Saturday, May 15, 2010


The Daughter took a year off before going to University. The original plan was to spend six weeks volunteering with the orangutans in Borneo. Unfortunately that ended up being too expensive.

So instead she's heading to the Antipodes - four weeks of volunteer work in New Zealand followed by some time in Australia with family.

She has paid for a lot of it herself - she found several jobs including waitressing, before/after school club assistant, and most recently cricket scorer for a local team. (Having a daughter who's a cricket scorer is slightly surreal since, as a family, we have little interest in team sports and only a slight interest in individual sports.)

Add to that the Boy is heading to France for a week and needs to know how to ride a bike. Which he doesn't. Belatedly (because he says he's got the hang of it and just needs practice) I looked up learning to ride a bike on the Inner-Tubes, um ... Inter-Tubes.

This site is good

This one is okay

I have not, and will not, be travelling much this year. Except to Birmingham from time to time, but I may be going to the big US of A next year.

The Boy has been choosing his GCSE options: Being a star pupil he didn't get all the choices he wanted, apart from sciences and maths, he's doing music - he's very excited about the composition part - he plays three instruments and in three bands. But, unsurprisingly in our family, he's chosen History. We do tend to shove it down both kids throats - those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it - but they don't seem to mind (the Daughter did Classical Civilisations which she loved). The Boy has a particular interest in WWII and that's what he'll be covering, so he's happy.

On the writing front...

The super secret project has been confirmed as dead (but at least it's confirmed), and I didn't get through the Big Finish new writers thingy. So those can be crossed off. It means I will definitely be using my detective script Tec for the Red Planet Prize, but that needs a page one rewrite.

I did enter the Blue Cat competition with Running and that gets announced some time in June.

I have been working through the page one rewrite of Winter definitely some good stuff there.

Meanwhile I'm also working on three website projects - and now have contributed to the Open Source software project called Drupal (means: water droplet) and my page is here it won't mean a lot to non-programmers but you can see my pseudonym there.


What's on the turntable? "Heartsong" by Gordon Giltrap from "Visionary" (This was used as the theme tune to the BBC's long-running "Holiday" TV programme. So is appropriate for this post.)

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Wins and loses

Had an interesting couple of days.

We didn't even make it into the Trailer Festival. Boo hiss. Anyway we'll be revamping the Monsters website with the trailer and additional footage. I'll let you know when we've done that. At which point we'll be making a more concerted (in the proper sense of "concert") efforts to get some interest.

On the other hand...

One of my "secret" projects (codename Traitor) involved delivering a set of briefs to a production company about 6 months ago, decisions to be made in February. I'd heard nothing and the usual approach is, of course, to assume silence = failure. But I hate leaving things in the air like that - no closure - so I popped an email over to the company concerned.

Turns out they haven't decided because they've been too busy. In fact this project is now on hold until next year. So I'm "still in the running".

As I commented to my correspondent (in the proper sense of "correspondent") "rejection I can take, it's the hope that kills you".

In the same wise, I was one of the people who sent a brief to Big Finish (that's the Boots project), again there's been nothing on this though decisions were intended for March - as far as I know nothing on their website either. So I popped an email to them as well. No reply as yet.

Even better news, sort of, is the project that's so secret I can't say anything at all. It doesn't even have a codename, I mean it's that secret (wow). I thought it was dead before even starting, but I find it's not dead at all and still has potential to begin. If it all works out this will be a book adaptation which I will write for the Red Planet competition - assuming it fits the brief, but it should.

So this is all good.

I have been watching...

Dr Who - hm, very poor on the Venetian vampires, plot holes so huge you could drive a bus through them. And they could have been dealt with very simply.

Warehouse 13 - still fun.

The Prisoner - I pity anyone who pre-judged this and decided it could only be bad because the 60s show should never have been re-made. Perhaps not, but this show continues to be scarily, unnervingly, disturbingly excellent. (Sir) Ian McKellen is terrifying. The Teacher asked if I was enjoying it, well "enjoy" is not exactly the right word. Am I being gripped, unnerved, disturbed and terrified? Yes. It embodies the paranoia of 1984 - it's certainly not for everyone, but I want to watch it all.

Ashes to Ashes - getting weirder, also excellent. The performances are all top-grade.

What's on the turntable? "Once" by Diana Vickers from "Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree"

Monday, May 03, 2010

Hancock & Iron Man 2

I don't think there are any spoilers here - but you may not want to risk it if it bothers you.

Regular readers - well, not so regular since I haven't been blogging so much in the past year - may recall that I have a thing about people who feel the need to turn their emotions up to 11. Or, more accurately, have their emotions stuck on 11.

These are the people who claim, for example, to "hate" some creative person they've never met (singer, actor whatever). When what they actually mean is "I personally do not like...". They also like to express their opinions as absolute certainties - which one can only ascribe to a severe level of personal insecurity (though that's not really an explanation, but the real cause is probably as individual as each ... individual).

It's these adamant certainties based purely on personal opinion that annoy me. (Plus the people who repeat other people's opinions-as-fact when they have no personal experience of the real truth - one might call them "sheep".) I prefer to make my own opinions.

So, let me make it clear that the following is just my personal opinion - if you agree with me then that's nice, but if you don't, well, you're entitled to your opinion as much as me. And it's as valid for you as mine is for me.

Let's get Iron Man 2 over with: I enjoyed it a lot, but there's a slow patch in the middle. I know exactly why it's there, perhaps it could have been done better, perhaps not, but its existence has nothing to do with Iron Man and everything to do with Samuel L Jackson. (Which is not a criticism of the great SLJ, by the way.)

This blog was partly prompted by the person I came across today who said "Iron Man 2 was rubbish. It was really good at the beginning and at the end, but it was slow in the middle." So basically, they enjoyed it but now they go around telling people it was "rubbish" because there was 5 minutes in the middle where it got a bit slow. Emotions turned up to 11.

Anyway the film is, in my opinion, excellent fun and I recommend it to you.

On impulse I bought a £4 DVD of Hancock at the supermarket. I hadn't seen it on the big screen but having heard so much criticism (including this from Bill Martell) I was curious. (You will notice that Bill does not say he "hates" the film, his viewpoint is based on a good understanding of how films work. He does not need to turn his emotions up to 11.)

The main problem with Hancock is that it doesn't know what it is. It was always presented as a comedy, but as I watched the first 20 minutes I could see clearly that this was no comedy. Yes there were comedic moments but this was serious drama. (Of course, that presents a fundamental problem to people who don't understand SF and Fantasy - how could they possibly be serious drama?) Will Smith is excellent, and Charlize Theron proves once again that she is a superb actress.

People who put their criticisms in writing usually point to the sudden change in the middle as "where it all goes wrong". And if you haven't seen the film you won't be expecting it. It's a plot twist enacted with action only which takes just a fraction of second. You're left going "What!" but it's not a bad "what", it's a "OMG the film has just taken a left turn - what's happening now?!"

In no way is that bad movie making. That is the very best movie making - except that some people don't like having their ideas about a film ripped away so abruptly, they can't handle it. This is one reason why you're always supposed to "foreshadow" things because it lessens the shock - I have my own opinions on foreshadowing.

Unfortunately what follows the twist (and explains it) is based on a premise that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. This robs the final scenes of the power that they should actually have.

My personal feeling about the script is that it did not, as originally written, have enough plot to carry it for 90 minutes (it's actually short for a superhero film anyway at 89 minutes) and the part after the twist was tacked on by someone else.

Couple that with a director who couldn't quite get a handle on how it should be shot and we get what we have: a film that has a very uneven tone, and a very unfortunate premise that makes no sense.

However, did I enjoy it? Yes I did. The first half is pretty solid, the twist was amazing (I knew there was one coming, I just didn't know what it was and it hit completely unexpectedly) and the second half was pretty good - just different.

Just remember, people, opinions aren't facts. Be careful out there.

What's on the turntable? "Dragonfly" by Blondie from "The Hunter"