Sunday, 30 September 2007

Metal Machine Music

Well, I've now read some feedback on the BBC7 website from someone who doesn't like No Tomatoes at all- which is a relief to be honest.
They were polite, reasonable, appreciated a lot of effort had gone into the show, all of which made me happy, and just didn't laugh, which I can absolutely understand.
They identified me as a Burkiss Way fan too which was perceptive (I think show 1 is the most Burkiss like of the lot and I've made no bones that the sig tune in particular is an attempt to do something Burkissy). I appreciate the criticisms, I have my own issues with lots of bits of the series and always knew that a sketch show written by one person was unlikely to appeal to a wide audience (particularly when that one person is me), the idea was that it'd speak very directly to the kind of people who like that kind of thing.
Equally, we learn loads more from criticism than praise, like that we're basically worthless and must go back into the cupboard under the stairs until we're better people who can hold forks correctly and don't deserve beating with the big metal studded belt any more, for example.
What I really liked was the critic's analogy that the show was like "atonal music", which I take to mean 'yes, you can appreciate it's all very clever, and all that but you can't actually stand listening to it'. I thought that was fab.

Feel free to love/hate/have mixed feelings about the show yourself, either publicly or privately by following this link.

PS. This is in no way a contractual obligation post written to bring September upto 9 messages, composed in a rush much as Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music was in order to fulfill a commitment to RCA. The title Metal Machine Music clearly only refers to the above mentioned atonal music, and anyone who says otherwise is a businessman in his suit and his tie...

Parisienne Walkways

I saw Belle De Jour this week, not the ITV2 drama which has now been retitled The Secret Diary of a Call Girl in case any of the potential viewing demographic might be put off by a title that doesn't immediately describe the programme content, the Luis Bunuel film with Catherine Deneuve who I of course remember most fondly for picking up Goths in a New York club with David Bowie in the middle of a surprisingly under-populated Bauhaus gig.

It's a curious film and like the only other classic French film I've seen recently Godard's A Bout De Souffle (which disappointingly turns out not be about a souffle at all) seems to have a curious fascination with gun-toting low rent crooks on the streets of Paris, coupled with Serge Gainsbourg's Bonnie and Clyde this all leads me to presume on the scantiest of evidence that American scuzz was terribly hip at the time in Paris (and the New York Herald Tribune seems to have sold well on the streets too).

The central character of Belle De Jour, Severine is a woman who fantasises about being punished and humiliated, though, like the prostitute's client in the film who pays to be chastised as an unworthy servant, she clearly wishes to maintain control of the humiliation fantasies too. It all seems psychologically plausible enough, though one scene in which she is asked to impersonate a grieved over corpse feels to have slightly different well springs, perhaps the narcisism in the desire to be shamed, and feels it came from a different film or a very different person's fantasies (apparently Bunuel's film incorporates fantasies of real women into the narrative).

However, the sexiest thing in the whole film about sexual fantasies is Catherine Deneuve fully dressed, in buttoned up Yves Saint Laurent outfits, in particular there's a great double breasted red jacket and a grey coat like a cut down Russian army uniform that she wears with a knitted hat shaped like an Astrakhan but that thankfully doesn't look like it involved the same cruelty to produce (if you don't know about Astrakhan hats look it up). That sense of buttoned up, held in control style, coupled with Deneuve's cool slightly hard beauty, is far more interesting than her in her scanties allowing dirty, scarred, broken-toothed petty criminals with holes in their socks to writhe over her (see how degraded she allows herself to become!).
It's not really a particularly great film but it does leave gaps in the narrative and ambiguities for you to ponder after it's gone which you rarely seem to get in the well-constructed narratives of today.

I guess that's why I've not bothered with ITV2's The Secret Diary of a Call Girl too, even the title seems engineered to avoid difficulty.
To speak metaphorically, I'd rather see Deneuve dressed up and be left with questions than Piper dressed down and left with none, and obviously as a Doctor Who fan I love Billie (or rather love Rose and Honey to the Bee I'm not that weird), but there are certain arenas where letting it all hang out are much less interesting than keeping it all under wraps, and this is one of them for me.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Autumn Almanac

What’s worse that swollen infected tonsils?
Swollen infected tonsil stump scars.

It’s that time of year when you become painfully aware the map of the inside of your head is bigger than the map of outside it, as you wander around feeling discomfort in places that appear to be floating around a short distance outside you as much as within you.

Physically then, in poor shape, oozing green ickiness like something from 1984 tea-time telly and with a recurrent foot injury that could beat Michael Owen’s hamstrings hands down if feet had hands that could beat hamstrings and wanted to.

Oh woe is me, I’m sure no else I know has any foot injuries or a tendency to get phlegmy, whatsoever.
I’m going to go away and count my blessings, arrange them in order and then dismiss them one by one cynically as worthless until I get bored or cheer up.

Oh and my pedometer battery’s gone flat- you’d think they could make one like those self-winding wrist watches wouldn’t you? At the very least they could do a freeplay one which you could attach a giant handle to and knacker your arm charging up.

Anyone would think they were just like us, moping around not doing things expecting some other thems to get on with everything.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007


Hey, did I mention about…? Oh yeah, nothing else but, sorry…
Well, the first one went out and I didn’t altogether hate it (there’s one bit where something goes monstrously wrong with the mixing that still makes me cringe, but I'm just going to have to deal with it and move on). I think the later episodes are better, less frenetically “piloty” if you know what I mean.

Anyway, you can “listen again” to it here until about 5am on Tuesday the 2nd of October.

Feedback’s been nice so far.
Obviously, friends have been either glowing, guardedly critical- "marvellous, but…" or discreetly silent*, but beyond that self selecting kindness, I’ve had a comedy writer I didn’t know seek me out to offer congrats, pretty good feedback on the BBC7 comedy discussion boards (where I thought it would be utterly despised) and a pleasing anecdote relayed.
A friend of my wife was recommended it by a colleague (who’d discovered on their own it without any nagging and begging emails or associated webloggery). This friend googled it, realised it was the thing I’d been writing when we last met and told my wife off for not informing her it was on!
Not bad at all really for something as marmitey as this...
Let's hope we get to make a second series because attempting to pitch drama is a bit of a waste of time at the mo.

*Their mothers probably told them if they couldn’t say anything nice they should say nothing at all**

**My mother told me that once, I told her to shut her vacuous blabbering maw until she had opinions worth wasting air on.***

***Not really.****

****Would have been good though.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Street Life

"There is, Watson, much one can deduce about a city by the state of its streets," said my companion sucking on his habitual liquorice root, which I never normally mention because it makes him sound less intellectual.

"One can surmise, for example, the date at which the city came to prominence. If the roads are cobbled and unevenly pathed, one can deduce that the city's growth largely predates the motorcar and that either insufficient funds or an excessive attachment to the city's heritage has precluded subsequent refinement to the road surfaces. If the streets are smooth and the kerbs accessible to wheelchair users then one can presume the city flowered in an age such as ours in which it is possible to support one's self in a city by the efforts of brain as much as brawn, as we do and the inability to walk is not the impairment it might once have been.
"In short, the historic cities of the world can be neatly divided into those that welcome visitors to interact with their pasts and those that wish you to merely gaze upon it."

"What are you talking about, Crick?" I replied.
He said nothing and we sat in silence for a while until the tea lady came in with some bath olivers and shower stanleys and showed us the structure of DNA.
I resolved always to play down her involvement in our work, and give her share of the credit to Jeff Goldblum in association with WGBH Boston.

Ian Potter has been to Prague, Vienna and Budapest recently (during the trip he bought a European edition of The Guardian which featured him displaying considerable erudition in the field of Neanderthal teens in Notes and Queries, which was nice, if odd).

The Pitch

Writing rather aggravating at the mo, or rather not writing- writing pitches.
After a week of racking my head for SF ideas that can be pithily expressed and thus edged towards flogging without anyone having to spend to much time reading them, I was told that actually the commission now has too many SF ideas and to pitch other things again, which I did.
Of course, the think about a pitch is it can be turned down with even fewer words than a proper proposal, so they receive quite brief turning downs, 'no sorry', or 'commissioner doesn't like this kind of thing' or 'had one with a similar milieu rejected last year so not worth bothering', none of which really inspires one to keep pressing on.
However, press on we must. Paradoxically, being in the position to have something turned down without writing it is a privileged one...

More saddening for me, was having the story I really enjoyed writing recently, turned down for a collection. If you recall, I wrote a full draft of this because I reckoned a pitch would have been rubbish. This does leave you rather scuppered however when competing against pitches.
I suspect my actual story draft while capable of being changed is less appealing than similar pitches, in part because short pitches are still at a stage the editor can easily help shape them, and, as is so often the case, ideas are more intriguing than finished things.
Another writer I know, did exactly the same thing sending in a full piece for this collection, and we've agreed there's a lesson learned here- a fait accompli is easier to hate than a letter of intent.

BBC7 Minutiae Round Up

No Tomatoes is now on the BBC7 front page

as well as the Comedy Club page,

and I heard my first trail today - 57 seconds in here if you're reading this before Friday the 28th of September 2007.

Even more excitingly, continuity announcer Alex Riley (you remember- Mocks of Balloons DVD extra) has already 'raved' on air- "I've heard the trailer and it sounds very good indeed."

It's all too much, I tell you.

The first show airs on Monday at 11pm between Hamish and Dougal and The Goldfish Bowl but you know all this...

You don't have to pay the usual admission if you're a cook or a waiter or a good musician

Ladies and Gentlemen, not only have I just received a three CD set of Louis Jordan (not the Bond villain and BBC Dracula the other one) in the post today but Stephen Fry has a "'blog", see side link, please come back one day.

Pleasingly, in the inaugural entry he rightly praises the Psion 3 series (which had only one flaw- a hinge mechanism which wasn't up to the kind of rough use I gave it, you know occasionally opening and closing the device), and also rightly says the Psion Revo, which I now use, was a not quite as good successor (it has a robust hinge, but no back light- fools). I've had two Psion 3s (both broken-spined) and am now on my second Revo, and I love them both because they do pretty much all I really want, fairly reliably, without too many distractions and they use the fact that I can type fairly fast rather than waste electronic brain power trying to decipher my handwriting. I'd still be on my first Revo if gravity and floors weren't both quite such stubborn swines.

Anyhow, my favouritest thing about Psion as a brand is that it should have been Psi, short for Potter's Scientific Instruments but that name was taken. Consequently, Psion which stands for Potter's Scientific Instruments Or Nothing was plumped for. If that's not true it should be, as it's Quite Interesting, which leads me clumsily towards the fact that Fry's comfortingly enjoyable and not thick QI is back with a new series tonight on BBC2.

Like David Attenborough, Fry has a force of personality that helps keep not-dumb telly on mainstream channels. Reason enough to cherish him even if he wasn't such a great prose stylist, and comic writer.

I found a very sweet form letter from Mr Fry a few months back, which I along with, I hope thousands of others, was sent for wishing him well in the wake of the whole Cell Mates situation, it's brief, well-mannered, self-critical sincere, lovely and intelligent- like Moab Is My Washpot but short then really.

In almost related news, I suspect the Andrew Wong who's recently received a Silver prize in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards was someone I knew slightly at the time who was in close touch with Mr Fry.
I didn't really know Andrew well, and for various arcane reasons I was not allowed to help him with a project with attempted to couple Stephen Fry with the archive I then worked on, but I liked his sensibilities and enthusiasms, and I really hope it is him making steps forward in the writing world.

Also winning a prize in the same competition, Gold no less, is a chap I met once and had the pleasure of doing some sound design for, ages back, David Bishop. I'm really pleased that he and his remarkably '80s winkle pickers seem to be thriving in the 21st century.

Small world isn't it? I'm beginning to think it may actually be smaller than Facebook.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

A Modest Proposal 2 - This time it's personal

We are, as you may have heard, doomed- too much food in some places, not enough in others, world population doubling in fifty years, definitely not enough food then, big asteroid hitting Earth- not kill loads of folk with the impact but making vast dust clouds that will result in years of failed harvests across the globe, definitely definitely not enough food then.
Well you don’t have to be Dean Swift to see the answer is staring us in the face-cannibalism, not the ad-hoc dilettante cannibalism the young uns and zombies go in for these days but a properly structured and centrally organised programme of resource management.

Firstly, for efficiency's sake, I propose people are relocated around the globe due to their body mass index, people with a few pounds to lose from the West where food is routinely wasted would be much more sensibly placed in areas where food is scarce and they have to work to subsist, allowing a number of the starving to take their place in the food rich areas of the planet. This is much more practical than sending food to the starving, send the starving to the food- it’s certainly more efficient in food miles.

To prevent the Jack Spratt scenario which would see couples of differing BMI split up, I propose a married couples fat allowance, which would allow you to share your fat designation with a partner.

Once this efficiency relocation has taken place- the International Food Lottery will be instigated, and weekly lucky individuals will be selected for death for the greater good and then cooked and eaten, or if they’re terribly disease ridden or unappetising just killed and disposed of. More food, lowered population- this has to be good.
Smaller prize winners lucky enough to be in possesion of a spare tyre may just have some of their body fat turned into nutritious shakes through liposuction, allowing them both to live and relocate to less food poor climes as their BMI is reduced. This system would have the advantage of not massively altering our lifestyles, forcing us to have fewer babies or addressing the underlying causes of our problems, and so is clearly better than any of those less palatable alternatives.

If we're lucky though, we won't even have to bother with my scheme because a nice big war, handy pandemic and/or dying out will intervene and do the Malthusian dirty work for us before we reach crisis point.
Good luck everyone.