Sunday, July 31, 2005

Grr.



Thanks for the help on the road trip thing. I've realized I'm a third of the way through the Cabinet book now, and wanted to see if I can bang out a second film script before I pick it up again, particularly as that kid's thing has fallen through.

I don't like doing treatments particularly: I think they're a real art, and some people more or less make a living off them, but I much prefer going in with a completed script. So I've had this idea for a road trip story that mixes in another genre knocking about for ages now, and it's quite fluffy, and the sort of thing you can practically make up as you go along. I got about half-way through it this weekend, which I never expected. I wandered into town for a break and realized I was on a proper writing high, which I never really get doing work for other people. One of those things where you look at what you've written and it's exactly what you wanted it to be. The high lasted until some youth screwed up his pasty wrapper and dropped it in the gutter, right it at my feet*.

If I was a bit more together, I'd have hurled it against the back of his head (I've done this before, it was most cathartic), but instead I seethed for about thirty seconds and then shouted 'BIN!' when I was standing amongst four or five other people who were totally innocent. They scattered like gazelles who've just realized that funny-shaped bush they've been grazing around for the past hour is in fact a lion wearing a twiggy jacket, it was great.


* I was stepping round some nice American tourists, although metaphorically I was looking at the stars.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Driving from coast to coast of the US

Does anyone know how long this would take? I'm working on a thing in which this is a major part (vague) but I just realised I have no idea how long this would take.

Three days? Ten? Two weeks? I don't get out much.

UPDATE: Google maps have been suggested, but annoyingly not Mac-compatible. Nor are lawnmowers. However m'erstwhile colleague Paula says:

he distance from NYC to San Francisco is 2929 miles (I think San Francisco is more cinegenic than LA), and the speed limit is about 55mph so it could technically be done in under 54 hours if you drove at 55mph the whole way. If you drove for 8 hours a day at 55 mph you'd cover 440 miles per day and cover the whole distance in just under a week.
In real life, I'd say anything from 10 days upwards depending on whether one is being chased by bandits or not.


... which was very useful. Ta.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Graaaiiinnnsssss....

The house semi-stray cat has left half a mouse outside the back step. I know this is what cats do, but it really is quite disgusting, being just the head (with glassily staring eyes) and ribcage with two little outstreched paws, like something from a particularly low budget zombie movie. I couldn't go near enough to move it, so instead I've pushed a plant pot in front so I don't have to look at it - an act peculiarly indicative of humanity's inability to deal with issues in a sensible way.

Ick, frankly.

For no particular reason, here's a list of fictional companies. I'm glad Ono-Sendai are there, as they've always been my favourite imaginary corporation. I don't know why.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Straps could have been looser though.

This post is being transcribed by my assistant Alicia*, as I picked up a couple of sporting injuries (pulled shoulder muscle, stiff neck, some knee-based grass stains) playing The Sport Of Kings this weekend. Can't go into details at this juncture, but topmilers were involved, and stickles were random.


hedghog
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.

Of course I left my cleft mitten in the team coach, like a fool, and there was no time to go back, but fortunately a French team were in the vicinity, and they let me borrow theirs between bouts. Not a perfect fit (the French have very small hands as a rule), and a little sweaty, but it had to do. First half very good, dropped a maison in the second, everything left to play for in the third, and then Vic pulled a spectacular Brenda Blethyn out of the bag at the last moment, freeing up the stickles a treat. One or two moans from the opposition, but that's all to be expected. And to their credit, Oliver Chris ran a beautifully-laundered nine-hand undermiler, the likes of which haven't been seen since the early days of Marcus Geisler**, only to come a cropper when he was ruled just a couple of inches over the sneddon.


heist
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.



The thing about Guyball it that it's really about mental strength rather than physical strength, or dexterity. Although I am dextrous. And physically very strong, so it would have been odd if we hadn't won. And we did win. End of play: eight maison to four, none of them looped. And that ain't bad.




* She's twenty four, Ruritanian, and quite beautiful. I originally hired her as a nanny, but it became increasingly and uncomfortably obvious that I didn't have any children, as such. But it seemed a shame to let her go.

**The Big Austrian.

Friday, July 22, 2005

tooth/claw interface

My dressing gown smells all smoky, which is weird, since I don't smoke. I suspect somebody has been creeping into my bedroom in the thirty minutes a day I don't spend in there, and doing Noel Coward impressions. When I find them, there'll be hell to pay.

Off to London this weekend, and doing so with the quiet, understated bravery that has become the hallmark of this web journal, and I suspect the real reason for its worldwide syndication and subsequent auctioning of film rights*. Apologies to the eight million people who live in London and don't make a fuss about it.

So before I go, a quick round-up of the Natural World as it occurs within a five metre radius of my flat:

1. My sunflower plants (three) have all been eaten by slugs.

2. BASTARDS!

3. My tomato plants are doing very well, and are providing me with one very small, but beautifully-formed tomato per day.

4. My lemon-scented thyme plant is also doing very well, despite me ripping out great handfuls every weekend to put in the roast. Yum.

5. A large spider just hurled itself into the bath I'm running. I went back in to check on the temperature (if you're not waving through the steam, blinking back tears and coughing violently, it's not hot enough) and there he was, all curled up and floating in sad anticlockwise circles.

6. Another spider is on the window sill, watching with a look of horror on his little face. I suspect the words of the first spider were something along the lines of 'last one in's an aaaaaaaaarghohmygodhelpmeitstoohot!' I fished the body out ('don't look' I said gently to the other spider, but I suspect he couldn't help himself, also he has eight eyes, which makes it technically more difficult), and weighed the little body in my hand. It was surprisingly heavy. But then he was wet.

7. I heard high-pitched yowling and screeching earlier, and (genuinely) assumed it was my flatmate reacting to Big Brother. In fact an enormous rat had crawled out of the drain in the courtyard downstairs, and was being threatened by the semi-stray cat that gets fed by the chap downstairs. Finally Lady Marmite Patel (and no, I didn't name her) is paying her way.

If I come back on Sunday, and the entire flat has become one great Looney Tune of cats chasing rats chasing spiders chasing slugs chasing sunflowers plants, all rolling and tumbling in one great cartoon ball from which paws and spinnerets and whiskers and tendrils occasionally emerge, I wouldn't be that surprised. A bit, obviously. But not that much.

* Not rolio.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Brought to you by the word 'Nooooooooooooooo!'

The children's tv project (the one for which I was writing a script involving puppets, for anyone keeping track), has just gone on indefinite hold. This is a shame, as it was quite a big deal which would have left me secure for a good couple of months, and for which I turned down a couple of other writing gigs. I'll get paid for the work I've done so far (just storylining, so nothing major), and it may all come back, but I doubt it. When the momentum's gone on these things, it rarely returns.

Also, Agent Ginny is moving on (to an excellent job from which I fully expect freebies) , and very soon will just be known as Ginny, as she won't be agenting any more. I am very happy for her and will stop ringing her office and shouting 'BETRAYER' and slamming the phone down again very soon. Probably in the next couple of days or so.

On the plus side, I'm cracking on with the Cabinet book, so probably I should take this as an omen (or possibly a portent) and just focus on that. Also I found my watch. Weirdly, it was under my mattress. I blame spiders.

Hmmm.

Now I think I should have put 'as in' go to sleep, rather than 'it means' go to sleep, 'It means' is too definitive, although it sounds better. I worry about these things.

I've lost my watch. This is like the Lost Keys incident of '04 all over again.

Only with a watch.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Toy-Fu 25 - Dark

Spielberg in 'mostly watchable film' shock

My dedication to the craft can perhaps be judged by the fact that after my fit of howling indignation that the World of Warcraft server is down for updates, this is the next best option to actually Doing Some Writing. And I did fifteen hundred words words yesterday, so technically I only have to do five hundred today. But I thought a quick blog first. Then maybe into town or something. Falmouth must get an actual daytime cinema, so I can waste even more time. I saw War of the Worlds in London (a surprisingly okay movie) and Mr and Mrs Smith (most enjoyable, although it fizzled a bit at the end), but I was astonished to see Akiva Goldsman's name in the production credits, a man whose name is not normally associated with films that are in any way durable. As in lasting, but also as in sit-though-able. Although a trailer came up for Cinderella Man, which had have his clanking dialogue all over it like a rash (a special 'clanking' rash), so hopefully he's back on form. I've only been to LA once, and my only regret is that I never worked out which was his office, so I could press my face up against his window and whisper tearfully the words 'Why Lost in Space, Akiva? Why?'

Originally, the GW episode that was going to have me wittering all over it was episode five. In the event however, they put on episode two, and shouted 'Go and say something interesting and insightful - NOW!' Which was a shame, as I'd watched ep five the night before and planned a number of ad libs. So not to waste them, here they are:

'A lovely man. But very short in real life. And violently racist.'

'Those two don't get on.'

'Amazingly, this was the very first day of filming, even though it's half way through the series! Madness!'

'Ah, now, to be fair, he had just taken an extraordinary amount of cocaine.'

'That chair - completely computer-generated.'

'Her lines dubbed by Glen Close, there.'

'Green Wing of course originally based on the Japanese manga series 'Sparkling Magical Nonsense Doctor Time!'

'Originally, that bit had a lion in it.'

and finally,

'Ooh, he's a wanker!'

Didn't want to waste them. Also, for legal reasons, I should point out that none of the above are true. Apart from the bit about the lion, oddly (they used a camel in the end, which was a shame, but probably easier for insurance purposes. Also, Jack Davenport might not have wanted his wife killed just for a one-off visual joke).

Sunday, July 17, 2005

hentakoi


hentakoi
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Back to the British Museum, to do more spurious 'research' (actually just ignoring the signs underneath exhibits telling me what they are, and instead imagining what they could be). I think technically this is a Hentakoi, but to me it looks rather more like a Moomin. I never read the Moomin books as a child, and reading now has been one of the great delights of putting together the Cabinet book. They really are very strange, and incredibly moving, and seem like something written to please absolutely no-one but Tove Jansson herself - and as a natural consequence have become greatly-loved the world over, although I don't think they've ever quite taken off in the States.

DVD commentary was most fun - although at the start I did an excellent impression of a pompous arse, so thank god Rob was there.

ME: (over footage of surgery) I used to work in a hospital of course, and they're very much like that.
*Slight pause*
ROB: (not altogether unkindly) People wearing green, holding scalpels, that sort of thing?
ME: Um, yes.

Managed to correctly attribute the 'smoking warnings' scene to my The Mighty Evans rather than (as has been conjectured elsewhere on the internet) Bill Hicks, so that was satisfying. Also I got to give GW Richard full credit for the 'does my coat swish with stylish elan' line, which I think was important. And I was rude about actors, but they started it. Still no idea when it's coming out though.

Will continue to be AFK (and I was delighted the acronym baton was picked up with such aplomb) for a couple of days, as am dogsitting at parents house, while they go to Buckingham Palace for a garden party, to which by an astonishing coincidence The Mighty Evans will also be going. I can only assume that the Queen is holding a meeting about me. And about time too, quite frankly.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Why Henry James can't self-google

When I booked into the hotel on Sunday, the receptionist (attractive, Eastern European, twentyish), looked at the voucher thing lastminute.com give me to print out and hand over, thus avoiding all unnecessary human contact, which is a good thing. Then she looked up at me.
'Mister James... Henry?' she asked.
'Yes,' I said.
'The writer?' she said.

And for one ghastly half-second I gaped at her, about to ask if she was a regular JATBC reader, and if so what CB-radio style 'handle' she went under, and then I realized what she meant.

'Well not that one, obviously, because he's Victorian, and his name is mine backwards (or mine is his backwards, whatever) and he's dead." I said.
'Same name!' she said, smiling.
'Almost, yes,' I said, and then I went up to my room. I passed her later, on my way out, and had half-planned on asking her if she was doing an english lit course or something, when I remembered that I don't actually know anything about Henry James the dead Victorian novelist other than what's in that sentence, apart from a vague rumour that he only had half a penis following an accident with a horse*, but this wouldn't necessarily translate. Also, she might ask, as someone once did, 'which half?' at which point I tend to find myself, aha, stumped. So instead I waved casually, and she waved back, which was nice.

Anyway, I'm going back to that hotel tomorrow night. I shall try to think of a Victorian novelist-related quip. It's a long journey, so I'm bound to think of something.



*I just looked that weird rumour up (thus joining the elite group, the creme de la creme of those who have put both 'half a penis' and 'horse accident' into Google), and it seems more likely that he in fact injured his testicles on a fence as a junior fireman, an assault he referred to in his memoirs as a 'horrid even if obscure hurt', although I suspect that's not what he said at the time.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Don't mind me.

Just back from london, where simply everyone is playing a new game called 'Exuding Polite Stoicism'. You can play it on your own, or you can play it in groups of just under eight million people.

The rules are as follows:

1. The game begins when an annoyance of greater or lesser scale is launched on the player (known from this point as Player 1). However, Player 1 is not allowed to enter the game until the perpetrator of the annoyance apologizes.

2. At this point, Player 1 must then Exude Polite Stoicism.

3. Bonus points are gained for bringing other Players into the game, and persuading them too, to Exude Polite Stoicism.

Thusly:

As I sat on the Tube, a man accidentally kicked my foot as he got up to depart. In pre-Game days that would have been it. Instead, however, he apologized sincerely for the annoyance, thus 'tagging me in' and allowing me to reply: 'Not at all! Don't worry about it!' The man smiled pleasantly as he got off the the tube, and I was able to bask in the glory of one point of Polite Stoicism well-earned.

Later, at the Sigur Ros concert*, as PP and I were sitting in the courtyard of Somerset House, wondering when they'd play that high-pitched one that went on for a bit, the person behind us accidentally knocked over a bottle of water.

PP: Ooh, that went right down me arse crack!
I then made an inappropriate comment I now regret. While neither here nor there Stoic-wise, it was certainly impolite, and had the game started I would have been bounced out quicker than a British tennis player. Or rugby artiste. Or Seb Coe from my home town two elections ago (he might have done very well to get us the Olympics, but his tenure as MP of Falmouth gave off a distinct whiff of Man Holding His Breath Until He Got Back To London).

Fortunately however, it wasn't until then that the water-spiller apologized, thus allowing PP and myself to unleash a double-barrel of Polite Stoicism.

PP: It's all right.
ME: No harm done.
PP: It'll dry quickly.
ME: Spirit of the Blitz and all that.

Which would have won me the game quite satisfactorily had I not attempted a further bout of Polite Stoicism while the ball was still, metaphorically, in the air.

ME: After all, we had the Luftwaffe pouring bottled water all over us in 1944, and we didn't worry about it then, did we?

Which game-wise, may have been just on the line, as t'were. No response, and on post-match analysis, the question mark at the end may have been been the weak point, possibly causing some confusion as to whether it was genuine or rhetorical. Anyway, the point has gone to the official adjudicators, and I await their decision. If it goes against me, I shall of course have no option but to accept their decision, and shake each and every one of them by the hand.

Still, it's a good game, and long may people continue to play it.




* Which was excellent.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Best suggested title for Viking Heist Movie thus far:

ODIN'S ELEVEN

From Wyndham the Triffid. The only disadvantage I can see with this is I may have to write another six vikings in to make up the numbers. Or maybe just get the existing ones to move around a bit.

Off to see Sigur Ros soonish*, and as it's a Sunday, I've been able to book a first class seat all the way to London for but a tenner. I've just discovered it's an outdoor concert (forecast okay, cross fingers) so my wardrobe plans have somewhat downshifted to Scruffy.

In the meantime, these are fun:

amusing photographs of jumping cats

Voltron Gets Served

A list of fictional currencies

Also, while researching the Cabinet, I realised I'd completely forgotten that Jadis from The Magician's Nephew goes on to become the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Apparently only three books are being adapted (I'm guessing those two and... The Voyage of the Dawn Treader?) which nicely gets them out of making The Last Battle, which is both depressing and stupid.

The trailer is pretty impressive, but I don't like the way they've made the wardrobe look like a portal, with big pillars on either side. May as well have a big sign stuck to it saying 'DO YOU SEE? HMMMM?'. On the plus side, the landscapes and creatures look LOTR-ish enough to be impressive, but just different enough to have their own feel. Film-making people, you may continue...


* I had completely forgotten about this until I saw The Life Aquatic on tuesday, which uses Staralfur at its climactic scene, at which point my thinkin' went like this: I love that song/Aren't I going to see them soon?/Isn't it Sunday?/Probably ought to get train tickets then/And accomodation/And really, what's the point of being all smug about updating the calender function on the iPod if you're not going to actually look at it occasionally.

Do go and have a listen to Staralfur though. Annoyingly in the film they cut it off just at the bit when it dies away, when in the song proper, it suddenly comes whooshing back, with this bass that's just like what a glacier's heartbeat would sound like, if they had them, which as far as I know, they may do. I had to stop playing it in Waterstone's, as customers would sink to the floor, weeping. Although often they'd suddenly get up and rush to the kid's section to buy all the Moomin books, so it all worked out okay in the end.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Research/Wasting Time


winged-monkey
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Found this photo while going through Google Images, looking for inspiring piccies to have on the screen background, which I liked very much, as it strikes me as the sort of thing Gary the winged monkey out of the Cabinet might do himself. Don't know the name of the photographer though, so apologies for not including it.

Ooh, it's complicated having two agents. And if this reads like Elton John writing a warning editorial about what to do with one's gold-plated bath taps when one moves out: yes, I know, sorry. But everyone should be aspiring to having two agents, so think of this as a dispatch from the gritty frontline, thirty seconds into the future. Or something.

Agent Ginny, you see, covers the dramatic rights side of my media empire: the sitcoms, the animated serieseses, the many many films and the inevitable stageplays. When Toy-Fu On Ice gets produced, I guess she'll be covering that as well.

Agent Sarah (technically Agent Sarah In Waiting, as there's a lot of legal stuff to untangle) covers the media publishing wing of my empire, which of course has overlap complications: who deals with the Toy-Fu On Ice spinoff novelisation, for example? When the Viking Heist Trilogy (do you see what I did there?) gets made into a boardgame, who's going to have the joy of spending all night on the phone to Mrs Mattel? It's all very tricky. But at the same time, technically... technically two women are fighting over me, which is great*.

Also, if I don't finish The Cabinet, Agent Sarah In Waiting is going to get bored of Waiting, and wander off. So maybe I should spend less time wittering on the blog and go and get on with it.

I will just say however, that PP and I are going to see Sigur Ros on Sunday, and hopefully I'll be sticking around Our Fine Capital City (unaccustomed swell of pride and affection for previously-merely-tolerated group of buildings and grumpy people, to misquote the Onion, projected to last about another forty-eight hours) for a few days to pitch in on the Green Wing DVD commentary.

And onto the real news: the newspaper stand round the corner from me had the fabulous splash: 'The Bushes - What's Going On In Them?' which made me laugh for about an hour. My money's on monsters, but then it usually is.


*I know they both read this occasionally, so yes, okay, I know you're not really. But I like the idea.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Toy-Fu 24 - Scared

I actually wrote this one yesterday. I say that because it might look as if I'm reacting with mawkish sentimentality, or in some way trying to relate a webcomic about toys to the real world in a way that doesn't do either of us any favours. But I wasn't.

emails please

Yes, well, unseemliness in a Falmouth park now at an even lower priority than before.

To my many friends in London - if you're doing a round robin 'I'm okay' email, can you (obviously) put me on it? I know cello's office is close to one of the affected areas, but I haven't worked out other people's* yet. In fact I don't want to, I just want to know everyone's okay.

Update:

PP (codename 'Adam') has checked in, and is fine, and Pash says in her blog post she's heard from cello, and she's ok too. Blogs are, frankly, brilliant.

* Is this apostrophe in the right place? It's annoying me now. As well as terrorists, obviously. But I'm not going up to London until Sunday, so currently it's apostrophes.

We need another word for 'euphemism'

There's an excellent report in this weeks Falmouth Packet (local paper) of 'unseemly behaviour' in the local park, just round the corner from me, in what is apparently a 'particularly dense clump of undergrowth'.

I love that term 'unseemly', which has a marvellous hint of the Regency novel about it, as though Georgette Heyer had suddenly got a gig writing local journalism. I now look forward to people hitting each other with silk gloves while women simper behind fans and say things like 'La, sir!'. Still, I have to go past that 'dense patch of undergrowth' on the way for my morning swim tomorrow, so I shall make sure I have my flintlock charged and ready, just in case.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Word count is your friend.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping the three chapters of the Cabinet so far would be enough to get me an advance. Two things help me focus when I'm writing: deadlines, and Actual Money.

In fact, I think this was a possibility, but not necessarily the most practical one - better to go to a publishers with a finished first draft of a manuscript, so they can see what they've got.

Now I have had some of my screen work novelised ('A rollercoaster of emotion' said Anthropormophised Construction Vehicles Weekly, 'A searing tale of thwarted emotions and slow-setting concrete' said the Penryn Library under-5's reading group, 'A modern day saga of revenge, passion and grand ambition' said Bernard Cornwell, creator of the Sharpe series*), but someone else did the adaptation, and my name's only on it in very small print, and I didn't actually get paid for it, so apparently it doesn't count.

So, I've set myself a thousand-words-a-day** minimum, given myself the end of September as a spurious and unlikely deadline and gone through all my notes to see if I left myself any clues for an ending (I like going through my notes, as I recognize the handwriting, but never any of the sentences; it's like reading letters from a parallel you in a universe unrestrained by technicalities like spelling, or having to actually finish anything). And to my surprise, I sort of had left myself an ending- although whether it'll still seem like a good idea when I good closer to it, I don't know.

Currently I'm writing completely out of sequence, which it wouldn't have occurred to me to do previously. That's a GW hangover, when you just write the fun bits, although I will have to do things like exposition and plot at some point. But quite often writing a piece of chapter three solves a problem you've been fretting about in chapter two (I'm keeping one as is, but rewriting from then on, so I ought to take the sample chapters off the website soon). I think three chapters ahead is my maximum at the moment. Currently, I'm writing about the Collector's suit. It's a good suit, and deserves its own little space in the book, so that's what I'm giving it.



* He actually did say this, for which he will always be in premier position of my list of Top Five Good Blokes Of Alll Time.

** They don't have to be good words*** - it helps to remember this. Just chuck it all down and worry about the details later.

*** These don't count, obviously.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

She's quite right.

My flatmate: 'It's July already! How absolutely extraordinary!'

Took my dad to the tip today. No, not that like that! Ahahaha! Ahahaha! Aha! Ahmm.

Anyhoodles, it was all kicking off in St. Day this morning, with car boot sales, a queue for the tip twenty vehicles long (I think as many people picking up as dropping off) and stock car racing, all on the same road. Truly we make our own entertainment down here. I'd like to think it all took place in the same venue, with bargain-hunters trying to pluck used furniture out of the back of speeding stock cars before they plummet into a crusher, but even though Health and Safety have a slightly more relaxed attitude down here (signs near mine shaft openings saying 'meh' and a crude diagram of a man shrugging, that sort of thing), I think even they would have a word.

I ran this video past a friend who has zero interest in World of Wacraft, and she found it acceptably amusing, so you should have a look. Bear with it, and don't be distracted that it seems a little slow. I was worried that it was so geeky it wouldn't translate, whereas in fact it's so geeky it's universal, a lesson for us all I think.

Moosey now has new shoulderpads, taken from a dead snake-worshipping druid in a dungeon. They're very cool, and may get their own picture at some point. My friend tells me that I talk about this stuff like it's real. I had to say yes I do. Because it is*.


*Okay, it isn't. But what if it was?

Toy-Fu 23 - Back