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Friday, November 05, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update: Day Five

Words Written Today: 1,304
Total Words Written: 9,546

Still on it! Just had a couple of busy evenings.

Okay, today was my first below quota day (the first of a number, I'm sure), but I'm actually quite pleased given I only had pre-work time to do it. Happily, the big couple of days I had at the beginning And the trouble I'm having grinding out the words certainly doesn't help. I've not taken to this story yet, and the lack of research combined with what to me is an unnatural narrative style isn't helping. So far this is proving tougher than my previous efforts and seems to be taking forever to get started, but I should be getting to the meat of it soon and I'm hoping that'll enthuse me.

In other preoccupying news, out house buying has begun to proceed again after hanging in credit approval limbo for three weeks. Yesterday we were properly, officially approved for lending by HSBC, and then today I paid the surveyors to do a full building survey on the property, which they are arranging with the estate agents. Exciting times!

Carry on reading...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update: Day Three

Words Written Today: 1,837
Total Words Written: 6,457

Quick one today, just to say that after an unusually long journey into work and then having real trouble getting rolling, I was relieved to actually hit my word count. Still just needed before work and lunchtime, but it was dicey! For the record, my daily required count is currently 1,613.

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update: Day Two

Words Written Today: 2,235
Total Words Written: 4,620

In many ways the second day is harder than the first. You're riding on all the enthusiasm of getting started on the first day, but the second day is only the second day of thirty, and the moment where it sinks in that you have to do this every day. Well, that's how it is for me, anyway.

So I'm still in this bloody prologue, which should come to its conclusion tomorrow. It's run on far too long, and will end up at around 5500-6000 words, I would guess. More than 10% of the total length! Well, an imperfect structure is NaNo Sin That Must Be Worked Through #1. To be honest there is a part of me that dreads finishing it. The narrative will switch to a third person perspective, and more to the point will effectively start again, which will be a little deflating given the ever-escalating nature of the prologue.

I tell you one thing: I've certainly not lost any love for writing horrific scenes. It's like tucking into a good steak.

Timing-wise, today was pretty good. I managed 1,300 or so words before work and banged out another 900 over lunch. Hopefully I can keep that up!

Carry on reading...

Monday, November 01, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update: Day One

Words Written Today: 2,385
Total Words Written: 2,385

Here we go again!

So welcome along to National Novel Writing Month 2010, wherein I attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. It's also now about the only time my blog gets updated on a regular basis, so stick around. I'll try and update daily with my word count for that day and the total amount of words written so far. Yes, I know an obsession with word counts seems crass and anti-intellectual, but to be frank it makes for a wonderful motivational tool. A shit-spewing motivational tool, to be sure, but an effective one nonetheless.

In case you're unfamiliar with the whys and wherefores of NaNoWriMo, I direct you to their website (currently struggling under the traffic it seems):

In short, it's a great way to blow out the cobwebs and get you writing, regardless of quality. To dismiss the activity as a waste of time because of the focus on quantity over quality is a mistake: as a tool for learning, any writing is good writing. Furthermore, if only 10% of what I write this month is salvageable in some way, or at least passable, then that's 5000 words of decent prose I will have written. More importantly, as happened last year, I may come out with the kernels of honest-to-god Good Ideas.

So, where am I at? Well, last year's novel still sits mostly unrevised. I began revisions on it earlier this year, but fell off the wagon in a big way. I still have all the coursework from the novel revision lessons I was doing, and I fully intend to go back and pick up again next month.

This year: well, to be honest I was feeling a little shaky about it. I had promised myself I wasn't going to do fantasy again this year. It felt like the lazy option, and I really did want to push myself to write something different. Not too different, as it transpires. I've gone for horror this time around, another genre which I know the tropes of fairly well. I'll admit it it: sometimes in NaNo when you're not going in with a detailed plan you've got to take the lazy story option. I didn't really have a clear story going in, and one didn't coalesce until I was sat having a coffee this morning. I guess it has actually coalesced to some degree, so won't be a total seat-of-the-pants affair, which puts me ahead of my first effort in some way, but I'm sure a few familiar story beats will creep their way in as I struggle to keep the words coming.

On the positive side, I am quite happy with the rough idea I have. Without giving too much away at this juncture, it involves a mid-19th Century transatlantic liner, ghosts, and Satanists. Probably.

And how was the first day? Well, firstly I have to once again praise my little EeePC 2G Surf, the trilobite of netbooks and among the most reliable, hardy pieces of technology I've ever bought. Especially considering the hammering I've given its keyboard; if you've ever heard me at a PC you'll know I'm a fairly forceful two-finger typist. Small, hard-wearing, lightweight - what netbooks were always supposed to be. Oh sure, I'm damn near out of storage thanks to XP slowly eating up the 2GB internal SSD (I originally had a stripped down install that came in at around 800mb, and now have around 70mb free), but it has some word processing legs yet. Just might be time to switch back to something Linux-flavoured.

Anyway! Other than the usually tough first 400-500 words, I was pleased with how easily it went today. It was my day off, which gave me a fairly relaxed time frame to get things done, and most of the writing was done in a Nero through the middle of the day. It was nice to rediscover that great pleasure that comes with writing material you enjoy, in this case a journal-narrated prologue whose tone draws in no small part on Arthur Conan Doyle's Captain of the Pole Star. Okay, it seems to be taking a little too long to get to the point, but I'll try and rectify that tomorrow.

So we're off! Tomorrow is a work day, so I'll be settling into the early morning/lunchtime routine which worked fairly well last year. I'll let you know how that works out.

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 31/08/10

It's a slow burn. And yesterday I:

- Worked. A lot. I went in early with a mind towards starting at around 8am, leaving time for half an hour to grab a coffee and a bite to eat, maybe chill with a book. Completely forgot that it was the bank holiday, so *nowhere* was open. Also forgot that the West End on bank holiday Monday is a proper hive of scum an villainy. Had to go to McDonalds, negotiate my order around a leery guy who was screaming at a woman behind the counter, then just head straight to work. So it was a 7.30 start!

- Did a shedload of work on a Lambeth library buy which took a lot longer than I expected, as well as the usual things I needed to get done. Then started on the time-consuming job of prepping a department change in our EPOS system. This involved re-categorising around 7000 items of stock and remapping the till keys. This took FOREVER. I hit 8pm with just the final set-up to go (still about another hour's work) and decided I would come back in first thing on Wednesday before anyone gets in and do it then. I really should do it on the 1st for the purposes of bookkeeping, anyway.

- Came home to a very tired, hungover wife. We ordered some pizza in which took more than and hour and a half to arrive! During which we watched Whip It, which was a very middling, formulaic film, to be honest. It had promise, but just dragged things out and made far too little of the rollergirls themselves. It wasn't terrible, but I couldn't recommend it.

- Fell into bed and was asleep in record time.

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 17/08/10

Well, shit, it's an improvement, isn't it? Anyway, yesterday I:

- Woke up in a hotel room in Winchester, Roman town and seat of power to the kings of Wessex and later to William the Conqueror. Lovely place, where Alex had arranged for a weekend getaway to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. The anniversary was actually on the 1st August, but she was polishing elephants, or whatever they do down there in South Africa, for her mother's birthday.

- Had as hearty a breakfast as a hotel allows (wasn't too bad, to be fair), then hit the road, headed for Lyndhurst, at the heart of the New Forest. Got stuck in the prettiest traffic jam I've ever been in, with lush forest all around.

- Lyndhurst was bustling tourist central, so we didn't spend too long there: just a quick half in a wasp-infested beer garden. Then we went for a drive, headed to Beaulieu (didn't stop at the motor museum or Palace House, as the entry was £17/head!) The New Forest impressed me greatly and we'll definitely be back. We've long talked about a camping and cycling holiday there, and this motivated us both to make it happen. Lovely, varied terrain, with ponies and cattle wandering freely everywhere, and the occasional picturesque village to boot.

- Went on to the spit at the Calshot (past picturesque oil refineries and power stations) and popped into Calshot Castle, a fortress built in the 16th Century to defend Southampton. Nice little English Heritage place, with some amazing models of old seaplanes that used to operate out of there.

- Drove on to Southampton, where we stopped very briefly for a quick drink before hitting the road back to London.

- Dropped the rental car off at the depot near Pentonville Prison, then wandered home.

- Once home we drifted off to do our own thing. I caught up on The Daily Show while Alex watched the soaps, then watched Burning Bright, a silly but fun film about a girl and her autistic younger brother trying to escape a tiger that has been nefariously let loose in their house, which has been battened down for a hurricane. Really, it's not too bad, and has a smart, resourceful female lead; nothing to take for granted in the genre.

- Watched a True Blood (speaking of silly), then hit the sack.

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 10/08/10

Yessir! Nothing like a grand statement of intent to really get my wheels a'rollin'! Anyway, believe it or not, yesterday I:

- Worked. It was my first day back after nearly a week off to go to my nephew's wedding in the south of Italy. Great wedding, all Italian Catholic grandiosity. We were staying in a beach resort, which really isn't my thing at all, but wasn't as bad as I'd feared. No Alex either, which always makes holidays a little less enjoyable.

- Oh yeah, worked. Well, lots to catch up on, so I barely got anything I needed to get done, done. Also, Nat is away doing his Edinburgh show with Tom & Tobi, so there's a bit more work coming from that side of things too. So surprise surprise, all of my library standing orders are now running late and I'll almost certainly be doing some late hours. Not a great first day back.

- To make matters worse, at some point on my trip I've picked up a mild cold. Not enough to be terrible, but just enough to be a pain in the ass.

- Came home and read some comics, which was a nice balm for the end of the day.

- Played a little Diablo II, which I'd started a while back but fallen away from. For a game that's over 10 years old, it's certainly still a hell of a lot of fun. I'm glad that the some-time-upcoming Diablo III seems to have taken an "if it ain't broke" approach, even if it makes their interface seem a little dated.

- Watched an episode of True Blood, which I'm finding a little tired. There's certainly nothing new on offer with it, and while it's fine as bedtime viewing for me and Alex, I can't help but think I'd rather be spending the time reading a book.

- Went to sleep. Hopefully not for a month this time!

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 13/07/10

Think fast! Yesterday I:

- Got up fairly early and blitzed my outstanding RSS feeds. Well, mostly, anyway.

- Wandered down to Angel and had a coffee while finishing Dan Simmons' Song of Kali. Best horror novel I've read in a long time, which really isn't saying much, but Simmons has a great style which really captures the chaos of Calcutta (as it still was when this was written in 1983), and maintains an ambiguity which never lets the book tip into ridiculousness. Good read.

- Came home and started a sort-out of my clutter-filled life, firstly involving pulling everything out of drawers and off the shelves. In the end I made nothing like the progress I had hoped. File under "developing".

- Frustrated, I went out again to the Lord Clyde pub around the corner and had a bite to eat while starting Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There, which is the only one of his travel books I haven't read. I love Bryson's stuff, the readability and charm of it. Good bedtime reading.

- Came home and tidied the lounge, then internetted a little, before sitting down to play some Xbox, then had a call from wifey. We were viewing a flat in Oakleigh Park at 5.30pm.

- Met Alex at Essex Road station and then went up to Oakleigh Park, which was very nice. Residential, so not a lot of shopping convenience, but quiet and with lots of nice terraced conversions. The flat itself wasn't anything to write home about: a ground floor conversion with two double bedrooms, it had lots of natural light and a (tiny) back garden, but just had a weird flow-through and a teeny tiny galley kitchen. Definitely an area we'll keep looking in, though.

- Met briefly with Debs for a drink, as she lives just around the corner from where we were looking. She has an amazing one-bedroom place with a good sized garden, so our requirements are certainly achievable on our budget in the area.

- Came home and ordered pizza, because we're bad. But the pizza was delicious, ordered from a place we haven't tried before. That's not really a good thing, considering losing weight is fast becoming my top priority.

- Watched True Blood, which is off to a silly start. That's not necessarily a bad thing, given that at this point in the first and second seasons we were about ready to chuck it in altogether.

- Hit the sack, read for a bit, then went to sleep. Zzzz.

Carry on reading...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 12/07/10

Becaus I know you were wondering, yesterday I:

- Got up around 8-ish, and then me and Bruce (who had stayed over for an evening of Xbox and pizza) went up to Newington Green for a little brunch. Although I like to go to different places when possible, we generally end up at The Acoustic for Sunday breakfasts. Good food there.

- Came back and watched Clash of the Titans, which was a lot of fun. It was exactly the kind of trashy film I was hoping it to be (which, let's face it, is exactly the kind of trashy film the old Harryhausen flicks are). Plus I'm a little bit in love with Gemma Arterton, so that's no chore. Glad I saw it in 2-D, though. The post-process 3-D stuff just gives me a headache.

- Played a bit more Xbox. Split/Second Velocity, in case you're wondering. It's a car racing game that has a nice twist on the old combat mechanic. Basically, you are able to trigger events on the urban track ahead of you and your opponents, from lorries crashing onto the track, through mines dropping from helicopters, and even toppling buildings and crashing planes. It's a fast, exciting experience with the normal racing, but the combat mechanic really adds to it and feels quite fresh. By contrast, we also played Blur, which is like Project Gotham Racing crossed with Mario Kart. It's a nice idea, but doesn't really offer anything new. It also runs at what feels like a third again the speed of SSV, making it confusing as hell.

- Bruce wandered off, and I faffed about a little before heading off to see Predators. Disappointing, as I was hoping (based on reviews I was seeing) for a lean, fast-paced action film. Instead it meanders along through its running time with a languid start and one particularly unnecessary diversion along the way. It was still fun, but not the film I was hoping for.

- Came home, faffed a little more then watched Green Zone. It's a very effective thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed, but even one day later I feel like it's fading. It's the kind of film that in five years time I will forget even exists. Worth a watch, though.

- Found that Alex wasn't coming home, as she'd missed her last train from Wilmslow, so I broke out the coke and called in some hookers.

- Ahh...I mean, I had a bath, went to bed and read some comics. One notable one was Power Out, by Nathan Schreiber, which was originally serialized on the Act-i-vate website. Highly enjoyable coming of age story which operates on a pleasantly small scale. I liked it so much, I even emailed him to say so. So consider it recommended.

- And that's that! Hopefully more tomorrow, and maybe the next script as well!

Carry on reading...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Time Travellin' Script Reviews #3 - The Boxer

Looking back, this Boxer script may well have been the second thing I actually completed. So very early 2002 at a guess. Ah well, no big deal. Dodgy East End dialogue aside (hey, I’d only been here just over a year), I’m still rather pleased with it for the most part, although the mockumentary format is a little done to death (read: cheap).

Anyway, on with it! Script at the link, notes after the break.

The Boxer - 1st Draft

I have a nagging suspicion the idea of a boxer who everyone bigs up but who is actually blatantly shit may have come out of discussions I had with my friends Doug and Ossie, but the idea of doing something in a mockumentary (wow, I really hate that word) style goes back to my first day of frantic brainstorming, as recounted in the first of these blog posts. The original idea was far more serious, a crime drama recounting the rise and fall of a gangland figure. I wrote a few lines of dialogue for it on that first day that actually make me physically cringe now I look back at them (I still have the original notes from that day). In the balance,
I’m happy I used the format on this.

I probably have more affection for the characters in this than I do for anything else I ever did.I admire plucky underdogs, however deluded they might be, and I feel that Jimmy is a pretty nice guy who has been used by Barry.

From what I can recall, this all came together fairly quickly, especially after the torturous development of the Jesus script. The only tricky thing I can think of was trying to tell the story while balancing screen time for the characters. It’s also the first time I tried to write something which involved quick cutaways, writing with a mind to editing. Writing with a mind to film, basically, and this was one that I did nearly go ahead with filming, thanks to its cheap, straightforward style.

Into the script itself:

Page 3: “When he were little, you should’ve seen him!”

Cor blimey guvnor, let’s have a knees up around the old Joanna. Okay, so this is something I always feel a bit funny about. Writing accents is always a fine line: too much and your script looks ridiculous; too little and you lose some essence of the character you’re trying to write. Again, this is one of those things that marks out a writer’s role in film. At the end of the day the actual dialogue will be based around the performance of an actor who will probably base his or her delivery on what they know. The script can certainly suggest accents and dialects (and should, I think), but I believe a writer needs to know when to let it go. One half-finished project I have is a radio-play adaptation of an Arthur Conan Doyle short story, with a cast composed mainly of Scottish sailors. Nightmare. That all being said, I was a resident of the East End for a while, within spitting distance of the Bow Bells, no less, so, y’know, it's all totally authentic.

Page 4: “A piano is playing in the background”

Now, to the untrained eye it may seem like I’m trying to convey the idea that the working class people of the East End have no appreciation of culture. Of course not. I’m merely-ahh-merely—oh, I guess I am. But it’s all good-natured, I can assure you. Actually, I just liked the idea that everyone was so invested in Jimmy, who actually wasn’t the talent he was being sold to be, that they were ignoring a prodigal talent under the same roof. I like to think that Rose represents a wellspring of hope, and that she will flourish within her newly supportive
environment after the end of this little story.

Page 5: “I could be sunning myself in Vegas!”

So I appreciate that it’s all a bit silly. Even if they were to support his ambitions, they would never become quite this deluded. It could be argued that painting these characters with such wide-eyed naiveté is just terribly patronising, and there is a part of me that cringes a little. But then, common as muck, me, so doesn’t that mean I’m allowed to poke fun?

Page 5: “We’re Jimmy’s oldest mates! Ain’t that right?”

Okay, so all the sequences with these guys are awful. There, I’ve said it. I don’t mind the idea of them, but in the execution they just suck. Terrible, tin-ear dialogue, for one thing.


This whole scene is just weird. So out of place with the rest of the thing, both in terms of featuring the interviewers themselves, and also for breaking the interview format. I certainly wanted some kind of finish with Barry, but this whole business of them being beaten up by thugs is just completely out of left field. Serious work needed here.

Page 14: “Pending getting my hands on a copy of When We Were Kings!”

Lazy bastard.

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time Travelin' Script Reviews #2 - Office Zombie

Ahh...Office Zombie. Probably the best received of my recurring characters (yeah, I’ve got a couple, though I did always try to make each short stand alone), and certainly one of the most enjoyable to write.

(As an aside, I do find it difficult to take myself seriously doing this, when I’m essentially doing some kind of retrospective on something that never even had a second draft, let alone got made, and only a handful of people saw. Still, it’s a good exercise. Must think of it that way.)

Anyway, script at the link, rambling after the break:

Office Zombie - 1st Draft

The idea came from discussions with various people, though I believe it was Jeff Wheeler who threw out the original germ of the idea. So this skit came of that, then it kind of took on a life of its own, and I’ve still got one half-finished script for the Office Zombie Christmas Special lying about.

In terms of timing on this, it was certainly one of the first things I did after finishing the Jesus script, though I can’t remember for the life of me whether it was this or the Boxer script that was next. In the end I figured it was probably this, simply because I didn’t do a title page, something that every script after this has (I think the Jesus one was added after). In any event, it was certainly early 2002. Not too important, I guess, but I’ll do the Boxer next week, before what will probably be a string of several Office Zombie stories (I was on a roll). Anyway, it’s a quickie this week, so let’s get it done!

Page One: “in his late 20’s and rather slick. An up-and-comer.”

I have such a stereotypical idea of office guys, probably due to never having actually worked in and office. Office guys in most of my scripts tend to be slick, stylish, driven, sleazy assholes. Not true, of course. Is it? Actually, I think it comes from being a child of the 80’s, when businessmen were all self-proclaimed masters of the universe and all of that. Now they just seem to be stressed out twenty-somethings who desperately live for the weekend, ducking and diving their way through petty office politics. Wait...still not a particularly positive view, is it?

Page One: “He...ahh...he smells rather bad, sir.”

This thing of people stumbling over what they’re saying is a common feature in my scripts, and not one I think necessarily works in practice. When I’m writing it helps to make the dialogue feel more naturalistic, but looking back I think it just acts as a superficial means of creating natural speech, and to be honest that kind of naturalism in film should come from an actor, not a script. Or at least that’s how I feel now. But then I often fall into that kind of direction trap in my scripts, probably because I was fully intending to be a director at the time and, after all, production-ready these ain’t.

Page One: “Well...there’s the whole thing of personal grooming too, sir.”

Speaking of dialogue, a lot of what’s here just feels a little clunky. When I’m writing, I do speak through lines in a put-on voice for that character, but never particularly loudly, and I think the effect of muttering a line under your breath doesn’t quite give an accurate representation of how a line really sounds.

Page Two: “Well, I can only hear one person moaning here Jones.”

I really like this line. It’s always so gratifying to read back through old things and find stuff that still works for you, and this is one of them.

Page Two: “Davis...ate him sir.”

Whereas, upon reflection, the punchline here is pretty weak. Almost redundant, undercut by the previous suggestion by Jones that Davis is a zombie. It’s not a surprise that he ate someone, he is a zombie, after all.

Page Three: “THEME SONG”

The theme song, a recurring thing throughout the OZ scripts, is one of the things I enjoyed the most when doing them, but is also what probably works the least in practical terms. The idea was to juxtapose this light, breezy tune – kind of an Andrews Sisters ditty – with this horrible creature. That was important, too. I actually wanted Davis to be a bit scary, or at least a little gross. For the most part this worked throughout the scripts. I think. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. I can think of one really notable exception, actually, but ideally Davis should have always brought some horror to proceedings.

And that’s that! I think this is actually about the shortest script I did, apart from perhaps “Redundant Zombie” - the final OZ story which I never really properly formatted and don’t remember if I ever emailed it out to people. Well, we’ll get to it in these posts, I think.


Carry on reading...

Monday, June 07, 2010

Time Travelin' Script Reviews #1 - Fishing

Okay, so as discussed previously, I'm going to start going back through all my old short film scripts, reading through and commenting on each. It's a way for me get my head back into a script-writing mood, and I hope it's reasonably entertaining for you. If not, well, you can skip it. But I gotta fill this blog with something!

Now these won't be planned out or structured particularly. It'll just be me making notes as I read through, then doing a quick rattle through things that stand out for me. The scripts are presented as-is, unchanged from the day they were originally finished.

So, script at the link, with my rambling commentary after the break:

Fishing - 1st Draft

Let me take you back, baaack through the mists of time. A plucky young fellow had decided he needed to change the momentum of his life, to take the first tentative steps towards creative fulfilment, to meld together his love of film with an almost forgotten love of writing for the purposes of script-writing. Oh, and also film-making, but that’s not really pertinent to what we’re discussing here.

Anyway, the script above is among the first complete script ideas I had, and the first short film script I ever finished. Like most of my short ideas, it began with an image in my head and, in this case, sounds. Specifically, the image of two men sitting in a boat and the sounds of water and creaking wood. This one had a pretty torturous birth as I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing or even what the point of it was. But, like all torturous processes (except, perhaps, for actual torture) it was a learning experience. Actually, I guess actual torture is often a learning experience, just not so much for the tortured. Anyway, the best thing I got from this was the confidence to do more.

Some background: I used to write a lot. In primary and secondary school I loved to write. Creative writing was my favourite thing and I was a sucker for reading anything that fired my imagination. Reading was almost always for pleasure, as was writing. Then came university, and suddenly neither reading nor writing were as much of a pleasure anymore. It’s not that I particularly lacked the time, given that I treated much of my time at university like a protracted summer holiday, but rather that it slowly sapped the joy out of reading and writing for me. Even shitty fantasy novels, the bread and butter of my adolescence and hardly demanding fare, didn’t grab me (although it could be argued that I had largely burnt out on them at the time). I just didn’t read or write unless it was course related. Not to say I hated my courses. Psychology, the subject I was most excited about when I began, had left me cold by my second year, but I loved criminology. It’s just they became associated with work, and as a lazy 18-21 year old, the last thing I wanted to do was work. Anyway, comics became damn near my sole reading matter for years afterward (though to be fair, once I started working in a comic shop I had a hell of a lot of reading matter at my disposal, including all kinds of classic material I had never seen before), and I didn‘t write at all.

Slowly but surely over the years I started reading again, but the writing was stalled for a good long while, and with it any confidence I had in my ability. I mean, it’s not like I think I’m some kind of creative mastermind, but for a long time I had a crippling insecurity in setting words to paper (he says like he feels every word now is gold). It wasn’t until a couple of years before I left for the UK, when I was beginning to feel as though I were in a serious rut, that I started to play around with the idea of writing again, and writing scripts specifically. Not sure what inspired me on that front, but I started toying around and wrote a number of snippets, a scene here and there, a loose outline of a plot that I had no real confidence in (and not for the last time). That brief aspiration fell to the wayside before too long, and then I moved to the UK, deeper in my rut than ever, unsure of what to do next (other than working in comic shops). Then, on my 28th birthday in November 2000, sat at home during the day, more coffee than blood in my system, I had a revelation. I was going to write! It was a revelation that chiefly involved a mantra of “Why not?”, and on that day I brainstormed a number of ideas, one of which was this.

(Okay, excessive preamble, but just had to get it out of the way on this first script).

So, why Jesus and Andrew? Well I’m not a religious man, it should be said, but I do enjoy the stories of the Bible, both new and old testaments (well, especially the old). Hell, Ben Hur is one of favourite films, Timotei Jesus and all. More to the point, it was on my mind at the time, as my dad was very ill and - having found a renewed piety in his later days - had made me promise to read the new testament he gave me before I left (always referred to in our phone conversations after I left as ‘that book’, most commonly in the form of “Have you read that book?”). Now, his intention was the salvation of my soul and I’m afraid to say the mission was a failure, but I enjoyed reading that book (for the most part). The story of Jesus is an interesting one, so there was that in my choice of subject matter, but I guess more importantly was this idea of a normal man who is caught up in the doings of the son of god. The perspective of ordinary people close to greatness will always be a more interesting story to me than the perspectives of great people.

In addition, I had been on a Terrence Malick kick since Thin Red Line had come out, and Magnolia was also fresh in my mind, so I was into the idea of creating something that had a visual poetry to it. I thought the visuals of an old boat on the water as it glistened in the sun, the details of fishing in biblical times and the physicality of the men who would have lived in that time would all lend themselves to that goal.

So that was the genesis of it all. And it slowly came together in a piecemeal fashion, at a fairly tumultuous time for me for a variety of reasons, and was largely written out longhand while sitting in Russell Square in the mornings drinking shitty coffee. It’s almost embarrassing to admit now, but it must’ve taken me 6 months or so to write this first draft. Hell, maybe closer to a year from initial conception. Unlike my other scripts, I didn’t date this one, so I don’t know the exact finish date, but I’m guessing from other events it coincided with it would have been late summer, 2001. Very slow, but I really was just learning to write again and to be honest most of my writing in that period was stream of consciousness journal stuff. So, it took a while, but sparked off a run of creativity that reached a peak with more-or-less weekly short film scripts that were emailed out to a list of people for a period of around 6 months. Scripts that I intend to revisit here over the next 6 months or so.

Anyway, reading through the script now, my overall impression is how lightweight it is in terms of content. There’s not much in the way of a hook, and I guess that reflects my focus at the time, which was all about this kind of visual poetry idea. But that’s not to say I dislike it. I must admit, I find it a lot less cringe-inducing than I expected, though I don’t know if I’d consider it ready for people to see if I wrote it now. But then, showing people my stuff on first draft actually worked wonders for me in terms of just getting things done and not taking it all to heart or feeling like I was exposing myself to the world. It’s just a first draft, after all.

Okay, specific thoughts:

Page 3: “Oiling the rope of a net”

Here’s an example of “write first, research later”. I was wanting to fill this with details of fishing in the time of Jesus, but I know about as much on the topic as I know about enriching uranium, so throughout the story I make up things that I think sound plausible, with the intention of revising them later. In this case, I figure they would have needed to do something to stop the nets rotting, so would perhaps coat them in some kind of water-resistant oil or the like. Okay, it might be bullshit, but it was all about the intention of adding in fishing detail.

Page 3: “Jesus has the rough, weathered look of a man who spends more time outdoors than in.”

I wanted Jesus to be a labourer. I figured he was raised as a carpenter and had subsequently spent a hell of a lot of time in the sun walking about. He’d be weathered and probably quite tough. This did, however, result in an early reader describing him as the Marlborough Man.

Page 4: “It’s the sounds I miss the most”

It’s all about the sounds, baby! I love the sound of water lapping against the side of a wooden boat. I also love the sounds rough, worn wood makes, the thunking and creaking and scraping of it.

Page 6: “Have you seen him since?”

Guilt about leaving fathers? Hell, I didn’t even realise this was in here, or forgot about it if it was intentional. This was finished after my dad died, so I don’t doubt the fact of my leaving the country while he was sick and my inability to go back for his funeral was on my mind, let alone the subject matter. I’m sure it must have been intentional, but I honestly don’t remember.

Page 6: “Insert St Andrew’s cross into the picture”

Ouch. Now that’s cringeworthy. Still, at least I had the good sense to dismiss it if it were too blatant (though not the sense to realise it couldn’t be anything but).

Page 7: “And here in Gethsemane”


Page 7: “He’s got nothing to worry about. And nor have you.”

Wait, if the business about the guilt was intentional, does that mean I intentionally absolved myself of any guilt? Nice work, Salmond.

Page 9: “Have you spoken to Simon Peter?”

Here’s the hook for me, actually, the idea that not only is he swept up in the world of Jesus, but also that his older brother is nothing but confident and strong in his belief. This was why I chose Andrew, I think: because he is overshadowed by his older brother (which is not about me this time, by the way). How can he not doubt himself, being an ordinary man placed in extraordinary circumstances, with an elder sibling who displays none of the confusion he feels? How could he not feel inadequate, being an apostle of Jesus?

Page 10: “You are still a fisherman Andrew”

BOOM! I guess that’s the hook, the payoff, the twist. But is it enough? There’s something I find dissatisfying about the ending. I’m okay with that as a twist to finish on, but the finish feels very abrupt.

And that’s it! Script number one! I hope you’re still with me, and if you are, I hope you enjoyed it! This script is the only one I’ve ever actually gone back and done a proper second draft of, so I’m looking forward to rediscovering what I did there, though that’ll be a bit down the track yet. I’m going to try and tackle these in chronological order, though some of the early ones might be lacking dates, so they might get a little muddled.

I’ll continue to do these, as they’re a good exercise for me, and even after this one I’m feeling the urge to do something new. If for no other reason than I feel like I’m cheating by just trotting out the same old nonsense. If you do have any comments to make, please feel free, either here or by email at andrewgrizzleddogcouk.


Carry on reading...

Sunday, May 23, 2010


So, as an act of motivation I was thinking I might start putting up some of my old scripts with a bit of commentary. I'm hoping it might help me get back into a script-writing mentality. I'm still working through the novel revision, but I'm beginning to think it might be healthy for me to have another project on the back burner.

Oh Sara, you saucy minx.

Of course, it may turn out to be exactly what I shouldn't do, but hey, that's the wonderful roller-coaster of discovery you can ride with me on.


Carry on reading...

Still Alive

And experimenting. Bear with me.

Bakery Script - 1st Draft (Full Screen)

Love is Strange - 1st Draft

Carry on reading...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 16/04/10

Not given up yet. But yesterday I:

- Worked. No Josh, so I had to get in extra early to get the new comics out on the shelves and get as much of the filing done as possible. Started at 7am and worked through lunch so was able to finish at 2.30pm, which wasn't bad at all. Good morning too: got the filing finished by about 10.15. Otherwise did the Marvel advance order adjustments and worked on the till.

- Happily my throat continues to feel better. Since we last spoke I've been hit with a dose of tonsillitis, for which I am now on antibiotics. The last few days I've felt a notable improvement each day, to the point where I no longer feel it's necessary to be popping nurofen through the day. As someone who's not a fan of pill-popping, that's a good thing.

- Went home, settled in a little, and then sat down to play Mass Effect, which I've just started in the aftermath of Dragon Age Origins. Going from one sprawling RPG into another might not be the smartest move I've ever made, but DAO has given me a real taste for games I can sink my teeth into. Happily, given it's a sci-fi game, the setting and interface are quite refreshing after months of fantasy tropes. Mustn't let it dominate my days off, but at the same time it offers good value for money at a time when I have none.

- My novel revision has been painfully slow. Keep falling off the wagon for one reason or another, all of which amount to excuses, really. There certainly have been legitimate reasons for not getting it done first thing in the morning, but none for why I couldn't shunt the time to later in the day. If I'm going to get this done, I'll need to adjust the attitude that evenings are somehow out of bounds.

- Began the slow process of sorting our South Africa trip photos. Seriously, we've got around 2,700 photos to get through. Many of them will wind up being deleted as a part of this process, but between tagging and labelling everything, the going is slow. We spent about an hour on it all told. I think I'll use this once it's done as an experiment in Picasa Web Albums.

- Read Hope Larson's new graphic novel for teens, "Mercury". It's a dual-thread narrative about a girl returning to her home town after a few years away, alongside the story of her family in the 1860's, whose lives are disrupted when a stranger comes looking for gold . It's an enjoyable read, touching on first loves, fitting in, the relationship of mothers and daughters, and a bit of good old fashioned melodrama. Certainly something I'll recommend.

- Watched the pilot of Firefly. I've been of a mind to watch Serenity again lately, and I figured that I'd watch the whole series again, with the film as the capper. I've only watched them once before, and it was a little disjointed, so I'm looking forward to getting stuck in. Funnily enough, the shorter length of the season makes it all the more appealing. Anyway, I still enjoyed the pilot, although I do find Whedon's tough guy dialogue a little hard to swallow. His knack for humour and drama still hold up very well, every time someone wants to sound hard, it's cringe-worthy. They sound like teenagers who REALY WANT TO SOUND TOUGH. And it's about that subtle. As per the first time, Adam Baldwin is by far the most enjoyable character, as bastards usually are. Looking forward to the rest.

- And then I did rest.

Carry on reading...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 08/04/10

(Just keep your cool, Andrew. no one will notice. Just keep on as though nothing's gone awry...)

Hey, good to see you all! Again. Just like every day since I recommitted to doing this every day. Yeah! Whattaya know, yesterday I:

- Well, on Monday night I had a bad dose of food poisoning, which took me out of action all Tuesday as well. Tuesday, my day off. Sucks, bro. Anyhow, the upshot of all that is that yesterday morning I was feeling pretty wrecked. A long night of vomiting had left my abdomen feeling a little worked over, and I was generally a mess of aches and pains. Stomach felt okay though, so bonus there, although it must be said I was feeling a little queasy by the end of the day. Pretty much all better now, though!

- Needless to say, didn't get a lot done in the morning. Read the latest Economist Technology Quarterly.

- Worked. Bank holiday weekend meant the delivery was delayed a day. Did a bit of library stuff, which I haven't looked at in a while, only to discover that there was some pretty pressing stuff. So caught up on that, did some work on shop shift-around planning and did the new comics logging after Nat went home ill. Spent the late afternoon packing library deliveries.

- Came home and flaked out. Watched Heavy Metal Britannia, which was a very pleasant watch, don't get me wrong, but was ultimately a bit of a puff piece. It started better than it went on, but felt incomplete and sightly unsatisfying. Gave me some good Spotify tips, though. I've got the prog rock one lined up to watch as well, which I've heard a lot of positive things about.

- (Hey, I'm writing this with my netbook perched on my lap. I have, I can honestly say, never done that before. Not that it's a life-changer for me, but I'm just sayin' is all. I'll tell you one thing: it's typo hell.)

- Watched a few Daily Shows, which I've now started following regularly, as opposed to occasionally catching it on More4. I've taken to just watching the pre-interview segment unless the subject looks interesting. I love the first two-thirds of the show, but the interviews generally fall a little flat.

- Watched a Nurse Jackie. Boredom is starting to crawl into the edges of my Nurse Jackie experience. After an intriguing start, it just feels a little repetitive now. Still enjoying it, but watch yourself, Nurse Jackie! Don't make my shit-list!

- Read a bit of Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box, which had a scene that was almost identical to something I had in mind for my ghost story from years back, then went to sleep.

Carry on reading...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 26/03/10

Believe it or not, I did actually do one of these yesterday. I even posted the bloody thing, or so I thought. But lo and behold, no sign of it this morning. Instead I have an autosaved draft of the first paragraph. Bah! Anyway, other than writing things that have been lost to time, yesterday I:

- Carried on my first pass over Small Perils, the NaNo novel. It's not the final title, but it's better than constantly referring to it as "the novel". I'm behind on the first lesson of the revision course I'm doing. Each new lesson is emailed out a week after the last (in my case Monday evenings), and my second is languishing in my inbox. But that's okay. On the forums there are people still working through lesson three, six months down the line. But the first few lessons involve complete readthroughs each time. Plus, I've not been great about making the time for it. Or getting the actual manuscript printed out, which I only got done on Monday. Interesting process so far, anyway!

- Worked. New comics day. It's weird now that we do the filing downstairs, I don't actually spend that much time on the till on a Thursday. I'm going to try and be up there for lunch time (12-2), just to keep up contact with our regulars. I'll also be there at the end of the day I would assume. Still, it is nice to have that extra time in my week.

- Headed home, where I intended to play some Xbox, as Alex was out. Instead I had one of those frustrating evenings where time shot by and next thing it was around 11.30, and all I had done was watch an episode of TV Burp and a few trailers. Annoying.

- And that was about it! Really unimpressive day, I'm afraid! Well, I guess they can't all be winners.

Carry on reading...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday, if it were still actually 24/03/10

Like a lagging bullet, "yesterday" I:

- Worked. I got in early, as Josh and I were heading to a graphic novel workshop for London librarians. We jumped in a cab and headed out to Whitechapel, to the Idea Works there. Idea Works, by the way, was apparently an abortive attempt to rebrand libraries for the 21st century before a new marketing guy came along and decided that “library” was actually a brand after all. No doubt hundreds of thousands of pounds later. Local government really is like a sucker on the street corner with his bag hanging open. Anyway, very modern place, all quite nice inside.

- We did a GN workshop last year which was a bit of a disaster. Well, not really on the whole, but I gave a speech that completely fell apart thanks to my nerves, so I was a little anxious about having another presentation this time; a ¾ hour one, no less. It went fine though, mainly as I was just rabbiting on about stock. Also, we had a smaller group discussion in the morning which made me feel a lot more comfortable with the people there. So the day went quite well, all told. Certainly made some good progress winning people around to specialist supply for their GNs. An got to knock off at 4.

- Went home. Fully played the Trials HD demo, which now leaves me wanting the full game. Highly addictive. Sat down and worked out how I’m going to juggle my money over the next few months. SA has left me and Alex pretty skint, and now I have to make a student loans payment to NZ IRD as a apart of my amnesty agreement. So that’s another £700 down the tubes, leaving me a serious shortfall of cashflow for the month. Looks like a bit of subbing lies ahead.

- Started rewatching Flight of the Conchords, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Still good.

- Played around with the two leading desktop digital comics applications: Longbox and Both are in beta release (0.5 & 0.2.1, respectively) and both still have plenty of issues. My machine is getting a little long in the tooth, but the lag in both programs seemed a little ridiculous. Still, that aside, my initial impressions are that Longbox seems to have more features available (most as yet locked in beta), but has a much nicer, leaner interface. Longbox is, frankly, ugly. It’s too busy on its home page, the net result being an initially very confusing entry into the program. Both are quite buggy, and had a persistent crashing problem for the first 6 or so times I tried to start it. So, lots of work to do on both. I’ve got the complete Miracleman as cbr files, which Longbox will allow me to import into my library, so the next step is to try reading those to see just how bearable the reading experience is. Not sure if I can import to Not obviously, anyway.

- Watched the first episode of the new season of Nurse Jackie. It was fine, but completely skipped by the big threads of last season’s cliffhanger. Not a promising start. I hope this doesn’t mean they’re going to string things along even more.

Carry on reading...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 19/03/10

Damn, doing these things every morning really does tie me in to wi-fi spots. Anyway, yesterday I:

- Once again forgot to print out my manuscript for revision, so stalled my course somewhat. I did get onto the forums for my workgroup, however. People doing the course are split into groups of 30 or less, for support, feedback and so on. So although it felt like a cheat, technically it was still course related, right?

- Worked. Spent nearly the whole day working on this book list for the GN workshop next week. Finalised the list, gathered images and copy, edited copy to fit the blurb size I need, formatted it up in Quark and outputted to a pdf. Done! Now I just have to hope we have all the books in stock for next Tuesday so I can take them along.

- Alex was out, so I played some Dragon Age for an hour and a half or so. I've hit that satisfying point you sometimes get in this kind of game when you're at a sufficient level where there's very little challenge in the places you're travelling through. Most fights are dispatched with very little trouble and no-one in your group has died for some time. Then you enter a new area and the difficulty curve has suddenly swung up a few notches and you're all dying every few combats, and you have to start thinking strategically again. Good fun. But frustrating enough that I stopped at 9.30.

- Faffed about on the internet for a while, then went to bed, watching another couple of Twilight Zone episodes, neither of which was particularly good. One was about a man whose guardian angel tries to improve his life by changing his oddball ways, only to discover that he'd rather be a kooky, likeable failure than a dull success. Atually, for the early-mid sixties, that was probably a pretty subversive message for mainstream America. The other was about a woman who goes to a department store for a particular item, only to discover that she is in fact a living mannequin and has been out in the world and forgotten who she is. Turns out the mannequins in the store take turns at living in the world for a month. Anyway, there are a couple of creepy moments in this one, but it's just not that good.

- Went to bed!

Carry on reading...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 18/03/10

Didn't walk in this morning. Bad Andrew. Anyway. yesterday I:

- Finished up the first section of my first revision lesson. Next step involves going through a manuscript to begin pulling part the broader picture. Should be fun.

- Worked. Had a meeting in the morning with folks from what was formerly the London Libraries Development Agency and is now I think simply London Libraries. We're involved in another graphic novel workshop taking place next week. To be honest I've done no prep work for this whatsoever, other than putting together a list of 50 books from the past year. I'm not feeling too worried. I am going to have to give a talk again, this time on what's happening trend-wise in the industry, what's hot and so on. My other main role is in a children and young person's librarian group talking about GNs with people who are nervous about content and so on. Hopefully the first, a facilitated group discussion, should warm me up for the second, a presentation to the group as a whole, so we don't have a repeat of my debacle of a speech from last time.

- Afternoon was spent dealing with the delivery. Not a big week, and I made some good progress on the filing. We've now started doing this downstairs on a Wednesday as soon as the first box of standing order comics is ready, which is working well so far. Certainly makes Thursdays on the till a lot less stressful.

- Headed home and read a pile of comics. Not a very impressive week, to be sure. Siege #3 was fun but completely disposable; Amazing Spider-Man #625 had some lovely Max Fiumara art over a pretty downbeat Joe Kelly Rhino story; Stephen King's new co-written comic American Vampire wasn't anything special. In fact, the only really pleasant surprise was, as unlikely as it may seem, a Superman 80 Page Giant, which was full of short, very light stories. Oh, and Fables was good. I read the second issue of Choker, having missed the first, and thought it was okay. Sweary, Ellis-sounding characters drawn by Ben Templesmith all feel a bit well-trodden, but it was entertaining enough that I won't dismiss it out of hand. Writer Ben McCool also does a fun short in the aforementioned Superman 80 Pager. Still got a few unread books, including a few Marvel space titles, Dark Avengers and a couple more.

- Stopped reading before I got totally burnt out, which has happened lately, and switched to watching a couple of Twilight Zone episodes, on my slow ongoing mission to work my way through them all. Still in season one, but then it is something like 40 episodes long. Anyway, the first was called The Chaser, about a guy who madly loves a girl who doesn't love him back. He buys a love potion off a mysterious shopkeeper who warns him it might not be all he hoped for. Sure enough, things don't turn out quite the way he expected. Quite a silly one, but fun for it. The second I watched starred a young Jack Klugman as an alcoholic trumpet player who hits rock bottom and throws himself in front of a truck. Waking up, he finds himself wandering the city as an invisible ghost. Or at least that's what he thinks. It's an episode with an admirable moral, but is pretty dull and heavy handed. Not to mention the appearance of a trumpet-playing figure named Gabe who explains the score to him. Duh. Still enjoying them, though. I'm looking forward to the later episodes when Serling has a number of other writers working on the series. Not to denigrate his work, but a lot of great US sci-fi writers worked on shows like the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits (which I think I'll get to after this), putting out some classic twist-in-the-tail television.

- Whoah, over time! Anyway, that was about it!

Carry on reading...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 17/03/10

Two days running! Some kind of record for 2010? Perhaps not, but close! Anyway, yesterday I:

- Tried to get up early to get stuck into things, but failed. Still, got into town with enough time to do my blog and then get stuck into the novel revision course I've started. Very first readings of the very first lesson and it was good. It certainly helped me recapture enthusiasm for what my goal for the book was in the first place. So, off to a good start.

- Worked. Libraries for the most part. The end of the financial year is approaching fast and the usual flurry of last minute orders has been coming in. So some mop-up stuff there, as well as work on a list I need to have done for a graphic novel workshop for librarians I'm involved in next week.

- Had a surprise visit by Claudia and Morgan! Now based in LA, they're over for Claudia's work. Claudia had to head off for work stuff, but I had lunch with Mr Parker. Really nice to see them. Hopefully we'll get to catch up more later in the week.

- Went to the pub after work with Nat, Barney & Ossie. Went for one, but wound up staying for a few. As is often the case. We went to The Crown, a Sam Smiths pub near work. For those who don't know, Samuel Smiths are a chain of pubs which serve their own brands of beers, spirits and so on. The pubs they run are nice enough (including two of the most attractive historical pubs in central London, actually), an the beers are fine, but nothing special. What they are great for, however, is price. A round for 4 people for less than £10? Sold. Okay, so you might be able to do the same in a Wetherspoons pub, but then you'd have to put up with a Wetherspoons atmosphere. Equally they're known for their Alpine Lager, a cheap as chips pint (still sub-£2?) which goes down easy enough but leaves you rough as fuck the next morning. The taps for AL used to be topped by a stereotypical Bavarian-looking chap cast in plastic, inside a perspex box. They scrapped the box for a more traditional looking tap years ago, but to this day people will still order a "man in a box". Which is about as English a tradition as they come. Anyway, the point of this is that for years now, virtually nothing has changed in the line-up of product SS pubs (that's unfortunate) have. So I was surprised to find not only a new, halfway decent beer on tap (dubbed a Taddy - Sam Smiths Breweries are based in Tadcaster), but also they've gone completely in-house with all their snacks. Crisps, peanuts, cheese crackers, the lot. You're amazed, I'm sure.

- Got home, kissed the wife, had dinner, spent half an hour reading the internet, then went to bed. Read some Far Side cartoons, which I'm slowly working my way through at the moment. I do love the Far Side, for all it's been overexposed over the years. Reading back through, it's surprising to rediscover just how dark many of them are, given their mainstream popularity. Good fun.

- Will you look at that! 7 minutes to spare!

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 16/03/10

Okay, we're on the clock! Yesterday I:

- Got up fairly early and sat with a coffee on the internet. This was the first real day off I'd had in some time. Okay, so I've been on holiday for a month, but this was the first real day since before we left for SA where I had nothing to get done, nowhere to go and no one to see. So I read feeds. My feeds need trimming, really. I don't keep up with what I've got, and that's not even that much compared to some I know. But every time I go to unsubscribe, the interest which brought me to that feed in the first place kicks in. I suppose by keeping them on my feeds I will at least remember they exist some time in the future. In a way, RSS has really hamstrung how I use the internet. I can't remember the last time I opened my bookmarks folder, not counting the bookmark toolbar icons I have for frequently accessed sites (banking, etc). Still, it means I don't miss any posts when my access is patchy. How much time do I spend on the internet a day reading now? Not sure, but considerably less than I used to. Maybe an hour, on average? Hour and a half? Anyway, every now and then it's nice to kick back with a coffee first thing on a day off and really take my time to catch up on things. Spent a few hours on it yesterday.

- Wandered down to Angel to have a browse around the shops. Mainly checked out Game, HMV and Waterstones to see what shiny new things had come out in the last month. Not much to be honest. Final Fantasy XIII is a bit tempting, but really only due to FFVII nostalgia. I tried VIII when it came out, but it didn't grab me at all and have barely looked at the ones since. But this one seems to have a VII kind of feel about it. Well, best finish Dragon Age and both Mass Effect games first. Bought some vegetables to make a soup for dinner.

- Went home and got on the Xbox. Oh yes. Played a few demos I had downloaded ages ago. Trials HD is a great stunt bike platformer, leaving you to control a rider going through some kind of hellish warehouse environment of ramps, exploding barrels, swinging platforms and gouts of flame. It has that vital ingredient for gameplay: easy to learn, difficult to master. Lovely graphics too, especially the ragdoll physics when you come off the bike. Alien Breed SomethingorotherIcantremember is a fun, isometric 3D shooter. A sequel to an old series of games, it's surprisingly atmospheric as you run around a damaged spaceship shooting hordes of aliens. All very Space Hulk. Lastly was Bayonetta, which I heard a lot of good things about. To be honest, it's that type of modern game that I'm really no good at. It involves incredibly busy environments that you negotiate around at high speeds while enemies constantly come at you. Enemies you defeat by using one of any number of combos that manifest in the most spectacular manner possible. It's just too much. I'm button-mashing my way through levels with virtually no fucking clue what's going on. The graphics are lush and the designs look crazy in the good way, but I've no time to actually enjoy them. Does this mean I'm getting old?

- Settled in with Dragon Age for a good 4-hour session. Got some important main quest stuff done, too. Ahh...I'll miss this game when I'm finished. I do love this kind of computer RPG.

- Alex came home, so I made dinner, a kind of chicken/vegetable/mushroom soup which didn't quite come out how I wanted, but was very tasty anyway.

- Enrolled in a course which focuses on novel revision. To be honest, I've been floundering a little on the novel revision, and I really need something to give me a boot up the ass. It's a 22 week course that you take at your own speed. It'll be nice just to give me some focus and advice on what to do next. Be's my first time.

- Watched a really good little horror called Triangle. It premiered at last year's Frightfest, but I missed it, and since then it has largely sunk from trace. It's a pleasantly complex little film about a group of people who find themselves on a ghostly ship after being stranded out at sea. Best not to mention more than that, as the less you know, the more you'll enjoy it. It'd be a shame for this to sink into obscurity, as it really deserves to be seen if for nothing more than its ambition. It stands out from most of the horror fare out there at the moment.

- That's it!

Carry on reading...

Monday, March 15, 2010


Still got 10 minutes of today's allotted blog time, so I thought I'd outlay where I am with various internet things at the moment. FYI!

Email: I've a few email addresses lurking from the past, but really the only way to get hold of me reliably is one andrew[at] or andrewsalmond[at] Either of those will work. I mainly just use gmail as my default mail client now. Outlook is gathering dust, really only used for deleting emails en masse or sorting stuff via IMAP. The interface is just a little easier for those jobs.

Facebook: I use Facebook more than ever. It's a very convenient environment to use with my phone. Mainly I just use messaging and status updates. The only add on I use is Flixster, and then rarely. Generally I ignore add on invites and the like.

Flickr: Still on as boffo01. I haven't updated in a long time and to be honest I think I'm going to give it up. I do like Flickr's interface and social aspect, but it feels a bit dead to me right now. Plus, Picasa just integrates with its web albums so well. So I may migrate to just using Picasa, but I'll let you know, you lucky things.

Twitter: Pretty much dead to me now. I had fun with @grizzleddog for a while, but I've largely given up the ghost. Really, Facebook status updates fulfill this purpose for me now. How many trivial communication lines do I need?

Google Wave: I'm still intrigued by the possibilities of this, but I really haven't found a use for it yet that can't be covered by another service. Anyway, I'm on as Andrew Salmond, so just do a search. I've still got invites, too, if anyone wannts one.

LastFM: My boffo01 account is still active, but I barely use this any more, though my Spotify plays are scrobbled to it.

Spotify: My default music source currently. I pay £10/month for the premium version, which removes any ads and gives higher quality bitrates. It also means I can have the mobile version for my Android phone, including the ability to sync up playlists for offline play. I've a ton of invites if anyone in an eligible area needs one.

Umm...I think that's it. I am using Google services to an alarming degree, including task manager and calendar. I'm still playing with Chrome a lot, but have held off switching to it as my default browser. Google Docs hasn't quite hooked me yet, as it feels lacking in features. I'm using Dropbox to sync important docs between computers and am playing with Evernote for note taking, though I find it's a bit slow. It does sync with my phone, though, so I hope it improves in the future. In theory it's a wonderful piece of software.

Okay, time's definitely up!

Carry on reading...

New Post, New Start, New Rule

Okay, so here's the deal.

I've been slack. I know it. You know it. And little baby Jesus knows it. So I guess it's time to recommit myself to this whole blogging malarky; find a theme and stick to it. The fact is I've toggled around with a number of ideas, thought about starting new comic-themed blogs, wondered what the hell I was even doing this blog for. It has always been such a scattershot affair, as any quick browse through the tags will attest. In reality, the fullest and most consistently it has ever fulfilled any purpose has been when it is at its most self-indulgent. The Things I Did Yesterday posts allowed me to dribble on about any old thing, kept people who actually know me up to date with my goings on and gave me an excuse to write every day. The latter point being the most important at the time I began that exercise. Not that I've been too hot at staying on top of things, of course.

Which brings me to today, and deciding what I'm going to do from here on out. Things I Did Yesterday works. I'm not sure how effective it is for you, my dear readers, but given there's only about 10 of you, I guess that point is kind of moot anyhow. The point is, for me it works. It gets me writing in the mornings and, crucially, means I always have something to write about when I sit down. The problem has been in the past that it tended to stretch out and take up the bulk of the time I have before work which I have dedicated to getting some writing done. That's especially problematic given that I actually have a proper writing project to get stuck into. The last thing I need is an excuse to procrastinate while still feeling like I'm doing something worthwhile.

So a time limit, then. Starting tomorrow, I'll restart TIDY (holy shit....I never realised that was its acronym), allowing only 30 minutes every day to get it done. It'll be the same as it ever was in terms of content, but perhaps a little more concise on occasion. I'm making a commitment to do this every day, rain or shine, work or play, home or abroad. You might find it interesting, or you might not. Given the lack of emails I write these days, I hope you do. I might occasionally put up something else, or develop it at some point in the future, probably with regard to my progress revising my novel. And during NaNoWriMo I'll switch to daily updates on that. I know it's all a little self-important, but I figure if that was a problem for you, you'd have left the room long ago.

And that's that!

Carry on reading...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Comics I'm Missing This Week

Talk about taking advantage of having some internet. This week I'm missing out on:

Astounding Wolfman #21 - Hey, has anyone seen The Wolf Man?
Atomic Robo Revenge of the Vampire Dimension #1
Avengers vs Atlas #2
Dark Avengers #14
Battlefields Happy Valley #3
Black Widow Deadly Origin #4
Captain America #603
Chase Variant
Collection Dans La Marge
Daredevil #505
Devil #1 - Not sure what this is
Doctor Voodoo #5
Dodgem Logic #2
Doomwar #1
Green Lantern #51
Guardians of the Galaxy #23
Hellblazer #264
Hulk #20
Incorruptible #3
Incredible Hercules #141
Incredible Hulk #607
Joe the Barbarian #2
Invincible #70
Marvels Eye of the Camera #6
McSweeneys #33
Punisher #14
Amazing Spider-Man #621
Spider-Woman #6
Uncanny X-Men #521's gonna be a tough adjustment the day I don't work in comics any more...

Carry on reading...

Things I Did Yesterday 18/02/10

Day 15 and we're into the second half. Trouble is, we've got so much booked in over the next two weeks that it has now become very difficult to do everything we want. Oh well, there are worse hardships. Anyway, yesterday I:

- Got up early so we could drive down to Cape Aghulas, the southernmost point of Africa, and also where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. More beautiful scenery, with a rocky coastline interspersed with white-sand beaches. What I find fascinating about these beaches is that, unlike the golden sand beaches I grew up with, the white sand doesn't get hot (for obvious reasons). So while when I was a kid you had to pick your way quickly across the sand to avoid burning your tootsies, here you can walk through sands that are actually quite nice and cool. I'm not a big beach goer, in terms of lying out on the sand and so on, but I do love good beaches and I love the sea.

- Went down to the rocky shore of Aghulas, where we peered into lively rockpools filled with fish, starfish, hermit crabs and assorted barnacles and mussels. Nice place, although it doesn't have the drama of Cape Point.

- Headed back towards Hermanus, stopping first in Struisbaai for lunch, where we picked up a little more sun than was wise (I'm a beet) and took a walk along the beach, dipping our toes in the Indian Ocean (a first for me).

- Continued driving home, but wanted to head back a different way so took a small backroad, which turned out to be a network of dirt and gravel roads through farming country. Lots of dust, but some lovely scenery.

- Went to the hostel we were staying at in Hermanus. Amazing place, all very nice and clean, with a self-service bar that works on an honesty system, a lounge area that constantly shows movies and a swimming pool, as well as a nightly braai for guests. Even better, our private double room with ensuite was actually just around the corner in a beautiful house that had four other rooms and a lovely rear garden with its own pool. Not too bad for 330 rand, or around £28.

- Walked towards a bar and restaurant that had been recommended to us, which was way the hell out on the edge of town. We thought it would be nice to walk along the coastal path, along the clifftops. It certainly was lovely, but we started at dusk and before long it was fully dark and we were suddenly very aware that anyone could be lurking in wait: the ever-present fear of South Africa! The somewhat overstated fear, I think, but the locals just think I'm naive.

- Went out to said restaurant for dinner which turned out to be a lot flashier than we expected. A group of BBC Food representatives were in attendance, speaking to the chef and manager and so on. Not bad! Even so, two starters, two mains and two bottles of wine only set us back around £50, including a generous tip. Also, as it turns out though we had both forgotten, it was the 5th anniversary of our 1st date, so I'm glad we found somewhere nice to eat!

- Returned to the hostel for a couple of drinks before hitting the sack.

Carry on reading...

Things I Did Yesterday 17/02/10

Day 14 of the South African holiday! That’s the halfway mark to anyone keeping track, which has gone very quickly and very slowly in equal measure. On the one hand it feels like the holiday is slipping by at alarming speed, but on the other the last time I was in London feels like a lifetime ago. Anyway, yesterday I:

- Got up early to do the Robben Island tour. Robben Island was a maximum security prison for political prisoners from the 60’s through until the 90’s. It most famously held Nelson Mandela for 18 years but was also the prison of a number of other notables from the ANC, the PAC and others. After the topsy-turvy boat ride out from Cape Town harbour (a 13km journey), the tour takes place in two phases. First, a bus ride around the island covering its history as variously a supply dump, a prison, a hospital-cum-leper hospice, a military base and finally its return to prison status, first for common law criminals in a medium security prison, then for political prisoners as a maximum security facility built by the original inmates from quarries on the island. Our guide was brilliant, a Khayalitsha resident by the name of (if I recall) Mpkelele, or MP for short. A real comedian and a great guide. I think he must earn a fortune in tips from the Yanks. After this we get dropped at the main prison itself, where groups are given a guided tour by a former prisoner. I never caught the name of ours, to be honest, but he was an interesting guy. Quite no-nonsense, he was certainly able to give insight into the conditions and the mood of the prison. There was a particularly interesting segment where he was asked about why he had been put there, and he quite frankly told us that he had been a soldier for the ANC Youth League in places like Angola and Zambia. He had received his training in Cuba and the Soviet Union and was still very much an old-school communist. Interestingly he did not really become politically aware until he had been interred at Robben Island, where politics was the number one discussion point for inmates, unsurprisingly. He was in the prison when the early drafts of what is now the South African constitution were written, after the liberation of Namibia. So, all in all a very interesting tour and certainly one I would recommend if you’re in Cape Town.

- Hit the road. Headed for Hermanus, a town mostly famous for its whale watching, though we were out of season. But Alex has friends there we wanted to catch up with and it’s still a lovely area to visit, so we drove on down. It’s a fantastic drive, with more dramatic scenery which is pretty standard in this Western Cape area, I’m finding. Only takes a couple of hours from Cape Town, and that’s with us stopping here and there along the way. The town itself is pretty stunning, sandwiched between rocky coastline (though with a substantial beach further around the bay) and smallish mountains which sweep up suddenly at the rear. It reminds me of New Zealand, and that’s not the first time I’ve been drawn to that comparison while I’ve been here.

- Killed some time while we waited to hear from Lana, so we had a quick drink from a place which was actually closing up. One waitress told us that we couldn’t get any food but could have a beer, but the other waiter was quite obviously put out when she told him. He was fine with us, but I think she got the evils good and proper.

- Went to Lana’s house, where we had a very pleasant evening. A lot of politics got talked between Lana's husband Ramone and his father Aubrey, some of which was a bit dubious from my perspective, but a lot of which was really quite interesting. The politics here is just so volatile. Zuma is disliked intensely by a good number of the population, particularly among the whites. Meanwhile young, poor blacks and coloureds, especially men, are finding themselves distanced from the older generation of the ANC, guys like Zuma or Mbeke before him. They’ve grown up without the struggle these guys were engaged in, and although they know about the past, they don’t relate to the older generation. Meanwhile there’s a new kid in town named Julius Malema who is the great fear for the whites here now (and not exactly loved by the ANC elders either, I gather). Essentially he’s a young guy, 28 or so, who was a street kid and so speaks directly to the younger generation. He also has charisma and a populist polemic that doesn’t necessarily hold with the spirit of reconciliation that is embodied in the constitution. Whether or not the ANC will push him forward or try to bury him is unclear, but it’s certainly a lively topic for speculation (and one which I don’t really know enough about at this time to join on). Anyway, the other really interesting thing was the talk I had with Ramone’s folks about their history in South Africa: about the Afrikaans propaganda that began once the National Party took power, designed to institute Afrikaans over English as the main language, and how the English speaking community was actually subject to a lot of regulation as the Afrikaners tried to subsume them. Not something I’ve normally ever heard about. They also talked about the early English-speaking condemnation of apartheid and so on. Anyway, fascinating stuff. We also talked a lot about the idea of coming to live here now, and the consensus seemed to be it might be worthwhile, but you would need to have enough money to start your own business, the drive to make it succeed and a back door just in case things got nasty, or you got sick of the crime and so on.

- Ramone and Lana gave us their bed for the night! They slept in the spare room downstairs. I felt guilty for a while, but not very long. Zzz.

Carry on reading...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Things I Did Yesterday 15/02/10

It's the sweet'n'low version. The in-laws are inbound for breakfast! Luckily yesterday I only:

- Went to church. Yes, yes, I hear you snickering, Bruce. I've no problem with being dragged along to church every once in a while, mainly as an act of politeness. Most modern church services, especially the likes of Presbyterian or COE, are all about tolerance and so on anyway. At least the ones I've been to are. So it's fine, and I always find the differing ceremonial aspects of the different churches quite interesting. Plus it was my chance to meet James, the family minister who I've heard a lot about over the years and who we nearly flew in to marry us. The service was all about love (of course), and the need for the church to embrace the idea of romantic love. Not to be so tied up in the idea of rules governing who can love who and so on. Anyway, it was a nice history lesson in the church's attitude to love, from claiming a pagan ritual for St Valentine (who had virtually no connection to love, but was martyred on the desired day) to the downgrading of Valentine's sainthood status as the church distanced itself from the day and gave it over to the marketing boys (who have long since stripped any reference to Sainthood out of the picture). Pretty interesting stuff, as it goes.

- Had prep time for a big party being held in the evening. Honestly, the most event-free day of the trip so far, and that was just fine. Just to have enough time through the day to do my blog and catch up on the some reading was very nice indeed. The party certainly required a good deal of work, shifting furniture around getting glasses washed and so on. The Browns don't do these things by halves, that much is for sure. Didn't leave the house all day!

- Had a party. Really, it was an excuse for a lot of family and friends to meet me for the first time, so it wasn't exactly a relaxing affair. Certainly my standard party strategy of finding a spot and setting myself up there for the evening wasn't going to wash. But I had plenty of drinks, good food (great chilli con carne) and everyone was very nice.

- Carried on after most people had left until midnight-ish, then hit the sack, leaving my wife and Barbs (an inveterate party animal) drinking on the deck. I really must call it a stoep, to give it its local name.

Carry on reading...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Comics I'm Missing This Week

Well, missed last week, really. The state of comic shops here is poor. There are two: one of which is tucked away on the first floor of an office block with virtually no signage, the other of which is in a shopping mall out of the centre of town. The former carries virtually no shelf stock (though I did manage to pick up their only copy of the latest Criminal) and the latter, while not much better for shelf stock, only gets a shipment every other week. That one is a pretty decent shop in its way, though, with a good, varied range of GNs. The state of stores for fans in relatively isolated parts of the world like this really does just reinforcve a lot of my ideas about digital comics' inevitable rise. It's all well and good for people in cities like London to doubt it - we really are spoiled for choice - but for sheer convenience how can a guy in Buttfuck, Ohio resist? Anyway, casting my eyes over the shipping list last week, what will I need to track down?

Also, you think I could find Scalped #32 anywhere? Could I fuck. Neither carries any shelf copies of it. See what I mean?

What's this Judge Dredd Mega City One Archives thing? I can't even remember it being offered.
Batman & Robin #8
BPRD King of Fear #2
Daytripper #3
Groo Hogs of Horder #3
Haunt #5 (Sshh! It's my guilty pleasure!)
Hellblazer Pandemonium HC
As an aside, nice to see Hicksville back in print!
Human Target #1
Invincible Presents Atom Eve & Rex Splode #3
Marvel Boy Uranian #2
Newave! Underground Minicomics of the 80's
Nextwave Ultimate Collection TP - Gonna buy me this. One of my favourite series of the past decade.
Phonogram 2 #7
PunisherMAX #4 (silly name for a great comic)
Realm of Kings Imperial Guard #4
(Jesus, this is supposed to be my pared down list! Glad I wasn't working this week!)
Solomon Kane #2
Amazing Spider-Man #620
Ultimate Spider-Man #7
Unwritten #10
Dark X-Men #4
Not gonna waste my time with Hit Monkey. Let me know if it's any good, will you?
Zombies That Ate the World #8

PHEW! Hey, what's Octopus Girl vol 1 doing on the Gosh new releases? Has it been re-released?

Most of this can wait, but if I get the chance later this week I might pick up BPRD and PunisherMAX. And maybe Batman & Robin and Daytripper. Comics here are EXPENSIVE!

Carry on reading...

Things I Did Yesterday 14/02/10

Day eleven of our South Africa trip! Internet access has been patchy as we've been travelling, so forgive my sporadic updates. Well, patchy internet access and a lack of time to politely do this blog. But I'll try to be better from now on. As usual with these kinds of holidays, I have great plans to get this book read, or do that writing, and as usual I've barely touched it. Still have over half our time left, but I already feel like the end is closing in! Anyway, yesterday I:

- Woke up in Paternoster, a small beach town on the West Coast. We had been a little way down the coast at Yzerfontaine the night before for Jen & Daniel's wedding, which was a lovely do. Alex's mum had booked us the following night in a fantastic B&B right on the beach at Paternoster, with instructions to go to the Noisy Oyster restaurant and to pick up some crayfish on the way home. Well, we didn't have any luck with the Noisy Oyster, as it was booked out (but had a beach-front dinner instead involving the biggest prawns I've had in my life), so our big mission was to get crayfish.

- Had breakfast at a tiny little cafe that did an extremely tasty farmer's sausage omelet, then struck out for the Post Office to get a permit for the crayfish. Most people just buy the crayfish without one, but the fines if you get caught are huge, not to mention that they can confiscate your vehicle. It's all a dodgy enough exercise anyway, with guys wandering around the small town with shopping bags of crayfish, most of which seemed long dead. We wanted live ones and were recommended by the B&B proprietor to get them direct from the small fishing boats as they came in to shore. We had scored ourselves a lidded bucket for the job and everything.

- Was informed at the post office that Paternoster no longer issues licenses, and we would need to go about 20 minutes down the road to Vredenburg to get one. Racing against early Saturday closing times, we got to Vredenburg, got the application form, and stumbled at the first hurdle. Alex no longer has a valid South African ID book, and you needed an ID number to apply. Not South African? No crayfish for you. Oh well, we tried anyhow.

- Decided, given the lack of crayfish for an evening bbq (braai, I should say), we would instead take a relaxed route back home, stopping for dinner somewhere along the way. We drove inland and soon hit the wine-growing regions. South Africa, I'm not sure that I've mentioned before, is a beautiful country. Rolling, dry farmlands backed by dramatic mountain ranges, or sometimes just stretching out into massive plains, gave way to green, lush winelands, dotted with boutique towns full of wine shops and restaurants. We stopped for lunch at one of the earliest of these, Riebeek-Kasteel.

- Had a steak roll for lunch, then went shopping for a little wine. Tasted a few Riebeek wines, settling on the Shiraz Reserve and the Pinotage Rose, as well as their award-winning port. All sounds very swank but it actually came it at less than half the price we would pay for same in the UK. Had a little wander, then hit the road again.

- Decided to make for Stellenbosch, another wine town, but also a big student town with popular boarding schools (one of which Alex attended) and a university. We had originally thought to do Stellenbosch as an overnight trip, touring around the vineyards and getting sozzled, but decided to just check out the town on our way home, effectively giving us two more days in Cape Town (which we were looking a little thin on).

- Hit Stellenbosch, which is like some weird picturesque little mid-America town, all leafy boulevards and a thriving, cute-as-a-button town centre. Not to mention bustling bars, which we toured a couple of. The student population is immediately apparent: you would think you had stumbled into a small town Logan's Run scenario. All in all the vibe is wonderfully pleasant, but eerily unreal. Everyone was watching the Super 14 games in the bars. I forget that rugby is so huge here. I barely see any evidence of the S14 in the UK, but it's everywhere here.

- Went to Mug & Bean, a coffee chain that does bottomless coffees and gave me a glorious 10 free minutes of wifi. Enough to book tickets for the Robben Island tour on Tuesday and to check my emails for the first time in days. Trust me, with the cost of roaming data network charges in this country, I can wait.

- Went to Spur for dinner. The hell with all those interesting small restaurants: we wanted ribs! Alex goes on about Spur all the time. It's a very cheesy, American-styled steakhouse, renowned also for burgers and ribs and so on. We had it on our list of things to do, so took advantage of cheap ribs night to save a little money after our ridiculous splash-out the night before. What can I say? It was very tasty and didn't skimp on the portions; much better than the slightly anemic version that London has at the O2 centre.

- Headed for home, including a ridiculously thorough service station visit. Petrol, water, window cleaning water, oil, tires. It's been a number of years since I've been anywhere that hasn't gone over to self-service at the pumps. But SA is a very labour-intensive place. Wherever you go there is someone with a job you wouldn't normally see around: from parking attendants (official and unofficial) who watch your cars and wave you in and out of your car parks for tips, through to the road gangs, who operate in groups of 10 on jobs that would employ 2 in the UK. Of course the secret is that they get paid peanuts. There is a minimum wage here, but it's the equivalent of about 60p/hour in a country where a beer at a downtown bar will set you back around £1.50. It doesn't take a genius to see SA has big problems, but the solutions are going to be tough on everyone and slow to implement with any real lasting effect. A legacy of poor education for the black and coloured (a demographic here, by the way) communities as well as imbalances of wealth and privilege are not easily surmounted. But at the same time the problems are not as simple as one, I must admit, kind of assumes from the outside. Politically it's a complicated place. Corruption is widespread (though being cracked down on), and the divisions in society extend far beyond simple black and white. Tribal differences, traditional vs democratically elected leaders, anti-immigration sentiment, the state of the squatter camps: all these things and more are political hot potatoes represented by parties who often are more interested in furthering their own careers than solving any real problems. It's a pretty screwy place, and that's without even looking at the crime and security issues, but it's also a wonderful one. Without even considering the natural beauty, the mish-mash of culture, the colour and vibrancy of the place is infectious. Shit, and I haven't even seen any lions yet.

- Got in, had a couple of drinks while I sucked up internet access like a hoover (Alex and I sat on the balcony, me on my phone, she on her DS, not talking at all), then hit the sack. Was woken around 12.30am by someone screaming about how they were going to kill the pigs if someone called them, had my usual paranoid imaginings that someone was breaking in (not helped by blustery winds), then eventually drifted back to sleep.

Carry on reading...

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Comics I'm Missing This Week

More for my reference than yours, but from this week's stuff I'm gonna have to catch up on:

Boys #39
Conan the Cimmerian #18
Criminal Sinners #4
Demo Vol 2 #1
Echo #19
Ghost Riders Heaven's on Fire #6
Invincible Iron Man #23
Realm of Kings Son of Hulk #1
Scalped #34 (though I may pop into a shop here and pick this up. Some things I can't wait for)
Siege #2
Sweet Tooth #6
Ultimate Comics #1
Wolverine Weapon X #10
Berserk Vol 33!

So, that's it for this week! Not necessarily all the things I would normally check out, but there's not much point trying to catch up on the things I would normally just flick through. A few things in this week's delivery that have been on the verge of me giving up on have had their marching orders this week, and I imagine there will be more of that over the next few weeks. Nothing like having something unavailable to you to make you realise how little you miss it when it's gone. If you think I've made some glaring omission, do let me know!

Carry on reading...

Things I Did Yesterday 07/02/10

Day four of our South Africa trip! But yesterday I:

- Sorted out access to the wireless here at Jane & Nick's house. Which reminds me, I should mention something about this place. The house is in a part of town called District 6, a sector that was bulldozed in the '60's during the process of forcibly moving all the non-whites out of central Cape Town into the Cape Flats townships. District 6 was a very diverse place, your classic dive part of town where people, both local and international, tended to wash up. Of course, this also made it something of a cultural hub, with a vibrant sense of community and culture. There was supposed to be redevelopment immediately after it all got leveled, but it never happened due to an international outcry over the action (this was of course before the height of SA's international pariah status). To this day, much of it is empty scrubland, still with the original rubble sticking up here and there where it hasn't been completely cleared. Unfortunately this is mainly down to bureaucratic bullshit, as various political interests want to get themselves involved, tying it all up dense red tape. So, very little development has gone on. A few terraces of houses have gone up as a part of a resettlement project, but that has been very stop-start over the last 20 years.

Jane & Nick's place is on one of the few terraces of houses that wasn't demolished, and sits on the bottom slopes of Table Mountain with a great view over the working harbour. It's a two-level place, with the master bedroom and office downstairs leading onto a small courtyard, and the upstairs containing guest a bedroom & bathroom, leading into a fantastic open-plan kitchen and living area which goes through to a sun-catching balcony that capitalises on the view. All very nice and airy, but with enough dark wood and features that it would still feel very cosy in the winter. Of course, like most places here, it's surrounded by walls that are topped with metal spikes. The walls are actually quite nice, done in a way that gives the whole thing an almost villa-like feel. The metal spikes? Not so much. Still, I do need to keep reminding myself that as much as the security measures are far more prevalent, there's still nothing here I wouldn't be seeing in places about London. Except for the security company signs on the houses promising Armed Response, of course. Anyway, on with the day!

- Alex abandoned me! She went off to her friend Jen's hen do while I with Jane & Nick to a masonic potjiekos competition. Basically a charity fundraiser where the various masonic lodges around Cape Town (one of which Nick is a member of) compete to cook the best potjiekos: a kind of layered stew that is slow-cooked in a cast-iron pot which is left in hot coals for a number of hours. It's a traditional Afrikaans thing, and the food is rather nice. Strange to be hanging with the masons, though. Mainly ex-pat Brits (and one German) who are effectively running the equivalent to the Lions or Rotary, only with more elaborate rituals. The whole thing just feels a little like a boys own adventure club, but they were all nice folks with good, charitable aims. I was asked by one if I was a mason. No, I replied, to which I was told "Not yet, anyway." At last, my dreams of holding the secret reigns to the world are drawing closer to fruition!

- Came home after taking a little too much sun (I lost the hat I was lent, which I can only assume was blown away when put it aside for a moment), and had a little mid-afternoon nap. I normally abhor losing any portion of the day, but hey, I'm on holiday. So I dozed for a little bit, then got up and did some writing. Settled down with a paper looking at the real estate sections (amazing what you can get for your money here, even with the weaker pound), then watched some of the right-wing revenge-wank that is Taken, which is actually a very well-made action thriller with Liam Neeson. Basically the morals are: don't trust anyone that isn't American; Europe is a hive of corruption and villany that wants to sell your daughters to dirty Arab-looking businessmen; I'm not paranoid about these things, you're just naive; and of course the US secret services are the best trained killing machines in the world, capable of mowing through the ranks of any number of lowlife foreign scum. Fun film.

- Alex arrived home and we went out to meet some old friends of hers, one of whom was just in town for the night. This involved going to some suburb I don't know by way of a slightly terrifyingly underlit motorway. Anyway, went to a pleasant restaurant which did great gourmet pizzas (steak, jalapeno & feta for me) and had a catch-up. Well, Alex had a catch-up, I had a meet'n'greet.

- Drove home (thanks to the magic of Tom Tom, for which we bought a South Africa map before we left the UK), sat on the balcony for a bit, having a drink while watching the city lights, then hit the sack.

Carry on reading...