Friday, December 31, 2010

Sixteen to Follow In 2011

Twitter is now a minor obsession with me, invaluable for my work and an endless source of diversion and interesting internet titbits when I'm not. I follow nearly nine hundred people, despite being pretty ruthless with my follow list. People who don't tweet for a month get dropped, too much hate-tweeting also gets you binned as does endless political ranting. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy political tweeting, just not ten tweets inside two minutes.

I have many personal favourite tweeters and I'm risking causing offence by missing lots of friends out but this blogpost is really for the perplexed mates at work who say: I've got a twitter account, but now what? The now what is these sixteen people. They're a start and they lead to lots of other brilliant folk who make twitter the super thing it is these days.

@fieldproducer or Neal Mann, my rival at Sky News who appears to be tweeting on a round the clock basis. His tweets are almost always useful, or funny, or both. Almost everyone at Sky News has a twitter account which is obviously handy for people like myself. @DharshiniDavid is another excellent Osterley based tweet-source for economics issues. And of course there is @peston if you like hot gossip from one of the country's best informed journalists.

@gracedent the UK's funniest TV columnist. Essential if you like sitting on the sofa with your tweet device of choice in one hand, the remote in the other and Strictly Come Dancing or somesuch on the telly din-din. The other superb columnist of this ilk is Caitlin Moran @caitlinmoran who has done me the honour of following me back.

@ruskin147 or my colleague BBC tech editor Rory Cellan-Jones. One of the first people I knew to get an ipad. But he was beaten to the punch by the Guardian's @katebevan. Both write about technology and Rory spices his commentary up with pictures of his adorable dog. I also like @wirefresh which links to a strong tech blog edited by a great friend of mine.

@bletchleypark Many people argue Britain won the war in a series of shabby huts in Buckinghamshire filled with the best code breaking minds in the country. Now the place badly needs visitors and funds as it becomes a museum. A very active tweet account, definitely worth your clickage. My New Years Resolution is to get up there and see around as soon as possible. World War 2 is also represented by which is a tweet account linking to feeds of cabinet minutes from the time.

@Oliverkaytimes Essential if you like sport and football, which I do. Mr Kay breaks stories on a regular basis, as Does David Taylor of the Guardian @DTGuardian

Iain Lee is a stand up comic, a broadcaster and a newish dad. But his beautiful wife@Fandango69 also tweets and they have hilarious bickering sessions online.

will be off to Afghanistan soon. I will be following him and reading his well written and highly informative blog.

Political tweeters I follow across the idealogical spectrum @guidofawkes is essential. Iain Dale is retiring from blogging (he says) but keeps a fizzing twitter account. On the other side of the park there's Labour Matters and @ChukaUmunna who's efforts are a world away from most MPs who generally tweet that they've had a most productive surgery in Oakshotte, or wherever.

That's my sixteen, so please don't be offended if I've left you out - it's a lack of space not a lack of love.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Movies in 2010

Winter's Bone (see below)

You can't see them all and you'd go mad if you tried, but I've been to the cinema a great deal more than last year. Maybe the weather has helped in that I've been indoors a good deal, but the 2010 crop of films has been strong. There's a few I've missed and they're on my to-do list, like Black Swan, Shutter Island and The Fighter. But for what it's worth here are:

Hendo's Six Hot Movies of 2010.

Monsters is a rare thing, a British science fiction film. And it's great. A sort of road movie made by Gareth Edwards with a crew of about seven who travelled through central America in a bus. Every now and then they'd get out, recruit some locals and shoot a scene with improvised dialogue. When he got home Edwards cut the film in his bedroom on his PC and painstakingly added in all the special effects. The result is a very watchable Easy Rider meets Day of the Triffids affair, the budget for which came in at around £300,000. That's miniscule in film terms and should endear him all the more to austerity hit Hollywood. Go see.

Kick Ass A super hero film with a difference, ie that the main character has no super powers but decides to fight crime in a funny costume anyway. He's well played by Aaron Johnson, and the film also boasts a promising performance by Chloe Moretz. Well paced direction from Matthew Vaughn and a sparkly script by Jane Goldman makes it worth getting the DVD, or a download or whatever it is you do these days. But a word of warning, this is one of those films which absolutely everyone loved except me. I thought it was reasonable but there's a bit where one of the characters gets set on fire which crossed my personal line on violence and - for me - spoiled it.

The Social Network. American students talk at one another, invent Facebook, fall out, hire lawyers. I was bored stupid, but everyone else thinks this film is pure gold. I just couldn't manage to care about any of these preppy/nerdy types. Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay and one of his keynote strategies is to make his characters speak quickly 'so that they appear clever'. It revolves around people talking about money in offices and has six Oscar nominations which shows how bankrupt American film culture really is. But I'm afraid you're going to have to see it, if only to post what you think about it on Facebook.

Winter's Bone. A teenager in backwoods Missouri finds her dad has gone missing while on bail, which wouldn't be so bad if the bail surety wasn't the house she lives in with her silent mother and perky siblings. Loved this film for a variety of reasons; the no holds barred depiction of grinding rural poverty and deprivation, the ensemble cast with the outstanding performance from newcomer Jennifer Lawrence as the teenage girl trying to cope with demands most adults would run away from, and the taut thriller of a script. Superb, my film of the year.

Of Gods and Men. A small community of monks in North Africa walk the perilous line between Islamic fighters andTunisian government forces. Beautifully shot with some brilliant acting from the French speaking cast. And a really unusual film which is a bit dull for the first ten minutes but take it from me, it's worth sticking around. Based on a true story which makes the moving drama even higher in impact. Do seek it out.

Inception This film is so clever people had to go and see it twice to work it out. This is risky marketting but fortunately smart break-neck direction, amazing effects and DiCaprio at full throttle makes it all a worthwhile exercise. I think I kind of 'got it' but not being totally sure still made this thriller a great way to spend an afternoon at the Ritzy.

I'm looking forward to the King's Speech and for some reason connected to Tamsin Greig and Gemma Arterton I may see Tamara Drewe for a second time when it comes on the telly. Happy filmery in 2011!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Carlos Tevez

Courtesy Box Office Football

As a journalist of some twenty five years in the trade I tend towards the cynical end of the spectrum as far as my view of human nature is concerned. But even I have been shocked by the decision of the Manchester City captain and top goal scorer Carlos Tevez to hand in a written transfer request to the club's management this weekend. It is a venal disgrace.

Presumably the curtain raiser to this sordid opera was the flirtation of Wayne Rooney with Manchester City earlier this year. A striker who owes a great deal to Sir Alex and Manchester United was considering taking his Bentley across town to the side's most bitter rivals: why? Manchester City fans (I am a long standing sufferer) would have had big problems accepting him. Nevertheless some sort of financial flirtation was reported to be taking place before Rooney's common sense prevailed and he decided to stick with a club which wins things most years as opposed to one whose most recent addition to the trophy cabinet was made in 1976.

Now the irony here is that Tevez made exactly the same journey some months before. For reasons which were inexplicable at the time Fergie decided let him go. For months City fans have had a laugh about this but now it's starting to look like one of his better decisions.

Mr Tevez has made two statements which contrast in the most severe way with the club's account of the affair. Money, he says, has played no part in his wish to sever his very profitable relationship with Eastlands. The rumour this morning is that he is paid £280,000 per week. No, it is his growing disenchantment with football, and the inconvenient geographical position of his estranged wife and two daughters who live in Argentina which is uppermost in his mind at this time.

The club sees it much differently, and a statement from them this weekend claims that until very recently the players representatives were angling for a pay rise and an extension to his contract. Football contract negotiations are a hall of expensive mirrors, but there is a ring of truth about this.

City fans love Tevez, or did until Saturday night. He works and works. He actually scores frequent goals. He can light up the grimmest of afternoons in the shabbiest of surroundings. This quality has been marred in recent weeks by the overt disrespect he has shown to the club's stylish manager Roberto Mancini. The timing of this contract problem is to say the least suspicious and unfortunate, coming as it does with City joint top of the Premier League - the highest position since 1977. I will be interested to hear the fans reaction should he ever have the guts to pull on a blue shirt and run out in East Manchester again.

Monday, December 06, 2010


On the tube to work this evening I was suddenly joined by some students leaving tonight's protest at Tate Britain. They sat next to me, two young men, two women. After a while they started getting things out of their bags to show to each other. One of them retrieved a chess set he'd made, which was contained in a small leather box. He folded back the lid and revealed an ingenious hinged board which expanded out. The carved chess pieces were stacked neatly inside. He'd made two, he informed his friends, but one had been broken. Another student got out a picture she'd done, presumably on the protest they'd been to. Two police officers, sketched with great skill in green pen stood glumly while a student in a bikini with a clown face arched over them like a dolphin.

I find it difficult not to be charmed by these people.