Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The trouble with being a Writer

Today's blog entry doesn't really have a point, except to discuss my own personal dilemma, specifically the question of when do I let people read things I have written.

As you all know, I finished NaNoWriMo last month (and won - see the banner thing in the sidebar) and last night I re-opened the document to have a look at it and start to figure out where to start in the editing process. And there's so much. And I don't know whether any of the novel is any good.

So I thought about getting people to read it and give me feedback, which would be fine, except that I really want to re-organise it and get it sorted out before anyone reads it, but I don't know if it's worthwhile sorting out or whether it's just a big mess of ramblings. (Much like these blogs often are)

So my question today is directed to other writers - when do you decide it's time? Do you ask people who you know will say nice things just to encourage you? Do you insist on honesty all the time?

I just don't really know where to start - instead of editing anything last night, I simply organised and finished naming the chapters, with some wierd chapter titles, some of which are just strange.

Don't believe me? Here's the list (WARNING - Very long list)

Chapter One – Just Another Night at Work
Chapter Two – Alone…
Chapter Three – The Trouble with Jack
Chapter Four – The Misadventures of Erroneous Hinge
Chapter Five - Angels and Beanstalks
Chapter Six – The Time Travel Begins
Chapter Seven - Releasing a Mentally Deranged Man into the Surrounding Area
Chapter Eight – No Longer Alone…
Chapter Nine – A Normal Dave-Based Day
Chapter Ten – Taking Victor from Victory leaves Why?
Chapter Eleven – Back to the Present
Chapter Twelve - Lords and Playwrights and Short Skirts, Oh My!
Chapter Thirteen - Dave, a man in search of the plot, or at least some suitable exposition
Chapter Fourteen – Exposition 2: This Time it’s Personal
Chapter Fifteen – Up, up and… down again
Chapter Sixteen – Return to the Scene of the Crime
Chapter Seventeen – An Evening in the Pub
Chapter Eighteen – The Story so Far
Chapter Nineteen - A lab, two scientists and a shadowy figure
Chapter Twenty – The Investigation Continues
Chapter Twenty-One – In which two groups of protagonists finally meet
Chapter Twenty-Two – A Victor(ious) return
Chapter Twenty-Three – Follow the Yellow Brick Road? Really?
Chapter Twenty-Four - Rest and Recuperation (Or at least, not getting shot at for a change)
Chapter Twenty-Five – Turtles need Love too
Chapter Twenty-Six – Return to 1864
Chapter Twenty-Seven - The Loss of the Road
Chapter Twenty-Eight - Which is set in the present, but occurs before Chapter Twenty-Six in Sian’s personal Timeline
Chapter Twenty-Nine – The Wizard’s Abode
Chapter Thirty – Escape!
Chapter Thirty-One - Erroneous leaps into action (Slowly)
Chapter Thirty-Two - The arrival of Angel
Chapter Thirty-Three – Backstory
Chapter Thirty-Four – Extended Cliffhanger
Chapter Thirty-Five - The Present Past Andrew meets the Past Present Andrew
Chapter Thirty-Six – Cliffhanger Extension Part Two
Chapter Thirty-Seven – 19th Century Espionage
Chapter Thirty-Eight - The Resolution of the ever-more-irritating Cliffhanger
Chapter Thirty-Nine - The Tale that Sam just promised he’d tell you
Chapter Forty –The Continuation of Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Forty-One – An Erroneous Climax
Chapter Forty-Two – Everywhere and Nowhere
Chapter Forty-Three – The End?
Epilogue – What Happened Next.

I invite comments / suggestions / answers for the questions I posed in this post (or anything else you want)

Monday, 14 December 2009

Theatre 2: The Rise of the Theatrical Sequels

My dear reader, have you noticed the rising case of sequel-itis in the world today? (Yes, it is a word. I don't care what you say, my blog - my words, clear?) Everything seems to get inappropriate sequels at some point or another - films, books and now stage shows.

Yes, in a (not-really-very-at-all) veiled way, I'm talking about the new show from Andrew Lloyd-Webber "Phantom: Love Never Dies".

So it's a sequel to Phantom of the Opera, which, if he feels there is a good story to be told in it (And seeing as Frederick Forsythe managed to get an entire novel "The Phantom of Manhattan" out of the idea of a sequel to the show, and being as Lloyd-Webber has used some or all of that plotline in his new show, then one has to assume that he does) then it's fine by me, but the cynical part of my brain does wonder how much of it is a desire to revisit that world, and how much of his enthusiasm was simply to do with the fact that every show he has written since that point has been compared to Phantom.

Examples according to my extensive research (and by extensive research, I mean thinking about it hard, because I saw both of these adverts myself) are that Whistle Down the Wind had "Lloyd-Webber's best show since Phantom" as a quote outside the theatre when it ran, and The Woman in White had almost the exact same quote also. So is it just the case that he decided he should return to the scene of what is considered to be his greatest success?

And if that is the case, how much of it will carry over? Will it be an entirely new tale just told with the same characters and nothing else? Or will we be expecting a reprise of the title song from Phantom of the Opera when the Phantom first dramatically reveals himself? (And of course he'll do it dramatically, he's a deformed psychotic who wears a white half-mask. He'll have trouble doing it in any un-dramatic way). Will Lloyd-Webber go further than that and incorporate themes and reprises from the previous show? Will anything happen in the sequel that devalues the original (such as the entire of the original show, up to and including it's conclusion, turns out to be part of the Phantom's plan all along)?

Put broadly - how familiar will you have to be with the original in order to watch the sequel? Because if anything more than a passing familiarity is required, then I have a feeling that it will be a short-lived experiment. Looking back at the history of them, theatrical sequels have never done particularly well. Examples include:

Annie Warbucks - An attempt to continue the story of everyone's most irritating small ginger child, this ran for 200 performances in 1993... which is OK. I mean it's not an outright failure like the original Annie sequel was (apparently entitled Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge, and if you read the synopsis, it sounds hilarious - for all the wrong reasons!) but it's not going to trouble any "longest-running show on Broadway" records, or even make it's money back, is it?

Snoopy!!! - The Musical - A moderately successful sequel to "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown", I suspect that the secret to it's mild success is that it belongs to the camp of sequels where you take the characters (which had the advantage to being instantly recognisable to millions of people anyway) and just tell a brand new story around them.

The Best Little Whorehouse goes Public - A Sequel to "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" this ran for just 16 performances, making it the most obvious outright failure in this list.

So what's your opinion for the general failure of stage sequels Brawny? asks the average reader (Look at me, assuming I have more than one reader, how confident am I?)

It's simple. Sequels on film and in print can work, especially given the rise of Video/DVD (And for those youngsters out there, Video is those big black tapes...) so that now we can own the original and see it any time we want. But stage isn't like that. If you need to have significant knowledge of the original show, then you need to have seen it before you see the sequel. Snoopy!!! - The Musical (Yes, the three exclamation marks appear to actually be part of the title) probably worked best because it was a new, self-contained story, featuring characters that you could have been exposed to any other way.

Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge, however, appears to be the worst type of sequel, picking up straight where the original left off and effectively continuing the story. Films can get away with this (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for example) but shows really can't. So I watch how the Phantom sequel progresses with interest. I'm sure I shall see it at some point, as I'm interested, and Neety is a big fan of the original, so I shall let you all know.

And now, for your comic amusement, potential sequels for current West End Shows, as considered by Money-Grabbing Producers, following the obvious trend of trying to tell a new story while bringing back as much of the audience-pleasing elements and characters as you can:

Oliver! 2 - Ignoring the fact that Dickens never wrote a sequel to the original novel that inspired the musical, the new story starts with Oliver getting left behind as his new family move out of the city, and he then has to wander through the city attempting to find his new home. Part Road-Trip, part Home Alone (or Home Alone 2: Lost in New York), it gives Oliver plenty of opportunity to run into previous characters such as Fagin or the Artful Dodger, or maybe even Bet (who, being as she is so pointlessly sidelined in the original, is the obvious choice for a female lead, continuing in her quest to be the next Nancy). Who would be the antagonist? Why the returning Mr Bumble of course, who has decided for whatever reason, that he wants Oliver returned...

Mamma Mia 2 - After the anti-climatic ending of the previous musical, where Sophie's father is not revealed, and she doesn't actually get married, this production picks up a couple of years later, with her preparing to wed again, and re-opening the question of who her father is, as Bill and Harry have disappeared from her life again, and Sam is too busy fighting with Donna to spend any time with her. What follows is basically a re-hash of the first plot, utilising the second tier of ABBA songs (i.e. the ones that weren't good enough to put in Mamma Mia) ending with everyone happily married, the parentage issue sorted and a curtain call identical to the one from the first show, just so the audience don't feel ripped off...

Les Miserables 2 - OK, so nearly everyone died in the first one but that's never been a big problem for sequels. Taking Marius and Cosette, the story follows them fighting their way through the early stages of a relationship against the backdrop of 19th century France. Returning characters Thernadier and his wife become overly comic, losing all of their threatening edge, and almost annoy the audience to the point of leaving, before attempting to bring back some goodwill by bursting into their original show-stopping number "Master of the House". Meanwhile a shadowy figure is attempting to destroy Marius and Cosette's lives, who is revealed at the end of the show to be none other than Javert, whose suicide failed, and he had spent all this time plotting his revenge... Will Marius and Cosette survive? Will Javert succeed? Does anyone care?

Wicked 2 - The novel on which this wonderful piece of theatre would be based already exists, and Son of the Witch utilises one of those most traditional traits in sequels, the children of the original protagonists. In this story the son of Elpheba and Fiyero basically goes on a quest, and stuff happens. I'm amazed this isn't in production right now.

We Will Rock You 2 - Take more Queen songs, and glue them together. Oh wait, this is in production and entitled "The Show Must Go On". Oh well, at least Queen had enough good songs to fill a second show, unlike ABBA...

Any further suggestions? As always, feel free to make them in the comments section...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Well - The Internet Finally Got Me

You remember when Internet shopping was just a fad that only geeks did, and everyone said "Oh be careful, you never know what you're buying, someone will rip you off"? Well I never had an issue with it then...

Shame I do now.

I attempted to buy a DVD from a retailer I had never used before last week, and said DVD was for a Christmas Present. They were very efficient and sent me e-mails confirming my order, confirming every change in it's order status, and telling me when it was sent out.

However, when I received it (or rather, when I picked it up from the Post Office on Saturday because I'd had one of the stupid little red cards again) I was less than impressed. It was a bootleg.

Don't get me wrong, it was a pretty well made bootleg - but there are signs, and the picture quality wasn't as good as it should have been, and there's no way I'm giving it to someone as a Christmas present.

So this is just to warn you - the website www.dvd4utoo.com - sells bootlegs. (I'm not going to link them, because then they get the attention). The Paypal name utilised by the seller is Benaya. And my advice is as follows:

Don't go near it.

Thus ends Brawny's public announcement, go about your daily business.

(Next blog will be funnier / more informative, I promise)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

A follow up...

While my previous rant was about the uselessness of Facebook Groups, there are ones that set out to achieve things, which is good.

In particular this one, which is encouraging people to club together and buy "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against the Machine next week, so that it can defeat the pointless X-Factor winners single and become Christmas Number One!

It's all just a bit of fun - plus it's a good song!

I shall be buying it any time on Dec 13th or later, feel free to join me!

Simply clicking on a button is not (usually) a valid form of protest

It's time for that infamous question - What's been annoying you today Brawny?

Well, apart from the usual (lack of money, annoyance with job, still no concrete plans to move back to Poole, still worrying about the Christmas presents I ordered online weeks ago that haven't yet arrived), there is one thing that's been irritating me in the last few days...

Facebook groups.

For those few of you who don't have Facebook, groups are exactly what they sound like, people united under a common banner or cause. When Facebook started (although I obviously mean when I started to use Facebook, as I have no previous knowledge of what it was like before I used it. For all I know it could have been a site which flashed up an image of Santa Claus knifing a small child while a loop of a distorted version of "Santa Claus is coming to town" played in the background. I think it unlikely, but one never knows for sure (Incidentally, can you tell that I'm having a strangely festive day, due to the large amount of Christmas influence in that metaphor? Thought so)) then groups seemed to primarily be for people to show appreciation of films, TV, music etc., or to group up with some of your friends (groups for organisations you belong to, etc.). Now, since they created pages for which you can become a "fan", most music/TV/Films have graduated to those, (Although there's still no Norwich and Saggers page, shamefully) and groups have become the subject of "comedy".

Now when I say "Comedy" I mean it in the lowest sense, the comedy usually coming from funny group titles or strange situations. (Yes I am aware that sentence makes me sound like a comedy snob, but tough (Do you get comedy snobs? I guess you do, being as I am one of them))

Now this is fine - it's annoying when people invite you to join groups that you don't want to join, and I don't understand why you'd join a group which just had a funny name but nothing else - and therefore no reason to have a group rather than simply writing the joke in your status or anything else, but it does occasionally throw up such amusing titles such as the one I joined yesterday, purely to honour the title "Girls, stop flicking your bean to Twilight, and go make me a Bacon Sandwich", which is, quite frankly, hilarious.

But the types of groups which annoy me the most are the "If [enter stupidly large number] of people join, then [enter task / achievement]"

(By the way, I attempted to make the post easy to understand for those who don't use facebook, but I don't care anymore, so apologies if I end up alienating any of you)

These types of groups can be easily divided into two sections: The personal, which are challenges made by people, and the ones I like to term the NFW groups (if you don't understand what I mean by NFW, then tough, I'm not explaining it here), in which the result of the challenge is something completely out of the control of the person who made the group.

Having just searched Facebook groups for the key words "If people join" (Which, incidentally has returned a horrendous number of results) then I can see that the vast majority of these groups are personal, which while they may be stupid, I have no problem with. If you want to turn your house into a pirate ship, or tattoo Facebook on your neck, or legally change your name to Edward Cullen, and you feel that getting a million people to say you should do it somehow justifies the idiotic decision (talk about peer pressure) then fine. The point is that these tasks are achievable because the only idiot who needs persuading is the person who put it up in the first place. As soon as you involve other people, however, you know that it won't happen. For example there's a group entitled "If 1,170,000 people join, My Girlfriend will Marry Me!". I have news for you my friend, no she won't. If she doesn't want to marry you now, getting a load of strangers to click on a button won't change that.

The other type of group, however, which is still in the minority, gives examples of such things as "If 10,000,000 people join this, they will make an all Family Guy channel!", "If 1,000,000 people join then the original Facebook will stay" or "If 10,000,000 people join, Emma Watson will date me"

These are the types I hate - because they are blatantly promising something that they have no control over (OK, I grant you that the Emma Watson one is probably a joke) but people seem to think that just by clicking a button they can create a TV channel, or change the minds of people who have redesigned something for a reason. WAKE UP! NOTHING WILL HAPPEN!

Having just spent my time scrawling through some of my search results to find examples, what has also disturbed me slightly is how many comedy groups there are that say "If [insert number here] join then NOTHING WILL HAPPEN [Or some other comic witticism]" Whilst I hold no issues with their viewpoint, being as it is similar to my own, the number of groups with slight variations on that name now seem to vastly exceed the number of groups created by people being serious - so the parodies and sarcasm is now enveloping the original subject, until eventually the sarcasm and parody will be all that is left. Also, if you hate such groups so much, then why spend the time creating a group moaning about it? That just seems silly to me..

Although I have now spent time blogging about it, so maybe I'm just as bad...

Anyways - I shall return with another blog at some point soon. Maybe the next one will be interesting, you never know...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Criminally Idiotic, and a caption competition!

Is it just me, or is this the most pointless crime ever? Surely it's just one step from skip-raiding? (Which, incidentally, no-one cares about, because the stuff being stolen is rubbish) Yes, I understand that Oxfam are losing clothes, and that's a bad thing because charity shops need stuff to sell to make money. That I understand.

But what goes through the mind of the criminals who decide to do it? Apparently "Eight bags of charity clothing were stolen in the latest incident on Friday."

What are you going to do with eight bags worth of clothes that have been donated to Oxfam? Unless the thieves were very picky with what they stole, those clothes aren't going to fit them, so they're not stealing for themselves, and unless Skegness has a thriving underground second hand clothes market, then they can't be making much money off it.

I'm confused - it just seems like a lot of trouble to go to in order to procure bags full of clothes you can't do anything with... especially considering that apparently "They are putting a person into the hopper, usually a child, into a dark metal bank ..." Taking a child out with you in order to rip off some charity clothes seems overly organised to me. If it had happened once, then I'd think it was some idiotically drunk people who happened to have a midget with them (and who wouldn't like to have a midget with them when out on the town, they're party animals), who decided that it would be funny. But to do it repeatedly? They're wierd...


I think they work at Butlins in Skegness and they need costumes for shows etc. So they're on the scrounge. That's my theory (Which is in no way affected by the fact that Butlins in Skegness turned me down for a job years ago). I don't have any proof of it, you understand, but that's just how it is.

Scavvy Butlins Bastards :)

On a mostly un-related note (I say mostly un-related, I saw this while I was reading the article, so it's kind of related in that sense) I do think that BBC News should be careful as to what their overtly long article titles get reduced to on the sidebar...

Growing up with an absent fat what? Consider this a caption competition - leave your responses in the comments.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Return of the Brawn!

Hi Bloggees!

So I'm back, after my month-long silence (bar the two exceptions) having successfully completed my NaNoWriMo novel, which is something I'm pretty proud of. (Proud of having completed it I mean, not necessarily proud of some of the actual writing - but that's what editing is for)

And for my return, you'll be pleased to hear it's time for another Brawny rant!

Last week, I came across this news story which is so ridiculous it made me laugh and spit the coke I was drinking out of my nose. (Technically, that sentence used artistic licence as I hadn't been drinking coke at the time I saw the story, but if I had been then it would have come out of my nose, and I think that's important to get across).

In a week where discussions of Modern Warfare 2 were rife, it seems as if this study was conveniently released in order to play up the hype. Granted, it's not about Modern Warfare 2, but I suspect that's only because it wasn't released by the time the study was done. It is about other violent games of that nature however, and the things that made me astonished was when the news article makes this wonderful statement.

"Human rights groups played various games to see if any broke humanitarian laws that govern what is a war crime."

I'm sorry, what??? Since when did laws apply to un-real situations? You say that there are things you can do in any of the games they played that you would be arrested for in real life? I'm appalled...

And I know what you're thinking, you're thinking "Brawny, you're not appalled at all". I am, I'm appalled that anyone thinks this study is worthwhile! Seriously, the study that was done tells us that "... games were sending an "erroneous" message that conflicts were waged without limits or that anything was acceptable in counter-terrorism operations. "This is especially problematic in view of today's reality," said the study. "

Especially problematic in view of today's reality? What, because we all play video games and are all idiots who can't differentiate between reality and a game? But films and books are OK because they're passive and you don't interact with them?

Luckily, it doesn't appear that anyone of any legal or political power has taken any notice of this, and that's because it's ludicrous. However, in the spirit of the study I present a selection of re-designed games (all (C) Brawny 2009) in order to reflect real world laws within the game.


Instead of rushing around a maze eating dots from the floor (which do not belong to you) and then occasionally making a Ghost flash so that you can eat it (which I'm sure counts as murder, even if the Ghost returns after a while), my new version of the classic game has you moving Pac-Man around aimlessly until you find a Ghost, at which point you enter into a dialogue with him to find out why he keeps getting in your way and is trying to stop you at every step of the way. Maybe you would then go for counselling together as a way of getting over these hurdles. And if any cherries or other fruit stuff appear in front of you, you are penalised for eating them, instead you should pick them up and drop them off at the police station so that they can be returned to their owner.


The entire premise of this game is ridiculous, as you run through strange foreign lands, including repeatedly breaking into castles, in order to murder countless poor henchmen and then murder a large turtle simply because he has a spiky shell and therefore must be evil. Also, you maintain he did in fact kidnap the Princess, but do you have any evidence of this? Because if it's just that she told you, then you need some corroborative evidence or that'll never stand up in court. What you should do instead is simply call the police and hire a negotiator to persuade Bowser to release the princess.


You run around and kill Zombies. This is clearly murder. You can also destroy pieces of building, cars and anything else. This is clearly Vandalism. You also break into facilities in order to kill more Zombies. This is clearly breaking and entering. You may think you can cover this up by being a government agent, but you have never once proffered the correct paperwork to your victims before you blow their heads off. I can think of no way to make this game comply with laws at all - it should just be banned.


I believe the clue is in the title. Oh, and you can murder people crossing the street. Instead, the game should be re-tooled so that it is entitled "Do you mind if I borrow your car?". The object being that firstly you have to negotiate a vehicle from its owner, and then you have to drive around, sticking to the speed limit and stopping at every red light, whilst performing day-to-day tasks such as the shopping and going to work.


OK, I can't find any specific laws broken in this game, apart from possibly disturbing the peace. Unless my new law comes into practice which is the "If you're going to attempt to create music in any fashion, learn how to be in tune first" law.

Now I know I've been silly in this post (and aren't I always anyway?) but my point simply is that you cannot apply real world logic to un-real objects, be they game, film or book. So people shouldn't try.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

SPOILERS! - Waters of Mars

I've once again broken my month-long blog silence to bring you .... A Brawny Review! (That could be a Breview I suppose... but anyway...)


In Which - The Doctor lands on Mars, ends up in the first human base on Mars, and then realises that he really shouldn't be there....

What did I think? - A bit of a strange beast this episode, as the majority of it seemed to be made up of a standard Dr Who "Base Under Siege" story, combined with the Doctor repeatedly saying "I should go" and then, well, not going. The Flood was the sort of monster that I like, an unexplained, inhuman, completely alien idea, hidden in something so simple and essential. But the pacing of the first half hour just felt, well, a little off.

The turning point was him in the airlock though, discussing what he knows must happen with Adelaide. It finally gave us an insight into the changing history / not changing history rules in Dr Who. (Or at least, in the new Russell T Davies era of Dr Who) by re-iterating that history has fixed points, things that can't be changed.

And then, the Doctor questions himself. Why can't he change things? He's the last time lord, there's no-one else left, what's to stop him?

So he does. He turns back and joins in the fight for survival. And I've never been so ambivalent about the Doctor saving people in my life. On the one hand, Yay, he's the Doctor, he should save people, and the base people seem nice enough. On the other hand, you know that what he is doing is against the laws of time, and you can't help but feel that there will be consequences (I'm pretty sure that the fact the final 2-part special is called "The End of Time" indicates that).

The end of the Mars-set action shows the Doctor coming up with a plan which almost feels like cheating, with the utilisation of the TARDIS to save everyone, although this obviously allows the explosion to happen as history recorded, presumably defeating the Flood.

And then, the Earth-set epilogue. Easily the finest end to a Dr Who episode in many years. The Doctor turns from having been a slightly over-cocky nice guy, to a very cocky... well... asshole. We get someone actually being freaked out by the TARDIS (which I've always thought is missing, most people would get properly spooked), and we get the Doctor insisting he is the Time Lord Victorious.

And then we get the death of Adelaide. Marred only slightly for me by the fact its the second climactic suicide scripted by RTD in the last year (the previous one, of course, being Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth), it is a superb moment, and the Doctors realisation that he has gone too far.

And what happens from this point? Who knows, but I'm guessing it will be catastrophic...

(Oh and for all you pedants, I know that there wouldn't be fire on the surface of Mars, but didn't it look good)

The Good - Performances excellent all across the board, gripping ending, we get to see the Doctor be fallible for a change

The Bad - The annoying robot was annoying, and no amount of self satisfying references to the fact that robots are annoying can make him less annoying, the pacing of the first half hour felt very strange

Conclusion - I think it would have worked better in 45 minutes than the full hour (which is a very rare statement for me to make) but on the whole I liked it. 8/10 (Can't wait for End of Time!)

Now that the review is over, I'm sure many of you are wondering why I'm not pressing on with my novel. I am, sort of, I'm just procrastinating, but I'm at 33,000 words already. So I might make it... fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Packages and Word Counts

OK, so assume that this blog has started with apologies for not having written lately, although I did explain why I would be being less frequent with this blog in the post a couple of weeks ago.

But I got so annoyed with something today, that I had to write...

Royal Mail.

OK, so I don't really like to complain about them, because on the whole they provide a good service. It costs you a few pence and you can send something the length of the country. HOWEVER, if I ever get one of those little red "We tried to deliver something but you were out" cards, my heart sinks.

I'm ALWAYS out when they try and deliver something because, like most people, I work during the day. Therefore I have nothing against the cards per se, it's just that whenever I get one, the claiming of said package seems to be horrendously complicated.

It always says you should wait 48 hours between the time they tried to deliver it, and the time you go to collect it..

Why is this? I understand needing SOME time, because the package stays in the postmans bag since he's finished his round. But, working on the assumption that postmen go home at the end of a shift, and therefore leave their bags at work, I would assume that they get emptied every day. And therefore, you put everything that needs to be collected into a van, which takes it to the relevant sorting office. Surely. That'd make sense.

Well I don't know what they do, but it obviously isn't that.. as was proved by today when I went to pick up a recorded delivery package that they tried to deliver to me on Friday. I originally went on Monday, to be told it wasn't there yet, so I went today. And guess what? It's still not there... I guess this wouldn't be so bad, if not for the other major hassle with it...

The Sorting office is only open from 8am-12pm.

Four hours a day? Name me another public service that only opens for four hours a day, at the time when the majority of the population is at work!! Seriously, I can't fathom the logic behind this. Why do it?

So I'm still waiting for my package, (incidentally, I don't know what it is, and I really hope it's something for which going to this amount of hassle is worthwile (but I'm sure it will be (mostly))) which HOPEFULLY, I can pick up tomorrow, although that means I'll have to dive out of work during the day to go and try and get it. But I'm still vaguely hopeful it'll be there. Unlike something that was sent to me last year, which I never recieved because "It's gone missing..." That was the excuse. Seriously.

Like I said at the start, I know that they do provide a good service, but it's the little things like this that really just feel like a let down.

So, other than that, I'm still writing my novel for NaNoWriMo. As you may remember, my aim was to write 2000 words a day, so that I could have five days off. This has gone a little wrong...

I was on target until Thursday, which was my birthday, so I let myself have the day off. Then I did my 2000 on Friday, and since then... nothing. To be fair, I have got excuses (been visited by Neety, who bought me Guitar Hero: Metallica for my birthday!) but not a real, solid excuse. So now I'm staring at the document again, knowing that I have (ideally) 8000 words I need to catch up. Before tomorrow. And I'm in the middle of a chapter introducing a new character and I don't really know where I'm going with it.

And that's the thing thats hardest about this time/word limit. There's no time to go back, re-jig and cut bits. I could cut the half chapter I've got (which is about 1500 words) and just go to another character, but then I'd lose more word count.

So I'm procrastinating here and on the internet. And in a minute I shall cook some dinner. I'm trying to be good and not play Guitar Hero, but we'll see how the evening goes.

I could, of course, assume that Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Today were all days off, and recalculate accordingly. If I did that then I'd have 2000 words a day left to write, with NO days off... and since I'm heading to Poole this weekend, and again at the end of the month, I ought to try and salvage at least one.

Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo by the way? Or is it just me...

On the good news front, my nice bike is now on its way back to Poole, where my wonderful father will have a look at it, and see if it's fixable! Yay!

Anyway, I ought to go now....

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Television - A Poor Man's Gold

In case you didn't know, I like to watch quite a lot of TV, both home-grown (Dr Who, Torchwood and many many comedy programs) and imported (Lost, Chuck and a lot of other US episodic drama), and I watch some of them on actual TV, many more via DVD, iPlayer and some .... other internet methods.

And recently, with the start of the new US TV Season, I've been going back to old favourites, and I also thought I'd try a new series, Flash Forward, which is currently airing here on the cultural wilderness known as Five. (On reflection, I'm being too hard on the poor channel, it does occasionally show good things - the current exception to it's "if it's not a procedural or a film, it has to be a rubbish documentary" rule is Ross Noble's Australian Trip, which IS a documentary, but not one of their usual ones with titles such as "The Giraffe that taught English as a Second Language in an obscure Antarctican Village", or "My Mother, the Top Hat". Whoops, I appear to have digressed a little, back to the point)

So, having sat through a few Flash Forward episodes, I'm sure you are all wondering what I thought of it. Is it, as some say, the new Lost?

Well no. Because there's no island, polar bear, obscure scientific research organisation or (so far anyway) Jim from Neighbours. (But it probably won't be long, he does turn up in just about every U.S. Drama Series at some point). But it's also not that because, unlike Lost, which started with an event that was unexplained, and has at every turn thrown up new events to be explained, Flash Forward's event was documented. And that is (for now, anyway) the ballgame. The event happened, this is the aftermath.

Except.... it just doesn't grip me. I tried my best, I sat through all the standard character types, assuming that at least one of them would develop, or that the plot might take an interesting turn, but I ended up actively switching off mid-way through episode 3 (I think), because I had completely stopped paying attention. I have no desire to watch it, and unless anyone that I know tells me that it gets better (as many people did with Heroes when I originally gave up a similar number of episodes in), then I probably won't give it a second shot. Although I will want to know the explanation behind the event and, more importantly, if it gets re-comissioned for a second season, I will want to know how they're going to continue as they will have passed the flash forward date by that point...

So for the moment, that's off my schedule. Which leaves me down to just two US shows that I am regularly watching as soon as I can after they air (being as Lost and Chuck don't re-start till after Christmas), one of which is the aforementioned Heroes.

Heroes and I have a intricately weaved past. Every time I try to give up on it, something happens to pull me back in. In the first season I watched a few episodes, and gave up until, towards the end of the season, a friend advised me to watch, and I did, watching the vast majority of season one in one sitting. At which point I grew excited for the finale, and then disappointed when I actually saw it. Still, a show that good must get better in Season Two, right?

Wrong. Season Two was just messy, lazy, and to be honest, only had enough plot (yes, I said plot, people travelling to see someone else for 8 episodes is NOT plot!) for about 4 or 5 episodes, and introduced some of the most annoying characters. Ever.

So Season Three? Tim Kring, creator, stated they'd learnt from the mess of Season Two, and had a new plan...and it sort of worked. In bits. But we got ANOTHER dystopian future (the third in three seasons) that needed to be stopped, we got characters completely changing their minds on things just for the sake of the plot, we got convulted Time Travel plots, Ali Larter playing a different crazy blond woman, Peter and Sylar both becoming way too powerful.... And Nathan being an ass. As always.

And I'm now a few episodes into Season Four, and I still don't know whether I want to stick with it. Of course, I will, because I'm hooked. And I have to know what happens. And its almost as if the writers know that, and are just twisting us along. For every good moment (Peter/HRG team-ups and Matt/Sylar mind battles), we get multiple bad ones (Sylar with Amnesia, A random selection of carnival villains, ANOTHER potential love interest for Peter (who has a frankly useless power), HRG moping, Claire entering a bisexual relationship (and that wasn't done for ratings at all was it??) and Angela Petrelli - just generally being as useless as she has been for three years). But this is where Heroes has got me, and Flash Forward hasn't. I cared about them at the start. And I'll therefore take all the crap, just to see how it ends. But Flash Forward? I'll just read about what happened.

"But Brawny, what's the other show you are regularly watching?" I hear you all yell. (Well I don't. But I can imagine that might be what you're yelling. Or at least that you might be gently mumbling under your breath as you peruse this blog. Or maybe you don't care. Well stuff it. It's my blog, and I'll tell you). It is, of course, the wonder that is House M.D.

By all rights I shouldn't particularly like this show. I'm a big fan of high-concept TV, which it isn't. I'm a big fan of sci-fi, which it isn't. And I usually can't stand procedural shows. Which it is. But it's just so damn good. Hugh Laurie is outstanding, and flanked by a superb support cast. And the writing is good, and funny. And it breaks with procedure JUST enough that it feels different, and you do often feel that an episode could not follow the schedule of
Mysterious illness - Ideas - Patient gets worse - More Ideas - Patient nearly dies - House has random thought that he connects to Patient - Patient saved - Interspersed with a subplot either involving Cuddy or Wilson, depending on who is less involved in the actual medical case.
And this season particularly (Season 6) has been outstanding, causing genuine changes in the Status Quo, (and yes, I'm aware I've capitalised that as if it was the band, but I like it. And as I pointed out in an earlier set of brackets, it's my blog. So if you don't like it, tough!) and I have no knowledge whether they are permanent changes, but it's a show that's never been afraid to do that before, so who knows?

To conclude : Watch House - Avoid Flash Forward - Put up with Heroes.

Saturday, 17 October 2009


Hey there Guys! (And girls, I wouldn't want my blog to appear sexist in any way...)

After the two kind of serious blogs I posted on Friday, I thought I'd just casually ask you wonderful people (some of whom I know are writers) if any of you are taking part in NaNoWriMo this year?

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and is basically a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I've often considered doing it, and I've decided that this year, I'm going to do it.

Writing 50,000 words a month equates to about 2000 words a day, with 5 days off... so basically, you may get less blogs from me over the month of November (and also in the last week of October too, because I'm heading back to Poole for a well-deserved break :P)

I did consider starting a seperate blog to keep track of how the novel is going, but then I realised that's just adding more writing work to my month, and that'd be silly!

So basically, if you are doing NaNoWriMo - feel free to add me as a buddy on their website, if you're not but you are thinking about it, then go for it, and if you aren't interested at all, then just bear in mind that you will probably hear less from me over the next month or so!

Peace out, my homies.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Am I Heartless?

I was reading BBC News' round-up of Antony Gormley's "Fourth Plinth" project this morning, and the thing that struck me most was how many of the people named in the article did things to raise awareness for charity.

Now, can I just state that I am not against charity, and indeed I believe that charities are good things (I know that sounds like an obvious statement, and that you'd have to have the brain capacity of a retarded chihuahua to disagree with it, but I thought it was worth stating, since the rest of this article may well sound like I don't like charities)

Are these people who would get up on a statue to raise awareness really more generous and caring than I am? If I'd been on the plinth I'd have taken a guitar and played music, or... well, I don't know. That's one of the reasons I didn't do it! But it would never have occurred to me to just get up and promote a charity.

And that, in a nutshell, is my worry. If you asked me whether I would do something for charity (and, in this example, let's assume it was something I was capable of doing / would enjoy / didn't need to do any organising for) then I would say yes. Or, alternatively, if I was directing a show, and someone wanted me to donate a share of the profits to charity, then I'd consider it and discuss it with the relevant people. But if you offered me a chance to do / talk about whatever I like, then I guarantee you it wouldn't be a charity I talked about.

Another example - A good friend of mine often goes out to Romania to work with orphans, he has done for several years now, and I'm sure a lot of good comes from it. However, when he returned, he was very enthusiastic that I, and various other friends, should go out to Romania with him next time, so that we could all work with the orphans and make everything nice and wonderful. Lots of our mutual friends said yes, but I instantly said no.

It's not because I think orphans aren't a deserving cause for charity work, it's just that I don't want to go out there and work with them, when there are so many factions of my life that are not, as yet, in order. Also, if you start doing things like that, where do you draw the line? If it was me, I'd be consumed with guilt for only helping the orphans and not the lame dogs of Germany, or some other charity work.

Don't get me wrong, I'd donate money to charity (and indeed, i have done before) if I had a suitable disposable income, but I don't. So I guess I value my own life and well-being (and that of family, friends and people I know) over that of good causes. But do other people feel differently? Do people genuinely rank charity causes above their own comfort? Or are they just racked with guilt at not being able to do enough?

I'm well aware that this post makes me sound like a selfish, idiotic asshole... but I do genuinely worry about it.

Am I a heartless bastard?

A Strange, Lonely and Troubling piece of Journalism (AKA Jan Moir: Homophobe)

Consider this a warning - this is an angry, sweary, offended blog, which is on a subject I know a lot of people have talked about / blogged about today (including people much more talented than me, such as Charlie Brooker) but, having read the offending article, a few hours ago, and then mulled it over in my mind, I felt I wanted to say something.

For those of you who don't know what this is about, today in the Daily Mail, a piece was published by their columnist Jan Moir, both in print and online, entitled "A Strange, Lonely and Troubling death..." which is about the death of Stephen Gately.

Now, just to be clear, I'm not a mad Boyzone fan, and nor did I have any particular affection for Mr Gately himself, except for that affection one affords to all human beings (excluding those who have done something to cause that affection to be terminated). I read of his death a couple of days ago, and my brain simply registered "Oh, that's sad." Then, this morning, I started to see people posting on Facebook and other such outlets about Ms Moir's article. So I decided to have a read and see what all the fuss was about.

Where do I start? At the beginning I guess... (Please bear in mind that I shall not be reproducing the ENTIRE article here, just sections...)

"The news of Stephen Gately's death was deeply shocking. It was not just that another young star had died pointlessly"

Well yes, it was that another young star had died pointlessly. In fact, I would say it was more shocking than those who die from fast living, drug overdoses and the like...

"Through the recent travails and sad ends of Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and many others, fans know to expect the unexpected of their heroes - particularly if those idols live a life that is shadowed by dark appetites or fractured by private vice."

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Games - Too hard then, too easy now?

Last night, after re-discovering Zak and Wiki on the Wii (and solving three more levels), I decided to indulge in a good bit of retro gaming, and turned on my N64, ready to play the game that was lurking within the 90s black plastic console...

Which game was it? Why none other than the perennial N64 Favourite Goldeneye!

Now, either I've got a lot worse at the game (which is possible, I was never particularly good at it before), or I've been spoiled by other FPS that have existed more recently. I'm not a massive FPS player, being of the opinion that Doom II on the PC is the best FPS of all time, and not owning a PS3 or XBOX360 (the platforms of choice for Nazi/Zombie/Other general bad guy shooting fun), but I do know what I like, and I have played various modern FPS's, usually in 2 player mode round other peoples houses.

But what spoils me? The map. The fact that you can, at a glance, see where you are in relation to other things. Even Doom had an in-game map (accessed by pressing TAB I seem to remember), but Goldeneye doesn't have one (certainly not one that I can find - feel free to correct me if I'm being an idiot).

On early levels this is fine (and, incidentally, I have played the early levels so often I know exactly where I'm going and what I'm doing), but last night I dropped into my saved game, onto a level I have absolutely no memory of (The Statue level). And boy, was I rubbish. I got lost, I shot my contact, I shot the guy I was meant to be unmasking, I blew up the helicopter and the girl I was supposed to be saving died....

So, whoops there :P

But are things easier now? I don't know. In regards to a completely different type of game, New Super Mario Bros Wii is coming out on November 20th (YAY) and apparently has "Super Guide" - which means "players will be able to pause the game, let the game complete the level for them, and resume play at any time by unpausing. This is only available in single player when a player has failed to complete a level eight times."

Now, when I heard about this, I despaired slightly, because frankly, that sounds like another step towards making games easier. However, it may have had the opposite effect as, according to Russ Frushtick from MTV Multiplayer ""New Super Mario Bros." on the Wii is going to teach you a lesson in humility. It's really hard. ... Nintendo was showing off some of the new levels from the game. The first they dropped me in was level 8-7 and very near the end of the game .... I went in expecting instant success, I left with zero lives and a lower sense of self worth... It's because of the Super Guide that the developers were able to crank up the difficulty, knowing that they no longer needed to make the game for the lowest-skilled player. So you're left with what's arguably the most hardcore Mario game you've ever played."

So, is the Super Guide a new way of allowing casual gamers and hardcore games to both play the game without complaining? Is it the new version of a difficulty level?

I hope so. I could do with a Mario game that's hard... :)

I'll let you all know once I get it!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Logos, Sequels and New Dwarf - Oh my!

OK, this is an advance warning. For those of you not enamoured of certain geeky things, I advise you to give up on this blog right now, as this is me geeking out about Dr Who, Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Red Dwarf and more....

Those of you who are still left? OK, I guess you're interested (or really bored, or reading simply because you cannot be bothered to click the back button in the top left corner of the screen).

So, there's been a great influx of news and events regarding some of my favourite programs and books recently, and every time I see it, I think about blogging about it. So I thought I'd go for a complete, all-encompassing post...

First things first. Dr Who. Whilst we are all waiting excitedly for the broadcast of David Tennant / Russell T. Davies' last three specials (the first of which is expected sometime in the next month, but nothing has been confirmed as yet), news has started to trickle out about the 2010 series. Including the release of the new logo, as seen here. (Image 'borrowed' from Official Dr Who site)

This has, unsurprisingly, caused a massive amount of discussion amongst fans, particularly on forums such as Gallifrey Base (where yes, I admit, I am a member, mostly a lurker it has to be said, but I do post occasionally). But this is my blog, so I'll say what I think about it.

After looking at it for a few days, I've come to the conclusion that I like it. Mostly. The DW tardis shape (or DWardis as someone on Gallifrey Base named it, which I love) is apparently an "insignia" so the assumption is that it won't appear in the title sequence, instead being used on merchandise etc., which I think will work well. The Logo I like because it FEELS right.. as opposed to the current one, which, lets be honest, does look like it belongs on the front of a London Taxi! Yes, there is too much lens flare on it, and yes the R looks a bit strange, but other than that, I think it's good, (plus, the lens flare will vary when it is animated, so my issues there might go away.. they could get worse I suppose, but I'm thinking positive) and I especially like the little serifs bend away to add a slight air of difference to it...

Also, there's been various set reports, photos and other spoilery type information slowly leaking, just enough to get me excited, not enough to annoy me.. which is good. If you want to find any of this info I recommend signing up for the Gallifrey Base forum and having a good nose around. :)

So, on from Dr Who, to Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I went to HitchCon '09 on Sunday (with Neety, Gav and Helen) and it was GREAT! :) Saw the "Douglas Adams Chat Show" hosted by Clive Anderson, where a selection of people from the world of Douglas/Hitch-hiker's sat around and talked about him, and answered questions from the audience. Also saw Eoin Colfer who gave us a reading of small bits of his new Hitch-Hiker's book "And Another Thing..." and again answered questions, before we got to witness the radio cast coming back together to read a specially adapted radio show which zoomed through elements of all of the novels, telling the same old story in a slightly different way. And then I got a copy of "And Another Thing.." signed by the author himself.

Then I took it home and read it. Do you want to know what I thought?

*Waits for answer*

You do? Well OK then. Here I shall attempt to write a mostly non-spoilerific review...

"And Another Thing..." is the sixth book in the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. And the first to be written by someone other than Douglas Adams. The previous book "Mostly Harmless" had ended on something of a downbeat note (if you can classify the destruction of the Earth (again) and the apparent deaths of pretty much all the major characters as "downbeat") and, for many years, fans such as I thought that this would be where it ended, especially as Adams died in 2001. However, such trivialities have not stopped the franchise, being as we have seen three radio series' and a film since Adams' death. However, these were all adaptations of existing works, and Adams himself had contributed however much or little to all of these. This is the first attempt to further the story without the man himself.

So, is it succesful? Let me start by saying that yes, it is a good read. It takes the characters and, mostly, stays true to their characteristics whilst going off on a whole new plot. The writing, whilst pretty quirky and verbose, is not the wonderfully surreal prose of Douglas's, but Eoin Colfer does a fine job of creating at least the overall feel of a Hitch-Hiker's book, and in many ways makes the book feel much more like the first two than Adams' subsequent, slightly more depressing (but still brilliant) volumes. We have all our main characters;

Arthur Dent-Not in a dressing gown anymore, but still craving Tea

Ford Prefect-Still researching for the Guide and generally relaxing as much as possible

Zaphod Beeblebrox-Still Mad as a box of Frogs and still in posession of three arms and two heads (kind of...)

Trillian-Still conflicted between her career as a journalist and her responsibilities as a mother

Random Dent-Still a moody teenager (mostly)

We also have a new selection of characters, some returnees from the previous books, and some brand new, which is all well and good.

So, the book itself then. Well, it starts very well, picking up from the end of Mostly Harmless and moving us on towards the new plot. However, it becomes apparent that once we are into the new plot, Eoin Colfer is much more comfortable writing for his own characters (including Hilman Hunter, an Irish Property Developer and Constant Mown, Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz's son) as well as Adams' much less internally complex or barely-defined characters (such as Zaphod, Trillian and Wowbagger, who is developed from a one-note joke in the previous books to a full character here) at the expense of Arthur and Ford. This means that we end up with some good subplots (Hilman trying to find a God) and some that I found a little dull (most noticeably the Vogon sequences with Constant Mown)

The issue with this, for me, is that Arthur Dent is, and has always been, the heart and soul of Hitch-Hikers, it's his story. And in "And Another Thing.." Arthur is sidelined for a good proportion of the plot. It is a good book, it just seems a bit, you know, sensible, for a Hitch-Hiker's book. Adams always complained that because he had created feckless characters, that it was always hard to involve them in a plot (the first time he had this problem was Life, The Universe and Everything, where he was trying to integrate the characters into an already exisiting plotline), whereas "And Another Thing..." ends up treating everyone a bit more like normal characters, who will actually do things to advance the plot.

But that's a minor complaint, because it's not like you can expect it to read like it's by Douglas Adams, because it's not by Douglas Adams.

The other minor issue for me is the ending. I like the very end (which is Arthur's story), but, not giving anything away for those of you who haven't read it, everyone's story is wrapped up pretty neatly, and it feels a bit too happy and optimistic for the end of a Hitch-Hiker's book.

As a novel on its own, I'd rate it 8 out of 10.

As a Hitch-hiker's book - 7 out of 10.

I've just realised how long this post is, so just as a wrap up for more geeky news

Red Dwarf is returning with a new series!! Those of you who know me, will be aware of how much of a big deal this is, and how excited I am

Chuck may be returning in October (in the US) instead of March! For those of you who have never watched Chuck (and I know it's only on Virgin1 in this country) you really should do it. It's horrendously well-written and entertaining. You can buy Season 1 on DVD now, and I suggest you do!

That's all for now, my next post will probably be another rant or discussion...

Monday, 12 October 2009

Is Bigger Better?

Good morning all you blog readers! Today's blog will be one made of pure awesomeness...

Well, no it won't. It'll be like all the others, it'll have bits that make you laugh (hopefully) and bits that make you think "You're not as intelligent as you think you are Brawny..."

But seriously. Over the weekend, which I spent once again with the wonderful Neety, we ended up having a conversation as to whether her new blog entry "MEN: Your Best Feature (Part 1/5)" was too long. Now just to clarify, we weren't wondering whether the 5 parts would be too long, this discussion was about part one (although, how impressive is it that she PLANS blogs in 5 parts? I barely plan mine at all before I start rambling!)

And it got me to thinking. As a fast reader (And I'm not kidding, when I was about 10 I did the whole of the Chronicles of Narnia in a day, when the last Harry Potter book came out I read it in two and a half hours), I'm a big fan of long blogs. Because if they're interesting (or at least semi-interesting at least) then I read them and they occupy a few minutes of my time, as opposed to a few seconds.

And I'm the same for other forms of entertainment. Put two DVDs in front of me, both films I want to watch equally, both priced the same, and tell me to choose one, it'll be whichever is longer / has the most special features. Anything that adds value for money to it. I originally balked at the idea of buying the Family Guy: Blue Harvest DVD when it was originally announced it'd be selling as an individual DVD - Pay for a DVD with only 43 minutes of episode?? What a rip-off! But of course it's not. If you want to see it. Which I did. Now they did bulk it up with special features so that I didn't feel quite so ripped off, but it seems to be an in-built part of me, that things generally can't be too long.

Many people moaned in reviews about Funny People, which I saw in the cinema a couple of months ago, that it was too long. Not a problem for me at all, it held my attention and I laughed throughout it. Which underlines my point. What is too long? Is Bigger always Better?

Well no. Not always. On Thursday night I had the wonderful (mis-)fortune to have to see a film that had been shot by a "professional" with some of the students from one of the courses at work. (Apologies for being quite so vague, but with recent stories about people getting sacked for posting innapropriate tweets/blogs about sensitive workplaces, I am not taking any chances!). The original brief for this film was that it should be a promotional film to highlight what the students do on the course. What we ended up with was a half hour documentary, which, frankly, could easily have had 10 minutes cut from it, and not been any worse, in fact, it probably would have been better.

Going back to my opening story, my response to Neety was that I thought that it was a good length and that she shouldn't worry about it. Because I enjoy reading long, well-written blogs, just as I enjoy reading books, magazine articles, graphic novels etc...

So do I think everything should be longer? Bigger? Well no. If the film last Thursday had been bigger I might have gone on a mad rampage and torn up the screen, if the extended film of "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" was any longer, I'd have fallen asleep in it more times than I already have, and if all Books had to be at least 1000 pages or more, a lot of books would be full of filler and bad writing. (A bit like this blog, I apologise for that, my defence is it's a Monday morning).

In my eyes, things have an ideal length. And that length should be obvious. For example, if I had an album of music which I enjoyed casually in a background noise kind of way, but was only 30 minutes long, I'd probably think was too short. However, the Wildhearts album "The Wildhearts must be Destroyed" (which is excellent) is only about 30 minutes, but it feels complete when you listen to it.

I myself fell victim to this trend when making "Norwich and Saggers: Smarter than the Average Bear" (to watch it on Youtube - CLICK HERE) I had written the script, and it felt the right length, and when I edited it, it mostly felt the right length, except for the improvised "Gruntfuttock" sequences, which seem to me now to be obvious padding....

So all of you writers / creators of artistic events/items/recordings/etc... my suggestion? Be aware of how long your final product FEELS like it should be. And make it that length. Don't try to pad out a 60 minute film to 90 minutes just because that's how long you think a film should be. Don't write a 10 chapter story and then add another 6 of extraneous rubbish just because you want it to look more impressive. When you've reached the end, it's the end.

And I promise, on my part, that I'll stop worrying so much about how long things are, and just enjoy the ride.

(Oh, and be impressed, I made it all the way through a blog entitled "Is Bigger Better?" without making ANY innuendos. :D )

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

People are idiots... FACT.

Have you ever noticed how people have a tendancy to assume that things they don't understand are easy to do and don't take any time? Isn't it annoying?

I'm currently sitting in my office, furious, because there are various things I need to be doing, but the idiocy of people is precluding me from doing any of them...

For example - the most pressing thing I have to do today is do multiple copies of a DVD. This is an essential thing that needs to be done by Thursday. Before I can run the copies, however, my boss needs to sit down and watch it, and before I can give her a copy to do that with, I have to have the original disc.

Which, so far, I don't have.

Oh and also, if my boss doesn't like any of it, or deems anything to be inappropriate, I will then be asked to re-edit the DVD...with no source materials, and no time...

So I ring the person who's supposed be giving me the original disc, and speak to the administrator, who tells me she'll be in by half nine and she'll ring me back. So she doesn't. So I ring her again at about ten, and get the administrator again, who says that she is currently teaching but will ring me when she's on a break.

OK... but this is the woman who was panicking about getting the copies done not three days ago... she couldn't spare 30 seconds to ring me? Or indeed, to drop the disc off early this morning as she had previously agreed to do?

Because of this, I have to sit in my office, waiting for the phone to ring. So I can't, for example, head downstairs and sort out a room that I need to clear, which I am getting hassled over, and I can't start any of the multiple-copy DVD runs I have in the queue to do in my office, because I will have to cancel them as soon as the urgent disc turns up.

Is it just me, or is this course of action about as productive as a fish attempting to crap out a diamond so that it can pay for it's adopted monkey baby's university tuition?

And I know this isnt funny or exciting. But I had to say something somewhere or I would explode.

Apologies for this rubbish blog, go back about your business.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Facebook - A Revolution?

So I've been thinking recently (braces self for jokes as witty as "I know, I saw the smoke coming out of your ears" or the ever-popular "Well, there's a first time for everything"), particularly about Facebook (and online social networking in general, but Facebook is my poison of choice as it were)

For me, as someone who has friends (and indeed, a girlfriend) living in different areas of the country to myself, it is incredibly useful, providing an easy method of contacting people who I don't see often. However, it does lead to some slightly wierd occurances. One that happened to me today was as follows:

A colleague at work (who I know has read this occasionally, so hi Sarah if you're reading, and hi John if you're reading over her shoulder) was having a casual conversation with me and happened to ask if the T-Shirt I was wearing was the one that I had got Sharpie on the other day. Which confused me, as I didn't remember having a conversation with her about it. Then I realised - I'd written a facebook status about it!

So it's good, because people can be kept up to speed with other peoples lives (and if you're a stalker, it's brilliant! Apparently... I wouldn't know... honest... I'm no stalker .. (runs off to hide restraining order within multiple sets of brackets (is it here? (Or here? (Too late, you'll never find it) No it wasn't ) Nope) - That confused you didn't it? Back to the rambling) but there's a flip side to this. For one thing, it means that all of those people on your friends list can see what you are in the mood to write, so I do occasionally find I have to self-censor, so that I don't have to deal with peoples objections to my opinions of things... Also, as I have mentioned before, facebook can lead to people getting the wrong idea about your life...However, none of this is as bad as that most awkward of things, the Facebook meeting...

I have (as I am sure many others of you who have facebook) a lot of friends who are people I have known and who I have, for one reason or another, lost touch with. Not that I dislike them, just that I last saw them ten years ago and our lives have taken us in completely different ways... So last summer (08, not the one just gone) I bumped into one of these people in a queue in a shop. Now, if I hadn't seen a picture of her on her facebook profile, I would never have recognised her, but recognise her I did, and she recognised me. So we opened with conversation "Oh hi, haven't seen you in ages! How are you?" ....

Approximately 90 seconds in, I realised our mistake. We had nothing to talk about (we never really had much in common 10 years ago!) and we were stuck in a queue which seemed to be never-ending and moving at a pace that would not trouble an arthritic snail who was getting on a bit and hadn't been out for a week... So we attempted to have casual conversation.. and it was horrendous. I'm not good with conversation at the best of times.. let alone casual conversation in a queue!

The flipside of all of this, of course, is those people who DON'T have facebook, who end up feeling left out of conversations, events and general tomfoolery because everyone contacts each other through the magical interweb nowadays...

So I don't particularly think that Facebook and social networking in general is a revolution, it's simply a different way of communicating, and does some things better (geographical location for example is unimportant, you can let everyone know what's going on at once) and does some things worse (still ends up forming cliques and groups (especially the have-Facebookers and have-not-Facebookers), and the fact that you can let everyone know what's going on at once!)

What do you lot think? Essential website? Or superfluous rubbish? Draw your own conclusion. I know for me, that I would have trouble doing without it... but is that just me?

(And we'll ignore for a moment the fact that for the last couple of weeks, it's been acting up incredibly badly, crashing, showing multiple chat windows etc..)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Brawny - Global Superstar?

At work, I use Spotify to listen to music in the office, and this works well. Yes, it interrupts every so often with adverts, but usually these are short and inoffensive...

I say usually...

There is one advert that keeps playing, advertising Pixie Lott (which, incidentally, is a stupid name). Fine, not really my bag, sounds generic and dull to me, but whatever.

But there's a phrase that's used in the advert which keeps annoying me...

"The UK's newest global superstar"


So, basically, she's a global superstar is she? Well off I go to check the facts about her sales figures (because I'm at work, and you know, it's either do that or ACTUALLY do some work).

Her first single (the imaginatively titled "Mama Do (Uh Oh Uh Oh)", which frankly is a title so rubbish you wonder if they took a book, shredded it, threw all the bits in the bin, and then pulled out two words, before adding some random grunting noises after it, but I digress) does appear to have been released in quite a few countries, so she has definitely had an attempt at the global market.... however, it only made top 5 in this country (1) and in the Eurochart (5). Her second single (the title of which is marginally better than the first, although still horrificly generic - "Boys and Girls". Seriously people, work harder on your lyrics/titles!) has charted in three territories, the UK (1), Ireland (4), and again, the Eurochart (10). Her album has been released in six countries, with chart positions ranging from 6 in the UK to 92 in the Netherlands...

Now, unless I misunderstand the term "Global Superstar", then she is not one. I appreciate she may become one (I hope not, because she is generic and bland, but that's never stopped anyone before..) but she isn't one now. So surely they can't say that she is? Let's just check the definitions of the words..

Global - Now I assume that this refers to the first definition "Pertaining to the whole world; worldwide; universal" and that they are not calling her globe-shaped. Which she's not. I mean look at her. She has an annoying looking face, certainly, but she doesn't look like a globe. So I assume they are utilising that initial definition of global. (Being as the other definitions of global make no sense within this context, I mean, she's definitely not a piece of software..)

Superstar- OK, both of these definitions basically say the same thing - that you are very prominent or successful. Which she isn't!!

I know it's advertising, and the fact that they bend the truth should be less surprising than a male stand-up comedian telling a joke about the fact that women take ages to get ready to go out, but it still amazes me. I'm sure there are much better phrases that they could have used. Like the following examples:

Pixie Lott - The UK Chart topper
Pixie Lott - A shining example of the lack of taste in the UK Music buying public
Pixie Lott - Yet another blond singer-songwriter
Pixie Lott - Gives generic a distinctly average name
Pixie Lott - It could be worse, at least I'm not an X-Factor winner

Any other suggestions?

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Fried Gold!

I can't believe this is true - but Spaced is 10 years old.

Interview with the main players here

For those of you who have never seen it - shame on you, it is Geek Heaven!

I must confess, I didn't see it when it first aired, missing it completely for a couple of years... But then I got the DVD of Series 1 on someone's recommendation...

And now it belongs to that rare group of things where if I had a little disposable income, I'd replace my beaten-up DVD copies with a copy of the shiny Region 1 DVD release - simply because it has new commentaries, yes I'm that sad!

So yeah - Celebrate the wonder of the show that gave us Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright. Not to mention Jessica Stevenson :)

The (Supermarket) Empire Strikes Back...

So, I was reading through the Guardian news site during my lunch break at work a couple of days ago, and I came across this story.

Just a light-hearted bit of fun, I thought, as I started to read it, so imagine my surprise when I started to develop serious thoughts about it.

Basically (for those of you too lazy to click on the link above), the founder of the "International Church of Jediism", a gentleman by the name of Daniel Jones, was asked to remove his hood in a TESCO's store, and he refused on religious grounds. Tescos then refused to allow him into the store.

So far so good, you may think, because after all, the International Church of Jediism isn't real, is it? It's just people having a laugh. Like those e-mails that circulated a few years ago, getting everyone to write Jedi on their census form. He's obviously just having a laugh isn't he?

Well, I don't know. There seems to be a fair bit of Jediism information avaliable on the internet, and I don't really see why they should be considered any less of a religion than anything else. Obviously there is the issue that the basis of their religion was created by George Lucas in 1977, but as this article helpfully points out

"The Jedi were first mentioned in the 1977 movie Star Wars IV: A New Hope and remained central in the five subsequent Star Wars movies, along with novels and games also based in the Star Wars universe. While these sources are entirely fictional, their creator, George Lucas, researched a variety of religious perspectives during their creation. Daoism and Buddhism are the most obvious influences on his concept of Jedi, although there are many others. "

So basically, the basis may be in fiction, but that fiction was created by looking at a selection of religions. And isn't that how all religions start? Taking what were the elements of a religion you don't quite agree with, and changing the bits you don't agree with? (OK, I grant you, that sentence is a significant oversimplification of religion, but certainly you can just look at the history of Christianity - most notably the creation of the Church of England in order that the King could get divorced..)

But anyway, I'm not a religious scholar, so I shan't pursue this line of enquiry much further... Back to the TESCO story.

My point is that Daniel Jones has a perfectly respectable grievence and that TESCO's cause isn't helped by their response:

"He hasn't been banned. Jedis are very welcome to shop in our stores although we would ask them to remove their hoods. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker all appeared hoodless without ever going over to the Dark Side and we are only aware of the Emperor as one who never removed his hood. If Jedi walk around our stores with their hoods on, they'll miss lots of special offers."

Do you think they'd dare say that to a Sikh? Or a Muslim? "I'm sorry madam, please remove your Burqua?" There'd be outrage! But it's OK to ask Mr Jones to remove his hood because Jediism sounds silly?

There's a time and a place for mocking religion, and I do it a lot, but while you are shopping isn't one of them. It's not like him wearing a hood affects anyone elses shopping, it's just that shops are wary of late teen/early 20s males wearing hoods. I'm for religious freedom, and freedom of speech, and freedom of expression. People can wear what they want, believe in what they want, and follow the rules they set down for their lives, whether it be religious traditions from thousands of years ago, or my own personal choice that I should not wear hats as I look silly.

As I say, I will happily mock any religion, or belief structure, or idea if I want to, and I assume that other people will do the same. If, for example, my belief that I look silly in hats was a firm, unmoveable belief in my life, I still wouldn't punish people for mocking it, because they are allowed to. However, if TESCO asked me to put a hat on? I'd be furious...

That was a kind of serious post, wasn't it? Never mind, next time I'll find something sillier I promise


Brawny - "I do look silly in hats - for proof see Norwich and Saggers"

Saturday, 19 September 2009


So I'm procrastinating on writing the Pantomime I should be writing ("It's Behind You" - Performed in February 2010 by Maverick Youth Arts) and instead I just tweaked a short story that I've had kicking around for a while, and put it up on Novel Kicks for comment/suggestions.

So feel free to go and have a look. If you aren't already a member, you just have to spend a minute signing up, and it's on the Short Story - Work in Progress forums.

It's called "One Step Beyond..."

Read, Enjoy :)

Friday, 18 September 2009

Derren "Smug Git" Brown

OK, I just wasted an hour of my life sitting through Derren Brown's latest "event", and it had absolutly zero effect on me.

Now, before I start to rant about him, I would like to point out that he has done tricks and shows that have entertained me. The small scale stuff, card tricks, getting people to choose the word he already settled on, that sort of thing. Because it's believable. And yes, we all know it's trickery, hence the term "magic trick". But it entertains. And it's annoying, because there were a couple of bits of that in tonights show - such as Frank the Giraffe.

But the whole "sticking to your seat" thing? I'm not saying it didn't work on everyone (although it certainly didn't work on me), but even if it did work, what exactly was the point? For me, it's not a worthwhile trick if you spend an hour talking it up. Especially if you point out all the techniques that you are going to use.

It was - and I never thought I'd say this about Mr Smug Git - dull!

Although, at least it's better than his lottery predicting (which, I admit, I watched on Youtube, because when it was on I was doing other things), where it was easily identifiable how it was done, if you have ANY knowledge of camerawork or editing tricks.

So yeah, I shan't be wasting my time with any more Derren Brown "Events", because frankly, they aren't great. Don't get me wrong, if the opportunity to go and see him live occured, I would, because that's more impressive. The small scale stuff. No-one believes he predicted the lottery. Most people didn't believe that he could stick them to their seats. So why bother trying?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

2 Rants in one day - Who knew I was this angry??

OK - I know I already ranted once today (See previous entry. If you haven't already.) but seriously. I have now seen the advert for "Love Calculator" on E4 at least 4 times this evening, and I have to complain about it.

For those of you who are luckily enough not to know what this is, the Love Calculator is a service that you can text with your name and your partners name and it replies with a percentage score of how allegedly "compatible" you are.

OK, for a moment, lets ignore the fact that this is one of those subscription services, which costs like £4.6 million pounds a day (I don't have exact figures....) and that it's almost impossible to unsubscribe from, and lets focus on the bit that REALLY irritates me.

To start with, the "compatibility rating" is worked out by the most playground tactic ever. In fact, if any of you reading this are girls, you've probably done it. (I'm not ruling out boys doing it as well you understand, but I'm pretty sure its more often a girl thing). It's done like so. Take two names, let's say, George and Louise (picked completely at random). Then you write this.

George Loves Louise

Then you work out how many times each letter of LOVES appears in the two names.
So... L = 1, O = 2, V = 0, E = 3, S = 1
So the number you get is 12031.
Then you add each digit to its neighbour to work out the next number in the chain.
So - 1+2 = 3, 2+0 = 2, 0+3 = 3, 3+1=4
So our next number is 3234
Then you do it again - so we get 557
Then again - 1012
And you keep going until you end up with a 2 digit number.

And that's the answer. 24%

Not only is this UTTERLY FUCKING POINTLESS and arbitrary, the actual advert itself is what is the icing on the cake for me.

If you haven't seen it, the advert shows a man running out of a church (obviously leaving his wedding), and the woman running out and crying. Obnoxious voiceover man then tells you a fascinating story with rubbish flashbacks of how she texted love calculator six months previously, it returned them a 3% match and she ignored it. And that this is the reason he ran off.


So if our relationships fail stupid middle school mathematical equations then they are doomed to misery, sadness and despair??

Seriously! I know I can watch it and think what a fucking load of rubbish - but what about all the stupid chav teenagers who think that it'll actually do something. You know, like horoscopes.

I don't really have a point here. It's just I can't believe that it is OK and allowable to show an advert like that. Its one thing just suggesting that you could text your names in and see, but to actively state that it would break up a relationship??

Advert writers are c***s.