Christmas is almost upon us, and I nearly forgot to mention this year’s Child’s Play drive. For those unfamiliar, it is the gamers’ charity, started by Penny Arcade, which you can support by purchasing toys and videogames requested by participating children’s hospitals. Sadly the remaining items on the list for the UK’s Alder Hey Hospital are now unavailable, but might I suggest New Orleans as an alternative target for your generosity? Contributions so far have demolished the $1 million target, but that’s no reason to slow down.
You will by now have heard that Rage Against The Machine successfully won the close-fought chart battle to take the Christmas #1 spot. While it’s festive nature may be questionable, I must admit the news has left me feeling significantly more Christmassy than the alternative regurgitated ballad that I fear risks inducing narcolepsy and suicidal tendencies in equal measures (note: this is not an attack on Joe, who seems like a perfectly good singer and took defeat rather graciously in the end; it’s just an attack on the insipid song forced upon him). The real victory behind this is that it exposed many consumers to the wealth of legal music download services available beyond iTunes. Particularly since price comparisons were shown, it will have given many their first exposure to the great 7digital amongst others. Hopefully this will not only push people towards these services in general, but also make them savvy to shopping around rather than just lazily buying through iTunes.
And finally a few links gathering dust over the past couple of weeks:
“Torrents and the TARDIS”: an article on BBC America closing the gap between UK and US airings of Doctor Who, and the resulting effect on viewership and illegal downloads.
Beat The Reaper is the debut novel from Josh Bazell, a thriller told by an ER doctor/hitman, which I picked up in a Borders book store, heaving with vulture-like people tearing the remaining carrion from its carcass. I quite like (and agree) with the Amazon reviewer who described it as a cross between The Sopranos, Scrubs and Quentin Tarantino. Meanwhile I stalled reading Chuck Klosterman’s collection of pop culture essays in Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs because we fell out when he attempted to write a piece on Vanilla Sky without even mentioning Open Your Eyes.
Rainmeter v1.1 is now available, a more user-friendly release of the great tool for desktop customisation with various meters and widgets. I’m currently running a modified version of the Enigma desktop. Sleek but certainly less minimalist than my desktop has been in the past, it offers a wealth of information as soon as I boot up including email, calendar notifications and the latest news.
And, of course, have a Merry Christmas. I’ll be working up until Christmas Eve so the holiday will likely take me by surprise. Hopefully not so much of a surprise that the snow prevents me from getting back to Croydon though.
Being Human was easily one of the most intriguing pilots I saw last year (and probably the only thing I watched on BBC Three). The supernatural drama was broadly about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost who end up in a somewhat unusual flatshare. Existential overtones abound as each of them is struggling to cope with their own condition, but together they find some balance of normality.
Given the silence that followed, I assumed it was unsuccessful and never picked up. So I was pleasantly surprised to find it appearing on the BBC’s schedule for the start of 2009, although it appears there have been some not insignificant changes. The premise remains the same, but of the main cast only Russell Tovey returns as the socially awkward werewolf George. The replacements for vampire Mitchell and Annie the ghost seem to fit a general desire to make the show more mainstream, losing some of the pilot’s gothic sensibilities.
Mitchell suffers particularly from this, morphing into a largely uninteresting good-looking charmer, albeit with a generic “conflicted vampire” struggle to control his bloodlust. This is, presumably, intended to draw in female viewers. In the pilot Guy Flannagan’s delivery had a strange precision that made his words seem like those of someone far older than he looked, while Aiden Turner never seems anything but a twenty-something. Meanwhile Annie seems less oddball but more unstable. Because these characters no longer all come across as outsiders (Mitchell is too socially adept, and Annie presumably was in life) the original group dynamic is lost and they do not seem to hang together quite so well anymore.
These negative (if more attractive) casting changes are not insurmountable if the scriptwriting can hold up, but if the changes do represent an apparent move towards the mainstream, this does not bode well, stripping the show of its uniqueness and relegating to a generic supernatural drama that is unlikely to last long in the wild before being put down.
But probably not for the reason you think. Planet Earth actually imbues me with a deep contempt for the broadcast regulator. The BBC is sitting on an immense library of stunning HD footage which they wish to share with everyone via freeview. For months the regulator has argued HD broadcast over freeview is impossible because it is poor use of limited bandwidth. Of course. What we really need are five extra shopping channels. As HDTVs gradually become the norm, it is difficult to see how such a position can be maintained. It is inevitable that eventually free HD footage must be made available. This will either require an incalculably expensive network of free cable provision, or better use of the available broadcast bandwidth. Currently, it seems, the regulator is just not doing its job. The question is are enough people complaining for them to care? Also, there are over 6 billion humans and only 40 Amur leopards left in the wild. That can’t be right either.
I came across Street Kings, a film about cop culture directed by the writer of Training Day, via the roundabout fact that Hugh Laurie acts in it. Given that his brief appearance in the trailer lasts a scant half a second, one imagines there must be more direct routes through which one might arrive in the same location. He is surrounded by a strangely assembled cast that seems almost contrived with its mix of Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, “Common” and “The Game”. As Jehan points out, Laurie’s inclusion will serve only to cement the already prevalent American misconception that he is in fact an American. Because why wouldn’t he be?