Richard Schiff on the later years of The West Wing.

TV Another suitably brilliant Random Roles at The AV Club with Schiff offering his thoughts on what happened to Toby towards the end of The West Wing:
"There was that, but there’s also the endgame for my character on that show. [It] was not one that was pleasing for me, to say the least. The culture of the show changed at the end. Tommy and Aaron [Sorkin] left after season four. I don’t think anyone got Toby better than Tommy and Aaron. Aaron, I think, loved that character and loved writing that character. They understood it. I don’t think the next generation of runners really got him the way those two did. So the battles became difficult. There were some writers that were great with Toby, like Eli Attie and Debora Cahn. Then, I think, the culture of the show was more factory-like. As the show’s winding down, they want to squeeze every dollar they can out of it, which is normal and understandable. They had started to look for ways to save money, and part of it was offering us less shows the last year. I think they came up with a storyline in which they could reduce Toby significantly by making him a traitor. [Laughs.] Which is diametrically opposite of everything that I had fought and battled for for five years. It was excruciatingly painful to discover that that is what they were doing with this character."
One of the worst mistakes in television history and having just watched the final season of Gilmore Girls (a topic I should return to) that's saying quite a lot. I completely agree with his comments about Eli Attie and Debora Cahn who were as much a pair of pseudo-Sorkins as Rebecca Rand Kirshner reacted some of the Paladino magic in GG's closing stages.

Here's my old review of the final stages in which I note Cahn's contribution.  She wrote The Superemes, the best episode of season five and the moment when it seemed as though there might be some magic left in the show, so long as John Wells was nowhere near it.  Cahn went on to write whole swathes of Grey's Anatomy.

Email business.

Life Back when this blog was but a fledgling, it was being written while I was still using dial-up at home via a BT Surftime account with an included email address - which I quickly stopped using after beginning this mess and adopting its title and so for years my email address was  You might have used it yourself.

When I migrated over to a 3 dongle for my broadband, 15gb limit a month and such, and asked to cancel the Surftime account, so I could keep the BT email open I continued paying £1.60 per month to maintain it, partly out of laziness but also because it seemed as though there were enough services which would not allow me to transfer over without some fiddly business.

Imagine my surprise when I received my credit card statement and found the charge had increased to eight pounds and some pence.  With the service depreciating, BT have increased the cost of what's not called a "BT Premium email" service to £5 per month, something which they entirely failed to inform me about and I only discovered after some frenetic Googling.

A lengthy phone call later, in which it took an advisor ten minutes to realise what my query was and find my details, it was explained to be the extra three pounds and change was essentially the difference for the previous month I'd already paid for, they having decided to put the price up retrospectively.  I know.  I don't understand.

Which left me with choices.  Pay the £5 a month which over time is a bit steep really.  Connect the email account to our current broadband package which also happens to be with BT which I wouldn't want to do because I liked keeping them separate and wouldn't want to mess things up further.  Or cancel the account altogether.

With a perfectly good gmail account set up, I've since spent the past two days working through six months worth of emails sent to the BT account (and forwarded on to my gmail anyway) trying to find everything which is connected to that old email and deleting it.  As expected this has been fiddly, especially in relation to fruit based devices and methods of payment.

Dozens of mailing lists cancelled and resubscribed to.  A PR database which has been quite useful which I ended up having to make telephone call to.  Music services, film streaming services, my whole virtual life.  Slowly, slowly realising just how connected we become to email accounts and how used to them we become.

But I think I'm there or at least very close.  The folder I set up via a filter is empty and I'll simply watch it for a few weeks now to see what else appears in it.  I'm sure I've forgotten something and it's going to be interesting when I get there to discover how it's possible to recover the account if the primary email address no longer exists.

So if you're trying to contact me from now onwards, my email address is having swooped in early when they were still in beta (would you believe) and grabbed my full name.  Now I'm just going to have to remember to use it when signing into the innumerable places which previously used the other one.

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
Master Chef Restaurant.

"A silent wall! We must make mouths in it with our weapons, then it will speak more light."
-- Hetra, The Web Planet
Art I wander through the front door into the empty restaurant and glance around nervously. A man steps out of the kitchen.
"I'm looking for the Biennial painting?"
He points to the wall on the left.
He points to the wall on the right.
"And this."
"Ah" I say, "Thanks very much."

Just a short trip, this time. The Master Chef Restaurant on Renshaw Street is one of life's fixtures, a place which I've passed many times on foot and by bus but never actually entered. Not for any particular reason. Perhaps I'll return at some point to try the soup.

As part of the Chinatown episode, we have two paintings by Portugese artist Anna Jotta.  From the biographies I've read, she's most interested in the idea of not having, or erasing her own personal style, her inspiration based on mood and whatever works.

In the early eighties she was a film set designer and here's her IMDb page.  A glance through images of her other work and this interview indicate a strong interest in film, often painting or drawing on a fold away projection screen.

The Biennial booklet says that these two works, No No Sir!, were painted with the restaurant in mind, the colours influenced by some antique green pottery she saw in a magazine whilst on a train to Liverpool

But by coincidence the olive green colour utilised on one of them matches the paintwork on a number of the walls in the restaurant and the cream colour is similar to the white when bathed in artificial light.  The paintings reflect the surrounding walls back on themselves.

The most obvious similarity is to abstract expressionism, De Kooning and Rothko in particular although there isn't the same rich gradation of colours.  Plus they were working within a very rigid space, whereas these are unsupported pieces of canvas with raggedy edges.

Do I like them?  I don't dislike them.  The notion seems to be that they should blend in, that perhaps a restaurant patron should gradually come to realise that they looking at a commissioned piece of work connected to the art festival rather than some off the shelf B&Q sourced wall filling.

One of the notions connected to abstract expressionism was that they're almost drawing a distinction between casuals and the hard core.  De Kooning says that in order to appreciate his work you have to put in the time, to appreciate the play of light, the time he's put in.

Do Jotta's paintings pass this test?  Not sure.  I didn't spend a lot of time with them, it's a very odd space to be standing amid the tables.  My guess is that yes, if you were eating in the restaurant concentrating on them between courses more detail could become obvious.

Vworp.  Vworp.

Next Destination:

Liverpool Biennial 2016:
Tate Liverpool.

"I think I ought to warn you that I've given second thoughts to the whole of this scheme, and I think it better we turn round and go back before it's too late. Hmm, hmm."
-- The Doctor, "The Myth Makers"
Art If the TARDIS looks like it's dropping in and out of phase, it's because the weather was utterly horrendous on the way to the TATE this morning, rain shifting horizontally across the waterfront, making it pretty difficult to control the time ship long enough to take the photograph.  Perhaps the shock of returning to the gallery so close to having been to the Biennial's opening press conference also discombobulated the controls.  After deciding to use a randomiser, I hadn't expected to be at TATE quite so soon and rather makes me wish I'd stuck around for the curatorial introduction last Thursday before toddling off to Caines.

Not that the exhibition itself isn't fairly self explanatory.  The key expression of the "Ancient Greece" episode of the Biennial, it presents a selection of busts and reliefs bought by art collector, Henry Blundell in the 1800s and now in the vaults and so on loan from National Museums Liverpool.  Having spent a portion of the late 90s cataloguing sections of this collection when I worked for the then National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, I was well aware that there was more in the donation than what's on display in the sculpture gallery at the Walker, so it's fascinating to see some objects which haven't always been on display.  The press kits gives a figure of 553.

The first floor gallery at the TATE displays about a dozen specifically chosen because of how they represent inaccurate restoration.  As the Biennial booklet explains, female heads could find themselves attached to male bodies, parts of the anatomy incorrectly fused, fragments married with later creations to form new sculptures by eighteenth century restorers.  Within the show, there are disembodied heads married to bases to become busts, mismatched breasts fused to females for which they were missing and even an example of hair extensions on a scalp for which they were never meant and look entirely incongruous.

Presented on a wooden boards atop pink-painted metal frames this is not the usual museum display, apart from the accompanying labels which are every bit the sort of text you might expect in an antiquities gallery, explaining how the object was restored and who or what it's supposed to represent.  The pottery selections are not presented in the usual manner behind glass cases and it's possible to walk almost right around them, again not something usually possible within a more traditional museum setting.  Perhaps I was expecting something a bit closer to a recreation of the Ince Blundell Hall interior as featured in the booklet photograph, but again the Walker's sculpture gallery exists for that.

Amid these ancient relics are new commissions and other business by contemporary artists reflecting on ancient Greece.  Andreas Angelidakis's digital video explains how Ancient Greek vases were on of the ways in which news and myths were communicated, relating them to social media which arguably works in a similar way albeit on a much quicker timescale.  That's accompanied by various shapes, some of which appear in the video, created through 3D printing displayed in a similar fashion to the ancient greek objects.  But it's fair to say my interest was always directed back the magnificent museum piece cobbled together by various makers across history.  Now, where next?

Next Destination:
Master Chef Restaurant.

My Favourite Film of 1938.

Film As we've discussed previously, the news archive on YouTube are an endless, seemingly bottomless supply of footage of our collective past, hundreds and thousands of moments in time captured in a way which wasn't possible before the invention of photography existing so that nothing much can be forgotten about anything. For that reason and because every other film you can think of from that year's been invalidated by the various rules I decided upon at the beginning of this project, my favourite film(s) of 1938 is the Pathe News archive. Yes, cop out has two words. Anyway, having hit the wall and made a hole in it, let's choose some examples which cover the usual interests of this blog.

Their Majesties In Liverpool (1938)

My Grandfather was in the Liverpool Scottish, though he died before I was born. I didn't know either of my Granddads. This from the "Royal Tour of Lancashire" spoken with the same exoticism as any other part of what was then the British Empire. I like to think I displayed similar athleticism when our school cross country was on Wavertree Playground but in truth I came second to last and only because the other person turned up late and ran the wrong way.

The National Theatre At South Kensington (1938)

George Bernard Shaw receiving the deeds, a sod and a twig at the launch of the National Theatre. Shaw of course wastes no time in comparing himself to Shakespeare. At this early stage it was designating itself as the home of the Bard in London, years before the Barbican and the Globe.

Henry VIII Model Aka Model Film Stars Issue Title Ride 'em Cowboy (1938)

A quick scoot about online to find out more about Harald Melville. He was an author with many books about set design published later in the 40s and 50s. 1948, ten years later, was a busy year for him. His one screen credit according to the IMDb was as an actor and art director on a film called Castle Sinister, a spy thriller. That same year he was the set and costume designer at a Glyndebourne production of Die Entfuhrung in the Bath Festival 1948 (Theatre Royal, Bath). He also appeared at the Gateway Theatre in two shows.

Billy Mayer And His Claviers (1938)

And now some music. Since even the legacy of the Sugababes doesn't stretch back this far not counting the release of Angels With Dirty Face starring James Cagney, here's some other musical dexterity.

Window Cleaners on The Empire State Building.

Welcome to New York, it's there waiting for you.  The Pathe archive is filled with these sorts of films of events and happenings which in later years are the stuff of askew montage sequences in the likes of Amelie, Stephen Poliakoff dramas and Adam Curtis documentaries.  It's not just that this happened, it's that it happened regularly. Here's another bonus example:

Musical Dawson Birds (1938)