Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: Let The Bells Ring Out

Dame Helen Mirren has suggested that she would like to play The Doctor should Matt Smith ever decide that he wants to leave the role. The actress, who Smith himself cited as one of the actors that he would like to see as the Doctor's fellow TARDIS traveller, went on to say that she would not like to replace Karen Gillan as the Doctor's companion. 'I would like to play the new female Doctor Who. I don't want to just be his sidekick.' The character's called The Doctor, Love, the programme's called Doctor Who. I'd get that sorted out in your head before you think about trying to win over fandom!
Comedy one-liner of the week was, unquestionably, from Mark Radcliffe on the Top of the Pops 2 Christmas special: 'Now, I don't want to spoil the party atmosphere but, here's Westlife. On a brighter note, though, they are splitting up!'

Royal Opera House chief executive Tony Hall has been appointed deputy chairman of Channel Four by Ofcom, succeeding Lord Puttnam. Hall, who was enabled as Lord Hall of Birkenhead last year, will take up the new role from 1 February 2012 to 31 March 2015. He is already a non-executive director on the Channel Four board. Lord Hall will assist Channel Four chairman Lord Burns, who joined the broadcaster's board in January 2010, and has now been appointed to a second three-year term until 2016. Ofcom has also announced new non-executive members of the Channel Four board, including former Press Association executive Paul Potts, MT Rainey, co-founder of WPP-owned ad agency RKCR and Josie Rourke, the new artistic director of Donmar Warehouse. All the non-executive appointments are for three-year terms starting on 1 January 2012. Lord Puttnam, digital champion Martha Lane Fox and private investment company boss Stephen Hill will all leave the Channel Four board in January 2012. Ofcom chairman Colette Bowe said: 'I am delighted that Terry Burns has agreed to undertake a second term as chairman of Channel Four which has greatly benefited from his experience and leadership since he joined in 2010. I welcome the new appointments who will complement the existing skills of the Channel Four board, bringing experience from print media, advertising and the theatre and particularly congratulate Tony Hall on his succession to the deputy chairman role.' She added: 'I would also like to thank the departing board members for their contribution to the Channel Four board and wish them well with their new ventures. All three departing members have been on the board for many years and have provided much-valued advice and support to Channel Four during that time. I am particularly grateful to David Puttnam for his invaluable service as deputy chairman.' Lord Burns said: 'I would also like to express my thanks to the support I have received from the departing members of the board and to welcome the three new appointments. I very much look forward to working with them over the next few years. I am also pleased that Tony Hall is to become my deputy chairman; he brings many years experience of the broadcasting and arts industries and has been a source of wise counsel on the Channel Four.'

Users of Android and Apple devices can get the chance to pit their wits against one of the world's great wordsmith, yer actual Stephen Fry, in a new spelling mobile app which raises funds for learning disability charity Mencap. Taking inspiration from American Spelling Bees, Spellathon launched online a month ago as the world's first digital spelling championship. It has since been played in ninety countries with over eight hundred thousand words spelled correctly. Not 'spelt' as one of the media organisations reporting this news said. One has to presume that was a deliberate error to see how many of their readers spotted it. The service has now expanded as a free app on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android devices, available exclusively for one week on the GetJar independent app store service. Set in a futuristic digital universe, Spellathon is presented by 'The Professor', a 3D bee character voiced by Stephen Fry. Players of all ages can compete against the clock and others to spell a number of words correctly. All successful spellings are then 'banked' in your hive (which might sound painful but is, apparently, a good thing) and high scores are ranked on the global leaderboards. Android and iOS players can also qualify to compete against Fry online at the global championships in March 2012. The apps and online site raises money for Mencap via the JustGiving fundraising service. Users earn a new 'Spelling Bee' every time they raise three quid for Mencap, including DJ Bee, Fashion Bee, Princess Bee, Pirate Bee and Angry Bee. Fry said: 'This is just about the best integration of imagination, education, technology inclusiveness and fun that I've ever encountered. Very proud to have been involved in it, even in the smallest way.' Mencap assistant director of fundraising Hazel McIlwraith added: 'Spellathon has been a successful, paper-based event for the last eighteen years. 'Now, by applying online via laptops, mobiles, tablets and whiteboard technologies with state-of-the-art 3D animation, we have the opportunity to take it to a global audience. We are delighted to bring Spellathon to new audiences and to increase support for people with a learning disability. All funds raised will make a real difference to the lives of people with a learning disability.' Fry will host the first-ever global Spellathon Championships, taking place virtually from 5 to 11 March 2012. Entrants will have fifteen minutes to record the longest word run of correctly spelled words. Digital trophies and prizes will be awarded to the winners and the players who have raised the most money for Mencap.
Andy Coulson has - very amusingly - lost a High Court action against his former employer the Scum of the World over its refusal to pay his legal fees in the phone-hacking scandal. Thigh-slappingly hilarious, I'm sure you'll agree dear blog reader. Coulson had sued News International subsidiary News Group Newspapers over a clause in his severance agreement following his resignation in January 2007. The forty three-year-old quit the Scum of the World after the newspaper's royal editor and a private detective it had employed on a regular basis were jailed for phone-hacking. Coulson, the editor under whom Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire's activities occurred denied any knowledge of their naughty shenanigans. Within six months, Coulson had become David Cameron's communications chief. He left that role earlier in the year after eighteen months would of cumulative revelations about hacking at the now defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid. Coulson had asked the court for a declaration that NGN, which stopped paying his legal costs in August, should pay 'the professional costs and expenses properly incurred' while he defends himself against 'allegations of criminal conduct.' Coulson, who was arrested and bailed in July in the police investigation into the hacking affair, has always denied any knowledge or involvement in hacking. Christopher Jeans QC, the lawyer representing NGN, said that the clause in his severance deal covered the 'occupational hazards of being an editor,' and not 'any alleged criminal activity.' Justice Supperstone accepted the argument and said that NGN is not liable to pay Coulson's legal costs. In his judgement, the judge said: 'Clause 4.6 of the agreement [between NGN and Coulson] does not cover the criminal allegations made against Mr Coulson personally. If, contrary to my view, the criminal allegations are covered, no proceedings have commenced. For the reasons I give above, this claim fails.' What made all of that even more funny was that earlier in the day, in the same court, Glenn Mulcaire won his battle to get NGN to cover his legal fees. Mulcaire, who was jailed for six months in 2007 for intercepting voicemails of members of the royal household, had sued NGN for breach of contract. As he is currently facing a huge number of civil law suits and was arrested again last month in the police phone-hacking probe, Mulcaire argued that he cannot fund his legal defence, or cover any damages incurred. Not the kind of defence that yer average bank robber can use, perhaps, but Justice Sir Andrew Morritt said that NGN, which employed the private investigator until he was jailed, had 'no right' to cancel his legal fees. In a written judgment, the chancellor of the high court said that Mulcaire's contract of indemnity is still valid. 'A valid contract of indemnity was concluded between NGN and Mr Mulcaire on the terms of the indemnity letter; such contract has not been determined and is still subsisting,' he said. 'Such contract was not determinable at will by NGN whether or not on notice.'

Horrible Heather Mills, the former wife of Sir Paul McCartney, said that she 'never disclosed' private voicemail messages from her ex-husband to former tabloid editor Piers Morgan. Mills said that Morgan, who on Tuesday admitted to the Leveson inquiry that he had 'heard' a voicemail message left to her by McCartney, was using her as 'a scapegoat.' She added that she would be 'more than happy' to answer any questions which the inquiry may have for her about the subject. In a statement on her official website, Mills said: 'For the avoidance of doubt, I can categorically state that I have never ever played Piers Morgan a tape of any kind, never mind a voice message from my ex-husband. Piers Morgan is doing all he can to deter the Leveson inquiry from finishing their important job. Morgan is using me as his scapegoat and I would be more than happy to answer any questions that the inquiry would like to put to me. As stated in a press release by my ex-husband, he has never insinuated that I have leaked tapes of him to the media.' This is, of course, utterly terrible as one is genuinely unsure whom to believe in this matter. I mean, this blogger doesn't like nasty Heather Mills. But, he doesn't like oily odious Piers Morgan either. There is, it would appear, only one way to sort this out ...

The Daily Scum Express's editor became 'obsessed' with the Madeleine McCann story and put related stories on the scum tabloid's front page repeatedly 'just to sell newspapers,' the Leveson inquiry has heard claimed. Nick Fagge, a former reporter who worked on the story of the missing girl in 2007, alleged that the reason his editor didn't care about the strength of individual stories was because he believed they would boost circulation. 'The editor of the time decided it was the only story he was interested in and put it on the front page regardless of how strong the story was. The Madeleine story was on the front page of the Daily Express more than any other newspaper, because he decided it would sell newspapers, it became an obsession of his,' said Fagge. Lord Justice Leveson said he that would 'probably' call the then-editor, Peter Hill, to explain Fagge's assertion that he was 'obsessed with the McCann story.' Leveson accused the newspaper of writing 'complete piffle' and 'tittle-tattle' about Madeleine McCann. One story claimed that there was 'DNA evidence' which 'could show' the little girl's body had been stored in the spare tyre well of a hire car used by the McCann family. It subsequently emerged that the DNA analysis was wholly inconclusive and there was no foundation for making that allegation or anything even remotely like it. Another story claimed that Kate McCann had given 'some sort of confession' to a local priest in Portugal. The story claimed 'the tormented priest insisted he would stand by his vows and take his secrets to the grave.' The reporter was accused by the counsel for the inquiry, Robert Jay QC, of using 'journalistic licence' to make an inference of innocence or guilt. Leveson went further, describing it as fluff. 'All the things that are being written, about the priest, it's all fluff, there's nothing to it,' Leveson said. The Express group, which also includes the Daily Lies, paid out five hundred thousand knicker to Kate and Gerry McCann over a stream of libellous coverage of the disappearance of their daughter and published a front-page apology. David Pilditch, another journalist at the Express, denied his stories were 'tittle-tattle' and said they were 'based on information' he had 'garnered from sources at the time.' So, tittle-tattle in other words. He claimed that he had warned his bosses in London that police were not briefing journalists officially and that it was their decision whether to run such stories or not. The judge heard from another former Daily Express reporter, Padraic Flanagan, who claimed the press were under pressure to fill the 'very large vacuum' left by the lack on information on the McCann case. Leveson warned: 'The one thing that you don't want to fill the paper surely is stuff that is terribly damaging to people and maybe complete piffle.' On the contrary, sir, I think you'll find that what the majority of newspaper editors and reporters want to fill their wretched scum rags with is, exactly, what you have just so accurately described as 'tittle-tattle' and 'piffle.' Indeed, some might argue that's the very reason why there is, currently, a major inquiry going on into press ethics. You might have noticed. You're supposed to be running it, after all. Flanagan apologised to the McCanns for adding to their 'distress and hurt.'

Young James Herriot finished with an overnight series average of 4.82 million across the three episodes. Despite the somewhat muted critical reaction and the big drop in the audience between parts one and two, one imagines that with figures like that a full series is more than possible.

A Dutch broadcaster known for pushing the boundaries of good taste in the past, as well as hoaxing viewers, has claimed that it plans to broadcast a segment in which two presenters eat a small chunk of one another's fried flesh. The men were said to have each had a small piece of tissue surgically removed for the 'cannibalism' stunt, which the station claimed had already been taped in front of witnesses. One of the presenters chose to hand over flesh from his side while the other opted to provide a piece from his buttocks, the broadcaster BNN, claimed. A teaser clip for the show Guinea Pigs, which was broadcast on Wednesday evening, showed the two men looking on as a chef fries tiny pieces of meat in a pan. One of them, Dennis Storm, said in a press release that his motivation was a simple desire to know how human flesh tastes. A spokesman for BCC claimed that the show was real but acknowledged that the broadcaster had lied in the past - most infamously about a fake game show in which people who needed kidney transplants competed on live television for a supposedly terminally ill woman's kidney. The Big Donor Show, which sparked worldwide controversy, was revealed to have been a hoax staged by Endemol Netherlands and the public broadcaster BNN to raise awareness about organ donation. The hoax was announced at the end of the 2007 show, which showed the 'donor', identified only as Lisa, 'selecting' the recipient of her kidney based on their history, profile and conversations with their families and friends. Lisa, was revealed as an actor by the programme makers, but the three patients involved were genuine cases who were fully aware of the stunt and supported the programme's aims. 'With the donor show we had a point to make, now there's no point,' said Thijs Verheij, a BNN spokesman, ahead of the stunt on Wednesday. 'If at the end of all the build-up we said "just kidding", we'd look like fools,' Verheij claimed. A Dutch criminal defence lawyer is participating in the programme, and was quoted as saying that cannibalism is 'not expressly illegal' in the Netherlands. However, 'cutting and removing flesh from a healthy body without medical reason is illegal,' Gerard Spong said. 'Eating meat obtained in this way is punishable.' By streptococcus jelly-botty most likely.

The England football captain John Terry will face a charge of using racist language towards Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match, it has been confirmed. Terry is alleged to have used the racist language towards the Queens Park Rangers player during Chelsea's 1-0 defeat at Loftus Road on 23 October. The Crown Prosecution Service said that Terry was accused of a racially aggravated public order offence. The thirty one-year-old vowed to clear his name and said he was 'disappointed.' Police questioned the Chelsea captain under caution in November and a file on the matter was sent to the CPS at the beginning of December. Alison Saunders, chief crown prosecutor for London, said: 'I have today advised the Metropolitan Police that John Terry should be prosecuted for a racially aggravated public order offence following comments allegedly made during a football match between Queen's Park Rangers and Chelsea on 23 October. The decision was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and, after careful consideration of all the evidence, I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case.' She continued: 'He is now summonsed with a criminal offence and has the right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that nothing should be reported which could prejudice his trial.' The decision to charge Terry was taken after police received a complaint from a member of the public. The FA had put its own investigation on hold until the CPS decision was made. A spokesman said the FA was considering its position. BBC Sports News Correspondent Dan Roan said: 'This is relatively unprecedented - certainly considering the stature of the player involved, who is England captain.' Terry, who has always maintained (and continues to maintain) his innocence, is due before West London Magistrates' Court on 1 February. The maximum sentence for the offence is a fine of two and a half grand. As a summary offence under the Crime and Disorder Act, it will be fully heard in a magistrates' court.

A pen has been removed from a woman's stomach after twenty five years - and it still works. The discovery was found after the seventy six-year-old went to the doctors complaining of weight loss and diarrhoea. Doctors at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Foundation Trust took a CT scan of her abdomen to find a pen-shaped object inside. The patient informed doctors that twenty five years previously she had been using a pen to poke at her tonsils while looking in a mirror, but slipped and accidentally swallowed it. These were doctors she was talking to, of course, and they'd heard strangers claims than that. 'Yes, doctor, I was just collecting the milk bottles to put them out for the milkman, and I was naked, of course, and I just slipped...' Etc. The woman's husband and doctors dismissed her claims after no pen was found in tests made at the time. A gastroscopy was performed, where a plastic felt-tip pen was found in the lumen of her stomach, from where it was removed. Surprisingly, the pen was still in perfect working condition after twenty five years. While reporting on the case, Dr Oliver Waters stated: 'Occasionally it may be worth believing the patient's account however unlikely it may be.'

And so to the latest Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas. Now, dear blog readers with a long memory may recall that, earlier on in the Twenty Two Days of Christmas we had Frank Sidebottom's version of 'I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday'. Today, we've got a slightly more famous take on the same tune. Uncle Roy and all the little Wizzards and what is, tragically, still one of the best Christmas recorded ever made. By a bearded Brummie wearing glitter and purple eyeshadow. A small, but vital, sub-genre in British pop, that. Those kids look terrified!