Friday, February 15, 2013

I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love

ITV's From the Heart did not attract the expected attention of the nation on Wednesday evening, overnight data suggests. Only 1.08m punters watched risible Dermot O'Dreary and a variety of b-list comedians attempt to raise awareness for increased organ donation in the UK. Julie Etchingham's Tonight programme, covering the same - extremely serious - subject matter, was broadcast in the 8pm hour to 2.07m viewers despite a huge lead-in from ITV's soap hour. Meanwhile, on ITV3, 1.13m watched an old episode of Lewis between 8pm and 10pm, peaking in the 9pm hour - showing the amount of affection for a programme which has recently come to an end after seven series. All of the terrestrial channels beat ITV's much-trailed campaign show with The Brain Doctors securing 1.49m for BBC2, NCIS managing a more than decent 1.56m for Channel Five and One Born Every Minute picking up 2.07m for Channel Four. Although BBC1 won the major primetime slots, the channel's performance was far from spectacular by its high standards on a generally underwhelming night all round. Holiday Hit Squad was watched by 3.82m and DIY SOS: The Big Build had an audience of 4.31m. Ricky Gervais wretched, virtually joke-free 'sitcom' Derek suffered a slight - but very welcome - decrease in punters as 1.23m sad, crushed victims of society watched the third episode of the series. It was down on the audience for the previous episodes although the figure is still marginally above Channel Four's slot average. Overall, BBC1 topped primetime with 18.7 per cent of the total audience share, ahead of ITV's 13.9 per cent.
The BBC's head of news, Helen Boaden is - as speculated earlier in the week - to move to a new role as director of BBC Radio. Former lack of culture secretary James Purnell is also to return to the BBC, as Director of Strategy and Digital. The appointments are the first in a series of management changes by incoming director general Tony Hall, who takes up his post in April. Boaden, who was head of news when the Savile fiasco broke, has years of experience in radio. Her deputy, Fran Unsworth, will act as director of news from 19 March and Hall said that he hoped there would be a permanent replacement in place by April. Boaden had to step aside for a period from November last year, along with her deputy Steve Mitchell, in the wake of the Savile investigations. She returned to her job just before Christmas after The Pollard Review broadly exonerated her of any direct blame for the catastrophic series of own goals and shots in the foot carried out by various BBC middle-managers. At the same time, Mitchell's resignation was accepted by the BBC - so he seems to be copping the majority of the blame of the entire malarkey. Hall said: 'I am building a senior team that will define the BBC and public service broadcasting for the next decade. It will be a team that is made up of outstanding talent from outside the BBC combined with the best people from within. There will be more changes over the coming months and there is a lot of hard work ahead but today's appointments are the first steps in delivering that vision,' he added. Purnell, who stepped down as a - rather well-respected - Labour MP in 2010 and has recently worked in TV production, was the BBC's head of corporate planning in the 1990s. He was an averagely useless lack of culture secretary between 2007 and 2008 (although, nowhere near as dreadful as his three immediate successors) and then became work and pensions secretary. He quit that job in 2009 and called for Gordon Brown to resign as prime minister. As part of his role he will be overseeing preparations for the corporation's centenary in 2022. He said: 'I'm really excited to be coming back to the BBC, to work on its future with such a great team. Over the last couple of years, producing and developing programmes has rekindled my passion for the career I had before politics.' Boaden said: 'It is a huge pleasure to be returning to my first love of radio. I look forward to working with our outstanding controllers and some of the most creative on and off air talent in the BBC. The British public love BBC radio and I intend to cherish and champion it.' The corporation will now begin the process of recruiting a new director of news. Hall was appointed director-general following the resignation of the hapless George Entwistle, after just fifty four days in the job. Entwistle quit, saying that as editor-in chief he had to take 'ultimate responsibility' for a Newsnight investigation which had led to the former Conservative Party treasurer, Lord McAlpine, being wrongly accused of child abuse by some people on the Internet. Tim Davie, who has been acting director-general, will take up an expanded role as CEO of BBC Worldwide and Director of BBC Global on the same day. The BBC said that Purnell's salary would be two hundred and ninety five thousand knicker, adding: 'There will be no increase to the senior management pay bill as a result of these or other forthcoming changes.' Hall has given the BBC's senior executives until the summer to restructure their teams and has asked for the changes to be made within existing budgets. Boaden was formerly the controller of Radio 4, and won consecutive Sony Radio Academy Station of the Year awards. Hall said: 'Combined with the excellent job she has done in news over the last eight years, Helen has much to bring to the world of radio and music.'

According to a post on Twitter, yer actual Eddie Izzard was filming at the David Dunlap Observatory in Toronto this week, for NBC's Hannibal, the prequel series to The Silence of the Lambs. The Observatory is, apparently, being used as the location shoot standing in for the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane! My thanks to my good mate Eric Briggs for alerting me to this news.
You just have to wonder if, as he entered the building Lord Eddie - covered in bees, as usual - said 'we will do well here' in a James Mason-type voice. Well, yer actual Keith Telly Topping has to wonder that, anyway. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's like that, dear blog reader. True story.

Lewis Hamilton returns to Top Gear this week and wants to claim the Reasonably Priced Car lap time crown. Last time Hamilton appeared on the show, in December 2007, the driver took the Suzuki Liana around the show's race course in 1:44.7. However, Hamilton was (he claimed) hampered by wet weather and oil on a track and was unable to match the time set by fellow F1 legend Nigel Mansell (1:44.6) and, subsequently, beaten by Rubens Barrichello (1:44.3) and Sebastian Vettel (1:44.0). Other features on this week's show include Jezza Clarkson taking the new Kia Cee'd for a road test involving eels, curry, a rock legend, an American police officer and a game of rugby (well, sort of) involving James May, while Richard Hammond is road testing the Mastretta sports car. Sounds proper brilliant, as usual. No doubt some louse of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star or some jack-booted bullyboy thug horrorhsow (and drag) at the Daily Scum Mail will find something to whinge about, of course. Which is, of course, fabulous. Let's face it, if those two organs don't like you, you must be doing something right.

Alexandra Burke has revealed that she would be 'honoured' to be a judge on this year's The X Factor. Since she can't, seemingly, get a job anywhere else at the moment. The singer said she would 'definitely consider' a spot on the show if she were to be asked by Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads. But, since she's not going to be, as kite-flying exercises go, this one's, frankly, a bit of a non-starter. it's a little bit like another ridiculous nothing story which appeared earlier this week, former soap hasbeen Danielle Westbrook telling a tabloid that she would 'love' a part in Mr Selfridge. Unfortunately for Danielle, they've got enough real actors on that drama and thus, they don't require the likes of her.

And, speaking of the utter shite which masquerades of 'news' these days, Karren Brady has 'hinted' at a possible career in politics in the future. Since her career in football has been such a huge rip-roaring success, of course.
The BBC has responded - with, frankly, baffling politeness - to a (lone) anorak complaint 'lamenting' a lack of new Doctor Who in the show's fiftieth anniversary year. Eight new episodes, plus an anniversary special filmed in 3D and a Christmas special, will be broadcast later in 2013, but BBC Complaints responded to one fan's 'concerns' that 'not enough' was being done to mark the fiftieth. 'Thanks for your contact regarding Doctor Who broadcast on BBC1,' the DoctorWhoTV website quotes one poor unpaid - and probably undervalued - BBC employee as saying in reply to this wank. 'I understand that you feel there are insufficient programmes planned to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the series. Whilst I appreciate your concerns, we haven't announced what we have planned to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who yet, but we would like to assure you that fans won't be disappointed.' Oh, I think some of them will be. They're The Special People, pal, they'd find something to whinge about if you announced you were going to stop making all other programmes and devote the BBC's entire resources to making nothing but Doctor Who. As previously noted, if some bell-end somewhere is whinging about some aspect of Doctor Who then that simply means there's a 'y' on the day. Of course, what's most annoying here is that the bloke (or lady) had to remain polite and dignified whilst replying to this glake instead of saying, as they should have, 'your comments are trivial and pointless, how about you show a bit of Goddamn gratitude that we're making the series - which we created and pay for - at all, you spotty oik.' That's what yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self would've written if he'd been in charge of the BBC complaints department. So, it's probably a good job in the long run that he's not, really. The unnamed fan - who is clearly either twelve and needs a good slap or sixteen and desperately needs a girlfriend - also criticised the decision to broadcast the popular long-running family SF drama's seventh series in two parts - with the first five episodes being shown throughout September and the following eight to commence from Saturday 30 March on BBC1. As though that has anything to do with him (or her). 'Please note that the decision to schedule series seven in two parts was a creative one and we're sorry you are unhappy about this,' the BBC replied, wearily once again failing to add 'although, frankly, we could give a monkey's chuff whether you like it or not, since it's our show and we can do what the hell we like with it.' They continued: 'Nevertheless, please be assured that I've registered your comments regarding this issue to our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback made available throughout the BBC, including to the producers of Doctor Who, as well as members of senior management. The audience logs help to shape future decisions regarding BBC programming and output.' It's also stuck up on a noticeboard in the VBBC so that all of the employees can have a damned good laugh at some of the outright pillocks out there in viewerland. In other words 'oh, go away and grow the frig up.' Next ...

Torchwood writer Chris Chibnall has criticised the SF drama's last series, saying it lacked the show's 'essence.' Which, coming from the man who wrote Cyberwoman, quite possibly the worst episode ever, not just of Torchwood but in the history of TV, that's perhaps a bit harsh. Miracle Day - which ran for ten episodes in 2011 - was a co-production between the BBC and US cable network Starz. 'Whether you like or dislike Torchwood, it has an essence - of madness and cheekiness and sexiness, and fun and darkness, those sort of polar facets of what it's about, of putting those things together - and somehow it lost a bit of that somewhere in the process,' Chibnall told Starburst. 'When we were first talking about it, it was something a bit bolder, a bit cheekier. It may just come back to the fact that one of the great essences of Torchwood was taking those American tropes and doing them in Wales. In a way, that's what made Torchwood so brilliantly odd. Once you put it in California, it becomes more like other shows.' Chibnall - whose new series Broadchurch launches in the coming months on ITV - also cast doubt on the likelihood of another Torchwood series in the future. 'It's entirely down to Russell - I would expect he will have other things he'll want to write, to be honest,' said Chibnall. Davies himself insisted in October last year that Torchwood is 'not officially' cancelled and suggested that the show could still return. 'It's in a nice limbo where it can stew - those shows can come back in ten, twenty years time,' he said.
Simon Beaufoy, best known for writing The Full Monty, has completed a screenplay about former Olympic rivals Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe. The duo dominated middle distance running in the late 1970s and early 1980s - with their rivalry coming to a head at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Beaufoy told BBC News that it was 'a brilliant story' with a 'perfect end. They were the biggest threat to each other and they never wanted to find out who was best. I hadn't realised how good it was until you dig into their past,' Beaufoy said. 'They were fantastically different athletes and different people. And they rarely met apart from on the track - but not very often, even on the track. Before Moscow they'd only raced against each other twice, and once was in a schools' Cross Country event. They deliberately kept as far apart from each other as they could, even though they were running the same event.' The pair famously ran against each other at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, winning each other's preferred events - with Coe clinching victory in the fifteen hundred metres and Ovett picking up gold in the eight hundred metres. 'There's a brilliant symmetry to that,' said Beaufoy, who finished the script last week. He called Ovett 'the perceived bad boy' of the piece. 'I tried to speak to Steve Ovett, but true to form he doesn't want to. He never in his career talked to journalists ever, famously refusing interviews. Sebastian Coe will give an interview at the drop of a hat, also true to form,' Beaufoy added. 'Very polite, very media conscious, very aware of his image. They both are. They both respond in completely different ways,' said the writer, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire. 'It's a huge responsibility writing about people who are alive. It's the thing about writing that keeps me awake at night, dramatising real life events with real people. You've got to get this right because they're still alive and it's their life, but at the same time you have to shape this in a way a drama is shaped. You have to shift the pieces around a bit to make it work, which is tricky.' No casting has been announced for the film, which is expected to be called either Second Is Nowhere or The Perfect Distance. Following his retirement from the athletics field, Coe went on to become a Conservative MP before being made a peer in 2000. He received a knighthood in the 2006 New Year honours. Most recently he was chairman of the London 2012 Olympics, leading to his appointment as appointed as Chairman of the British Olympic Association last November. Ovett - whom, of the pair, yer actual Keith Telly Topping always preferred (more rock n roll, less 'establishment' than Seb) - retired from athletics in 1991 and now lives in Australia where he works as a commentator.
Police have arrested a fifty one-year-old Metropolitan police officer as part of the ongoing investigation into payments to the police by the media. Scotland Yard said that the arrest related to the suspected release of confidential information. He was arrested at 06:00 on Thursday at his home in Wiltshire on suspicion of misconduct in public office. The man reportedly worked for the Met in the Territorial Policing command. The Met said that the arrest followed the release of information by News Corporation's Management and Standards Committee and relates to the leaking of confidential information. The body was set up by the media giant in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at its disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World title. He is the sixty first person to be arrested as part of Operation Elveden. Of those people arrested under Elveden, so far nine have been extremely charged and four have been told that they will face no further action. Operation Elveden is running alongside Operation Weeting, an inquiry into alleged phone-hacking, and Operation Tuleta, which is an investigation into computer hacking and other privacy breaches and general naughtiness.

Dame Maggie Smith has said that she cannot bring herself to watch her Downton Abbey performances. That bad, eh? The actress, who recently won a Golden Globe for her role as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, implied that her personal perfectionism prevents her from enjoying the show while she is working on it. 'I haven't watched it,' Smith told CBS's Sixty Minutes. 'I will look at it when it's all over, because it's frustrating. I always see things that I would like to do differently and think, "Oh, why in the name of God did I do that?"' When pressed by interviewer Steve Kroft as to what she gets out of the show if she does not watch it, Smith exclaimed: 'It's the delight of acting!' She also claimed to have no idea that Downton Abbey would turn out to be so successful, describing cast and crew as 'a whole very startled group of people' when the Lord Snooty-created drama became popular.

Britain's top military brass and senior Whitehall officials were 'agitated' about special forces talking to the media, concerned about a former MI5 chief writing her memoirs – but the spies were 'relatively relaxed' about the BBC espionage thriller [spooks], hitherto secret documents reveal. The newly released files give details of passages which were removed from the original manuscript of Secrecy and the Media, the official history of the defence, press and broadcasting advisory committee, where Whitehall officials oversee a system of voluntary self-censorship with the media. Suppressed passages from the book, which was written by Rear Admiral Nicholas Wilkinson, and published three years ago, have now been released by the National Archives. Many of the passages remain secret but those seeing the light of day include sections which refer to the SAS and its naval equivalent, the Special Boat Service, units that are playing an increasingly important role in British military and counter-insurgency operations, including in Afghanistan and Africa. The Ministry of Defence refuses to comment, officially, on any mission involving the special forces but the ban is a source of deep frustration among senior officials in other Whitehall departments and media executives. Newly released passages reveal how details about the role of UK special forces, in an operation to free captured British soldiers held by rebels in Sierra Leone, were leaked in 2000 'to the fury of the Ministry of Defence.' Paratroopers involved in the Sierra Leone mission 'felt under no inhibition about talking frankly about their part' in a special forces-led operation, Wilkinson recorded. He added that 'even The Officer magazine, supported by the MoD,' carried an article on the SAS role in the operation, prompting the MoD to consider 'impounding' the offending publication. Referring to an unidentified incident in the Iraq war, Wilkinson noted that 'the inability of the MoD to say anything about the incident caused additional speculation and inaccuracy.' He added: 'Almost all the publicity which the UKSF has attracted has been inspired directly by UKSF leakers or through ex-SF leakers.' Media executives and some Whitehall officials say that the work of DPBAC – known as the D-Notice Committee – regarding special forces, is counter productive and erodes the credibility of the system. Many journalists already consider it obsolete. Passages of Wilkinson's manuscript, up till now kept secret, refer to the decision of Stella Rimington, the former MI5 director general, to publish her memoirs. 'Senior officials had known this for some months and had been trying to dissuade her,' Wilkinson wrote. 'When it became apparent that this heavy collective [male] pressure was making her even more determined to publish, she was widely, and unattributably, briefed against.' Sir Kevin Tebbit, then the MoD's most senior official, is recorded as being 'most opposed' to the memoirs on grounds his ministry was blocking SAS memoirs at the time. Rimington's book, Open Secret, was published in 2001. Some passages in Wilkinson's original manuscript relating to the BBC spy drama [spooks] remain withheld. But one released passage records: 'The security service [MI5] was not only relaxed about the series, its members were very much hoping that Armani suits, plush offices and fast cars, as shown in the series, would somehow become a feature of their considerably less glamorous work, and that its recruitment would benefit (applications did temporarily increase, but those from women dropped, possibly because of the unrealistic level of violence).' The newly released file records that Mark Thomas, the comedian and political activist, asked the D-Notice Committee secretary why 'well-known defence and security establishments,' including the early warning radar at Fylingdales in North Yorkshire, and the nuclear warhead base at Burghfield, Berkshire, were absent from Ordnance Survey maps. The omission is described as a 'hangover from cold war days,' a 'bureaucratic oversight.' The D-Notice secretary explained the current policy: 'If a site could be seen from the air or from the road, it could now be shown on a map.' Official stamps on passages in Wilkinson's manuscript that remain secret say these passages are retained under section three of the Public Records Act, which says documents can be suppressed if 'they are required for administrative purposes, or ought to be retained for any other special reason.' According to alleged 'sources' allegedly familiar with them, some of the passages of Secrecy and the Media were censored after Whitehall officials came up with the rule that official histories should not include 'matters concerning the administration in power.' The book was published when Labour was still in power but references to incidents that took place before the party lost the 2010 general election were withdrawn from the manuscript. However, some of the censored passages had already appeared on the D-Notice website, and Wilkinson's entire manuscript had already been cleared by MI5, MI6, GCHQ, as well as the Foreign, Home and Cabinet Offices, the Treasury solicitor, and attorney general.

Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell is launching a new weekly television listings magazine, TV Pick, in early March. TV Pick will be priced at forty pence, five pence less than H Bauer's TV Choice. Northern & Shell said it was the first new weekly TV listings title to launch since 2005. Presumably, given soft-core pornographer Desmond also owns Portland TV, which owns the adult TV channels Television X, Red Hot TV, and others, it'll have lots of pictures of big tits in it. Buyers of the magazine will get a free ticket to Desmond's Health Lottery and Northern & Shell is planning to support the launch with above and below the line marketing activity across its print and TV outlets. The company said it would give the full cover price of each TV Pick sale back to retailers and wholesalers for six weeks after its launch. TV Pick will go up against rival listings weeklies including TV Choice, the UK's best selling paid-for magazine, which sold an average of one million two hundred and thirty thousand copies in the final six months of 2012, and IPC Media's What's On TV, with a circulation of one million two hundred and twenty thousand. It will join Desmond's portfolio of consumer magazines OK!, New! and Star, which like many other titles in the market saw further circulation falls in the second half of 2012, according to the latest officially audited figures published on Thursday. Paul Ashford, Northern & Shell's group editorial director, said: 'The launch of TV Pick underlines our commitment to the magazine sector and our confidence that we can grow market share by being smart and leveraging our unique promotional resources and relationships. We are very excited about being able to offer readers the best–priced TV listings title in the market. TV Pick will have clear, easy-to-read-listings, seven-day programme information, TV news and gossip, in-depth coverage of all the soaps, amazing access to the hottest TV stars, letters, diet tips, horoscopes and puzzles.' And, no long words.

Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell has been charged with a string of sex offences, including raping a child. Greater Manchester Police said that he is also accused of indecently assaulting a child and sexual activity with a child. The actor, forty eight, who plays Kevin Webster in the ITV soap, faces a total of nineteen charges relating to crimes allegedly committed between 2001 and 2010. Le Vell, whose real name is Michael Turner, is due before magistrates in Manchester on 27 February. Alison Levitt QC, principal legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that she had reviewed a decision not to prosecute Le Vell following allegations made against him in 2011. She said: 'I have very carefully reviewed the evidence in this case and I have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to charge Michael Robert Turner with a number of sexual offences. I have authorised Greater Manchester Police to charge Mr Turner with nineteen offences, including rape of a child. Mr Turner has now been charged with criminal offences and has a right to a fair trial.' The actor, from Hale in Greater Manchester, has played the role of garage mechanic Kevin Webster for thirty years, making him one of the longest-serving performers in Coronation Street.

Seven paintings taken from their Jewish owners in the 1930s are being returned to their surviving relatives as part of an ongoing French effort to give back looted, stolen or appropriated art. The works include four paintings that currently hang in the Louvre in Paris. Six of the pieces were owned by Richard Neumann, an Austrian Jew who sold off his collection at a fraction of its value in order to leave France. The seventh was stolen in Prague from Josef Wiener, a Jewish banker. All seven were destined for display in an art gallery that Adolf Hitler wanted to build in Linz, the Austrian city in which he grew up. The gallery was to have been filled with artworks looted across Europe by the Nazis from museums and private collections, many of them Jewish. The claims of the families involved were validated by the French government in 2012 after years spent researching the works' provenance. The six works from the Neumann collection are to be restored to his grandson Tom Selldorff, now eighty two and a resident of the US.

Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's latest crass and odious TV project, Food Glorious Food, will début on Wednesday 27 February on ITV, it has been confirmed. Hosted by Carol Vorderman, the series is being billed as 'The Antiques Roadshow of food' and 'X Factor for cooking.' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was about to say 'so, that's one dish best avoided, then.' But, tragically, one of his TV heroines, former MasterChef contestant and Queen of the Mods Sunderland Stacie Stewart is one of the judges on this wretched excuse for a format. Bugger. I'll probably have to watch it, then.
The Morecambe and Wise Show's legendary producer, John Ammonds, has died at the age of eighty eight. He was one of the BBC's most prolific light entertainment producers of the Sixties and Seventies, working with the likes of Frankie Howerd, Les Dawson and Harry Worth. But he was best known for more than sixty Morecambe and Wise shows, producing such segments as the famous Andre Previn sketch and helping team the duo up with their best writer, Eddie Braben, who went on to redefine their double-act dynamic. Biographer Graham McCann said that Ammonds's relationship to the comedians was like George Martin's with The Beatles, and added that 'more than anyone else, [he] taught Morecambe and Wise how to exploit the television camera's penetrating gaze.' Ernie once said: 'The important thing is the team, the four of us: Eddie, the writer, Johnny Ammonds, the producer, Eric and me.' It was a sentiment echoed by the BBC's light entertainment supremo of the time, Bill Cotton, who once said: 'The great unsung hero of The Morecambe And Wise Show – the one who never got an award – was Johnny Ammonds. He hand enormous expertise and he had great experience, and his eye for detail was so spot on.' Ammonds always said that he thrived on the pressure and responsibility of the job, saying: 'That was the joy of it. I was in absolute control. One year I was editing [the Christmas special] until midnight on Christmas Eve. I was down in the dungeons at Television Centre and I thought to myself, "It's going to play to twenty four million tomorrow night and I'm the one man responsible for what goes in and what doesn't." On the money I was getting, it was even more ridiculous!' After Eric and Ernie won one of their many BAFTAs, Morecambe walked from the stage at the Albert Hall and placed the award on the table where Ammonds was sitting, saying: 'Here. It's about time you had one of these.' Ammonds left The Morecambe and Wise Show in 1974 to work with Mike Yarwood, whom he described as 'the most nervous performer I have ever encountered, except Frankie Howerd.' He had started with the BBC as a sound effects operator in 1941, before going on to produce radio's Variety Bandbox. He then became the BBC's main TV light entertainment producer in Manchester before moving back to London. His family announced via actors' newspaper The Stage that Ammonds had died from the effects of a stroke. He was awarded an MBE in 1975 and is commemorated in a star under the Eric statue in the comic’s home town of Morecambe, Lancashire.

The special effects industry has paid tribute to Petro Vlahos - the pioneer of blue- and green-screen systems. The techniques allow filmmakers to superimpose actors and other objects against separately filmed backgrounds. He developed the procedure for 1959's Ben Hur and then went on to win an Oscar in 1964 after creating a related process for Disney's Mary Poppins. The death of the ninety six-year-old was announced by the company he founded, Ultimatte. His innovations continue to be used and developed by the television, film, computer games and advertising industries. 'Our industry has lost a giant,' Everett Burrell, senior visual effects supervisor at Los Angeles-based studio Look Effects told the BBC. 'It's hard to even conceive of how we would do what we do without the amazing number of processes and techniques he pioneered. All visual effects professionals and movie fans owe him a debt of gratitude.' Look Effects has built on Vlahos' achievements to create work for the movies Avatar, The Life of Pi and the upcoming Superman film, Man of Steel. Vlahos was not the first to use a blue-screens - earlier versions of the technique can be seen in films including The Thief of Baghdad and The Ten Commandments. But he is credited with developing a way to use it that minimised some objects appearing to have a strange looking glow as a side-effect. He called his invention the colour-difference travelling matte scheme. Like pre-existing blue-screen techniques it involves filming a scene against an aquamarine blue-coloured background. This is used to generate a matte - which is transparent wherever the blue-colour features on the original film, and opaque elsewhere. This can then be used to superimpose a separately filmed scene or visual effects to create a composite. Vlahos's breakthrough was to create a complicated laboratory process which involved separating the blue, green and red parts of each frame before combining them back together in a certain order. He also noted in a patent filing that the process allowed the blue-screen procedure to cope with glassware, cigarette smoke, blowing hair and motion blur which had all caused problems for earlier efforts. MGM had commissioned him to invent it. Mr Vlahos later noted that it had taken him six months of thought to come up with the idea, much of it spent staring out onto Hollywood Boulevard. He later created a 'black box' - which he called Ultimatte - to handle the process, first for film and then electronically for video. Vlahos was also awarded a patent for his work on a related technique called sodium vapour illumination, which he developed for Disney. This involved filming the actors' scenes against a while backdrop using sodium-powered lamps which caused a yellow glow to bounce off the background. The camera featured two film stocks shot simultaneously, and a prism on its lens. The prism split the yellow sodium light away from the other colours, sending it to a black-and-white-based film stock which was then used to create the matte. Meanwhile, the other film stock recorded the scenes in colour without the sodium's yellow cast being visible. The advantage was that this created an even cleaner effect than Vlahos' original blue-screen efforts. Disney used Vlahos's version of the technique to make Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Pete's Dragon - among other movies - letting its actors appear to interact with cartoons. Alfred Hitchcock also borrowed the technique for The Birds and Warren Beatty later used it in Dick Tracy. However, it has since fallen out of favour because the equipment involved is more expensive and cumbersome to operate, and the quality of blue- and green-screen techniques has improved. Vlahos racked up more than thirty five movie-related patents and went on to co-found his company, Ultimatte Corp, with his son Paul in 1976. It now focuses its efforts on making AdvantEdge, a compositing software plug-in. Robin Shenfield, chief executive of visual effects studio The Mill, recalls meeting Petro Vlahos several times in the 1980s and says that he came across as 'unassuming,' despite his many achievements. 'I remember him being rather quiet,' he told the BBC. 'He was a scientist - he wasn't a showman, although I think he rather liked the involvement of his technology in the world of entertainment. Ultimatte had a bit of razzmatazz about it as a company.' The Mill has since used blue- and green-screen technologies to create visual effects for the film Gladiator, Doctor Who and director Guy Ritchie's Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 trailer among other works. 'It's the absolute building block of all the visual effects that you see in television and movies,' added Shenfield. 'It's significance is extraordinary. Everything people like us and others are still built on that fundamental ability to take lots of elements from lots of places and seamlessly mesh them into a new convincing reality. Mr Petro - and his family - were pioneers in our industry for which he should be remembered.'

Lord Prescott has encouraged his Twitter followers to complain about the Sun's 15 February front page featuring the a scantily-clad photo of the late model Reeva Steenkamp. Steenkamp, a law graduate and former FHM cover star who had been dating the Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius for a few months, died in a shooting at Pistorius's Pretoria home in the early hours of Thursday. Pistorius arrived at court on Friday morning to face a charge of murder. Directly addressing the Sun's owner and News Corporation founder, billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch on Twitter, Lord Prescott wrote: 'A new low for your paper the Sun. Do you really think this [cover] is appropriate?' The front page features a large image of Steenkamp wearing a pink bikini, along with two smaller pictures of Pistorius - one showing him leaving a police station on Thursday and a second of the sprinter on the track. Prescott also posted the telephone number of the Sun and editor Dominic Mohan's work e-mail address on his Twitter feed, accompanied by the hashtag Her Name Was Reeva Steenkamp. He noted: '[East Guildford Liberal Democrat council candidate] George Potter phoned the Sun newsdesk to complain. They say, "She was a model so it's just a photo of her working."' Prezza also claimed that the newspaper had paid 'up to thirty five thousand pounds for that picture on the front page,' and added: 'I really hope every member of the Shadow Cabinet thinks twice before writing for the Sun after that front page.' A petition has also been launched on, in which the creators describe the cover and choice of image as 'distasteful' and 'disrespecful.' The petition also calls on the Sun to apologise and accuses the paper of 'objectification' of Steenkamp after her death. Among the other complainants was the newspaper columnist Suzanne Moore who argued that the Sun had hit 'a new low.' She called the image 'lechery over a corpse,' adding: 'A woman just murdered? I hope mass boycott.' Anyway, here's the image in question, make your own mind up, dear blog reader.
An asteroid as large as an Olympic size swimming pool will race past the Earth on Friday at a distance of just twenty seven thousand kilometres - the closest ever predicted for an object of that size and, in cosmic terms, a mere hairsbreadth away. It will pass closer even than the geosynchronous satellites which orbit the Earth, but there is, apparently, 'no risk' of impacts or collisions. For regions in darkness around that time, it will be visible using good binoculars or a telescope. The asteroid orbits the Sun in three hundred and sixty eight days - a period similar to Earth's year - but it does not orbit in the same plane as the Earth. As it passes - at a blistering 7.8km/s (about seventeen thousand miles and hour) - it will come from 'under' the Earth and return back toward the Sun from 'above.' As it does, it will pass over the eastern Indian Ocean, making for the best viewing in Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia. But keen viewers anywhere can find one of several live streams of the event on the Internet, including a feed from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA, available from 19:00. The asteroid 2012 DA14 was first spotted in February 2012 by astronomers at the La Sagra Sky Survey in Spain - once a fairly small-scale, amateur effort to discover and track asteroids that has in recent years become a significant contributor to our knowledge of these 'near-Earth objects.' They caught sight of the asteroid after its last pass, at a far greater distance. From their observations, they were able to calculate the asteroid's future and past paths and predict Friday's near-miss - which will be the closest the object comes for at least thirty years. Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University Belfast said that it is a scientific opportunity not to be missed. 'When asteroids come this close, it's very important to try to learn about them - it's become so bright, so it's so easy to study,' he told BBC News. 'We get an additional insight into these small objects, which are the most likely impactors on Earth.'
Meanwhile, a meteor crashing in central Russia's Ural mountains has injured at least five hundred people, as the shockwave blew out windows and rocked buildings. Most of those hurt suffered minor cuts and bruises but some received head injuries, Russian officials report. A fireball was seen streaking through the clear morning sky above the city of Yekaterinburg, followed by loud bangs. The meteor is believed to have landed in a lake near Chebarkul, a town in the neighbouring Chelyabinsk region. Much of the impact was felt in the city of Chelyabinsk, some one hundred and twenty miles south of Yekaterinburg. 'It was quite extraordinary,' Chelyabinsk resident Polina Zolotarevskaya told BBC News. 'We saw a very bright light and then there was a kind of a track, white and yellow in the sky. The explosion was so strong that some windows in our building and in the buildings that are across the road and in the city in general, the windows broke.' Officials say that a large meteor partially burned up in the lower atmosphere, resulting in fragments falling earthwards. Thousands of rescue workers have been dispatched to the area to provide help to the injured, the emergencies ministry said. The Chelyabinsk region, about nine hundred miles east of Moscow, is home to many factories, a nuclear power plant and the Mayak atomic waste storage and treatment centre. Of five hundred and fourteen people reported to have been injured in the Chelyabinsk region, eleven were being treated in hospital, the regional emergencies agency said in a statement. Among those affected by the meteor were children, in school when it fell at around 09:20 local time. Video footage posted online showed frightened, screaming youngsters at one Chelyabinsk school, where corridors were littered with broken glass. 'There was panic,' Sergey Hametov told AP news agency by phone. 'We saw a big burst of light, then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud thundering sound. People had no idea what was happening. Everyone was going around to people's houses to check if they were okay.' Shockwaves were felt in a nineteen-storey building in the city centre, another witness said. A roof at a zinc factory in Chelyabinsk also collapsed; however, it appears nobody was hurt in that incident. In Yekaterinburg, thirty six-year-old Viktor Prokofiev was driving to work when he witnessed the event. 'It was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day,' he was quoted by Reuters as saying. 'I felt like I was blinded by headlights.' Debris also reportedly fell on the West Siberian region of Tyumen. The governor of Chelyabinsk region, Mikhail Yurevich, reported that the meteor had landed in a lake one kilometre outside Chebarkul, which has a population of forty six thousand. Chelyabinsk city authorities said that an initial blast had been heard at an altitude of then thousand metres, suggesting it occurred when the meteor entered Earth's atmosphere. Such meteor strikes are - thankfully - rare but one is thought to have devastated an area of more than two thousand square kilometres in Tunguska, Siberia in 1908. That event smashed windows as far as one hundred and twenty five miles from the point of impact. Scientists have played down suggestions that there is any link between the event in the Urals and 2012 DA14, the asteroid expected to pass the Earth on Friday. Alan Fitzsimmons, who was seemingly in major demand for the day, said that there was 'almost definitely' no connection. 'One reason is that 2012 DA14 is approaching Earth from the south, and this object hit in the northern hemisphere,' he told BBC News. 'This is literally a cosmic coincidence, although a spectacular one.'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Here's a bit of sensible advice from The Primes on what to do tonight just in case there happens to be a meteorite out there with your name on it. Treat every day as your last, dear blog reader. Then one you, you'll be right.

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