Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Mind Boggles

In the interests of keeping everyone informed and up to date with the company's progress, my employers regularly send out informational email on new client signings and project live dates and so on.

on arrival this morning one had dropped into my inbox overnight which contained the following fascinating insight.

"The project started off with difficulty after changes were made to the client’s Project Manager a few weeks into the project."
Which does rather make me wonder precisely what changes precisely were made. Brainwashing? Nosejob? Partial cybernisation and the fitting of an emotional inhibitor (not that most project managers need the latter in my opinion but hey).

All told the sentence does, however, put me in mind of one of those fake letters home that used to appear in books like "2001 Jokes for Kids" where one correspondent stated to their loving son:
"I have had all my teeth taken out and a new fireplace put in."
The path of the English is filled with many potential dangers and pitfalls. Not to mention some terribly uneven paving slabs.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

That is the question...

Been doing a bit of fine tuning to another set of questions for the Halfway II Heaven pub quiz today.

Faced with the complaint last time that it was pretty tough I've been more mindful this time to try and balance it. Damnably tough job it is too.

Still, so far the questions feature the words "tosser", "poove", and "execrable" so I'm reasonably happy.

I've even managed to stop myself asking the really obvious question: "just how has Robin Hood managed to get a second series?" (Mainly, I suspect, because I still can't believe any of the answers I keep coming across.)

Anyway, I'm hosting it on Wednesday. Should start on the dot of 8:00ish.

Do pop by if you're in the vicinity.

Welcome to the Cyberdisco!

It's a guilty pleasure, but I'm rather fond of the fan remix site Whomix, a suppository for people to publish their own versions of the Doctor Who theme.

There's a lot of rubbish - as my version would be were I to try it no doubt - but there is some amazing talent out there noodling away at versions of one theme.

The ones I don't care for are the ones which simply try to emulate a "real" version of the theme. But some of them are complete ground-up reworkings.

My personal favourite is Anthony Perry's "Industrial Cyberdisco Remix" which I think is a work of genius.

His exact description of it from the remix page is as follows:

I think the best way to listen to this one is to imagine the TARDIS materialising in a huge 'abandoned' space freighter as a squad of Cybermen come marching around the corner in time with the beat. Got it?

OK, now imagine that instead of being in the freighter, they're in a disco with some nice rope and strobe lights reflecting off their shiny heads making them look like psychotic glitterballs. And instead of marching in time with the beat they're actually doing some really crap 80's robotic synchronised dancing. Ooh yeah, get down and cyberboogie...

There's even a nice 'chill out' section in the middle where they can sneak off to the toilets for a crafty squirt of WD40!
Gotta love it. Who'd have thought the theme could end up so camp, eh?

An Excess of Weather

Lord.

Well I don't know what it's been like for you lot, but over here at Highgate Towers in the last hour we've suffered from what can only be described as an excess of weather.

High winds (which were rattling away at my window all night, damn them) brought along spectacularly low-level cloud which then decided to wring itself out and give us an onslaught of driving rain. After a short burst of this it all settled and we then got a brief but vigorous storm of lightning and deep ominous growls of thunder.

And yet now we have a combination of light rain and bright sunshine.

I love this country. It's so unstable in so many ways.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Robopop: The Return

The first major release from synthpop label Planet Clique hit my desk this week: Robopop: The Return. 17 tracks of electronica which I must say is, on the whole, very good.

Now my one big problem with synthpop is that all too often an artist can stray into weird noises without bothering with a decent song. And there are a few tracks on here which are a bit like that. Frankly I think Temposhark's contribution sucks and it is part of a stretch of the album from tracks 11 - 14 that really leaves me somewhat cold. And for me an earlier downer comes from the Knife who I have to say have yet to release anything I can bear listening to.

Thankfully the rest of the album is very good. Goldfrapp hopefully need no introduction and "Ride a White Horse" is one of my favourite synth tracks ever. As in fact is Tiga's "(Far From) Home" (and by golly that boy's hot).

Matinee Club - née The Modern who surely need to make it big soon - put in a solid track called "Tokyo Girls" which is very good despite being possibly a little bit crass ("they love you long time tonight"?) but for me the definite highlight is "Got to Get Some", a genius offering from Superjupiter who are definitely ones to watch.

Dragonette's "I Get Around" has a hideously infectious chorus and rapidly rises above what is, to be fair, a pretty generic stuttering-synth opening to become a song worthy of special mention. Performance's "Surrender" never quite lives up to the promise of its gloriously euphoric opening but after a few listens it definitely grows on you. Formatic and Macondo's offerings are also extremely creditable material too.

I still can't quite get my head round why I love Knights' "Limousine" so much - especially since it starts with the nightmare announcement that the bar has closed - but I still find myself grinning when I listen to it. Similarly Lorraine's "I Feel It" is one I've come to like after months of wondering why Popjustice was raving about this group (I still think they've yet to do anything as good as "Transatlantic Flight" mind).

All told it's a very solid album. Personally I don't care for tracks 11-14 at all but even without those for £8 it's a bloody good value CD set.

Heartily recommended.

Jam and Jerusalem

Jennifer Saunders' new project started last night on BBC1. "Jam and Jerusalem" set in the village of Clatterford St. Mary, it focuses on village life and the goings on of the local ladies' guild.

I must say, I did find it very uncomfortable vieweing since various parts of it bore more than a passing similarity to Vitriol and Old Lace. Indeed at times I wondered if Jennifer Saunders or some of the rest of the production team had been on the judging panel of the BBC Talent contest we put the first episode in for all those months ago.

Even the flatmate went "my God, they've nicked all your ideas!"

Ladies Guild with insane members? Check. One of them incredibly terrifying with an unusual mode of transport? Check. Funeral with a vicar trying to keep a lid on the chaos? Check.

Most disconcerting. And of course despite us working on our sitcom for years now, Jam and Jerusalem will be regarded as the first and we run the risk of looking like we're ripping it off. Gah!

What's most irritating of course is that it was actually very good as well.

Daniel and I will probably have to have long discussions about what to do next, I think. There are a lot of differences between the scripts too, of course, but we may need to be careful how to direct this so it doesn't echo J&J too much. Later episodes I suspect won't, but we need to avoid too many comparisons to start with.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Rude Awakenings

Had a fairly unpleasant start to the day, today.

I was jerked awake at 6:30 by the insistent piercing screeches of my alarm clock for one thing. This in itself is a fairly unusual occurrence since I'm normally starng blearily at the display a good ten or so minutes before then and turning the alarm off to avoid an assault on my ears.

I then did my usual trick of thinking "oh, just five more minutes" and turning over for that special privilege of staying in bed a bit longer than you really should.

Three quarters of an hour later I resurfaced from some very strange dreams with a relaxed stretch in the sure and certain knowledge that it was Saturday.

Obviously when I finally caught up with reality there was a very immediate flurry of headless-chicken-like activity and a mad dash to work from which I've only really just recovered.

Now admittedly, getting up and going to work on a weekday is an activity I have increasingly come to resent of late anyway. But to suddenly have the joy of Saturday effectively snatched away from me as well has invoked a level of dissatisfaction with my lot that is has proven quite pervasive.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Prestige

You may have seen a few adverts on television for the Christian Bale / Hugh Jackman (huge what?) film "The Prestige" lately. All looks very glossy and diverting and full of distorted Victoriana which usually appeals to me I must say. (Obviously I was wrong with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was fucking awful, but you can't be right all the time.)

Anyway my interest in the Prestige was piqued enough to actually do some research and discover it's based on a book by Christopher Priest which I then just happened across - purely by chance - in Waterstones.

I've just finished it. It's very very good. A brilliantly written and subtle novel with several twists and turns leading to an odd yet satisfying conclusion.

The film, I gather, is a very different, simplified affair - yet with a goodly number of positive reviews - but the book itself is absolutely brilliant.

I can heartily recommend it.

Change is Gonna Come...

My life on a personal and professional level has left a lot to be desired this last week. In fact I think I could go as far as to say it sucked.

I need to get a grip on a lot of things I think.

First up tomorrow is a meeting with my boss.

As far as my job is concerned, for one thing, I've had enough.

Bad Gay! No Biscuit!

I came to the conclusion recently that I am a bad gay.

Evidence:

  1. I don't care much for clubbing.
  2. I don't really go in for casual sex.
  3. I have never seen the Wizard of Oz.
  4. Nor do I have any desire to.
  5. I can't stand the Sound of Music.
  6. Or Labyrinth.
  7. I loathe the Carpenters.
I could, if I tried, go on. But I have a feeling that based on these alone the gay council will be revoking my licence imminently.

Interestingly I saw the other day some vacuous column in Boyz magazine (yeah, I know... take your pick) in which a lady - I forget the name - tries to give fag hags a voice.

Usually it's fairly readable if lightweight stuff, but last week she put forward the theory that actually we gays should be saluting George Michael and applauding the various sexual and drug-related antics that keep him in the public eye because at least he isn't conforming to some sanitised gay stereotype.

At which I must admit I prickled somewhat and was vaguely stunned by the lack of vision that this friend of friends of Dorothy had. She seemed completely unable to grasp that there are a great many gay stereotypes out there. Gay men are really an incredibly diverse species even within the smallest categorisations (and in fact we even have the luxury of switching between stereotypes depending on our mood if we feel like it).

So as far as I'm concerned the "mustachioed leather-bound Heath-cruising druggie" is just another one, love. And frankly just because he hasn't conformed to one stereotype, doesn't make the one he does conform to big or clever either.

Although you could argue I just haven't forgiven him for raping a perfectly good song and using it as the basis for the utterly dire "Shoot the Dog".

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Climate of Fear

I must confess to being slightly bemused by the BBC News headline this morning.

"Terror priority if Brown is PM".
For a moment there I was convinced he was going to cause it, not tackle it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Groovie Goolies

Strange how the past can suddenly come flooding back isn't it?

There's a documentary on Doctor Who : The Invasion DVD which looks at the way some fans - way back in the days before VCRs - used to record the soundtracks of TV shows with a microphone held quite near a TV speaker.

These days, after so many of the episodes have been lost due to the BBC's infinite wisdom, this act of supreme nerdery has resulted in some quite valuable recordings - two of which enabled the Cosgrve Hall team to use cleaned up versions of them as the soundtrack to animated episodes to replace the lost films with animation.

The results are actually surprisingly good (more please) but it brought back memories of me doing something very similar when I was young.

Only it wasn't Doctor Who (I became a fan quite late in my teens) it was an oddball little show by Filmation that I taped a few episodes of before - as I invariably did - getting bored of my new hobby.

The show in question was "The Groovy Goolies" and I've just discovered you can get it on DVD.

But you know what... I'm not going to. I am very much - as my regular readers will know - unapologetically in touch with my inner child and as such have no qualms about purchasing DVDs of things I loved from my childhood to love and love again. But in this case I think I'll leave well alone. My overriding memory at the time was that it really wasn't as good as it should be and since the memory invariably cheats and makes things better than they were I suspect I'll be appalled at the waste of money if I do.

But just for a moment there I was transported again back to a more innocent time where you had to be resourceful and make do with what you had to preserve the things you loved. I remember the joy of going back to check it had recorded in all its tinny glory and finding it had worked and playing it over and over again.

Of course, being a fickle gay it almost certainly got recorded over with Kylie a few years later. But such is the way of Rob.

The Quantity Theory of Insanity

Will Self - to my mind a deeply variable writer but capable of much genius - once wrote a book called "the Quantity Theory of Insanity" which suggested that there was a limited amount of insanity (and thus sanity) in the world. Thus if you cured insanity in one place an outbreak of insanity would occur elsewhere to balance it.

I always liked this idea, and there are two pretty good recent news events which we can use as evidence for it.

The US gets an outbreak of sanity and gives control of the Senate and House of Representatives to the Democrats. [Story here.]

But to counter it, the UK clears the leader of the BNP - the most terrifyingly bigoted, unpleasant and divisive political party ever (even considering the Conservatives and Republicans) - of race-hate. [Story here.]

What a world, what a world!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Torchwood : Cyberwoman

One of the main niggles for me when the Cybermen returned to Doctor Who this year was the conversion process. For me - a Whoer brought up in the eighties - the Cybermen were always more interesting than the infernal pepperpots because they had once been humans but had lost their humanity due to science, but aspects of their original physical form remained - one of the eighties costumes even went as far as to have a panel which showed a withered and blackened jaw moving in the helmet when the brutes spoke.

The fact that there was still a supported organic element within them - remnants of the original body grafted with the augmentations - was what made the process of being changed so scary. If the process was interrupted or only partially completed (Lytton from 1985's Attack of the Cybermen, Toberman from 1967's Tomb of the Cybermen, Vaughn from 1968's The Invasion) then a human being could be wandering around with metal bits added, caught in a state between human and Cyberman.

Rise of the Cybermen / Age of Steel, however, made it clear that all that was happening was a brain was being stuffed inside a robot suit. Which I suppose is a more direct approach - maybe quicker if you have the suits to hand - but somehow less interesting.

Episode four of Torchwood - lamely entitled Cyberwoman (ugh) - however reverted back to the old body-conversion which was something of a relief for me. Finally the process actually seemed scary and more visceral again so hurrah for that.

Visceral's quite a good way of describing the episode actually. The whole episode was gory, grim, claustrophobic (probably to justify the cost of the Hub set) and had everything going to hell in a handcart. It does seem that the series is slowly finding its feet, but whilst I'm finding it all very enjoyable I'm still not totally convinced the series justifies its existence yet.

At the moment it's certainly not proving to be much more than Doctor Who with blood and swearing, which - whilst I have no problem with either (and all my friends will be aware of the more puerile parts of my sense of humour) - doesn't really to my mind make it more "adult".

Indeed the Cyberbabe outfit alone was kind of pandering to the "teenage heterosexual men only" label that Science Fiction has struggled with over the years, and so far most of Torchwood does seem to be stuck in that mindset too - which is surprising considering how much of a hit the rejigged Doctor Who has been with the ladies.

Still, it's pretty, pacy, dramatic and funny and follows in the grand British tradition of doing SF telly which is really just a live action cartoon strip - a la the All New Doctor Who Show, the Avengers and so on. Of course this could be what will make or break it really. The slightly unreal (or as I prefer hyper-real) edge is something that obviously works for me, but I get the feeling that many (slightly) younger viewers - reared as they have been on a diet of purely US shows for years - are finding it hard to swallow.

Perhaps the magical, hyper-reality of Avengerland can't really accommodate the harsher world of Torchwood effectively for a sustained wider audience? Only time will tell.

(And on another note aren't BBC Three getting their moneys worth out of it? The only day they don't show it seems to be Thursday! I suppose it would have been a very costly production, but even so...)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

And we have a winner!

Following on from the Girls Aloud competition win the other day it appears I have newfound competition winning abilities (at least that's how Other Rob put it).

It seems I won some money in the (slowly going under) Monday Charities Lottery last night.

It's a sign, I think, of how unimpressive my life is that when I win gig tickets I get four songs, and when I win the lottery I get £14.

Still, never look a gift-horse in the mouth and all that.

Monday, November 06, 2006

What, you as well?

So, there were three of us sitting down last night, discussing life, love, Patrick Wolf, Girls Aloud, the Cyber-breasts in Torchwood, and work.

Turns out all three of us are currently hating our jobs and trying to figure out where to take our careers next.

Is it some kind of seasonal thing do you think? Or have they started putting something in the water?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Who'd Have Thought?

I have to say I think the guilty verdict against Saddam probably ranks as one of the biggest pieces of "no surprise there" that has ever been classified as news.

To be honest, I'm still more surprised they even bothered with a trial. (Although I suspect that he was given one purely because Dubya would have preferred not to.)

Now they just have to sort out the God Almighty cock-up of a situation that has resulted from deciding to remove Saddam in the first place.

What's worse is that some people the US and Britain are probably thinking that killing Saddam in some way evens the score (because of course "an eye for an eye" is such a civilised way of dealing out justice) or suggests that in any way the situation is moving forward instead of being mired in chaos and devastation.

Of course what's really sad is that if it wasn't for it being Saddam this'd just be yet one more Iraqi life being taken. And who'd notice that at this late stage eh?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Go Girls!



It was way too early in the morning.

It was only a short set.

But as far as competition prizes go, being invited by Mohammed Al-Fayed to Harrods for a private Girls Aloud gig was kind of a cool way to spend half an hour of a Saturday morning.

And the fact that they were so clearly enjoying themselves doing it just made me love them all the more.

They were all in very good voice, I must say - I was very impressed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Nigel Kneale

Just seen that Nigel Kneale, creator of Quatermass, the Year of the Sex Olympics and so on, has passed away.

Given how much I love Quatermass and the Pit and the Stone Tape - two of the best pieces of television ever - I am somewhat saddened by this news.

He was a truly great writer and there are few Science Fiction / Fantasy series in the world today that don't owe him a great debt - all the more unusual when you consider his distaste for the genre.

But anyway, fare thee well Nigel - and thanks for the thrills and thoughts you've given us over the years. There have been few like you (and frankly I think we're dire need of a few more).

It Is Finished!

Postman just arrived bearing with him the final "completion sticker" for the Merlin Doctor Who sticker collection.

You see, I wasn't going to collect them. But the sticker album came with the Radio Times and then the shop at the end of the road and the Co-Op were both selling packs of stickers and frankly there is a part of me which shall forever be eight years old (and equally frankly I don't think that's a bad thing) so it was kind of inevitable that I'd buckle really.

I have, after all, the breaking strain of a kitkat.

So eventually I got to the point when I had less that 25 stickers missing so I sent off an order for those, which then duly arrived (sans completion sticker - they were out of stock) last week.

And now it's all done. I feel an odd sense of sadness (in the anorak sense) and achievement. I've collected stickers before of course. "The Real Ghostbusters" one was the last big push, but I never actually completed it, so this is officially the first time I've ever finished a sticker collection.

This in itself is making me grin like a kid, but more importantly it's also as far as I can tell the first time someone in my family has ever completed a collection. Every album of old cigarette cards that my Dad ever showed me, for example, was missing loads.

I feel I may have broken a family curse. From now on we Morrises are going to complete the things we start and damn anyone who gets in our way.

That said, the sticker itself was a bit dull. But there we are.