7th October

I got a new DVD player this week. My Sony wasn't doing too badly but its three years old and had had one or two issues with a few discs. The main reason though was to get one which played DIVX files. It's nice and slim - it makes my Sony look positively chunky. Heaven knows what my first DVD player would look like in comparison - probably the tacky golden suitcase it was but worse. It even has a USB socket on the front of it so I don't evne have to put files onto DVD to play them. If I want to watch videos or view JPGs (or, heaven forfend, someone else wants to show me some photos) I just pop a pen drive into the socket and it reads it. It would even cope if I plugged an external hard drive into it. But that is just silly. Maybe.

My first attempt to put DIVX files on and play them didn't work. I used Roxio - as I always do - and burned the second series of QI. Although the files looked fine on my PC, the DVD player read them as being split into two or three parts. A rudimentary chaptering I thought. Unfortunately, it would only play the first "chapter" in each title. Not great. Not useful. Fortunately, I found a burner which didn't have this "handy" feature. Its the one in today's Toolkit update and it has done a splendid job. A well encoded DIVX file is actually pretty good in comparison with a regular DVD. It is on a par (at least for something pretty static like QI) with some of the cheaper cable channels. It's certainly better than VHS. Given that converting DIXV files to proper DVD files was a real time process (and that it is impossible to make files look less compressed because the information has already gone and your basic home kit can't put it back) I'm saving a tonne of time with this new player. 'Tis a good piece of kit and a steal at fifty English pounds.

The Peter Serafinowicz Show started on Thursday. I had high hopes for it because he's a talented guy and it sounded good from the hype he did on one of Danny Baker's shows a while back. It turned out to be more bad than good. The opening titles were extremely Light Entertainment and I kept waiting for the gag. None came. It was straight LE. The Michael Caine sketch about keeping your face on camera was a nice bit of absurdity and the fat lawyer was ok but mostly it was over-produced and under-funny. There are two kinds of sketch show made by the BBC these days. There are the BBC3 type ones with an ensemble cast and clearly a tiny budget. Sketches are shot with minimal makeup in real locations and you see the same parks, offices and rooms cropping up over and over again. The other kind sees the Beeb throwing so much money at a series that the production becomes all about elaborate makeup and costumes and the humour is sacrificed so the people involved can show how amazingly clever they are. That is why French and Saunders have never been funny in their own self-titled shows but are both more than capable of being funny elsewhere. The Peter Serafinowicz Show had a lower hit ratio than Mitchell and Webb's hot-cold-hot-cold series (and episode of which followed TPSS and was vastly superior even at second viewing). I don't think it is that it was the first episode and we don't yet know the characters - I think it had too much money, too little focus, not enough writing talent and failed to use its most obvious asset properly - that being Peter Serafinowicz himself.

I was in The Works today, buying four hard back books. Two of which reviews say are rubbish and one I only really bought to annoy TheArtist. Despite me not having any carrier bags with me or any visible means of carrying these four hard back books, the boy on the till (for he can have seen no more than fourteen summers) still asks me if I want them in a bag. I'm all for environmental nonsense but is it so hard to train your staff to use a little common sense? PC World go to the other extreme - I bought two DVD boxes which would've fitted snugly in one medium sized bag and the checkout bod lazily shoved them into two massive bags. But then PC World's staff training probably concentrates more on ensuring they know fuck all about computers and can be rude to customers and less on the pros and cons of plastic bags.

I've now seen the Dida incident. When it was first reported on the BBC website it sounded like a fan had attacked him. It turns out a fan mocked him slightly and this was enough to induce a House pre-titles style collapse in the big goalkeeper. If indeed a diagnostician and his team of slightly obnoxious assistants spent the next few days running tests, ruling out Lupus and doing plenty of MRIs then he should have our sympathy and a rousing round of applause when (and if) he makes his comeback. If on the other hand he was faking injury in an attempt to get the game abandoned then he should be banned for a considerable period of time. Not just a couple of Champions League games - he should be given a worldwide ban for six months. Short of actually trying to end another man's career, there can't be many more serious things a footballer can do than try to get a game his side is losing abandoned. Obviously the fan should never have been on the pitch and Celtic should be fined heavily for that breach of security but what Dida did was cynical cheating of the worst possible kind and he absolutely should not get away with it. I know the people who run football are more interested in punishing those who say the wrong things rather than those who do the wrong things but even his own team mates say he did something unforgivable.

And now, Mister Danny Kelly with a tale about one of football's most sought after talents.


3rd October

Ten cool things I've torrented over the last couple of weeks.

(1) The untransmitted pilot of "Blackadder". Rowan Atkinson has famously refused ever to let this be included on any DVD release of the series so there will never be a truly "complete" boxed set. I've only watched the first couple of minutes so I won't say the whole thing is shite but the first couple of minutes are. I may go into it more another time (perhaps even after I've watched it) but I got the impression that anyone who thought the first Black Adder was cheap and unfunny would come away from the pilot with a fresh insight into what cheap and unfunny really looks like.

(2) "The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film". During the 1200 page Peter Sellers biography I read recently (generally referred to in conversation by me as "that wretched Peter Sellers book") the RJSF is mentioned on pretty much every page. It seems to have been one of the few things Sellers actually liked, the writer of the book actually liked and Spike actually liked. Which means it has to be worth a look.

(3) Richard Dawkins's "The Enemies of Reason". I don't know why but Dawkins seems to make a lot of television programmes and I never know about them until months or years later and of course they never get released on DVD. Richard Dawkins is one of those people I think I really ought to listen to a bit more. I've read the God Delusion and it was (in parts) extremely good. If he was on television tonight I would ask my V+ to record it. But he isn't on tonight - he was on in August and I need to find a way to find out about it. Either that or let someone cap it and download it later.

(4) QI series 2. The arrival of the fifth series of what is perhaps the funniest panel game on television (yes, perhaps even nudging ahead of HIGNFY) has made me want to go back and watch some of the early one. Series 1 is out on DVD and sitting on my shelf (next to the still unplayed interactive DVD game). Series 3 and 4 were on in 2005 and 2006 respectively so I have those recorded to DVD. But series 2 aired in 2004 - in the last months of my VHS dependency - and I can't find the tapes. Whoever makes the decisions at BBC Towers has decided not to release the second series in the run up to Christmas so I was pleased that the internet could come to my rescue. There is even part of me that looks at the guest list and thinks I may never actually have watched series two. So its either a treat or an uber-treat. I like that.

(5) "TV Offal". Victor Lewis Smith - TV critic, writer and inventor of the "Seaman Staines" joke which has forever tarnished Captain Pugwash - made a series of weird programmes in the mid-90s. It was somewhere between "In Bed With MeDinner" and "Screenwipe" if memory serves. It was certainly the show which broadcast Philippa Forrester saying "fuck" and aired the infamous swearing Rainbow sketch where Jim Davidson nearly wets himself when Zippy says rude words. Short lived, vaguely remembered and possibly brilliant.

(6) The Battlestar Galactica "webisodes". There were a series of ten short (two or three minute) episodes released on the official BSG website during the gap between the second and third seasons. Except that if you weren't American you couldn't watch them. They were on the R1 DVD of season 3 but not those released elsewhere in the world. Bad form. They give a brief snapshot of life on Cylon occupied New Caprica after the surrender. They're low budget of course but they are part of the overall story.

(7) "The Derren Brown Lecture" - I've no idea where this comes from (other than it is sourced from VHS and says it was recorded in a hotel in 1999) but it is a Derren Brown magic show from before he was famous. His recent work has been too gimmicky (the "Trick or Treat" series seemed to be more Candid Camera than illusion and magic) but when he does what he is best at (and he's so ridiculously talented that he is best at about a dozen things) he is ace. I've only skipped through the video file but (a) he's got more hair and a less stylish beard and (b) it is him doing what he does best.

(8) The Thick of It - Red Button Bit - the recent Thick of It special apparently had a red button bit which was fifteen minutes told from someone else's point of view. I'm a bit vague as I haven't watched the specials yet. I bet it won't be on the DVD when it comes out. Actually it might be - there really is no way of knowing at the moment. Extra stuff gets made for the web or interactive TV and you can toss a coin as to whether the people making the DVD will bother or not. Will we ever see "Attack of the Graske" on shiny disc I ask myself?

(9) "Attack of the Graske" - because I don't think we will. I was on ntl: at the time and the interactive service didn't work nearly well enough for A of the G. And as a two for one, "Scream of the Shalka" too because that DVD keeps not happening.

(10) And finally, the 1979 BBC staff Christmas tape. An annual tradition in the late 1970s, the video tape editors put together collections of outtakes and specially recorded wackiness to amuse their colleagues at the Christmas party. Lots of pillars of the community are heard to swear vigorously (and Frank Bough). It's basically 52 minutes of the sort of thing that would make drunken BBC staff laugh and it pisses on anything Dennis Norden ever did on the night.

So yes you can argue that torrents are evil and are killing the music and film industries but it is also a way to get the sort of rare treasures you might only get if you knew someone who knew someone who knew someone.

If your Quicktime plugin works and my use of the Quicktime plugin works you should be able to sample the professionalism of Mister Frank Bough.

alt : Movie