Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Don't Be Fooled By The Free CDs and DVDs, They Don't Care If You Live Or Die

As someone with a brain in my skull and more than a grain of love for humanity in my soul, I of course think that the Daily Mail is a morally repugnant, house-price-fixated, crypto-xenophobic waste of ink and trees. And if that sounds like an overreaction, do bear in mind it's a matter of public record that they supported Oswald Mosely and his fascist group the Blackshirts in the run-up to World War II.

So, given this depth of feeling, I can only be delighted that someone's gone to the trouble of creating the Daily Mail Headlineinator.

Simply add in a picture of something that the Mail might consider a threat to white middle-class suburban living (so, that would be anything at all), and the Headlineinator will condemn it for you. Immediately. Without regard for whether it's actually to blame for anything at all. Just like the Daily Mail. As demonstrated above.

(Many thanks to Graeme for his permission to publish this link. He's a gentleman, a scholar, and an acrobat.)

P.P.S. - We Changed The Narrative Through-Line When You Weren't Looking

I know that they usually change the plot a lot when they make a book into a film, and I know that Hilary Swank has played a woman masquerading as a man before (just as Cate Blachett recently played Bob Dylan), but... well, really.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Surprisingly, I Rather Like It When Things Don't Run According To Cynical Expectations

It's easy (and often a lot of fun) to mock British stars when they decide they want to go to Hollywood and seek a big-screen career, or otherwise 'break America'.

For every Beatles or Hugh Grant, there are thousands of Jordans or Chris Quentins or Robbie Williamses, failing to get anything even remotely like the level of fame in their homeland, and often coming home slightly bruised and battered by the experience.

It looks, however, as if Sean Maguire, formerly a cast member of Grange Hill and EastEnders, has -and I believe this is the correct term within the film industry - 'done a Guy Pearce'.

I saw a few episodes of his US sitcom Off Centre late at night a few years ago, and I thought he was pretty good in it, and he's clearly kept working at the whole acting thing, so good for him.

(This uncharacteristic lack of cynicism on my part is in no way related to the fact that my brother, in his teen years, used to look a lot like Mr Maguire. Honest.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Even The Evening Standard Classifieds Would Be More Dignified Than This, Surely?

Looks as if a sexually frustrated tube worker has craftily inserted a subliminal message into a sign at Mile End tube station, asking for physical affection.

Not exactly John Donne, though, is it?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

One Of The Perils Of Documents (Or Tomes) Written By Committee

Granted, I'm just guessing here, but I'm pretty sure that Bruce Bould, the actor probably best known for playing David Harris-Jones in the excellent TV series 'The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin' didn't actually have the upbringing described here.

(Apologies if the link's been removed or corrected by the time you click it - if it no longer refers to a certain set of mountains, then you can probably assume reason and fact have prevailed. Ah well.)

I Know This Much Is Trew

Spotted on Epping High Street earlier this week.

I think know what your first thought was on seeing this picture...
"£89.95? What a bargain! Those'll be perfect for the Bay City Rollers convention at the Birmingham NEC next month!"

Either that, or, like me, you had one of those moments where you get a bit of vomit in your mouth.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

LINK: Blair Faced Fry

If you click here, and then scroll down to the section dated 9 February 2007, there's a free download (mp3 format) of an interview with then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, conducted (perhaps surprisingly) by writer, comedian, director and actor Stephen Fry.

I think it's an interesting interview, covering subjects you might not necessarily expect, and showing that, contrary to expectations, there's a genuinely sharp mind at work, one which does the country proud, and an impressive degree of articulacy. Oh, and there's also Tony Blair saying some things.

Striking A Blow For Progress

It's been announced that the Writers' Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are having informal talks on the current US writers' strike.

This, of course, comes several weeks after the AMPTP walked out of negotiatoins, and a handful of days after the AMPTP reached an agreement with the Directors' Guild of America which contained some provisions not unlike those sought by the WGA. Interesting...

There's a news blackout on the progress of the informal talks, as I understand it.

Be vewy, vewy quiet... we're hunting wesiduals...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Put A (Can't) Spell On You : Part Two Of Two

Oh, Central Line tube card advert, why must you taunt me so? Your message aims to breeze through my eyes as a blast of air freshener would pass through my nostrils, but instead it chokes me as if it were the stench of a commuter's sweaty armpit. I know you were told at school that missing out apostrophes was a bad thing, but that was an admonition about omission, not an order to sprinkle them without regard for their appropriateness. Tut tut!

I Put A (Can't) Spell On You : Part One Of Two

Oh, Sainsbury's section header, why must you taunt me so? My vision passes across your message, and stutters and starts as if I were trying to negotiate a revolving door wearing a pair of skis. I know you were told at school that E was a bad thing, but that was an admonition about pharmaceuticals, not the fifth letter of the alphabet. Tut tut!

Monday, January 21, 2008

You're Fired! (Work Your Notice)

Sometimes in life, you find yourself in agreement with people who you really wouldn't expect to have any common ground with. For me, the latest example of this was when I read an interview with Donald Trump , wherein he said the following:

"...I just hate what's happened to this country. We've gone to a country that's no longer respected. We're in a war that we should have never -- and by the way, I'm worse than any hawk there is in terms of military and in terms of defending ourselves. But Saddam Hussein didn't knock down the World Trade Center. He had nothing to do with it. And there were no weapons of mass destruction. There was nothing."

And then he goes on to refer to Bush as a "total disaster".

Isn't there an adage about 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'? Well, it looks like I should now consider Donald Trump as a friend. Just hope he doesn't get jealous of my naturally flowing locks.

Anyway, the good news for my new pal Donald, and the rest of the world, is that in one year's time, George W Bush will be out of the White House. One year today, folks - let's face it, whether Hillary or Obama or Guiliani or Lex Luthor succeeds him, it's going to be an improvement.

Gentlemen! Looking To Hire A Suit? This Might Help You Decide Which Firm To Give Money To...

Hire a suit from Moss Bros, and you too can peer down a lady's top.

Moss Bros.
Making lechers better-dressed since 1851.

(Spotted in the London Victoria branch, and photographed covertly - which is why I didn't spot the patch of glare until later. Ah well, c'est lavvy.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Strike Hard! Strike Fast!

Well, it's been a pretty busy week in relation to the Writers' Guild of America (WGA) strike. Here, then, is a brief summary for you.

The WGA made agreements with a further two companies - MRC, a new media company, and Spyglass Entertainment, makers of films such as The Sixth Sense.

Meanwhile, the studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), who walked away from negotiations with the WGA in December, entered into negotiations with the Directors' Guild of America (DGA), whose contract is also up for renewal. The DGA, unlike the WGA, doesn't have a history of striking; they did strike in 1987, but it was for five minutes (on the West Coast of the USA, and three hours and five minutes on the East Coast), and a swift end to negotiations was anticipated.

While all this was going on, Apple announced that they'd struck a deal with all the major studios to allow material to be downloaded for a fee to their iPod and iPhone products. One of the causes of the current WGA strike has been the AMPTP's refusal to agree on residual payments for downloads, on the grounds that this sort of new media is uncertain as a source of income. As this article from Business Week points out, the Apple agreement may nudge things along in relation to the WGA strike, as all the studios signing up to the Apple arrangement may effectively push the issue. I have to say I find it hard to see how the studios can convincingly argue they're not sure there's any money in the internet when they've signed up to make money with Apple…

Anyway, yesterday the DGA and AMPTP announced they'd struck a deal , which includes payments for internet and other new media use of material, which of course was a sticking point for the WGA discussions, so that's an interesting change in stance for the AMPTP… and indeed, a quick look at the AMPTP's homepage seems to contain a veiled suggestion that the AMPTP might be willing to re-enter negotiations with the WGA.

Interesting times, I feel...

Yes, Yes, It's Schadenfreude. Nonetheless...

Will this make him think twice about spouting off on subjects which don't in some way involve internal combustion engines?

Probably not, but it certainly made me laugh.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Writers' Guild of America Strike - Breaking News (But Not News About Strike-Breaking)

There's a really good 'beginner's guide' to the WGA strike here - it does a terrific job of explaining the reason why residual payments are very different from the oft-cited comparison with a plumber being paid every time the toilet is flushed…

And it's been announced that The Weinstein Company has reached a deal with the WGA, making them the third production company to do so in recent weeks. If memory serves, these are the folks behind Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's recent work (amongst others), so they're a company with some clout.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Twins, Twice

I fully expect the first link to go dodgy within 10 days or so, but I couldn't resist putting this in...

From the current issue of Private Eye

This blog, Monday 5 November 2007

(Yes, I know, great minds and all that, but it's good to have the question I posed in my post answered; clearly, it isn't just me.)

Can't Get Enough Of Your John, Baby?

Well, if you need more of my words than this blog provides, there are a couple of new places online where you can go…

Given my background, you might be surprised to know that I've contributed to this site, which is ostensibly of a medical nature. However, I have indeed been involved in it - and those of you who watch a certain Channel 4 sitcom (recently commissioned for a third series, no less) might recognise the site, as it was featured onscreen in an episode.

Considerably less involved on the creative side, but a name-check nonetheless, is at Jess Nevin's annotations site for the latest volume of 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. For legal reasons, The Black Dossier isn't available outside of the USA, so you understand that my contributions to Jess's annotations are, of course, complete and utter guesswork. Ahem.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Learn To Count Or Di Tri-in*

The Wu-Tang clan have a new album out (pictured).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to have a go at it - indeed, I'm quite an admirer of some of the members (Method Man's duet with Texas at the 1998 Brit Awards was terrific), but...

... well, if you're going to call your album '8 Diagrams', is it not a bit daft to have the penultimate letter of that title (and indeed the Wu-Tang logo in the background) surrounded by the eight Trigrams of the I Ching?

I'm just, y'know, saying...

*A post about Wu-Tang Clan with a 50 Cent reference in the title, then. Truly, I am down with the kids. Maybe.

On The Death Of Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary died yesterday, as you've probably seen by now.

Hillary (left of picture) was, of course, one of the first people to summit Mount Everst, the tallest mountain on the planet. He and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (also pictured) were the first recorded climbers to reach the top, in 1953.

But for Hillary, it wasn't just a case of climbing it and leaving Nepal; he maintained close links with the country, and specifically the Sherpa people, until his death. I've been to the Nepal Himalaya twice now (and fully intend to return), and on both occasions, I've been in small mountain villages where I've been informed that a certain building - often a school or medical centre or meeting hall - was funded and supported by Hillary or one of the charities he was involved in, and often he'd visited them to officiate at their opening. Given the poverty in which many of the Sherpa people live, this work would be an impressive enough legacy for Hillary to be remembered by, but add in climbing Everest, and I find myself genuinely sorry to hear of his death.

Climbing of Everest is, for many wealthy people, something of a task to 'tick off' in their lives, and Hillary was rightly critical of this conveyor-belt mentality, as it led guides to try to take people up the mountain in inappropriate weather conditions, and also for climbers to leave stragglers to die. I completely agree with him that climbing Everest shouldn't be seen as 'conquering it' - I've stood at Base Camp, and you get the feeling that if you think you're going to conquer anything, you should probably turn round and go home, and perhaps try to conquer your own sense of hubris.

As I grow older, I find myself increasing impressed by people like Hillary, who almost seem to represent a vanishing breed; they seem determined to see the world in true explorer style (Hillary also went to the North and South Poles), and to have what I can only class as 'adventures' - it's a lifestyle which seems a world away from so many of our lives, and even if we can never hope to emulate it even to a minor degree, there's a part of me which is grateful that such people still exist - and that the rest of us can read about their lives and exploits and be reminded that the world is far larger than we can ever hope to fully comprehend.

And, of course, it's all the more beautiful and interesting for it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Striking While The Iron(y)'s Hot

As you may have seen in the news, the Writers' Guild of America strike has led to the Golden Globes awards ceremony being cancelled. This is mainly because the actors who would have been attending have said they're to willing to cross the picket lines which were predicted. Quite clever in a way, the WGA didn't actually have to physically picket, just say that they would. It seems unclear at the moment whether the threat of picketing will have the same sort of impact on the Oscars, due next month.

Further down the report linked above, you'll see mention of what one might argue are the first cracks in the studio's rock-like refusal to return to the table, as (and I sort-of expressed hope it might be the case in this post ) individual production companies have directly struck deals with the WGA. This gives them a commercial advantage, as they can work with WGA members (and that means they can actually have, you know, scripts for their products), unlike the members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

And the names of the companies who have struck these deals add an amusing little touch to the news, as the film production company which has struck a deal is United Artists (first formed in 1919 to allow creative types more control over their work and pay), and the TV company behind David Letterman's nightly chat show, which - and note how the BBC site is too coy to mention it - rejoices in the frankly splendid name of 'Worldwide Pants'.

No, I'm Not Being Mean - With This Summary, I'm Saving You £14.99 Which You Might Spend On The DVD

Most workouts involve wearing loose-fitting exercise clothes and going to the gym, but not the WAGs' workout! It's all about fun - and certainly not about the correct use of the possessive apostrophe!

Here's the regime:

1. Put on tight-fitting non-exercise clothes and go to a nightclub, or hotel bar, known to be frequented by professional footballers.

2. Assume the position.

3. Go shopping.

4. Repeat stages 2 and 3 until the money runs out, or he's injured or dropped from the team.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

(One Sentence) REVIEWS: Christmas TV 2007

Big Christmas Day films on BBC:
Maybe too much animation, but they clearly went shopping with full pockets.

Big Christmas Day films on ITV:
Were there any?

Doctor Who - Voyage of the Damned:
We knew Kylie's character wasn't going to last long enough to become a companion, didn't we?

Only fitting that, after a year of spinning out the Max-Stacey-Bradley storyline, they spread the revelations over several episodes, I guess, but still…

Coronation Street:
Surely, the way Kevin punched John was the way Bradley should have punched Max in EastEnders?

The Catherine Tate Christmas Show:
I think I'd like to be the Script Editor on this show, it'd be nice to catch up on my sleep.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Now Wait For Next Year*

At this time of year, it's not only traditional to make New Year's resolutions, but also to take stock of things, and assess how much progress (if any) one's made in certain areas. David, Lucy, and Lianne have all posted on their goals and achievements with regard to writing in 2007, and so, perhaps slightly belatedly, I thought I'd do the same.

If I'm honest, I didn't really set myself many specific writing goals for 2007 (though there were a couple, of which more in a mo). I do feel, though, that I did pretty well in 'getting things out there', by which I mean I'm pleased that 2007 saw the following:
- Being selected as one of 100 bloggers whose work was included in a Comic Relief book
- Recording an audio version of the same blog entry for inclusion in the podcast version of the Comic relief book
- Book review work for the Fortean Times
- My 'flash fiction' urban myth being a finalist in, and thus performed at, the Urban Myths event at the Manchester Literature Festival

...I'm also quite pleased with the way this blog has evolved; I'm updating pretty much in line with the number of working days in the week (and sometimes more often than that), I think there's a good mix of topical, personal and silly items, and people who I've never met have been kind enough to link to me and to post comments, which makes it feel less like a displacement activity and more like a genuine form of communication with the world at large.

Mind you, it's not all sunshine - none of the above earned me any money, which is fine in the case of the charity stuff, but it's slightly disappointing to realise I earned more from eBaying unwanted stuff than I did from writing in 2007. Hmm.

And, as mentioned above, I had a couple of specific writing goals - to finish my novel 'Coming Back To Haunt You' and start the novel 'The Body Orchard' - which didn't really happen; sure, I started 'TBO' (as no-one's calling it except me) in November as part of National Novel Writing Month, but that was meant to be written after I'd finished 'CB2HU' (again, as nobody calls it apart from me), which remains only half done. And that isn't really good enough - especially as I know how the tale finishes.

So this year, as well as making some proper (read: not half-arsed) progress with the novels, I intend to finish off the radio play that's sitting on my hard drive unfinished, to expand and polish the screenplay I submitted for the Red Planet prize in 2007, and to get my horrendously out-dated website revamped, as I've been promising to do for … well, too damn long.

Am I making a public proclamation here, then? You know, I rather think I am. Okay , for the sake of argument let's say I am.
So : in 2008, I aim to finish my radio play, screenplay, 'CB2HU', and to make good progress with 'TBO'.
We'll meet back here in a year and see how far I get in relation to these, shall we?

*Apologies to Horselover Fat.

Friday, January 04, 2008

A Night At The Bingo

Alan Carr and Bingo from the Banana Splits - separated at birth?

Not that I'm having a go at Alan - in fact, I was pleased to see that his current stand-up DVD is selling very well - I saw the event live (tip of the hat to m'laydee for suggesting we go in spite of uncertainty on my part), and was very impressed indeed; ignore his appearances on the execrable 'Friday Night Project', where he's utterly wasted, and check out the DVD, where you can see what I consider a truly 'classic' stand-up set - lots of well-honed jokes and stories, which are all tight and to the point.

Genunely worth your time and money. Even if Alan does look like Bingo.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Welcome To 2008. I've Been Expecting You.

I've been here a few days now, waiting for you to get to Thursday 3 January, and lo and behold, here you are. I knew you'd show up in time.

Anyway, I hope that this year brings you good news and good luck.

Instead of me providing a round-up of 2007, I'll leave it to the *ahem* experts at the London Evening Standard, whose summary of events last year can be found by clicking here (caution: link contains pessimistic exaggeration and questionable journalism).