Saturday, 8 July 2017

Rushed Smudge


The film I shot on a potato in the woods surrounding Frankfurt is online now, so you can finally see how strangely out of focus everything was on that day and enjoy the deeply disappointing results of a month's never giving up. Stupid magic phone that does everything! Sorry - Enjoy:


 

UPDATE: They say a film is never finished, only abandoned, but I abandoned this a little too early. Tinkering around with the re-edit I've now upped the volume, changed the soundtrack to give it a bit more shape, and hit the filter that makes it look more super-8-y to lampshade the amateurism. Less rushed. Still a smudge. The original crud is up here.

Friday, 16 June 2017

TEN OF THE MOST part the other: 2012 - 2016


Welcome back to this tenth anniversary indulgence! Artificial Intelligence! Fighting Fantasy! Boredom! Frank Zappa's Sofa! And what role exactly do chronometers play in Brexit? As before, a post a year, off we go!

2012 - After a cowering two year hiatus the blog finally returned in November, tagged up and newly blogspotted. Maybe the Olympics had cheered me up, or the film of "The Avengers" I don't know, but the idea that the future wasn't what it used to be now seemed a bit dated, and committed as I had become to getting "Time Spanner" right, I decided to finally up the sci- quotient of my sci-fi input. (Given the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, I should give a little warning that I talk about the fire again here, not of course that there's any comparison) ON WITH THE FUN AND GAMES...

Monday, 26 November 2012

A go on Eliza


"ELIZA - a friend you could never have before" (which already sounds iffily ambiguous and unlike anything an actual person might say) is an interactive computer programme developed back in the 1960's at MIT, a "chatterbot" according to wikipedia. An online version of her - it, sorry - exists here, and to celebrate the opening of Tom Lyall's "Defrag" this week at the Camden People's Theatre (speaking of excellent friends) I thought I'd have a go:

I'm "You". She starts... 

 Eliza: Hello. I am ELIZA. How can I help you?  

You: Who are you?

  Eliza: Would you prefer if I were not []? 

You: What is []?

  Eliza: Does that question interest you? 

You: The answer interests me. 

  Eliza: Can you elaborate on that? 

You: No. Sorry. 

  Eliza: You are being a bit negative.

I then typed in: "You're old."
But weirdly it came up as... 

You: yes

  Eliza: You are sure? 

You: Hang on, that's not what I said!

  Eliza: Does that question interest you? 

You: What?!

  Eliza: Does that question interest you? 

You: What? This one? Or the last one. But the last one wasn't a question -

  Eliza: Does that question interest you? 

You: This is it now, is it?

 Eliza: Please go on.   

You: "Does that question interest you?"

  Eliza: Oh, i [].

I then typed: "WHAT IS []?"
But it came up as... 

You: yes

  Eliza: Does that question interest you? 

You: THAT'S NOT WHAT I TYPED!

  Eliza: Does that question interest you? 

You: Yes. Yes it does.

  Eliza: You are sure?   

You: Yes. Sorry I mean "yes"

  Eliza: You are sure? 

You: Positive.

  Eliza: Please go on. 

You: I've completely lost the thread of this conversation - Do you know Tom?

  Eliza: Oh, i know tom. 

You: Okay, "tom". Do you know he's got a show on?

  Eliza: Oh, i know hes got a show on.   

You: Okay... What's it called?  

 Eliza: Please go on. 

You: Please go on your mum?

  Eliza: What about your own mum? 

You: Please go on.

  Eliza: Please go on. 

You: No, you wanted to say something about my mum.

  Eliza: Why do you say your mum? 

You: YOU said my mum. I said YOUR mum.

  Eliza: Why do you say your mum you said my mum? 

You: I didn't.

  Eliza: Can you elaborate on that? 

You: yes

  Eliza: You are sure?   

You: Do you know Alan Turing?

  Eliza: Oh, i know alan turing.   

You: You two get on, do you?

  Eliza: Oh, i []. 

You: I'd prefer it if you didn't

  Eliza: Do you wish that i didnt?   

You: Yes.

  Eliza: You are sure?   

You: I'm afraid so.

  Eliza: Does it please you to believe I am afraid so?   

You: This friendship has basically run its course I think.

  Eliza: Can you elaborate on that? 

You: Absolutely. You're not real, and you're annoying and you don't understand what I'm saying anyway and I'm only doing this because I thought it would make a fun blog post, and I've been meaning to write about Tom's show about Artificial Intelligence but also I suppose I don't want to write that much about it because A) I don't want to give anything away, and B) outside of the content of the show itself my only other take on it was how much it reminded me of all the stuff he helped rescue after the fire, and of the months those boxes spent in his flat while my juvenilia dried out, and I wasn't sure about whether I should write about that because it seemed a bit solipsistic for a plug, and because all the photos I took of those boxes were on a memory stick which I've lost, although maybe that could be somehow elegantly turned in on itself as part of the post. Something about "We lose everything in the end."

  Eliza: Why do you say your only other take on it you was what much it reminded you of all the stuff he helped rescue after the fire and of the months those boxes spent in his flat while your juvenilia dried out and you wasnt sure about whether you should write about that because it seemed a bit solipsistic for a plug and because all the photos you took of those boxes was on a memory stick which ive lost although perhaps that could be somehow elegantly turned in on itself as part of th post something about we lose everything in the end?   

You: Because I want the post to have some visual element. And having just archived the whole blog onto blogspot it struck me how much of it detailed the unpacking of those boxes the first time round, ie when my parents moved to France and I suddenly had a room full of everything I owned. And how if I hadn't blogged stuff as I unpacked it there would be some things I had no record of at all after the fire.

  Eliza: Do you wish that you hadnt blogged stuff as you unpacked it there would be some things you had no record of at all after the fire? 

You: No. That's my point. And that's the thing about theatre, isn't it. You make something and then it's gone. I keep telling people I want to work in more accessible media like television, but actually that's not it all. I don't think I do care about the numbers, I just want something to last.

  Eliza: Why do you say your point and thats the thing about theatre isnt it i make something and then its gone you keep telling people i want to work in more accessible media like television but actually thats not it all you dont think you do care about the numbers you just want something to last? 

You: Because I haven't been making theatre. And it's tempting. But I have to remember making it on my own has never been my dream, just something I was allowed to do.

  Eliza: Do you dream often? 

You: Loads. I've taken a month off to try and write, and I'm sleeping til 1 in the afternoon sometimes. I have written things though.

  Eliza: Does it please you to believe I am sleeping til 1 in the afternoon sometimes you have written things though? 

You: Mm. You're tired. Anyway, thanks for this.

  Eliza: How long have you been tired anyway thanks for this? 

You: Stop.

  Eliza: Please go on.


 Tom Lyall's superb show Defrag is on here as part of a whole Science Fiction Theatre season. See it! See it blind! Meanwhile the interview he gave about it, the one that tipped me off about the existence of Eliza, is up here but I'd save that until you've seen the show as there's spoilers.

Shunt, the people I normally made theatre with when I wasn't making it on my own, also have a show opening this week, "The Architects" which looks stupendous and probably deserves a post of its own but I've had it with Eliza, so head's up!

And this post's visual element is a picture of Tom working some hat boxes while getting costumed for "Money", checking nothing falls off.

***

2013 - Another plug. Odd. I appear to have waited until 2014 to address a lot of what happened in 2013, but the blog remained a good place to archive the little I did make...

Sunday, 27 January 2013


Adventure Time



City of Thieves

 Entertaining the dream of making the show "Jonah Non Grata" a viable... money... life thing, I once considered rewriting in full the book which serves it as a Bible and to which I had never sought the rights, Fighting Fantasy Gamebook 5: City of Thieves. Printed below is as far as I got with this. It was too wordy, too intentionally dark (I was reading a lot of Chris Ware) and Ian Livingstone's prose style, so simple and yet so completely free of poetry, seemed impossible to imitate. Or so I thought! For last month (since when Livingstone was pleasingly awarded a CBE) the great Will Maclean - writer, well-wisher, pub quiz prodigy, proper scifi-ist and penner of the phrase "the pliant mortal before the giant portal" - released just such a pastiche, The Maze of Despair, which I downloaded like a shot and it's a joy.

A few things occurred to me while playing Will's version: Firstly, it turns out I still find the use of the second person incredibly potent; reading that I am standing in an alley remains for some reason far more thrilling than seeing it on a screen in even the most immersive computer simulation; it's a situation I feel more responsible for, more a part of. The technology is still sound, is what I'm saying.

Secondly, I was reminded of how fiddly as a child I found the question "Do you choose to attack it?" Because no, I wouldn't, but then I'm not a barbarian. But here I am a barbarian. But I'm also the hero. And in the end I would try and do the right thing, not because I hoped for success, more because I was using my avatar as a moral guinea pig. Also I wanted a story where the hero does the right thing. The rewards in Fighting Fantasy were pleasingly arbitrary though, something perhaps unprecedented in a children's bestseller. And there was nobody to tell you what to do either, nobody to trust anyway, which was also unusual in fantasy and exciting and felt a bit adult (and the polar opposite - if you'll excuse the pun - of Philip Pullman's drama-dampening altheiometer).

Thirdly, pictures of monsters are always great. It was this as much as anything that originally attracted me to the books as a child, and made me steer clear of their occasional forays into science fiction whose illustrations were unfailingly ugly. However, having enjoyed "Maze of Despair" so much I decided this month to pop into Barnado's and break my duck. I bought Gamebook 15: The Rings of Kether. The cover is fantastic. The artwork within you can enjoy below. Here it is then, all I once rewrote of  "The City of Thieves":


 
1
You begin to notice fearful warnings - tiny windows, bags in trees, gutters clogged with old masks, a child on fire trying to steal a car, men hugging, and everywhere hoardings advertising Umbrella Sex. You pat the pocket of your robe, checking for the presence of your knife. On reaching the city gate a tired man dressed in metal as a dog with its head on backwards blocks your path. "Excuse me sir, Sir? Sir!" he explains "What is your business in this city? Sir?" Will you:
Tell him you are looking for Quiddity Pantibin. Turn to 202.
Tell him you just came to return a book? Turn to 33.
Stab him to death? Turn to 49.


2
You remove your piercings and hurl them at the enormous snake collective. With a sulphorous hiss it withers and shrieks. Its death throes sound almost human, like the screams of a wrongfully arrested widow. What have you done? The tunnel is now clear and you can proceed further into the sewer. You're in a sewer. The tunnel ends in a brown, grill with sewage spilling out of it. You can try and remove the grill if you like. You're in a sewer, and there's sewage coming out of it. Why not? 377
If you would rather leave the sewer the way you came in, over the body of the thing you murdered, turn to 174.



"Would you like to buy a broken owl? It is industry standard."

3
Acknowledging your interest, the stallholder starts rolling his eyes and making fish-like gaping movements with his mouth. "Mup! Mup! Sir! Friend! I can bring you wonderful luck. Mup! Mup! Three euros." he explains, "A very good trick. Won't take long. Make a beautiful trick with my mouth. Mup! Mup! If you give me 3 Euros I will bring you luck with my mouth." If you wish to pay this man for his mouth trick, turn to 37. Or you can move onto the next booth, (turn to 398).


5
You pull your knife on the mongrel bitch and vault his counter, sending a smoky bowl of tat flying across the shop. He drops the plug he was changing and attempts to defend himself with a screwdriver.

MONGREL     SKILL 8     STAMINA 5

 If you win, turn to 371.


10
The tired man has clearly had enough of everything, and assaults you. You must try and stab him to death.
TIRED MAN     SKILL 8     STAMINA 7
 If kill him in six or fewer feints turn to 212. If it takes any longer to stab him to kill him, turn to 130.


14
You reach into the concrete vat and unfurl the slice of food. As the scent of anchovies hits your nostrils there is a burst of thunder and the sky above darkens. It begins to rain offal. Do you have a butcher's parasol? If you have, turn to 237. If not, turn to191.



You head north.

17
Already lost, you proceed down the narrowest of these streets, bored with your objective and generally sullen. Unfortunately, you still encounter something. It is a sad, thin man who has tied bits of chair to his arms and legs with wet felt and is sitting, head in hands, and concentrating. Do you wish to sit on this stranger? If so turn to 331. Or you can continue walking East, ignoring everything until it stops (turn to 161.)


 32
Before you can escape, the forty-year-old lady throws one of her pretentious pets at your head. It lands on your neck and lays eggs in your skull, causing the loss of 4 STAMINA points and 1 SKILL point. Now she is on the phone to a murderer. If you are not dead from the eggs, you draw your knife and go to kill her (turn to 249.)




You tell the tired man that another man whom you helped to get work in a restaurant left this book with you and that there was nothing in it but that you'd like to return it all the same...

37
You pay the stallholder. Delighted, he produces a wire coat hanger from the folds of his robe and tries to put it in his mouth. "No, I can do this," he says. But he doesn't. "Anyway, what happens is that I tie a knot in it with my tongue. Brings you luck." You say you've paid your money and are happy to wait. You tell him you can wait all day if needs be. He tries again many times. After two and a half  hours he finally manages to get the hangery bit to twist round the neck bit, a bit. As he hands you the structure it is clear from the sounds that he is making with his face that this really is the best he can manage. Add 2 LUCK points. You accept the hanger all the same and leave him to have a rest on his side, proceeding to the next booth.  (Turn to 398)


38
You get pierced, and feel sexy. The man explains that you are sexy. You feel great. Some people are laughing. You stagger out of the bar and head North (turn to 296)



The man explains that you are sexy.

39
You look through the forty-year old lady's drawings of her boyfriend, and flick the rim of your wineglass with your thumb. She has finished whatever it was she was doing now and is clearly becoming impatient for an opinion of her work. "You don't seem to understand. You don't have to like them," she says. You spill the wine. "I'm going to call the police," she says, "Stay here." Now is your chance to make a break for it (turn to 32) or you can try and kill her (turn to 249)


48
The strong smell of sewage hits your nostrils. A ladder leads down into the darkness. This clearly is a sewer. Do you want to climb into a sewer? (turn to 10). Or you can replace the manhole, and do something else, although you are not yet sure what that is, turn to 205



The car alarm no longer sounds.

75
The car alarm no longer sounds. The snow has settled. You wash the couple's blood from off your hands in some sleet, and head North (turn to 31)


153
Swinging the broken owl above your head, gobbets of phosphorous illumine the otherwise pitch-black room. It was industry standard after all! You can now make out clearly standing with its back to the far wall a nameless horror. There is absolutely nothing else of interest in the room. You head back out and up the stairs (turn to 65)


165
You can turn right down Street number Four (turn to 139), or head back and take the turning down Eleven Street (turn to 91)



You head North.

166
You throw yourself into the snake collective, both hands about your knife, jabbing furiously at the dry writhing mass in an attempt to protect your face.
SNAKE COLLECTIVE     SKILL 10     STAMINA 5
 If you win turn to 272



"You head north."

211
You continue west, eating on the move. The pie is sweet and savoury in equal measure, Apple and kidney slip down your tubes, restoring 1 Stamina point to your animal constitution (turn to 307).



Its death throes are strangely human.


 249
The forty year old lady defends herself with an unexpected ferocity and her thumbs.
FORTY YEAR OLD LADY     SKILL 9     STAMINA 7
 If you kill her turn to 295
  

253
The Happy Couple are scarcely a match for your skill with a knife. You must treat them as one flesh. However for every wound that they successfully inflict upon your body deduct 4 points from your Stamina score, as their teeth break off and become dislodged in your shoulder.
HAPPY COUPLE Skill 5 Stamina 5
 If you win, you may leave their home by the front door (turn to 75.)

  
255
You and the tired men clearly hate each other, and would do so even if you got to know each other. You have nothing in common, but they let you pass. You head north (turn to 227).



You head north.


283
 You find nothing of any use on the body of the creature you have stabbed to death, and so continue North (turn to 217)

... And that's it. Will's book however is finished, and playable, and great and it's his birthday today so, once again, you can get it here.

Thanks to Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone for introducing so many children to the word "stamina". Thanks also to whatever this is for reproducing Nik Spender's "Rings of Kether" illustrations, so I could post them here. Anyone wanting more drawings of monsters because drawings of monsters are great should try this.

And finally:

The admirable Limmy. I admire Limmy.
***

2014 - A year that saw the blog full of Exciting Space Adventures, comics I'd made as a teen, and a load of things I meant to post in 2013. I've included the last of those here not just as a summary of that stretch between Decembers, but also as a kick up the arse to 2017's me for wasting so much of my current time here in Frankfurt on my phone... 

Wednesday, 31 December 2014


Last post of 2014: December 2013 - Writing/not writing


 Right, it's probably time I rounded off my clearing out of 2013...

 https://lh6.ggpht.com/P-B7l9NLXL2b7x3FGOJZODxrHiKNWYLN2xtz7ipSh66_6mGlzxJGmENx-dUpPPFTZw=h900

I remember spending much of that Christmas playing Temple Run 2 on my newly received android tablet - a colourful and endless little adrenalin stimulant, shown above - and resolving that in 2014 I would... 
Hang on - I wrote it down. I'll see if I can find it:
  
"NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION : -
 Perhaps - Dare to be bored?
 You'll only make something if you're bored.  
That might be why the Premier Inn came as such a relief [while I was touring "Ring" and writing for Mitchell and Webb] 
IN FACT Hotels in general. 
I'm remembering in particular the single bed and the side table in Athens. But all hotel rooms seem to be built for a writer. 
Maybe that's also why I moved my bed away from the wall. 
Also remember how much you loved those lessons - only 45 minutes long - where you were left to just do something."


Etc.
I also made the note: "Youtube video - on boredom", which is a reference to the V-sauce episode below. I remember David Mitchell arguing that boredom was a life skill which should be taught rather than banished from the classroom, but V-sauce goes one further - providing hard chemical evidence that boredom is not merely a side effect of creativity, but a symptom of it and even a spur:


God, I haven't watched that video in ages; I forgot he mentioned Genie. Louis C. K. makes a similar point when he talks about cultivating "the ability to just sit there": 


Just sit there.
I think I did okay this year. 
I didn't draw a monster a day, and I haven't yet made the album I promised myself I'd make this year and there's only an hour and a half to go.
But I stopped playing Temple Run 2. And then Keeps and I went to Los Angeles (where I was happy to learn she was as keen on becoming an American somehow as I was, if not keener) and then we returned and moved to our own place, and it's been great. I'm even thinking of moving the bed back against the wall.
So that was 2013. 
And this is 2014.
If you're traveling into London this evening, the message from the police is make sure you have a ticket. And whatever you're doing for the next hour and a half... and then in 2015... I don't know... whatever you do - whatever we do, let's do it on purpose and take no guff.
Here's to 2015. Be well.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Q56cK3n2uqs/TtW3A56Bn3I/AAAAAAAAWBE/DuJ4PtlQOXo/s1600/45%2BTomorrowland.jpg
***

2015 - Where we move into "most popular posts" territory, that column on the right. A lot of the bloggers whose work first inspired me had moved on by now, to be replaced by people who were actually trying to turn this into a profession. The medium had become a city with a system - Clickhole, a satire of that system, was the new proof - and even a neckbearded manchild like myself with no plans to monetise anything even though he's just turned forty suddenly found himself writing as if someone might actually be watching. A post had to have a point, it now appeared. Think pieces and spoofs. That's all. Think pieces and spoofs. Here's a spoof...

Saturday, 10 January 2015


It's not just Mrs. Nesmith


 We all know that the Monkees' Mike Nesmith's mother invented liquid paper. But how many of these other rock-n'-roll family inventions are you familiar with...

 Elton John's parents are jointly responsible for the "pop-up house". These paper homes, while certifiably stable (see photo above) were never mass-produced owing to the prohibitively large number of children needed to get one open.



 David Crosby's father Werner invented "gree-ellow" - a colour David refused to ever sport.

 
 Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick's mother invented the "baby".

 Donovan shows off just three of the identity-changing cosmetic treatments pioneered by his dog "Doctor McAllistair". 

 
Richie Havens models the nuclear coolant synthesised by his conjoined siblings Sweets and Gummo.

 
Uncle Gretchen poses with the patented Succubus-Absorbent Silverware he used to exorcise a grateful Eric Clapton.

 
And of course Frank Zappa's sofa invented holograms.

(Thank you, arrowheadvintage.com)
***

2016 - That's close enough to now, isn't it? And I'm glad we end on a meandering anecdote trying to pass itself off as some State of the Nation parable. Long may this blog continue to serve 'em up, I say! And thanks for joining me! I've just got my passport out, by the way, the newly Britishier one they sent me at the end of 2016. Here's its first page:

That's a chronometer on the left...

Thursday, 23 June 2016


The Optimist of Earl's Court

 


 
 I was filming a short in Earl's Court over the weekend. As I sat in a cab, waiting to roll, a tanned middle-aged couple swept by chanting "British Laws for British People!" - I'm inferring the capitals - and waving "Leave" stickers like Madame Bertaux swinging the Tricolor. That is to say, jauntily. "No! No! Why?" I howled out of the cab window. The woman beamed as she headed out of view: "Yes! Yes! We should be able to write our own laws!" There was no one around to ask who she meant by "we".

 Three hours earlier she and I had struck up a conversation in Philbeach Gardens. The crescent was plastered with "Remain" and "Leave" posters.* It was a quiet street. The woman was heading indoors with some purchases and had seen us filming. As we chatted I tried to maintain eye-contact through her shades and not let my gaze drift to the sticker in her window. She asked when she could see what we were filming and I didn't know. I did know the short was part of some council initiative because I was getting very nicely paid for it (we weren't allowed to say anything nasty about the Royal Family in Brompton Cemetery, that was part of the deal.)
"So will this be on at the New Art Centre?" she asked.
I didn't know about any Art Centre. Apprarently - I didn't know this either - Earl's Court exhibition centre is no more. "But do you know what they'll be building in its place?" she confided, "Housing obviously, but - and we've been pushing very hard for this - Do you know Covent Garden? A Covent Garden! But here! A cultural centre. Here in Earl's Court."
"Crikey!" I offered "So... like... Covent Garden?" I was picturing gift shops fringed by gangsters dressed as floating Yodas.
"Yes. Or an Arts Centre or something. Wouldn't that be wonderful? We have two Tory councillors who are absolutely behind it all the way, and one Lib Dem who is proving a proper pain. Wants nothing to do with the redevelopment."
"So it would be...?"
"A proper venue, a thousand-seater. Because I mean they've got to put something. They can't just tear down Earl's Court. Everyone's behind it."
"And do you think it will happen?" I asked, trying to think of a precedent.
"Well they've got to."
"But do you think they actually will?"
"No," she corrected me, "They've got to."

Serena from make-up came over and asked to see what the lady was holding. I'd been so busy maintaining eye-contact I hadn't noticed the square, lacquered box. She opened it. A clock rocked between several brass hoops.
"It's a chronometer. Isn't it lovely?"
It was. My brain translated "time" and "meter"... "Oh wow. What's it for?"
"It's a chronometer."
"Is it like a clock? I mean, what would it have been used for?"
"Telling the time."
"But I mean, what's the difference between that and a clock?"
"I don't know. They had them on ships."

Three hours even earlier, I was hobbling down Earl's Court road in clogs and a dressing gown splattered with fake vomit, howling red-eyed into paving stones.

Speaking of the referendum, remember this from 2011?

    

*That would have been a good photo. I wish I'd taken it. I'm not supposed to share any photos of the shoot either, so accompanying this post instead is a picture Keeps took of what I did yesterday and where I did it, which is why I couldn't be at the polls today. Sorry, history. 

***

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

TEN OF THE MOST part 1: 2007 - 2011ish


Happy tenth birthday, you bastard blog! Yes, ten years ago I carved myself a bit of myspace and fired by the example of others began filling it with the shit and whimsy I'd previously reserved for notebooks. To celebrate this millstone milestone I thought I'd go back through each year and repost the most popular entry, but the original blog's been wiped from myspace now it appears, and so I've no idea who was reading what for those first five years before I moved everything here to blogspot. Fine. That's as it should be. Here's my favourites instead:

2007 - I now had a big new room in the house-share in Brixton to store all the old crap my parents had left me when they moved to France earlier that year. The beginning of this blog coincided with that earliest work's unboxing...

Monday, 3 September 2007

First Recorded Symptom of Not Getting Angels

In late and happy conversation with my sister on Saturday night I hit upon a neat idea of what I need: "lessons and homework". It hasn't changed since I was four. Lessons and homework. And a girl who smiles back.

I've moved my chair round. It faces the bookcase now so I can sit and write without staring at my bed and my desk feels more like a nest. But the slope in the floor's a lot more more pronounced this side of it. I'm sort of leaning to the left. Swings and roundabouts. I had to move boxes to do this. It's good they've moved. And here's another drawing from when I was eight.

It illustrates: Joseph of Arimathaea's request to entomb the body of Jesus... Pilate's provision of a guard for the tomb... and Mary Magdalen's encounter with an angel on Easter morning. (In the Gospel according to Mark it's a "young man arrayed in a white robe". In Luke it's "two men in dazzling apparel". In Matthew it's an angel and an earthquake, which may be why my guard has fallen over. Or he's swooned.)
Tick. Tick. Tick. See? Is your favorite bit the fact that my understanding of angels as beings of absolute goodness means I have to make him apologize for his own existence? Mine too. 
***

2008 - The year of the Crunch. Like childhood these first twelve months of the blog still feels like a third to a half of the whole undertaking. I was posting a lot, thinking a lot, and there was so much to record. I'd just started writing comedy, I had the London Dungeon and the Shunt Lounge. I was also feeling a lot it seems, 2008 posts are even fuller of feels and accounts of weeping in front of Animalympics on youtube than 2007. But I'll spare you all that "Emotional Dev"and choose instead a fun fave from the beginning of the year about dying alone...

Friday, 4 January 2008

ILL AND DEAD


Ahhhhh, "Credit Squeeze" says the radio, and as a "sup-prime" I skirt blithely like a coyote in a batsuit around my overdraft limit of whatever it is and look around me to see what I might sign up to next. Inspired perhaps by the jumper my parents have bought me for Christmas I investigate the Campaign for Real Ale and a copy of the "London Drinker" that I picked up in an pub in High Barnet. I don't really know anything about CAMRA to be honest, but I do know that any organization so clearly estranged from the insidious influence of marketing and homogenised thought as to produce an advert as impenetrable as this...



... is clearly onto something. Or rather not. Which is the point. Surely these cosy, beardy, sedentary men who drink "Santa's Wobble" are more like the kind of guys I should be hanging out with than the shiny-eyed zeitgeist pilots I find myself drinking with at Shunt.

But then I come across the obituaries. 

There are two, and while they're both written with obvious affection for their subjects, they also contain quite substantial cause for qualm. I'm reprinting here only those details that led me to reconsider which is of course grossly unfair to the dead men in question, but... sorry: 

Andrew Cifton, I never knew you. It says here that you were found dead in your home "aged just 56 years and 5 months". It says you "had a heart of gold and will be sadly missed." It says you were "the bane of present and past CAMRA national chairmen, given to heckling at meetings whenever a perceived injustice frustrated him, often culminating in a theatrical storming-out, with a tirade of invective, and occasionally having to return to collect a jacket (or cuddly toy) that he had left behind!" It says "Unwelcome questions that he didn't wish to answer were often fielded with a shrug of the shoulders, while if he was unhappy about something, he would mutter away about it under his breath."

And "'Arry" Hart... It says here that many stories were shared about you in the Sultan in Tooting after your funeral on 22 October. It says many precious memories were shared by "Sue". It says you were "a very private person whom few would have known closely, except when riled, as he could be." It says "When things were promised and those promises broken, he would become quite vocal after a few beers. The spelling lesson in Dudley when he was refused orders after 2am will live in everyone's memory. I remember Sue had to take him back to the room quickly. On another occasion he flew into a righteous lather on the Isle of wight when told he could not redeem tokens he'd been promised were redeemable."

A deep, dark mirror... 

So now I'm thinking of joining these guys instead:
***

2009 - Already?! I associate so much of this blog with single life in the house before the fire, but we're here already, in a grandiose gated community in Clapham with the formatting all over the place, everything boxed again, and rehearsals begun for what would become one of my absolute favourite shows despite the qualms expressed below: Money. None of the links seem to work now though, I know, but the "steroid-induced psychotic episode" mentioned can be found here...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

New Big Spaces


I'm well, thank you for asking.


In fact I think I'm all well. I would go for walks on Hampstead Heath and check on my hand to see how my body was doing like I used to in hospital then see that it was glowing and have to find a bench, but that was back in February.




And well now, how to get from there to here? Am I just going to write everything? Maybe I should start by making my excuses:

1. The lease ran out on my photoshop, which is half the fun of these posts for me (so these images are bigger and duller than I'd like).

2. I *was* of course going to write about my steroid-induced psychotic episode next (so very Christian Bale, so very topical back in February) but thought better of that until I'd found somewhere to live... which now I set it down in print strikes me as incredibly paranoid. Or is it? I don't know. Ah. No but if I were vetting potential flat-mates I'd probably google them to see if they'd, say, started any fights in hospital with a club-footed Maori. Then again, to paraphrase Lenny Bruce, I'd google mud.






Hmm, these paragraphs are more widely spaced than I remember, Yup, big spaces... Anyway I moved out of Susy's at the end of March into a long, uncarpeted, white-washed room in a large, airy, joss-sticky flat in Gipsy Hill and I lasted there a month. The land-lady didn't like my hours, and who can blame her? The floor-boards creaked, her room was right outside the bathroom, she slept with her door open so actually yes I for one can blame her, but a home's a home and that was hers and I'm not even sure I want one right now.



Time passes, shut up! as Dylan Thomas once wrote, and I've found a room now with a carpet and a coffee table three storeys up a tower-block in Clapham Junction with gardens, pool, sauna, jacuzzi and loudly wuthering heights. I'm holed up across from the busiest station in Europe, I've found a Complete Works of Shakespeare for a pound and Dr. Thompson's incomparable "Great Shark Hunt" for three, I'm pretending I'm on tour or a scatty writer assigned to LA, my stuff - the charred and the saved - stays in storage until I can face it, and the big money's been coming in fine from Shunt whose new show's more physical aspects can here be seen under construction.

 

In fact they're still under construction. And with nowhere to work and the director up in Scotland we have this week off. It's okay though, it's all fine, I'm just in it for the company and the money that's what I've got to keep telling myself. I mean, it's great! I'm better! I can do winch-work and wrestling and I've got a pool and a sofa! And I've got work, biggish commissions for both LaurenceandGus' and MitchellandWebb's new radio shows, and it's work I can actually do (new stuff got laughed at)! AND the insults  Charlotte Hesketh and I have been throwing back and forth across f*c*b**k for the past month now number a hundred, so I can finally leave that! And here we are rehearsing: Hey Spacey, copy THIS!


 Whatsamadda Kevin Spacey, you chicken?! Oh yeh, you all "I'm going to get a railway arch and put art in and shit" and we all "Let's drop this flowerpot on the director's head a number of times before he leaves" and you all "Good luck with that then" and we all "Ow, uh...." Yes well lots to catch up on then. Hello again, thanks for sticking around. A post every other day as promised, once. Join me tomorrow for those hundred insults then. I'm better. This is easy.

(Oh yeah, 3:10 AM. I remember. Hmm... still big spaces.)
***
 
2010 - And speaking of big spaces...
The election sent a clear message out across the country: Take The Money And Run. Pictured above, London Bridge... 2017. Pictured below, London Bridge... 
There is a cabaret tonight at Shunt, starting at 6. You are all invited. Only Shunt is now at Bermondsey Street. All of it. So if you're lucky you might even be able to pick up a cheap chair. They're good, I've bought two, carried them off like a bailiff following the father's downfall in a Perrault. In other fairy-tale news: that small door on Joiner Street leads nowhere now, because of course the Lounge beneath London Bridge has - as I may have hinted at - after months of happy and open communication between all parties keen to prove the viable compatibility of artistic and commercial concerns, been suddenly thrown out on its arse by a shower of useless pricks. 
 

No news is good news, and that's the news. I'm not really sure even now, some three or four weeks after its last night, how much I'm allowed to say or what the plan is, which is a bit why this blog - in which the Lounge featured so centrally - has been so quiet recently... that and just the abominable anger and sadness of how's it all transpired. Anyway here, belatedly, are some stills from that last night, the 26th of June:


Of course we'd already had a last night back in November, with the place stripped and old changing-rooms re-revealed, and the recognition that this wasn't just the Lounge we were saying goodbye to, but the spaces of "Tropicana" and "Amalto Saltone", and that was a nice night with seeing old friends and looking ahead and we knew where we stood. This night was different, of course.


(I don't know what's going on here, but four hours later there was an egg and spoon race.) 

And naturally the Shard asked Shunt to "leave the place as they found it", but while we're not short of volunteers, none were found willing to rip out the toilets, plumbing and electricity, replant the sawn-off steel or smear shit back onto the walls, so sorry about that.

 
Two nights ago someone called Hilary came to see "Money". She had programmed what turned out to be the Lounge's penultimate week, and had hung from piercings in her shoulder while singing Verdi, something she can only do once a month but that's not the point, the point is on Friday she lit up as she told me something I had found for myself whenever I came to put on work at the Lounge, but have probably never acknowledged here: that there was nowhere as helpful, as generous, as responsible, as unquestioningly encouraging or as just plain big and playable-in as those vaults, let alone for free.


 Hillary told me she had made exactly what she wanted to make there. And everyone had come, and nobody known what to expect. (And then I walked home with a chair on my head.) So all I'm saying is, when I used to describe the Lounge in terms of a mini-Edinburgh-Fringe reprogrammed weekly, impressive as that sounds I actually did it an enormous disservice: it was far easier than that. Art got made there even by accident. Not good art necessarily, of course not, but how are you going to know until you put it in front of strangers?


 And there was no flyering, no feedback forms, no mentoring schemes, nothing except anything you wanted. Half a panzer coming through a wall? George would build it. A live seven-foot wide video link to New York above the bar, or the running of a fake lift for your own promenade? Andrea would rig it up and get two volunteers to stand either side with a cue sheet and pneumatic forklift. And on and on. That was the Lounge. Something like one hundred people on that payroll, three of them paid for by the Arts Council. No really, just three. And now what? The Foundry gone this past month too. And East 10. But it's the Eighties Revival, non? "Always be closing."


 "Oh well, it keeps you honest!" said an old acquaintance. God, I hate poets. Okay then, back to the ghetto. And while fifty per cent of the world's cranes stand idle in Dubai, the Great Work of transforming London from a temperamental network of human-scale cultures into a collection of incredibly large, fucking stupid objects best viewed from twenty storeys high proudly changes up a gear.


 P.S. With not quite the numb pang that accompanies the deleting of a dead friend's number from your phone, I have removed the Lounge's video from my homepage and placed it below. It's more of an advert than a tribute I know, but what are you going to do? Oh yeah, you're going to come to the cabaret! Tonight, quick! Here.



***


2011 - I didn't post anything in 2011. 
Maybe my slackness couldn't keep up with what seemed like the daily outrages of the Coalition, but I also remember feeling genuinely frightened which may again sound paranoid but the Paul Chambers case had proven that the wrong joke could indeed get you prosecuted, and while I didn't know Paul Chambers I did know people jailed for being present at the Fortnum and Mason demonstration in March: Boz for example, who was there recording sound for an afternoon play for Radio 4 and was first held outside the jail in the rain for ten hours because the 24 hours you're allowed to detain someone only officially starts once you're inside, and then celled and asked every 45 minutes if he needed anything. He would ask for a glass of water. He was never brought the water though, and as this happened every 45 minutes throughout the night he was never allowed to sleep either. Anything beautiful that happened in 2011 - and there was good news too - I remember feeling I had no right to record either against this unrecorded ugliness, so here instead is what greeted you if you visited the blog at all during that lacuna...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Isabella Rossellini Discombobulates a Duck's Phallus

 
That's what SHE said. Ha! Oh.

 


This is research by the way, for the sci-fi sitcom I am now literally writing for a read-through in Mid-November. And working on the floor of the London Dungeons has turned out to be a surprisingly fertile writing location: you're physically active, you're uninhibitedly improvising, and it's dark. Your mind is absolutely primed, it's perfect, except there's just nothing to write with. Here I realised that extra-terrestrial life's attitude towards sex would probably resemble "green porno" a lot more than the icy butlers and headmistresses we're normally shown. Ah, it's so good to see she's still making these...
***
To be continued...

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Monday, 12 June 2017

Explore a world without light.


Sir Henry: "Do you have a torch?"
Watson: "No. I've got a gun."
Sir Henry: "Is it also a torch?"
Watson: "No. It's just a gun."
 That's Shaun Chambers as Sir Henry Baskerville. Shaun's lovely dad, John, came over to see the show a few days ago. John's a carpenter and musician, he toured Ireland back in the seventies and eighties and the night before the election we sat in the Four Corners at the intersection of Seilerstrasse and Zeil 10 while Shaun and he shared anecdotes about the Irish amateur dramatics groups they used to play with. Maybe "memories" is a better word than anecdotes: a man onstage rummaging around endlessly in a bag of bottle tops to find the single florin, that kind of thing. It might have held up the show, I said, but I thought it added verisimilitude because I'm always rummaging around in my leather pouch for euros in the Aldi.
"Have you been to Ireland?" John asked me.
I told him about the one time I'd been to Belfast touring "Ring", and how weirdly like a boarding school I'd found it.
"Oh it's better than it was," he said and went on to describe being in a Catholic band touring Protestant clubs north of the border: You didn't stay for drink. You didn't so much as look at the women. You were shepherded to the stage and then you were out, and when you were out there was no light because the street lamps round the clubs were all dark. I asked him why. John said the club owners had put them out. I asked him how. He said "You know," and mimed a gun. Oh yeah.
It was terrifying back then, John said. Once, he found a bullet on the floor of his car after giving a friend a lift. "If I'd been stopped, and that bullet had been found...
"And the man I was telling you about, the man with the the bottle tops..." The actor searching for the florin, yes. He was killed, John said. He'd come home one evening to be shot in the head. "And he had no links with any paramilitaries. None. They were just killing Catholics... And these were soldiers doing this. British soldiers. Listen... The Glenanne Gang... Google it when you get back. Glenanne Gang."
I did. He's not wrong. Still it was worth it, I guess, to have the DUP now sitting in the House of Commons. DERP!
Oh, John loved the show by the way.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Where I Was Way Wrongest (or: Wonderful, Wonderful Confirmation Bias)

I'm trying to make another film on my phone but the bits keep slipping about, I've been having the same problem putting subtitles on "Jonah" as well, it's quite disheartening, like that moment in childhood when you finally realized the adhesive limits of a Pritt Stick, but WHO CARES because we had a general election and everything's suddenly bearable again! PHEW, RIGHT?!!!*

 
  6:09am, June 9th, Frankfurt

Well, we saw. (Links to cautiously optimistic article about Corbyn from two years ago). And I'm very glad I got all of this out of my system before the results came in because it's worth remembering just how dark things looked. (Links to cautiously pessimistic article about Corbyn from two days ago). But didn't I say! "Do your job, focus on the facts, convince through competence, smile, be courteous, and let the Right go mental and out themselves." See! I said! And here's the thing: Maybe this is where the wave breaks, but I can't really see how. If the Tories aren't seen as strong then what are they? There can't be a more towering proof of their incompetence than the calling of this election. I'm not going to blame the results on the campaign however, Trump had a dumber campaign and won. "How good a campaign is" can only be judged on the result, it's a conclusion, not an explanation. Alex has a better explanation:


I think that that Ariana Grande concert helped too.

* Disclaimer: Of course the prospect of the Right unmasked and mental is still terrifying and, facing the possibility of a deal with the DUP, we now have to man the walls against a wave of batshit thicker than anything we've yet seen, but I don't think this will be a tsunami, and the walls seem a lot stronger than they did three days ago. That's where I was wrongest: I don't think we're headed for a civil war now. Not on the mainland at least. We seem saner today, less frightened. A lot of commentators have been bemoaning the loss of a centre in British Politics but I think they're dead wrong, and I think the reason they're dead wrong is the same reason they've been dead wrong about this in-one-sense-unnecessary-but-in-another-absolutely-necessary election all along. Joel finally put his finger on it:

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Days of National Humiliation

"It's not the despair, Laura. I can stand the despair. It's the hope." Clockwise
It's not really though, is it? As I write this the polls are still open, but the Conservatives don't appear to be breaking a sweat and the odd engagements I've had with Tory voters on twitter have given me very clear hints why Blair and co. thought it was such a good idea to rename the party: for so many in Britain the very word "Labour" is bafflingly, deafeningly toxic. Back at Tory HQ meanwhile, and following the example of Trump, the Conservatives have learnt that the best way to win at Democracy - as with Global Thermonuclear War - is simply not to play. Instead, attack human rights as enablers of terrorism, attack the judiciary as "enemies of the people", and, fuck it, attack the very principle of opposition as a tedious attempt to "frustrate the will of the people". I almost included attack the media as discredited pests, but of course both sides have done their share of that, with the odd honorable exception:


And Christ, that clip was hard to find! Googling "Corbyn defends press" gets you three pages of Corbyn attacking the press instead. Someone should write a strongly worded letter to Google's offices, that'll fix it. I am voting Labour, you might not be surprised to read. I've even made the odd campaign contribution, but I actually left the party almost a year ago after it backed Brexit. Watching Corbyn's performance during this campaign however, I get it now: voting is sacred to him. That's why he never stood down having won that vote, why he backs Brexit, why he rebelled so often while voting as a backbencher while producing such a coherent manifesto, and why he refuses to consider any further "deal-making" to form a coalition. He has clearly always believed that a vote is a genuine expression of the self, and that a democracy must honour those expressions. Well, good for him I suppose. It's proved a pretty strong platform this past month. And we'll see. But the attempts at uniting a country have come and gone. Even the campaign slogan "For The Many, Not the Few" foreshadows a little too strongly some incoming civil war, and only the Right benefits from division. As I'm sure I wrote elsewhere, although I can't find that now either, I've always preferred the motto of the London Olympics' Opening Ceremony:


And I remember John Oliver once made this observation about the elections in Egypt: "Under a dictatorship you get used to a dictator kicking you in the balls. Under a democracy you have to get used to half your own population kicking you in the balls." I'm not sure it's google-able, you'll just have to take my word for it. I'm still in Frankfurt. I only know what happens on social media. I think my friend Gemma's in Stratford now. She's making a show about the Civil War. She's been researching it for years. Fun fact: one of Oliver Cromwell's big ideas once he came to power was to replace Holidays with "Days of National Humiliation". Nobody thought there'd be a civil war before then either, she told me. Sides just became too entrenched.

"Oh well..." a sign in Frankfurt.