Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bright Lights, My City

I live, as I've probably mentioned several million times before, in London. And I love it - the city's endlessly fascinating, and it's been kind to me, bringing me a number of opportunities and friends I doubt I would have encountered elsewhere (and yes, that includes my lovely wife).

So, it's with an utterly ill-founded sense of pride (seeing as how I wasn't actually born in London, as much as I consider it my home) that I provide you with the link to this page, where you can see a selection of frankly stunning aerial pictures of London taken at night by the ferociously talented photographer Jason Hawkes.

The picture reproduced here, I hope, gives you a hint of the delights that await you - and yes, I chose this one because it's a view of my manor, East London. Other than that, and unusually for me, I have little else to add - save that to point out that the picture above is, of course, totally and utterly copyright Jason Hawkes, and the reproduction here is done out of respect and awe as opposed to any kind of attempt to infringe!

Anyway, stop reading my semi-disclaimer, and get thee to the pictures!

Friday, January 30, 2009

If I Scribble The Name In A Hurry, It Looks More Like Tate Modem

Thanks to Lianne for pointing out that the Tate Modern art gallery is running a story-writing competition; in conjunction with its current TH.2058 installation, you're invited to write a 1500 word piece in keeping with the themes. The prize is quite an interesting one - six stories will be selected to be included in a downloadable audiobook, which will be read by Christopher Eccleston.

The competition closes on Sunday, and if you want to read my entry, Brittle, it was posted on the site this morning (they moderate entries to make sure there are no offensive or libellous aspects, which seems sensible), and you can see it by clicking here.

Let me know if you have a go, and if you want to comment on my story, by all means do so.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It Ships 'Second Quarter 2009' Though, So It'd Be Too Late For Valentine's Day


Available to pre-order now is this little beauty - well, actually it's wildly inaccurate to call it 'little', as it's 7'8" tall, and comes with poseable arms.

So, you can set it up in the bathroom at night with outstretched arms to freak out your nearest and dearest. And the cost to do so? A mere $4999.95 (about £3500).

Y'know, I can't decide if it's one of the most preposterous or amusing items to purchase I've ever seen in my life. Maybe it's both?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Art For Art's Sake (Money, For God's Sake)

This morning I received a remittance advice for a wee bit of writing (a joke I sold, so it's small in wordcount and audience alike), which makes it the first bit of money I've received for my writing in ... oh, an alarmingly long time.

The dream, of course, is to make a living from writing and nothing else, but I'm aware that this is a long way off. One step at a time, of course, and I'm fortunate in that the day jobs I've had since I started writing (which would be, come to think of it, every job I've ever had since the age of 18) have generally left me with enough mental energy remaining to do some writing in my free time, and sometimes to even make a sale.

Anyway, selling the joke (and doing so in the first couple of days of the year) feels like a good start to 2009, though, and I hope it'll just be the first of many... though of course it's less a question of hope, and more one of
work, a fact which I'm very much bearing in mind.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm Sure There's A Word That I Could Remove From This Title

I was re-reading Bill Martell's '16 Steps To Better Descriptions' today, courtesy of a reminder link on Lucy's site.

It's a good solid chunk of advice, and I heartily recommend it to you. One line in particular caught my attention :

"The easiest two words to trim out of a sentence are AND and BUT. Usually these words are completely unnecessary. Cut them."

I agree completely, but I'm actually acutely aware that (as well as lengthy sentences with excessive sub-clauses), one of my writing habits is the overuse of the word 'that'. Not as a pronoun, but rather as a linking word, when a lot of the time it's superfluous - as in 'I know [that] you've got the treasure map, now hand it over', to quote a line I said just this morning (don't ask).

So, in the spirit of sharing and confession, which words or phrases - if any - are you aware you overuse? Are there certain words which you have to keep an eye out for in re-reading, and invariably find yourself removing as unnecessary? Do share, I'd feel better if I wasn't the only one who's openly flawed.

Not that there's anything wrong with being aware of this sort of thing, of course - after all, Arthur Conan Doyle uses the word 'singular' repeatedly in describing Holmes's cases (which strikes me as a bit of a paradox), and Damon Runyon used the phrase 'more than somewhat' so often that it became almost a catchphrase, and eventually the title of one of his books.

So, no shame in it - which is to say: go on, 'fess up!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday's Child Is Identical Of Face

The pictures are rather contrary to the way the characters normally behave in their respective roles, but nonetheless, submitted for your comparison: Kane 'Often Jason Vorhees' Hodder as serial killer Dennis Rader in the film BTK, and Nick Frost as Mike Watt in cracking TV comedy Spaced.

(If you haven't seen either of these items, in all conscience, I can only recommend you watch Spaced. Despite BTK being based on real-life events, Spaced is actually the more believable.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This Sale Must End Midnight Sunday

As we all know, the television production company Kudos have a nice line in popular and stylish TV programmes.

However, they're not the first to have done so - there were a number of TV programmes in the 1960s and 1970s which were similarly smooth but also very entertaining. An obvious example would be The Prisoner, the classic TV series featuring the recently-passed Patrick McGoohan (not to be confused with Play School presenter Stuart McGugan, as happened more than once when I was growing up).

Anyway, all this is a typically lengthy preamble to alerting you good people to the fact that Network, a firm specialising in DVDs and soundtracks of many of the shows from this era, is currently running a sale on its website, with most items being 40% off.

So if you're into Danger Men, Men In Suitcases, or even Motels At The Crossing Of Two Roads, you might want to have a gander before the sale ends at midnight on Sunday.

(I have no affiliation or bias in relation to Network, just wanted to make sure that you folks get to take advantage of the reduced prices. I like to think you'd do the same for me...)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Eeeh, I Remember When Albums Were a Foot Wide By a Foot High, And Sometimes They Even Came In Gatefold Format

The results were recently announced for the 2008 Art Vinyl prize for best record cover - here's the BBC News link - and because I'm hip to the sound on the trip-hop streets, I thought I’d share two of the top three with you fine people.

The winner was the Fleet Foxes album, and in third place was Coldplay (both pictured here).

However, the reason I picked these two is because they don't really strike me as particularly worthy of the prize - they are, after all, pre-existing pictures by Bruegel and Delacriox, with a few words added in white. I know there's a debate to be had about the nature of art and creation and found objects and all that, but given that second place went to a wholly new image - and a pretty creepy one at that - on the recent Roots Manuva album (see it in glorious scare-icolour here), I think that it seems to be rewarding designer for cleverly choosing bits of old art as opposed to creating new images of their own.

Then again, looking at Art Vinyl's own website, it seems to be more about the sale of frames in which to hang your vinyl albums on the wall as opposed to the sleeve art itself, so maybe I've just been duped into wasting braintime thinking about something which is little more than a thinly-veiled advertising ploy.

Darn it.

Then again, it appears that the news-gathering forces of the BBC were equally fooled, so I shan't blame myself too much.

Besides, I never liked vinyl as a format very much when I was a youth in the 1980s, it was far from easy to play on my Walkman.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

One Of My Intermittent Posts About Twin Peaks, This Time With Pictures

I've written before about my fondness for the TV show Twin Peaks, and I'll no doubt do so again (perhaps, one day, even explaining why I like it so), and in case you haven't guessed it by the start of this sentence... well, this is one of those posts. If you're not interested in this subject, normal service (if that's what it can be called) will be resumed as of the next post.

Anyway - for those of you who are still here - I was rather amused to hear that a Twin Peaks variant of a range of skateboarding trainers was being released; partly because it's almost two decades since the show was last on TV, and also because I'm 37 years old, for goodness' sake, and the idea of trainers featuring motifs from a TV show really shouldn't elicit the question 'Where can I get them?' and have me reaching for the internet so quickly. Still, I think we've established I'm an overgrown infant, and so the pictures surrounding these words are pictures I've actually taken of my shoes, which I received yesterday.

The first picture gives you a general idea of the trainer - as you can see immediately, there's an owl pictured on it, in line with one of TP's signature phrases (or should that be warnings?) "The owls are not what they seem". As well as the green stitching along the shoe, and the spare green laces supplied, there's a hint of patterning on the 'grey' area which might be faintly fern-like or leafy, but that might be me looking for more of a bucolic motif than is actually present.

The second picture is perhaps not a usual angle to take a photo from, but people with perhaps even a passing familiarity with TP will probably understand why I did it; the red sides of the inside of the shoe, combined with the zig-zag pattern on the insole, combine to create an in-shoe replica of the 'Red Room', one of the series' most memorable locations (if indeed it has a physical existence). Only certain people can enter the room, and in certain circumstances, but with these shoes any old clown (by which I mean me) can at least send their feet in. And, for what it's worth it, they're really rather comfy.

I'm no kind of trainer expert - though my father often maintains that I "should be trained by now, surely?" - but these seem well made, and comfy, with enough extras and doodads to keep Twin Peaks fans amused. How they work for skateboarding or other physical activities I couldn't say, but there will probably be proper reviews elsewhere on the internet of that sort of thing. Oh, and one final touch I forgot to mention - the paper surrounding the shoes (in the box they arrived in) has a wood-style print on them, which seems to continue the generally 'nature-based' look of the whole package.

Overall, then, a nice job on a slightly odd choice of TP-tie in, and they've brought a smile to my face and a slightly increased bounce to my step. I got mine from Flatspot, and the service was very good, though of course other firms should be able to supply them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Does, As They Say, Whatever A Spider Can

Spotted yesterday on the side of a fairly tall London building; a window-cleaner who, in the absence of one of those lower-you-down cradle things, was abseiling down the side of the building, washing the windows as he went.

You can make out the bucket, which was suspended from his waistband.

Fair made me grin as I made my way into work, it did.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Thought Madonna Had Sworn Off Acting After The Bad Reaction To 'Swept Away'?

This was the poster they put out here in the UK - oddly enough, the theatrical poster used in other countries doesn't make Julianne Moore look like herself either.

What's all that abaht, then?

Monday, January 19, 2009

And I Won't Be Surprised If The 'Pretzel Fainting Incident' Is Revealed, In His Memoirs, To Be Something Rather Different

It's an embarrassing thing when a band or music artiste you like puts out a not-so-good album, especially if you've previously been vocal in praising them. And in much the same way, it's awkward for people who've made allegiances to political parties or even particular politicians, only for them to do something boneheaded or prove themselves unworthy of that support.

That said, I think that the annals of history are unlikely to view George W. Bush as a very good president at all. In fact, all things considered, I think it's probably very likely that he'll be viewed as the worst president that the USA has ever had. And, to my mind, rightly so.

Putting aside the issue of the non-finding of bombs or similar in Iraq - let's leave that as the GOP elephant in the room, as it were - and the fact that he permitted torture and detention without charge (both in contravention of the UN Declaration on Human Rights) on his watch, let's look at the record from the only perspective which seems to matter to many people - that is, the economic angle.

When Bush entered office, the federal budget surplus was $127bn. Last year, the federal budget deficitreached $455bn, and is expected to top $1trillion this year. That's not good, is it? Obviously, a lot of this has been caused by expenditure on … er, let's say international diplomacy, but even more of it is the result of the current economic situation, much of which appears to have been caused by banks. Now, one might argue that this should be blamed by the banks, but if you're in charge of a country, you have the power to regulate banks; if you don't do so and it all goes round the U-bend, it's about as surprising as … um, well, the last time this happened as a result of unregulated lending institutions lending too much money on bad mortgages. Those who don't learn from history are indeed condemned to repeat it.

Anyway, it's all too easy to kind of write off Bush as a joke president, and the last eight years as some kind of comedic aberration, which would be fine if it many of the consequences of the last two presidential terms weren't so un-funny. Here, though, is my favourite Bush-era joke, courtesy of Alan Moore:
Q: What do you call an eight-year-old Iraqi kid with no arms, surviving family members, or unblackened skin below his waist?
A: I don't know. I was shouting at the TV and I didn' t catch his name.
Ha ha ! It's hysterically funny, isn't it? Now watch this drive.

So, I can't say I'll be sorry to see the man go, not at all - but that doesn't necessarily mean that I think Obama will be the cure to all ills, so please don't go thinking that I hold any brief for the Democrats either. Though the fact Obama can string a sentence together suggests he may be nearer to the sort of candidate for the role that an electorate might hope for. And that, in essence is much of the reason why I'll be pleased when Bush is out - there seems to be very little in his record which suggests that he's fit to hold high office, and I think it's a hard-fought argument to suggest that he's the best man for the job, or the best representative of the USA. He's supposedly quite charming in person, and great at the people-stuff, but that's probably more appropriate for the mayor of a small town, or maybe the captain of a bowling league, if you want to play it safe.

None of this, I hasten to point out, should be construed as an attack on Americans per se - most USA-born folks I've ever met have been perfectly decent people, and their motivation and drive to better themselves (in whatever way they define that) is probably a lot stronger than that of the UK; M'colleague once pointed out the difference between the UK and the USA thus: "In the UK, if people see a Ferrari drive by, they'll sneer at the rich swine. In the USA, people see a Ferrari drive by and decide they'll work hard and buy one with the money they've earned". A simplification, yes, but it's certainly a difference that I've seen for myself, and it's an admirable one. My point is, the american people deserve a better figurehead than they've recently had. Whilst I had serious reservations about John McCain's running mate, the man himself seemed more plausible than Bush (when he spoke about war, he actually knew what he was talking about) - then again, even though he wasn't elected President, he seems to be otherwise employed, playing Colonel Tigh in Battlestar Galactica.

Lots of words here on this subject, but for those of you who prefer political issues in numerical form, I'd urge you to have a look at the summary of the Bush era created by the US-based Magazine Harpers, which can be seen here. I would politely draw your attention to the amount of time he spent on, or en route to, holiday.

Speaking of things on the newsstands, the picture accompanying this post is the 'variant cover' of the current issue of Amazing Spider-Man, featuring President-as-of-tomorrow Obama. There's been quite a bit of news coverage of this, for some reason, and when I went to my comic shop of choice the other day, I asked if they'd had much call for it. The chap behind the counter said yes, they had, but as it was a limited edition item, they'd run out almost immediately. "Quite a few people seemed to be buying it as a historic thing," he said, "to note the event". We agreed this was odd, as people could buy something a bit more immediately relevant, such as the newspaper that comes out that day. Or that week's Time magazine. Though probably not, I'd like to think, the plate.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Returning To The Well... To Refill The Bottle With Lightning?

I try not to be overly quick to react to announcements about forthcoming films and TV shows and the like, mainly because I've been wrong before (and which of us hasn't?).

Mind you, I was less slow to suggest that re-making the classic comedy series The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin was probably a bad idea; the central performance by Leonard Rossiter would be hard to beat - which was pretty much shown by the follow-up series The Legacy Of Reginal Perrin, which lacked both Rossiter and a certain... indescribable something.

Anyway, I'm re-considering in a way, not because there's been an announcement that Martin Clunes is to star (though he seems a perfectly nice chap), but rather because the new version is to be written by Simon Nye. Nye's best known for Men Behaving Badly, but he's shown that he can do darker comedy with the far-less-seen How Do You Want Me?... and more importantly the new series is being written in conjunction with David Nobbs, the creator of Perrin.

This, of course, in no way guarantees that it won't be as much of a misfire as, say, Brighton Belles, but it may be all right. Am I hedging my bets? Probably - I love Perrin, and if it proves possible to do a renewed version that doesn't urinate all over the memory of the original, and says something about workplace or midlife boredom, then I'll un-narrow my sceptical eyes. If you're feeling more keen to see it before it actually hits the screen, mind, you can see it being filmed at Teddington Studios by clicking here.

All that said, though, I have no idea quite how one distinguishes between a 'remake' and an 'inspired update', as per the quote on the BBC site. Still, at least it's marginally more coherent than that ghastly non-phrase "re-imagining"...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Anyway, I've Always Maintained That The Timeliness Of Topical Material Can Compensate For A Lack Of Comedy

So, I presume he won't be singing the line "I'm a man, without conviction", any more?

Ah, don't frown, you just wish you'd said it first.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Trapped In The Office, As Our Kelly Almost Put It

Am trapped at work so won't be able to get to the BBC writersroom bash which starts in half an hour. Pah!

Still, if you go, hope you enjoy it - and report back, eh ?

BAFTA Film Nominations 2009

The nominations were announced just before 8am, and for those of us who couldn't make it down to Piccadilly for that time in the morning, the list is here.

A good showing for Slumdog Millionaire and Kate Winslet, and because he always sounds so darned affable on Adam and Joe's 6music show, I'm pleased for Garth Jennings to be nominated for the Carl Foreman award.

To my mind, a generally interesting list, even if it does suffer the perennial problem of containing films which aren't yet out in the UK (Frost/Nixon, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button), thus rendering it a bit difficult to have an entirely certain opinion.. Not that lack of knowledge is usually an obstacle to me having an opinion.

And nor should it be for you; anyone have any strong feelings about any of the nominations? Do share.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It Also Contains A Leaflet Urging You To Subscribe - Because, As We All Know, After A Few Weeks, They Tend To Stop Materialising On The Shelves

I just spotted the first issue of this series in the newsagent today.

It’s one of those partworks which only tend to manifest at the start of the year, accompanied by TV ads telling you how it will "...week by week, build into a collection you - and your family - will treasure". Though I guess that on this occasion, it might actually be the sort of thing that you'll return to over time, no pun intended.

Mind you, it's not necessarily very good value - 2 episodes per DVD for a standard cost of £6.99 doesn't compare that well with buying the DVD boxes and a book, though as the first issue is at the introductory lure-you-in price £1.99, that's not so bad for the first two Eccleston episodes. Cheaper than iTunes, that's for sure.

If you want to look for it, it's hard to miss; the magazine-bit and DVD come mounted on a sizey piece of cardboard, and the magazine features David Tennant pointing a sonic screwdriver out at the viewer… actually, putting him on it which strikes me as a bit off (or at least a bit previous), rather as if the cover of the similar Little House On The Prairie collection didn't feature Michael Landon.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Belfast Isn't Just A Track By The Popular Beat Combo 'Orbital', You Know

Another BBC Writersroom roadshow has been announced, this time in Belfast. It's between 5:30 and 7:00pm on Thursday 29 January, at Studio One, Broadcasting House, Ormeau Avenue, Belfast.

As with previous roadshows, they don't want any old loonies just coming in off the street, so if you want to be one of the select loonies who's on the guest list, email your full name in the body of an email with the subject heading "Belfast Roadshow" to writersroom.events@bbc.co.uk.

Full details are available here, though the above pretty much covers it.

If you live nearby, why not go along and hand in your script in person? Given yesterday's rant about postal inefficiency, it sounds like a good way to avoid the vagaries of the postal service, and save money at the same time...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Always Rings Twice? It’s A Miracle If The Postman Rings The Once

It’s probably fortunate that I didn’t have a blog at the time, but a few years ago, the local sorting office decided to start telling lies about me. I’m sure of this, because various bits of post – including test items that I sent to see if my suspicions were true – were returned to sender with a sticker on saying ‘Gone Away’. It was annoying (especially as it was just before Christmas), and ultimately a serious problem, as the bank (not entirely unreasonably) saw the ‘returned Gone away’ on my statements and suspended my account. Thanks Royal Mail, I hope you enjoyed the money that you were paid in advance to perform a service.

Anyway, that eventually stopped – though not without a lot of hassle from my end – but in recent weeks it appears that the local postman has found a new way to not do his job properly but still take home the pay. A fortnight ago, m’wife was home and went to check the post at about 11am, and saw that there was a ‘Sorry You Were Out’ card on the mat. However, not only had there been no buzz on the buzzer (and she wouldn’t have missed it, ours is very loud), but the ‘attempted delivery’ was noted as having been at 11.45am. Being one who enjoys a touch of sarcasm, she immediately called the local sorting office and asked if our postman was the owner of a Tardis.

They made suitably apologetic noises, and confirmed that yes, the parcel was waiting to be picked up – given that we’re nowhere near the end of the route, it seems probable that the parcel never actually left the sorting office, and that the postman had decided to drop the card in without trying to deliver so he didn’t have to carry the parcel (not a large one, incidentally). I mentioned the above in passing at work the next day, and a colleague agreed this was likely to have been the case – he’d heard a card being dropped through the letterbox (without any knock or ring of the bell), and run down the road after the postman and asked for his item, to be told that er, um, actually the parcel’s back at the depot.

This morning, we received another Sorry You Were Out card – again, with no buzz at the door – and after Mrs Soanes and I had grrred and ground our teeth a bit, I Googled to see if other people had experienced the same level of non-service from Royal Mail. I expected a few matches, but there were literally dozens of people who’d received You Were Out cards with no attempt to establish if they were in fact out. Startling.

Those people, mind, were strangers, and so I’m keen and eager to know if you good people, who actually have names and some of whom I’ve had the good fortune to actually meet in person, have had similar experiences. Have you chased a Royal Mail employee down the road to be told they don’t actually have the item? Have you had cards dropped through without the doorbell being pressed or a knock at the door? Or are you a Royal Mail employee who could disabuse me of the notion that sometimes the post staff just write up the Sorry You Were Out cards in advance, and leave the items at the depot so they’ll have less to carry? Like the Jeremy Kyle research team, we want to hear from you (though you won’t get shouted at ).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Proof, If Proof Be Need Be, That Sunday Posts Are The Equivalent Of 'Friday Jobs'

Forget Aliens, this is surely the strangest change of tone for a sequel, ever.



I'm sorry.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Advert Spotted In A District Line Tube Carriage

One of the recently-announced atheist / humanist adverts - and which, I see, has already been criticised.

Mind you, given that the complaints come from Christian Voice, I think we can probably assume it's not necessarily a view shared by most reasonable religious folks.

You know the ones - they tend to have their beliefs and try to live by them, rather than verbally or literally attacking others for having differing ideas in their heads. Much like the founders of their religions asked them to, in fact.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Of Life Riley?

Does anyone know if the episode of new BBC sitcom Life of Riley which was on last night was, in fact, the first episode?

There were various jokes from the kids in the first five minutes or so about the dad's previous girlfriends, but it didn't seem to establish beforehand that Caroline Quentin's character was their new Mum or whatever. And they appeared to be moving into a new home, but I didn't know why... granted, I got a bit confused and wondered if I'd missed something vital, and didn't stick around much beyond the 8min stage, but was this information there and I missed it, or not?

I'm genuinely not having a go at the writer - she's a known name in comedy, with a pedigree going back to Spitting Image - so I'm more inclined to think that, for some reason, the BBC might have decided to play ep2 instead of a scene-setting opening episode. Maybe it was just me not paying attention, but if anyone can put me stright, I'm sincerely open to correction on this.

In Which I Try To Justify My Nerdish Level Of Knowledge About One Topic By Pretending I'm Really Talking A Broader Issue

There are many differences between TV in the UK and USA. The number of episodes in a series (often 6 in the UK, and more like 24 in the USA), the number of writers working on a show (the idea of the Writers' Room, common in the USA, is a positive rarity in the UK, though it's not unknown), and the tendency of American shows to have episodes comprised of clips from previous weeks (if not years), known as 'clip shows', are just a few examples.

A show going 'on hiatus' in the USA is another. Basically, this means that for whatever reason, the network or channel decides to stop showing a programme before the end of its projected run. It does happen, after a fashion, here in Blighty, but rather than the show just vanishing from the schedules, it tends to suddenly be re-located to some far-flung post-midnight slot; my first personal recollection of this happening was with the comedy Kinvig, though whether it's because my 10-year-old self recognised the scripting ability of Nigel 'Quatermass' Kneale, or that I found something confusingly interesting about the sight of Prunella Gee in a number of materially-challenged costumes, is open to debate.

Anyway, US shows which go on hiatus tend to vanish from the schedules and not come back, or if there's a concerted viewer campaign, they may return. I don't know of any notable examples of a show going on hiatus and then coming back and running for a prolonged period (anyone? Seinfeld started off with low ratings but then went on to enormous success, but I think that was more slow and steady than a case of being reprieved, though I could be wrong) - what usually seems to happen is that a show comes back, runs for a few more episodes in order to complete the series (or 'season'), and then that's yer lot. I think that's pretty much what happened to Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip recently.

Further off in the mists of history - and you'll be relieved to know that I'm finally getting to my point here - the same thing happened with the TV show Twin Peaks. I've mentioned before that I adore this show, and have done since it first aired in the UK during my college years, when m'colleague and I used to follow it. I think it's a terrific show (though not without its flaws, by any means) to this day, and I genuinely feel one could make a pretty strong argument that it paved the way for a lot of solid US Drama that's followed it, particularly on the non-cable channels; I think it's hard to imagine The X-Files or The West Wing having been made without TP having proven that there was an audience for a drama with strong serial elements, particularly in an era when video allowed for repeated viewing or catch-up.

Anyway, when Twin Peaks started, it proved an enormously successful show, but during the second series, ratings in the USA fell off quite dramatically, and the network put it on hiatus, six episodes short of completing the series. A letter-writing campaign ensued, which was successful, and Twin Peaks returned for six more episodes, completing its second (and, even I would freely admit, very patchy) series. And then, having lived a surprisingly long time following the last rites of having been put on hiatus, it was announced that Twin Peaks, as a TV series, was finished (though a prequel film was released a year or so later).

In the UK, we were unaware of the hiatus, as the show was broadcast on BBC2 (on Tuesday nights at 9pm, I seem to recall, with late-night repeats on Saturday on the same channel), several months after the episodes had been shown in the USA. In the USA, though, the episode which aired post-hiatus (which is to say, the first of the final six episodes made) was being shown after a lengthy-ish gap in the series, and understandably, the network was concerned that, in order to try and keep or build their audience, they would need some kind of recap.

So, a brief rundown of the events so far was put at the front of episode 24. In the UK, there was only the usual week between episodes, so no lengthy 'Previously On Twin Peaks' intro, with a new voiceover from the lead character, was shown. Which means that there was 2'34" of Twin Peaks footage which wasn't ever shown on UK TV (and no, I'm not going to get into the whole issue of the European Ending versus the Pilot Episode ending, or the editing of Truman's fight with Jones, here; one day I'll probably get round to writing a whole slew of posts about TP and what I love about it, and what makes me shake my head indulgently, but not today).

That lengthy parenthesis rather spoiled my intention with that sentence, so let's pretend I didn't splice a bunch of bracketed words into that paragraph, and go again: Which means that there was 2'34" of Twin Peaks footage which wasn't ever shown on UK TV … but it's now available to view here.

A long and rambling semi-essay to introduce a link there, I know… and now, as I click 'POST', I cross the fingers of my non-mouse hand and hope that, to make the above worth it, the link to the clip actually works

Thursday, January 08, 2009

My Interest Lies In Cycle Paths, Not Psychopaths

For those of you who aren't so keen on my writing-related posts, you'll be pleased to know this is on a different topic, and instead of holding forth with my usual arrogance and self-confidence, I'm asking a couple of questions…

Regular (that is, 'long-suffering') readers - or those of you who've read my profile - may recall that I like to do a bit of running, but this year I'm looking to add to that, whilst simultaneously diminishing my waistline, by having a go at a Duathlon. I know a Triathlon's the more famous event (and it seems the London Triathlon is pretty famous internationally), but until I've done something about the measurement around my equator, I don't think that humanity should be subject to the sight of me in a wetsuit. So, it's running plus cycling in 2009.

It's the addition of cycling which is the unknown and uncertain area for me, though, as I haven't been the owner of a bike for at least a decade, and I'm pretty certain that technology will have advanced quite a bit bike-wise in that period. So, if any of you can advise me on the type or model I should be looking into, I'd be really grateful. Whatever model I buy needs to be as light as possible, but also sturdy, as the duathlon involves run-cycle-run, and so the bike'll be chucked about a fair bit (especially when I dump it and get back to the second bout of running). And if I can use it for everyday, non-sport purposes, that'd be good too (though I have some sizable reservations about cycling in London, as you might imagine).

Anyway, if you can recommend a suitable model or a firm who might be able to help me sort myself out with some wheels, I'd appreciate it - and if any of you have done a Triathlon or Duathlon and want to try to dissuade me from doing one, or to give advice on how to do so and not end up knackered or dead*, please leave a comment or e-mail me at twowheelsgood[at]johnsoanes.co.uk.

Oop, almost forgot - in terms of size and cost, I need something that'll be all right for my moderately lengthy legs (about 35"), and which costs less than £fourdigits - and it has to be available in black.

Any pointers gratefully received - thanks!

*If I wind up dead as a result of some silly physicality such as a duathlon or climbing a mountain, I think it's fair to say, m'wife will kill me.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

BBC Writersroom - Coming To A Town Near Me!

... which is my typically inane way of saying that the BBC Writersroom are holding one of their Roadshows in London.

It's next week - Thursday 15 January, from 5:30pm to 7pm, and it's at the Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square. As with all the swankiest of events, your name has to be on the guest list, which means e-mailing your name, with the subject heading "London Roadshow" to writersroom.events@bbc.co.uk.

That pretty much covers it, but full details are available here.

I don't intend to hand any of my work in to the BBC folks in person at the event (as it's possible to do), but I've applied to attend - anyone else going? Let me know if you are, it'd be good to say hello to some fellow scribblers (or, as the case may be, typers).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

No, It’s Not Paypal - This Is Something That Could Help You Earn Money (Though It's Probably Pronounced Much The Same)

I've written before about my love of notebooks, and how insanely useful they can be when writing, but even I would admit there are some occasions when pen and paper aren't quite the right tool for the job.

One such time, I find, is when I'm trying to do something 'bigger than writing notes' - by which I mean trying to create a representation of character relationships, a timeline, a structure plan, breaking a story, creating a 'beat sheet', or what have you; the sort of times I need to be able to move my notes around as if they're tiles on a Scrabble board.

The professional way to do this is, of course, to use a wipeboard, or a big noticeboard and post-it notes or postcards, but that's not always possible when you're not at home or you're on a train or something like that.

To this end, I've recently been making pretty productive use of Papel, a free bit of software which allows you, to some extent, to create little notes to yourself, and save them all as part of a bigger 'project' file. I've so far used it as a repository for a bundle of notes on a novel and a TV feature, both of which I'm still shaping up, and it felt useful to get the various disparate scribbles in one place on the laptop. If nothing else, getting it all on the screen at one time showed me how much material I currently have, and whether I'm lacking beats in the second act or whatever.

Anyway, I've only been tinkering with it for a couple of days, but I've found it quite useful - if nothing else, it means that the various scribbled notes I've made to myself are rendered legible, which can only count as progress. As I say, it's free to download (though I'm not sure if non-Windows users will be able to run it), and whilst I'm not going to pretend it'll revolutionise your writing methods, it might be worth a look, to see if you find it useful.

Monday, January 05, 2009

To Semi-Paraphrase Goldfinger: Two Writers Saying It Could Be Chalked Up To Coincidence, But Three? One Should Perhaps Pay Attention.

In chronological order, three quotes from writers of note which I've recently come across:

"The artist should never try to be popular. Rather the public should be more artistic."
- Oscar Wilde

"Don't give people what they want, give them what they need. What they want is for Sam and Diane to get together. Don't give it to them."
- Joss Whedon

"Creating something is not a democracy. The people have no say. The artist does. It doesn't matter what the people witter on about; they and their response come after. They're not there for the creation."
- Russell T Davies

Is the underlying theme there, I wonder, the mandate from my betters I need to become even more of a puffed-up self-confident fool? Let's hope not, or I'll become even more unbearable.

Still, something to think about there, perhaps...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

New Who?

Who knew?

I wasn't guessing, but did any of you make money by wagering on this?

Friday, January 02, 2009

And The Unsurprising Moral Of The Story Is : You Actually Have To Care About The Story And Characters

Browsing through my new-ish copy of Writer's Market the other day (no, I really was), I noticed that Mills and Boon publish 600 of their romance-oriented titles every year. That, a quick calculation reveals, is about 12 books every week - which kind of surprised me; I knew they published a lot of books, but almost two a day? Crikey.

Anyway, I idly started thinking about submitting something to them, and wondering if any of the stories knocking around the attic of my mind might be dusted off and polished to a Mills and Boon-y shine. Of course, in the way the universe has of making events converge, last night on BBC4 there was a programme called How To Write A Mills and Boon - the BBC iPlayer link is here.

It's worth a watch - regardless of whether you're thinking of sending stuff to them - as the novelist Stella Duffy has a go at writing a book for them, and despite having had about a dozen novels published, she finds that it's not actually as easy as you might think; like writing for comics or soap operas, it shouldn't be looked on as something that's easy or somehow beneath one's dignity. Writing within any confines is, after all, a challenge.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

I Really Thought I Was Paying For Nudity

Intending to start this year feeling like I was actually steering the ship rather than being thrown about by events, I just had a look at my bank details online, to make sure I have some kind of idea how much or how little money is in my account.

And then I spotted what looked like an odd transaction - a direct debit against my account with the reference "NUD COLLECTIONS AC".

Nude collections? I don't remember having made any kind of payment like that... and then I realised it was actually an insurance payment to Norwich Union.

No wonder they're changing their name...

Welcome To 2009. Would You Like A Cup Of Tea?

Well then, another year gone, and a new one started. Oh 2008, we hardly knew ye.

I'll spare you a full run-down of which of my semi-resolutions I fulfilled, though paradoxically I got a whole load of things which weren't on my list done (and I mean writing stuff, not things like, say, getting married). Ah well.

But rather than pick over the bones of 2008, I shall instead redouble my efforts - by this time next year (clenches fist, raises it to a thundering sky), YOU ALL SHALL KNOW MY NAME!

(For nice reasons, I mean, nothing bad.)

But, to each and every one of you, a very happy 2009, and may the year bring you everything you could ask for - as well as a few surprises.