Thursday, 30 August 2007

Blogging about blogging, the last refuge of a navel-gazer

This weblog as I will insist on calling it (conjoining the words web and log was a big enough step for someone like me) serves a very useful purpose for me- like my pedometer it's an external regulator of me- it makes me explore what I'm doing and thinking, and often actually firms up what that is.

Like most people, I suspect, I don't know what I think about a subject until after I've heard myself talk about it, and generally find when I do listen to myself I don't know a damned thing about anything. So these entries form a sort of exercise regime for my mushy thinking and communicating, firming up my ideas and opinions in public just as I attempt to firm up my flab when exercising physically.

Just as with physical exercise I set myself arbitrary targets to hit- I must run for more than half an hour/I must produce nine entries a month, and I do it in public so once I've started I feel obliged to carry on, even when it's painful.
Letting myself down or showing myself up in public would be horrendous.
Basically, I'm in the process of creating observers to measure myself by, and if occasionally that means making an idiot of myself in clear view that's what I have to do.

Hopefully, in the process I'm exercising my mental muscles a bit and behaving more like the me I'd like to be (another imaginary observer) would.

Interesting meeting today- I found myself publicly unenthused about my sitcom idea King Coney, which was a relief, because although it uses one of my writing styles quite nicely it's not a style I'd particularly want to listen to in half hour chunks, let alone write half hour chunks of. My lack of passion allowed my producer to express similar uncertainty and I've quite happily written the thing off.
Funnily enough though, letting the thing I was uncomfortable writing go, unlocked the germ of something I fancied writing much more on the way back home.

There we go- mandatory ninth entry of the month completed. I feel better for it, at least.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007


There’s been illness in the house this week, which is always a bit weird. There’s someone else here needing beans on toast, sleep and sympathy at unpredictable intervals. The world’s shrunk and the difference between week and weekend, already a bit bleary when you work from home, has almost completely vanished.
In my head this is what getting old seems like, a sneakily shrinking world.

Tomorrow I’ll be braving distances greater than a five minute walk to the shops for the first time in ages, I’ll be the one wandering around making Rip Van Winkle style incredulous faces at how the world has changed while I’ve been away and pointing at normal stuff in wonder.
Say, isn’t that Wilma Dearing over there? No, it is not.
The world has not changed that much.

I’ll be off to that Manchester again to talk about radio ideas- comedy ones, maybe a feature one which I’d love to do, a couple of comedic drama ones, no SF ones, that producer’s away at the mo. Wish me luck like the insincere, innumerate liars who don’t think through the consequences of their wishes on the lottery would.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

So-so Po-mo Promo

Thrill to the tiny words and picture, thrill, I command thee, thrill!

Incomprehensible, yes?
Clearly, this will generate good word of mouth as the whisper goes around that's there's a head-scratchingly unfunny new show in town, like some monstrous David Shrigley cartoon made audible.

This is what Sally sent- "In No Tomatoes, BBC7 talks to the regions and to dogs, zero will vanish forcing all the negative and positive numbers in creation to bang into each other and cancel out, you will be invited to imagine the most bizarre and dull slide show possible, pompous academics will be found ranting in the dairy section of the supermarket, children’s TV characters will go on strike, words will change their meaning and form. There will be jokes."
Obviously too long given what was used, if we'd known they wanted that little, I would have just suggested sending the "There will be jokes" bit as I think that's quite important.
There will be jokes.

Still, nice to be up there, in terrifyingly public view, another slouchy step forward towards existing.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Sliced Tomatoes

Just seen the billing matter that's been prepared for No Tomatoes behind my back! I imagine this will scroll tediously across digi-displays and sit somewhere or other on the BBC7 website.
It's been put together by unsung Production Assistant Sally Harrison in an actually rather creepily good pastiche of my style, and only partly because she's nicked bits out of my initial pitch document in the process. I'm quite giddy now, because it appears I'm going to get some prepublicity on the BBC7 website (I'm guessing in that tiny window that says Coming Soon). We think they'll be featuring my logo on the site too (I think largely because the one photo taken in production is ghastly beyond flabber).

Sally couldn't believe I created that logo by bunging a real tomato in my scanner and photoshopping the hell of it. It does seem ridiculous thinking back, but hey it was the easiest way I had of finding a copyright free tomato graphic.

Tantalising teaser text follows-

Episode 1 / Dog Days: Talking to the regions and to dogs, No Tomatoes immerses you in occasionally surprising words.

Episode 2 / Trash Talk: A nostalgic trip through the rubbish dump of your mind - featuring spellings in shaped spaghetti.

Episode 3 / Train Times: Smell your 3rd portion of No Tomatoes, with couscous from Paul Copley, Helen Moon and Ian Potter.

Episode 4 / World Weary: Imagine a perfect picture in sound then hear it shatter before your very ears.

Episode 5 / Doctor Doom: The best cure you’ll find for a moody fridge - No Tomatoes have been peeled and censored by the man.

Episode 6 / Retro Rocket: Dub your life into English and re-connect with that harp effect from olden times.

Your interest is piqued now, isn't it? Admit it. Go on, or I may cry.

For more tedious No Tomatoes promotional nonsense why not check here out?
It's got the signature tune and the rotten photo on and allsorts.

This Personal Quantaleptic Phase Distortion Device That I Have In My Right Hand in Loaded

Well, I’ve been bashing around some ideas for Afternoon Plays and failing to grab my radio drama producer’s imagination for a bit, when suddenly comes the suggestion- do you have any science fiction thoughts?
You know what? At the moment I have absolutely none.
None that will lend themselves to an Afternoon Play audience, anyhow. I think good radio is so often about people and good SF is so often about ideas that finding a story that includes real emotion and a new SF idea seems almost insurmountable.

So often SF radio seems to be built on quite old and rubbish twists like “A ha, but the humans are actually monsters, we tricked you, you see because you couldn’t see what they looked like.” An ancient swizz of a reveal, so Antediluvian that it might as well be-
“It is our duty to populate this new world then, Commander.”
“If we’re going to do that you better stop calling me Commander! It’s Adam, Miss Goodbody.”
“Eve, call me Eve.”
Either that or it's some kind of space operatic runaroundery featuring Paul Temple style urgent acting and tinfoil and tinsel jargon sprinkled on the dialogue. Impressively, James Follett managed to do both in Earthsearch.

Must come up with something clever, with a plot and real people you can pitch in one or two sentences that hasn’t been done. Eeek.

Maybe I could adapt my Doctor Who short stories? Doomed romance with couple ending up in parallel worlds? Doctor Who gives Shakespeare ideas? Doctor Who in an unhappy love story? Doctor Who receives the gift of peace at Christmas? Involved stuff featuring the mountains above the citadel on Gallifrey with a lot of nonsense about time rewriting itself and enemies vanishing into paradox at the end?

No, those are unbroadcastably daft ideas.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Coal to Diamonds

Oh yeah and I wrote a radio sitcom pilot- I knew I'd been doing something.
It's called King Coney, but I may have still have to sit on it quite hard to make it shine.

In the beginning was the word and the word was Logos

New BBC Radio branding unveiled. Can't say I'm utterly sold- a bizarre combo of individuality and uniformity, I think.

Who said the pictures were better on radio? 4 and 7 both look a bit daft to me. I'll be imagining the old logos floating in mid-air when I listen from now on.
I wonder why the World Service has escaped the rebrand? Because BBC Radio World Service with a little globe in a circle would look and sound rubbish?

The Unexamined Life... apparently not worth living. Can't say I'd noticed to be honest, but then I wasn't looking, was I?

I only really became aware just how true this was when on Friday I lost my pedometer two half-hour walks and three train journeys from home, and realised all my accumulated steps counted for nothing if they went unrecorded.
Happily, I found it at home on my pillow that evening like a high-tech hotel chocolate. I have a suspicion this was the work of those particular elves/elemental forces who move stuff about the house you're looking for, before later replacing it somewhere unlikely you know you've already looked. If God's in the gaps and the Devil's in the details, minor household deities have probably been sniggering unseen in our drawers since the Romans named them Lares. The deities, not the drawers.

Modern physics tells us observation shapes the Cosmos, so who knows, maybe the Universe does muck about a bit like this when we're not looking. Maybe, that's why an unexamined life isn't worth living? If you're not looking, all the gubbins you're after gets hidden, and you have to go around making your special 'summoning mimes' to find things.
This is called boot-strapping- do a good enough tin opener or scissor mime as you pace around the kitchen, opening and lifting things at random and you'll invoke one.

Anyhow, what I started off intending to say was that an empty weblog is a sign of an unexamined life, and so I better start putting that right if I want to make something worthwhile of it. The weblog, not the- oh hang on, I've done that joke. Lots.

Well, since my last entry I've spent a few more days back in Bradford researching the telly book, which I've now had the advance for (hurrah!), and it's all quite nice. As usual, when you do this kind of archive trawling you keep finding out fascinating things that are of no use for your current project.
Did you know for example that Leonard Rossiter, Richard Beckinsale and Don Warrington recorded an 8 minute promo for Betamax in 1978 in which Philip and Alan explain the VCR to Rigsby. Be honest, how much do you want to see that, right now? Apparently, it was only distributed to salesrooms not to the public.
What do you mean "you already have it, and can provide Youtube links?" You're scaring me.

Another notable development since I last wrote here is that Death has come back from a holiday and been on double-time, taking loads of cool people and Antonioni whose famous film I've still not seen. I'll miss him mainly for his fabulous stammer inducing surname. So, to make these people's lives worthwhile I'll give them a quick examination for you.

Ian's list of the work of recently dead people to seek out:

Mike Reid - severe-faced soldier in The War Machines obviously.

Ingmar Bergman - Smiles of a Summer Night.
If you read this weblog you're either, arty, campy or desperately nostalgic so this should work quite nicely, ticking all your variously demanding boxes. It is funny, romantic and bitter-sweet, and should help dismiss any ideas you might have that he's one-note Nordic misery. It's also the missing link between A Midsummer Night's Dream and A Little Night Music if, you know, you're a friend of Billy Elliot.
I hate that film, by the way (caught an annoying chunk again last night), but then I have a massive Lee Hall blind spot I think. I just feel emotionally exploited by Spoonface Steinberg and I Luv You, Billy Spud etc., which seem just a little too obvious in the ladling of sentiment into the mouths of babes for me. I also resent having to sit all the way through a movie full of Marc Bolan just knowing "Ride A White Swan" is going to be crassly combined with Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake as a coup d'obvious at the end. All a touch "on the nose", I find.
If Smiles of A Summer Night works for you, you might find that the much longer and more varied in mood Fanny and Alexander makes you smile too. After that it does get a bit bleaker, but some of it's still amazingly cheerful- even the 'Dance of Death' sequence in The Seventh Seal is quite uplifting (do bear in mind I think Leonard Cohen's funny and find a lot of Edvard Munch uplifting too, your version of cheerful may vary).

Lee Hazlewood - Some Velvet Morning.
I've been haunted by this song since hearing a fragile weird cover on Mark Radcliffe's Out On Blue Six (an anagrammatic tribute to a certain Louise Buxton apparently), that I've never been able to track down. The envelope I scribbled details on suggests it was by Big Star but that was probably just the next act on. Anyhow, this was the only version I've heard that makes the sickly swoony tempo change into the 'Phaedra' bit work properly (and I've heard a lot of covers since, believe me). It was probably Lydia Lunch's version but it doesn't sound how I remember that take on it. Thin White Rope's version is okay too, Bobbie and Kate's is best avoided for me. This is a track in severe need of Saint Etienneing one day.

Tony Wilson - Earthbound by To Hell With Burgundy.
It's danceable folk music really, and I've picked it because it's peculiar, pretty and a bit different to what you'd expect. Not everything Factory produced was quite so sweaty and indiscriminately in love with you as people recall (I lived in Manchester for seven years and went to Hacienda about four times, and two of those were to see Spacemen 3 and The pre-ecstatic Shamen supporting All About Eve, so I can speak for the people at the edge, man). Obviously, Wilson's biggest achievement is So It Goes the show that made the legend, but let's also mention Be What You Wanna Be by ACR, because all the tribute air play's going Mondays, New Order, Joy Division at the mo and it's a decent track. Mainly though, Wilson strikes me as like that largely shambolic quiz show he did with Frank Sidebottom on- good in parts but making it up on the spot. Self-belief and taking chances can take you an amazing way, people will invent your masterplan in retrospect from the best bits. Good on him for what he achieved and for having the chutzpah to make it happen..

Phil Drabble - The One Man and his Dog signature tune. Evocative, rural, idyllic and in a jaunty late seventies synth styley? Nostalgoverload!

There- that was worth doing, wasn't it?

Thursday, 2 August 2007

The Theme from S-Express

Here we are then in sunny August, your date and weather may vary, and I'm back at my old place of work in Bradford doing some research for a book on telly companies, using the fantastic library they have there that I never had enough opportunity to use while I worked there.

Don’t it always seem to go that you don't use what you’ve got
‘til you've gone? (They paid Joni Mitchell to promote a cruddy coffee shop).

It's like time's gone funny again. I'm spending more time there now I'm not there than I was there when I was there (Now you miss my helpful commas, eh? Never diss my punctuation again).

I've also handed out a few copies of No Tomatoes to people and am getting nice comments back (reassuringly, people are having different favourite bits, which means it must appeal slightly, in slightly different ways, to different people who know me a bit and feel obliged to be polite), which is probably good.
By the way, I'm now assured the BBC7 TX dates are 24/9/07, 1/10/07, 8/10/07 15/10/07 22/10/07 and 29/10/07 at the ever popular times of 11 o'clock at night 4 the following morning and on the internet for a week after, if you can remember. These are plum spots for comedy I'm informed (though you can't swear because 4 o'clock in the morning is pre-watershed, true, it's like 10 million years BC in that respect). I told you time had gone funny again.

Incidentally, I was in a Starbucks the other day (it was a social thing, I'll planting a rain forest of smug somewhere to offset the gaffe and atone) and ordered a double espresso, (I've given up using the word 'doppio', it doesn't help) and was asked, as usual, if I knew an "eXpresso" was "just, a small strong black coffee".
"Yes! I do, that's why I ordered it and used the correct bloody name for the thing, stop asking! Is it part of your moronic training that you're obliged to say this? Is it part of your script, designed to prevent any genuine interaction with your customers and thus enable the Starbucks experience to be uniformly bland and aggravating whereever you are in the world?" I might have screamed, if I could have been arsed.

My blood metaphorically boiled and, poetically speaking, made a satisfying hissing gurgle, as steam, quite literally (here meaning "didn't actually") came out of me.
"Not everyone thinks coffee is milky stuff with syrup and froth and chocolate nonsense chucked in!" I didn't yell, politely.

Gawd, imagine if an over reliance on coffee made me tetchy and short-tempered? I'd probably have over-reacted.