What Jessie Did Next...

...being the inane ramblings of a mundane Yorkshire bird.

Category: Mediatainment (page 1 of 4)

Those of you who are regular readers will know of my love of all things Eurovision: the song contest which, despite being about us all getting on and loving each other is quite the global battleground. I threw Eurovision parties alongside my ex for around ten years, then in more recent times hosted small intimate get-togethers while friends watched the show. Last year I said I wouldn’t host another one, so throwing caution to the wind I booked myself a ticket to Stockholm for the Eurovision Song Contest 2016.

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The dust has settled on the whole circus of the Eurovision Song Contest 2015, a year which felt stranger than previous events for a number of reasons.

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nltj_podcast_logoI’m podcasting again, under the monicker of No Less Than Jess. It’s got its own (rudimentary) place to listen which is over at www.nolessthanjess.co.uk but you can subscribe via iTunes Podcast Directory.

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10306728_1486127544950489_8532018272090923079_n (1)Ah, that time of year again – the Eurovision Song Contest 2014. I’ll freely admit that there’s been a lot of personal stuff go down in the past month or so (plus ça change) which has meant I haven’t really had much time to keep an eye on what’s been going on. That plus ESCtoday being a shadow of its former self combined to leave me woefully underprepared for this year’s competition. I’d kept track of what Molly was doing as the UK entry, that was about it.

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There came a flurry of news just before bedtime last night that high-street chain HMV was going into administration. It’s been on the cards since at least 2007 and while it’s extremely unfortunate that mismanagement of the administration led to staff finding out via the media (accompanied by scuttlebutt and faux-sadness on Twitter) I can’t say I’m surprised in the slightest.

This morning there’s a lot of punditry flying around regarding HMV’s business model, competitors, the inevitable comparisons with online vendors (and HMV’s own failed foray into online sales some years ago), the links to piracy, MP3s, iTunes, and tons more. Yet however you look at it HMV’s business model is completely and utterly flawed: the chart CDs stocked are sold cheaper in bulk to Asda so margins are nonexistent, racks are full of ‘classic’ albums you can find chucked out in Oxfam, there’s very little (if any) stock of local music, and when you want something out-of-the-ordinary you’re bang out of luck unless you want to order it in and wait a week. Just like Jessops before them, they’re box-shifters with stock even Del Boy would find hard to pass on.

It hasn’t always been so. Contrast it with the mid-90s when HMV stocked dance vinyl and had entire racks of ‘interesting stuff the staff found’ complete with a small sticker telling you what it was like – comments like ‘big farty bass and a synth line your mum will hate‘. That was brilliant – it’s how I discovered artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and labels such as FFRR, but that disappeared at the turn of the century and I found other outlets.

(Exception to the rule: the last CD I bought from HMV was This Sporting Life by Skint & Demoralised. I bought it there because I knew one of the lads worked at the Wakefield shop and if anywhere would have a copy, they would…)

I’ll admit I’m a marginal case: I like physical media. I browse CDs, I play vinyl, I buy from small shops such as Crash and Jumbo, I order from independent online stores such as HTFR or Norman Records where possible, and I pester local record labels for CDs rather than downloads. I love exploring liner notes and artwork just as much as listening to the music. The local independent record shop in Cottingham made a fortune out of me in my Uni days, and when we lived in London my wife used to curse because I’d go to Tower Records (RIP), browse the bargain bins and return at 11:30pm with two carrier bags full of stuff I quite liked the look of. Controversially nowadays I also use Amazon – most commonly at music festivals and gigs where I’ll 1-click order a load of the support act’s CDs (well, when they’re not on the merch stand anyway) – but it’s still physical media. I guess I’m in a minority now; not ‘down with the kids’.

The folks who have the bargain-bin physical media philosophy bang-on are That’s Entertainment, which is where your Music Magpie CDs end up (it tickles me that they spotted an opportunity to have a pop at HMV in Manchester). There’s one in the Ridings Centre in Wakefield where I can spend a happy (but costly) hour digging and finding CDs I didn’t even know I wanted, sometimes at five for a fiver. They participated in a small way in Record Store Day last year and it’s somewhere even my kids with their limited pocket money can buy a computer game or a bit of music. Winner.

Will I miss HMV if it does completely disappear? Nah, I can’t even think of a company who might want to pick the chain up other than for the HMV.com domain name. Perhaps it’ll leave a void which can be filled once again by the small shops it killed in the late 80s and early 90s, and although I doubt Wakefield would provide enough business to support it it’d be nice to see a JAT or EGS return to Wakefield’s streets. While browsing Twitter I came across @charlottegore who hit the nail on the head in one sentence: “HMV are a company that wasted lots of money paying rent to keep unsold CDs and DVDs on public display in prime locations.”

No flowers.

Edit: There’s another perspective from Banquet Records which is well worth a read (thanks Martin for pointing me to that).

Angie, Jake, Me & DonnaRight, that’s that then, I don’t have to keep it a secret any more! It’s been hard to avoid if you’re linked up with me on Twitter or Facebook but: this week’s Come Dine With Me from Wakefield featured yours-truly. You can get the episodes in the UK on 4OD here: Angie, me, Donna, Jake, Francesca (proper sorry about the rights restrictions, non-UK people).

The recipes on the Channel 4 website are similar to the dishes I cooked but for completeness here are my own versions: Pan-fried Thai Scallops Glazed With Lemon & Coriander, Woodland Venison With Blackberries, Roast Potato Stack & Chanteney Carrots, Chocolate Truffle Torte with Home-made Vanilla Ice-Cream. I’m not having you all round for tea so you’d better learn to cook them yourself, perhaps you can work out how to stop them being “bland and boring”. *cough*

There were a lot of people who helped me out on the whole thing but because I had to keep it secret most of them didn’t know. Regardless, I thought it would be only fair to acknowledge their general awesomeness here:

  • First off, my long-suffering wife Nicky who put up with the daftness of it all and just kept out of the way when she needed to. She was very tolerant, especially since “my” day was the day of our 13th wedding anniversary (which we still haven’t celebrated and N reminds me about that a lot). I also want to remind everyone Nicky weeded the driveway, lest she forgets to mention it for the umpteenth time 😉
  • My kids Ben and Ellie, who managed to keep it all hush-hush at school (the daughter almost at the peril of losing her best mate), and who ate the dish when I invented it therefore qualifying as the first set of guinea pigs.
  • Our mates Jayne and Phil who mucked in so much with sorting the house out and were, frankly, utterly ace: Phil was the best handyman ever (he claims responsibility for the semi-permanent lights in the sunlounge and the disco ball which we fitted after a skinful). Jayne ironed my shirts when I had to go do work instead, then they kindly allowed me to experiment on them for test run #2.
  • Mum, who did a shedload of ironing so the front room didn’t look like a Chinese laundry, and made sure I ate properly on the Monday lunchtime when I was somewhere on the ceiling about the state of the house.
  • Ruby Macintosh who sang the same song over and over again in The Hop, looking photogenic while I got filmed waving a camera around. Lloyd from Cowshed who got drunk in the kitchen while waiting for Ruby to finish and enjoyed the smell of the balsamic as I did test run #3 – he didn’t give me any hints and tips, it was all my own work 😛
  • Sarah at Ossett Brewery and Fish and Genevieve at The Hop Wakefield who let us use The Jam Inn and The Hop for filming.
  • People who supplied me stuff but (of course) didn’t know what it was for: the long-suffering lady upstairs at Peter Maturi in Leeds who tolerated me wandering around for an hour trying to work out place settings and destroying her display. Kitchen’s on Game & Fishmonger Row on Leeds Market who I bought out of venison several times and R Bethell fishmonger a few doors away who sold me lots and lots of scallops. My local greengrocer at Newton Bar who is very very good indeed. Dan from Choco House who wazzed me over some hand-made after-dinner mints. Butterflies school uniform shop on Northgate, Wakefield, who managed to find me a QEGS school blazer at the very last minute on Friday (and honourable mentions to the poor assistant in Asda who caught me trying on school uniforms and didn’t call security). Bierhuis Ossett for a selection of splendid ales as a prezzie for Jake. David Brown Engraving who did the Dad Dancing trophy and had the good grace to stop enquiring after what CDWM stood for. Last but not least Nice & Naughty Leeds (that’s a Facebook link so vaguely safe-for-work) who were the source of the gold disco pants and found me a fresh pair especially for t’telly (they’re these ones – warning the link features a man in pants).
  • The day itself: Mum (again) who rescued me the first time I locked myself out by bringing keys round and stopping about for half an hour to do some washing up while I gyrated in the sunlounge. The next-door neighbours who lent me a ladder the second time I locked myself out. Dad in Australia who brought me off the ceiling in the silly hours of Wednesday morning (thank goodness for family in different timezones). Tillybods sarnie shop up the road who were a total oasis on the Tuesday lunchtime when I was in a state of near-collapse – their sarnies are brill.
  • My bandmates in Obvious Pseudonym who were happy to be on telly again. You can get a copy of Dad Dancing on iTunes.
  • Alan the PD who stepped back when I got stroppy with him at a critical moment, and the rest of the production team who were pretty bloody ace from the first phone conversation right up to getting us out of the house on Friday intact.
  • My clients at the time who were very understanding and generous in their flexibility, especially my coworkers in Ossett who put up with me looking exhausted and wired.
  • …and finally, Lucy who bullied me into doing it in the first place – it’s all her fault.

I think I’ve got everyone in there. If I missed you out, sorry, I’m rubbish.

It was a fun experience of course (if a bit intense at times), the best host won (easily!) and I’ve made three great pals who it’s been lovely to compare notes with, and I’m sure we’ll continue going out for drinks together. If you’re after insights and Director’s Cut type stuff, the only bit it’s probably safe to mention is this short jingle which I penned for when Donna and Angie explored the studio on Tuesday. I don’t think the DAW behaved for it, which is probably a good thing really.

So what’s next, shall I do Bargain Hunt? Or shall I just let normal service resume for a while… 😛

Unless you’ve had me on ‘ignore’ for a month or so (and that includes ‘in-person’), it won’t have escaped your attention that I’ve been going on ad nauseum about the government’s Digital Economy Bill which is an attempt to deal with online copyright, broadband, and all sorts of things. It’s a wide-reaching bill which will affect everyone online in the UK (yes, even you Mum).

I’m not going to go into the actual provisions of the Bill here, because it’s been covered elsewhere. Suffice to say that you, as an Internet subscriber, can be disconnected and prohibited from having an Internet connection without judicial review or trial, simply if you are suspected of infringing copyright. Infringing can be something as simple as unauthorised use of someone’s photo. You can also add ‘blocking websites the Government doesn’t like’ to the mix (Wikileaks was cited as an example in Parliament) – this was withdrawn in the third reading as part of clause 18 but now lives on in clause 1 (thanks ChrisE for clarifying that – Ed.).

As a result of the impending election, it was consigned to ‘wash-up’ – that’s the bit of the Parliamentary session where they try to get unfinished business done before they all go back to their constituencies and make promises they can’t keep. Last night the Bill had its third reading and amid protest it went through (although in a small victory Clause 43 was removed, that’s the ‘orphan works’ bill which would stuff photographers, there’s an AP article here about it). I am reliably informed it was a three-line whip, although there were a few rebels which I’ll discuss in a moment.

While all this was happening I was online watching both the second and third readings on BBC Democracy Live with a copy of the Register of Members Interests in another window to cross-reference. There was of course a substantial discussion on Twitter resulting in the #debill tag ‘trending’ worldwide (my own contributions can be read here if you wade through my feed). What was interesting was that there were politicians actually in the Chamber reading Twitter and responding to questions and suggestions – the most prominent being Tom Watson MP (Lab) (“First time i’ve ever broken the whip in the chamber. I feel physically sick.”) and Dr Evan Harris (Lib Dem) – possibly the first example of directly influencing a debate through online participation?

After the second reading on Tuesday night, Mo put together an open letter which quickly gathered signatories. At least Peter Luff had the dignity to respond, although I don’t agree with his stance at all.

The list of who finally voted against the bill is here. Kudos to the MPs who went against the whip and did their own research – I found myself agreeing with John Redwood MP on Tuesday night in the second reading, quite a bizarre feeling, that!

For my part I wrote to my MP twice – Ed Balls MP (Lab). He didn’t reply, not even an acknowledgement – although in discussion with local activists this is apparently unsurprising. I hear others wrote to their MPs and received a stock ‘I’m concerned and will vote no’ response – then they didn’t even show up for the vote. A few sent stock responses towing the party line (yes I’m looking at you Yvette Cooper MP).

I am not protesting that legislation isn’t needed; I am not protesting that there are Bad Things which need addressing; I am not saying we don’t need some sort of Parliamentary intervention to ensure that the UK’s “digital economy” is protected. What I am saying is that it is a very very complex technical issue which MPs by their own admission did not understand, and which amid protest was forced through without proper scrutiny in a deal which (reading between the lines) was probably done against the Electoral Reform Bill. Over 20,000 of the electorate (many of them the creatives this is supposed to protect) were protesting – that should mean that it gets a better reading than a rushed couple of debates. Nor am I singling out any political party – you were all railroaded by your party whips (mind, Twitter user @holizz points out that only 5 people outside of Labour voted in favour of the bill).

(A sidenote: those of you who work in politics and have repeatedly bleated at me that ‘the system works’ and ‘it’s democracy’ can take your copy of Hansard, roll it up nice and tight, and stuff it up your arse.)

So, we see what happens next; it’s back to the Lords and then I suppose Royal Assent. I have it on pretty good authority though that there is already talk of a Version 2 of the Bill, so the battle may be lost but the war goes on.

The full amended text of the Bill isn’t available yet, but once it is I’ll link to it from here. Trefor’s blog also has some good comment if you want to read more, and if you’re of the opinion that ‘because they weren’t debating the MPs don’t care’ then you should also read Mark Goodge’s diatribe An Empty Chamber Is Not An Empty Mind. Enjoy.

Update: As promised, Guardian Tech have posted A Quick Guide To The Digital Economy Bill – useful reading if you don’t know what it’s on about.

Forwarded from a friend:

In the end, the resources required to keep publishing its much-loved content pages has proved too much. DMGT’s A+N Media is shutting down all of loss-making Teletext’s editorial operations Monday and Tuesday, after 15 years.

That means news, sport, entertainment and other content is disappearing – not just on analogue TV, but also on Freeview and Teletext.co.uk. But A+N is keeping a raft of commercial operations…

Teletext Ltd took over from ORACLE in 1993 on the UK’s ITV and Channel 4 TV stations. I have fond (!) memories of the final minutes of ORACLE where the pages shrunk down to a white dot in homage to 50s and 60s television sets.

Full article is here.

OK, the title’s misleading 😉

Chris Sharp and myself were caught on film for a segment on our local news ‘Look North’ on overcrowded trains. View the clip here, complete with me mopping my brow in the heat!

(Actually, the train wasn’t that overcrowded – there were odd seats everywhere, the most distracting bit was the lass holding the camera who kept shoving her arse in my face.)

Predictably, I went to see the new Star Trek film at the weekend.

At the last minute I wasn’t sure I wanted to see it after all – I’ve followed its progress with interest, and once upon a time I was an avid Trekker so was prepared to nitpick and go into full-on nerd mode. I’ve also not been very complimentary regarding many of the Trek films so…

My first concern was that the ‘new’ cast would simply be actors-playing-actors-playing-characters. Certainly there were elements of that here (most notably in the character of Chekov and the V/W speech) but I look forward to seeing more of John Cho’s ‘Sulu’ or Karl Urban’s ‘McCoy’.

Another issue was that of canon: I wibbled about this a bit back saying ‘it’s just a film’ but I was wondering how it would be dealt with if at all. Yeah, OK, it’s a Trek film that contains time-travel (an oft-used device) but the difference here was that it wasn’t a deus-ex-machina – things were changed in the first two minutes, that’s it chaps, everything you know and love past stardate 22*mumble* has changed and ain’t going back. A throwaway ‘everything you could have been, isn’t’ has explained the lot without labouring the point. Excellent.

(Urgh, time travel mechanics do my nut in, best not to think about it much!)

Right, nerd starship design bit follows, I’ll get it out of my system: Moving the bridge down a level seems a good idea, excellent redesign there (I wasn’t sure I liked it when I saw the stills); nice to see them go back to the original engine room design, but there seemed to be precious few engineers hanging around; whoever did the nacelle design needs shooting; liked the new shuttlebay design. Nerding over, I’m not picking canon, right? 😉

Not many bad points: the two annoyances were when I saw a bit of Nokia product placement (really!), and the JJ Abrams trademark ‘let’s wiggle the camera around’ (which put me off the Battlestar Galactica reboot). The Spock/Uhura interaction grated a little at times.

That said, it’s a very enjoyable film, a hell of a reboot, tons of action/comedy/tragedy, thoroughly recommended and deserving of the label “the best Summer blockbuster since Raiders Of The Lost Ark“. I do hope the now-confirmed sequel is as good.

(…and please can I have the Orion girl for Christmas?)

Update: If you want the full ship nitpick, take a look at Ex Astris Scientia… sigh 😉

Waiting For Godot is one of those plays my father attempted to get through my thick skull when I was young. I remember sitting through a version of it as part of a Beckett television season sometime in the mid-80s and being bored stiff – pretty much how I viewed Hamlet last year.

So, being honest, it was my wife’s excitement and the rather excellent cast which drove me to obtain tickets to see the West End staging of the play last weekend. Of course we had already seen Patrick Stewart in Hamlet (here playing Didi), but he was joined by Ian McKellern (as Gogo), Simon Callow (as Pozzo) and Ronald Pickup (as Lucky).

(Sidenote: Godot itself has been discussed to death elsewhere by people much more qualified than I to give reasoned opinion, so please don’t expect philosophical discourse!)

First off, Ian McKellern was wonderful. I realise Beckett wrote some quite precise stage direction but it was carried off with perfect comic timing. His voice and mannerisms where absolutely spot on. There is little more I can say about that, but I am exceptionally glad I have now seen him on stage.

Simon Callow as Pozzo played, er, Simon Callow. Or maybe Pozzo played Simon Callow playing Pozzo. Or… I don’t know – the role was so suited that it could be any variant really, a role that commanded the bluster for which Callow is so famed.

Lucky’s single soliliquy I suspect is quite difficult to perform (not to say I wouldn’t mind a go) but Ron Pickup did it bang on as well.

Then Patrick Stewart – I’ve not seen him do any comic acting (aside from the odd comedy episode on Star Trek but I feel that doesn’t really count). It was just the right mix of comedy and tragedy in the part although maybe on reflection I felt he hammed it a little at the end of the first half. Nothing to be done.

To be honest, I’m now tempted to dig out the 1977 version (which may have been the one I saw back in the mid-80s on television) and view it with fresh eyes.

Anyway, I suspect the run is sold out now but you should really go and catch it – try and sit fairly centrally in the theatre though as quite a lot of ‘the action’ takes place towards the wings (we were sat at the side of the Royal Circle which meant some rubber-necking and craning was inevitable).

After a bit of a hammering on a crashing website, I managed to secure tickets to see the recording in Newcastle of “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” (show page here). Rob Brydon’s chairing, with Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Tim Brook-Taylor and Colin Sell.

I am utterly over the moon as a consequence 🙂

OK, I may be re-evaluating my opinion of this movie already. Looks like it may actually rock.

Trailer over at the official site.

Good news everybody! A veteran Trek writer is doing the adaptation of the forthcoming Trek prequel:

One of the last pieces of the multimedia rollout for the new Star Trek movie has finally been revealed. Today Pocket Books confirmed with TrekMovie that veteran sci-fi novelist Alan Dean Foster is writing the adaptation for the new Trek feature.

The only author I think I’d prefer to do the adaptation would be Vonda N McIntyre, who wove so many subplots and little characters into the II/III/IV movie novel adaptations.

(Found via trekmovie.com).

Edit: Hitch has reminded me that he wrote some stinkers too. This could go either way.

Podcasts are ace. I only discovered them just before I went to Australia when I upgraded my iPod, but they keep me company while travelling and introduce me to new music. Here then are some good podcasts I enjoy:

The BBC make available a pile of podcasts (although I do wish they’d podcast “Just A Minute”). I listen to:

  • Tom Robinson Presents, full-length tracks from unsigned bands. Yeah OK there’s some crap, but by and large it’s listenable to and introduces me to some artists I’d never have found otherwise.
  • The Radio 4 Friday Night Comedy podcast. News Quiz and The Now Show. Excellent.
  • CBeebies: The Best Bits gets accumulated over weeks to provide a soundtrack to an otherwise dull car journey (supplemented with recordings of the CBeebies Hour on R7).
  • Excess Baggage and The Media Show can alleviate a boring journey as well.

“Enough of this BBC stuff! Give us the independents!” I hear you cry. Oh alright then:

I do tend to prefer the musical ones – of which there are a shortage I think due to licensing issues, especially the BBC ones which show promise; I mean, I’d love to have a full version of Paul Jones’ Blues Explosion or Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone but you only get about a minute or so of each song.

Anyone got any favourite podcasts they like, other than the BBC ones?

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