As You Like It:
The dear old alma-mater, the University of Birmingham, is putting the complete works of William Shakespeare online. The site will launch on Tues 23rd April; Shakespeare’s official birthday and St. George’s Day. If you can’t wait; Project Gutenberg got there first, albeit with an “old” version. And if you fancy something a little more “ray-guns and nubile space-babes”, then the new Birmingham Novacon site is now up and running. My long-lost mate Steve Green writes the programme notes. Beautifully, as always.

Jobbing genius:
I’ve finished reading Robert Doisneau – a photographer’s life. It’s from the library; and so is the huge hardback version, the size of a small tabletop. It’s also the “official” life, written while Doisneau was still alive, so it probably skirts some issues which might otherwise have been explored. But… hundreds of photos, and a telling biography of how great art can arise from someone regarded (then) as merely a “jobbing craftsman”.

Market Hall:
I was very pleased to find a copy of the BBC radio tape of Lee Hall’s famous play Spoonface Steinberg, for a mere 99 pence on a market-stall. It seems the other early pre-Billy Elliot Lee Hall play, I Luv You Jimmy Spud is out-of-print; I only heard it once but felt it was even better than Spoonface. Spud won the 1996 Sony Award for New Writing, and was filmed (disastrously) in 2001; which just shows you that an awesome script can still be totally sunk by something as simple as a re-write and some mis-casting.

It’s not like the old days anymore:
I’ve been thinking about The Smiths and the web. About how, before 1994, it was possible to believe one had stumbled on something very special and personal, which today could be contaminated by being able to instantly “know” how popular the phenomenon was in any country around the world, or to link up with a thousand other chattering fans with a tap of the keyboard. A compilation tape first introduced me to The Smiths, and on realising that Girl Afraid was the sound I’d been waiting for, I then had to dig out a magnifying glass and scour the back pages of the NME music paper to discover the titles of the first album and singles. The good old NME, was almost the only valid printed source for such information. Now all I’d have to do is tap in a few keywords and I’d be offered everything the target band has ever recorded, plus all the live bootlegs, ‘spoiler’ reviews, and as much ephemera and scandal as I can cart away. Ok; in the 1980s there were some Smiths tours which sometimes came within fifty miles of south Warwickshire, provided one could get tickets and knew someone with a car. There you might pick up a few sporadic fanzines and some interview tapes. But I fear today’s “quick fix” web and the peer-pressures of fan chat-boards must surely have removed some of the preciousness of a small-town lad’s response to a favorite new band? How to use the web to re-create that feeling of “specialness”, of “exclusivity” when a new phenomenon comes along? Is it even possible? And without a subculture based on scarcity and clearly-identifyable ‘in-crowd’ dress-codes, wither a music/fashion -based subculture?