Tuesday, 31 May 2005

New Examining the OED website

I've just finished work on a new website for the research project I'm collaborating on with Charlotte Brewer. It's built using Mambo Open Source, which, while it took a little while to get used to, is much better than writing an old-fashioned static HTML site with Dreamweaver MX 2004. The research we're doing is scrutinizing the Oxford English Dictionary, that formidable British institution, which, although it is an impressive work, is given a little bit too much respect, especially by English scholars. You can see the new website here: http://oed.hertford.ox.ac.uk/main/.

Sunday, 29 May 2005

Control Room (2004) - ickleReview (DVD)

Documentary about the Arab satellite news channel Al Jazeera's coverage of the war in Iraq. It's not always clear what Al Jazeera's policy is: they seem to have the Western values of free speech and objective journalism: many of their journalists, I am sure, studied in Europe or the United States - Hassan Ibrahim, for example, used to work for the BBC. Yet Donald Rumsfeld accuses them of pro-Iraqi propaganda when they show pictures of injured Iraqi civilians and dead and captured US soldiers. Ibrahim is likeable, intelligent and has a dry sense of humour - understanding of the West, yet sympathetic towards the Arab point of view, without being overly ideological. One of his colleagues greets him at CentCom as a "star", which may have just been because a camera crew were following him out the back of a van. Samir Khader is a senior producer at Al Jazeera who berates one of the interview producers for inviting a partizan American analyst to speak on the station. It would be fine for an opinion programme, he says, but not the news bulletin. If only CNN and Fox strove for such objectivity in their coverage.

It is refreshing to see the war from the other side; as it is hopeful to see Lt. Josh Rushing, a US Army press officer, backing down from his initially biased point of view and realizing that he has to try to see things from the Arab point of view, and help them to see things from the American point of view. One would hope that our leaders and diplomats could apply the same logic.

This isn't necessarily a documentary with a big message; it merely observes other people in action - perhaps practising the sort of objective journalism that the filmmakers might hope to see in some of their colleagues in the Western press corps.

Nugget: important without being unmissable.

Thursday, 26 May 2005

Champions League Final


(I should probably credit the BBC Sport website for the photos.) Posted by Hello

You'll Never Walk Alone

Well done to Steven Gerrard and Liverpool for winning the European Cup tonight. Even though I support Manchester United, I was delighted that The Pool won. What a great comeback! Rafa Benitez made a superb adjustment at half-time. I hope Stevie G decides to stay. There's no way UEFA won't let the Scouse defend the trophy next season now. It would be a scandal, Franco, if they did. Walk on... Posted by Hello

Friday, 20 May 2005

Witan of mittangeard sagen

Swollen eyes bear no grudge.
Walk backwards only when shadows are long.
A bearded mouse finds its own way.

Thursday, 12 May 2005

What's Up, Tiger Lily (1966) - ickleReview (DVD)

Woody Allen movie in which he takes a Japanese spy thriller B-movie* and dubs over the voices to turn it into a comedy. Not the chuckle-fest one might expect, but as it's only 80 minutes, it's not long to sit through. In 1966, he hadn't quite hit full stride.

There's quite a lot of gratuitous girl candy - mainly in the Japanese film (the protagonist is sleazier than a Roger Moore Bond) - but there's also a striptease over the end credits with Allen eating an apple in the background and a jibe that if you're reading these credits instead of looking at the girl then there's something wrong with you and you should consult a pshchiatrist or an eye doctor.

Nugget: I won't even bother to recount the plot, except to say that it was a stroke of genius to have the spies fighting over a recipe for egg salad rather than some frumpy code.

* If this is an A-movie, I'm an octogenarian seahorse with period pains.

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

On reading David Sedaris

One wonders where chauffeurs go to piss when they're waiting outside someone else's house: do they piss in the bushes?

Sunday, 8 May 2005

A Good Woman (2004) - ickleReview (cinema)

Film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's play, Lady Windermere's Fan, with Helen Hunt as Mrs Erlynne, Scarlett Johansson as Meg (Lady) Windermere, Stephen Campbell Moore as Lord Darlington, and Mark Umbers as Robert Windermere. Set in 1930 Amalfi, Italy, the scenery and period costumes are gorgeous (particularly a revealing dress worn by both Hunt and Johansson). There are numerous familiar and oft quoted out of context lines - such as "The only thing that I find worse than being talked about is not being talked about at all" - but they hardly sparkle in this production, despite the promises of the trailer.

Mrs Erlynne is on the run from her debts in New York, where her credit lines from affairs with wealthy married men have run out. In Italy she begins to interfere with the Windermere's marriage, provoking much indulgent gossip in the Anglo-American crowd of rich playthings. Lady Windermere suspects that her dashing young husband Robert is having an affair with Mrs Erlynne and is distraught at the sullying of what she thought was a perfect year-old marriage. Lord Darlington hovers around, offering a shoulder for Lady Windermere to cry on, whilst Tom Wilkinson plays Tubby, a charming old veteran of broken marriages willing to let Mrs Erlynne in on his fortune.

The drama is not as comic or farcical as some of Wilde's other plays - notably The Importance of Being Ernest, which was much better adapted to the film medium by Oliver Parker in 2002. A Good Woman is an enjoyable enough watch, but it feels a little rough around the edges with hollow establishing shots and the occasionally abrupt edit.

Nugget: I am not this film's biggest fan.

Wednesday, 4 May 2005

Some Like It Hot (1959) - ickleReview (TV)

Black and white comedy directed by Billy Wilder and starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. Joe and Jerry play sax and base in a 1929 Chicago speakeasy disguised as a funeral parlour. The joint is busted by the police for breaking the Prohibition laws, so they're out of a job. In a desperate attempt to make some money, they pawn their coats, only to lose them on a dog race. Then, just as they are about to borrow a car from a garage, they witness a mob murder. They make their escape by dressing in drag and taking a job as two musicians in an all girl band bound for Florida.

Rather saucy caper for 1959, with some rather gratuitous scenes of blond girls' legs and Marilyn's twins, as well as some rather violent Tommy-gun shootings. I suppose it might be the American Pie or Road Trip of its day. Some of the acting is truly awful, but it's a good bit of fun and supplies a few laughs along the way.

Nugget: I fail to see how this is hailed by cinema historians as a Hollywood classic, but I'm prepared to hear arguments.

Tuesday, 3 May 2005

Vulture capital

One of them beat Ronnie O'Sullivan at the Crucible; the other sits on a branch and cadges scran off other animals Posted by Hello

Bread boy wins snooker world championship!

Shaun Murphy, snooker world champion; Alfie from the Hovis adverts Posted by Hello

POV grumpy old man

"Sex was something I thought posh people had their coal delivered in."

(Rick Wakeman on Grumpy Old Men, BBC2)

Sunday, 1 May 2005

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) - ickleReview (cinema)

Film adaptation of Douglas Adams's cult novel. Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman, The Office) has his house knocked down by the planners who want to build a bypass through it. Then the earth is destroyed for similar reasons by these really bureaucratic aliens. Arthur is rescued, however, by his mate, Ford Prefect (Mos Def), whom he had thought was from Guildford, and who makes sure they have their towels with them as they hitch a ride in space. Lots of weird stuff happens to them there as they help the president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), try to find not the answer to life, the universe and everything (which, obviously, is 42), but the Ultimate Question.

As this film is fuelled by American money, there is the familiar guff of a tacked on Love Interest (Trillian, played by Zooey Deschanel), which helps them squeeze out some sort of ending. This film isn't satisfying for its plot, however; its charm is in the humour (the sighing doors; the delightful Alan Rickman as Marvin the depressed robot; the bizarre cameo of John Malkovich; the dolphins - "So long and thanks for all the fish"; the mice; the planet on which you get slapped in the face whenever you have an idea; and, of course, Stephen Fry's narration of joy). There are also some amazing special effects - much better than you're ever likely to see in Star Wars ::yawns:: or any other over-CGI'd movie.

Nugget: one of the best bits is when they turned into wool and Arthur Dent spews up. Oh, and sit through the end credits because there's a little treat in store.