Thursday, April 30, 2009

BBC Writersroom At Hightide Festival In Suffolk

It's pretty short notice (mainly because I've only just spotted it's happening), but I thought I'd just mention that the BBC Writersroom are holding a session at the Hightide Festival in Suffolk.

The session is at 3.30pm on Saturday 9 May - full details are here.

In this sort of post, this is usually the point where I'd say that you have to e-mail to get your name added to the mailing list, but it seems to be impossible to book online for the event at the moment. If you want to go, it might be worth giving them a call, or perhaps seeing if the Reserve tickets>> button starts working again at some point in the future.

Of course, you could turn up and hope for the best, though I'd only really recommend that if you live close by or are attending Hightide anyway.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

He's Talking To Him, But His Career's In Pretty Good Shape, To Put It Mildly

I've long been a fan of the writing of Joe Queenan. The best of his work, to my mind, is the stuff on film and general pop culture, but his autobiographical writing isn't so shabby either.

So I was quite interested to see that there was an interview by Queenan with William Goldman, a screenwriter whose CV isn't what anyone could call shabby - All The President's Men, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, Misery, and The Princess Bride - in one of the newspapers last weekend. Not interested enough to actually pay for it, mind.

But, through the wonders of the internet, the interview's now available online (where it's free to read), and it's located here.

It's rather lighter than I'd expected - oh, all right, I admit it, I was kind of hoping for a clash between two fairly-strongly-opinioned men - and not as scabrous as Queenan's usual style; then again, Goldman knows more about screenwriting and working in Hollywood than many people will learn in a dozen lifetimes, so it's certainly worth a look.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An Open Letter To The News Media Re: Swine Flu

Dear The News Media

I know I haven't been paying much attention to you for a while - mainly since the whole Diana volte-face thing, though there's no need for me to get into that again here - but I thought I'd just write you a quick note.

I notice that you're currently rather concerned about alerting me to the possibility of swine flu. Not just me, obviously, everyone with eyes and ears to see, read or hear your latest updates, but I won't presume to speak for other people. As you and I both know, public opinion is a startlingly nebulous thing, and can change overnight... yeah, okay, I'm circling back to the Diana thing there, I guess, so I'll move on.

Anyway, whilst I really appreciate the warnings about swine flu, I... well, in all honesty, I'm beginning to think this is a bit of a cry wolf situation. You might remember that towards the tail end of 2001, you seemed intent on telling me that I was likely to receive anthrax in the post, and that didn't happen to me at all (or to anyone else I know, come to that). And shortly after that, you alerted me to the dangers of SARS, and then bird flu, both illustrated with lots of pictures of people wearing those paper masks over their mouths, and much use of the word 'pandemic'.

As we both know, I didn't die of anthrax or SARS or bird flu. Some people did, granted, and that's obviously a bad thing, but I'm kind of certain that the ratio of coverage to actual statistical risk was pretty badly out of whack. A cynical person might almost think that the issue was being exaggerated to fill column inches or airtime.

I'm sure you can see why I might be sceptical about the real likelihood of swine flu being a 'pandemic' (the preferred word for these things now, it seems, just as 'terrorists' are now 'terror gangs'). I'll bear the possible risks in mind, but on the basis of past experience, you can't really blame me for thinking that you're just scaremongering and talking out of your arse.

Hope the family's well -

Lots of Love

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fame! Does It Make You Live Forever, Or Make A Man Take Things Over?

As you might have heard, Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, has a new book coming out in September.

I was very unimpressed by TDVC, and increasingly bewildered and then rather annoyed by the fuss surrounding it, though as M'Colleague pointed out, Brown probably had very little idea that the book would be as popular as it turned out to be, and that he probably wrote as good a book as he could. A fair point, and one for me to bear in mind when I start foaming at the mouth about Baigent and Leigh and how I didn't believe them either.

Anyway, here's an interesting - if rather slight - article on authors suddenly becoming successful.

My general feeling is that if you're going to write for an audience, you have to be aware of the possibility - howsoever slim - that you might find yourself wildly successful and catapulted into the public eye... equally, you have to accept the possibility that you may toil away for years without anyone at all saying they like your work.

And like the final paragraph of that article, I suspect most writers I know would rather have to face the trauma of heightened expectations for the next book as opposed to wondering how the rent's going to be paid next month.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

500 of 1910, Two Men, A Queue

An interesting event if you're a fan of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, though I can't make it (grr)...

Creators Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill will be signing the first volume of the new series, Century: 1910 at Gosh!, my favoured comic shop in London, next Saturday (2nd May), from 2pm-5pm.

More intriguingly, as the book doesn't come out until the end of May, 500 copies are apparently being specially air-freighted over for this event. Unfortunately for those of us who can't make it, they're not takng reservations for signed copies of the book - the advance copies are going to be available exclusively on the day of the signing, and they'll be limited to two copies per customer.

If you can make it, it's obviously a rare chance to get the book signed by both creators, but if not... well like me, you'll have to wait until the end of May.

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's Not Easy Coming Up With Ideas, You Know

Yeah, we've got this new rom-com coming out.

We're not expecting it to break any records or anything - after all, audiences have never seemed to be as keen on Matthew McConaughey as the studios are - but I thought it wouldn't hurt to aim high. Why not, you know?

So I thought that, for the poster design, I'd rip off one of the most successful romantic comedies of all time. I reckon some of the magic should rub off, but nobody'll guess why, and I'll get all the glory.

Unless someone with nothing better to do with their time notices it, of course, but hey, what can you do?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Arrive Late For The Party Once Again, But Here's Your Ticket To The Screening Room

I recently watched the entire run of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, the short-lived comedy-drama from Aaron 'West Wing' Sorkin.

It got very mixed reviews and limited ratings, and kind of limped to the end of its first and only season, and wasn't renewed. In comparison with the not-entirely-dissimilar 30 Rock, it's a lot more worthy and less funny, but I enjoyed it; there are signs of changes of direction and tone as the end drew nigh, presumably as they tried to find new ways to draw viewers in.

In my (frankly pretty worthless) opinion, there were two fundamental problems with the show:

1. It kind of assumes that the audience has an enormous familiarity with, and affection for, Saturday Night Live. As a limey, my exposure to it has been very limited, but I'm aware of it and some of its history. So it didn't trouble me, but I can imagine that audiences of pretty much any nation who are unaware, or actively unfond of, SNL might well be put off.

2. Whilst The West Wing deals with heavy-duty stuff like kidnappings and war and terrorism, Studio 60 is rather hobbled from the start by the fact that, for all the on-screen depiction of concern and hard work, it is ultimately 'only about a TV show'. I'm not denigrating TV as a medium, but I think the show has an uphill struggle to make some of the plotlines seem as important to the viewer as they appear to be to the characters. This is slightly echoed by the way a lot of the in-show comedy bits aren't gutbustingly funny, despite the way the in-studio audience may be reacting. There's a slight mismatch between the way you're told to react to an item, and the way you may actually react.

For all this, though, I think there was a lot to like about Studio 60, and Matthew Perry did a pretty good job of making me forget he'd been in that other TV programme.

Anyway, I mentioned a Screening Room up above, and by that I mean a new-ish feature on Amazon (UK version) whereby you can watch entire TV shows - including, yes, the pilot episode of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip - for free.

The Screening Room is located here. Keep your feet off the chairs, if you don't mind. Night vision technology may be utilised to ensure compliance.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Want You To Learn From My Mistakes. Lord Knows, I Seem Incapable Of Doing So.

Like Alan Partridge in the Linton Travel Tavern, or ... um, thingy in Man In A Suitcase, my lovely wife and I spent the last week or so living out of a suitcase (well, a couple of them) in a hotel not far from our home.

In case you're assuming that the accumulation of books and CDs and DVDs had reached the stage where it was easier for us to move out and leave the material possessions to take over the flat, fear not; this was a planned re-location while we had sturdy artisans in replacing the kitchen and bathroom (including tearing out the plumbing and re-plastering the ceilings), and we decided it was best to move elsewhere and keep out of their way.

Living within twenty minutes of home, but not actually at home, was a strange experience; kind of limbo-like, but pleasant enough (the hotel was nice, and had room service, so no complaints there), even if towards the end of it we were keen to get home.

Anyway, I learned various things from the experience, and I thought I'd share them with you. Hints 'n' tips, as it were.

If you're staying away from home whilst renovation work's being carried out, for pity's sake, do not pop home to see how it's going.

I can't stress this enough. It's always a bit weird to be away from home anyway, but if you then return to the location you're feeling faintly disconnected from only to see it in a state of disrepair, it's not going to cheer you up one bit.

The sight which confronted us on a halfway-through visit home was pretty horrifying - pipes sticking out of walls at scary angles, light fittings hanging from the ceiling like slabs of animal carcase in one of those refrigerated lorries, and so much dust it looked as if it had been snowing indoors. A scene of devastation, in short, not seen in London's East End since the Blitz*.

I think it was Thomas Wolfe who wrote that you can never go home. As regards popping in to see how the work's going, make that you shouldn't go home.

Unaccustomed to hard graft? That makes two of us. Keep at least one eye on your surroundings.

For example, if you're lifting a box of floor tiles onto a trolley, make sure that you don't glance away long enough for the trolley to get bored of being an inanimate object, and suddenly go all animated.

In my experience, the trolley will roll towards you whilst your attention is elsewhere, hit the back of your leg, and cause you to fall onto the trolley. This fall will be assisted by the weight of the box of tiles, which you'll need to keep clutched to you like a newborn for fear of them breaking. I've found that while all this is going on, your partner will be unable to do anything but watch... with eyes wide and barely-suppressed amusement. Their laughter begins when you land on your arse on the trolley. Hmph.

On being White Van Man, howsoever fleetingly

Driving a hired van to take unwanted furniture and rubble to the local tip - I'm sorry, I mean Re-use and Re-Cycle Centre - is, for the vast majority of men, a very exciting event.

Perched above the normal-sized vehicles, your lofty throne makes you look and feel like King of the dual carriageway. Enjoy it, but don't get too blase about your new-found status, for pride comes before a fall (and you can easily fall out if you're not careful when dismounting). Following what happened to me the other day, I make two recommendations about how to conduct yourself, so you don't fall from grace even remotely as swiftly as I did.

Recommendation 1: When driving a transit van, don't look in the rear view mirror. There isn't one. Use the side mirrors instead. Mind you, when you're reversing, pedestrians will probably take the opportunity to walk across the back of the van - that is, the blind spot between the mirrors' visible spots. So, I recommend you stick the hazard lights on, and whenever you're about to reverse, give it an extra 15 seconds' wait to make sure it really is clear. I didn't hit anyone, but from the way people were keen to leap behind the van every time I even thought about reversing, I can only assume there was a puddle behind my vehicle and pedestrians were intent on using their entire bodies to impersonate Sir Walter Raleigh's cloak. So, look, and then wait. And then think about moving.

Recommendation 2: When you're driving a rented van, take a moment to ascertain the height of the van before you go anywhere. This moment of research may seem like a waste of time, but it will in fact help you to avoid a close - some might even say intimate - encounter with a Maximum Headroom sign as you drive into a supermarket car park. If, however, you do what I did, and ask "hmm, are we going to get under that bar, do you think?" before hearing a very loud THUNK overhead, make sure you've paid for the full insurance cover on the van so you don't have to pay the excess. God bless you, Mastercover Plus.

... and there endeth the lessons. Well, the lessons that can be learned from my recent experiences. On the basis of my past performance in relation to lessons - both those within the classroom and elsewhere - it's debatable whether I'll actually learn anything, but if nothing else, I like to think that this post shows that I'm at least aware of my mistakes.

All the better, of course, to repeat them, with added stupidity.

*There is, I appreciate, the possibility that this is overstating it a bit. But as my sister once said, "Oh, everyone always exaggerates everything".

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Last Time I Saw Someone All Over BBC Continuing Drama Like This, It Was Slater Week

In amongst a crowd of rowdy hooligans in a pub the other day (yes, they were writers), I met Paul Campbell. Paul seemed a friendly chap, and he's also rather prolific and successful on the writing front.

How successful, you ask? Well, tonight on BBC1, he has not one, but two programmes being shown with his name in the Written By credit - and what's more, they're straight after each other, making for a full 90 minutes of prime-time schedule that's sprung from his words.


If we're going to split hairs, though, there will be one of those questionable 90-second 'news updates' between the two programmes, but I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Paul finds some way to work himself into the events of the day, as he was muttering darkly about streaking across Parliament Square to ensure the news coverage.

Oh, all right, I made that last bit up; but if you are watching TV in Blighty tonight, why not have a look at one of (or even both of) the programmes Paul's written? He wrote tonight's EastEnders (7.30pm) and Holby City (8pm).

As I say, he's a thoroughly friendly chap, and it's always good to see the decent sorts doing well, innit?

Monday, April 20, 2009

As Volume Often Trumps Reason, Emotion Can Overwhelm Diction

When I was a long-haired lout of a student (as opposed to my current long-haired fop status), the Cocteau Twins were very popular amongst the NUS/NME fraternity.

I don't know if you remember the group, but they were - like the Thompson Twins - comprised of more than two members, and were not twins. Anyway, one of the things which made them rather distinctive was the way that singer Elizabeth Frazer would sings lyrics in a fashion which made them almost impossible to understand; like a radio tuning in and out, there were flashes of clarity, when you could make out several words in a line (sometimes even consecutive words), but a lot of the time it was as if she was speaking in tongues.

It was, nonetheless, quite effective, and it was certainly pretty popular. I was reminded of this style of singing the other day when I heard, on the radio, the Leona Lewis cover version of the Snow Patrol song Run, where the vocal performance seems to waver in and out of coherence.

For instance, I know that the chorus goes pretty much like this:

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I'll be right beside you dear

But when Leona sings it, and blurs one word into another and then on into another, I hear something more like:

Liar, Liar
Andy you have my toys
Evey nifoo cannar ear mavoy
Arby rarby sardoo dear

...It's probably just my contrary and snarky streak that hears it that way, of course, but on the other hand it could mean that we should dismiss 80s-style synth-pop as the next big thing, and look to glossolalia as the way of the future.

If so, it's probably for the best that Smash Hits is no longer a going concern, as it would have been a nightmare trying to reproduce songwords, especially in these days of Spellcheck.

Speaking of things religious and music-related, is it just me, or does the genuine group The Priests look alarmingly like a storyline from Father Ted?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

And I Didn't Even Refer To The Big Brother Robot Incident... Oh.

Between the endless lingering shots of Danielle Bux on ITV's Hell's Kitchen the other night, I was struck by how, in a few year's time, Bruce Grobelaar will look alarmingly like George Galloway MP.

Although, now I think about it, I may well mean that the other way round.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ironically It's Probably More Articulately Written Than The Initial Allegations

I haven't seen this sort of response before, so I thought I'd draw it to your attention: Scarlett Johansson responds to recent press allegations about her weight loss.

Hmm, I've been posting a lot of links this week, haven't I ? Still, it probably comes as a nice break from my usual nonsense.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Appropriate Really, Given The High Regard In Which People Hold The Wire

As well as the scripts for three episodes, The Wire Bible is now available online.

(I'm as yet un-evangelical about the programme, having only seen a handful of episodes; by the way, BBC, if you're going to put a show on every night, how about putting it on at the same time so people who don't have Sky+ [people who might have, for example, got a freeview box in line with the BBC's suggestions that people get ready for the digital switchover] can watch it? Just a thought.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

He's Only A 'Mad Scientist' Insofar As He Gets Angry When People Make Unsubstantiated Claims Or Use Pseudo-Scientific Talk. And Who Can Blame Him?

There's an idiot of my acquaintance who claims to be able to heal people by waving his hands around them whilst they stand up.

He tried it on me once, and confidently told me that I had some back pain, which I told him was not the case, and cheerfully asked him why he'd missed the fact I had a blinding near-migraine headache which was rendering me half-blind in one eye. Hmph. He also claims to be able to heal people over the phone, so he doesn't even need to be in the same place as them. I don't know if he's genuinely deluded or lying to extract money from the unwary, but I think that on any reasonable assessment of, y'know, facts, it's pretty clear what he's saying isn't true.

Mind you, I wouldn't want you to think that I'm equating belief in such matters with idiocy - he's an idiot in many other regards, but as that rather strays into personal stuff I needn't share here, I won't go into any more details; suffice to say people who know me well, and of some of the events of the past five years, will know who I'm talking about.

Anyway, as hot is matched by cold and day is twinned with night, so such idiocy is balanced by intelligence; nature, they say, abhors a vacuum, and I guess it also dislikes a prevalence of empty brains, for there are people in the world who are very happily married to the accumulation of knowledge through verifiable experimentation and the accretion of provable facts.

Such a person is Ben Goldacre.

Ben - and I'll call him that so he doesn't sound like a Bond villain - writes on the subject of Bad Science in various newspapers and his blog of that title, and is frequently a clear voice of sense in an area which is all too often (and, it seems, all too easily) rendered indistinct and vague by all sorts of new-agey woo-woo. If you haven't visited his blog before, I recommend a look.

And it's because of a recent update to his blog that I'm posting; some time ago, Ben suggested it wasn't right that vitamin-pill entrepreneur Matthias Rath was taking out adverts denouncing the use of AIDS drugs in South Africa, and promoting his vitamin pills at the same time. Mr Rath took umbrage with this, and sued Ben and the paper that his comments were published in, claiming libel. The case went on for over twelve months, until Mr Rath withdrew the case - but by this time the costs involved in fighting the action were around half a million pounds. Steps are being taken to recover this money, but in the meantime, the removal of the legal action means that Ben's free to add his chapter on Rath to his book - also called Bad Science - but in order to get the information 'out there' to as many people as possible, he's also put the entire chapter on the web.

You can find it as a PDF here or, if you don't have Adobe Reader, it's available as an MS Word document here.

I'm ashamed to admit that, whilst I've always enjoyed his blog and print work (and he came over well on some TV consumer-thing I saw him in the other week), I don't yet own a copy of Ben's book. Methinks I should set about remedying that...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Free Doctor Who Episode On iTunes

You need to have an iTunes account and be over 13 years old, but if that applies to you and you'd like to download a free copy of the episode Last Of The Time Lords, then click here.

Offer ends on Monday 20th April, and is something to do with the Radio Times, I think. I have to say, you don't get that quality of freebie with TV Quick.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On The Bus, With A Student Pass

Perhaps it's the fact that they're both would-be lotharios, but I feel that Jay of The Inbetweeners (played by James Buckley) looks rather like a young version of Jack from On The Buses, as played by Bob Grant.

Just me, then? Ah well.

Anyway, The Inbetweeners is a horribly accurate depiction of male teenagers, and very funny as a result. Have a look at it by following the link above - all the episodes are, I think, free to download or stream from Channel 4's 4OnDemand service, so you can see if you like it for nought pee.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How To Annoy People - Lesson The Third

People who try to disguise the fact they're requesting something from you by mangling verbs into nouns
They say: "I know it's a big ask..."
You say: "That's okay, because it's matched by a small reply - No."

(Yes, it's a short lesson, but it's a Bank Holiday, so I'm letting you out of class early. Go and have some fun.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Twin Peaks Season Three: The Comic

I keep threatening to explain why I love Twin Peaks above almost all other TV, but never seem to get round to it. And this, you'll be unsurprised to read, is another of those occasions.

However, for those of you who've watched the show, there's an interesting item to be found here. It's an interview with Matt Haley, who was lined up to be the artist on a comic continuation of the story. Yes, I know, I'd never heard of it either, but it's an interesting tale of a nearly-was, and from the look of Matt's art (an example of which is attached to this post), he would have been a good choice of artist.

So, worth clicking on that link, I'd say. And one day, I promise, I'll post about why I consider Twin Peaks to be so good, and important. Maybe I should make it a whole series of posts, in fact.

Oh yes, the world is holding its breath as it waits for my ill-informed comments about a long-cancelled TV show, no question about that.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

With This Scent, You Too Can Woo Suspiciously Humanoid Females Of Various Alien Species. As Kirk Might Say, "...Oh My".

So then, join me in being slightly bemused by the forthcoming Star Trek fragrances.

Pictured are the two aimed at men, Tiberius, which will enable you to shout the word "Khan" with startling passion, and - more amusingly to my mind - Red Shirt, because (and I quote) "Tomorrow may never come". For the ladies, and not pictured (but you can find out more about it at the link), there's a fragrance named after a Vulcan mating ritual, which I can only hope is a bit more alluring than it sounds.

Still, as one who frequents comic shops and other purveyors of TV and Film merchandise, it's nice to see someone's - well, if not necessarily conceding that some hardcore Trek fans can be a bit on the whiffy side, at least addressing the possibility. And in a collectible fashion, no less.

Forget warp drives, that's what I call progress.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bobby Mack's In Town. No, Not Billy Mack From Love Actually.

I'll be honest, I wasn't entirely convinced by Robert McKee's Story.

It explains itself well as it goes along, and gives good examples and the like, but at the end of it all I just felt slightly overwhelmed by the almost algorithmic charts and equations involved, and something about it didn't quite sit right with me. It's entirely possible that I lost the thread somewhere along the way, and that I'm resenting the theory for my lack of understanding, but it could just be that it's a matter of horses for courses, every particular writer having son gout, and all that.

So anyway, I don't quite adhere to McKee's approach, but I certainly couldn't discount it either - a lot of people are big fans, and if nothing else, he's passionate about trying to discern what makes some stories work and others flounder - so it's only right that I point out that he's in the UK - specifically London - next week, doing some of his seminars; one on Love Stories, and then his famous Story Seminar.

It's short notice, yes, but I only found out myself last night, and I'm breaking away from my hot cross buns (not a euphemism) to post this, so it's as fast as I could letcha know, all right?


Well, now we've got that settled, this is the link you need to click for more details.

And I note one level of the tickets entitles you to a free copy of Final Draft - however, as people who buy it from authorised suppliers are eligible for a free copy of the new version which is due in May, you might want to make sure that, if you get it this way, you'll also be entitled to the free upgrade.

(On which theme, I'll be interested to see what people think of FD v8 when it comes out; I've been using Celtx and Word and waiting to hear that FD's new version is more readily compatible with Vista.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

And Even If It Comes In At Less Than A Thousand, At Least It Spares You From My Usual Verbosity

A picture, apparently, is worth a thousand words, so on that basis, I thought I ought to save words today and instead point you towards the online gallery for the Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer Of The Year; there are some startling (in the best sense) photos to be seen in this year's competition, and last year's entries aren't exactly shabby either.

You can have a look by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Protocol Has Clearly Changed - Better Keep Russell Brand Away From Her Majesty

1992 : Australian Premier Paul Keating touches the Queen, and is branded "The Lizard Of Oz" by the British media.

2000: Australian Prime Minister John Howard is accused of touching the Queen during a royal visit. Howard's office issues a statement denying "any contact whatsoever".

2009: Michelle Obama hugs the Queen during the G20 visit. The Queen appears to hug her back.

Perhaps it's a question of changing times and the softened role of the monarchy, but I know one thing: if you're going to touch QE2, make sure you're not a male Australian politician.

Monday, April 06, 2009

My Brother And I Once Got A Bit Lost In New York. A Woman Approached Us, Carrying Some Liquid Soap. "She's Going To Wash Us To Death," My Brother Said

Consider, if you will, the following; the first two are taken from Twin Peaks, and are spoken by Moriarty-like villain Windom Earle, and the third quote is from Rupert Giles in Buffy The Vampire Slayer:

"...A place of almost unimaginable power, chock full of dark forces and vicious secrets. No prayers dare enter this frightful maw for sprits there care not for good deeds or priestly implications. They are likely to rip the flesh from your bones then greet you with a happy "good day". And of the highest, these spirits in this hidden land of unmuffeled screams and broken hearts offer up a power so vast that its bearer might reorder the Earth, to his liking. Now this place is called the Black Lodge..."

"...These evil sorcerers, dugpas, they call them, cultivate evil for the sake of evil and nothing else. They express themselves in darkness for darkness, without leavening motive. This ardent purity has allowed them to access a secret place of great power, where the cultivation of evil proceeds in exponential fashion. And with it, the furtherance of evil's resulting power. These are not fairy tales, or myths. This place of power is tangible, and as such, can be found, entered, and perhaps, utilized in some fashion. The dugpas have many names for it, but chief among them is the Black Lodge..."

"...The Spanish who first settled here called it 'Boca del Infierno'. Roughly translated, 'Hellmouth'. It's a sort of, um, portal between this reality and the next."

The Lodges in Twin Peaks owe a lot to the thinking of the Theosophists, granted, but I think it's a fairly common idea that places can become in some way batteries for bad feelings, or centres of negativity.

I guess we've all known of places which somehow have a 'bad vibe', whether it's a case of turning a corner in an unfamiliar area and getting a 'bad feeling', or the many reports of places that migrating birds avoid and the like. I suspect it's more prevalent in fiction than reality (though tales of the Amityville House arguably straddle both those camps), but I somehow find the idea that a location can, in itself, be 'bad' and bring nothing but trouble for anyone who strays there, very interesting.

And if nothing else, it certainly explains the lives of the residents of Albert Square.

Today's picture, incidentally, is by Gustave Dore, and is called The Gates Of Hell. Good artist, I think you'd agree.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Easy Target, Easy Like Sunday Morning...

Obviously, the adverts for plates and dolls and figurines in the Sunday newspaper colour magazines are always good for a laugh, but sometimes they surprise even me.

Today, I spy an advert for this delightful Diana figurine from the Bradford group.

The description says "A breathtaking vision of style and grace, Princess Diana melted the hearts of millions around the globe. With her radiant beauty, engaging personality and stunning sense of style, Diana captivates the imaginations of people from all walks of life. And ten years after her passing, she’s still considered to be one of the most beloved women in the world."

Which is all very well and good, but until this morning, I didn't realise she was nineteen feet tall.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Script Frenzy 2009

It's a few days into this year's round of ScriptFrenzy.

You may have heard of this before - rather like a National Novel Writing Month for screenplays, the idea is to try to write 100 pages in screenplay form by the end of April. It doesn't have to be one screenplay, and I think you can submit 100 pages out of a longer script as long as you've written them during April. I say 'submit' but it's not as if there's some stern judging panel or anything like that - it's all in fun, and very much works on an honesty system, though I think you can submit your chunk of pages in a scrambled form to validate your page count. As for prizes, I think you can download certificates or icons or what have you, but I think the idea is more to feel the satisfaction of having done a healthy chunk of writing.

Anyway, is anybody out there having a go at this? I know it's already underway, but it seems quite fun, and it could be an amusing spur for me to get on with a script which I've probably been thinking about for too long...

Oh, and did I mention that it's free of charge to take part? I didn't? Well, it is.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Oh My Goodness Me

Perhaps a long time after everyone else in the world, I only found this today, but I have to share.

Don't be fooled by the opening bit, it's not just the Shat sitting and 'singing'... well, not alone, anyway.

He brings friends.

Remarkable, I think you'll agree.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

In Film Terms, It Equates To Some Magnificent Ambersons Footage Being Found

The best part of two decades ago, the comic Big Numbers was launched. As you can see from the cover here, it was co-created by Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz.

In a deliberate move away from the usual comic tendency towards superheroes (okay, more usual then than it is now, but it's still predominant), Big Numbers was intended to be a 12-issue series featuring pretty much everyday people in the fictional midlands town of Hampton. I say 'intended' because only two issues were ever published.

After two issues, Bill Sienkiewicz decided not to continue with the series, and the plan was for his assistant, Al Columbia, to take up the artistic reins, but for whatever reason (and in the comic world, a number of myths about this have developed in the absence of facts), Al was unable to do so.

And so that was where things have been since about 1990, when issue two was published... until this week, when it seems a photocopy of issue three turned up on eBay, and one lucky bidder not only bought it, but was kind enough to (with Alan Moore's permission) post it on the internet for all to see.

If it's some kind of hoax (and the post date is before April Fool's Day), I have to say it's a pretty darn convincing one; the style of the story, the dialogue and certainly the artwork look very much like the real thing, so if you ever read Big Numbers, or have heard about it, or heck, just want to see a comic by two very talented comic creators, well then hie thee over to the link above. Incidentally, don't be put off by the fact they're scans of a photocopy; the scans are very high resolution.

And if this rather niche comic-related post isn't your thing - abnormal service will be resumed in the next post, honest.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Les Poissons D'Avril

Quite nicely done ads for fake items, though I suspect the links may die at midday...

iREMember Dream Recorder

SatNav Shoes

Powdered Beer

(I have no affiliation with Firebox, though I've ordered from them several times and have always been happy with the results.)