Thursday, May 09, 2013

Dawn Cracks The Dark And It Breaks The Silence

The Apprentice easily won its timeslot upon its return to BBC1 on Tuesday, overnight data shows. Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie's ninth series opener was seen by a fraction over six million overnight punters at 9pm. This is almost four hundred thousand less than the overnights for last year's premiere, while the sixth series opened to a large 7.8m in 2011. Dara Ó Briain's BBC2 spin-off You're Fired also returned with 1.89m at 10pm. Ben Elton's piss-wretched sitcom The Wright Way continued with 1.58m at 10.45pm on BBC1. On BBC2, Alex Polizzi's The Fixer Returns was seen by 1.73m at 8pm, while Keeping Britain Alive attracted 1.71m at 9pm. Newsnight was watched by nine hundred and fifty seven thousand viewers at 10.30pm. Caroline Quentin's new waste-of-space ITV vehicle National Parks secured 2.47m crushed victims of society at 8pm. Chris Tarrant returned with a new series of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? with a below-average for the slot 2.03m at 9pm. On Channel Four, Embarrassing Bodies Live attracted 1.22m at 8pm. Shameless was watched by an audience of seven hundred and twenty six thousand at 10pm. Mary Portas's Mary Queen of the High Street premiered at 9pm with 1.08m. Channel Five's CSI had an audience of 1.61m at 9.15pm. The BBC4 documentary series Archaeology: A Secret History attracted six hundred and twenty eight thousand punters at 9pm.

Tamzin Outhwaite (due to appear in Doctor Who this coming Saturday, of course) is to join the cast of the BBC1 drama New Tricks. The former EastEnders actress will play Detective Chief Inspector Sacha Millard on the long-running crime series. Outhwaite replaces Amanda Redman as the show's female lead, with the latter's character, Sandra Pullman, set to depart in the eighth episode of the forthcoming tenth series. 'I'm delighted to be joining the cast at such an exciting time,' said forty two-year-old Outhwaite. 'I've been a huge fan of the show for years and can't wait to be working with the amazing cast and crew.' Alun Armstrong will also be leaving New Tricks in the next run's fourth episode and will be replaced by another new cast addition, yer actual Nicholas Lyndhurst. Which will, no doubt, be particularly sweet news for several of the show's writers after both Armstrong and Redman made extremely disparaging remarks about the quality of the popular detective drama's scripts last year. Tragically, Dennis Waterman will remain as the show's sole original cast member. James Bolam - who played Jack Halford between 2003 and 2012 - was replaced by Denis Lawson in the previous series, the show's best in about four or five years in this blogger's considered opinion. New episodes of New Tricks are currently filming on location in and around London for transmission on BBC1 later this year.
Yer actual John Torode and Gregg Wallace his very self have turned their critical gaze on airport food and written a guide to eating out at Heathrow. The MasterChef judges produced Food on the Fly after airport catering chiefs commissioned them to eat their way around the seventy three restaurants, bars and cafés which operate there, in a bid to improve quality. Nice work if you can get it. More than ten thousand copies of the guide will be handed out to passengers, and it will be available on the Internet from July. Torode and Wallace advised Heathrow food bosses to offer a healthier selection of dishes, and to work harder to champion British food. More than twenty six million food orders are taken at Heathrow every year, including for 1.5 tonnes of caviar, two hundred and fifty thousand pieces of sushi and six hundred and thirty portions of steak. Torode said: 'We were really amazed by the choice of food and the service at the airport. These people do an incredible job, especially given that they are open from 5am to almost midnight, every day. I think Heathrow has come on incredibly well. The days when you'd get there, it stank and all you could get was a truly dire full English breakfast have gone.' His favourites were the Rhubarb restaurant outlet, where he had an 'excellent' burger and chips, and Carluccio's for its 'wonderful' pasta. He also recommended the Giraffe restaurant and the Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar.
ITV has ordered a second series of The Bletchley Circle. Anna Maxwell Martin, Rachael Stirling, Sophie Rundle and Julie Graham will all return in four new episodes of the mystery drama, with Outnumbered's Hattie Morahan also joining the cast. Series two will be comprised of a pair of two-part stories written by series creator Guy Burt. Set a year on from the first series in 1953, Jean, Susan, Millie and Lucy reunite when a former Bletchley Park colleague, Alice Merren (played by Morahan) is accused of murder. The second two-parter will follow Millie as she is abducted after becoming caught up in the murky world of people trafficking. 'The Bletchley Circle is a wonderful addition to our drama slate last year and we're delighted that it's returning to ITV with two new and exciting stories,' said ITV's Director of Drama Commissioning, Steve November. Jamie Payne will direct the opening two-part story, with Sarah Harding behind the camera on the second.
Lee Mack and Catherine Tate have signed up to star in a remake of Everybody Loves Raymond. The pair will appear in a BBC pilot based around the popular CBS sitcom. The Smiths - great title! - will be set in Cheshire and will follow a successful sports writer who lives with his wife across the road from his controlling parents and older brother, according to BBC News. Written by Not Going Out creator and star Mack, it will be produced by Silver River, which previously worked on the BBC comedy Pulling. A pilot episode will be filmed in front of a live audience on 28 May. Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton starred in the original series of Everybody Loves Raymond, which ran for nine seasons from 1996 to 2005, becoming one of the highest-rated US comedies of its era.

BAFTA-winning comedy The IT Crowd is to return to Channel Four for a one-off special, it has been confirmed. The cult sitcom ran between 2006 and 2010 and starred Chris O'Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson and Matt Berry. Graham Linehan, the show's creator, tweeted on Wednesday that reports of the forty-minute finale were true. Channel Four said the finale would be screened later in the year. 'Only the power of Graham's magical writing could bring back together four of the UK's brightest comedy stars,' said Nerys Evans, deputy head of comedy at Channel Four. Rumours of a fifth season have circulated ever since the sitcom, which followed the staff in the IT department at the fictional Reynholm Industries, ended three years ago. O'Dowd, who went on to star in the film Bridemaids and US series Girls, previously expressed his interest in a reunion, saying the characters needed 'closure.' Linehan tweeted in 2012 that he had written a script but was waiting to finish his BBC2 sitcom Count Arthur Strong. He fuelled rumours again in December when he replied to a fan saying he 'hoped to do a special in the middle of next year.' Shooting for the series finale is expected to begin in a few weeks.

BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow will look after BBC4 during an interim period while the broadcaster searches for a permanent replacement for Richard Klein. Klein announced earlier this week that he would be leaving the BBC to take over as director of factual at ITV. Hadlow will be assisted by channel executive Adam Barker and schedulers Don Cameron and Owen Courtney, reports Broadcast. Whoever takes over at BBC4 will have to handle a significantly reduced budget and a channel which no longer develops original drama output. The BBC's new director of television Danny Cohen has two controller positions to fill, including his own former job as controller of BBC1. BBC drama boss Ben Stephenson and ITV's director of entertainment Elaine Bedell are believed to be in the running for the BBC1 job.

Meanwhile, the mastermind of the BBC's Olympics coverage, Roger Mosey, has been appointed as the corporation's editorial director. Mosey will report directly to the new director general, Tony Hall, in the newly created role. His appointment to a 'troubleshooter' role across news, TV and radio comes after a series of fiascoes that have beset the corporation. A BBC lifer with a background in news, Mosey will be the go-to man for handling major editorial issues as they arise. He will operate across news, TV and radio output in an attempt to address the communication failings exposed by The Pollard Review into the corporation's handling of the Jimmy Savile fiasco. However, it is understood that Mosey will not formally be more senior in the BBC hierarchy than James Harding, Danny Cohen or Helen Boaden, the recently appointed directors of news, TV and radio respectively. Alleged senior BBC 'insiders' were, allegedly, keen to stress that Mosey would not be Hall's de facto deputy. The BBC has been without a deputy director general since Mark Byford left more than two years ago. The BBC said Mosey's job would also involve planning for major events, following his role in leading its widely acclaimed coverage of the London 2012 Olympics. It was separately announced on Tuesday that Peter Salmon, the director of BBC North, would be given additional responsibilities spanning the English regions. Salmon, a former BBC1 controller who has overseen the move of several thousand staff from London to Salford, will be tasked with creating partnerships in major cities across England for showcase events. Mosey and Salmon's new roles are the latest phase in a senior management reshuffle following Hall's arrival at the BBC on 2 April. In a statement, the director general said: 'It is crucial that the BBC dedicates the right amount of time, skill and expertise to addressing the myriad of editorial challenges that we face across the BBC's output. Roger's experience in News, Sport and most recently Television make him ideally placed to fulfil such an important role as part of my management team.' Of Salmon's expanded role, Hall said: 'Creating long-term relationships with local partners and more meaningful relationships with the audience is a vital part of bringing the BBC into both communities and local economy.' As its former director of sport, Mosey as in recent years overseen the BBC's coverage of the Olympics in London and previously in Beijing, as well as the 2006 football World Cup and the return of Formula One to the BBC. He formerly edited BBC Radio 4's Today programme, where he recruited presenter James Naughtie, and was head of television news.
The senior royal official tasked with handling the creation of a royal charter to regulate the press is a former military intelligence officer who successfully sued an investigative journalist who had sought to question his activities in Cambodia in the 1980s. According to a spectacularly agenda-soaked piece of the usual bollocks in the Gruniad Morning Star. To which this blogger merely notes, 'good, I hope he flushes the bastards into the gutter along with all the other turds.' Sir Christopher Geidt, who is the Queen's private secretary, won a high-court libel action against John Pilger and Central Television in 1991. Uncertainty around Geidt's role in Cambodia sparked a debate at the time in parliament that included questions over his possible links to MI6 or the British military. Geidt and another former army officer, Anthony de Normann, said Pilger's documentary wrongly accused them of being SAS officers who trained the Khmer Rouge to lay mines. According to Pilger, who said he never intended to make any such allegation, the defence collapsed after the government issued a gagging order citing national security which prevented three ministers and two former heads of the SAS from giving evidence about Geidt. The aggressive intervention – likened to the 1987 Spycatcher case involving a government bid to suppress material about spying – also meant the judge would be asked to rule out any evidence which related to the SAS and the security services such as MI6 and their involvement in the Asian country. Not that any of this has anything to do with the man's job in, hopefully, carpet bombing the press back to the dark ages in 2013, of course, but the Gruniad haven't had a decent whinge about anything all week except Jeremy Clarkson so they're clearly stressed. Pilger and Central Television had to pay Geidt and De Normann mucho de wonga (that's 'substantial damages and costs' to you and me, dear blog reader). Geidt's current position makes him the principal link between the Queen and Downing Street on all political matters, including the proposed royal charter, which must be issued by the monarch to allow the creation of a new body to supervise the regulation of the press in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and the Leveson inquiry. Ultimately, any royal charter has to be sealed by the Queen in the presence of the privy council, of which Nick Clegg is the president. The picture is complicated by the fact that there are two royal charters in circulation – a document drawn up with the agreement of all three party leaders, and a second produced at the behest of the five largest newspaper groups but agreed on by nobody that actually matters in the slightest. Royal charters, which date back to at least the Thirteenth Century, are supposed only to be granted in non-contentious circumstances, but the hostility of some publishers has presented the palace with a constitutional dilemma, in which the role of officials such as the Queen's private secretary are likely to be critical. Bodies applying for charters are warned to expect 'a significant degree of government regulation of [their] affairs.' Geidt's position mean he has a direct line to Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, on political matters. Civil servants at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport say that Geidt has been 'kept updated' on the progress of the royal charter proposals – although Buckingham Palace said that his role was 'to make sure the Queen is informed of developments and is in the right place at the right time in order to act on the advice of government.' The 1991 libel case came after Geidt and De Normann travelled to Cambodia in 1989 and joined an international party observing the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from the conflict-ridden state. In a debate on Cambodia in the Commons in 1990, the Labour MP Ann Clwyd said that she was on the same mission and met the men but was 'not convinced' by their explanation that they were 'on holiday.' Geidt had been working for the Royal United Services Institute when he arrived in Phnom Penh. He went on to work in military intelligence and as a diplomat in the former Yugoslavia at the time of Bosnian war, the Gruniad alleges. The parliamentary visit came at a time of numerous allegations of British military support for resistance factions in Cambodia, one of which was the Khmer Rouge. In the same debate on Cambodia, Chris Mullin MP claimed that Geidt had obtained a visa to travel from the Vietnamese embassy claiming he was 'a representative of RUSI' and he signed himself 'assistant director' on RUSI notepaper. This was 'economical with the truth', Mullin told the Commons. David Bolton, then director of RUSI, had told Mullin that Geidt 'did not travel to Vietnam and Cambodia as a representative of RUSI, and had no business to be passing himself off as such.' Neither was Geidt assistant director but an assistant to the director responsible for fund raising; he was self-employed and his job had nothing to do with Cambodia, Mullin said Bolton told him. The MoD separately told Mullin that Geidt and De Normann were visiting Cambodia 'at the invitation' of the Hanoi Institute of International Relations, but again Mullin claimed in parliament 'that is not true.' Covering letters and visa applications showed it was at their own initiative, he said. Clwyd saw they were on the official mission guest list as 'Fonctionairre de L'Institut de Researche Min Defence', but they told her they were on holiday. This was puzzling because 'even if one is an ex-military man, I doubt whether one would spend a holiday in Cambodia watching people kill one another,' she told the Commons. They seemed to be 'very hostile to Cambodia' and Clwyd said they asked for help to get to the frontline 'because they wanted to look at some of the fighting at first hand.' The next day, on a sightseeing trip to the temples of Angkor Wat, her suspicions grew. 'I noticed that they were pointing their telescopic lenses towards the undergrowth surrounding Angkor Wat rather than the temples themselves,' she said. Clwyd also settled and paid costs to Geidt and De Normann, who took action against her when she wrote to Margaret Thatcher after Pilger's documentary, calling for a public inquiry and suggesting the allegations were 'accurate.' Buckingham Palace declined to answer questions put to Geidt about the apparent inconsistencies. 'He didn't comment on the accusations at the time and as then, he will let the legal judgments speak for themselves,' a Buckingham Palace spokesman said. Which is as close as a Buckingham Palace spokesperson will ever get to 'mind your won frigging business, you Communists.'

The Sun's royal correspondent Duncan Larcombe has vowed to fight with 'every breath' charges connected to alleged payments for stories about the royal family from a public official and his wife at the Sandhurst military college. After a short hearing at Westminster magistrates' court on Wednesday, Larcombe's solicitor, James MacWhirter, said that the journalist had worked regularly with the Royal Family over his twelve-year career at the Sun and had risked his life covering the war in Afghanistan. The solicitor added that Larcombe hoped to prove he always reported 'in the public interest.' Reading a statement on Larcombe's behalf outside the court, MacWhirter said: 'I wish to make clear I am saddened and disappointed to be charged with these offences. I hope to demonstrate that I am a responsible journalist who reported in the public interest.' Larcombe has been charged over allegations that he paid twenty three grand to an army sergeant and his wife. He is accused of making thirty four payments to John Hardy and Claire Hardy, between February 2006 and October 2008 for stories about the Royal Family. The court room proceedings were enlivened by the presence of about twenty five Sun journalists and friends of four colleagues, including the Sun's executive editor Fergus Shanahan, who was also in court over charges relating to the Metropolitan police's Operation Elveden investigation into alleged illegal payments to public officials by newspapers for stories. Among those in the gallery were Sun columnist Trevor Kavanagh, agony aunt Deirdre Saunders and Times business editor Ian King, who was formerly the business editor of the Sun. Also there were Lorna Carmichael, the head of promotions at the Sun, the online news editor Vince Soodin, reporter Anthony France and senior Sun executives Geoff Webster and Graham Dudman. Neil Wallis, former executive editor of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World was also in the crowd. The Daily Scum Mail columnist Simon Heffer also appeared in the public gallery. Later he said that he wanted to 'give support' to Shanahan, his friend and neighbour. Hardy was a colour sergeant based at the Royal Military Training Academy in Sandhurst, where Prince Harry and Prince William trained. At the time of the alleged payments Larcombe was the Sun's chief royal correspondent. 'For the past year I have had to remain silent, but my aim is to fight these allegations with every breath in my body in the hope that justice and common sense will prevail,' Larcombe said in the statement read out by MacWhirter. Shanahan was the first of the defendants to appear in court on Wednesday. He has been charged with an offence of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office in relation to allegations that between 2006 and 2007 he authorised one of his journalists to make two payments totalling seven thousand smackers to a public official for the disclosure of information. He denies the charge. The second defendant was Tracy Bell, thirty four, who was employed by the Ministry of Defence as a pharmacy assistant at Sandhurst Medical Centre and is charged with misconduct in a public office. Bell allegedly received twelve hundred and fifty quid between 17 October 2005 and 7 July 2006 relating to five articles in the Sun regarding activities at Sandhurst. Also in court on Wednesday was David Johnson, a bodyguard who formerly worked for well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks. Johnson was appearing on separate charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in the days following the former News International chief executive's resignation in July 2011. He has been accused of helping to hide computers and other items from police investigating phone-hacking and corruption as part of Scotland Yard's Operation Sacha inquiry. All the defendants who attended court in relation to charges arising from Operation Elveden and Operation Sacha were ordered by district judge John Zani to appear at Southwark crown court on 3 June for a further hearing.

A former BBC current affairs journalist has whinged about the corporation's 'failure' to mount a campaign against Lord Justice Leveson's press reform proposals which, he claims, 'has done a great disservice' to the country. Robert Aitken, who spent twenty five years at the BBC including Radio 4's Today programme, said the corporation 'cannot afford to sit in judgment' of newspapers because 'tough, investigative reporting' is not its strong point. He said that while he was at the BBC staff often held a 'high regard' for print journalists but also showed 'a certain disdain.' Yes. because they're scum, basically. 'The Leveson inquiry was tailor-made to reinforce the BBC's sense of its own superiority,' Aitken wrote in The Times, having seemingly appointed himself as chief apologist for the press. 'As a viewer or listener one got the impression that the corporation was rather enjoying itself,' he added. Aitken previously accused the corporation of 'institutional liberal bias' in a 2007 book, Can We Trust the BBC? So, he's obviously got previous form and a sick-agenda smeared all over himself. He claimed in his letter that there were 'striking omissions' in the BBC's coverage of the inquiry into press ethics and it 'did not cover' those who claimed Leveson would end three hundred years of free speech. Aitken warned that a 'press cowed by regulation' will make the nation more reliant on the BBC, but that if journalism is 'chilled' at newspapers it will also be at the corporation. 'The BBC's track record over the past few years does not instil great confidence,' he said. It would not have broken the MPs' expenses scandal or the story on Asian gangs grooming young white girls for sexual abuse, Aitken added. 'Too often the BBC flagship news programmes choose soft targets – not the big game. It is one thing to give a coalition minister a verbal roasting over some perceived "split", quite another to take on vested interests with hard evidence as the newspapers did over MPs' expenses,' he said. He added: 'By failing to mount a robust campaign against Leveson the BBC has done a great disservice to this country. As a journalistic organisation it should be fighting with its every breath for freedom of speech, robust investigation, courageous journalism.' Blah, blah, blah. Into the gutter with you, little man, and all of your kind and the sooner the better.
Robert Jay QC, the leading counsel in the Leveson inquiry, who cross-examined David Cameron and billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch, is among three new high court judges appointed on Wednesday of this week. The barrister, praised for his courteous but insistent method of questioning, emerged as one of the media stars of the televised sessions, grilling witnesses with a succession of well-turned phrases. Jay will join the high court next month and sit in the Queen's Bench Division, which deals with civil actions for personal injuries, debt, breach of contract and other claims. He is head of 39 Essex Street chambers and was last year made barrister of the year at the Lawyer magazine awards, chiefly for his calm but entertaining performances at the inquiry into press standards. His rich vocabulary, including such rarely used words as 'bailiwick', 'condign', 'propinquity' and 'occlude' lifted the tone of the long sessions before Lord Justice Leveson. Jay was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1998 and has served as a recorder since 2000. The salary of a high court judge is one hundred and seventy four thousand smackers – which probably amounts to a pay cut considering his recent earnings as leading counsel.
A former chauffeur for TV stars has appeared in court accused of five offences of sexual assault on a twelve-year-old boy in the 1980s. David Smith, who drove various BBC personalities in the 1980s, is accused of indecent assault and 'committing buggery' with the boy in 1984. Smith, sixty six, is the first Operation Yewtree suspect to appear in court since the investigation into sexual offences by dirty old scallywag and rotter Jimmy Savile and others began in September last year. Smith sat alone in the dock and did not speak during the short procedural hearing at Westminster magistrates' court on Wednesday afternoon. Wearing a red and gold striped tie and a white shirt underneath a blue suit, Smith nodded once when the judge, deputy chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, bailed him to appear at Southwark crown court on 12 July. Smith, from Lewisham, was first arrested in December last year and charged on 3 April with two counts of indecent assault, two offences of gross indecency and one offence of committing buggery with a boy under the age of fourteen. Each of these incidents relate to one alleged victim and are alleged to have taken place between 1 June and 21 July 1984.

A TV campaign fronted by former bankrupt and reality TV regular Kerry Katona offering payday loans with the strapline 'fast cash for fast lives' has been banned for being 'irresponsible.' Katona, who refers to her own 'money troubles' in the TV advert for Cash Lady, was declared bankrupt in 2008 after failing to pay a tax bill. 'We've all had money troubles at some point, I know I have,' says Katona in the advert. 'You could see your bank and fill in loads of forms, but is there an easier way to get a loan. It's dead fast too. Fast cash for fast lives.' Cash Lady offers loans of up to three hundred quid a month with an annual percentage rate of two thousand seven hundred and sixty per cent. The appearance of the former Atomic Kitten singer in the TV adverts has sparked criticism since they débuted in January. The Advertising Standards Authority received about thirty complaints that the advert was irresponsible because it focused on Katona's earlier financial problems and encouraged people facing hardship to borrow money. Parent company PDB UK said that Katona was chosen precisely because she has had money problems, as customers would be able to 'relate to her.' It claimed the advert was not irresponsible as it did not make a direct reference to Katona's bankruptcy. The company added that its 'fast cash for fast lives' strapline referred to the more convenient, flexible service it offered to people with busy lives compared with visiting a bank for a loan. The ASA said that viewers familiar with Katona would have been 'well aware' of her 'widely publicised' bankruptcy. Some viewers with financial problems, and perhaps restricted access to credit, may have 'inferred' from Katona's advice that a payday loan was advisable, the regulator added. The advertising watchdog also said that in light of the celebrity-themed status of the advert some viewers would think that the 'fast cash for fast lives' strapline meant that payday loans would help fund a high-flying lifestyle. The ASA banned the advert on the grounds that it was irresponsible, misleading and failed rules on social responsibility.

Eric Sykes is to be honoured with a blue plaque on the wall of the office where he spent more than fifty years writing comedy. The Heritage Foundation will be unveiling the tribute at 9 Orme Court in Bayswater on 7 July. He moved into the building in 1960 as one of the comedy writers' co-operative Associated London Scripts, with Spike Millican, Franke Howerd and Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. In 1967 Hancock writers Galton and Simpson sold their share of Orme Court to Milligan and Sykes. Milligan later sold his half to Sykes, who reportedly retained the freehold. The building is still listed as the registered address of Eric Skyes Limited, and in last year’s tribute show The Late Great Eric Skyes, his long-term agent Norma Farnes showed viewers around the office. Three days before he died last summer, at the age of eighty six, Skyes told Farnes that what he would like more than anything would be to visit Orme Court one last time. The building already has one Heritage Foundation plaque on the outside, to Milligan – which was unveiled by Sykes himself in 2003.

The singer of Grammy-nominated American heavy metal band As I Lay Dying has been arrested on suspicion of attempting to plot the murder of his estranged wife. Police in California said Tim Lambesis had tried to hire an undercover detective to kill his wife, Meggan. 'The information came to us late last week. We acted quickly on it. I believe that we averted a great tragedy,' said a police spokesperson. Lambesis was arrested 'without incident' in San Diego on 7 May. The singer's wife had filed for dissolution of marriage in September last year, according to San Diego Superior Court documents. The couple adopted three children from Ethiopia together in recent years before separating. As I Lay Dying, who formed in San Diego in 2000, have sold more than a million CDs through the Metal Blade record label. Their 2007 work, An Ocean Between Us, reached number eight in the US chart and featured the Grammy-nominated song 'Nothing Left'. Last year, the band - who took their name from a 1930 novel by William Faulkner - released their sixth CD, Awakened. According to the band's website, they are scheduled to tour the US with several other metal acts later this month.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy actor Gary Oldman and Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard have starring roles in the latest video from David Bowie. The video is for 'The Next Day', taken from his comeback CD of the same name. It depicts Bowie as a messianic figure, dressed in a robe and fronting a band in a basement bar. Oldman plays a priest who dances with Cotillard before she bleeds from stigmata marks on her palms. Bowie's last video, for 'The Stars (Are Out Tonight)', featured another Oscar-winner, Tilda Swinton. The new film was directed by photographer Floria Sigismondi and features characters dressed as clergymen amid heavy religious imagery. As it ends with the characters arranged in a tableau, Bowie says: 'Thank you Gary, thank you Marion, thank you everybody.' Oldman previously worked with Bowie in the 1990s when they performed a duet on guitarist Reeves Gabrels' 1995 CD The Sacred Squall of Now.
They may be among football's fiercest rivals – but Liverpool's shortcomings have forced it to turn to Manchester for help. The great northern cities have been obliged to put their differences aside thanks to a sperm shortage. The situation has led to Merseyside's fertility clinic asking Manchester to, if you w2ill, come to their aid and supply sperm to boost its depleted stocks. Professor Charles Kingsland, head of the Hewitt Fertility Centre based at Liverpool Women's Hospital, said: 'It's not just our stocks that are low, it is all stocks because the law concerning donors changed some years ago. Liverpool used to have one of the biggest sperm banks. When the law changed there was a quick decline. Now couples face a wait of over a year before a donor becomes available.' The drop in donors began in 2005 when people donating sperm and eggs no longer had the right to remain anonymous or be entitled to payment. The clinic has been buying sperm from other sources including Manchester Fertility Services and a private clinic in Harley Street, London. Couples have also had to buy sperm themselves on the Internet from reputable clinics in the US and Denmark. Now the clinic is opening a second site at Knutsford in Cheshire, and has launched a campaign to encourage more men to 'help infertile couples.' By, you know, providing the solution. Or, something. Professor Kingsland said: 'We have the technology. We are offering success rates that even ten years ago were unheard of. Now we need to replenish our sperm bank.'
Following appearances from both The Shop Assistants and The Primitives over the last couple of days, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is, clearly, stuck in something of an eighties-girly-indie-pop-groove at the moment. No bad thing, frankly, dear blog reader! And, just to prove a point, here's a bit more of the same vintage. The best song about agoraphobia ever to make the bottom end of the UK charts in this blogger's humble opinion. And if you've never heard the extended twelve inch version with the four minute orchestral introduction, dear blog reader, then ... here's that as well. Two for the price of one. Don't say yer actual Keith Telly Topping never gives you nowt.

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