Monday, October 30, 2006

Wakey, wakey, hands off snakey

Lazy arsed writers, who know they should be putting in a pre-dawn hour or two before shipping off to work, ought to take immediate advantage of the switch back to Greenwich Mean Time.

Set the alarm to conjure yourself into existence an hour earlier than normal. Your body won’t be able to tell the difference, but your soul will rejoice. Go on!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Don't touch that dial

Article in the NYT about the pleasures and pitfalls of serialised dramas, and the extremely Darwinian world in which they live and battle for a now more than once-bitten audience’s commitment. Like many viewers now, I won’t even look at a show until it’s aired four or five episodes and isn’t in apparent danger of cancellation.

My own feeling has always been that twenty-two episode seasons are too long for this type of storytelling. Too much padding, with time often wasted on third and fourth-tier characters, and lashings of deliberate ambiguity to pad the season out, makes me tune out pretty quickly. I’m loving Heroes at the moment, but if they haven’t averted nuclear apocalypse before the end of the season and moved onto the next challenge, I’m out of there.

The thirteen episode model seems much better to me. It focuses the storytelling on what truly matters, and does away with the myriad and meaningless sub-plots I always want to fast-foward through. No-one can tell me that The Wire would be improved by the addition of nine episodes per season, and I don’t think you can find tighter storytelling than that. Even the credits are meaningful.

More importantly, though, it requires less commitment from a curious audience to catch-up with just thirteen episodes on DVD. Lost is shedding viewers between seasons, because potential new eyeballs don’t have time to squeeze in twenty-four episodes between finale and premier. As talk in the UK about committing to longer runs of shows ramps up, I wonder if there’s too much effort being made to imitate a troubled model rather than stick with something better for the audience.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Marching orders

I feel like I’ve only just moved in, but now my landlord’s showing me the door. He’s selling two rental properties to fund an extension on his own home. That’s got to be one motherfucking enormous games room or granny-flat.

So I have until January, maybe longer if it takes a while to find a buyer. I can stay after January on a two month rolling basis, but I suppose I should start keeping my eye open for somewhere else.

My landlord’s invited me to make an offer, but how in god’s name can I do that? I earn £18k a year. Eighteen grand for the shit I put up with. Someone’s getting a good deal. I can’t afford to buy a house. I left uni nine years ago with a 2:1 and my salary’s the healthiest it’s ever been. Thanks to an heroic lack of ambition, I’ve never made enough to have to pay back my student loan, which has slowly gathered a negligible amount of interest over the past decade. Savings? Fuck off.

Anyway, if I don’t want to be back on the street, hustling and pimping my arse to the highest bidder, I’d better start scoping the estate agents.

Renting is such an unbelievable racket in the UK; most landlords are pretty shady operators, who give you the keys and then develop powers of invisibility until they want to chuck you out. Many properties are rat traps, despite £600 a month or more rents. And yet, what other choice is there? My parents changed the locks when I moved out. Bought a pack of hounds. And bricked up my room. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except I’d secretly let it out and there was a Dutch exchange student in there at the time. She normally came and went by the window, but one day the dogs got her on the way down and, well, they never did find her leg.

How many of you guys own your own places, and how in God’s name did you manage to afford it?

Monday, October 23, 2006

There's another word for that, you know

Uh-oh, watch out, here be SPOILERS for Season Two of Doctor Who...

Russell T Davies in The Independent:

It's all there for the taking, I do it gladly. The ending of Doctor Who, where we had to separate the Doctor and Rose, that was unashamedly taken from the Phillip Pullman novels. They're brilliant, and every child reads them. So that creates a resonance, when they've got a story in one part of their minds and they see Doctor Who and think, 'Oh right! You can change stories!' If you want to get pretentious about it, it's exactly what Shakespeare did. As long as you put yourself into it I think it's all there for the grabbing.

So you’re not nicking other people’s ideas, you’re creating resonance. How silly of me!

As for Torchwood, I thought it was daft, but I enjoyed it. Different enough from most of the bollocks on telly to be worth a watch, at any rate. I couldn’t help thinking I’d already seen it done by Warren Ellis, though. Captain Jack’s not exactly Elijah Snow, but Burn Gormley is Drums, or I’m a monkey’s uncle. Got to love the Doctor’s severed hand-in-a-jar though. And Captain Scarlet! Torchwood is green!

Maybe you need to lay off the videogames if...

It’s a foggy evening, and you’re taking a regular shortcut home through the graveyard.

A construction team in town are operating some kind of cutting machinery. By the time the sound reaches you, it resembles a fading air-raid siren.

At the same time, your iPod shuffles to a bad encoding, and all it plays is static.

And suddenly, it’s all you can do to control your bladder.

That theme still scares the bejeezus out of me.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Here's one I made earlier

Apologies to everyone using a feed reader - such as NetNewsWire - to check out the blog, who will have noticed I’ve presented them with 25 unread posts this morning. Unfortunately, this is what happens when you switch from plain old Blogger to their swanky new beta platform.

I’ve waited a couple of months to make the move, despite having my template ready to go for ages. I had concerns over the way comments were handled, and the feeds are not especially robust, but I can live with that for now. Enough people have sailed the beta-sea without capsizing for long enough that I figure it’s safe.

Converting my template to work with the layout features was a bitch of an effort, but I think it looks rather pretty. Now I need to think about whether or not it’s worth adding labels to 238 posts. At least I won’t have to do them one at a time.

Good work, Blogger.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Camino gets useable

Sometime in the last month, some clever fellow added RSS detection to the nightly builds of Camino. This was the one thing keeping me from switching from Safari to a more widely supported browser.

So now with feeds, find-ahead type, tasty rendering and, using plug-ins, session restore and custom search engines, Camino is finally ready for the day-to-day.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Robin Wood?

Terrible. Just terrible.

An insipid, bloodless, humourless pantomime. Where was all the money spent? Certainly not on extras. And the editing, my god! He’s standing by the door, now he’s near the window, no, he’s behind you! Nor let us not speak of the quality of the dialogue, for speech it resembled not at all.

I don’t know what this wants to be. In tone and execution it’s far closer to Maid Marion and Her Merry Men than any previous Robin Hood telling, but shows not a trace of the imagination displayed by that fondly remembered children’s series.

Boo. And hiss.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

There is no time

If I lived in North America and had a DVR, it would be pretty backed up by now. I don’t have a DVR, but I do have Bittorrent and a web connection, and the available GBs on my hard drive shrink every day, as they’re written over by TV shows I don’t know when I’ll find time to watch. I can’t fit in twenty hours of television a week. Here’s Dexter starting on Showtime, and I haven’t even finished Brotherhood yet.

I’m gonna have to slim things down a bit. The Wire, Battlestar Galactica and Veronica Mars are so far the only torrents guaranteed a place in the queue. I’d like to see Rob Thomas continue to name his villains of the week after aging rock artists - this week Donald Fagen, next week David Gilmour, maybe.

Heroes, Prison Break, Studio 60, Weeds, Dexter, House, Smith, The Unit, Jericho, Kidnapped, and Supernatural. I can’t watch them all, I must be merciless.

And those are just the U.S shows. DMc’s love for Slings and Arrows has convinced me to check that out. I’m quite enjoying Irish drama Legend, and some bastard at Barbelith recently turned me on to anime Bleach. We in the U.K got new Spooks recently, and Robin Hood starts Saturday. I was out fencing last night, learning to kill with honour and panache, so would anyone like to give their impressions of Kudos’ latest, The Amazing Mrs Pritchard?

You know, I think I may actually have a problem here. I need someone to take my TV away. I’m at work from 9, and leave a key under the recycles box, if anyone wants to sort me out. Since you’re going to be in my house anyway, please clean the bathroom before you leave.

I’m going to go and read a book, now.

The Brightonomicon, if you must know.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

One page

From my brain to your screen, via the dancing magic of nimble fingers, an answer to Red Right Hand’s challenge:
Let us see what it is you write. One page, no set-up or explanations. It doesn't necessarily even have to make sense out of context. One page won't hurt you.
It won’t hurt me, but I can’t be responsible for what might happen to you. RACHEL How does it end? Frank is whimpering now. ILEM We eats him. RACHEL Good boy. FRANK No, no, this isn’t right. It’s... Rachel grasps his jaw, shutting him up. She forces open his mouth, he’s absolutely paralysed with terror. She reaches into his mouth and rips out his tongue. She releases Frank. Frank falls to the floor and starts to crawl towards the door. Before he can make it across the room, she steps on him. Frank looks up at her, pleading. She licks the bloody end of his severed tongue, pops it in her mouth, and chews. Eventually she swallows it. She turns to Ilem. RACHEL Time to hunt. You’d better divide. She drops to her knees, straddles Frank. Turns his head toward Ilem. Ilem becomes hazy, blurred, out of focus. There seem to be two of him standing where there was one. His two faces peel apart, his whole body splits into two, each with two faces. RACHEL (CONT'D) My special little pet. Rachel strokes Frank's cheek, leaning closer.

Lea Delaria

Some friends and I went to see Lea Delaria and her band play at our little local theatre last night. Chipping Norton is a dyed-in-the-wool blue Tory town, and the theatre is only ever attended by a single demographic - smug, stuffy, grey-haired, weekend-home owning horse-teethed slapheaded cunts.

I’ve got Double Standards, and I knew not to expect a cosy night of Cole Porter ballads and other examples from the songbook, but I was worried how the rest of the audience would react to a 200lb Fred Dibnah looking lesbian gal, belting out killing arrangements of songs by Jane’s Addiction, Patty Smith and The Doors. Sure enough, one or two were out of their seats and back to the foyer within a couple of tracks, their reserve unable to cope with the sheer level of swing released upon the crowd. But those that stayed had a blast. She and the band tore that place up like motherfuckers. It was awesome. Her voice is absolutely remarkable, and what she does to The Ballad of Sweeney Todd is revelatory.

Delaria is touring in the UK throughout October and November.