Does anyone know anything about a cashback scheme called Quidco? What's the catch?

Nothing Lasts Forever.

Life Five things which happened this evening:

(1) I was in tears again at the close of The West Wing episode, 18th and Potomac, the one in which Mrs. Landingham died. I've seen the episode a few times now and this is the first time I've noticed the shot of Leo through the doors of the Oval Office in which the glass warps his face so that it looks like a Francis Bacon painting, as though to show the emotions he can't himself express because he has to break the news to his best friend and President.

(2) I was prompted by a question on Twitter to note: "BBC3 is adults making tv for an age group who are too busy having a life to watch."

(3) I realised that it's over two years since I was properly in love with someone.

(4) I realised that these are currently some of my favourite song lyrics. They're by Norah Jones and written in the aftermath of the 2004 US election. My Dear Country:

"'Twas Halloween and the ghosts were out,
And everywhere they'd go, they shout,
And though I covered my eyes I knew,
They'd go away.

But fear's the only thing I saw,
And three days later 'twas clear to all,
That nothing is as scary as election day.

But the day after is darker,
And darker and darker it goes,
Who knows, maybe the plans will change,
Who knows, maybe he's not deranged.

The news men know what they know, but they,
Know even less than what they say,
And I don't know who I can trust,
For they come what may.

'cause we believed in our candidate,
But even more it's the one we hate,
I needed someone I could shake,
On election day.

But the day after is darker,
And deeper and deeper we go,
Who knows, maybe it's all a dream,
Who knows if I'll wake up and scream.

I love the things that you've given me,
I cherish you my dear country,
But sometimes I don't understand,
The way we play.

I love the things that you've given me,
And most of all that I am free,
To have a song that I can sing,
On election day."

(5) I realised that nothing lasts forever.

"I’ve slept with your girlfriend."

Film Ever the contrarian, I once sparked an argument with someone by suggesting that the Hollywood Godzilla was a more entertaining film than the original, leading to the kind of raised voices usually reserved for a conversation which begins with the phrase “I’ve slept with your girlfriend”. I’d like to think says more about him than me, but genuinely Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla remake is really quite underrated. Sure it loses something in the last half with the introduction of the second lizard and the potential Godzookys, but the jokes are good, the performances fine and it’s not often a capture plan includes piling up fish in the middle of the street. By the time The Blair Witch Project was a released a couple of years the later, the big lizard film was on dvd and I had the brainwave that someone should make a sequel or a low budget remake in which the monster was hardly seen, but we tracked some kids in the aftermath, enjoying the immensity of the thing, even as their friends were being eaten or squashed by falling masonry.

Cloverfield, is of course, that film. Sort of. If you’ve not seen it yet I’d stop reading now because a work with such a slender running time (barely seventy minutes plus credits) is inevitably going to be spoilt by any attention. I’ll just say that it is good, if not quite brilliant, but certainly entertaining (there’s that word again) and the first person perspective is the finest thing about it. Gone? Good. Now, I’d actually waited for the dvd release of this too, and I’m sure I saw it under the best circumstances, late last night on my tv, hiding under the duvet. Some aspects of the artifice is exactly as I imagined -- the government warnings in the opening shot and the description of the source, economically suggesting what is to come by saying what we’re about to see was found in the area formerly known as Central Park. The editing style feels authentic too, with the rapid jump cuts between shots and scenes to give the impression of not being edited at all. And even though it’s ten years since Blair Witch and it should feel dated, the device of the camera filming the party and aftermath is clever and authentic – I’ve been the cameraman Hud, the irritating idiot who doesn’t know when not to be pointing the camera in someone’s face and I’ve even tried to use it to chat up girls, not recently mind, when I was at school.

It’s just a shame this attention to detail isn’t continued through the rest of the film, the mood of which is largely ruined by the quality of the image, or more specifically its crispness. The film I’d envisaged looked like it was shot on a camera phone or a camcorder, and if not quite as scuzzy as Blair Witch (technology‘s moved on a bit since then) at least with a more domestic look. According to the imdb, the main footage was shot with a Panasonic HVX200 which is a fairly high end digital video camera priced somewhere in the four grand bracket and which, whilst not quite mimicking film or as good at the likes of George Lucas or Michael Mann are using to shoot features these days, is sharp enough that it breaks the reality with which we’re being presented. This was clearly creative decision; as a major release the studio clearly didn’t want something which looks as cheap as an indie film, but for me that immediately saps away some of the atmosphere, of the kind which certain helped the aforementioned spooky predecessor during its leaner moments.

The other problem is that for all its apparently experimental trappings the script is still paced and structured like a fairly typical action film, with cameraman being taken through fight sequences and chase scenes and all the running through corridors a Doctor Who fan might want. The cast are quite good overall; considering we’re introduced to a sea of unknowns, everyone acquits themselves well, and actually it’s a clever decision not so have a name actor to distract the viewer from what is to come. The aim is clearly to evoke the ‘lower decks’ style tv shows in which a bunch of guest stars carry a story, the suggestion from the off being that we really aren’t seeing the usual leads you’d find in this kind of film; John Cusack, Emily Procter and Mos Def, as a scientist, his boss and an army officer, are presumably off being set up somewhere closer to the action. But the needs of the story forces these also rans into becoming action stars anyway, even though everything else what is happening suggests they shouldn’t be, that they should be running for cover. It’s conflicted.

Cloverfield also makes the mistake of showing us the monster. True this was the case in Godzilla, but that was named after its city destroyer so it was part of the package. In my imaginary version of the film, the low budget version of the film, we hardly see the monster, if at all, just vague glimpses at the edges of camera frames, leaving the audience’s imagination to build up an sense of what it looks like. Here, so desperate are the producers to include the money shots, we see that monster completely, and like the very worst of these things it loses all of its horror and though not exactly a girl in a cat suit, just isn’t as interesting as the being we’d developed in our imaginations, and in comparison to the likes of Kong and the cave trolls from Lord of the Rings (and Gollum for that matter) seems under designed. If I’m being charitable, I could envisage that was part of the plan, to make the fantastic reasonable but really what’s the point?

Yet for all these frustrations I’d be lying if I said I didn't enjoy most of it. Despite my misgivings about the use of action it is directed very well; often after an explosion the camera will come crashing down and focus on a single seemingly random image as were left trying to guess at the implications of what we’re hearing, guess which characters are alive or dead. We don’t always know where the giant lizard alien invader thing is going to be, so it’s always a surprise when something detonates or something else jumps out from the shadows. The ending too is totally unexpected and probably the best bit, the antithesis of the likes of Godzilla and Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (which attempts much the same trick of an average Joe on the edge of extraordinary circumstances), so nihilistic and depressing, and probably only achievable with these unknowns. Would Tom Cruise have been condemned to this fate? Don’t answer that.

basically reminded me not to be such a dope.

Firstly, I just wanted to thank Robyn and Kat for saying such nice things (via comments here and twitter), bucking me up this morning, and basically reminding me not to be such a dope. Speaking of which ...

Why is everyone saying Fail all of a sudden?
Yes, indeed, I've discovered Slate. This essay reads like a lost script for Balderdash and Piffle and would presumably, if filmed, have featured Victoria Coren meeting the likes of Eddie Edwards and some bloke who didn't do the lottery one week when his numbers came up. Or something.

Victoria Coren has a blog
It's semi-regular, but as entertaining as you'd expect. Here she writes about Only Connect and becomes embroiled in a quiz in the comments, which is more interactive than some bloggers I could mention. I can't wait for her to discover Twitter.

"Is Reading a nice place to live?"
I've been thinking about applying for a job in the city (though it might what I want to do after all) and decided to googling the above question to find out how people viewed the city. I found this thread at a gamer forum: "The two kebab shops on Oxford Road with Hot Stuff signs are working brothels. If you go into one, don't for christ sakes ingest anything."

Republican presidential nominee shaking hands Senator Barack Obama presidential debate
... is how the Yahoo URL captions this photo. Well, I think it looks like the kind of photo which turns up at Sorry I Missed Your Party of someone's pissed Uncle trying to be funny at a wedding reception.

YouTube to McCain: You Made Your DMCA Bed, Lie in It
Google responds to the McCain campaign request that their videos should be left up even if they're breaking the very rules their own party set up to deal with copyright theft. Interestingly in explaining this story to my parents last night, I said this was exactly what Google would do.

Roger Ebert retro-reviews Baraka (1992)
... and after I'd read the title explains why Obama's surname has looked so familiar. Ebert's piece perfectly evokes the images from the film and says it's a decent reason for buying a Blue-ray player. I think I'll be waiting a couple more years yet though, until the prices have dropped some more. From what I've seen, this isn't like the jump from VHS to DVD -- the image quality doesn't seem significantly better unless you have a big old plasma screen that can support it.

The New Cult Canon: Irréversible
Scott Tobias of the AV Club investigates what's perversely one of my favourite films, even though like Baise-Moi it's bothersome in so many respects. My appreciation is very much to do with it's photography and editing rather than subject matter however -- I've not seen many films which take quite this many visual risks with what the audience can tolerate.

Ask Parky: The single-letter movie title alphabet
Mostly shorts, but does of course include O, one of the better, somewhat forgotten Shakespeare movie adaptations.

Celebrities that are not lesbians 4.0
AfterEllen dissects a typical Eamonn Holmes slip from This Morning (during one of those mornings when Phil and Ferne are off) a few weeks ago when he misunderstood Salma Hayek and thought she was coming out a lesbian, which is precisely the kind of thing that usage of fail was invented for.

Watch Baz Luhrmann's Tourism Australia ad
.. featuring Sibylla Budd who played Gabrielle in The Secret Life of Us, which I've just noticed has been getting a proper dvd release over here.

Illiterate tosspot.

About I've been quoted and cited on the Wikipedia page about Russell T Davies, from my review of The Writer's Tale, so click throughs ahoy. Here's what it says:
"Feeling Listless confessed that "none of us have [sic] truly been prepared for how honest and apparently uncensored the book is", observing that "you couldn’t imagine another journalist to get Davies to write so candidly"
What is embarrassing is that just this short piece of text is a victim of my inbuilt inability to proofread my own writing. That [sic] is clearly pointing out that 'have' should be 'has' and the second quote doesn't make much sense either-- I've used 'to' in the middle there when 'could' would have been better.

If I know RTD, he's probably read that himself and through "Illiterate tosspot."

I'll never get a job at The Guardian at this rate.

The Day of the Clown (Part One).



TV Though they’ve never scared me, I can understand why other people might have a problem with clowns. It’s the 'temporary' mask – the make up hiding the emotions of the man underneath, the painted on smile (or in some cases frown) forcing them to use their whole body to communicate whatever comic business is in hand rather than their faces. We hate not knowing what these performer’s motives are, whether they’re up to something even if that something is for us to let them entertain us and particularly in this stupid day and age when any bloke who wants to spend their time making children laugh is treated with suspicion.

That’s why they’re a familiar horror beastie; we can look them in the face and even as they’re laughing back at us we’re not sure if they’re going to squirt water at us or a bullet, and its often as in tonight’s episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the camera angles, the rapid push-in to the big red schnozzle which makes them threatening, the dislocation of psycho-manic and apparently delightful behaviour into something quite sinister. That’s probably why non-horror stories about clowns usually portray them as being morose and suicidal, if they’re laughing at us, or just plain happy, we’re spending most of our time wondering why.

And the real success of the first half of Day of the Clown is that it gave even a coulrosceptic like me the heebie-jeebies, though to be fair if Bradley Walsh did ever come up to me in the street dressed like that and offer me a big red balloon like a demented fan of Albert Lamorisse, Fritz Lang or Stephen King and probably shit my pants then seek out the wikipedia to confirm I was indeed experiencing a metatextual reference to The Red Balloon, M and It. Like the ringmaster in the otherwise unsuccessful Torchwood episode From Out of the Rain , seeing something not quite alien in a domestic street is actually scarier than seeing an alien, simply because as we've already discussed you’re less inclined to understand what his motive might be (other than having to walk home from a kids party in costume because someone nicked the works van).

The twist in Phil Ford’s best script to date, was to add an extra layer of menace by revealing that this being really was using his clown mask to hide something – that he was the original Pied Piper, the traditionally unimpeached figure of the first horror story most kids hear, the boogey-biped who led the kids of some horrid villagers into the nowhere place with the power of his pipe. Revealing a unit like Spellman to be the manifestation of a literary character isn’t that new (hello, The Mind Robber) but here it was an extra level of creepy, and certainly far more horrifying than what we’ve been presented with in the average episode of Torchwood, feeding into the ultimate parental fear of having our kids snatched to who knows where (the plot of what was indeed a very average episode of Torchwood).

If there’s a possible criticism, it’s that this material couldn’t be tied more closely into the other main event of the episode, the introduction of the Rani, sorry Rani, Sarah-Jane’s new neighbour and narrative replacement for Maria, presumably chasing aliens around Washington, though it’s probably a sci-fi series clich√© that new characters have something to do with the plot of the week, so perhaps we should instead congratulate Ford on not succumbing to the temptation of revealing her Dad to be the clown or some such. Instead, she’s been chucked into an adventure which would be happening anyway and seeing how this new character reacts to it. And the results were brilliant.

Admittedly there were shades of Brookside to the appearance of this new family in the road, moving into the vacant property opposite Sarah-Jane’s fox hole, and a certain amount of coincidence involved in getting the new girl to talk to Clyde and Luke early in the episode. But unlike Maria, who was initially created to fulfil the traditional companion role of our eyes and ears in this strange Whoniverse, Rani is already genre curious, with a certain awareness of something queer going on in the universe. Like Donna who had similar ability to blunder into the next bit of plot when required, she’s far less cautious than even our regulars in terms of wanting to discover what’s gone wrong.

But quite simply what makes Rani so instantly accessible is Anjili Mohindra’s mature performance as she inquisitively picked her way through the material, instantly developing good chemistry with both Daniel and Tommy, who seemed to up their game from the opening story. I’m trying to be too gushing with my comments based on this single episode, but Mohindra does both terror and comedy very well and it’s amazing to consider that before now all she’s had are a day here in there on the likes of Coronation Street or Doctors. There were pre-broadcast rumours that she was a find, but I didn’t think she’d be this good. She’s the new Freema, and regular readers will know I think that’s a compliment.

As is the way in modern television when no child can go orphaned, Rani (and you can’t imagine how difficult it is after all these years not to be writing a definite article in front of that name) drifts through with some parental guidance. It’s tempting to thing wonder if Gita was so named for the senseless murder of her Eastenders namesake during The Stolen Earth, and fairly surprising to see the familiar face like Mina Anwar in the role, given the franchise’s propensity for hiring near unknowns as regulars in its spin-offs. I mean what has Ace Bhatti been up to since Cardiac Arrest? Checks imdb. Oh quite a lot as it turns out and he’s a welcome addition here as simultaneously the headmaster and neighbour from hell. But notice that writer Phil Ford is desperate to give him some light and shade, not transferring the one dimensional figure from school into the home.

This was a busy half an hour really; with all of this plot and character introduction its important to also notice that this was the strongest episode for Clyde and Luke so far, with the former breaking out in dimensions as the writer wrote his spec script for early Buffy giving the teenager all the of authority confrontations which would be parcelled off to the slayer and it's gratifying to see Sarah-Jane admonishing him in much the same way we did over all the wise-cracks that have been inappropriately freezing the action now and then. As ever Sarah (Sarah-Jane) received some good speeches and wisecracks and burst into tears at just the moment when us kids needed to be scared too. I’ve seen jibes about that but I think we’re just used to a main character with a certain amount of arrogant posturing; we’re just not used to seeing some who’s seen thing we people wouldn’t believe give a realistic reaction because she knows what they’re capable of.

Next week: “Scared to come to the Psychic Circus?”

I haven't had a holiday in this decade!

Too indie for Vegas?
Robyn highlights many of the difference between being on holiday and not reminding me that I need to have a holiday too. A proper one, where you sleep somewhere else for more than two nights which I haven't had, oh shit, in this decade. I haven't had a holiday in this decade! God, I hadn't realised it was that long. I mean I went to Paris and but I was only actually in Paris for one full day.

Steve Coogan - what went wrong?
Though I suspect there's a far longer essay with that title to be written, here Vicky from the Daily Post says everything she wanted to say in the paper online instead in relation to a recent, by many accounts disastrous gig by the comedian/actor at the local big stadium. Being heckled in a venue with a capacity of a few thousand people is no mean feat.

Way To Normal -- Ben Folds.
The next project in which we'll be hearing Regina Spektor's voice. For some time, I thought she was related to the famous producer Phil, even though their surnames are spelt differently and she's Russian. Just another addition to the long list of things I've been wrong about in this life. Actually, thinking about it, I might not have been on a proper holiday since the Edinburgh Festival in 1998. That's ten whole years.

Idiot PR people
Suw sounded heckled on Twitter this morning and this page at one of her blogs is the result. I'm currently being harassed on daily basis by some Manhattan publicity firm because Lindsey Lohan's father's doing a Ricky Gervais and boxing someone for charity. Like I care, like it's not on a whole other continent, like it wouldn't be perfectly obvious that this is a British blog. Actually that might not be that obvious. Do you think I'm compensating for my ten years of non-vacationing by writing about the rest of the world. A lot.

Michelle Obama Meets World's Biggest Obama Fan
Could be. But this might be my favourite photo of the US presidential campaign so far. It's not simply that Michelle is Michelle and potentially the cutest potential first lady like, ever, like, but also that the World's Biggest Obama Fan is actually wearing a t-shirt that says "World's Biggest OBAMA Fan".

The Big Picture: The Sun.
Somewhere sunny, though not too sunny because I can't take the heat. So actually that rules out everywhere sunny, including Sol. Somewhere temperate then.

'It's a different world from ours, isn't it?'
I'm originally from Speke; I lived there for sixteen years before our family was basically forced out by victimisation and vandals which was the best thing that ever happened to me. We used to go on holidays from there every year, Pontins, caravans and camping, all over the place. Not boring you about this am I?

Geoff Krozier - The Man, Magik & Madness
My web connection has been rather flakey this evening so I've not had a chance to watch more than a few seconds of this, but the titles are totally worth a click as is the explosion. I remember the magicians at Pontins. They were very good. Though I was about four years old and thought Sooty was in the Magic Circle.

Exclusive! Eight classic DVDs you'll only find at MovieMail
Including finally The Front, one of the few films Woody Allen has starred in but didn't direct or write himself. Allen plays a man with no talent who fronts for a group of writers blacklisted by McCarthy in the 1950s, and though it's most serious work up until that point, it's still hilarious, and shows him at the top of his game. It's funny how I've immediately pre-ordered this, but I'm waiting for his latest Cassandra's Dream to drop in price. Reviews can make a difference.

An Open Letter To Everyone Who’s Stopped Watching Heroes
I know it's fictional but none of the characters in Heroes have gone on holiday, at least not that we've seen, which is odd considering that some of them don't even need to buy a plane or train ticket. I'll change the subject now.

Tori Girl: How Tori Amos is spreading her wings
Tori's writing a musical. It's a typically brilliant interview with her, in which she uses phrases no one else could use like "my husband has to watch Top Gear for his metal pornography" though I'm wondering why it seems to be accompanied by a photo of Nicola from Girls Aloud...

Rani is already genre curious.

Elsewhere Was Phil Ford aware of the film references when he wrote this episode of the Sarah Jane Adventures? Alternative title: "Ballooon?"

Emily Procter love

About Paul beat me to the punch with this hilarious review of tonight's episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures so my slightly more boring reflection isn't up yet. In the mean time, here's the original opening, or more accurately the paragraphs which I dumped on the grounds that it's irrelevant and I realised I was in the grip of both Emily Procter love and some box set mania (current on episode seven of season two):
"My favourite (well one of my favourite) mid-stream television character introductions is from The West Wing, when Ainsley Hayes, a less conservative Republican than most of the right wingers which appeared in the Aaron Sorkin years, verbally beat up Sam Seaborne on television before being asked to serve at the pleasure of the President. What makes her first appearance work so well, during the episode, In The White House, is that despite listing at length all the ideological problems she has with that fictional administration and liberals in general, we care more for her than we ever did for the Mandy character who slowly disappeared over the course of the first season.

Sorkin increases her likeability by having her fall into all the traps and make all the same mistakes most of us would make in her situation such as nervously running her mouth off at a potential new boss and also when she hears something which could be very embarrassing to CJ decides to keep between the two of them. She was also brash, loud, sexy in that way that Anne Coulter could never be, and it’s a shame that when Sorkin left the series follow on producer John Wells didn’t really seem to know what to do with her – she didn’t really fit into the weird vision he had for the show which was to take it out of the geographic location in the title as quickly as possible.

One of the reasons we loved Ainsley was that she was so intelligently played by Emily Procter (who’d later go on to be royally wasted on CSI:Miami trying to coax a reaction from David Caruso) ...."
... at which point I realised I wasn't going to be talking about clowns or the new Rani any time soon and decided to start over...

they're one of my favourite parts of the paper

Life The Guardian now has a category which collects together interviews from across the paper which is excellent because they're one of my favourite parts of the paper. What's also excellent is how it happened:
"To: userhelp@guardian.co.uk
From: Me

Hello,

Pure interviews, I think, are one of The Guardian's great strengths, and certainly one of my favourite aspects of the paper. Can I suggest that a tag/subject/category could be set up collecting them all from across the paper and site on the same page with a connected RSS Feed? It's difficult to keep track of them all sometimes working through music/film/technology/science/books/sport etc.

Take care,

Stuart
(feelinglistless.blogspot.com)
This morning I received this:
From: userhelp@guardian.co.uk
To: You

Further to your email on 1 October, I am pleased to confirm that following your suggestion an interview keyword has now been created. You can now access all interviews via the following page:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/tone/interview

The RSS feed address is:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/tone/interview/rss

Thank you for your interest in the Guardian range of websites.

Kind regards.

User Help
guardian.co.uk
119 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3ER
Which only goes to increase my appreciation of everything The Guardian does...

something is terribly wrong

Business I've kept quiet about the financial markets, partly because my understanding of what went wrong is hazy at best, but mostly because every time someone covering the story in the media opens their mouth or laptops something scary is communicated. Having studied the 30s depression a bit at university (so that I could write "intelligently" about the themes in Frank Capra's films) though I can see the parallels I can also see how this could get much, much worse.

Then, the money was still fairly isolated and as far as I could tell, it was a number of similar though unconnected shenanigans which amassed together to create the larger problem. Here, everything is interconnected via the web, the ability for the not really but oh so relevant money to shift about the planet much more freely. Up until now, did any of us know how much of our council tax money was invested in Iceland?

So when asked what I thought this week, I said that this could and probably will be awful and that the fall out has the potential to make the depression look like someone not being able to find change for the coffee machine. It's a rubbish and inaccurate analogy but when the generally rather abstract world of the London City and Wall Street are being explained to us laymen, who don't otherwise care, something is terribly wrong.

I've had people say to me, just be happy that you're in work and in work were you are since that's more stable than most things, which isn't very comforting actually since the places were I ultimately want to have a career aren't safe at all and generally quite fragmentary. I know all of that's a bit vague (self imposed blog rules and all that) but suffice to say that as someone who doesn't easy get worried often these days, I'm worried.