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Friday June 17 2005

The permalink icon for Pilgrims' progress

Pilgrims' progress

In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde.

There's been several stage, film and TV adaptations of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, but this is possibly the first to take place on the very roads that Chaucer's pilgrims once trod. Southwark Playhouse's promenade production of The Canterbury Tales opens at the George Inn, SE1, with the Prologue. The action then moves - literally - to Little Dorrit's Court where the company (10 professional actors and 20 members of the local Southwark community) will perform the Miller and the Nuns Priest's Tale. The Pardoner's Tale will be relayed among the ciabattas and organic chocolate stalls of Borough Market, while the performance ends in the Millennium Courtyard of Southwark Cathedral.

This means about 30 minutes of walking. But then Chaucer's pilgrims managed five days.

The production opens on June 28, and runs until July 10.

The permalink icon for Cruise and Holmes to wed

Cruise and Holmes to wed

Good grief. Tom Cruise popped the question to his girlfriend of - oh – at least three months, Katie Holmes, at the top of the Eiffel Tower this morning, and she – surprise surprise – said yes. The pair called a press conference to make eyes at the media, at which Holmes was seen to be sporting – in the words of F Scott Fitzgerald – a diamond as big as the Ritz. Their engagement may (or may not) put an end to persistent rumours that their relationship is no more than a publicity stunt designed to boost ratings for their respective new films (Holmes is currently promoting Batman Begins; Cruise, War of The Worlds). Let's see if the betrothal lasts beyond the premieres.

Read the full story here

The permalink icon for Glastonbury: Guardian Lounge

Glastonbury: Guardian Lounge

Martha Wainwright: catch her on Sunday
Photograph: Martin Argles

Exclusive: the full lineup for the Guardian Lounge has just been released. Full details here. There's some fabulous acts lined up - Dead 60's, Willy Mason, Martha Wainwright and Clor not least, while we guarantee you won't be disappointed by the very (very) special guests.

The permalink icon for A most elusive quality

A most elusive quality

A panel of "experts" has declared John Lydon the "most punk" star of all time in a poll conducted for Radio 1.

Lydon himself was predictably (punkily?) contemptuous of the ranking. "What is punk anyway? John never said he was a punk," his spokesman declared. As the other candidates in the running for "most punk" suggest, Lydon's is a good question: what on earth is the quality shared by Eric Cantona and John Peel, Liam Gallagher and Che Guevara?

The permalink icon for Rushdie returns

Rushdie returns

After a 20-year absence from the festival circuit on the not-unreasonable grounds of fearing for his life, Salman Rushdie has announced that he will appear at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival to discuss his latest work, Shalimar the Clown, which is due out in September. Rushdie's appearance is the icing on the cake for the festival organisers, who have assembled a stellar line-up for this year's bash – Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Doris Lessing and Dario Fo are among the other literary luminaries who'll be converging on the city this August – but there's no doubt that his will be the name that makes the headlines. If you want to bag a seat at the feet of the great man, book now – tickets went on sale this morning and aren't expected to last for more than a few hours.

The permalink icon for Dancing Queen?

Dancing Queen?

The Queen has joined the digital revolution, reports today's Sun, and acquired an iPod. Much fun is had guessing what might be on her playlist: the Sun suggests Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears), Elizabeth My Dear (Stone Roses) and Dancing Queen, by Abba. Can you come up with anything better? We suggest I Want to Break Free, by - of course - Queen, Who Let the Dogs Out (Baha Men) for the famous corgi-lover and All That Glitters, by Death in Vegas. And, if she's having a bleak moment, how about a bit of Smiths to cheer her up? The Queen is Dead.

The permalink icon for Reviewed on the site today

Reviewed on the site today

The UN Inspector - an updated version, of sorts, of Gogol's classic 1836 play The Government Inspector - opened last night at the Olivier theatre. Michael Billington wasn't convinced - 'it felt like a suit that doesn't quite fit'.

"By updating it," his review continues, "Farr dilutes both its realism and its myth... while he pins down post-communist mayhem, his adapted plot doesn't really fit." There were, however, some 'bravura passages' of text, and a couple of 'outstanding performances' to enjoy.

Also in today's reviews,


The permalink icon for Aliens do not exist

Aliens do not exist

Orson Welles broadcasts his radio show
of The War of the Worlds in 1938.
The account caused thousands of
listeners to panic.
Photograph: AP
Proof, as if it were needed, that aliens don't really exist comes from the fact that so many of the sightings seem to take place in the States, somewhere out in the midwest. You would have thought that our friends in outer space might have wanted to spread the love around a bit on their occasional visits to our part of the solar system.

Why so many visits to the same hicksville countryside residences? Now, of course, the States is a beautiful place full of lovely tourist destinations, but if you were on a flying visit to planet Earth, wouldn't you want to take home a few snaps of, say, the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, or the Great Wall of China? Or maybe aliens just don't go in for boring their friends with slide shows of their holiday photographs.


Thursday June 16 2005

The permalink icon for Put that in your pipe...

Put that in your pipe...

The ceremonial lighting of the 'Olympic pipe'. Photograph: Steve Hollingshead

It may not be the biggest festival of the summer, but it certainly sounds like the silliest. The National Chap Olympiad will feature young and older fogies rolling up their tweeds to compete in events such as a martini mixing relay, a discus championship using plates of cucumber sandwiches and a quill-throwing competition. There are also a couple of highly suspect challenges entitled "shouting at foreigners" (something to do with ordering kippers) and "freestyle trouser gymnastics" (don't ask). The only prizes on offer are cravats. It's on July 3 at the athletics track in the Outer Circle of Regent's Park, if you would like your valet to note it in your social diary.

The permalink icon for Be First

Be First

Anyone who's interested … We've just this morning launched a new section on Guardian Unlimited Books called First look: the deal is that we've teamed up with HarperCollins to give users the chance to read and review the publisher's big new titles - before they reach the shops. Every month we'll have 20 or so proof copies of a book that's due to come out shortly – we're kicking off with Specimen Days, the latest offering from Michael Cunningham, author of 1999 Pulitzer prize-winner The Hours. We'll set a question, send out copies of the book to the authors of the first correct answers we pull out of the hat and ask them to write a brief review of the book in question in return. So … budding reviewers, sharpen your pencils and get in touch.

The permalink icon for The  Middle way

The Middle way

One for the Tolkien geeks out there (among whom, naturally, I count myself). Dr Henry Gee – senior editor of biological sciences for Nature magazine, no less – will be talking about his new book, The Science of Middle-earth, in the hallowed surroundings of the Natural History Museum, at 12 noon and 2.30pm this Saturday and Sunday. Gee, whose book was given the thumbs up by Alok Jha in Life, is unable to answer all the questions thrown up by Tolkien's universe (according to Jha, Gee "has no idea how the ring could make wearers invisible, but can explain why it seems to have a mind of its own, thanks to the latest thinking in string theory"), but will no doubt deliver an entertaining lecture. Ever wanted to know how it is that elves can see so far, how orcs reproduce or whether or not balrogs really have wings? Then this is for you. Anonymity guaranteed.

The permalink icon for Look At Moy

Look At Moy

"Is Cinderella stupid Kim? She had a pumpkin style coach and she
lived happily ever after. Read your history books, Kim!"

Another great Kath & Kim moment tonight (10pm, BBC2). Only a few more before the big Night and Day day, but don't worry – LivingTV are showing the second series from July 6.

Wednesday June 15 2005

The permalink icon for Live 8 schedules African music concert

Live 8 schedules African music concert

Live 8 organisers have bowed to pressure to include African artists in their plans and announced a concert of African music to be held at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Full story here

The permalink icon for In search of the musicians' musician

In search of the musicians' musician

You're my inspiration ... Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
I've just been looking through some of our Home Entertainment columns, which are building steadily into an impressive archive of leading musicians' inspirations. Rooting through the columns, the idle browser does begin to wonder which musician has inspired others the most. The usual suspects make their predictable appearances – but there are some rather more surprising names which come up again and again.


The permalink icon for ‘Doors are an ongoing interest'

‘Doors are an ongoing interest'

Times are tough at the BBC, writes Phil Daoust so we had a ready explanation when we heard that inmates of Broadcasting House had taken to applauding every time a door squeaked. But no, this is not the first sign of stress-induced insanity.


The permalink icon for Is cinema dead?

Is cinema dead?

Is this the future of cinema-going? Photograph: Getty
Is cinema dead? And, no, I don't mean that metaphorically. I'm not asking if film is creatively dead (although, given that a little birdie tells me that a sequel to Drop Dead Fred is in the pipeline, perhaps that is what I really mean). Neither am I harking back to those glory days of the 70s, when Hollywood was apparently made up entirely of radical auteurs like Scorsese, Coppola and, er, Spielberg.

I literally mean, is cinema dead? Do we no longer enjoy the thrill of finding ourselves in a darkened room with hundreds of strangers, waiting eagerly to discover what cinematic delights are in store for us?


The permalink icon for What connects Thatcher and 60s record producer Joe Meek?

What connects Thatcher and 60s record producer Joe Meek?

Tony Blair's patronage of soft rockers Ezio is well documented, but do you know what Margaret Thatcher named as her favourite song? Telstar by the Tornados. Telstar was produced by Joe Meek, who's the subject of actor Nick Moran's first play. Read an interview with Moran here ; Wikipedia has a good entry on Meek himself.

The permalink icon for You missed the eBay boat, Bob

You missed the eBay boat, Bob

Call me a fawning capitalist lackey. Brand me a World Bank-loving, anti-poor, rich world boosting, multinational adoring sellout. Go as far as accusing me of being a slightly uneasy bedfellow with the Adam Smith Institute.

But whatever you do, please do explain why Bob Geldof is right to call eBay, the online auction marketplace, "an electronic pimp [that] arrogantly thought they were powerful enough to ignore public anger" when the company allowed its users to sell Live 8 tickets on its site.

And, while you're at it, can someone justify why he's fair in calling those who tried to sell their tickets "miserable wretches who are capitalising on people's misery"?


Tuesday June 14 2005

The permalink icon for Tension mounts for Samuel Johnson prize

Tension mounts for Samuel Johnson prize

Tonight will see the announcement of the winner of this year's Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction at an awards ceremony in the swanksome surroundings of the Savoy hotel. Despite the prize's relative youth – tonight takes it into its seventh year – it is hotly contested and most definitely one to watch: previous winners of the £30,000 jackpot have included Antony Beevor for Stalingrad and last year Anna Funder for Stasiland, her captivating account of life behind the Berlin Wall.

This year the judges have upped the stakes with one of the strongest shortlists the prize has ever fielded. Of the six books to have made it to the final round, the ones to watch are Alexander Masters' life-in-reverse of homeless man Stuart Shorter, Stuart: A Life Backwards, which received buckets of press coverage on its publication, Orham Pamuk's musical biography of his home city, Istanbul, and Jonathan Coe's life of BS Johnson, Like a Fiery Elephant, which is generally held by everyone who has read it to be wonderful. We'll bring you the result as soon as we have it …

The permalink icon for Jackson at Live 8?

Jackson at Live 8?

Michael Jackson's rehabilitation might be sooner than anyone could have predicted. Sunday's papers reported that Jackson is 'frantic' to appear at the Philadelphia concert. Interviewed today on London's radio station Capital FM, promoter Harvey Goldsmith confirmed that they would certainly 'consider' adding Jackson to the bill, if approached by the singer.

Goldsmith added: "Whether it's appropriate or not is another issue, whether he's in a fit state to work is another issue, whether he can work is another issue and whether he can work live is another issue."

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