Monday, November 28, 2005

Dead Language Squad.... Assemble!

TIny victories against technology: got a reconditioned mobile for twenty five quid into which I could put the old SIM card. And it's about two steps up from my old one, and prettier, all black and silver, like PP's car, only much smaller, and I haven't driven it into two walls.

Off to London. While I'm gone, please head back over to Patroclus's and help her resurrect Pictish. I had a go, to the best of my abilities, but it's not totally impossible someone could make a more useful contribution.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Patroclus has a pretty sharp post about blog comments, which can exist as a strange wibbly world all of their own (I'm paraphrasing). I'm really more of a lurker than a commenter, unless I actually know the person writing, and even then my comments tend to be dull agreeable stuff along the line of 'They are a good band aren't they?/I haven't watched that film yet, but it sounds great!/Cats are funny!', none of which really move the argument along, so I usually wish I hadn't bothered.

The snow has gone, and it's raining. Fortunately, Matt survived, and Izzy took really a rather fabulous photo - of of those everyday locations turned mysterious and otherworldly through just a change in conditions. Maybe it's just that we don't get much snow down here.

I'm just finishing the first edit of the book - a more enjoyable process than I expected. The manuscript Agent Sarah sent me was marked up in a way Clearly Understandable By Boys: ie lots of marked pages with 'reduce by 30/50/70 per cent'. This means you can cut and paste into a separate document, bring out the metaphorical cold chisels (and occasionally chainsaws) and get it into shape before dropping it back into the book again. Grr, writing manly. The second draft will be, I reckon, about five to eight thousand words shorter, but much much better. I decided to drop two characters entirely, a strangely satisfying feeling.

Agent Sarah had a few comments along the lines of 'um... why does this happen?' to which quite often I had no reply, so out it came. I know Raymond Chandler was once asked during the adaptation of one of his books why a dead chauffeur was in the car being pulled from the lake (lightly referenced in the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang movie - four stars), and he had to admit he couldn't remember.

It's the action scenes that have been trimmed most of all. Mainly because as a hangover from both scripts and, to be honest, D&D, I like to know where my characters are at all times. Which would slow down a far greater work: 'Lizzy moved into the ballroom in a north-easterly direction, holding her dance card in her right hand, keeping more than five feet from the wall, lest she be considered a suitable subject for Wallflower Assimilation, but a good fifteen feet from Mr Darcy's Zone of Grumpiness - see accompanying diagram.'

Although I think maybe I need to write all that stuff first just to get it clear in my mind, then be able to cut to the important stuff. Too many scriptwriters' first books read like a uncommissioned script simply translated into a different medium, so I'm willing to do all I can to avoid that.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Living proof there is such a thing as 'too much spare time'

Oh who am I kidding. These are the coolest things I've ever seen. I'd like the Starscream one for Christmas please.

This would make a fantastic comedy sketch though - someone turning up to a party, transforming into a car or plane.... and then pretty much having to lie there, people gradually putting empty glasses on you and covering you in coats. I suppose you could shout 'Neowm!' every now and then. It's always good to have an excuse.

UPDATE: ipod = dead. Or rather it spineth and it whirrs, but the hard disc it be fecked, giving it a ghastly semblance of half-life. A full restorative will cost approx. £180. It may have to roam the earth whispering 'braaaaiiiinnnnnnns' for an indefinite period.

Have moved on to the final stage of ipod death: a calm acceptance of fate.


And I abhor male aggression, holding it responsible for 98% of the world's ills. Also, I currently have quite a beardy face. See the rank hypocrisy to which I have been brought?

It's not the battery either, though thanks for the suggestion. It's the hard disc: the dark and hate-filled soul of the beast. Its very spinning vexeth me so, like a spinny, vex-making machine.

UPDATE 2: For new readers, here's some backstory, aka 'the earlier, funnier ones'.

the sigur ros thing


The bullet-point memo version of 'Life of Make-Believe

Stuart Murphy quit, by the way.

UPDATE 3: should I have referred to them as the 'earlier funnier ones'? Was that being a bit presumptuous? Damn, I'm not sure now. I've jumped the shark. Actually I did jump a shark once, a small one, being unloaded into a fish shop in town. Although it was a 'step' rather than a jump*, really. I wish I could go back in time and not do it. Or not do this, now. I'll stop.

* I think I actually jumped it here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


In the last 48 hours:

My internet connection collapsed,
My ipod wiped itself (again),
My mobile phone went into a coma.

After scouring the streets fruitlessly for one of those EMP bombs like on Ocean's Eleven, I was forced to conclude that this was all a coincidence, and not a concerted effort to cut me off from potential sources of employment by the forces of evil. But you have to wonder. Anyway, Matt phoned, and persuaded me to put away the tinfoil hat for the present.

Fortunately my laptop is still working (please stay working laptop), so I thought I might try one of the wi-fi places in town. Which lead to this fabulous conversation in an unnamed bar.

ME: Do you have a wireless broadband thing here?
GIRL: Yeah, but it's shit.
ME: Is is just shit today, or is it always shit?
GIRL: It's always shit.
ME: Right, thanks. Do you know anywhere else in town that has one?
GIRL: That cinnamon cafe place does. You know up the top of town, where it all goes a bit comedy?
ME: Um, yes?
GIRL: Well it's up there.
ME: Ok, ta.

Didn't get to try the cinnamon cafe, although I did pop back to first bar later in the evening, and their wireless broadband thing was, as I'd been warned, shit.

But what does 'it all goes a bit comedy' mean? Weirdly, I sort of know what she meant: lots of health food shops, strange antique shops with sinister dolls and second-hand bookshops specializing in books about the Canadian Navy. But is this the new definition of 'comedy'? Confused.

I need to blunder through the apple website now to see if I can get the ipod to work again. But my heart's not in it frankly. I might just leave its alabaster corpse lying on my bedside table to gather dust, a symbol of all that is glamorous and beautiful, but ultimately flawed, vicious and treacherous in this world.


Oh ipod, mypod, deadpod
How could you treat me so?
I loved you once.
But now the spinning hard disc of my heart
Has stopped.
And no combination of buttons
Can reset the love I once had for you.
You small white bastard.

Monday, November 21, 2005


dave and becca 3
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Spent the weekend as support crew to my brother and friends who were doing the 2005 exe descent. 'Support crew' in this instance meaning little more than dropping people off at one end of the river exe, then chasing down after them with a camera trying to take exciting action shots, then loading the boats up at the other end, but it was good outdoorsy fun of the kind I never normally have.

Most exciting bit for me, tragically enough, was driving back from Exeter to Falmouth, as the furthest I've ever driven before is to St. Ives and back - never even driven out of Cornwall before. Anyway, getting an elderly VW Polo with a huge canoe on the roof up to 80mph on a dual carriageway turned out to be slightly enjoyable.

Other fun moment: explaining to Becca, Dave's co-paddler what an 'RPG' is (in this context, a Rocket Propelled Grenade' - we were talking about dreadful/enjoyable Ridley Scott movies Black Hawk Down) - only to discover Becca to be a Lieutenant and helicopter navigator in the Royal Navy. I thought the dissertation she'd been talking about was in 'Tourism'. Actually it turned out to be 'Terrorism'. Dammit.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Toy-Fu 38 - Not There

If this makes no sense to you at all, go here for some backstory. It'll probably still make no sense at all, mind.

Steve and the other one back tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Did anyone notice the reference to 'a paper company in Slough' in last week's Lost? The producer JJ Abrams is a big fan of The Office, so it's nice to see that polar bears, giant invisible monsters and Gareth can all exist in the same world.

Hurrah for crossovers.

Mind you, I'd drop Lost like a fake london pasty if there was anything even slightly better on. But there isn't.

UPDATE: after a query about how Office co-writer Stephen Merchant appeared on GW, I guessed with the utter wrongness that has become the defining characteristic of this blog, that he had sat through an audition.

In fact Rob, GW co-writer and sometime Vogue model corrects me thusly:

Just for the record, Mr Merchant did not audition for the part. Other people did, but didn't quite get it right. Rather belatedly, somebody then came up with the SM idea. His agent asked for a script to be sent so they could decide whether or not to do it, but as it was now a day before filming, it wasn't looking hopeful. Shortly afterwards, however, there was a call to say forget about sending the script, he'll do it anyway. Hurrah.

Hurrah indeed! Even more reason to think well of SM. Maybe don't hug him on the street or anything, but if you're in the queue for the cinema in front of him, maybe pay for his ticket, discreetly, and just whisper 'this one's for the Wing'. Or similar.

He was blimmin' brilliant in Extras as well. All hail the Merchant.

Monday, November 14, 2005

V&A pics

lion on tomb
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.

I really liked this lion, who was sitting on the corner of a german duke's* tomby bit. One of his wings had fallen off, which was sad, but still left him with one more wing than most other lions. So I wouldn't imagine he gets teased too badly at parties.

Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.

The other bit, as you see, really does look like a supervillain's lair. Most odd. I managed to sneak a photo of a closed off bit as well**, which is always satisfying. I read about someone researching a movie once who was shown round a large Natural History Museum in the States, culminating in a huge glass tank in which something was quietly dissolving in acid. When they winched up the chains, it was revealed to be the skeleton of a rhinoceros. Although possibly I imagined that. I do read quite a lot in my dreams, which I'm sure you're not supposed to do.

Martha Wainwright was great as well, obviously. Others have commented on the general chick-heavy aspect of the show, which I personally had no problem with. However, Sigur Ros did manage to chuck in a small marching band, so it's a tricky one. Martha may have won on points, with an excellent cover of Tower of Song. Although I liked that Sigur Ros song that started off quietly? And built to a crescendo?*** With a bloke singing in a high-pitched voice?

Icelandic indie band humour there.

Went to see Howl's Moving Castle this evening, which was sadly very disappointing. Loads of stuff we've already seen in Spirited Away, and an ending so cheesy, the entire cinema dissolved into giggles. As I left, all I could hear was the eerie susurration caused by hundreds of people all saying 'sickly' at the same time, which was an odd experience.

As promised, here's that song from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one of those bits of music that should cause dogs to stop barking and sparrows to rush home to spend more time with their families. Don't tell anyone though, or I'll get into trouble.

*Monument in bronze of Ernst, Duke of Saxony and Archbishop of Magdeburg (b. 1464; d. 1513) by Peter Vischer (d. 1529) in Magdeburg Cathedral dated 1497.

And then it says: '1904-55'. Don't know why.

** Which I forgot to put up. It's not that great a photo anyway. It'll be better in your imagination. Most things are.

*** Which is impossible apparently - see cello's note in comments.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Way too many brackets in this one.

The V&A was marvellous, particularly the random collection of one-for-one plaster copies of stuff like Michaelangelo's David, and that other one, and big pillars and stuff, all piled up like the lair of a successful supervillain. I got told off for touching some iron shutters (to be fair, I had misread a sign which said more information was behind, and thought it meant behind the shutters, and heaved and heaved and heaved only to realize a) they were wired shut b) the sign meant there was more info on the wall behind me and c) I had displeased a man. He was miles away too. Most alert. I managed to saunter past him with an insouciant sort of 'yes yes, I am a prince here on a visit and will forgive you your little misunderstanding'. I wish we still had small denominations of paper money, as I would have like to have tucked a pound note into his top pocket with a wink, but I only had a twenty-pound note or four pence in change, so never mind).

There's a machine that lets you design a fabric, and then email the design to yourself. It looked better on the machine, but to be fair a party of London school-children wanted a go after me, and as they were armed with KNIVES AND CRACK VIALS, I rushed the end a bit. Still.

The Ros (as nobody has ever called them) made a most satisfactory noise. My only worry about Sigur Ros is that yer main chappie sings either in Icelandic, or in a made-up language called Hopelandish. Which means you don't have even a fighting chance of knowing what he's singing about. Staralfur, for example, which sounds like this*: i.e. a wondrous soaring heart-breaking slice of pure otherworldly joy. The lyrics are:

blá nótt yfir himininn

blá nótt yfir mér

horf-inn út um gluggann

minn með hendur

faldar undir kinn

hugsum daginn minn

í dag og í gær

blá náttfötin klæða mig í

beint upp í rúm

breiði mjúku sængina

loka augunum

ég fel hausinn minn undir sæng

starir á mig lítill álfur

hleypur að mér en hreyfist ekki

úr stað – sjálfur


opna augun

stírurnar úr

teygi mig og tel (hvort ég sé ekki)

kominn aftur og alltalltílæ

samt vantar eitthvað

eins og alla vegginna

Their website does at least translate the song title as 'singing elf'**, which is sort of helpful. Anyway, I've been to Norway twice, and though it's not Iceland, it's sort of close, and I like Abba as well, so I think I've worked out the translation of the lyrics. And I have to say, I liked it more before, as it turns out to be actually rather prosaic:

ooh those bloody singing elves (actually 'staring elf')

never one around when you want one

then three come along at once

and you don't see white trollshit any more

what's all that about?

lembas bread?


and bread?


I ask you

my mum right, she leaves a candle out for the singing elves ('staring elves')

when she goes out

but this is wise, for my uncle bjorn, he once failed to leave a candle out for the singing elves ('staring elves') and their keening took on a sinister pitch which drove him to eat his own ears ('staring took on an increasingly Orianne-like narrowing quality which drove him to gouge his own eyes out with a sharpened puffin')

we eventually found him in the snow
quite dead

those singing elves bringing to his face a curious mix of joy and hopeless fear (same)

so probably a good idea with the candles my mother is having

also, all our natural hot springs smell of egg

but that is due to the sulphur (which occurs naturally in the water)
a fact we all learn at a very young age

so fart jokes are considered the province of the very young and the mentally unsound

which is probably best.

Or something like that.

* Yes I've linked to that song before. And it's in The Life Aquatic, that end bit when they finally find the shark. I've got that bit of music from Ferris Bueller as well, when Cameron's staring at the Impressionist painting (is it a Monet?). I can put that up at some point (the song, not the Monet - the song's the Dream Academy cover of a Smith's song) if anyone wants. It made me happy to find it.

** Hang on, as has been pointed out, it's actually 'staring elf' - an easy mistake to make if your attitude to pretty much everything is 'oh well, that'll do'. However in my defence, Icelandic singing and staring are quite similar (they usually do both at the same time, because of trolls, which are hard to spot, but easily distracted by four-part harmonies). Alternative translation has now been added above. Sorry for any confusion.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Completely random now.

Continuing the theme of slightly missing Hallowe'en stuff, here's a short story about two narrative universes that never should have met.* Scroll down to footnote after you've read, otherwise it'll spoil it.

Over here is a Nesbit-themed pen and paper RPG, which I suppose is somewhat.. specialist, but there might be someone out there tired of dungeon-bashing who fancies a go at something more literary. Faded Edwardiana is the new black, you know. With a sort of wrought-iron overlay, and bits of ivy everywhere. And brass fittings.

And here's the most up to date (no it's not, ignore that) in Kim Newman's Anno Dracula sequence, which presents a parallel history of the world in which Dracula survived Bram Stoker's novel and went on to make vampirism not just socially acceptable, but desirable to boot. Throw in countless (mhah) pop culture references and it's literary crossover heaven. - Castle in the Desert: Anno Dracula 1977

Right, off to see Sigur Ros and Martha Wainwright, attend a lecture by Anthony Horowitz, pop into the V&A and Science Museum (aliens exhibition - wheee!) and discuss the next step in editing the Cabinet with Agent Sarah**. I think she plans on distracting me with pizza, then sliding a manuscript covered in red pen across the table. As a plan, it has every chance of succeeding.

* If you can't work it out: Peanuts and H.P. Lovecraft.
** Not all on the same day.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Great animation

Not Hallowe'eney, or dancey, but slightly monsterey and definitely good.

Had The Mighty Evans bringing her London ways to Cornwall this weekend, adapting admirably to the, um, gentler pace of life down here with only the occasional murmur along the lines of "Why are the queues here so slooooooow!?"

And, after having made an ill-advised late-night trip to the bathroom.

"There were one, two, three, four FIVE SLUGS IN THERE!"

Which unfortunately was hard to take seriously, as it sounded a bit like something from Sesame Street. She had a point though. And she barely screamed at my driving at all, which was impressive.

Am I the only person who didn't know the inspiration for the wardrobe from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" actually came from a Nesbit short story called The Aunt and Amabel? And therefore, in continuity terms, might well be the same wardrobe? Intertextual crossover children's literature ahoy!

Neither did I know that Puddleglum was a reference to the Aeneid (see further down in the same article). Fortunately the editing process on the Cabinet begins in earnest this week, so I get to fold all this stuff back in (what with Marsh-Wiggles and Wardrobes and indeed some Nesbit creations making cameo appearances). Just talked to m'colleague Alex who's also on his first kid's book (though his is now with a publisher, well done) and he's on his fifth edit. Crikey.

While I'm doing random stuff, I was delighted to see that Michael Swanwick's seminal genre-skewering fantasy novel The Iron Dragon's Daughter has finally been reprinted in the SF Masterworks series. I'm bad at synopsising novels, so I'll just say that if you like Neil Gaiman's stuff, you'll love this, as it includes all the worn-thin trappings of fantasy (dragons, elves, magic swords) and twists them into something rich and dark and strange. Funny too, in a bleak, icy sort of way.

Friday, November 04, 2005


New York-based* satirical website Gelf Magazine has a nice** piece on GW. I get to quip in it, which is a bonus. I always wanted to quip, and never really had the chance before. It'll be interesting to see how the DVD goes down over there, as the word-of-mouth was pretty good, even if, like here, the ratings weren't particularly impressive.

Slightly too late for Hallowe'en, but here are some great spooky animations. This one's my favourite.

I forgot to say: talk with the writing group last week was fun - hopefully I haven't put them off entirely. I've wandered in to talk to that course about four times, and interestingly, the talk itself gets shorter and shorter each year as I realize I know less and less about anything. Next year I might just go in, shrug helplessly, and go out again.

On a similar note: congratulations to Katy Moon (alumnus of last year's course), who finally got her job as editorial assistant of Inside Soap, which if you're a bit literal-minded, might be the best title for a magazine ever.

* I think.

** Of course it's possible they're being satirical.