Thursday, March 29, 2007

Losing My Edge

Some people have suggested that that 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' song sounds a bit like this song by LCD Soundsystem:

Yeah, I can see how you might think that.


They don't sound at all similar, other than both being shouty lo-fi beepy choons that sound a bit like the Fall, and that's it. 'Tch' and 'Honestly' and so on. People shouldn't make stupid comments about songs sounding the same unless they've asked me first, and I've agreed, in which case it's fine.

Mind you, this post does sound like a below-par Popjustice post*. Sorry.

*If such a thing were possible. Which it is not, obvs'ly.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's Beautiful

I decide that as a treat to Patroclus, I will make up a song about my hair. This song is ONE HUNDRED PER CENT ORIGINAL and any other similarity to other songs is a coincidence, and in fact proof of convergent evolution, which is how icthyosaurs and dolphins look very similar, and a swan's beak is the same as a flamingo's beak but upside down (this is true).

The song goes, a little something, a-like this:


My hair is brilliant.
My hair is pure.
I saw an angel.
Of that I'm sure.
It smiled at me on the subway.
It was with another man.
But I won't lose no sleep on that,
'Cause I've got a plan.

It's beautiful. It's beautiful.
It's beautiful, it's true.
I saw my hair in a crowded place,
And I don't know what to do,
'Cause I'll never be with it.

Yeah, it caught my eye,
As I walked on by.
It could see from my face that I was,
Flying high, [ - video/radio edited version]
Fucking high, [ - CD version]
And I don't think that I'll see it again
But we shared a moment that will last till the end.

It's beautiful. It's beautiful.
It's beautiful, it's true.
I saw my hair in a crowded place,
And I don't know what to do,
'Cause I'll never be with it.

It's beautiful. It's beautiful.
It's beautiful, it's true.
There must be an angel with a smile on her face,
When I thought up that I should be with it.
But it's time to face the truth,
I will never be with you.

But then I realised it was a reflection, and it was my hair after all, phew (might change this end bit).

PATROCLUS: Will you be taking this into your meeting this afternoon?
ME: (rather pityingly) I don't think I should go straight in with my best stuff.

But it is potentially a quite important meeting (there is a very slim chance that Stephen Fry will be there*), and I do have an AMAZING SINGING VOICE, specialising in high-piched bits. Hmm. I shall decide on the tube.

* this isn't actually very likely at all.

UPDATE: the meeting was very pleasant, thanks for asking. S. Fry wasn't there and/so I didn't sing the song.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Oh noes, they has stolened my ideaz

I didn't get to watch Spacehopper in the end, as I had to get a very early flight back to the UK, but hopefully it'll get repeated, and also - Stu-pot has a blog. Although it looks like it might not last. So go and say hello while it exists.

In response to the previous post, cello said:

Isn't there a fourth version where they say, "We have something very similar in development" and then they pinch your idea and give it to a staff writer to work up?

and then sylvia said:

yes - how do you protect yourself against that? threats of violence? bribery with curly-wurlies?

The thing is - this has never happened to me. Or to anyone I know. Admittedly, I have an agent, whose job it is to hunt to the end of the earth anyone who even looks at my scripts funny,but most producers would give their eye teeth (or that attractive receptionist) to have access to a script so blimmin' good, there were bits worth stealing. And of course, if they did find a script that good, it makes rather more sense to just pay the writer some actual money instead.

This isn't to say that similar ideas don't bob to the surface at similar times. The first script I ever had in development was a beast called 'Skiffy', about a couple of guys who worked in a comic shop. The script had won a Channel 4 sitcom-writing competition, and there was some interest in taking it further. The humour would be character-based, but there'd be a lot of drawing on film references as the common cultural reference point for both characters and viewers. The project had a producer and script editor attached, and went through a couple of (unpaid) rewrites until C4 eventually told us they had 'something very similar in development' (you see, I do slightly know whereof I write) - and were going to go with that one instead.

So when Spaced* finally came out, I watched it with arms folded and a general sense of 'Harrumph', which dissolved after about thirty seconds, because, er, it was much much better that what I'd written. And much better than what pretty much anyone else was writing at the time as well.

But there were probably ten, twelve, thirty scripts out there about people who worked in comic shops, and whose cultural references were films like Evil Dead, and The Terminator because.... there were lots of us about at the time. Didn't mean more than one of them were actually going to be any good.

I once went to a Bob the Builder story meeting, at which we were encouraged to come up with a variety of plotlines that would be fun for the animators and directors to bring to life. We all went home, and the next day, completely independently, all sent in stories about a windmill. The editor was most confused, and asked if we'd all seen a windmill on the way back on the train or something. But we hadn't. It remains a mystery.

And thinking about it, look at the setups for any of the most successful television comedies: people bickering in an office environment, some losers hanging around in a bar in Boston, a hotelier in Torquay; they're not particularly astonishing ideas in and of themselves - what makes them successful is the depth of character, the voice of the writer and of course the quality of the performances, which is something you can only 'steal' by being really talented and original yourself. In which case, you tend not to steal stuff, because it's more satisfying to come up with something that's truly yours rather than a pale imitation of someone else's.

Of course this isn't to say your script/student film/website won't get out there and instantly be nicked by unscrupulous television advertising executives, but that's why it's perfectly legal to wander into their minimalist offices with a length of two by four and humanely dispatch the feckers (not cello though, she's one of us).

UPDATE: experts have pointed out that cello is not in fact a television advertising executive, nor has ever been one. But if she was, that would be okay, and she'd be a good one as well, I reckon.

* Weirdly enough, I've just remembered that when potential casting notes came up, I said 'Ooh there's this bloke called Simon Pegg who does standup and a bit of acting, and this guy called Bill Bailey I think would be good as well'. I think they did all right for themselves in the end.

UPDATE: the same expert has cast doubt on this one, but it is in fact true, so she can SHUT UP.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Channel X has something very similar in development"

Not an actual Channel X, of course, although there probably is one. But if you've handed a script in to a producer, and this is the beginning of their response, the rest of the conversation could go a number of different ways, depending on the way they say this first bit.

1. PRODUCER (sympathetically, head tilted on one side): Channel X has something very similar in development.

TRANSLATION: "Russell T. Davies has just pitched the exact same idea for a cornish werewolf biker epic to BBC2. Bad luck."

2. PRODUCER (eyes sparkling with mischief) : Hmmm, Channel X has something very similar in development....

TRANSLATION: "Our rival channel has been looking for a cornish werewolf biker epic for some time, and have just commissioned a hugely expensive pilot script by a big name british actor who has had to move back to the UK after a hushed-up sex scandal and is looking for a change of career. My nephew's girlfriend who worked for three days as a temp in the office stole a copy of the script for me, and it is the biggest shit sandwich yet to have been sighted upon these shores. If we crack on now, we could force Channel X into an arms race which would surely lead to the sacking of Channel X Station Head, who I have hated ever since we were at school together and he made me clean out the toilets with my favourite Beanie Baby (the seal one)."

There is, of course, a third alternative.

3. PRODUCER (kindly) : Channel X has something very similar in development.

TRANSLATION: "Your script is, frankly, mental. You have shown not the slightest understanding of character, structure or pace, but far far worse than that, it is a clear ripoff of the popular graphic novel 'Cornish Werewolf Biker Epic', which you, not giving me the slightest credit, assumed I would never have read, whereas in fact I have the entire series run catalogued in plastic bags under my bed. However, unlikely though it may seem, I didn't get into this job to actively destroy people's hopes and dreams, so although there is not something similar in development with Channel X, I am trying to spare your feelings, in the hope that one day in the long distant future, you will come up with a script that is actually filmable. Now let us never speak of this again."

Currently, I have three commissioned scripts at various stages of completion. Two of them are on Top Chief Commissioning Editors' desks right now, waiting to see if Top Chief Commissioning Editors commission a whole series, the last is about to undergo the final phase before it heads out into what we fey, starry-eyed writers call 'the marketplace'. One of them I am fairly sure bears no resemblance to anything else out there, one has had two 'similar projects' raise their fat ugly heads while I was writing, and the last one has seen a massive resurgence in its chosen genre between the first and second drafts that will either bear my pages aloft on golden wings, or burn out massively and lead to the firing of any executive who even considers paying good money for a film script with a superhero in it.

I have absolutely no idea what will happen next. On the other hand, HAHAHAHA YOU'VE PAID ME MONEY TO WRITE SCRIPTS YOU IDIOTS! IT'S TOO LATE TO ASK FOR YOUR MONEY BACK NOW etc.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Good chum and Green Wing co-writer Stuart Kenworthy has a pilot sketch show starting on BBC3 this Wednesday at half ten for which he is the principal writer/object of blame, so if you can, give Spacehopper a shot. I haven't seen it, and have absolutely no idea what it's like (and BBC3 don't seem to have any promotional stuff on it yet), but if it's anything along the lines of the Stu-pot himself, it will be a Northern cavalcade of hilarity, with a shy smile and some odd food allergies.

UPDATE: just noticed that the sidebar link to the Shaggy Blog Stories book is directly below the 'No Ads' logo bit. I have decided that the one doesn't contravene the other because it's non-profit/for charity. Also, my bat/my ball etc. The HTML for the sidebar link is cut-and-pasteable from troubled diva.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Shaggy Blog Stories Is Go

Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Troubled Diva and chums have put together the Shaggy Blog Stories book with forty five minutes to spare, which would seem to be very good going indeed - and with this great cover by Lucy Pepper. Hurrahs and Jolly Goods all round - I can't believe how quickly this was put together. have very generously agreed to donate their share of the profits to Comic Relief. I can't type any more, I AM WELLING UP.

Go here to order the book (£8.96 in stout english pounds, don't be confused by the dollar price), and then tell your mates to order the book as well.

PS: I am in it (entry no. 74) and Patroclus is in it as well (entry no. 47), along with ninety eight other also-rans*. I am arguing that the later pieces are weightier and more substantial, making her the garlic bread to my steak tartare, but I'm not sure she entirely agrees with me. Or was listening.

*Not rolio.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Shaggy Blog Stories

It's a Comic Relief thing which doesn't involve faded comedians, forced workplace jollity, newsreaders, charity singles, people holding up big cheques, piss-poor sketches, hilarious branded noses or ears, or studio audiences, and is thus to be heartily endorsed. It will be a book, and there's more about it here. It does involve a lot of bloggers (i.e. me and you) getting together to make a book. I have given them a post about a shrew.

Excuse my grumpiness, I have been on a delayed and astonishingly rattley train. I'm going to lie down now.

UPDATE: am in France now, making tea and stuff. There will be blog outage for a bit, but this seems like as good a post as any to leave at the top. Back in a bit.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Word skills and conflict negotiation.

I am in the supermarket in Falmouth. Ahead of me, a studenty-type accidentally brushes against the trolly of a man wearing a tracksuit.

STUDENT: Oh, I'm terribly sorry.
MAN: Fuck off, queer.

Student walks away and join a queue. Man starts pointing at him.

MAN: (chanting) Queer, queer, queer, queer...
ME: (annoyed) Oy!
MAN: (instantly) Shut up.
ME: You shut up.
MAN: Fuck off.

A brief pause as I try and think of a comeback. The supermarket is tensed in expectation. Finally:

ME: No, you fuck off.*
SUPERMARKET: Oooooooh...

We glare at each other. Eventually he does fuck off.

LADY ON TILL: Ooh, don't worry about him love, he's mental.
ME: (sternly) Yes, well, that's no excuse.

* Like Jeff Goldblum.

Monday, March 05, 2007

I am a fashun riter agane. Also vote for Miranda.

I did another bit for Leila's fashion PDF, now retitled All The Rage. I'm on page 11, where I represent all men in the world. And may God have mercy on our souls.

An email from Ori reads:

Everyone you must call to save my mate Miranda Hart in FAME ACADEMY.  She is the only one without a huge fan base but she's still hanging on in there - she beat Roland  Rivoron in the vote off this week.  Get your friends at work to call in too.  Be creative and send out emails.
To save Miranda, call 09011 32 30 05 or text MIRANDA to 84466
Calls cost 50p with BT. Texts cost 50p + std network fee. At least 34p per vote goes to Comic Relief.

She's totally hilarious and completely brave to be doing the show in the first place.  Before she got famous she worked for comic relief so its amazing for her to be doing this.  Save her from the circle of fear on Wednesday and do something good for Comic Relief at the same time.  Pick up the phone now at work and call for her.  Lines are open.
Forward this email on and get people you know voting for her. 

I can also vouch for the loveliness and perfect moral standing of Miranda Hart (she played Teal in Hyperspace, and was in Smack the Pony and has been a shining light of Genuine Funny in things that perhaps weren't so funny themselves). Obviously I won't be watching anything called Fame Academy myself because I would rather STICK RUSTY FUCKING NEEDLES IN MY EYES, but that shouldn't stop people voting for her.

I have a foolproof system with all that Comic Relief shit: every year I bypass the whole thing by carefully selecting a couple of specific charities, AND NOT GIVING THEM ANY MONEY EITHER. Hahahhahaha, might delete this bit later.

UPDATE: here are some seconds of Miranda in a thing that I don't know about. Which is wonky at the start. But still good.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Politics: Broken down for blogs.

bullingdon club
Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
Gordon Brown: Grumpy, Scottish, wonky mouth, likes Camus and Sartre. Yay!

David Cameron: Used to be in PR, shoots animals, was in The Bullingdon Club. Ew.

Apparently people are trying to suppress this photo. I can't think why. LOL!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Indie Acappella

Over at inkstro, which is in foreign, but you'll muddle through. Not sure about the Arcade Fire one, but the Sufjan one is great, and makes Come On! Feel the Illinoise! sound like the cross between the theme to Rainbow and S-Club 7's Reach for the Stars that PP and I always reckoned it was.

He reckons 'Close to Me' is in there as well, but I'm not convinced.

In other news, I appear to have been jumped on by a cold in the last two hours. Until normal service is resumed, OR I DIE, here's an unusual Saturday Night Light. Unusual in that it's a) quite funny, but also b) has one of the above-mentioned bands in it.

Eurgh, I feel rubbish.