Monday 29 February 2016

Oscars schmoscars

Last month, I tried to predict the outcome of the Oscars. To demonstrate why I'm not much of a betting man, here's a summary of last night's winners against my predictions. Let's see how I did.

88th Academy Awards Nominations
Best Picture
Prediction: The Revenant
Winner: Spotlight
Score: 0/1

Actor in a Leading Role
Prediction: Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
Score: 1/2

Actor in a Supporting Role
Prediction: Sylvester Stallone - Creed
Winner: Mark Rylance - Bridge of Spies
Score: 1/3

Actress in a Leading Role
Prediction: Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years
Winner: Brie Larson - Room
Score: 1/4

Actress in a Supporting Role
Prediction: Jennifer Jason Leigh - The Hateful Eight
Winner: Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl
Score: 1/5

Prediction: Alejandro González Iñárritu - The Revenant
Winner: Alejandro González Iñárritu - The Revenant
Score: 2/6

Animated Feature Film
Prediction: Anomalisa
Winner: Inside Out
Score: 2/7

Costume Design
Prediction: The Danish Girl
Winner: Mad Mad: Fury Road
Score: 2/8

Documentary Feature
Prediction: Winter on Fire
Winner: Amy
Score: 2/9

Documentary Short
Prediction: Last Day of Freedom
Winner: A Girl in the River
Score: 2/10

Makeup and Hairstyling
Prediction: Mad Max: Fury Road
Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
Score: 3/11

Original Song
Prediction:Writing’s on the Wall - Spectre
Winner: Writing’s on the Wall - Spectre
Score: 4/12

Animated Short
Prediction: Bear Story
Winner: Bear Story
Score: 5/13

Sound Editing
Predicted: The Revenant
Winner: Mad Mad: Fury Road
Score: 5/14

Predicted: The Revenant
Winner: The Revenant
Score: 6/15

Film Editing
Predicted: The Big Short
Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
Score: 6/16

Foreign Language
Predicted: Mustang
Winner: Son of Saul
Score: 6/17

Music - Original Score
Predicted: Bridge of Spies
Winner: The Hateful Eight
Score: 6/18

Production Design
Prediction: Bridge of Spies
Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
Score: 6/19

Live Action Short
Prediction: Day One
Winner: Stutterer
Score: 6/20

Sound Mixing
Predicted: The Revenant
Winner: Mad Mad: Fury Road
Score: 6/21

Visual Effects
Prediction: The Martian
Winner: Ex Machina
Score: 6/22

Writing - Adapted Screenplay
Prediction: Brooklyn
Winner: The Big Short
Score: 6/23

Writing - Original Screenplay
Prediction: Bridge of Spies
Winner: Spotlight
Score: 6/24

So how did I do? A frankly appalling 25% hit rate, barely better than putting a blindfold on and sticking a pin in the list. In my defence, my predictions were based on what I've seen, read and heard about these films as, to date, I have only seen one of the titles mentioned on this list (and you're unlikely to guess which one - let's just say it only received one nomination, in a lesser category, and didn't win).

Basically, what I'm saying is, I've got an excuse for this year but unless I watch a lot of films in 2016 I won't be trying this predictions lark again next year.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

All the songs sound the same (or, The Amusecast, episode 2)

This stuff is a lot easier using a fast laptop...


  1. Jake Bugg - Broken
  2. Billy Bragg - No-one Knows Nothing Anymore
  3. Midlake - Antiphon
  4. Strangelove - Time For The Rest Of Your Life
  5. Manic Street Preachers - (I Miss The) Tokyo Skyline
  6. Radiohead - Spectre
  7. Travis - Where You Stand
  8. U2 - Trash, Trampoline and the Party Girl
  9. Ben Watt - The Gun
  10. Morrissey - I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday
  11. Gene - Olympian

If you like the sound of that lot, here's the download.

And yes, Morrissey will appear in all these podcasts.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

The Amusecast demo

Anyone who has read this will know how much importance I used to place on a good mixtape, and how much effort I put into them back in the day. And I miss those days. MP3 playlists are fine, I guess, but they're no substitute, for this boy at least.

Imagine my intrigue, then, on discovering Spreaker, courtesy of the always-excellent (New) Vinyl Villain and his Radio 236 experiment. Maybe I could create podcasts without words (no-one wants to listen to me), and in that way spoof the mixtapes of yore.

That was the idea, anyway. I dutifully downloaded the Spreaker software last night, but it's designed for large screens and I was working on a netbook, so that got ditched quite quickly. Instead, I just grabbed a handful of MP3s off the FiiO, fired up Audacity and stitched them together, as neatly as I could. In my defence, I was doing this between the hours of 1.15 and 1.45am, so I didn't spend any time at all trying to cross-fade tracks, and listening back to it this morning the outro/intro between tracks one and two is too long and quiet, unless you've got good headphones. More importantly, I didn't spend very long at all choosing or sequencing the tracks, so the result is not something I'd enter into my mixtape hall of fame. It's okay though, I think, and it nicely meets my target of being "one side of a C90". More than anything though, it's a technology test - this is my demo, if you like.

Anyway, that's the self-deprecation and excuses out of the way. Here's the podcast. I don't know if you're the sort of person who "does" podcasts. Maybe you are, and maybe you'll like this. If there's interest and/or positive feedback, I might take the time to do more, maybe one a month, and maybe loosely themed. We'll see.

If it helps you decide whether to listen, the track listing is:

  1. Atoms For Peace - Default
  2. The Stone Roses - Begging You
  3. Nirvana - Heart-Shaped Box
  4. Pixies - Bagboy
  5. P J Harvey - Good Fortune
  6. Franz Ferdinand - Do You Want To?
  7. The Killers - Read My Mind
  8. I Am Kloot - Proof
  9. The Replacements - Skyway
  10. Paul Weller - Why Walk When You Can Run?
  11. Morrissey - Now My Heart Is Full

If you like the sound of that lot, here's the download.

Monday 8 February 2016

Just type your question below

You're all familiar with the idea of "live" support on websites, right? The idea that you can type your question in a box and someone, somewhere in the world will reply? It's an increasingly popular customer engagement tool, and I sort of see the point, but the idea of having a "live" experience by typing some words in a box and having someone, somewhere, typing something back on the other side of the world and under an assumed name, well, that sort of gets my goat too. I know, I know, this could be my Grumpy Old Men audition piece.

I also can't help but wonder how much of it is real too. How many questions can be answered automatically, by some swank CRM software or artificial intelligence? So much do I wonder this that sometimes I just have to ask.

Areal person, taking to me.

I especially like how all the boilerplate phrases have perfect spelling and punctuation, and as soon as "Emma" is required to go off-piste, well, all that good stuff goes to the dogs. I'm probably wrong about fancy AI behind live support chats, it's probably still cheaper to hire someone in a far-flung corner corner of the globe and call him "Emma" or "Summer" or "Kelly". But I'm probably right in thinking that they have a long list of stock phrases, ready to copy and paste into your conversation.

Something to bear in mind, next time live support leaves you feeling a beautiful and unique snowflake.

Friday 5 February 2016

London loves...

I will be changing jobs soon, not just role but employer. I've been in my current job for nearly eleven years, so I've got lots of sorting out to do before I go, both physical (going through shelves, files and drawers to apportion everything into either a "pass on", "take with" or "bin" pile) and virtual (my C drive and network share). It's taking an age - who knew eleven years of career stasis would entail the accumulation of so much stuff? But I am finding one or two interesting things - here's an example.

During the 2012 Olympics, the BBC's excellent online coverage was plastered with graphics making London look beautiful. Of course they were all overlaid with captions and logos, which spoiled the effect somewhat. However, I was sufficiently taken with the pictures to collate every one I could find, and cobble them together into a single text-less, logo-less version. Now I don't have Photoshop, and if you look carefully (and know what you're looking for) maybe you can see the joins. But anyway, this is the result.

London, idealised and stylised

I quite like it. I know London is not like that, outside of dramas like Spooks and Hotel Babylon. I know that the buildings don't all radiate reflected sunlight like that, and I know the landmarks seem disproportionate and preternaturally close together (the Beeb's doing, not mine). I know, I know, I know. It's just an idea of London, idealised and stylised, but I like it, and thought you might too.

Besides, now I've blogged it, I could move the file from the metaphorical "take with" pile to the "bin" pile. Though you'll have noticed I said could there, rather than can or will.

Footnote: +1 kudos point is on offer for identifying the song that gives this post its title.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Death at one's elbow

So, hot on the tail of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Colin Vearncombe and Dale Griffin goes Terry Wogan. That's quite a early-evening chat-show line up, right there.

I didn't listen to Terry Wogan on the radio until the very last years of his breakfast show, so most of my memories of him are television-based. I remember Kenny Everett bending Terry's wand mic on Blankety Blank (and no, that isn't prison talk). I remember George Best being too drunk for that early-evening chat show. I even remember Tel's moment of golfing glory, sinking what was then the longest televised putt in history. But most of all what I remember is from the very early days of Children In Need, when Joanna Lumley did a mini-striptease for Terry, all for a pledge from some punter or other. I would have been about thirteen at the time and, tame though this clip now seems, its effect on me at the time was profound, and lasts to this day as a crystal-clear memory.

Also, passing (literally) under the radar, Frank Finlay died on the same day as Terry. I mostly remember him as Porthos in Seventies films The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. Classic stuff. I was going to find a suitable clip on YouTube to show you, but when casting around for one I stumbled instead upon his TV portrayal of Casanova from 1971 (Dennis Potter's first television series, fact fans) and which seems, to my untrained eye, to be a little closer to the source material than David Tennant's more recent interpretation. See what you think.