Thursday 28 August 2008

My Zinc Bed

I think I might like the work of David Hare but unfortunately I have seen very little of it. I saw "Skylight" in the 90s with Michael Gambon and Lia Williams at the National Theatre which I really enjoyed at the time. I stumbled across a trailer the other night for "My Zinc Bed" and decided to stop everything and watch it with my better half. What a disappointment. I am a fan of all three actors: Jonathan Pryce, Paddy Considine and Uma Thurman, but their talents were lost in a "tv play" that just felt forced and quite undramatic. Anyway, I never planned to write a review, or anything so formal, but isn't it nice when you find an articulate reviewer who says everything you want to say and more? Lucy Mangan's review in today's Guardian did just that. I leave you with two intelligent quotes that re-raise some very pertinent questions about the nature of good tv drama.

I can't work out if it is a depressing testament to the debasing effects of the junk-television diet we habitually follow that the heightened language of My Zinc Bed - unashamedly writerly writing - felt like an affectation and distraction, or if it is simply a sign that the intimate medium of television does indeed require a less mannered form of language, lest it overwhelm rather than serve the piece.

...Even an ideas play needs drama as well as discussion.

This great review, which also takes a swipe at BBC policy towards commissioning drama, can be found here:

Thank you Lucy.

Sunday 24 August 2008

An Olympic Wave of Optimism

Qualified, Postive Stuff
Not even the sight of an over the hill musical hero of mine blasting out a rock classic with the Magnum-smooth vocals of last year's X Factor winner could destroy the good vibes emanating from Bejing's Bird Nest Stadium. Jimmy, we all know you want to get that reticent lead singer pal of yours back on the road, but did you have to go this far? But hey-ho, if the choice was between Jimmy or Brain May playing "We Will Rock You" (which some Team GB Art Director's brainstorming session must have thrown up, surely) then we were truly saved.

All right, some Negative Stuff (I'm holding myself back)
I think we have to probably face up to the fact Britain is seriously creatively challenged if Lewis, Page, Beckham and a Routemaster bus is all that we could come up with. I read with amusement that the lyrics to "Whole Lotta Love" had to be altered to tone them down for the closing ceremony. "I'm gonna give you every inch of my love" did not make sense for a female singer to sing, Leona Lewis advised. How quaint and subtlety put. Lewis's suggestion of swapping "inch" for "bit" was agreed by the "band" and so we have been all saved our blushes. [Led Zeppelin classic 'too racy' for Olympics].

Back on track, more Positive Stuff
Creatively challenged we may be, but I think our sporting heroes have been truly inspiring. The work has been put in and rewards were reaped. Rebecca Adlington's gold double in the swimming were the cream of the Brit crop for me. She swam as fast as Johnny Tarzan Weissmuller... wow! And she now has her own Wiki [Rebecca's Wiki]. And she's from Mansfield, Notts (a place I know). We've got an Italian coach for the English football squad and several Australian coaches in Team GB, let's get an international art director for the opening and closing ceremony. Who have we got anyway? Has it been decided? It's Tracy Emin isn't it? Sorry, I was getting negative again...

Very Positive Stuff
My defining memory from the Games was Usain Bolt's 200m record smash. The track side moving camera shot picked up Bolt on the home straight. It was filmic television at its best. Bolt was in sharp profile in the foreground and the Bird's Nest crowd on the other side of the stadium was one big, blurry shallow focus smudge. This was the moment. He had to get it! He had to beat Michael Johnson's record, who had just said in the BBC commentary box that he expected Bolt to run 19:50, i.e. not break Johnson's 12 year record of 19:32. Bolt had his eye on the prize - and, allegedly, on the "electronic timeboard" throughout the race - and Johnson escaped with only a speck of egg on his face. (If anyone could send me a link to that profile shot of Bolt I would be very grateful).

And finally...
The shots of street celebrations in Kingston when Bolt picked up his third gold and made a defining contribution to the 4x100 relay team were just sublime. The camera moved through and over an ecstatic crowd who knew that victory was theirs. [].

Rediscovering Music with

You know when you find a website that just takes your breath away... well has done that for me. It's a music social networking web 2.0 site thingamyjig. It's basically a music website that allows you to listen to vast amounts of music for free*. The clever "scrobbling" software behind the scenes tracks your tastes and suggests to you other music you might like. As exlains itself:

"Millions of songs are scrobbled every day. This data helps to organise and recommend music to people; we use it to create personalised radio stations, and a lot more besides."

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have managed to discover music that I just hadn't heard before. "Unlimited free, legal music!" you say in complete surprise. Can this be true? No, not exactly. In the process of playing certain tracks to death, I discovered that will try and restrict the frequency of access to tracks by only letting you hear 30 second excerpts. Why? *Because they want you to subscribe to the service (£1.50 per month) or buy the track. Okay, so there is an business model beneath the surface but what the heck it's still brilliant! Personally, I think it blows iTunes out of the water.

I went to a gig in 1992 at the Jazz Cafe. Abdullah Ibrahim was playing with a 4-piece band. I thought he was amazing and one particlar track just mesmerized me. After the gig I tried to find the track, but to no avail. I bought a few albums but he is very prolific and the internet didn't exist then. I even resorted to singing the flute melody to staff on the jazz floor of London's Virgin Megastore. They were sympathetic, and highly bemused, but couldn't help. helped me discover this track in a matter of minutes. My quest has ended but really it has only just begun. In case you would like to hear this tune here is a link below. It's called "The Mountain" and I believe it is the title track of an eponymous album and with it's oriental themes, should have been the BBC's ident music for the Olympics (or perhaps not, some gem stones are best left undisturbed).

I have eclectic music tastes as my moniker suggests. I have a penchant for classic rock and was lucky to go and see Led Zeppelin in December 2007 at the O2. Please read my blog entry on the Zep gig if you fancy:

But that ain't half the story. I love jazz, blues, Beethoven, Bach, Stravinsky, Mozart, Mahler and am still listening to "London Calling" by The Clash.

I've been meaning to sign up to for a while. The company is based near my work - - in the East End of London, I believe, so I feel a kind of parochial pride in it's success. What a great idea!

electictrains @