Saturday, 26 July 2008

A little bit of politics: walls

(originally posted on myspace here)

In a break from rapping at Bishop's tonight we got onto the subject of Lego.


Peter reminded me that in the old days if you wanted to make a spaceship, it would normally involve inordinate amounts of trellis and possibly a tree. All of which has nothing to do with what follows, although maybe the image does, but probably not.

After an early night to bed I woke at five this morning. I filled a large cup with some water and ice, logged on to iplayer, and rustled up a documentary about the Nigerian schism in the Anglican Church. Bring that schism on, thick bigots, say I. It's the only thing that makes me wish I believed in God: I'd love to be an Archbishop. I'd bandy around words like "charity" and "evil" like it was my birthright. Surely that's the whole POINT of being a religious leader though. Don't pussyfoot around Leviticus, just say "Jesus had a much better idea: instead of looking to the Scriptures for our morality let's trust to our own informed and inherent empathy, not the most original of premises I know, but I AM AN ARCHBISHOP so I think that this was GOD'S idea, new idea, even though a lot of people had thought of it first, still we should clearly listen to THAT and not the old mad, survivalist, cutting-it-in-the-desert stuff, admittedly it doesn't seem THAT MUCH like a religion, but OUR churches are mainly lovely and old and yours, while admittedly incredibly popular, aren't - look, YOU ARE EVIL and you imprison homosexuals, albeit your services do look a lot more fun." But no, that apparently would be foolhardy and that's not how the Church works.

And it clearly didn't send me to sleep, although it was quite draining. So then I loaded up a whopping two-hour-plus slice of Boris Johnson taking questions from the London Assembly, which was every bit as enervating (a word that still stubbornly refuses to mean "elevating" crossed with "energizing"). Tossy guff about "Ken's pet projects urgh AH OOH newts (laughter) MUH that number by the pound sign is very big, I'm sure smaller numbers exist therefore that could be cheaper MUH UM New Routemaster ie not a Routemaster AH consultants, what do they do? MUH BUM knife crime" and then that silver gitfox from the BNP started getting excited about some definitely non-racial study he'd just commissioned as to what percentage of the - now, it was some section of the community, I can't for the life of me remember exactly which one he'd decided to single out for study, but there... no, it's gone - anyway the "something" community was affected by knife crime, at which point I shut up my laptop, popped on a fleece, and threw myself to the alsatians.

And then... and then... and then at Bishop's this evening I caught Barack Obama on Channel 4, quite shrewdly talking to the assembled Berlin throng as though he'd already been elected (a charade I'm sure the rest of the world will be quite happy to go along with even if it turns out he loses. I would.) The telly played the speech's book-ending soundbites, "The road is long", and the hokey moonshine of "I speak not as a candidate for President but as a citizen" and I was none too impressed but thought I'd look up the rest, tonight, just now. And good:

Dude, did he say "a world without nuclear weapons"?


Of course, the last time I felt this good about a speech it was Tim Collins' address to his troops before the invasion of Iraq (as jotted down here by the lady standing behind Kenneth Branagh) so, you know, fuck it. And indeed, looking over this central third again, I can't really put my hand on my heart and swear that David Cameron could never have made this exact same speech albeit lying through his shiny head. So why post it?

Well, I think it's when he talks about walls. Living in London I've seen a number of barriers go up in the last five years, mainly black and yellow, sometimes orange and slotty, and sometimes tortured metaphorical barriers I try and cram into this sentence like the barriers to anyone under 21 buying alcohol in a shop. Every politician seems to think barriers are the answer. So, yes, it's nice to hear someone talk of walls coming down for a change. And that's the nub. It's not just that he talks like he's already been elected, it's that - although he does mention the war - he talks, uniquely, like a leader in a time of peace. And that he gets his countries and his history right. And that, although I don't know the size of his claque, there's 100 thousand Germans there waving Stars and Stripes, and someone in the audience is clearly ululating... "Hope" is such a potentially duff word. But no I think, here, he's nailed it. I just wish Hicks or Hunter were still around so I could check.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The rule of 2.98

That is: 99p for a Heineken. 99p for a Gino's Pepperoni Pizza. And 99p for another Heineken.

So I felt very much at home having dinner at Peter's flat in Romford this evening, taking the couch and pacing while he laid down tracks for Hamlet and we tried to find a sound for Zeus. Romford's in Zone 6. It's very spacious, although the Rom itself is only four foot wide at low tide, as I discovered for myself when we stepped over it. Its banks are concrete and it is totally odourless. The brick streets on the way to the flat were practically empty at eight, and as I made my back at eleven there were three or four points of light, and a live band somewhere, but nowhere selling apples, and the streets still pretty empty. Empty in the same way that most of America is empty, good empty.

It reminded me more than anything else of the film Brick. It made me miss my camera. It made me want to scout for locations. But what does this mean?

'for Romford': display your pride in the town

The train back was also empty except for the scattered pictures of Heath Ledger's Joker (this modern world so stable and Utopian that box-office takings in America now make the front page) so I'd thought I'd pass on another scary clown anecdote to go with the Deburau story, in lieu of moody shots of the Rom...

It concerns the first ever appearance of Ronald McDonald, pasted below. Now my homeboy Tom, who has something of an in into the clown world, told me once that the performer in question was so disgusted with his own appointment that he took everything he had ever learnt about "correct clown proportioning", then purposefully set out to create as off-putting a Ronald McDonald as he could. Well, it clearly had a lasting affect on Stephen King. And Matt Groening. And it goes a little something like this:

Monday, 21 July 2008

"The reft is shouting" (and acting like a dick)

(originally posted on myspace here)

I woke at four. That was fine. I'd needed some sleep. The last two days I'd been trying to tackle the London Dungeons' new summer hours on the lowest reserves of rest, attention, patience, hope and vim that I'd seen since records began (ie this blog). Were there advantages to this physical state? Well, it wasn't all


no. The fact I'd been up at nights reading David Cairns' vividly illustrated missives from a week-long Hammer-Frankethon did lend my Ripper and Autopsy shows a new-found, straight-backed edge for example, as my faltering ability to discern Reality from Some Blog's Precis of Fantasy finally dissolved completely in the dry ice drifting off of Boghurst's bubbling jars. With an insomniac shudder of my shoulder blades, however, I also spent much of these days disproportionately haunted by Cairns' account of Peter Cushing's near-legendary grief, following his wife's less legendary death-bed confession that she had always thought he'd spent his life acting like a dick, in fact, and that he'd broken her heart and had made her life hell...


Look at that poor man. And look on this:


It's a design for Hamlet's conscience, Mr. Tommy Knockers. I scribbled it in the kitchen yesterday evening, while Bishop phoned round for puppets. It should be easy enough to fashion a conscience out of milk I would think, although it now looks more like we'll be going for something in a sock and some shades. The show's a week away (remember, we didn't do the publicity). But, good news: Stumbling back from work to my kitchen with a family Lasagne from Iceland and a heart of black ice I found that, once the boys had arrived and we actually stood up and started trying to perform what we'd written, I was having fun. I was having fun and I wasn't tired. And by half past eleven that evening we finally had something like a finished script to e-mail to our producer. Bishop was a little worried that he'd miss the last train back (to his fiancee, as of Friday! Tirree!) but of course, THE GREAT THING ABOUT WRITING HAMLET, as I learnt for myself and I'm sure you'll all learn for yourselves when you get round to writing Hamlet, is that if you do suddenly find you're five minutes away from the deadline with all your protagonists still standing, you can solve it with a simple stage direction - Hang on, I'll go and get the First Folio...

Omigod! Or, however you spell it. I've just made an immensely important literary find.

Right... The stage directions in the last scene of the Folio's Hamlet are certainly pretty brilliant (though not as good as in the Penguin version:
"In scuffling they change rapiers, and both are wounded with the poisoned weapon...
"The Queen falls...
"She dies...
"He wounds the King...
"He forces the King to drink...
"The King dies...
"He dies...
"He dies..."
And so Shakespeare finds out that, blimey, fighting is certainly a lot easier to write than speaking and in fact he was much nearer to the end than he had thought - There is a theory he spent over a decade working on "Hamlet", which given that he wrote thirty other plays in the space of twenty years is probably worth a mention, but anyway) no, the real find I've just made is Hamlet's ORIGINAL last words. Because, according to the First Folio, these are not, as has been handed down to us: "The rest is silence." They are in fact, as printed in the very first collection of Shakespeare's complete works back in 1623, (and thereafter one supposes consigned to the Naughty Step of Theatrical History):

"The rest is silence. O, o, o, o."

Well, at least it wasn't "The rest is silence. Oooo."

But actually, isn't that brilliant? Isn't it brilliant that Hamlet can't even get his own dying words right? He's a dick to the end... But a dick with dignity. He's OUR dick, and a plague and a pox and a dump upon those who'd try and paint him otherwise. Anyone can write a sympathetic villain, but try to write a sympathetic dick, that takes real heart - Ooh, bangs and barking outside. I wonder what that was. Let's see if there's sirens.

Well I didn't write what I'd intended to but I dare say that's fine. I'd found this teddibly interesting article on procrastination in the Observer in the Hop on Forest Hill. All the findings therein make perfect sense to me - See below: I am clearly a man of my time, this blog a vital social document - Speaking of which, here I am as Tony Blair in an earlier, serious version of Hamlet.


... Nope, no sirens. Clearly it was horseplay. Night then.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

A Warm Goodnight


So last night saw sketches being tried out at the Drill Hall, where all the radio shows used to take place. I think Bleak Expectations was the last thing I'd seen there or maybe it was Zombie Poppins. Nowadays of course everything's recorded in front of the wrought-iron griffins at Portland Place, behind catch-phrases etched into bullet-proof glass. The Drill Hall meanwhile was having to take a collection for itself. I don't think it's going to survive, which is odd. 

My Linden Tree sketch went down well. I had been hoping to see David play Queen Victoria, but was otherwise very pleased as the idea had only come to me in the bath at 2am the previous morning, once I'd finally got round to the sleep-defeating, procrastinated re-writes of that Tesla sketch and something called "Hankl's Flank-pat". The warm response to "Linden Trees" rather confirms my suspicion however that when I do manage to run off something useful in an evening, it's only ever as the coda to a ream of joyless, week-long sessions staring at stuff that's muddy, overwritten and unusable. It is in fact this suspicion that leads to my initial and then self-perpetuating procrastination, because what's the point in sitting down and trying to write something that's going to be Work? If it's going to be Work it probably isn't going to be funny. Hence the baths and the walks. 

A lot of stuff's felt like Work recently, which given the tiny amount of actual work I'm doing is shattering. And shattered I headed back after the try-outs last night and made the mistake of settling down in front of youtube. It was only at four in the morning, eighty minutes into The Unknown Tony Hancock (I think it was called, it's excellent) that I finally thought "No hang on this won't do" and went looking for a warm goodnight instead. And see, I then found all these lovely people to set beside my bed:

Okay that last one was a bit weird. Of course it was, it was the BBC. Here's Tom Edwards filling another thirty seconds. It's good to see Tom's face again. And his tiny tiny body:

And then I dreamt this...

(Alright I didn't. It's somebody's silent home movies of the BBC at Alexandra Palace in 1938, just before the War, which makes the sudden unambiguous show of military strength about four minutes in particularly interesting. The overall effect is sort of hypnotically horrible, at least when set against the Hollywood here being imitated, but a fitting accompaniment perhaps to Des O'Connor's cover of "Drive"):
[Since I posted  this on myspace that video's been taken down, so here's something else. Gah.]

Thursday, 10 July 2008

blah blah fawn and the 21 second Hamlet

(originally posted on myspace here)


The Future of Comedy, ladies and gentlemen.

Okay firstly, in the last post when I said "east" I meant "west" and vice versa. It was to confuse my enemies. Secondly, I read today on Adam Buxton's blog that Meebox won't be getting a commission - yes that's the word "won't" - which made me head off (ie stay exactly where I was: procrastinating at my laptop) in search of some form of webby channel through which to communicate to him both my fan's anger and my thanks for looking after the light at the end of the new media tunnel for all this time. There was no such channel however, so I did what his site asks and posted it to him on a Japanese postcard instead and that, I realized, was the first fan letter I have ever written. I don't have it now, but I did go and then vent my spleen all over Graham Linehan's blog which was having a bit of a BBC3 chat. Oh do I have that? Yes:

"I don't so much mind there being stuff on BBC3 I don't like, or stuff not working (The Wall is kind of despicable not because it doesn't "work", but because what it wants to do is so wretched)… But the news on Adam Buxton's blog that MeeBox won't be commissioned, and the reasons given, makes me almost ill and [blah blah what I wrote above...] Adam's work is so honest and original and smart and carefully created and just FUN that his lack of a commission seems almost like an act of spite on behalf of [blah blah...] I'm lucky enough now to be getting into writing comedy [blah blah plug for myself...] but it's frightening to step in and see so little rein given to a talent like him, at least on a channel that should surely be widening the brief [blah blah unkind stuff about Marek Larwood pretending to be handicapped...] I'm 33. When I was 23 working in television comedy seemed a creative dream [blah really no idea now where I'm going with this now...] Your work certainly encouraged that idea. First episode of Father Ted [blah blah fawn...] man, even the trailer had about five belly laughs, I remember [blah blah Black Books...] But it doesn't seem like that now. Now it seems like [blah blah moan...] And I'm unmotivated enough as it is. No wonder the perfectionist genius freaks are turning to music videos [blah fawn bye...]"

We CAN BUT HOPE someone sits up and takes notice.

All of which is, ah, a very unfortunate prelude to the totally unrelated news that David M and Rob W are trying out some material this Sunday at the Drill Hall, for which I have just received my very first television commission, so I should really be writing for that, which would be BRILLIANT if I were feeling sharper. But also I should be studying the tape Bishop, Peter and I made in the former's kitchen two weeks ago, and trying to knock together some share of a script for this half-hour "Hamlet" that we've been asked to present at the Camden Fringe for the end of the month. That's us up there at the top you see. The most cursorayrrarryohsoddit glance on youtube will show you what we're up against: There's 15-minute Hamlets. 2-minute Hamlets. 15-second Hamlets. 90-second, Bill-Cosby-voiced Hamlets. Fff... And I should sleep. Some passage in my abdomen appears to be logged with sweetbread and tonic.

Here's my favourite though: the 21-second Hamlet. I love it because it doesn't necessarily seem to be playing the idea for laughs, surprisingly, or else it's playing the idea for more than laughs, like the way the figures sort of unblossom as they die - a lovely fluke. Or else it's playing the idea for laughs but getting it wrong and ending up slightly beautiful, which is sometimes my favourite kind of comedy, which is why commissioning me to write any might not such a good idea right now. We'll see.
Hamlet in 21 seconds: 

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The Shout Goes Out

(originally posted on myspace here)

Current mood:grateful


Last Monday was laid back. I took the Central Line east and met Miss Meikle in Kensington Gardens. The air was full of drifting seeds and she leant me her sunblock, ferried me round a lake on the stern of a pedallo and explained the effect of hormones on tissues to me in a big leather pub in Holland Park. Hanging over the whole jaunt however was the Schrodinger's Cat-box of her limbo veterinary status... waiting for results. And my feet were a bit hanging too. There were no white men on the Central Line west that evening, just pink.

The next day I took the Central Line east to go and see my friends in "...SISTERS" at the Gate, but it was sold out so I ended up in Kensington Gardens again. Fortunately I'd brought a book. Unfortunately it was "The End of Eternity" by Isaac Asimov. There were no seeds in the air that evening, just moths and bats. I also spotted an Archery contest and a mugger resisting arrest. Quite a few people saw that last one. There were about four police vehicles pulled up beneath the trees and nine officers sitting on a twat. As I made my way back to the theatre, past the victim and the ambulances, it occurred to me that I had actually quite wanted to spit on him. I thought: Come on it's only spit. Spit's actually fine, isn't it? I wouldn't mind if I got spat on, definitely not. At worst, it's weird... In the bar Gemma, Hannah and Heather were discussing David R's proposal to move Shunt out of the London Bridge Vaults, and into a sewage farm. In Woolwich. David's twins are now two years old and apparently really into poo.

And on Wednesday I took the Central Line east a third time, to White City and perhaps the starriest writer's meeting I have yet attended. The excellent Toby Davies came up with yet another idea for a sketch involving Gary Rhodes (he has now for some reason written three), Gareth Edwards our producer raised the possibility of borrowing a CGI dinosaur from another sketch show (from a sketch written by my sister in fact), David M queried the practicalities of borrowing something that doesn't actually have any physical aspect, and Jesse Armstrong cleared up what it was that Miss Meikle and I could smell so strongly in Kensington Gardens on Monday: Linden trees. And not what we'd thought.

And on Friday Miss Meikle graduated. And everyone in her house graduated. And everyone on the steps of King's also graduated, where I was sitting in my tea break getting the news on my little cream phone which can't take photos which is why I haven't posted any. Friday was just one great big Graduatey-In as far as I could... hang on... I'm just going to pause Adam and Joe... can't hear myself think... it's important this... Right, that's better. Ahem...

CONGRATULATIONS DOCTOR MEIKLE! And I don't know what training you had in marsupials but if you do end up in Australia DON'T SEW ANYTHING UP WITHOUT CHECKING! And congratulations also to everyone in your now vacant digs in Potters' Bar. Have you had to take this down from the wall?


Have you had to wipe this from the whiteboard?


And I wonder who'll move in. And I wonder where you'll go. And I wonder why I photographed any of that. Phoo... I'm teary. That's new... But good actually. I didn't shed any tears for the Noys Lambent lady but I'll happily shed tears for you, mate, because graduating's a big deal and anyway I only cry these days when I'm grateful. And you've taught me shit-head. And patience. And you've kept me so bouyant while I've known you. So off you shoot and thanks for the lift, Miss Meikle - Doctor Meikle. The shout goes out to you, Ruth...


Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The transparent sheathing of Noys Lambent

(originally posted on myspace here)

I was so excited when I found this Buck Rogers short from 1935. At first. Why not press play and see how long YOUR excitement lasts! Will the future REALLY be this amazing? Doctor Harlan Tarbell who directs certainly makes some very interesting choices, I will say that, I'll definitely say that, like not giving anyone a script:

So that was a little treat for us all to celebrate ONE YEAR OF BLOG! It was a shit treat as is only appropriate since it wasn't exactly a FULL year, I keep missing bits out and actually the anniversary was two weeks ago anyway but STILL... Buck Rogers sounding like Hank Hill. Pretty cool, huh?

I was supposed to be playing football this evening for the first time in twenty years, a work thing. A team was missing a goalie which is where I slipped in. I was going to be THE MASKED GOALKEEPER - If you defeat me, you may unmask me - that was how I'd play it. I wanted a kind of Super Barrio look but could only find the cardboard half-mask of a one-eyed engine driver, which is academic anyway because the whole thing was rained off, even though it was indoors. It was THAT wet a Monday. Big, fat, tree-felling rain. Actually I was planning to write about last Monday, which was lovely and had the dead smart Miss Meikle in (sorry, DOCTOR Meikle as of Friday) but no, bed. I'll log on tomorrow and as it were back up.

Of course last year I missed the football because I was playing Gangs Of Mega City One, which was the first proper post I ever did on this blog, which is what reminded me. I would take a book to bed but... well, I'm currently reading an Isaac Asimov, and Asimov isn't Dickens if you get me, his characters aren't the most fleshed out, there's a lot of scope for just imposing your own ideas of what they might be like, if you get me, but that's not the problem. No, the problem is that, going on the limited information provided by the author. I've foolhardily gone and cast in my head as the object of the narrator's infatuation Noys Lambent - a woman I now suddenly find I'm sad to be reminded of. Especially in the topless translucent 50's future-wear that Asimov has seen fit to kit out her "gluteal curves" in, the "transparent sheathing with very little else above the waist". It's a pathetic apparition, I know, but the narrator's seeing more and more of this "Noys Lambent" now and she won't cover up and I can't get past page 60 without losing my place. And I suspect that if I give up and move on to another book, my Noys Lambent will just crop up there as well somehow, that's the pisser. So I'm not doing that much reading. And I didn't ever want to feel like this again.
Well maybe I sort of did, but... This post is the only evidence that anyone got hurt, that an episode I found important actually happened at all, and that's what winds (as in being winded, not wound {as in... not as in "wounded" anyway}). And it winds for a while, it's a long winding, a gasping that just has to be seen through when you're suddenly beached by the truth: how so much of your world lately has been the happy extrapolation of really not that many facts it turns out. And how many other facts there actually are and are going to be. And how stupid they make your one projection look. And how stupid you look waving it about going "But... I did a graph! I did a graph!"

Well no poppet, you just doodled a curve. Now stop shouting.


Hopefully though in another year's time I'll read all this back and have no idea what I'm talking about.

Friday, 4 July 2008

No Hugging, No Learning... Hugging, No Learning... No Hugging, Learning

(originally posted on myspace here)

"Bert in self-contemplation":

The end of this clip kills and it's good that it kills. Death must suck.

And I've given myself until the end of the clip to write this entry, rather than the usual five hours. I was up... Monday night I think it was, trawling through Muppets. It was a maudlin exercise, but as maudlin exercises undertaken at three in the morning go pretty entertaining. No, Monday night I was doing Hamlet, and listening to the Tape we made for Hamlet. Hang on. No, Tuesday. What's today? Frank Oz is rambling now. He's about to say "love" and crack. Okay. Bye blog. Tomorrow, sweets. Here's some more stuff I found:

... Actually okay I'm back. I think I have to end with something a little more uplifting and definitive. Here's Henson and Glass. How could a two-year-old watch this and not immediately want to go and draw? It's genius. Bahbahbahbye.

Okay, and now...