Helloooooooooooooooo!

Yes indeed, I have finally found the time to sit down and write something.

How are you?

What’s new?

Me?

Oh, we’re back on broadband now, obv. We’ve been with PlusNet for six whole nights and they haven’t cut the service off once.

In your face, BT.

I could write loads more about BT because, even though we have now moved our broadband to higher ground, and are in the process of shipping our phone service to PlusNet too, BT seem absolutely intent on fucking us over.

They’ve billed us for a service they stopped giving us last month. And, to make things worse, they’re still taking the money too!

Utter twats.

And we had a letter from some complete drongo who claims to be the Customer Service Director for BT; in the letter he says that BT are going to charge us for taking our telephone service away from them.

Even though BTCare said there would be no charge because of the absolutely fucking awful service we’ve experienced for a year.

And, get this – no, really, get this – Mister Fucking Customer Service Director for BT says that we’ll *continue* to get charged for the broadband service – the same broadband service that we haven’t been receiving since 10th February.

BT – you really are beyond a joke.

Anyway, I’m not going to moan about them because, let’s face it, that would be an almost full-time pursuit these days.

So instead I’m going to say that I’m mental at work, putting in a tremendous number of hours a week; I seem to be carrying three major projects and two smaller ones.

And I’m writing a lot; currently working my way through a backlog of Album/Singer/Band reviews.

And I’m editing audio.

And I’m editing video for a small engineering company in Banbury; and trying to get acquainted with lighting techniques.

And I’m going to guitar lessons every Tuesday; yes, I’m trying to improve.

Trying.

Anyway.

And the podcasting is going well; the show continues to gain listeners, albeit at a much slower rate than we were picking them up 18 months ago.

Are we close to hitting our natural ceiling?

It would be a shame to plateau just shy of a really significant number of listeners, which is where we almost are.

And interviewing people a lot; I’m potentially interviewing two bands this weekend, if we can get venues sorted out.

And planning a trip to the US next month.

And trying to catch up on all my web-based reading.

So yes.

A bit busy.

What’s new with you?

Here’s a two-minute video to watch while you think about what you’ve been up to:

A weekend of tired

Another in the ‘this post was written some time ago, but has only just been posted because we don’t have broadband’ series.

Tired.

On Saturday morning I went to the library for half an hour, and then moved to Hackett’s restaurant.

In the afternoon I met Alex James, off of Blur. And cheese.

Nice bloke. He was in the local cinema with his wife and kids. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to have a brief chat and shake his hand.

I was buying tickets for The Adjustment Bureau. Alex and his family were going to see something more child-friendly.

A couple of hours before I met Alex, I put this weekend’s show out; the reason I went to Hackett’s.

Re-reading the shownotes, we seem to have covered a huge amount of conversational ground that included subjects as diverse as an email from Russell Brand (about his genitalia), to the unfortunately cancelled interviews with both Charlie Sheen and Ian (aka the Omaha poet).

Anyway.

The Adjustment Bureau was a good film. Anticlimactic, in the last reel, but a well-made version of a Philip K. Dick novel; ‘Inception-Lite’ is how I have heard it descrbed, a little unfairly, I feel. The Adjustment Bureau and Inception are completely different stories, they operate on distinct levels.

Sunday was a less frenetic affair.

Breakfast in bed followed by a snooze followed by a trip in to town and an All Day Breakfast (which was, in the most Hobbit-like of ways, a Second Breakfast); then back home to gather our thoughts.

I was going to wash my car while Sophie did the ironing (for which I love her just a little more), but I got distracted; Sophie put a Harry Potter film on and it was one I hadn’t seen before.

So that was that.

Two hours later and I hadn’t moved off the couch.

Not because I had become transfixed by the exploits of a fictional 14-year old boy; because I was desperately tired.

I’ve had a bunch of very bad nights in the last few weeks; nights when my ‘being asleep’ hours have been heavily outnumbered by my ‘being awake’ hours. And that is clearly not good.

Let’s face it; I enjoy spending a day at work in a tired state as much as I enjoy undertaking the long daily commute there and back in a state of tiredness.

Not at all.

So I have these periods of time when all I want to do is just sit and zone out. And sometimes doze. It’s all part of recharging; of catching up on sleep, getting rest.

Away from work I am trying to spend as much time as possible in ‘thinking’ and ‘planning’ modes.

I have so many projects stacked up on my ‘to do’ list that I seem to re-prioritise them at least twice a week; almost all of them are writing projects, though two are video-related, and one of those is to complete an video-editing job for an engineering company.

But the continued lack of broadband is a solid obstruction to finishing that.

I’d like to take a couple of weeks holiday, lock myself in the studio, fuel myself on Latte and just get on and do things.

But work – the day job – takes precedence, obv; being self-employed means that taking time off is an unpaid pursuit, even taking time off to complete various pieces of work and a commission or two.

Which is why we’re planning a trip to the US, to coincide with a lump of bank holidays and the Royal wedding.

This one isn’t about BT

This week, the last seven days ending tonight, Friday 25th February 2011, has been a week of weird and a week of same; I’m not sure how those two ‘weird’ and ‘same’ sit quite so comfortably in my world – and in my head – but they do.

I have drunk far too much tea in the last seven days. And no alcohol. I have also eaten very well and badly, but in uneven measures, with the scales of healty gastronomy tipping firmly in the direction of good eating.

Preparing and cooking good meals is such a faff, isn’t it?

Two Chinese meals, one of them prepared and cooked by me. But chips. Twice.

And an artery-hardening slab of pizza. Three oranges, about half a kilo of pineapple.

And chocolate. Many, many chocolate things.

Eggs and bars.

Actually, not so many chocolate things, just lots of chocolate in those two forms.

And the healthy, good food, obv.

Work has been absolutely manic.

I can’t, and don’t, write about my IT-related work – writing work goes by a whole different set of rules! – but this week, in the day job, I’ve covered so much ground, ticked so many boxes and moved so many things on to so many different levels that, frankly, sometimes it’s been hard to know where in the air all the juggling balls were.

But I just keep on juggling.

On the couch at home, we’ve been discussing going to Austin, Texas, for the 2011 South By South West (or SxSW if you can handle your abbreviations).

Because, surely, it would be so sensible to just drop those work balls and run to Texas for a week, to get completely involved in a whole new set of things.

I don’t have enough ‘things’ to keep me busy here.

Which is plainly untrue.

But, the thing about SxSW is, I’d get paid for it.

Oh, not NUJ rates, but I have offers from people who want pieces written, recorded or videod.

And edited, obv.

It would pay the hotel bills.

Or maybe the food bills.

And going to SxSW would be a massive opportunity to network and maybe promote the podcast and both of these things are very attractive.

Networking.

Away from the ‘day job’ part of my life, I want to build the side of my life where I deal with the writing, audio-, video-production and editing work.

I want to do more of these things for longer periods of time than the ‘several hours a week’ – where ‘several’ means anything from 0-18.

I want to do it better.

i want to add more value to it.

I want to be cleverer at it.

I want to earn more from it.

I want to learn to enjoy it even more than I already do and that, my friend, is a challenge of massive proportions in itself!

To help push these things onwards, I’m making tiny changes here and there.

I think I’ve carried the video editing as far as I can in the current config; given that every piece of video I’ve edited has been produced with a limited-functionality piece of freeware.

I’m going to move the video editing to a higher level with a piece of ‘proper’ video editing software.

This will help me produce more, much shorter, tighter films; that’s my primary objective.

Making this change would be the same kind of improvement that moving audio production from Audacity to CuBase gave me.

In the text-based world, I’ve stopped writing in Word.

I don’t know why, but I have found writing in Word to be increasingly difficult.

So I’ve taken the retrograde step to WordPad.

No spell-checker.

No word-count.

No page-break views.

No thesaurus.

None of the tools that, frankly, we use so much and so often, that they actually get in the way.

I find it easier to write in WordPad than Word.

It’s more basic.

Simpler.

Less cluttered.

And I like that.

I have also played far too much Spider Solitaire in the evenings of the last week.

At the time of writing, we are moving towards our fourth week without broadband.

This has presented us with a few difficulties.

Being without internet banking has been awkward, but we’ve been able to cover that at work.

But getting the weekly podcast prepared and put on the server for our listeners to download has caused me some extreme difficulties.

I’ve been using an hour of free internet access every Saturday at the local library to write the website for each show.

But the library’s infrastructure doesn’t allow FTP transactions – the protocol which sends the audio file to the server.

So I’ve been using a little bit of Latte-and-toast fuelled internet access at a local cafe/restaurant/bar, to get the show up to the server, for iTunes to distribute outwards.

I’m actually a little bit proud that even being denied broadband at the home/in the studio hasn’t stopped us from maintaining our 100% show production record.

We’re approaching the show’s third anniversary and we haven’t missed a single weekend.

That’s not bad for a couple of enthusiastic amateurs.

So yes, as well as trying to boost my writing, audio and video work, SxSW might be a good place to also do a little networking on behalf of the podcast.

And there are a couple of bands and recording artists I’m involved with; they could do with their word being spread too, while we’re there.

If we can get time off from our day jobs.

That’s a pretty big ‘if’.

Wise words for the stupid

Once again I find myself repeating what is probably going to become my mantra for 2011: ‘Context is everything’.

The late Kurt Vonnegut wrote some pretty good work, but his real skill wasn’t as a writer, per se, it was as an observational satirist.

What he found easy was exploiting the societal weaknesses, highlighting the structures of irrationality that we sometimes build around us.

Because he had a keen brain that looked for the satire, Vonnegut expressed opinions on many things.

As a result, he is oft quoted, particularly by late-teens schoolchildren, as if repeating his words imbues the speaker with a degree of higher knowledge.

Or wisdom.

And so it was when I was a late-teen schoolchild.

Today I saw someone deriding this NHS poster with the words ‘Who says we don’t live in a nanny state’:

I’ll let you think on their words and this poster, given two factors:

  1. That there are those in our society who aren’t as bright as you or I and who, frankly, *need* to have detailed information on how to clean themselves
  2. That the NHS produce generic information leaflets like this, most of which will go in to institutions where some people are heavily medicated, and aren’t allowed out by themselves

But the thing that got my ire was that the person who chose to ridicule this NHS poster quoted, not long afterwards, Vonnegut:

‘You cannot be a good writer of serious fiction if you are not depressed’

This is, plainly, bollocks, and a good example of why Vonnegut sometimes dropped the ball.

Depression is no more a condition for elevating a shit writer of serious fiction to ‘good’, than is baldness. Or acne. Or suffering hallucinations.

Vonnegut could not have written Slaughterhouse Five if he was a shit writer with terminal depression, no more than I could write Ender’s Game (Scott-Card) if I was a manic depressive.

Which Scott-Card isn’t.

So here, because this really minor thing has obviously got my goat, is a nanny stateised version of the Vonnegut quote:

‘You cannot be a good writer of serious fiction

  1. If you are not depressed (nb. this statement may not be true)
  2. if you are not a good writer of serious fiction
  3. if you cannot read
  4. if you don’t know the rules of narrative
  5. if you are not aware of the differences between active and passive voices
  6. if you do not know the rules of tense consistency
  7. if you cannot write with flair and imagination and, above all, accuracy’
  8. if you have no ability’

Sorry, I don’t know why someone who has depression (the person who highlighted the NHS poster and used the Vonnegut quote) effectively saying, ‘Look at me, I’ve got depression, I’m going to be a great writer’ – when they are actually borderline illiterate looking for excuses for not being much cop with the business end of English literature – has so annoyed me.

But it has.

I shall go and make breakfast now. It might make me less annoyed.

p.s. Vonnegut’s ‘If God were alive today, he’d be an atheist’ is tempered by Scott-Card’s activism within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Hypocrites Saints

Ho ho ho

So.

We were talking, recently, about writing in different formats – and scripts in particular. That conversation spiralled out of a problem I was having, at the time, with the the Sitcom I’ve been working on.

Although not an unqualified success with C4 at the first submission stage, ‘Shelved’ does seem to have found some kind of favour, which means I’ll continue working on the project.

Apart from the prospect of getting the piece reconsidered for filming, another reason for keeping at it is, frankly, because I need lots of practice at writing in script format.

Pigeon Girl recently said to me that she loved reading scripts.

What?

If we were looking for any additional evidence that she’s quite special, we have it in that sentence.

Because, frankly, reading scripts is flipping hard.

Anyway, as promised, here’s the first eight pages of what was the first draught version of ‘Shelved (in .pdf format).

It’s changed a bit since V1.0, but you’ll get the general idea from this.

Not joined up enough?

We are watching ‘Hitman’ (aka Hitman – Assassino 47, in Brasil), so I might get directed as I write this.

Distracted, not directed.

We recorded ‘Hitman’ a couple of days ago, because it looked good. But the continuity announcer just before the film said it was directed by Luc Besson. And I am a bit of a Luc Besson fanboy. If not an actual geek. So distraction might occur. But IMDB doesn’t list ‘Hitman’ amongst M. Besson’s titles, so I’m confused.

Umm.

Where was I?

Oh yes.

I had a lovely email from C4 television today.

Apparently they loved the sitcom I sent in. But it’s not for them. Yet. Though they did say they liked my wiring.

Writing, not wiring.

And they liked the gags.

There was uncertainty about the setting, though.

But they loved the opening scenes.

And the bacon visuals in s2.

And the way the opening and closing scenes tie together.

The bottom line is that they have made some suggestions and we are in an open-ended dialogue, but I won’t be nipping round to C4 to sign a contract for a little while.

Trying to look at this honestly, and with my anal-editing and attention to detail attitude, there could be another six months work on the script.

Oh.

And I got a pat on the head for getting the format right too.

So not a complete write-off.

In other news.

I have got the unheard items on my podcast subscriptions down to… one.

Yay!

p.s. I’m not too sure about this film. It feels as though it’s trying too hard

Bump!

I was talking to someone yesterday.

I know, how unusual is that? And not in a ‘throat-grabbing, gonna punch you in the mouth’ kind of way. Anyway this person I was talking to, let’s call them David William Elizabeth, accidentally let slip that she reads this twaddle and finds it, sometimes, amusing. I don’t really ‘know’ Elizabeth. I’ve met her once. Or maybe twice.

So in an attempt to be gratuitously amusing, here is the gratuitously amusing news.

The snow has gone. Yay! The thermometer says it is eight degrees warmer than yesterday’s -4c, but it doesn’t seem any warmer. Boo!

When I drove to the stables yesterday morning, there were two holes in the wall, on a bend on top of a hill. This is a particularly lethal piece of open road when the mercury drops below 0c, it’s very prone to black ice.

Anyway, there was only one hole in that wall on Tuesday; that was the day I nearly lost it, in the same place, despite travelling at 10mph.

My car is helpful. It flashes a red warning triangle to indicate that it’s in a skid, and the ABS makes the usual graunching noise when the brakes can’t make the wheels bite. Because driving down a hill sideways, with full lock in the opposite direction to the camber of the road, isn’t enough of an indication that the car is in a skid, obv. Anyway, I managed to pull it together, but two other drivers weren’t so fortunate.

Bump!

Tom hasn’t been getting much work lately, I’ve been massively busy and things have been out of control for a while. But hopefully I can start getting back on top of things now. None of the horses have been turned out for a few days; the ice has made the safe passage of bipeds and quadrupeds to the turnout impossible. This heady combination of things (a couple of days of not being turned out and a handful of weeks of not being ridden regularly) has put Tom in a very *cough* playful mood.

A playful mood made even more playful by the sudden appearance of fucking enormous pampas grass plants in pots, in each of the four corners of the indoor arena.

Tom didn’t like these pony-eating plants one bit.

He was deeply suspicious of the one by the mounting platform, but I let him sniff it, then hopped on. He didn’t like the one in the next corner either, but I kept him on a shorter rein, not wishing to give him the opportunity to have the heebie-jeebies over a plant. The plants in the third and fourth corners seemed OK, so we pushed on around the perimeter of the arena at a smarter walk.

On the second lap, Tom ignored the plants in corners 1 and 2, so I switched my concentration to establishing a nice rhythm and getting an even balance. On the second visit to corner 3, though, Tom had a headfit.

He spooked, spun, did a little rear and bronked. As a result I hit the deck. But I prefer to think of it as ‘an involuntary dismount’.

Bump!

I remounted and things settled down, but Sammi stuck her head over the door and said ‘He looks “frisky”.’

Mmmmm…

There will be more work for Tom tomorrow, and we might be able to slip back to a daily (or near daily) schedule too, and maybe some jumping when he’s settled down.

In other news.

I’ve finished reviewing this series of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! for Shouting At Cows. It was fun but, being a daily writing gig, I wish I hadn’t been so tired on a couple of occasions. There have been a couple of evenings when I’ve felt far too gone to write good gags, or even a half-decent review.

But I might be bothering Cows readers again the future.

I’m not sure that’s a good thing. We’ll have to suck it and see.

Biter bit, writer writ

I love a good wedding, me. And I love a good funeral. But which is… Sorry, I slipped in to Harry Hill mode for a moment.

I wish I had a photograph to support this but sadly I was too slow. When I arrived in the place I’ve been visiting today I saw, in the town square, a van belonging to a *private* car-clamping company.

The vehicle was wearing a clamp! And it was being hoisted on to a flatbed belonging to a *different* car-clamping company.

This is an unrelated photo I found on the intertubez:

No, don’t laugh. Really. That’s just nasty of you.

In other news, I continue to bother the editor and his loyal band of readers over at Shouting At Cows, with my own peculiar brand of childishly puerile rubbish.

If you want to read the whole mix of contents, and I suggest that might be a cool thing to do, you could click here: http://www.shoutingatco.ws

But if you fancy being uber-selective and just get to the stuff wot I wrote, and I suggest that might be a tactical error, you could click here: http://www.shoutingatco.ws/blog/author/bren/

It has been suggested in some quarters that Mr Shouting At Cows drowns a dozen kittens every time someone doesn’t visit his website. You wouldn’t catch me repeating that suggestion in public, oh no.

In other news…

Strange things are afoot in the world of cats:

And breathe…

Life’s rich tapestry just keeps on happening, viz:

  • got up at 3am
  • wrote stuff
  • did work-related stuff
  • made breakfast and tea
  • took it upstairs
  • gave Soph hers
  • got back in to bed
  • ate mine
  • fell asleep
  • woke up
  • came downstairs
  • edited, edited and edited again
  • wrote more stuff
  • edited
  • emailed an over optimistic screenplay to C4
  • did work-related stuff again
  • received a skype IM from someone who said they’d be arriving in 30 minutes
  • panicked
  • showered, shaved, dressed (she was late anyway)
  • received the guest
  • received 1x skype call
  • received 1x phone call
  • made coffee
  • chatted
  • showed the guest around
  • chatted some more
  • ate a couple of sandwiches
  • chatted again
  • noticed that the piece I wrote for Shouting At Cows had gone live (you should go there and read it, otherwise Mr SAC is going to drown kittens)
  • recorded the second hour of tomorrow’s radio show
  • started to think about how I’m going to shoot the performance video for the band
  • built a playlist for tonight’s podcast

So yeah, busy.

You?

Standing, or brewing?

Regional colloquialisms are the thrombocytes platelets of received pronunciation.

Or are they?

This thorny question comes because earlier this evening I told Soph that the tea was brewing.

‘Standing’, she responded.

We didn’t have a fight about it.

I just splatted her in the face with a custard pie.

But it made me think about words and phrases from around the UK.

For example, in London and the Home Counties, they’re called ‘Estate Agents’, but elsewhere in the UK they’re called ‘useless parasitic fuckers’.

And similarly, people from Cardiff are known locally as ‘twats’, but elsewhere in Wales they’re called ‘twats’.

Sorry, I’m having a bit of a weird day.

Want to know why?

*clears throat*

Here is the news (fanfare):

  • I have been asked to make a video. A performance video. Of a band. And
  • I have blagged my way in to writing about the forthcoming ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’.

The former will probably happen over the next four weekends.

The latter will happen at the esteemed and internationally-renown website: Shouting At Cows.

I wonder if either of the people who are permitting me to do these things truly appreciate what they’re letting themselves in for?

And then I answer the question.

Of course they don’t.

Fools!

I also have a little more news to share.

The podcast will be three years old at the start of March, and I am lining up Very Special Guests to come on the birthday show as a treat.

So far:

  • we have a definite ‘Yes’ from an international music legend
  • we have a ‘Yes’ from a triple ‘A’, globally-famous music legend
  • we have a ‘Yes’ from an international TV star.

The tough thing is going to be keeping it all secret! And I’m chasing a couple more, just for good measure.