Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Centre Of Things From Where Everything Stems, That's Where I Belong

The BBC and ITV have confirmed their Christmas TV schedules for the festive period. Doctor Who will return to BBC1 on Christmas Day at 7pm, facing opposition from All Star Family Fortunes on ITV, the first time since 2006 that Doctor Who isn't up against the popular soap Emmerdale. An hour-long edition of Coronation Street will follow at 8pm, opposite Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC. As previously confirmed, Downton Abbey will also return on 25 December, clashing with a festive episode of EastEnders at 9pm. Sitcom Absolutely Fabulous will then return to BBC1 at 10pm, followed by Michael McIntyre's Christmas Comedy Roadshow at 10.30pm. The BBC's new adaptation of The Borrowers - starring Stephen Fry, Victoria Wood and Christopher Eccleston - will be broadcast on Boxing Day at 7.30pm. David Jason's new comedy The Royal Bodyguard will then premiere at 9.30pm. ITV has scheduled new Poirot movie, The Clocks in opposition at 9pm. Other Christmas highlights include animation The Gruffalo's Child - broadcast on BBC1 at 6.30pm on Christmas - and a new three-part BBC adaptation of Great Expectations - beginning 27 December at 9pm and continuing over the following two evenings.

So, as noted, the BBC have confirmed that this year's Doctor Who Christmas special will be broadcast on 25 December. The popular family SF drama will retain its traditional Christmas Day slot for the seventh year running, broadcasting at a later-than-usual 7pm on BBC1. Written by showrunner Steven Moffat, The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe will see Matt Smith reprise his role as The Doctor. Claire Skinner, Bill Bailey, Arabella Weir, Alexander Armstrong, Paul Bazely, Holly Earl and Maurice Cole will play guest roles in the festive special, directed by Farren Blackburn. 'The Doctor at Christmas - nothing is more fun to write,' said Steven Moffat. 'Maybe because it's so his kind of day - everything's bright and shiny, everybody's having a laugh, and nobody minds if you wear a really stupid hat. Of all the Doctors, Matt Smith's is the one that was born for this time of year - so it's the best news possible that he's heading back down the chimney.' Hurrah.

The Scum newspaper had claimed that the BBC has 'scrapped' a Christmas Special episode of Doctor Who Confidential even though it has already been filmed. The BBC3 behind-the-scenes series which gave fans an insight into how a Doctor Who episode was produced was cancelled in September by Zai Bennett, the digital channel's controller. An episode of Doctor Who Confidential has accompanied each episode of the popular BBC family SF drama since it was revived in 2005 and performed well for BBC3. Bennett, it was reported, had cancelled the documentary series to concentrate money elsewhere in the station's schedules. The Scum claims that a further episode of Confidential had been filmed prior to its cancellation; covering this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special. The newspapers report appears to be based on an article in the Doctor Who Magazine in which Confidential producer Gillane Seaborne wrote 'The biggest regret is the episode of Confidential we've filmed for this year's Doctor Who Christmas special which now won't be shown. So I guess in the fine traditions of Doctor Who, we now have our very own missing episode.' However, an alleged BBC 'source' allegedly told the tabloid 'This is the first we have heard of it. We're being told there is no Christmas show.'
Charlotte Church has told how her mother's mental health suffered when the Scum of the World published a story exposing her father's affair. She told the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics that her mother had attempted suicide 'at least in part' because she had known the story was coming out. Later the former TV presenter Anne Diamond said the media had been on her doorstep within an hour of the cot death of her son in 1991. The broadcaster added that the press had 'trampled all over our dignity.' During Monday's morning evidence, the Bristol landlord wrongly arrested over Joanna Yeates's murder, Christopher Jefferies, said that the media had 'shamelessly vilified' him. Jefferies said the tabloid press had decided he was guilty of the murder of Miss Yeates in 2010. Another man was convicted of her killing last month. 'They embarked on a frenzied campaign to blacken my character by publishing a series of very serious allegations about me which were completely untrue,' his statement said. Jefferies told of how he was portrayed as a 'creepy oddball', a 'pervert' and a 'peeping Tom' by the tabloid press. He said that he would 'never fully recover' from the libellous coverage and that he believed some people will still continue to think he is a 'weird' character who is 'best avoided.' In her evidence, Church said that the Scum of the World had already published a story talking about her mother's mental health, 'so they knew how vulnerable she was but still published the story. I just really hated the fact that my parents who had never been in this industry - apart from looking after me - were being exposed and vilified in this fashion. It had a massive impact on my family life,' she said. Church also said the Sun newspaper had revealed her first pregnancy before she had told her family. 'It had a massive impact on my mother's health, her mental health, her hospital treatment - the only way they know about that was either through hacking or the bribing of hospital staff.' Church said at first she had been treated with kid gloves when she became famous aged twelve, dubbed 'The Voice of an Angel.' But she said she had experienced the 'worst excess of the press' between the ages of sixteen to twenty. She told the hearing paparazzi had taken pictures up her skirt, there were photographers outside her house on most days and her manager had found evidence of a camera hidden in a shrub outside her home. Church said she had been 'totally appalled' by a clock on the Sun's website which counted down to her sixteenth birthday, an 'innuendo' highlighting the fact she was reaching the age of sexual consent, she said. 'It was just horrible, I was a sixteen year-old-girl and was uncomfortable with it.' The inquiry heard how the Sun had published a story about her being pregnant for the first time before she had told her family. She said she believed journalists had obtained their information through hacking voicemail messages from the doctor or through other surveillance, although added she did not have any evidence. 'I had not told anyone apart from when I had gone to have my initial scan. I can't see how it came from any other area. My family were really upset that I had not told them first,' she said. Church said newspaper coverage had adversely affected her career as it was difficult for her to be taken seriously as her credibility had been 'blown to bits.' She said she had attended the inquiry because she did not want her children to go through the same thing. 'A lot of this happened to me whilst I was a minor and whilst I was really very young. It was really hard and it has had a psychological effect upon me. It almost feels like they put you through this psychological grinding, test your strength, and you come out the other side and it just keeps happening.' In her evidence, Diamond described the aftermath of her son Sebastian's death. 'Our front door was very quickly filled up with hundreds of press. And there was one incident when a female reporter tried to rush the door. She rang the door and she had a big bouquet of flowers and when the chain had to be removed to open the door, she rushed in.' Church claimed that she was advised to waive a one hundred thousand smackers fee to perform at Rupert Murdoch's wedding to Wendi Deng, because she would get 'good press' from the media mogul's newspapers. Church said that she agreed to appear at the 1999 event – she was thirteen at the time – because she was advised by her management and record company that it was a good idea given Murdoch's power and influence. 'I remember being told that Murdoch had asked me to perform at his wedding to Wendi Deng in New York on his yacht,' she told Lord Justice Leveson. 'I remember being told of the offer of the favour – to get good press – and I also remember being thirteen and thinking why would anyone take a favour of one hundred thousand pounds? But I was being advised by my management and a certain member of the record company that he was a very, very powerful man and could certainly do with a favour of this magnitude.' Murdoch married Deng, his third wife, in June 1999, in a private service on board his yacht Morning Glory in New York harbour, with eighty two guests attending. Church performed three songs at the event, according to press reports at the time. Diamond said that she had written to every Fleet Street editor 'begging them to stay away from the small, private family funeral,' but the Sun published a photograph on its front page. 'On the day of our little boy's funeral - and this was held at a very remote country church - there was a photographer on the public highway. Here we were, a young couple at our child's funeral, and they took this photograph.'

The journalist who broke the Scum of the World hacking story says 'a culture of bullying' on Fleet Street meant that he had to keep his sources anonymous. Gruniad Morning Star writer Nick Davies told the Leveson Inquiry that the fear was real and extended to more than just concerns about losing work. 'You've got to make these people safe and the first step almost all the time is a guarantee of anonymity,' he said. Davies wrote an article in July 2009 revealing claims of widespread phone hacking at News Group News­papers, publisher of the Scum of the World. Davies told the inquiry he thought 'a fluke' had led to his interest in phone-hacking. He said reporters started talking to him about illegal methods while he was researching for a book published in 2008, Flat Earth News. His chapter referring to the media's 'dark arts' was subsequently questioned during a BBC Radio 4 interview and he was contacted by someone with information. Davies said it took him eighteen months to gather enough information to publish an article on hacking. He explained why he had to protect his sources. 'There is a culture of bullying in some Fleet Street news organisations,' he said. 'The fear is real.' Davies said a 'loose assembly' of fifteen to twenty five former Scum of the World journalists had spoken to him on condition of anonymity as well as around six investigators, and a number of alleged victims. On the defence of public interest, Davies said it was 'incredibly difficult' to know where the boundary lines were. 'Very often it isn't clear and personally I would like it if somebody set up by statute a public interest advisory body,' he said. Davies said he had received information about a former cabinet minister's phone being hacked that he had decided not to use as he judged it was a breach of privacy. But he said the Gruniad had decided to publish allegations that the voicemail of murder victim Milly Dowler had been hacked despite the potential impact on her family. 'What we were disclosing was so important that we needed to find some way of getting it into the public domain. On the other hand the family had been through hell, I really was worried about digging it up.' Davies said that in the end the Gruniad had given the Dowler family prior warning the article was going to be published. He told the inquiry that he was sorry to hear Milly's mother Sally had been upset by the article. Davies said he could not tell the inquiry who had been responsible for deleting messages on Milly's phone but that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had 'facilitated' the hacking. Mulcaire denies having deleted any messages. 'He does not actually, on the whole, do the listening to the messages himself. Most of that is done by the journalists themselves,' Davies said. 'Mulcaire's job was to enable them to do that where there's some problem, because he's a brilliant blagger. So he could gather information, data from the mobile phone company.' Davies said he had initially been in favour of self-regulation of the media but that he had changed his mind. 'I don't think this is an industry that is interested in or capable of self-regulation,' he said. 'It obviously doesn't work, we're kidding ourselves if we think it would - it hasn't.' The inquiry earlier heard from ex-Daily Lies reporter Richard Peppiatt. In his evidence, Peppiatt said that he had worked for the paper on a casual full-time basis for about two years. He said it was 'a right-wing tabloid' and reporters were 'encouraged' to find statistics that 'fitted its ideological perspective.' He also claimed that a story he had written about model and actress Kelly Brook was 'totally made-up.' He said a news editor had offered one hundred and fifty pounds for an article for page three and 'I came up with that.' Peppiatt resigned from the paper in March, saying he had expressed disquiet about what he said was 'its anti-Muslim slant.' At the time, the Daily Lies denied it had any negativity towards Islam. It claimed Peppiatt had been 'unhappy after he was passed over for several staff positions' and had been 'warned about making up quotes.' At the Leveson Inquiry hearing, Peppiatt denied his former employer's explanation for his resignation. 'I probably have been warned about making up quotes - but probably not good enough ones.' He said he wished he had come forward earlier but had seen the newspaper respond to another colleague who had expressed discomfort around a year before by giving her lots of anti-Muslim articles to write. 'That's the atmosphere - you toe the line or you get punished,' he said. 'Your job is simply to write the story how they want it written.' Peppiatt claimed that he had received threats after he resigned such as 'you're a marked man until you die' and that circumstantial evidence suggested his own voicemail and work e-mail had been accessed. The inquiry heard legal proceedings relating to the matter were currently under way.

Phone-hacking was carried out with the knowledge of Scum of the World editors, an odious, risible ex (alleged) journalist on the paper has said. Paul McMullan accused former-Scum of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, who deny knowledge of hacking, of 'trying to drop me and my colleagues in it. I don't think anyone realised that anyone was committing a crime at the start,' he also told the Leveson Inquiry. McMullan was a Scum of the World deputy features editor between 1994 and 2001. Asked whether his editors had known about mobile phone voicemails being intercepted by Scum of the World journalists, McMullan said: 'I could go a bit further on that: we did all these things for our editors, for Rebekah Brooks and for Andy Coulson. You only have to read Andy Coulson's column in [the Sun's] Bizarre where it would just be littered with "Pop star A is leaving messages on pop star B's phone at 2am in the morning saying 'I love you and shall we meet up for a drink?'" I mean, it was that blatant and obvious.' He added: 'My assertion has always been that Andy Coulson brought that practice wholesale with him when he was appointed deputy editor.' McMullan also said it was Piers Morgan, who became editor of the paper in 1994, whom, he alleged, 'set the trend' for malpractices in the pursuit of the big sales. 'He was "get that story at all costs" and "I don't care what you have to do,"' he told the inquiry. 'He wanted to be number one, he wanted to sell five million copies a week.' Morgan has not yet responded to the claims, but he is also due to appear soon before the inquiry. McMullan called Brooks and Coulson 'the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it. They should have had the strength of their conviction to say: "I know, yes, sometimes you have to enter into a grey area - or enter a black illegal area - for the good of our readers, for the public good, and yes we asked our reporters to do these things." But instead they turned around on us and said: "Oh, we didn't know they were doing it. Oh heavens, it was all just Clive Goodman and later it was just a few others."' He added: 'All I have ever tried to do is to write truthful articles and to use any means necessary to try to get to the truth. There's so many barriers in the way that sometimes you have to enter a grey area that I think we should sometimes be applauded for entering, because it's a very dangerous area.' He went on to claim that most people did not need privacy because they had nothing to hide. 'Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things in,' McMullan said. 'Privacy is for paedos.' He also said it was not for anyone to say whether a story was or was not in the public interest. 'Circulation defines what is the public interest,' he claimed. Elsewhere in his evidence, this odious disgraced of an individual defended the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone by the Scum of the World, saying that it was 'not a bad thing for a well-meaning journalist to do.'

As the Leveson inquiry reveals fresh horrors about press behaviour every day, the British Library's archive of early newspapers, which has gone online, shows there is nothing new under the sun – or, perhaps, in it. More than four million pages, drawn mainly from Nineteenth-Century regional newspapers, previously kept in decent obscurity at the library's newspaper archive in Colindale, North London, will now be available for historians and family researchers to browse for a small fee, or free if they visit the central library in King's Cross. All human life is there, albeit written up in florid Victorian prose. Users can read newspaper reports on key historical events, such as the wedding of Victoria and Albert, the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Charge of the Light Brigade. Great events, horrible murders reported in exhaustive and bloody detail, celebrity gossip, as well as the occasional intrusion into private grief, it's all there. Thus, the Herts Guardian, Agricultural Journal and General Advertiser, reporting on the death of Lord Raglan, the hapless British commander in the Crimean War noted: 'Our commander-in-chief [was] pained in his last hours by the ribald attacks of an unprincipled press.' They could teach the Scum of the World a thing or two about how to knock down celebrities in those days too. Following the death of Grace Darling, the lighthouse keeper's daughter who had become a heroine for rescuing shipwrecked passengers off the coast of Northumberland, the editor of the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette sneered in the sort of tone to be heard any day now on blogsites: 'We wonder our contemporaries do not know better than to suppose the public are generally interested in the health of this peasant.' One wonders what would have happened if the Sun, say, had used that sort of tone about Jade Goody. When John Bean, 'a deformed boy aged sixteen, a wretched and diminutive looking being' tried to kill Queen Victoria – a few weeks after two previous assassination attempts – in the summer of 1840, there was the authentic voice of editorial outrage when the perpetrators had their sentences commuted. The Hereford Times could not believe it and set the tone for every Daily Scum Mail editorial thereafter (except, possibly, the one that praise Herr Hitler getting Germany all sorted): 'The country will participate in the feelings of indignation and horror with which we announce that another miscreant has been found mad enough, or wicked enough, to have entertained designs against the life of our beloved Queen. On the very day on which it became publicly known that Her Majesty had spared the life of him who had raised his hand against her own, another vile attempt upon that precious life would seem to have been intended.' Crikey. As for scandals, the British Chronicle in September 1790 had a ripe one about 'an unnamed peer' who, it would seem, fancied his valet's wife and sent the servant off on an errand which would take him away overnight so that he could have his wicked way. The valet was suspicious, hid near his wife's apartment and locked the couple in when he heard his employer enter 9the chamber, that is, not her), before heading off to the peer's wife's chamber on a similar mission. 'In the morning, gentle readers, you may picture to yourselves the confusion of the whole family: his lordship was found locked in the arms of Mrs Anne and her ladyship was discovered in the same situation with Mr Thomas.' Shocking. The archive features more than two hundred newspapers, which are being copied for the library by the online publisher Brightsolid. Ed Vaizey, the lack of culture and communications minister, said: 'The archive is a rich and hugely exciting resource packed with historical detail. I searched for my own constituency of Wantage and within seconds had forty two thousand results – an indication of the breadth and variety of material featured.' So far, the project has focused on out-of-copyright material pre-dating 1900, but Brightsolid is negotiating with rights holders to obtain permission to scan newspapers from the early to mid-Twentieth Century.

Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Scum Express and the Daily Lies, has declared that he is 'very pleased' with his decision to quit the body which regulates newspapers in Britain, branding the Press Complaints Commission 'an old boys' club.' At the same time, he put the boot into Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Scum Mail, claiming that Dacre was 'immoral' and 'hypocritical' about the PCC. Desmond told a parliamentary select committee looking at libel and privacy law that he was 'not proud' that the commission has taken him to task over the last two years, but said the number of lapses had been few and far between. Last week, the Leveson inquiry heard how Desmond's Express Newspapers paid five hundred and fifty thousand knicker to Gerry and Kate McCann for more than one hundred libellous articles in its four titles, including one in the Daily Lies which claimed the couple had sold their missing child to pay debts. 'We're not proud that we've had seven cases in two years,' said Desmond. 'I think this PCC is an old boys' club, and it's certainly been very ineffective, and I'm very pleased at what we did last January, that we pulled out.' He told MPs and peers that the newspaper industry would be better served if editors were not involved in regulation. 'Let's not have editors of newspapers who sit in a little cabal and, when it's their turn, that editor withdraws and gets discussed behind his back by competitors,' Desmond said. 'It would work better if the people on that committee were not the same people who were working as day-to-day editors and executives on rival newspapers.' The newspaper proprietor quit the PCC earlier this year. He said he was in favour of self-regulation but without the make-up of the PCC commission, which has seventeen members – ten lay and seven serving editors. Desmond added that the Daily Scum Mail's lack of coverage of the phone-hacking scandal was 'hypocritical' and that Dacre was 'absolutely wrong' to say recently that celebrities stories were 'part and parcel of the every day.' His attack on Dacre comes just weeks after the editor-in-chief of the Daily Scum Mail described the Scum Express's decision to leave the PCC as 'a body blow to the commission.' Dacre also questioned the 'Blair government's' decision that 'Desmond, the businessman who'd made his money from porn, was a fit and proper person to own a newspaper.' Dacre told the Leveson seminar in October that commercially adroit newspapers use great skills to 'leaven their papers with sensation, exclusive pictures, scandal, celebrity gossip and dramatic human stories' but still devoted considerable space to serious news. Which is, of course, utter crap. Desmond also claimed: 'You knew that the News of the World were hacking because the guy had been in prison. We heard internally about the Mail on Sunday, about the Mirror, about the People, and these were the very people that were sitting there hanging us out to dry. I find the whole thing very hypocritical.'

Musical comedy duo Flight Of The Conchords are planning a movie version of their cult TV show. Bret McKenzie said that he and co-star Jemaine Clement had big-screen ambitions – but they needed to come up with a script first. He made the comment in an interview to promote The Muppets movie, to which he contributed several songs. When a journalist from the Hollywood Reporter asked him if he had any plans for a Flight Of The Conchords film, McKenzie said: 'Yeah, we're going to do a movie. We just need a story – so if you know anyone who has any story ideas.' When asked when it might come out, he said that 'movies take a long time to make' – so joked that it could take him up to a month from now to film and edit it. The New Zealand duo ended their HBO series in 2009 after two seasons, as they were finding it difficult to come up with enough new material.

Richard Herring has said that stand-up comedians should consider the consequences of their material. The comic last month publicly took issue with Ricky Gervais's continued use of the word 'mong' in his work and on Twitter. Herring told Metro: 'I wrote a blog saying maybe using disablist language is the same as using racist language and maybe we shouldn't because it's hurtful to disabled people. To find out that saying we should be considerate to disabled people is the most controversial thing I've said in my career is interesting. It seems fairly reasonable.' He continued: 'A comedian has a responsibility to themselves to consider the consequences of what they're doing. If it's funny enough, you can get away with virtually anything in comedy. You should consider the effects of throwing disablist language around. Being on the sharp end of his followers calling me a "mong" for a week, I can see that whatever Ricky thinks the word "mong" has become, the five hundred thousand people following him don't agree or don't understand the subtleties he's coming up with.' Herring added that through his eight years of work with the disabled charity, Scope, he is aware of how much the use of such language affects disabled people. 'I don't think it's for a non-disabled multi-millionaire to say the word has been "reclaimed"', he said. 'That word hasn't changed meaning - it's always meant the same thing.' Gervais was initially - loudly - unrepentant over his use of the word claiming, as he did two years earlier when using it to describe Susan Boyle, that the word had 'changed meaning.' Following statements from disability campaigners including Nicky Clark and his one-time Extras colleague Francesca Martinez, Gervais later admitted that he had been 'naïve' over his use of the word. Meanwhile, Herring's former colleague, the full-own-his-own-importance knobend, Stewart Lee has been described as 'flabby and ireelevent' by Mad Frankie Boyle. Boyle told the Gruniad Morning Star - who, of course, just lurv Lee the mostest, baby - that he is not a fan of Lee. Boyle noted: 'It seems to me [he's] irrelevant and flabby. Okay, you don't like Russell Howard; that's fine. But don't put on your posters "a new kind of political comedy." Without any politics? Crisps? What the fuck is that about? People internalise marketing. You sell yourself and people sell stuff to you. He ends up going, "Michael McIntyre, Russell Howard, not like me." What the fuck is that? Sick of that old washing powder?' Big fight, little people.

China has ordered a ban on advertisements during TV dramas as part of its reform of cultural activities. Adverts will not be allowed in the middle of programmes lasting for forty five minutes from 1 January next year. The authorities said this was in line with the 'spirit' of a recent Communist Party meeting. Senior leaders said then that they wanted to develop a 'socialist culture,' although they did not elaborate on exactly what that means. TV stations are clear about what this latest move means for them though - they say it will result in a loss of revenue. The latest announcement was made by China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television on its website. It said the regulation was being introduced as part of a new attitude towards culture, outlined at the party's Central Committee meeting in October. 'Radio and television are a mouthpiece of the party and the people - an important propaganda front in cultural thought,' read the SARFT statement. An organisation spokesman told Xinhua, the state-run news agency, that the aim was to make TV shows conform to 'public interests and aspirations. In the long-run, the move will help TV dramas develop in a scientific and healthy manner,' said the unidentified spokesman. The Communist Party has always kept close control over cultural activities such as television programming in China. A few months ago it told a successful commercial station to stop broadcasting a popular talent contest called Super Girl. At the recent Central Committee meeting, China's senior leaders appeared to indicate they wanted to keep an even closer eye on broadcasters. This latest move will have an effect on the money made by these companies though. 'The government could really take our lives if it bans all commercial breaks during the most-watched TV series,' one - unidentified - executive with a mainland TV station is reported to have said. A spokeswoman for Hunan Satellite TV said this new regulation came after most advertising deals for next year had already been signed. 'TV stations bosses around the country will be having many sleepless nights,' she said. Not as sleepless as the spokeswoman for Hunan Satellite TV one imagines as she waits for a knock on her door from the men from the Ministry of State Security. China's TV advertising industry was worth nearly five hundred billion yuan last year. The rights for one top slot before the main evening news on China Central Television - the nation's top broadcaster - cost four hundred and forty million yuan for eight months at a recent auction.

Grammy-winning music executive Don DeVito, who produced Bob Dylan two great 1970s LPs Blood on the Tracks and Desire has died aged seventy two. In a statement, Columbia Records said DeVito had suffered from prostate cancer for the past sixteen years. During his career, the producer worked with many other artists including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Aerosmith. The Recording Academy said DeVito was 'a multifaceted talent' who 'made a lasting impact on our industry.' DeVito spent his entire career at Columbia Records after starting off as a trainee at CBS, and went on to become one of the label's most influential executives and producers. He helped to create LP that would become a part of music history including Dylan's mournful Blood on the Tracks, which is considered one of the singer/songwriter's greatest and most mature works. The producer, who retired four years ago, won a Grammy in 1989 for his work on Folkways - A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie And Leadbelly. He is survived by his wife Carolyn and two children, Marissa and James.

Elvis Costello wants his fans to spend, ahem, less than zero on his pricey new box set. In a post on his website, the singer-songwriter tells fans not to buy the upcoming release, The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, recorded over two nights at The Wiltern in Los Angeles in May, because it's too expensive. Costello, he stressed, wasn't slagging the quality of the box-set, which he calls 'a beautifully designed compendium' featuring live recordings that 'find The Imposters in rare form. Unfortunately,' he added 'we find ourselves unable to recommend this lovely item to you as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire.' The set, which contains a CD, DVD, a ten-inch vinyl record and a book autographed by Costello along with other tour memorabilia, is currently available on pre-order for between two and three hundred dollars, according to various retail websites. The singer said that his attempts to have the price lowered had been 'fruitless.' Instead, Costello said, fans should shell out for Louis Armstrong's Ambassador of Jazz, a ten-disc set packed with music, interviews and other extras from across Satchmo's sixty-year career. 'Frankly, the music is vastly superior,' Costello wrote. For Costello die-hards who simply must have The Return, the singer advises waiting until after the New Year, when the music and DVD will be sold separately.

An amplifier used by George Harrison during recording sessions for The Beatles iconic Revolver and Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LPs is set to sell for fifty grand plus. The rare Vox UL730 amplifier is set to go under the hammer when it was rediscovered by accident after it was borrowed by former New Order bassist Peter Hook for a recording session. An engineer only discovered that it used to belong to Harrison, whose name was scratched inside, when he was called in to fix it after it broke down. Researchers then tracked down the amp's history and found a photograph of Harrison using it. The amp is expected to fetch between fifty and seventy thousand smackers when it is auctioned on 15 December at Bonhams in Knightsbridge. Stephen Maycock, Bonhams entertainment memorabilia consultant, said: 'Very few amps used by the Beatles have come to auction before, and to find one that was used on two such significant albums is truly rare and exciting. Beatles fans all over the world will be eager to own such an important piece of music history.' Well, yeah but I think you should amend that too 'Beatles fans with more money than they know what to do with during these tough financial times will be eager to own ...' Perspective. Good word that.

An inquest has opened, and been adjourned, into the death of Gary Speed. The Welsh football manager, forty two, died at his family home in Cheshire on Sunday after an apparent suicide. He leaves a wife and two teenage children. A tribute to the player is expected before Tuesday night's cup tie between Cardiff City and Blackburn Rovers. In a statement issued on Monday afternoon Speed's family said that they had been 'overwhelmed' by the support they have received from the football community across the country following his death. Speaking outside the family's home Hayden Evans, Speed's agent, said: 'Gary's family would sincerely like to thank all the people that have sent messages of condolence and tributes in what is a very difficult time. We have been overwhelmed by the support and it really has helped. We would ask that the family are now given the respect of some privacy to just grieve on their own.' Evans later told BBC Wales that the support had made a difference 'albeit a small difference.' Understandably. He added that there had been no indication from Speed that anything was wrong in the days leading up to his death. 'We spoke on Friday, everything was normal,' said Evans. 'We speak regularly and meet regularly and there were no tell-tale signs. That's what's made it all the more shocking.' Tributes to the former Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton and Sheffield United midfielder, have continued to pour in from the public and sporting figures. On a visit to Manchester, the Prime Minister managed to muscle himself into the frame, saying: 'I think it has been incredibly moving. I was watching Match Of The Day last night and watching people, crowds, absolutely silent and footballers revering his memory. Obviously here in the north, where he played for so many of the iconic teams, I know he meant an enormous amount to people and people feel very, very sad on his behalf and on his family's behalf.' Firstly, does anyone actually believe that David Cameron watches Match of the Day? No, thought not. The flags outside the Welsh assembly in Cardiff Bay are still flying at half-mast as a mark of respect, and a call has been made for a minute's silence during Tuesday's plenary session in the debating chamber. Supporters have left scarves, football shirts and flowers across several football stadiums - including Everton's Goodison Park, at Leeds United's Elland Road, Newcastle's St James' Park, the Millennium Stadium and Cardiff City Stadium, where Wales played their home games. Speaking about Tuesday night's Carling Cup quarter-final, Cardiff City manager Malky McKay said: 'I'm sure the correct tribute and respect will be paid towards Gary. Our fans are fantastic. They will do exactly what I think they'll do in terms of tributes, be it silence or applause.' The FAW has opened a book of remembrance at its offices in Cardiff, which will be open from 09:00 to 16:00, and online. Speed enjoyed a long and distinguished playing career over twenty two years and five clubs all of whom he served with distinction. He was also Wales' most capped outfield player, winning eighty five international caps, and managed Sheffield United before becoming Wales boss in December 2010. After a difficult start, Wales' 4-1 friendly win over Norway on 12 November was his side's third successive win. Meanwhile, in an emotional interview with BBC 5Live, Speed's former team-mate Alan Shearer says that he is still numb and in shock over the sudden death of his friend. Shearer said: 'This just doesn't happen to one of your best mates. I was with him on Saturday afternoon arranging next weekend. He was coming up with his wife to stay at my house. I left the studio, shook his hand and said "see you next weekend." He was happy, joking,' Shearer said. 'We were having the normal mickey taking that we do out of each other and having a laugh and joke about golf trips and holidays that we went on together last year. We were planning our next holiday in Portugal next summer with the families and the kids. That's why it's so hard to come to terms with.' Shearer had been at St James' Park for eighteen months when Speed signed for Newcastle in February 1998. Speed went on to played more than two hundred and eighty matches for the club, including two FA Cup Final appearances and some memorable nights in the Champions League, before leaving for Bolton Wanderers in July 2004. Shearer continued: 'I played against him many times, but when Kenny Dalglish signed him for Newcastle straight away we struck up a relationship. You're bound to make enemies and have arguments along the way in football - but no one ever did with Gary. No-one had a bad word for him. He was just an incredible guy, what you would describe as a proper bloke. If you were meeting him at seven o'clock, he'd be there at five to seven, and that's the type of guy he was.' Speed burst on to the scene as a dynamic and versatile midfielder at Leeds United, and by the age of twenty two he had already won the league championship playing a pivotal role in a United midfield which also contained Gordon Strachan, Gary McAllister and David Batty. Shearer spoke about the player who was a 'manager's dream,' adding: 'He was a great footballer, great in the air, he had a great left foot, a great engine, he was a model professional. To play with him, I knew, when I was at Newcastle, what sort of performance you would get from him and the fifty two thousand fans knew what kind of performance you were going to get - he'd run all day. Everyone loved him - that's the type of guy that he was. He got on with the young guys, the older guys, the laundry lady, the chefs, the kit man - we used to get in early after taking our kids to school and we were in the training ground at 8.45 having breakfast together. It's such a sad situation, a sad loss.' There's a superb article by the best writer in football journalism, Henry Winter of the Telegraph, on the subject which you can read here. 'Wherever you look and listen, people are honouring Speed. Aston Villa's fine supporters have already stood in silent salute of the Wales manager at the Liberty Stadium. Of course they should, people will cry, it's common decency. Sadly, it's not always thus. I covered a Holland versus France match in Lens when the Dutch fans tried to start a Mexican wave during a minute's silence for a French disaster. Enmity is a part of football. Not this week. Any hostilities that stain the game on these shores have been put on hold. Speed's stature in the game ensured that. In their darkest hour, at least his family know that countless people grieve with them.'

And finally, an important confessions from those lovely people who can't in any way be described as sick bigots at the Daily Scum Mail.
For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we have The Tindersticks finest three and a half minutes.

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