Friday 31 July 2009


My life in films

I stole this idea I’m afraid because it rather appealed…I thought it came from either of two of my favourite reads, Sunset over Slavit or Bloggertropolis, but even though I’ve searched high and low I can’t find it again. But pay them both a visit anyway as both their blogs are well worth a good read. And please tell me if you come across the original poster to whom I apologise profusely.

There is a strange discrepancy here, which I hope you won’t notice. Although I proclaim my age as 37, and have done for a little while now, the list starts in 1961. I can’t really explain why. It's not quite a list of my favourite films (but close), as I had to make some sacrifices in the interest of relevancy, even if they’re awful…

1961 - Breakfast at Tiffany’s – fabulous film, if quite a distance away from its origins. When in New York, I offered to buy the boy’s mum anything she liked from Tiffany’s. I’m glad she turned down the offer as I’d never have been able to afford it anyway

1962 – Dr No- a hard choice, with strong competition from Lawrence of Arabia, but at the end of the day Bond, James Bond has kept me and the boy entertained for longest

1963 – Charade. With Audrey Hepburn and a meeting that takes place in Megeve, my favourite skiing resort, it couldn’t be any other

1964 – Mary Poppins – no childhood would be complete without a sprinkling of Disney magic

1965 – Sound of Music and I’m not ashamed I went to see the stage version a couple of years ago too. But I think I should really plump for Dr Who and The Daleks, as it’s the first film I remember being taken too by Grandma in Cyprus. I don’t remember my father being there

1966 – Alfie. My life as I imagine it would be given half a chance…but please edit out the ending

1967 – Barefoot in the Park – I’m a true romantic at heart and love this film. But I’ve had to ignore other firm favourites – The Jungle Book, The Graduate and To Sir, With Love

1968 – The Thomas Crown Affair. All style over substance, and sums me up pretty well (PR is in my blood). I liked the remake too; probably more. Well it was either that or Barbarella, which is every school boys perfect fantasy film. And was responsible for Duran Duran

1969 – The Italian Job. The original is as popular with me as its remake is with the boy. We both know the line “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off”. I’d like to have chosen They Shoot Horses Don’t They? But it’s a bit depressing

1970 – Catch 22. Well that’s life, eh?

1971 – The French Connection. Not because of the car chase, but because it’s the first time I remember watching a film thinking “I can’t remember his name”, looking up Gene Hackman, and then forgetting it 10 minutes later. I’ve lived in mortal fear since

1972 – What’s Up Doc. Dreadful film. I can’t believe I was taken to see this, when I’m sure I could have sneaked in to see The Godfather

1973 – Not a classic film year, and I'm really struggling to find any I really like or relate to. I've never Tangoed in Paris, nor have I said a Long Goodbye, so I'll plump for Papillon which goes to prove you can like the film even if you don't like the actor

1974 – The Odessa File. Frederick Forsyth was my equivalent of JK Rowling. I wish I read more now

1975 – Rollerball – I was taken to see the film with my brother by the local vicar. He was later sent down for kiddie fiddling. We had a lucky escape.

1976 – The Omen. My first 18 certificate film. I’m not sure how my fellow school chums and I got in

1977 – Equus – my life will remain incomplete until I see this. In recent years, there’s many a film I’ve missed at the cinema because of parental duties. Thank heavens for cheap DVDs

1978 – National Lampoons Animal House. It taught me never to waste my money going to see this type of film. Ever

1979 – The Tin Drum. To say this was an enjoyable film would be slightly perverse, but it opened my mind to the power of European cinema

1980 – Ordinary People. I walked out of this because it was so dull. Lesson for life – if you're in a situation that you shouldn’t be. Leave

1981 - Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana at his best. Wouldn’t we all like to be him

1982 – Blade Runner. “I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.” We should all be able to say that at some time

1983 – The Right Stuff. I got stopped by a researcher in the street, asked if I wanted to see this and answer a few questions afterwards. I’ve been addicted to answering questionnaires ever since

1984 – The Company of Wolves. For years my favourite film, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it

1985 – Brazil. I am Sam Lowry

1986 – 9 ½ Weeks. It was banned in Brighton…and you thought the city with Europe’s largest gay population was liberal-minded? The police also went through a phase of raiding pubs where anyone danced to the juke box – you need a dance licence you see

1987 – Wings of Desire. I secretly want to be an angel. But not yet for sure.

1988 – Biloxi Blues or Big Blue. I’m not sure, but clearly blue was the colour of the year. Neil Simon is a cracking writer, and I loved Brighton Beach Memoirs, even though it’s The Brighton Beach on the wrong side of the Atlantic. Luc Besson and Jean Reno…a great combination

1989 – Cinema Paradiso. The world would be a better place if we could all escape to the fantasy land of cinema every day

1990 – Comfort of Strangers. By far and a long way Ian McEwan is my favourite author. My first experience of him was reading Black Dogs cover to cover whilst waiting for a plan in Turkey. He’s become more subtle as he’s got older.

1991 – Frankie and Johnny – shows why you should see these things at the theatre. Unlikely cast.

1992 - Reservoir Dogs. Tarantino walks on water. 'Stuck in the middle with you' was never the same again. And I am Mr…..

1993 – True Romance – love conquers all. And a film that I manage to keep missing the beginning, the end or some of the middle until I got the DVD a couple of weeks ago

1994 – Four Weddings and a Funeral. In my youth I used to serve champagne at weddings just like these ones. I got married in a registry office. And I have to mention Pulp Fiction – what is in the case?

1995 – Desperado. I’m glad the boy plays the guitar, very well indeed. But I hope he doesn’t take up guns. Robert Rodriguez is a great director. Oh and by the way this is the year the boy made his presence felt

1996 – The English Patient. Amazing book, poor film. Last time the boy’s mum and I went out on a date was to see this.

1997 – Flubber. First film the boy ever saw at the cinema. He sat entranced through the whole thing. Not bad for a two year old

1998 – Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – my first DVD purchase, and a good one too. Shot in and around Borough where we used to live – I love seeing films with familiar places in

1999 – The Sixth Sense – didn’t see it until it came out on DVD. I don’t like horror films as they scare me, so curiously I chose to watch this by myself at 2.00 am when I couldn’t sleep.

2000 – Malena. On my list of five, Monica Bellucci is numbers 1 through to 5. The critics must have watched a different to film to me as my interpretation is a million miles away from theirs

2001 – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – The boy had been reading the books from a very young age, and we also bought (at exorbitant prices) Stephen Fry’s excellent talking books for car journeys. I can’t believe I missed chatting JK Rowling up when we were at Exeter University

2002 - The Quiet American. I never really liked Michael Caine until this film; Brendan Fraser was ace in George of The Jungle. A mesmerising film, and I’ve been desperate to go to Vietnam ever since. Fed my George Bush-inspired dislike of all things American, now thankfully cured. Scrat from Ice Age is probably my all time favourite film character. Which is worrying. City of God contained the most shocking scene I’ve seen.

2003 – Kill Bill. This breaks a self-imposed rule for the list, but it just had to be in here. So instead I choose Touching The Void. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve the impossible. But I’m not encouraging the boy to go climbing

2004 – The Motorcycles Diaries. I ride a bike (now). After the financial and political shananigans, may be it’s time for a revolution. And just how fascinating is South America. Wanderlust.

2005 – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Don’t panic!

2006 – Fearless. Crouching Tiger, hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers, Hero, Curse of the Golden Flower. Never has the cinema had such beautiful cinematography

2007 – Sweeney Todd. I think. Mainly because the brother of French Woman in our office was going out with Vanessa Paradis’ sister. Vanessa Paradis being married to Johnny Depp. Proving the law about six degrees of separation. On the other hand 300 was beautiful, and in the same vein as Sin City a couple of years earlier

2008 – Hancock. We watched this on the flight back from Cyprus. A year before Grandma in Cyprus had stopped being Grandma not in Cyprus, and I suspect that it’s the best decision she (and Step Grandad in Cyprus) ever made

2009 – Worryingly I’ve not made it to the cinema this year. The boy goes with friends, and I don’t feel able to go to see Ice Age 3 by myself. I have a gig buddy, I need a film buddy.

Thursday 30 July 2009

You may think you're doing this for fun, but....

Here's an article that was sent to me in the course of my daily labours by the American publication MediaPost. I earn a living as a spin doctor, but am troubled when I receive press releases to the blog - hypocrisy? Maybe. Of course, it's nice when people send you things, but it's a shame there's always a commercial consideration behind them (there are some parts of my life that I'd like to keep free from the realities of the economy), even if sometimes it's well-hidden:

Facebook and MySpace: Beware Of The Mommy Bloggers
by Catharine P. Taylor , Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I was reading the write-ups of last week's BlogHer conference in Chicago secretly jealous that even though I'm a mommy and a blogger, this junket was simply not in the cards for me.

But it wasn't just jealousy that drove my interest, it was how the mommy bloggers inadvertently, perhaps, uncovered a central truth about social media marketing: it isn't at all about carefully targeted display ads, or search ads, but about relationship-building. Unfortunately, that isn't something the Facebooks and MySpaces of the world have learned to monetize very well yet. So, while the discovery of the mommy bloggers is great for advertisers, it's not so great for those who are trying to be the broker that connects the bloggers with the marketers. That connection is already happening directly.

I'm going to quote a competitor to Mediapost, Advertising Age, but its packaged-goods reporter, Jack Neff, said it best: "BlogHer helps solve the mystery of how marketers will manage to spend money on social media despite showing relatively little interest in ads on Facebook or MySpace and the numerous free opportunities available everywhere."

Neff than goes on to quote Jill Beraud, the Global Chief Marketing Officer of PepsiCo, who explains that wooing the mommy bloggers is a long-term ROI effort. As for the entire roster of advertisers at BlogHer, it reads like a who's-who of the blue chip: Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, General Motors, Gymboree, Unilever, Kodak.

When you look at that list, you begin to wonder whether the more-than-1,000 women who showed up for the conference are the new reach and frequency. If you believe that word-of-mouth, and the word-of-mouth created by mommy bloggers, is more powerful than banner ads, not to mention TV commercials, you can envision the ramparts of traditional marketing breaking down.

I'm not such a radical to think that TV commercials will go away, but there is still something seismic going on here -- not just in a shift of media dollars away from traditional media, but in advertisers finding that perhaps the best way to market in social media channels has nothing to do with paid media. As Facebook and MySpace try to build their monetization models (and Facebook finds itself embroiled in its second click-fraud suit in recent weeks), let's hope, for their sakes, that they are watching this trend closely, and working on ways to get paid by facilitating the connections between social media moms and advertisers, and/or providing marketers with the intel they need to understand their markets.

Strangely, as I was writing the paragraph above, I got a press release in my email from PQ Media predicting that word-of-mouth, which was a $300 million sector in 2003 will reach $3 billion by 2013. Predictions, as we know, can be pretty faulty, but it's clear that the general trend is up.

It's no coincidence that concurrent to the mommy blogger conference, a small group of mommy bloggers began "Blogs with Integrity," which has been described as a Good Housekeeping-style seal of approval emphasizing that content read on blogs with the organization's seal are not subject to, well, blogola. That both points to the problems with courting mommy bloggers with products and services, and their power. If mommy bloggers can hold onto their credibility, the future is theirs.

You go, girls!

Catharine P. Taylor has been covering digital media and advertising for almost 15 years, and blogs daily for BNET Media.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Builders Bum/Grand Designs

As anyone will tell you, I'm one for tidyness. The evidence of clothes strewn around my bedroom floor and dirty dishes perched precariously on the arm of the sofa may count against me, but in my heart, I like things to be in their place. You can understand then how much angst there has been for the last seven months as we have had to live in a state of perpetual chaos. Because 2009 has been the year of living in a building site. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not whingeing, I'm just looking for all the support and sympathy I know you have to offer me in my hour of need.

In Buckhurst Hill, we have had a new tiled floor in both the kitchen (replacing some curling linoleum) and the bathroom (replacing some beige carpet left by the previous owners - I really can't stand carpet in the bathroom), new bathroom extractor fan (it gets steamy for all the wrong reasons) and shaver sockets (left unsupervised, the electrician fitted them in the ceiling too - WTF?), completely replastered the landing and staircase walls (I'm not one for Artex). The job involved chipping all the old stuff off the wall, and even now I find places with enough dust to recreate a whole new Sahara in our back yard. And we put down a new cream carpet to replace the dark blue with swirly flowers one which would have been nice about forty years ago.

We also replaced the back door with a new one - a stable door - that task should have taken a couple of days, but ended up stretching on for five weeks.

It would have been worse, but my friend at Wallpaper magazine threw her arms up in horror when I suggested removing the York Stone fireplace. Evidently it's a la mode, de rigeur and quite avant garde. I'm not a follower of fashion, but if the bible of the design cognescenti speaks, I feel I should listen.

Down in Brighton, its been a similar tale, so we've had no where to escape to.

Just before the New Year, I summoned (oh yes the feeling of power when I know I'm going to be writing a fat cheque) the builder/project manager who had previously created the office, and in Brighton had previously fitted a new bathroom, ripped out old kitchen and turned it into a bedroom (don't worry, our flat was once two, so we had two kitchens which is at least one more than I need). I went through and explained everything that needed to be done, and sat back and waited. And waited. And waited. By the beginning of March I still didn't have a quote. So I had to start again, without the benefit of a project manager. Firstly I got in an electrician who fitted new sockets, switches and fuse board (they're not called fuses any more, but hey ho) and left them to hack as many holes in the walls as they possibly could whilst putting a number of sockets in the walls at a delightful angle - different angle every socket. Nice. The dust was spectacular. So I set about cleaning up...but it's hard when all you can see is holes in walls.

Next in came the decorator, and in fairness to him, he is fabulous. But as every room was being decorated, everything I own was piled into the middle of each room making it impossible to find anything. Brighton is an old Regency building, and as he peeled old wallpaper (some of which could probably have made an appearance on Antiques Roadshow), the wall would come with it. In large chunks. Combine that with lots of rubbing down and guess what? Yes, yet more dust and rubble. You could walk in the flat, and within a moment your mouth was filled with a gritty taste. Nice.

My mistake was to allow him to cut away the edges of the well-worn and very tired carpets, as that means whether I want to or can afford to I have to replace them all.

At the same time the damp-proofers came in to sort out the damp that had plagued the flat for years. Several tries and several weeks later, the damp is still there, just in different places. Newly decorated places too.

Back at the start of May we also went into the kitchen shop as the current one would be condemned by the health and safety thought police. What I thought would be a straightforward process became very tortuous, and it was only last week that we were able to actually order it. And if we're lucky they might begin to instal it sometime in September...but only if I acquiesce to the very extortionate over-charging the installer is demanding for the removal of the old one. Still it'll look lovely when it's done. And it evidently comes complete with beautiful sunset out the window.

The decorating is finished, all except the entrance hall and landing - which we can't start whilst we've still got the old kitchen to go out and the new one to come in. The plan is for a beautiful polished venetian plaster finish. But no one mentioned that to do that all the bendy crooked two-hundred year-old walls will need to be skimmed. And I've had to abandon refurbishing the upstairs bathroom until next's just too much for a stressed out homeowner like me. The boy is very pleased with his rather plainer room than the space-rockets and stars and planets of his childhood. I'm just waiting for pictures of busty page 3 girls to go up. I'll sneek a peek.

So if all goes according to plan B, or plan C or even plan D, I reckon we might just be free of workmen by Christmas. Or the New Year. But I'm not saying which New Year.

Sunday 26 July 2009

Say cheese!

contains mild horror

We've not been down to Brighton much this year...growing pains and the need for the boy to see more of his friends here in sunny Essex, as well as an ongoing builder saga (of which more later) have seen to that.

It's about six weeks since I last dragged the boy down, but I managed to escape to the coast a fortnight ago (when he was yomping over the Downs). It was sunny enough for me to spend a couple of hours on the beach with a picnic from Tescos - some melon pieces, sausage rolls, a drink of apple juice and two bags of mixed cheeses (they were on offer). Most of it got eaten, but the cheese was too much so was dropped on the kitchen table when I got home.

We returned to Brighton on this Friday evening early enough to see the end of Hotel Babylon and to be feeling a little peckish. I wandered into the kitchen to find the cheese - yes it had been left there forgotten over the warm previous fourteen days and nights. Naturally, I shoved it in the fridge for five minutes before deciding I was actually really hungry. So I took it out, gave it a swift sniff (yes it smelled of cheese) and peeled open the camembert as I sat on the sofa. Three crumbs of rind fell on my T-shirt so I picked one up and dropped it in my mouth, before looking down to pick up the other two crumbes. They were moving. They were wriggling. I screamed a girlie hysterical scream. The cheese was crawling.

Yes I'd eaten a maggot.

I still feel sick.