"Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world; it is a hammer with which to shape it"

Saturday, 31 October 2009

All Is Full Of Love

...and sheep may safely graze... or Cheltenham’s Ladies may safely go back to learning at any rate...

And now as SWF ’09 has already begun its pass into memory, I ought to put something down about it; just can’t think what. I managed, almost successfully, to control my crazy for nearly the whole four and a half days- the cracks did start to show on the last night- presumably due to a heady brew of zero-sleep and Strongbow. I still don’t understand or care much for networking... I find approaching anybody with my own agenda very hard.

There will now follow a couple of random opinions...

If I write nothing else about SWF there’s just one big thank you to all the good people who managed to put up with my diminishing levels of sane for the duration. The words ‘above’ and ‘beyond’ spring readily to mind. Thank you.

Here’s something you need to view, now, and throughout the next week, Girl Number 9, from the brains of Dan Turner and James Moran. It’s really rather good.

I’ve officially dumped the word ‘aspiring’ into a great big bin designed for holding ‘negative power words’*. (That should please Lord Arnopp.)

Thursday last became quite a good day- full of ups and downs, it was. Now, as I am supposed to be semi-literate I should be able to find some words to describe the feeling I’ve been left with post-Festival. Unfortunately I can’t think of any and, as I can’t share the appropriate mimes, I can only explain it with musical clips... it’s a combination of the following...

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 Mvt. 4

(Buy this version by the way.)

Bjork: All Is Full Of Love

1998, Chris Cunningham

Final thing. Tonight is Hallowe’en. I had intended to watch some appropriate films; had decided to watch through as many Blind Dead films as possible before either a) my brain cell melts or b) I doze off. As it is, I’ve noticed they’ve got a Francis Bacon night on BBC4 instead... curse you scheduler people! Still, the documentaries finish at 11 so that gives me enough time for Tombs, Return and possibly the The Ghost Galleon

And the cat’s just got into the Hallowe’en spirit by walking past the window with a large bird obscuring his mouth. Mice, I don’t mind; birds, I do.**

*I just made that up but it’s sounds very guru-speak, don’t it?
**The cat’s started eating the bird... how can creatures so soppy be so vicious?***
***And now he’s sitting at the window looking very smug.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Seen Saw... and II and III... so that’s thrice I, twice II and once III...

One simple question: is Jigsaw the most annoying psycho-killer in cinema history?

The evidence...

• he’s pointlessly loquacious, he just goes on and on and on- blah, blah, blah, blah, blah- talking endlessly, you’d have thought a guy with so little time left would be more succinct but no... has he never heard that brevity is the soul of wit?
• ...and if he thinks his message so serious why does he treat it as a game?
• ...and to what end is he jabbering, it wouldn’t matter if what he was saying was interesting, but it’s so repetitive- ‘value life’, ‘this is a test’- he could be replaced by a roadie, ‘one, two, one two, testing, testing’,
• ...and what does he say, well, it’s a sort of half-baked philosophical nonsense that’s a bit too much like it was jotted down in the back of a 15-year old’s school exercise book,
• ...and in turn this moralizing seems to have very limited internal logic; the traps tests don’t seem to have properly defined moral choices or a proper way out and, more bizarrely, to get one person to value life he will happily cut great swathes through the innocent members of their close family, friends and people they just happened to meet in the pub some time... and he claims he’s not a murderer!
• ...and his traps don’t seem to fulfil the parameters he apparently envisages,
• ...and his puzzles are needlessly contrived- they have so many variables that he must be either very lucky or there are several thousand un-triggered back-up plans sitting round like so much UXO and cluster bombs, in fact, he’s like some speed-freak Bond villain-cum-Satanic Mary. Whitehouse,
• ...or maybe he’s just watched Se7en a few too many times and completely misunderstood the simplicity of John Doe’s master-plan... and they say movies don’t make you violent!

...the case for the prosecution rests.

The big surprises about Saws II and III are that they don’t suck- a technical term- (II was in fact quite enjoyable) and aren’t especially violent.

The big minus... each sequel detracts from the excellent original Saw.

The big plus... at least they’re well-made (and watchable) unlike Hostel.

PS: I loved this TV guide description of Saw II, “Think Se7en meets The Crystal Maze”. So, now you know, Jigsaw is in fact Richard O’Brien... prepare to beam back to the Planet Transsexual.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Recent developments....

Been a bit busy of late, gathering my thoughts for the Screenwriters’ Festival which is now looming large in something I like to call next week...

Have also managed to have another car written off- the fourth- none have been adjudged my fault. So, another write off... or is it? An air of mystery hangs over this- it initially looked as if I’d just broken a front headlight in what was a very low speed impact. I took it to my regular garage for a replacement and, having got it up on the ramps, they rang to say they spotted a chassis leg had been cracked and that this was not viably repairable. So, I had to take the thing to the insurance approved engineer and their initial assessment was it just needs a new headlight... all very odd. Now, they’ve looked at it more and concluded... it just needs a new headlight. Not sure what the outcome of this will be; would rather like it to be a straight headlight repair but fear, with my luck, it will not. But keeping my fingers crossed. I really dislike dealing with insurance claims.

Now another random conundrum. The other night I did me a pizza and settled down in front of TV (and I can’t recall whether this was during Emma [good- far lighter adaptation than most period things], the South Bank Show [interesting- about the writer of Billy Elliot] or Saw II [reasonably alright but still seems like a reductivist version of Se7en], but it was definitely Sunday night). The cat came in with a dead mouse in his mouth... he promptly proceeded to eat it in front of me.

Now, the pizza was hot, the mouse was dead... I let the cat get on with it... does that automatically make me a bad person? Or just pragmatic? The strange part was that the crunching noises from the munched mouse were rather similar to the cracking noises of the crunched crust of the pizza... makes you wonder what they put in the topping!

Anyway, I’ve had it confirmed that at SWF I have these speed-dating sessions with both agents and producers. This means I have to meet people- this is perturbing: I’m nervous enough meeting people I know; a gibbering wreck round people I don’t.

I feel comfortable enough with my anxiety to admit I’m moderately terrified.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

No Fun

A small, possibly erroneous, observation about comedy writing...

Quick story. A couple of months ago I submitted some bits and pieces for the ‘open submission’ satirical comedy Newsjack (on Radio 7). Each week, I did more than necessary and had them scrutinized by a writer friend who told me what worked, what didn’t and how to snazz up those that nearly worked... I then submitted the best. In total, over the 6 weeks, I submitted 15 sketches and 25 one-liners... and not a single solitary one made the grade! This was disappointing. I’d rather like to get on the score-board and radio is a ‘good thing’*. Personally, I prefer Radio 3 but they do very little sketch-based comedy... doesn’t work well between Stockhausen’s greatest hits and Mongolian nose-flute orchestras.

Anyway, this dismal failure got me thinking the simple question- why? Why?!?!?As in ‘why have I failed in such a pusillanimous way?’. I listened to the show each week; I have, contrary to popular rumour, a sense of humour, how could I fail? I think I have an answer- may be wrong, may be right- I think it has a ring of truth.

I listened to the show each week and, while I smirked, I didn’t find it laugh-out loud funny; certainly not as much as the studio audience. However, this is NOT the sour grapes thing of ‘they didn’t pick me therefore they and/or the programme are wrong’. I believe this is a case of I did not find it especially funny therefore I couldn’t write adequately in the idiom required. I love satire- Bremner, Bird & Fortune, Yes Minister, Brass-eye, The Day Today, etc. but Newsjack’s satire was not the type of satire to which I’m acclimatized.

There are two genres (technically three**) which are far more subjective than others presumably because they operate on a very deep primal level: comedy and horror. I find the Marx Brothers funny but can’t stand Laurel & Hardy or Chaplin (mawkish sentimental bilge); I find Mitchell & Webb, Blackadder, Black Books, The IT Crowd and Spaced hilarious while I find Little Britain, Russell Brand and The Catherine Tate Show about as funny as the average knee-capping. I love Blazing Saddles but the farting cowboy scene is the only bit I skip to the end; I know others with the complete opposite view. Could Eddie Braben write successfully for Lucas & Walliams? Could Chris Morris write successfully for Morecambe & Wise? And the same surely follows for horror: some find the supernatural terrifying and are bored by slashers; others think knife-wielding psychos scary while ghost stories leave them cold.

And so to the quite simple conclusion: if you don’t find the show funny, you probably won’t be able to do funny for the show; if you don’t find the monster scary, you probably won’t be able to do the monster scarily. It’s not the fault of the show or the poor beleaguered monster... it’s just that you’re not hard-wired that way. Find your ‘funny’ or ‘scary’ and do that instead.

Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it... it’s either that or I really am just a miserable old git.

*As they put it in 1066 and All That.
**The third would be Porn... the person who loves the plastic-clad dom' may not find the idea of 'plushies' too enticing... or the flying helmet and the wet celery...

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Sweet Soul Sister

To be filed under ‘shameless nepotism’...

I’ve been busy and boringly quiet so I shall just go back to something nice that happened to the sister a while back. (I can still recognise nice! Hoorah!)

Anyway, as I think I’ve mentioned before, my sister is a professional classical cellist prone to playing in orchestras. However, early this year she was approached by a band to whom she had been recommended by a third party. This, I presume, is that networking thing in action- the networking thing I can’t get a handle on. Anyway this band, Inkubus Sukkubus, a a Goth Pagan rock outfit who are better known in Europe having played some of the big alternative festivals such as Germany's M’era Luna, wanted to try some acoustic reworking, hence the desire to augment with a cellist. The sister came on board and, after some delays due to the band getting caught up in the swine flu thing while on tour in Mexico, they finally did a very low key test concert, at Lammas, to see how the sound went down with an audience and whether it generally worked. Apparently, it went rather well... bigger things may follow!

There is a strange six degrees of separation footnote to this, an ouroboros if you will... back in (probably) 1989 the band, who started locally, advertised on the local radio’s sole hard rock/HM music show (Tim Oakes, I think) for a guitarist. Having been playing a whole 6 months or so, I rang them up to offer my not inconsiderable services only to be told politely but firmly that I was neither experienced nor aged enough... they were lucky... in the intervening 20 years I have got absolutely no better! That would have been back in the days when I bought Kerrang, before they went mad and started giving 5K reviews to absolutely anything! It's inccredibly strange to suddenly remember details like that from so long ago...

...and why am I telling you all this patently irrelevant nonsense now? Because some clips from that first acoustic concert have turned up on YouTube: all your typical camera phone footage with the expected sound mix... but just this once I won’t cast my malediction on those who clutter up gigs with camera phones!


Come To Me

Gypsy Lament

Gypsy Lament (shorter but from a better angle)

...that’s all folks!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The Days Of Swine And Roses

Brief update thing...

Well, still not a perfect 100% but mainly better: throat still sore but on the other hand plummeting weight has finally stabilized. To put in context how worrying this was getting- I lost 15% of my body weight in 4 weeks and I’m currently the lightest I’ve been in about 15-20 years.

Anyway, many things need to get back on track, sorted out and generally organized but thought I’d update things so all the wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments can be brought to an end... and if you’ve not been doing any of these, why not? I’m affronted... seriously... not one wail? Not one rent clothe? Not even a minor grinding of a back molar? Pah! I’ll forgive you... eventually...

***Here be possible spoilers for Waking The Dead: Magdalene 26***

Bit annoyed at missing the opening pair of episodes of Harper’s Island due to it’s scheduling: the Sunday episodes clashed with the new series of Waking The Dead (sadly, the first ever genuinely bad episodes of Waking The Dead: killed a regular I’d really warmed to; overly relied on coincidence and people behaving bizarrely; had a twist that was proposed for banning over 80 years ago- as seen in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking- and had a flashback system that ultimately seemed disconnected and meaningless); the Friday repeats were scheduled against Beethoven at the BBC Proms- though not in person... that would just have been messy.

***Possible spoilers end***

This flue-y episode has had a couple of glimmers though- I snagged a couple of bits and pieces on eBay that I’ve been after for a long time- a couple of Hellraiser films, the Subversive Cinema release of Dust Devil and a rare film from Amando de Ossorio on VHS. Now, I just have to find some time to watch them.

Anyway, for the meantime, here’s a rather nifty music video (the best promos are surely an unsung art-form). I would love to think this was shot in one play-through though, I suspect with the high number of edits involved, it probably wasn’t. However, the imagination and choreography is still superb and it’s good silly fun.

The Avalanches: Frontier Psychiatrist

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

March Of The Pigs

Yet another damnable long absence...

Just a quick apology for going A.W.O.L. (Afflicted With ‘Orrible Lurgee). Basically, I got the wretched Swine Flu... or Bird Flu... or Flying Pig Flu. Whatever. Wasn’t precisely top of the list of things I was intending to do but there you go.

Still, more amusing than Horne and Corden’s recent comedy outing.

So, not all bad then.

Three things I’d say about the wretched thing (swine flue that is) are- it is...
• annoying,
• time-consuming,
• boring.

I’ve had it around 3-4 weeks and I’m having trouble shaking off the final symptoms (sore throat, aching joints, etc.). I’ve lost my voice (which anyone who’s ever met me would probably maintain is a good thing) and a lot of weight. I would have loved to use the time watching endless films but I’ve been mainly unable to stay awake for long enough. Bizarrely, I’ve also lost the ability to taste tea and toast- not bread, just toast. This has happened before- I was forced to, ugh, drink coffee instead. I won’t be doing that again! And it took six long months to revert.

Anyway, enough about me... you now have a choice of viewing...

Eric and Ern with Peter Cushing failing to keep a straight face in some classic silliness (that still manages to be more realistic and mythologically accurate than a certain BBC series)...

...and for those of you with a more nervous disposition: Trent Reznor, loud noises and some swearing...

1994, Peter Christopherson.

Let Chaos reign but first... Tamiflu and cakes...

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Dark Side Of The Moon

A thankfully unused Nixon speech...

The 40th Anniversary of the first manned Moon Landing reminded me of something that was disclosed a few years ago. The possibility that the landing would go wrong was taken very seriously (Armstrong himself thought the mission was ‘fifty-fifty’) so much so that Richard Nixon’s speechwriter Richard Safire wrote an alternate message for the then-President to deliver. I find it quite moving.

“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.”

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Meme On You Crazy Diamond

Another Meme...

Well, look here, another post. At this rate you’d almost be conned into thinking I was prolific...

First, a nice little piece of Six Degree-ism: my sister mentioned the other day that she went to College with Gwen from Torchwood (of which, possibly, more later); I knew she knew the ghost, just didn’t know they were one and the same; on top, of that she teaches at one of the schools where the kids froze, the one where they wear red blazers (I think she said).

Within the same week the last meme (what I done) arrived, so did another from over yer , and I can’t recall which came first. Anyway the rules of this one...

“put the image on the blog (however, it doesn’t really match the decor),
List 10 truths about yerself,
Give the award to 5 other people
(let’s not worry about that neither),
Provide a meaningful quotation
(see bottom),

Here goes...

1. I have taught myself most of what I know, since a long time back; I taught myself to type a few years ago by cataloguing all my records and videos; following this up by copying out some complete Shakespeare texts. Last year, I took an online typing test (actually 5 or 6 and averaged them) and found my speed came out a rather neat 60 w.p.m.; I’m sure it’d be faster if I used more than two fingers on my left hand!
2. I have no heroes. Certainly none that are alive- to me, it’s a very dangerous practice, at best it can lead to suspension of critical faculty, at worst it leads to fanaticism. Also, living heroes are not a good idea; firstly, with the long-dead most, if not all, of the bad stuff has already emerged (anybody with a Gary Glitter tattoo must feel pretty daft); secondly, you might meet them... and you may find they’re loathsome or alternatively find them unspeakably lovely then feel unable to criticize their work. I know someone who reveres Kubrick, Scorsese, Tarantino, all the usual suspects- there is no argument that will shake their belief that every celluloid inch is a frame of perfection; I think Dennis Potter was a fine writer, better than he’s now given credit for, but I’m not about to claim every drop of ink that fell from his nib was holy writ- every Singing Detective or Pennies From Heaven is matched with a Blackeyes. So, heroes, bad thing; Shakespeare’s quite a good hero, very little’s known about him; but give me Beethoven, genius, Romantic, part-time bastard.
3. I have no favourite film, TV series, album or anything else. Last time I tried to make a top ten it came out over 200... how can you judge films from entirely different genres and eras against one another? How can I come to a conclusion that Singin’ In The Rain is better than say Chinatown, My Fair Lady, 2001, Casablanca, Oldboy, Spider, Hellraiser, Alien, Once Upon A Time In The West, the best Capra or Powell & Pressburger, 28 Days Later, Andrei Rublev, Solaris, Deliverance, Performance, The Devils, Double Life Of Veronique or Kor-eda’s After-Life... ? How do you compare? By what criteria? To me, favouritism is a futile exercise and again leads to the suspension of critical faculties; even the greatest art is usually flawed, sometimes it’s those flaws that lend greatness; it’s by understanding these flaws that greater insight arrives. (This is not to say there are not things or creators I value over others just not to devotional levels.)
4. I am possessed of many ‘critical’ heresies. I believe the critics are worth listening to, particularly those who write ‘criticism’ rather than just opinion (or worse, those who are in cahoots with the film industry) but I repeatedly find there is a cultural orthodoxy which now seems so set in stone it’s left unchallenged and that no-one bothers to justify. For me, this in part stems from (sort of) learning much of what I know about film from watching all the 4 star films listed in the back of Halliwell (and most of the 3 star films as well) and deciding for myself what’s good and why. Many films I could say ‘yes, that’s good’ but there was, and still is, a significant number of masters and masterpieces which I believe require some justification including Bunuel, Godard, Truffaut, Mike Leigh, Hitchcock... Does that shock you? Does that make you uneasy? I don’t like Hitchcock films! Next thing you know, I’ll be wearing ‘I hate Pink Floyd badges’!
5. I believe in context and interconnectivity. In a world where everybody is becoming increasingly insular and specialized in their fields I suspect great thinking is being diminished as there is no-one left saying ‘this in this field is very similar to this in this field’- think the Fibonacci sequence- not only occurring in maths but also in biology; Da Vinci, artist, scientist, philosopher. Very little occurs in isolation, in the art/ media world this is surely more true than in many others- otherwise what would anybody write, paint or sculpt about.
6. I’m not a big fan of cities. They’re too loud, too bright, have too many people and smell funny.
7. π unsettles me. Can you think of a more deeply sinister number? 666 and 13 are just numbers; π is the number. Scary.
8. I have never wanted to be famous. Still don’t and quite possibly never will- who would?
9. I write incredibly long emails. I have a sneaking suspicion in a previous era I would have been ‘a man of letters’; misspelled and frequently ungrammatical, rambling and often nonsensical, but letters none the less. It has also occurred to me- just then- that there’s no reason I can’t edit a few of these emails and use them as easy posts here.
10. Music affects me far more than film. Being a far more concentrated and immediate medium music can produce a far deeper response; there are moments that are deeply unsettling, like the final movement of Mahler’s 10th, Shostakovich’s 4th and 15th (particularly the latter bars of the final movement over the unresolved chord while the massive percussion section enacts a mocking fading mechanical heartbeat), much of Penderecki’s 1960’s output (the doyen of the horror movie soundtrack such as Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, the De Natura Sonoris pair), the aleatory passages of Gorecki’s Second Symphony, etc. However, over all these are three (possibly a couple more that I can’t recall) that I find genuinely unnerving...

Pink Floyd: Jugband Blues

Pink Floyd: Bike, the first 3 minutes are a slightly silly song, however, then it moves into the musique concrète section. When I was at school this song was thought hilarious; when I first heard this bit I felt sick... and the ‘clan of gingerbread men’ aren’t quaint, in my imagination, they’re a small army of quite heavily armed, re-animated gingerbread men, with rows of razor-sharp fangs, who descend from mountains on the unwary with murderous intent.

Portishead: Deep Water.

Finally, there is a necessity to include a meaningful quote, though to whom it has meaning or if the meaning is supposed to be inherent is left unspecified. On the Manics’ album, The Holy Bible, at the start of the track Of Walking Abortion, there is a sample of Hubert Selby, Jr. speaking. It is quite bleak but when I found the complete quote it struck a chord.

"I was home alone, and I had what I realize now was a spiritual experience, although I didn't understand it as such at the time. But I knew that someday I was going to die. And just before I died, two things would happen: Number 1: I would regret my entire life. Number 2: I would want to live my life over again, and I would die. And I was terrified, absolutely terrified. So I knew I had to do something with my life. I was terrified of living my whole life, and at the end looking at it and having blown it. I was on disability at the time, and my wife was working part-time, I think at Macy's, it was the Christmas season, so I bought a typewriter, and decided I was going to be a writer. I didn't know anything about writing. But I knew I had to do something with my life, and that was the only thing I could think to do....

So I sat there for two weeks with that typewriter and I had no idea how to write a story, I just had to do something before I died. So I wrote a letter to somebody. And that's how it started. The long process of learning how to write."

...either that or the lyrics to an old Andy Williams song...

Now, tea and cake...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Dark Side Of The Meme

On an ‘unimportant’ meme from way back when...

Many, many years ago I was meme-ified* - something the ancient Egyptians did terribly well, but with more bandages- and it seems reasonable to get it done, albeit three million years later than everybody else. And it gives me something to write here. The basics of this are to “mention 6 things or habits of no real importance about you.” I haven’t any habits- well none that aren’t deeply silly, so it’ll have to be ‘things’ of no real importance.

1. My heart is in the wrong way round- last year I had to have a number of ultrasounds taken of it and they told me the pump side is far smaller than the receiving side- they assured me this was rare but in no way dangerous- though it does explain why I’m ageing backwards.

2. My maternal Gran used to tell me her memories of the day the Armistice was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month; of bells ringing out and the air of relief. She also told me of her father going A.W.O.L. from the Second Boer War to be there when her sister was born; his time stationed in India and Egypt with the ‘Glorious Glosters’ before they both came along; you may well think this all horribly colonial, and for those at the top it was, but I guess taking the ‘King’s Shilling’ (actually Queen’s at that moment) was one of the better ways of escaping grinding poverty at that time.

3. I have a half inch scar just below my lower lip where I bit clean through it performing the most monumentally stupid feat ever attempted- stupider even than those of David Blaine. You must remember I was young. And stupid. So it goes like this. I came to the conclusion that if I could pick up one leg under the crook of my arm and have one leg off the ground it therefore followed that if I could pick up the other leg in the same fashion... I could... er... levitate... of course, life doesn’t always work out as planned... my chin met the floor, concrete, of course, my teeth met each other... clean through my lip. It hurt. Quite a lot. My Mum was watching Poldark at the time- so it was late 70’s/ early 80’s- I’d been eating a mix of baked beans and ketchup so my face was coated in various shades of red- and the great thing about it was that it completely disguised the hole, which of course, being so clean-cut, went straight back together; so when cleaned it didn’t look particularly serious. How do I know my teeth went straight through? They met in the middle with a nice scraping sound. Bizarrely, I escaped having stitches. It’s rather a nice scar and I’m rather attached to it- and it’s rather attached to me, so I don't have much choice in the matter. This is approximately the sixth most painful thing I’ve experienced.

4. I have a beard because after recuperating from abdominal surgery (possibly the third or fourth most painful thing) I couldn’t raise my arms to shave and, having never had a beard before, I kept it (maybe I’m a descendant of Colonel Wynne-Candy). When I was able to raise my arms and tried to wash my hair for the first time in several months I found it had become a single matted dreadlock and, but for a wonderful team of hairdressers, I nearly had to have my head-shaved. Which would have been annoying. My head’s not shaped for that sort of thing.

5. I have never won anything... I keep trying to remedy this but...

6. I have invented a new genre of music/ songs (they already exist- they just don’t realise that they exist together in my own personal genre) but I’ve not told anyone the details and won’t until I can work out what to do with it. And the only person this new music, en masse, will probably ever appeal to is... me.

7. I write all my posts in word, redraft and spell-check them all before doing a cut-and-paste job...

Apologies for not being more interesting, or informative, but it is meant to be things of no importance!

Now, you may have music... and tea... and cake... and the finest wines known to humanity, if you like. But definitely have cake. Cake is good. Cake is fine. Even the word. Cake.

FC/ Kahuna: Hayling

2002, dir. LynnFox

*And Helen can consider herself a co-source if she likes... :)

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Enjoy The Silence?

On not blogging...

So, I’ve been away a long, long time... there must surely have been a reason or two for just disappearing, mustn’t there?

Actually, there were many reasons I stopped blogging, fell at the way side and ended being taunted by road-kill; and they all came piling in one on top of the next at virtually the same time. And next thing I knew it was months since the last post. So, amongst other things, here’s some of the main reasons I disappeared into the land of flattened badgers...

  • I was feeling a bit ill (big wow, everybody feels a bit ill every now and then- get over it!).
  • I was incredibly tired: I get like that sometimes... well, often...
  • ...because I was so tired, I had to make a simple choice, spend this limited energy on writing the blog or writing bad scripts... I’m afraid the bad scripts won... and they are really bad....
  • There are a lot of blogs out there, better blogs: I don’t think mine stands out particularly... I don’t have anything particular to say about the art, craft or sheer hard work of scriptwriting (other than ‘put words down and if you get them in the right order it works and if you don’t it won’t’) and I don’t have the ego to suspect my thoughts are so mind-meltingly important that they warrant global exposure.
  • There are a lot of blogs out there (Pt. II): in fact, too many to read and yet I can’t help feeling a bit guilty if I don’t try, which invariably leads to commenting, which, as sure as night follows day, leads to time sucked into some kind of giant time-sucking black-hole.
  • I'm not particularly smart: every time I find out something new I discover there’s far more to learn (deeply frustrating) and realise that however much I know I will never know enough. So, I can’t help wondering what actual contribution I have to make to the ‘Scribosphere’. I don’t have a great desire to waste other people’s time- I'm not a parliamentary inquiry!
  • There seemed to be a change in ‘atmosphere’ a while back: an influx of privately-profiled non-bloggers contributing to comment sections with apparently no other purpose than to make themselves look smart by trying to imply others are stupid. And, of course, by being non-bloggers they remain largely unaccountable. Surely a form of intellectual cowardice.
  • I had become increasingly concerned, through voicing my thoughts, of the potential to damage any nascent career I might have. My inept script-scribblings can do that perfectly adequately on their own!
  • Without a professional credit to my name I do tend to feel a bit of a fraud in a world of professional writers and readers- James Moran I am not!
  • Finally, I have a lot to say; many, many opinions, quite a few of them contentious... some get written and go unposted, others don’t get written and others require more and better argument*. Best not to post them.

And those are some of the main reasons...

So, what about the future... will I continue blogging, will I fall asleep for a very long time, will Lois find out Superman’s secret... watch this space as they say to find out all this and much, much more... or less... who knows?

...and anyway, now everybody’s gone mental for Twitter no-one’s going to be reading a blog anyway...

*in the old fashioned sense of the word.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Midlife Crisis

I guess you could call a post, any post, proof of life... if not intelligence! And where there’s life there’s hope. And without intelligence hope’s far easier... so I guess it all works out for the best... in a cyclical sort of a way!

Hoorah for blind dumb optimism!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

“It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there...

‘It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet.’

‘I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.”

~Leonard Cohen

Monday, 2 February 2009

You Love Us

A brief note on Reality television...

The guest panellist on Mathew Wright’s programme this morning was psychologist Professor Oliver James. The topic under discussion was that ‘oh so pressing issue’ of has John Sergeant ruined television talent shows with specific reference to Todd Carty (who?) on Strictly Line Dancing On Ice (or something). A subject I’ve just made sound more like a Doctoral Thesis topic than it deserves.

However, apparently someone called Todd Carty, who I should remember as heroic bully Tucker Jenkins from Grange Hill, has proved to be doing for Ice Dancing what John Sergeant did for Ballroom (and presumably Robespierre did for the Parisian Barbers' Union). Despite being rubbish the audience have decided that he should stay on the show in the same way they decided Sergeant had to stay on Strictly despite him knocking out far more talented (and hard-working) contestants. What you’re views on such things are really comes down to whether you believe that such shows are primarily entertainment or primarily talent contests. And at present that's of less interest to me.

Anyway, Professor James explained what he believed to be the psychology behind these voting patterns. Apparently, when previous generations were more commonly in manufacturing and could both quantitatively and qualitatively analyze their, and other’s, performance in 'widget-making' (or whatever): how many made, in what time-span and how well... training, experience and expertise was held to be of primary value. Now, as more commonly people work in service industries they base their assessments of talent show contestants more on the personality and social skills of the contender thus mirroring the primary interactions of their own work-places where hierarchies and ‘politics’ are more relevant; popularity and sociability are held as key skills. As an aside he pointed out that these were the Blair skills that helped him get elected. He said these same interplays are clearly seen in Big Brother contestants as they manoeuvre for both position within the house, the housemate hierarchy and the affections of the viewing public.

Professor James then related one of the sadder things I’ve heard in a while. His seven-year old daughter was very cross with John Sergeant for his continued presence on Strictly Come Dancing and was a big supporter of Rachel Stevens. Said the Professor ‘she still believes that people should be rewarded for their hard-work’. Matthew Wright said ‘she’ll soon learn’. Everybody laughed knowingly.

She shouldn’t have to.

But why should anybody bother training or working hard on Strictly or Ice-Dance if they are going to be kicked off in favour of those who don’t or can’t bother. And what lesson is that for anyone.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

I Against I

A response to the good things/ bad things writing meme as tagged by the good Sister Elinor.

The Meme’s brief: “When it comes to writing, what do you know you’re good at, and what aspect of writing are you worst at? (Procrastination is not permitted as either part of the answer.)”

This is one of the harder memes to answer accurately because I am possibly the least self-aware person on the face of the planet- especially when it comes to my writing.

Thankfully I don’t procrastinate... I worry... but that’s usually after the event. However, even without procrastination I am very slow at the writing- at the start through caution- I was brought up with the mantra from my Dad who was good at ‘building things from scratch’ that you should ‘always measure twice, cut once’. This has filtered through strongly to my approach to writing- I do lot of pre-planning and try and get the drafts quite right from the off (which is, of course, delusional and impossible). Once done there emerges an obsessive perfectionism that requires everything to be absolutely correct. And on top of that I never know whether the result is any damn good- even now I still suspect that the Red Planet people may have got the wrong person...

So, with this in mind, I have based the good points list on the things that seem to have been regularly praised over time in various reports:

• Apparently my characters are quite interesting, compelling and well-rounded;
• Apparently my dialogue tends to be quite good- probably because I read it out loud using a variety of funny voices;
• Apparently I’m quite good at conjuring atmosphere with nifty settings and visual description that immerses people in the world of the story;
• Apparently it’s seen as quite a good thing that I have themes, ideas and something to say- which seems to be considered a plus point.

Now, the bad points (which I can do all by myself!):

• I take scenes and ideas in isolation whether from dreams, flashes of inspiration or whatever and this can lead to a fragmentary narrative;
• I am very good at over-plotting- I haven’t yet realized how little plot there is needed in the average film;
• I am appallingly bad at structure;
• I overwrite enormously- massive chunks of unnecessary description- never use one good word when fifty superfluous ones can be used- however I have now bought a red pen!
• Endings- I can really screw up an ending- sometimes something good comes to me but mainly it doesn’t. This is in part based on my dislike of the tendency of films to end with violent outbursts which, besides reinforcing notions that ‘might is right’* and that the person who is strongest is entitled to ideological supremacy, I find lazy and easy. I call it ‘Schrader syndrome’: how to damage an otherwise good film by not knowing how to end it and resorting to a convenient fire-fight (cf: Light Sleeper; Hardcore, etc.).

I’m overly self-critical and don’t know when something is actually finished- I’ve actually started just asking other people.

Then there are some areas of which I have no idea either way... as roughly everything I do is roughly within a genre and set in recognizable places I do wonder to what extent what I write might be considered ‘original’. Not helped by my having watched far too much film and television... from which I may have accidentally absorbed and subsequently used devices.

So there you go, hope that fits the brief without being too revealing. I’ll probably re-read this in twelve months time and disagree completely but at least I’ve got room for improvement- no resting on my laurels- and most of the problems areas fall under the heading of practice and technique.

If there’s anyone left out there who’s feeling untagged and left out... well, you know who you are and you know what to do!

*with the honorary exception of World War Two- see Theo’s speech in The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp for the best explanation of why.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Scarlet & Other Stories

On going absent without leave, computers, eyes, recent developments and an important request- rather long but please bear with me...

First, I hope you all had a good Christmas and I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

It occurred to me that it would probably be polite to start the new year by explaining why things tailed off during the last.

The last you may have heard I’d sent in a selection of random script pages to Red Planet and was pacing more nervously than a prospective father during the 96th hour of labour. Except I’d all but decided not to bother completing the complete draft having decided the first ten pages I’d written were drivel. Thankfully, I had the sense to thrust them upon a sentient being who said these were quite good so ‘write the rest’. So I did. The first draft needed to be properly storylined then clocked in at around 100 pages and was done in a couple of weeks. Then I sliced and diced until it was a more appropriate length. If I remember correctly this was dealt with by the beginning of November. While I’d written something rather poor it was still fortuitous, so it turned out, to have a completed draft...

Do you know what a ‘backlight’ is? Neither did I. It’s the thing that makes the pretty pictures appear on a laptop screen. When it dies the computer dies: it is not economically viable to repair. And thus my faithful old Toshiba started to die after 6 years loyal service while I was writing the RPP piece. Unfortunately, within a day of completing, and just before I was about to back it up and check all the most important files were also, the hard-drive imploded. So, I had to find a new laptop and hope that I could get all my data recovered including the just completed script. A new laptop was relatively easy to acquire (they sell them in something called ‘shops’), the data recovery was tough going as the hard-drive was hard to access (but apparently I only lost 14 files and I still haven’t worked out what) but the hardest thing was getting back online as apparently the drivers needed for this (and practically all other things) change by the day. And have to be downloaded. And how do you download the drivers for internet access when you haven’t got internet access?

The new laptop has taken some getting used to because at some point since buying the Toshiba they decided to change where most of the keys were and made them a lot smaller (or closer together) and the screens are now a lot wider... apparently for no other reason than so America can have two pages on screen at once... and what America wants we all get. I thought it was just to annoy me!

When I got back up, running and online in late November I discovered in a somewhat well-stuffed inbox the telegraph from Red Planet telling me that they too rather liked the play what I wrote. I was rather pleased. As it had arrived nearly a week before I was very concerned that I might have missed the next deadline- and still don’t know- and had to hurriedly go through the somewhat rough, full script making sure that it had not been ‘corrupted’. That got sent off and now I’m back to pacing in the aforementioned corridor. Of course, I’ve since realized quite how ropey the script is and have already set about a comprehensive ground-up rewrite.

The Problem
The new laptop didn’t just require adjustment to new hardware but also to new software- Vista doesn’t ever do as it’s told- I change the settings, it decides I’m wrong and changes them back again; Word 2007 is shockingly bad and I’m hunting down Word 2005 or earlier (I can’t find anybody who actually likes or uses 2007)- but these are things you can get used to... even if you don’t want to!

Now, for several years I have feared that I have been slowly glowing blind but, as I’m very squeamish when it comes to eyes, I’ve put off doing anything about it just in case there was something wrong. The new machine has a wide shiny LCD screen that has a brilliant burning intensity. I’d always turned the screen brightness down on the old matt-screened Toshiba but turn the new one down to the right level for me and it turns into a very good mirror. Turn the screen up and it feels like I’m staring into a light-bulb. In the first month of use I was finding it harder and harder to see- and using the machine less and less- I was left unable to focus my eyes, things were very blurred, over-bright and my eyes hurt and strained constantly. But this only happened after computer usage. Finally (presumably this is the approach to the innermost cave), I bit the bullet and went to the optimist optometrist.

Several years of worry have been assuaged- I am not going blind. In fact it turns out I have very good eyesight, both near and far, and good peripheral vision to boot. However, although the lady didn’t give it a name, I seem to have some form of Photophobia which hadn’t previously been a issue. Thankfully, it’s not severe but apparently is irreparable. I think I know where it’s arisen from though I’ll probably never be certain. In hindsight it has explained a few things including why I’ve been dreading the ban on incandescent light-bulbs as I have found the fluorescent bulbs quite painful. What I really need now is a screenguard for the laptop which is proving impossible to find- everybody says they exist nobody knows in which mythical land. If you know somewhere I can get a laptop screenguard please get in touch as a matter of urgency.

In the meantime, I’m trying not to spend so long at the machine and I write everything in detailed notes on paper (like I always used to) and just type it up so it’s a good job my typing speed is half-way decent. So you’ll have to forgive me if I spend less time online.

Other Stuff
The most unexpected thing I realized while I was computerless was how little I missed the internet- and how little I really used it for- email and eBay primarily. The loss was more irritating than devastating. I didn’t use these iPlayer type things- why watch TV in pixelated form on a small screen when I can watch it on TV? I’ve never played computer games- online or offline- life’s too short already. I just went back to music, reading, watching and terrorizing the cats with my own inimitable brand of terrible guitar playing. Being unable to type was a nuisance but I’ve always done a lot on paper anyway. The other thing I hadn’t realized until I stopped was how deeply tired I was. Maybe sometimes people need a bit of a break.

...and in the meantime, I appear to have acquired some followers. Which is strange, new and unexpected. This wasn’t there when I was last about. What’s it all about? Do I have to do anything? Should I reciprocate? When I get 12 followers I’m going to start a religion- I already have good recipe for loaves and fishes... well... pilchards on toast. And now I must be thinking about a meme- and rather a difficult one I suspect...

Saturday, 3 January 2009


*****contains spoilers for new Doctor Who*****

So, now we all* know that the new Doctor Who is... er...

Matt Smith...

...very young at 26 ...and rather needs a haircut!

Personally my choice was...

Adrian Lester

...but what do I know?

*except those who don't care, have a life and/or don't obsessively watch TV.

Someday we'll be drinking with...