People crept into the top ten with 0.84 million requesting, despite only being available for the last four days of the month. The most requested programme of the year so far is still episode two of the Matt Lucas and David Walliams comedy, Come Fly With Me which has been requested 1.86 million times. Hot on its heals is the Doctor Who series opener The Impossible Astronaut with 1.79 million requests so far. Nothing has yet come near to toppling the Matt Smith début episode, The Eleventh Hour, which still holds the record for the most requested programme ever with over two and half million online requests.

Although there hasn't yet been official confirmation from the BBC on the 2012 series of Doctor Who, indications are that the next batch of episodes are already in preparation, with the writer John Fay listed as writing an episode according to his representatives, Culverhouse & James Ltd. Fay, of course, is no stranger to the Doctor Who universe, having written two episodes of Torchwood: Children of Earth and the forthcoming episode The Gathering for Torchwood: Miracle Day. His other television credits include work on Primeval and Robin Hood and numerous episodes of Coronation Street - one of which won the BAFTA Award.

BBC2 has announced the cast for new drama series White Heat. The project, which will chart the lives of seven friends from 1965 through to the present day, was first announced last year. Pirates Of The Caribbean star Sam Claflin - so good recently in the football drama United - will star as the rebellious Jack, while Little Dorrit's Claire Foy will play feminist Charlotte and Being Human actor Lee Ingleby will take the role of electronics enthusiast Alan. Any Human Heart's MyAnna Burning will also appear as the fragile Lilly, alongside Reece Ritchie as medical student Jay, David Gyasi as law student Victor and Jessica Gunning as the warm-hearted Orla. White Heat will follow the characters from their first meeting as students and cover four decades of their lives, taking in important historical and political events such as the death of Churchill, the union strife of the Seventies, the ascendancy of Thatcher, the Falklands, the rise of AIDS and the end of the Cold War. Yes, just like Our Friends in the North, in fact! And, if its a tenth as good it'll still be well worth watching. 'Getting the right cast for White Heat was crucial not least because it spans half a century,' said the drama's author, Paula Milne. 'It takes more than talent to take us on their epic journey through the decades. It takes insight and extraordinary maturity and they have that too.' Ben Stephenson, the Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, added: 'The cream of new British acting talent have been cast to star in Paula Milne's White Heat, an epic story of our times told through the eyes of seven amazing characters, which will continue BBC2's commitment to original drama in 2012.' The series, which is being helmed by Exile director John Alexander, will begin filming next week in London and is being produced by ITV Studios for BBC2.

Now, you're gonna get a big kick out of this one, dear blog reader. The BBC is under criticism - from the usual scum suspects, of course - for clearing Sandi Toksvig of making a 'C' word-related joke during an edition of The News Quiz in 2010. Toksvig said 'The conservatives have put the N into cuts.' Heh. Even though she didn't actually use the 'C' word during the programme one - solitary - listener, retired newspaper executive Colin Harrow complained to both the BBC and the BBC Trust that the comment was offensive and unacceptable. Both bodies - rightly - rejected his complaint and told him to go away, grow up and stop bothering them with such trivial nonsense and malarkey. Paul Mayhew Archer, the then commissioning editor of comedy on Radio 4, cleared the programme. The BBC -(according to a couple of right-wing scum newspapers) is now 'facing fresh criticisms' from 'some MPs' - only one of whom is actually named - who are 'demanding' that Ofcom (who are, let's remember, a group of unelected nobodies) 'look into' the BBC and their code of conduct. Because, of course, the Daily Scum Torygraph and the Daily Scum Mail just love it when people 'look into' the BBC. And so do their scum mates in the Scum Express and the Scum and the Scum Mirra. It's how they get The Horn. Just to repeat, even though the actual 'C' word was not spoken in the radio programme that's being complained about, only implied. However, despite that minor side issue some people are still taking offence. Or, at least, feigning taking offence for the sake of getting their name in the newspapers, anyway. The Torygraph reports that John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the culture, media and select committee, said: 'That word is way out in front in terms of people finding it offensive.' What word's that? 'Cuts'? 'I think to broadcast it on radio at 6.30pm is inappropriate.' Except, of course, that they didn't. 'Even though they did it by implication, nobody was left in any doubt about what was meant.' Thank you John Whittingdale for, seemingly, 'speaking for everyone.' And then politicians wonder why they're generally even more hated than lawyers these days. So, just to check, are their any other words that Sandi Toksvig didn't say that you'd like to whinge about, sir? 'Barnacle', perhaps? Or 'plump' - that usually gets the masses riled on the terraces. It rather reminds one of that classic Doctor Who quote: 'The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views.' And, of course, where the Torygraph leads you can usually bet the Daily Scum Mail will be not far behind with their collective brown-tongue hanging from their collective mouth having their entirely predictable ruddy good 'tut' at this whole example of Britain going to the dogs. In what is a thoroughly mendacious and tawdry piece of rabid scum gutter journalism that even the majority of their readers saw the inherent ludicrous of. Bunch of cuts, the lot of them.

Twitter users who breach privacy injunctions could face legal action for contempt of court, the attorney general has warned. In the starkest bit of finger-wagging yet to users of the microblogging site who breach so-called 'gagging orders,' Dominic Grieve said individuals could be prosecuted - if their identities are discovered, of course - and added that he would take action if necessary if he thought the law was not being upheld. Twitter played a key role in the exposure of footballer Ryan Giggs's alleged affair with former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas, after the MP John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to argue that it was not possible to prosecute the thousands of users who had named Giggs. One of the main difficulties in bringing a prosecution against Twitter is that it is a US-based company and is therefore outside the jurisdiction of the UK courts. However, Grieve said that users of the microblogging site in England and Wales may find themselves subject to contempt proceedings. Scotland and Northern Ireland, it seems, are all right. He warned that they are not exempt from the requirement to observe privacy orders. In a pre-recorded interview for Radio 4's Law in Action, which was broadcast on Tuesday, Grieve said that while it is usually up to those who have taken out injunctions to enforce them he will take action himself. Grieve said: 'I will take action if I think that my intervention is necessary in the public interest, to maintain the rule of law, proportionate and will achieve an end of upholding the rule of law. It is not something, however, I particularly want to do.' He also said proceedings could be brought against newspapers which dropped heavy hints about the identity of a person protected by an injunction. People found to have deliberately breached court orders can be fined or even imprisoned for contempt of court. Twitter has been used to name a number of celebrities who have taken out gagging orders. A senior Twitter executive has said it will notify its users before handing their personal information to UK authorities seeking to prosecute them over alleged breaches of privacy injunctions. 'Platforms should have responsibility not to defend the user, but to protect that user's right to defend him or herself,' Tony Wang, Twitter's general manager of European operations, told a conference shortly after Giggs was named by the service's users. In May, as the battle between national newspapers and high court judges over privacy injunctions intensified, Grieve announced that he was setting up a joint parliamentary committee to examine the complex related issues of privacy, injunctions, the regulation of the Internet and the role of the Press Complaints Commission, saying the current position was 'not sustainable.' The committee is due to report in the autumn. It was during the Commons debate following Grieve's announcement that Hemming named Giggs. Later in May lawyers acting for the woman alleged to have had an affair with the former bank boss Sir Fred Goodwin failed in an attempt to launch contempt of court proceedings against the Daily Scum Mail. The high court declined to refer the Associated Newspapers title to the attorney general over an article it published.

Idris Elba has admitted that he was initially unsure about making a second series of Luther. The crime drama returns to BBC1 on 14 June, but Elba told TV Choice that he had to be convinced to film two new feature-length episodes. Elba explained: 'I thought I should just shut that particular door and walk away. But somehow things didn't seem complete.' Despite his initial reservations, the former star of The Wire added that he is 'excited to be back' as DCI John Luther. 'We've got some mean bastards in this series and Luther loves a mean bastard,' he added. Elba also revealed that the first six-part series of Luther has been 'very well received' in parts of the US. 'It was very well received in the areas where BBC America is popular [like] Washington, LA [and] Chicago,' he said. 'Places where there's a huge middle-class population. It's got a real buzz about it there in the same way that Dexter or The Shield has.'

Torchwood creator Russell Davies has revealed that Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) will be 'rendered mortal' in new ten-part season Miracle Day. The character has been unable to die since being killed and resurrected in a 2005 episode of Doctor Who. However, Davies told AOL TV: 'The greatest thing you can do is offer a new look into the character. It's not fundamentally altering the character, it's fundamentally altering the rules [while] the character stays the same.' He hinted that Captain Jack's new condition will be linked to the premise of Miracle Day, which sees the entire populace of Earth unable to die. 'Everyone else is immortal, [and] he's mortal,' explained the writer. 'It's the biggest switch in the show, which we did in order to give us new insights into Jack.' Davies added that he 'couldn't possibly say' if Jack will be killed off in a future episode. 'The stakes are that high,' he admitted. 'And it's very hard to prove he's mortal without killing him, so that's going to be interesting.'

The vile and odiously unpleasant George Osborne was unrepentant after he accused the BBC of 'bias' in its reporting of the economy and the government's recovery plans. The chancellor told the Radio 4 Today programme's Sarah Montague that her negative depiction of the economy was 'typical' of that bias. He cited three recent examples when, he said, the broadcaster focused on bad news and the most gloomy statistics. Business editor Jeremy Hillman later rebutted the claims on the BBC's The Editors blog. He said Osborne's staff regularly 'harangued' the BBC in private over its coverage, but the public nature of the chancellor's latest comments needed a response. 'Osborne claimed that comments made recently by the OECD's chief economist, Pier Carlo Padoan – which seemed to suggest the UK might have to change its deficit reduction strategy if growth stayed weak – had been over-interpreted by the BBC,' said Hillman. 'In actual fact, it was our judgment that these comments had indeed been over-interpreted elsewhere in the media and we made a conscious decision, after an early report, not to report the comments prominently on any of our outlets throughout the day and that evening.' Osborne's scum claims that BBC staff downplayed positive jobs data and hyped gloomy growth figures were also dismissed by Hillman. A spokesman for Osborne said that the chancellor 'remained convinced' there was a 'culture of bias' that was reflected in some economic surveys getting more coverage than others, usually depending on whether they reflected badly on the government or not.

Lynda Carter has admitted that she is 'disappointed' by NBC's decision to reject the new Wonder Woman pilot. Carter played the costumed hero in a popular series that began on ABC in 1974 and later aired on CBS from 1977 to 1979. 'I was really interested [in the project] and I was really happy that they were going to redo it, because the story is a great story and I think it needs to be retold. It needs to go to another generation of people,' she told Zap2it. NBC last month declined to pick up the pilot, which starred Adrianne Palicki in the title role. NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt later explained that the project 'didn't seem to fit in with' the network's new schedule. 'I was disappointed that it didn't work out, and I don't have a clue as to why it didn't work out [or] what the problems were,' said Carter. 'But you never know, things can still get resurrected or retooled, so I haven't given up [hope].' The actress also confirmed that she was planning to make a cameo appearance in Wonder Woman if it had gone to series. 'I was on the road at the time of shooting [the pilot],' she explained. 'I couldn't get there. The schedules didn't line up. But I fully expected it to be picked up, and then mostly likely I would have done something.'

Christina Hendricks has revealed that production on Mad Men is expected to begin shortly. Hendricks plays Joan Holloway on the critically acclaimed series. The thirty six-year-old spoke to The Wrap about the AMC Series, declaring that production will start in the coming month. 'It should be less than a month, I would think,' Hendricks answered when asked when she would be returning to Mad Men. 'Our writers are back, so that's a good sign. But I saw Matt Weiner last night, and there's still no definite day.' Hendricks went on to state that she was never worried that creator Weiner would not return to the series. 'This show couldn't be made without Matt Weiner. He is the show. So I knew that something would be figured out. I knew it would be,' she said.

The lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt has confirmed the appointment of Huw Jones as the new chairman of Welsh-language broadcaster S4C. Jones was the first chairman candidate to appear before a joint hearing of the culture and Welsh affairs committees last month. His appointment as chair of the S4C Authority has now been confirmed, officially starting on 8 June. He served as chief executive of S4C from 1994 to 2005, during which time he also chaired the channel's commercial subsidiary and was a director of digital multiplex operator SDN. Before joining S4C, Jones co-founded independent TV production company Teledu'r Tir Glas in Caernarfon in 1981, overseeing entertainment, factual and children's programmes. Welcoming the appointment, the vile and odious rascal Hunt said: 'Throughout his career he has shown great commitment to Welsh-language broadcasting and his unique experience and understanding of S4C will stand him in good stead as he leads the organisation through this important stage of its history.' Jones becomes chairman at a critical period of change for S4C, as the struggling broadcaster prepares for its funding to hand over from the government to the BBC licence fee. During his pre-appointment hearing, Jones was also challenged by lack of culture committee chairman John Whittingdale - remember him? He doesn't like cuts, apparently - over the Welsh-language broadcaster's 'pretty poor' viewing figures. S4C reaches only a quarter of Welsh speakers for fifteen minutes or more a week with programmes such as soap opera Pobol y Cwm, and the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale warned that this situation must improve 'quite dramatically.' Rheon Tomos, the S4C Authority deputy chairman, said: 'Huw's extensive experience along with his in-depth knowledge of the broadcasting world will be of huge benefit to S4C as we face the numerous challenges of the next few years. We look forward to supporting Huw in his new role.' Jones is also currently chair of Portmeirion and deputy chair of the Wales Employment and Skills Board, as well as a member of the Welsh Language Board.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first novel, The Narrative of John Smith, is to be published for the first time. The book, about a man's reflections on life after he finds himself confined to his room with gout, was written between 1883 and 1884. Conan Doyle sent it to a publisher but it was lost in the post and he then had to reconstruct it from memory. It was never finished. The first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, was printed three years later. Rachel Foss, lead curator of modern literary manuscripts at the British Library, is set to publish The Narrative of John Smith this autumn. She said it had been part of the British Library's Conan Doyle collection since 2007 and realised it would make a good publishing project. The Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate gave their consent to the plan. Foss told the BBC the novel is 'loose in plot and characterisation,' as it was his first full-length effort, having written only short stories previously. Although the writer made references suggesting he was embarrassed of this early work, Foss says he worked on it again later in life suggesting he must have seen something worthy in the concept. The novel sees John Smith ruminate on topics including politics and religion and also features several conversations with his boarding house landlady, Mrs Rundle. 'She is a Mrs Hudson in the making,' Foss says, referring to Sherlock Holmes's landlady. The novel was written while Conan Doyle was in his early twenties, just after he had moved to Southsea, near Portsmouth.

Paris Hilton is reportedly blaming the network Oxygen for last week's shockingly low ratings of her new reality TV show The World According To Paris. The series premiered on 1 June, attracting less than five hundred thousand viewers. Indeed the ratings were so bad that both a repeat of Everybody Hates Chris and a showing of White Chicks both trumped Hilton's debut, according to New York Magazine. An 'insider' allegedly spoke to Pop Eater about the figures, revealing that the socialite apparently claims the network is to blame. 'Paris is furious that the show didn't premiere at the time it was supposed to,' the alleged 'insider' allegedly said. 'She worked her tail off doing promotion and publicity for the show and then because of a technical mistake, the show aired at a completely different time in a lot of markets.' The thirty-year-old recently appeared on The View, where she was grilled by host Barbara Walters on the shallowness and superficiality of her TV shows. Hilton was reportedly so angered by this line of questioning that she screamed at producers following the interview. And screamed and screamed until  she was sick. Hilton said last week that she has moved on from her My New BFF reality show, stating that she feels she is 'too old' to still be making such a series.

Ryan Giggs allegedly had an alleged affair with an alleged third woman, according to his alleged sister-in-law. Allegedly. According to the Mirra, Natasha Giggs, who is married to the Manchester United star's brother Rhodri, revealed that she had been contacted by the mystery female who made the claims. Mysteriously. Natasha reportedly had an alleged secret - and mysterious - eight-year relationship with the former Welsh international herself. Giggs was recently named in Parliament as the player who had sought an injunction to hide an alleged affair with alleged Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas. According to the papers Natasha is said to have told 'friends' the truth about her relationship with Ryan after claims that he had cheated again. 'Natasha got a call last week from a mystery woman saying she had been sleeping with Ryan. After the Imogen revelations it was too much,' a 'source' allegedly told the alleged paper. 'She thought she and Ryan had something special, only to find out she was just another girl. But now it's dawning on her what she has done. She's destroyed her marriage and her life is in ruins.' The alleged 'insider' allegedly continued: 'Natasha's lost Rhodri and Ryan and feels very alone. She's scared to show her face in Manchester. She made an emotional phone call to her mum on Sunday night, they were both upset and had a long talk. Nobody knows what the future holds, but it's not looking pretty at the moment.' Giggs and his wife, Stacey, are alleged to be in the alleged Mediterranean where they are alleged to be having alleged 'crisis talks' about their marriage. Allegedly. 'Stacey decided to forgive Ryan after the Imogen claims because she thought he was entitled to make a mistake,' the alleged 'source' allegedly said. 'But the whole Natasha thing is a completely different matter. Her family are saying she should kick Ryan out once and for all.'

US singer-songwriter Andrew Gold, who enjoyed hits in the 1970s with 'Lonely Boy' and 'Never Let Her Slip Away', has died in Los Angeles at the age of fifty nine. Another of his songs, 'Thank You for Being a Friend', was known to millions after being used as the theme for long-running sitcom The Golden Girls. During the 1980s, Gold formed Wax UK with ex-10cc member Graham Gouldman. His UK label, Dome Records, remembered him as 'a hugely talented musician' with 'a brilliant sense of humour.'Gold, who died on Friday of a heart attack, was the son of Ernest Gold, Oscar-winning composer of films like Exodus and It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. His mother, Marni Nixon, is a singer and actress best known for dubbing the stars of such Hollywood musicals as My Fair Lady, The King & I and West Side Story. Gold performed with Linda Ronstadt before his breakthrough as a solo artist with Asylum Records. He went on to work with Art Garfunkel, Celine Dion, James Taylor, Sir Paul McCartney and numerous other artists. He leaves behind his wife, Leslie Kogan, daughters Emily, Victoria, and Olivia, and his mother, Marni.

British intelligence service MI6 has hacked into an al-Qaeda website and added a cake recipe. The website was maintained by al-Qaeda supporters and included a sixty seven-page magazine which visitors could download, the Washington Post reports. The magazine was determined by MI6 to be dangerous and a terrorist threat, so the British intelligence officers eventually chose to sabotage it. Proving that they take equal inspiration from Fanny Craddock as they do from James Bond, they replaced an article called Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mum - which included instructions on how to construct a pipe bomb using everyday items - with a recipe on making cupcakes. The recipe was originally published by chat show host Ellen DeGeneres in a book titled The Best Cupcakes in America. MI6 also attacked other parts of the magazine, removing all articles by Osama Bin Liner as well as a feature named What to Expect in Jihad. It reportedly took the al-Qaeda supporters more than two weeks to upload a corrected version of the magazine. The intelligence agency, perha[s inevtiably, called the operation Operation Cupcake.

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day also includes an, ahem, 33 of the Day as well, as we do another one of those same riff/different song thingies. Tune up that Rickenbacker, Roger.
... Because there's some Liverpool scallys over here that want to 'borrow' Gene's chords.
Mind you, if you haven't heard them massacre it live on the 1966 world tour, then you've never lived.

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