Meanwhile, in another galaxy

I’ve been writing film reviews again. I can’t help it. I’m now conditioned to write film reviews, after all the years of high living that writing film reviews has given me.

Aaaaahahahahahahahaha!

*wipes tears of not laughter away*

Ahem.

I shouldn’t grumble about the weather. People have been seriously injured through unfortunate weather-related events. And worse than seriously injured.

And it is, after all, the winter (and for all of the faults with the UKs weather system, it is consistent at bringing us rubbish weather at this time of year).

A colleague at work said her father had been without electricity for four days. I thought that was an extreme way to avoid watching the crap that was served up by our television channels, over the festive season.

And let’s be totally honest, this year the calibre of the Christmas viewing that our mainstream TV channels have offered us, has been spectacularly mediocre (even at its best).

But speaking of mediocre viewing…

I am working on an idea, and I sort of need some kind of assistance, sort of. Kind of. A bit. Perhaps. Maybe.

I’m working on a series of *very* short videos; it is a project for a childish audience (4-400 years).

I’ve written the scripts for 25 episodes (I did say they were *very* short, right?).

I’ve sketched out the design of the set backdrop (as much as a person like me – who can’t sketch a straight line with the aid of a ruler) can.

I have a design in mind for the occasional foreground.

What I now need is the cast.

Of two.

Yes, that’s right.

Two characters.

I’m thinking of Action Man-type dolls.

Look, stop asking questions. This will be much quicker if you let me get to the point in my own way. Right?

Good.

So, in my head (which is a funny little place at the best of times), I have two Action Man-type dolls dressed as, erm, the subject characters.

I’ll set up the lighting (going to use my portable lighting rig). I’ll mount a camera on a tripod (single angle camera, I only have one pair of hands, and don’t have the patience to coordinate twin-camera shots by myself). I’ll film. I’ll edit the film to my scripts. And then I’ll record, and edit in to the mix, the audio (the audio will be the VO and a musical track as intro, soundbed and outtro). I’ll template the titles/credits, and just copy them in to each episode.

So, as (I hope) you can see, I’m well advanced in the planning of this project.

Except I have a problem.

A teeny tiny sort of a problem.

*cough*

Ahem.

I actually have none of the Action Manesque dolls.

En to the Oh to the En to the E.

Sadly.

This is, it must be admitted, something more than a minor inconvenience.

Yes.

So if you happen to know of either one or two Action Man-type dolls, not having much to do for the next couple of weeks, could you let me know?

Thanks.

In other news.

I’m off to various DIY places this weekend to look for suitable material to begin painting the backdrop on.

Digital TV reception; is it rubbish for just me?

When this area (OX28) switched to digital, I endured weeks of really awful TV reception.

Then I got an aerial guy in to see if I needed a booster, to improve the quality of the signal.

He poked around in the loft and told me that, actually, the signal was too strong.

He did some stuff and for a while – almost a year – the TV reception has been good.

Until this week.

In the last five days all of BBC has turned to utter shit.

Only BBC, mind you, but all of it.

BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4 – completely unwatchable.

It would be more fun to stick my fingers in a 13amp socket and turn the power on.

So well done, someone, somewhere, for taking my TV licence money – the money that funds the BBC – and taking away my BBC TV channels.

Fucking outstanding.

It’s all Greek to me

This political debate, shown live on Greek TV, packs more punch than Question Time.

The discussion warms up from the outset, but the last 20 seconds are shocking.

Ilias Kasidiaris is an MP of the Golden Dawn party.

Two days good. Four days bad

I can not be the only person in the country who is itching to get back to work, surely?

Yes, I’ve had a lovely break – in a fantastic city and a gorgeous hotel with a truly lovely person – but I’ve had enough time off.

I’m bored.

I need to be back in the office.

I need to be busy.

I’ve already tidied my loft (yes I know!) and rearranged the studio.

And done three loads of laundry, changed the bed linen, done lots of guitar practice and sorted out ‘summer’ clothes for my wardrobe.

And I’ve only been back in the country 27 hours.

Maybe we could aspire to a few more three-day weekends spread throughout the year, rather than this four-day weekend malarky?

In other news, a new series of Big Brother starts tonight. I shall try to keep my addiction for rubbish television under control.

Yeah, right.

Searching for inspiration

I’m looking for a domain name.

I get flashes of inspiration that occasionally produces solid gold possibilities, but when I check them out I find someone has got there before me.

The domain name is for the new media website that I have finally finished designing.

All I need is a name.

I thought I had the perfect one and nearly spent money buying it.

Just in time, before I pressed the ‘buy’ button, I noticed the typo.

Yeah, that could have been embarrassing.

So I’m still looking.

I can’t go in to details here, but if you’re feeling creative, leave a comment/drop me a line and I’ll email you the basic details.

Sunday afternoon. Bedside.

It is 4pm Sunday. I am in bed. I have hot, buttered crumpets, a mug of fresh tea and, on standby, some chocolate.

I am resting.

I got home at 10.15am.

I have spent the day being productive; sorting washing loads, doing a couple of loads of laundry, hanging out washing, doing the washing-up, tidying, reading, writing, emailing, listening to music, writing notes.

I also walked in to town, earlier, for a little emergency shopping – milk, bread, eggs – then walked back the long way. Just for the exercise.

Maybe walking home the long way, with a bag of shopping, wasn’t the best idea I’ve had today.

I’m currently watching Firefly, the Joss Whedon, SciFi, Cowboys-in-Space series.

It is an interesting show, though it has some fundamental flaws. Structurally it isn’t all that; the writing has basic issues, but it is presented in a very pretty way.

It feels like a cheap Babylon 5 offshoot.

The structural issues of Firefly aren’t helped by a couple of key members of the cast being recycled from other Joss Whedon productions, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its own offshoot, Angel.

Actually, when I say that Firefly has both fundamental and structural flaws I’m being far too kind.

It is rubbish.

The foundations are all wrong – to the point where the flaws kill it.

Anyway.

On Wednesday I get my broadband upgraded; I’m shifting from my current 6Mb download to 30Mb download.

That’s exciting, isn’t it?

An early night

It’s been a busy weekend.

In the last few days I have been sent five CDs by bands/artists, music agents, PR companies.

Or not.

I say ‘or not’ because one of the CDs arrived without the sender’s details, without a business card, without a compliment slip, without a briefing note.

So it might have been sent by any of the above-mentioned people, or it might have been put in the post by a friend of the band.

Oh well.

I listen to every CD that is submitted; it would be rude not to. And unprofessional.

Last night we went to a gig at a bikers pub in the next village. It ended up being a very late night.

The band – Rock Doctors – are a 70s/80s covers band. Most of their work was comprised of obvious choice music; The Who, Free, Stevie Wonder, The Band and more.

The band’s Big Closing Number was Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’.

It was, without doubt, the best live version of ‘Comfortably Numb’ I’ve ever heard.

It was even better than Pink Floyd’s own live version, which I’ve heard Pink Floyd perform twice.

We didn’t leave the pub until stupid o’clock this morning.

And finally got out of bed just before noon.

Today has been busy; I came home, have ridden, practised guitar, listened to work, wrote work, edited some audio work, edited some video work, cooked, ate, washed-up, tidied, washed and dried one of Vin’s lightweight rugs and practised guitar again.

I’m currently watching one of the things I recorded last night (Transporter 3), whilst writing this.

It is 7.30pm.

I shall be in bed by 9pm, and asleep soon after.

Except I will get a phone call around 10.15pm.

I had quite a choice of things to watch this evening. I have already watched one of the many episodes of ‘Suits’ I have stacked up on my PVR.

Last night, while I was out, I recorded a bunch of rubbish television, for mindless evenings such as this.

Transporter 3, John Tucker Must Die, The Princess Diaries, Muppets From Space and an episode each of Dr Who and Winter Wipeout.

Because when you’re as tired as I am, you only want mindless pap on the television.

And believe me, I am tired.

But also good.

Comedy Conference 2011

On Tuesday 12th October, I attended the Comedy Conference 2011.

The venue was the Lowry, Salford Quays, at the heart of the new, and very impressive, MediaCentre UK.

The day was organised around a series of workshop sessions, with Q&A opportunities during the pieces, and the opportunity for informal discussions with session folk in the breaks.

At registration we were given impressive swag-bags which included various boxed-sets of branded TV comedy productions.

I haven’t yet opened any of the DVDs, but the Gavin & Stacy boxed-set will probably be the first to get watched.

The formal ‘welcome’ was delivered by Peter Salmon (BBC, Director of the North) and Maureen Walker (Vision+Media, the host organisation).

The first session was titled ‘I have a cunning plan’ (and was backed by examples and excerpts of Blackadder in pre-production and post-production video clips).

This session was called ‘the commissioner session’. It was chaired by comedian John Bishop who put searching questions (of his own, and taken from the floor) to a panel that consisted of Shane Allen (head of comedy, C4/E4), Elaine Bedell (head of comedy ITV1), Lucy Lumsden (head of comedy Sky) and Cheryl Taylor (head of comedy BBC TV).

It was worth travelling up to Salford for this session alone. Whilst C4/E4, BBC and Sky all showed great appetite for new comedy, Elaine (ITV) repeated the word ‘Benidorm’ so many times that it seemed to be the *only* thing she could utter. ITV are a comedy wilderness and, judging by Elaine’s arguably short-sighted comments, they will continue to be a comedy wilderness for the next five years.

Sky showed surprising appetite for new comedy. BBC seemed to be slightly conservative in their outlook, but C4/E4 kept pace with Sky’s positive outlook for the future.

However, as a writer, I was disappointed that none of these TV companies are interested in receiving scripts and/or pitches directly.

‘Go to a producer first’, seemed to be the common mantra. It really seemed as if the TV companies are using producers to filter their incoming post.

This, to me, seems highly unethical. Imagine publishing companies refusing to receive submissions from authors!

There is already a strong relationship between TV production companies and TV stations. I appreciate the perceived need to filter incoming proposals, but to have a TV production company perform this function on behalf of TV stations?

No, this seems just plain wrong.

The other, subliminal, message that this position sends out, is that the TV companies seem to be backing away from producing their own work.

It almost seems as though producers (Aspect, Hat Trick, Biteback, Talkback, Boomerang, etc) will be the sole producers of comedy, whilst the TV companies will become nothing more than commissioning agents.

This was a lively, yet friendly session. John Bishop was the perfect foil against the defensively-bullshitting of ITV1, and managed to get even the friendly C4/E4 in to a defensive position a few times.

The unbeatable surprise was to hear John pitch ‘Shelved’ to the panel, and angle the pitch firmly towards the head of comedy for C4/E4.

(I had submitted the first three episodes of ‘Shelved’ as an example of my writing at the time of applying for a ticket)

Talking to John afterwards, he came across as genuine and as nice as he appears during his comedy routine.

He said flatteringly embarrassing things about ‘Shelved’ and the head of comedy at C4/E4 gave me his direct dial phone number.

A brief coffee break followed.

The second session was equally awesome, but from a very different perspective.

Danny Cohen (Controller of BBC1) interviewed Jimmy Mulville (owner of Hat Trick productions) on his life and experience in TV.

This session had massive potential to be excruciatingly dull, yet it was lively, sparky, funny and inspiring.

It didn’t hold much value for writers of TV comedy, but it was a crackingly entertaining hour.

Lunch followed.

The third session was a technofeast of geekery; how comedy content might be consumed in the future. It also considered models of monetising comedy content.

Yawn.

Oh, it was lively, Nigel Walley from Decipher (a London-based media strategy consultancy) was full of energy and shit. And that’s the problem. He was London-based and therefore totally full of shit. Digital this. Tivo That. Multi-platform Other. Clearly, not a clue about the digital infrastructure that the rest of the UK has to put up with.

Yawn.

There was another break.

The next session was a discussion between delegates from Tiger Aspect, C4 and the BBC about nurturing new and up-and-coming production talent. It was, unfortunately, production-focussed and, again, held sparse value for writers or aspiring writers. There were one or two nuggets of gold. And a couple of silver. But overall this session missed the writing target by a fair old distance.

The fourth session was a discussion between ‘comedian’ James Corden, and the production companies Big Talk, Rough Cut and Bwark.

James Corden?

I left early.

Overall the day was excellent.

The first session was awesome and it helped me understand the pool – and how to cross it – with fresh insight.

Having my piece pitched for me, was fantastic.

I would like to thank everyone for their time and effort in organising what was, frankly, a brilliant day out.

I would also like to thank Vision+Media for putting the whole thing on, and for letting me network and pitch This Reality Podcast with a ferocious, erm, ferocity, to such a high-ranking audience.

So ferocious, in fact, that the show’s listening figures seem to have climbed to the 200k level, but I’m going to keep an eye on that, to see where things stabilise.

And that’s it.

Comedy Conference 2011.

A good day out.

A flying visit

So.

Daughter is here.

I drove up to East Midlands Airport to collect her.

She looked slightly confused at some of the social differences between the UK and the her home district in Spain.

And then we went to Reading Festival.

I could write *loads* about Reading Festival, and not all of it good or complimentary.

We have also spent some time sitting around laughing, while I played guitar and made up an instant song about doing the ironing.

And pooing.

Obv.

And after our return from Reading we went in to Witney for breakfast.

And bought books.

And travelled in to Oxford.

And bought CDs (for her and me), and jeans and cake (for her and Soph, in that order).

My CDs are:

  • ‘Tales from Topographic Oceans’ (Yes)
  • ‘Neon Bible’ (Arcade Fire), and
  • ‘Build a Rocket Boys!’ (Elbow)

Daughter’s CD is:

  • ‘Pretty:Odd’ (Panic At The Disco)

And while some of this father/daughter-related activity happened, Soph did the (some may say) wise thing, left the two of us to our own devices and went up to visit her parentals.

It is an odd combination of lovely and peculiar, to have our visitor from Spain.

Lovely because I get to see her every day, obv.

Tiptoeing in to her bedroom with all the grace and enthusiasm of a stampeding herd of Rhino, to attempt to drag her back to consciousness, is a joy.

A joy that no end of Skype conversations can come close to colouring.

It isn’t just the waking up.

Having her around is excellent.

And also very amusing, she is a funny girl.

Gets it from her father, obv.

But it is peculiar having her here because we have had to moderate our (normally free, easy, open and unguarded) behaviour around the house.

I can no longer remove my trousers as soon as I get in and sit around in my boxers.

Similarly, my Early Morning Writing stints now have to take place with me fully-clothed.

And as for impromptu sex on the couch during University Challenge*, well that’s unacceptable.

Apparently.

She doesn’t eat much, Daughter.

But she does spend a great deal of time on the internet.

More, even (if you can stretch your credibility that far), than Soph and I do (not counting work-related activity).

Like most teenagers, she’s very guarded about what she’s doing on the internet, and who she’s doing it with.

Her time seems to be divided between a Tumblr site, AIM chat and a forum attached to a writer’s website.

I’ve (surreptitiously) checked out the former and the latter, but the chat thing could be a wildcard.

But I’m not going to police it, or get on her back about it.

We’ve had a mini-discussion about it.

My position is that I’m encouraging her to be a responsible young adult, and I will trust her judgement on her activity.

I’ll also trust her to tell me if she gets in to any kind of a dubious situation.

And I’ll keep an eye on traffic across the router.

*cough*

In other news, The Great Television Switch-Off looms ever nearer.

Yes, we will soon lose our analogue television signal and, as a result, will be forced to endure the utter pile of steaming garbage that is known as Digital UK.

Let me be clear.

We have been (and I hesitate to use this word in any kind of context) ‘consumers’ of the completely unacceptable bowel-movement of utter shit that is being presented, in a ‘take it or fuck off’, kind of way by our wonderful government and their civil servants.

Pick a digital TV station and we have it!

Yay!

Except we don’t have it because it’s completely unwatchable.

Uber-pixelated images married to audio that failed every kind of quality test known to mankind; this is what we, here in our glorious Prime Minister’s constituency, are forced to endure every fucking day.

To the point where we just switch off.

I’ve complained.

I’ve emailed.

I’ve called people on the phone.

I’ve put comments on UKFREETV, where some unbelievably smug cunt of an utter arsehole (yes, they do exist, really) totally fails to comprehend the sheer magnitude of the fucking lack of service that we poor plebs have to endure; poor plebs, I might add, who are, directly or indirectly, funding this utter dogs breakfast of a cock-up.

It’s as if someone said ‘You know how much of a cock-up the 2012 Olympics is going to be for everyone who lives and works in London? Well let’s take that level of a mess and throw it out on to the digital TV network!’

Treble fucking G&Ts all round.

Oh dear.

I seem to have had an accidental rant.

Sorry about that, it was unplanned.

I’m actually feeling very laid back at the moment.

Don’t know why, but I am.

It must be the company of Angels that I’m keeping.

* This is a joke, obv. What sick kind of a person would not want to watch University Challenge first, and then have sex on the couch?