Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Little Less Blogification

Hmm, well, it's amazingly unlikely that I'll be posting much in the next few weeks (a lot of commitments, not least of which is, as I said yesterday, trying to polish off my too-long-in-the-writing novel so I have a clean slate for NaNoWriMo in November).


To keep you folks entertained in my absence, here are a selection of links to other places of interest on the interweb. Even if you get through them all in a day, check back regularly, as a lot of them are updated on a daily basis… and yes, I'll add this lot to the list of links in the right-hand column as soon as I get back to regular posting.

(The following list, and the categories I've put in, are in hypothetical order, so please don't take offence if your blog or site is listed under some wildly inappropriate heading.)

Bloggers who write regularly and writers who blog regularly
Angie Michaelis
David Bishop
Troubled Diva
David Hepworth
Neil Gaiman
John August
Stephen Fry
Marie Phillips
Stephen Gallagher
Graham Linehan
English Dave
James Moran
James Henry

You may not lose your mind visiting these sites, but be prepared to lose some time
TV Cream

Magazines I read in the real world too
Fortean Times
Men's Health

Discussion Boards
Cookd n Bombd

On Writing
Write Here, Write Now
BBC Writersroom

Other sites which, try as I might, I can't fit into any of the previous categories
Found Magazine

Well, that should be enough to keep you entertained. Play nicely, and try not to break the internet while I'm offline, okay?

Everything Begins with An E

A good friend of mine (Hello, Red!) has been invited to attend a fancy dress party - in a costume which, according to the invitation, must be of someone or something beginning with the letter 'E'.

Amongst other suggestions, I put forward that she might want to go as Elvira, until she pointed out that... well, I think you can guess from the accompanying pictures what she feared the misinterpretation might be.

Fair comment; one is a creature who only seems to come out at night, and the other...

Friday, October 12, 2007

"It is happening again. It is happening AGAIN."*

Those of you with good memories (or who have access to the blog archives, I guess) will remember that around this time last year I announced my intention to take part in National Novel Writing Month .

The aim of this free-to-join-in scheme is that, for the month of November, you try to write a novel of 50,000 words during the month of November, at a rate of around 1700 words a day. The key thing is that you turn off your internal editor, you don't go back and do redrafts, but that you get the first draft of a (short) novel down on paper or screen. There are no real prizes, other than the sense of satisfaction (and community - both virtual and real; check the Forums on the site), and for many people it's a way of finding out if indeed they do 'have a book in them'.

Last year I did very poorly indeed at reaching my goal in NaNoWriMo (as it's affectionately known), to the extent that my word count, when compared with the stated aim, was very much within the definition of 'nano': a measly 3000 words out of 50,000.

Even more embarrassing, though, is the fact that I wasn't even aiming to write a complete novel, but to use the event as a catalyst to complete a novel I've been working on for several years now, which has the working title of 'Coming Back To Haunt You'. I'm just over halfway through, and I know what happens at the end, and all the characters, so it's really a case of getting my backside onto a seat and writing the thing down (I do first drafts longhand). And then when that's over I want to write another novel, which has the working title of 'The Body Orchard', and ideas for which keep coming to me when I'm brushing my teeth, on the tube, etc, and which I'm rather excited about.

All of which rambling is a long way round for me to say that yes, I've signed up for NaNoWriMo again this year (and will no doubt lob a graphic up on this 'ere blog to note the fact in November), but the aim is rather different; I'm going to try to charge to the end of 'Coming Back To Haunt You' by Halloween, and then use November and NaNoWriMo as the focus for at least getting a goodly chunk of 'The Body Orchard' on paper.

Will I achieve any of this? I don't really know, but the stories are there in my head, and I have pens and paper, as well as time I know that I just fritter away, so all the pieces are there, and we'll know who to blame if I don't get it done, won't we?

*The Giant from 'Twin Peaks', which (in case I haven't mentioned it before) is my favourite TV series of all time. And not just because Sherilyn Fenn's in it. Honest.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Only Hope The Applauding Audience Doesn't Start Shouting 'Author! Author!' (Ahem)

In a change to previously-advertised arrangements, I will now not be attending the performance of my Urban Myth at the Urbis centre in Manchester tonight.

'Tis a pity - I was looking forward to seeing what the performers do with it, but … well, to be frank, the organisers kind of dropped the ball in terms of letting we finalists know who won; there were ten of us, and the winner would have their hotel room paid for, which is a pleasing notion, but one that would certainly have affected my plans to travel there. I can't afford to take this afternoon off work and tomorrow morning as well (I get paid on a daily rate), so if I was going to be given a hotel room, then I could arrange to stay there overnight and travel back to London in time for work on Friday. If not, however, I needed to arrange to get to Manchester for the 6pm performance, then home again before the trains stop running, or before it gets so late it's actually early.

To that end, I called the organisers the other week, and asked if they knew when the result would be announced, as it would make a difference to my plans to attend; the lady I spoke to was very friendly, but didn't know, though she gave me an e-mail address to send the query to. I did so, and after a day or so of waiting for a reply I resent the e-mail, this time to a general address on their website. After another day or two had passed, I got a reply stating that the winner had been chosen - it's 'Pencil Suicide' by Daniel Gent (click here to read it, along with the other finalists). My congratulations to Daniel on winning, and for a sharp bit of writing. I like it.

However, the cost of getting the train to Manchester and back in one day (so as to only lose a half-day of paid work) would have been something in the region of £60, and I really can't afford that, so I won't be attending tonight. The Urban Myths performance is a multimedia event, though, so there's a possibility of related material being uploaded on the Web Pages of the Interactive Arts course whose students who are performing. I'll let you know if I hear anything.

Of course, if you’re going to the event, please let me know how it went, and yes, if you could tell me what the 'Light' myth was like, I'd be very grateful. I'm very chuffed indeed to have been one of the finalists, and really not worried about not winning, but I do feel slightly thwarted in my attempts to attend, if that makes any sense. Still, even if I don't get to see my work performed, I can only hope the audience like it, and that the performers have some fun with it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

And I'm A Registered Voter, So If You're An MP, Please At Least Pretend That What I'm Saying Might Have Some Validity

There's a semi-fuss running in the media at the moment, which runs pretty much along this chronology:
1. Gordon Brown takes over as Prime Minister of the UK
2. Opinion polls are pretty favourable for Brown and his party
3. There's some suggestion that Brown might call a general election sooner rather than later
4. Opposition parties, anticipating the start of an election campaign, state a couple of policies which they'd put in place if they were in power
5. Opinion polls show increased support for the opposition parties
6. Gordon Brown states he won't be holding a general election
7. Media and opposition parties accuse Brown and his party of bottling it
8. Brown's ministers announce new policies, which appear to echo those suggested by the opposition parties
9. Media and opposition accuse Brown and colleagues of stealing policy ideas

I think that about covers it, in essence. To look at the papers or listen to the news today, you'd think that this whole series of events was one of the major political events of recent times.

However, let me tell you something startling but entirely true: Nobody, repeat nobody, I know is talking about any of this.

This is anecdotal stuff, of course, but I like to think it's an accurate reflection of public opinion, grassroots feeling, whatever you want to call it. As I say, no-one I have conversations with has even mentioned this 'burning issue'. The whole brouhaha appears to have been manufactured, stirred up, and perpetuated by the media and MPs themselves (and, of course, their spokesfolks). It has little or no bearing on reality - none of the policies in question have actually come into effect, if indeed they ever will.

I find it a little like turning on the TV, and the channel happens to be showing two characters in a show you don't follow having an argument; there's an implied suggestion that I should care, but I really don't. In fact, the soap opera comparison works pretty well for me, in that - like a soap opera or other form of entertainment - party politics has long been something which I've observed with a sense of detachment, and none of the emotional involvement which the various parties involved would probably like me to have.

The various political parties seem to be behaving as if they feel cheated in various ways, and there's a weird tone of annoyance from the media (I can only assume they'd already started working on their 'Election 2007' graphics, only to find they've been wasting their time), but outside of the Fourth Estate and MPs, nobody I know has been talking about the possibility of a general election, of inheritance tax rules changing, or whether one party has nicked policy ideas from another. I'd like to think that says something about the degree to which people believe that day-to-day political events actually affect them, but that could be my cynicism about this subject over-riding the evidence.

I'm aware that posting this could arguably be pointed to as an example of talking about the items in question, but I think it's a very different thing to point to the absence of something than to produce that thing itself. It's a distinction which has been rather lost in recent times, I know (especially in relation to Iraq, where absence of evidence became seen as evidence of absence - duh), but I like to think that my audience is smart enough to be able to make that distinction (despite the title of this post).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Typo That Spices Up An Otherwise Rather Dull News Report

Second paragraph down.

Given that D and K are several keys apart, either a subeditor's being mischievous or someone's decided to suggest that the reunion's not for entirely music-based reasons...

Ah, It's Ages Yet - Loads Of Time To Train...

Before I did the London Marathon this year, I said to my lovely bride-to-be that after it was over, I'd probably never run again in my life - not even for a bus. "Uh-uh," I predicted I'd say, "I've done a lifetime's worth of running, thanks very much."
She disagreed.

And she is, of course, right: today I've signed up to do the London 10K next May. As I've commented before, I've gained a lot of weight in recent months (I know, the idea that I'm celebrating completing the Marathon is a bit of a lame excuse six months down the line), so this is a perfect excuse for me to lose some of the lard.

Right now, of course, May 2008 seems very distant indeed, but I know full well it'll come hurtling round the corner with shocking speed... something I'm unlikely to do if I don't shed my excess weight, so I'd better start thinking about a training plan.

If you're a Londoner, or even if you're not, why not consider entering? It does costs a bit of money (£25, to be exact), but the atmosphere at the Marathon was terrific, and of course you get to run in what I, as I've said before, genuinely believe to be one of the finest cities in the world...

Monday, October 08, 2007

LINK : Feist For The Eyes

All too often on this blog, I fear I come over as a jaded curmudgeon, instead of the cheery optimist I actually am (stop snickering at the back).

Which is why I want to share this with you - a charmingly fun video, it made me smile at the sheer amount of joy that they seemed to be having. It seems to be in one take, though if that was the case, I have no idea how they achieved that trick at the end.

Not that it matters: I love the grins and whoops of delight.

Yes, I Am Evolved Enough That I Don't Feel The Need To Pretend That Something Is Inherently Good Just Because I Enjoy It

Well, now that The X Factor judges have chosen the finalists, and the series moves to the point where semi-competent singers are singing all the time, my interest has completely dissolved, and I won't bother watching it any more.

I've heard this called 'ironic watching' of such programmes, but make no mistake, there's no irony at all about my stance: I like to watch the terrible and freakish performances of the horribly deluded, some of whom are staggeringly arrogant and/or rude when told they're not that good. There's no irony or archness in it, I'm straightforwardly laughing. Though if schadenfreude is ironic, then maybe I'm guilty.

The only fun-dampener for me, though, has been the way that they've started milking the moment when contestants find out if they're in or not. Instead of just padding it out with reaction or ambient shots or whatever, they've made the judges say ridiculously redundant and tortuous lines. To the extent that I wonder if they've had to reshoot because of exchanges like:

Judge: " Well, as you know, we only have three places…and so… we've had a very difficult decision to make about you… and we have … not… decided that you … will… not… be going… to have to stay… at home…"
Contestant: "Um, so am I in, or out?"

Saturday, October 06, 2007

LINK: A Better Writer Than I

There's a poem which we read at school; embarrassingly, its name and/or author escapes me now, but basically it was in praise of a dictionary, saying that there is little that the author could say because every word he might use was in the dictionary already. All books, I seem to remember he said, were dwarfed when placed next to the dictionary.

It's not quite that extreme, but I feel a slightly sense of threat, that I (and many others) might rapidly be outclassed and out-talented in the blogging stakes by the fact that Stephen Fry has recently started blogging.

So far he's posted two long essays, and I hope he gets the time to post more...

A Public Service Announcement

Given that the Post Office are currently striking (those of us who've been subject to their rather interesting interpretations of 'delivery' might say it's hard to spot the difference), it's been announced that South West Screen will be adopting a pragmatic approach to applications for their Digital Shorts deadline (12th Oct). Which is a good and sensible thing, if you ask me.

Thanks to Martin Adams for letting me know this, and asking me to pass it on.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Besides, It Might Actually Be Covertly Advertising 'Drumsticks', The Lollies Made By A Rival

There's been a lot of 'excitement' about a recent advert featuring a drum-playing gorilla. It's an advert for chocolate, so I can't really claim disdain for the product, but…

…well, the thing is, it's kind of unusual as an ad, but given the fuss made about it online (which, granted, may well be that 'viral marketing' I occasionally hear about) you'd think it was the funniest thing in the history of the world, and let's be honest, it really isn't.

Oh, sure, it features an ape - and I know a lot of people find apes inherently funny, for reasons I can't begin to fathom - but if it was in a comedy programme, it wouldn't hold up that well, would it? It’s the sort of thing which, in and of itself, isn’t actually that funny, and I can imagine it as one of those slightly odd end-of-show items you'd get in a programme like Big Train - imagine it with the credits rolling along the bottom of the screen. A sort of half-notion for an item, but not fully fleshed out beyond the initial premise.

I've long held that we expect different levels of comedy or humour in different circumstances; jokes made by MPs, for example, are often startlingly humour-free, as was brilliantly demonstrated some years ago by the cast of the BBC2 programme 'The Friday Night Armistice', when they took jokes which had been made by MPs (and laughed at by their colleagues) and performed them in a comedy club. The result, unsurprisingly, was a total lack of laughter from the audience. Whilst comedians often seem to know a lot about politics, it seems the reverse is not the case.

Similarly, a lot of people seem to laugh out loud at text message jokes, compared with people laughing at books, magazines or comics. I think it's probably something to do with the immediacy of the means of delivery - whilst you have to seek out the printed page, if a friend decides to send you a text joke, it's there in your hand, on the screen, through the eyes and into the brain. And the element of the unexpected may come into play - when you get a text, it could well be 'how r U, m8?', so when it's a joke and it comes as a surprise, I suspect that has added impact. Back in the days when I used to do stand-up comedy, I occasionally used to lament that I couldn't do the act by text, as people seem to laugh more readily at those, which lowers the bar somewhat (though my critics might argue that the bar would have to be subterranean before I could count on getting any laughs).

Mind you, I'm not necessarily knocking the fact that in certain circumstances, the audience is more tolerant than in others; within the next twelve months, I have a Groom's Speech and a Best Man's Speech to make (no, not at the same event), and a part of me is already relying on the fact that the crowd will be 'on my side' in that situation. Especially when I'm the Groom, as I'm buying the audience dinner. In fact, perhaps I shall make their dinner contingent on the amount of applause and cheers my speech garners…

Anyway, to conclude: the Drumming Gorilla advert? Mildly diverting, but not the great thing so many people are claiming it to be File it, I think, next to 'Vindaloo' by Fat Les or 'Road to Amarillo' by Tony Christie and Peter Kay. Which is to say that in the not-too-distant future, people I know might feel slightly embarrassed to have got so giddy about it. Though I shall, in my evil way, take great pride in reminding them of the fact.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

As They Used To Say In 'Nemesis The Warlock' in 2000AD, Spread The Word

Lucy of Write Here, Write Now has asked me to pass on the fact that, and I quote from her e-mail, "The winner of SW Screen's Screenwriter Development Competition has been delayed and will now be announced on October 16th instead."

Please amend your diary accordingly.

Okay, Lucy, I've done what you asked. Now can I have my money?

Tell Ken Russell To Wipe Off His Camera Lens Once Again

Wimple Catfight!