Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm working on it, honest

This week's UK DVD Review has nearly 100 clips in it: rather than then take an hour reading the prices out, let me give you the list of clips I used here. Shortly I'll be adding links out from this to Amazon, so as to more formally fulfill my contractual needs to plug the prices.

If you don't listen to the show regularly, have a look at it now.

And if you do listen, please also vote: email me at before December 1, telling me your one pick of the year - and why you like it so.

Here's that list, just a reminder of some of the DVDs we've seen this year.

Deep breath,

1. Doctor Who Blink
2. Ace of Wands
3. Zoo Gang
4. Camberwick Green
5. Life on Mars
6. Arrested Development
7. The Rockford Files
8. Mad About You
9. The Rockford Files
10. Wild Hogs

11. Die Hard 4
12. WKRP in Cincinatti
13. Alias Smith and Jones
14. Airwolf
15. M*A*S*H
16. Green Wing
17. Alias Smith and Jones
18. Torchwood
19. Mr Bean's Holiday
20. Desperate Housewives

21. Jekyll
22. Little Miss Sunshine
23. Hoodwinked
24. Flushed Away
25. Veronica Mars
26. Atonement
26. Sandbaggers
28. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
29. Children of Men
30. Northern Exposure

31. Father Ted Speed 3
32. In the Night Garden
33. Becoming Jane
34. Babylon 5 captain's log
35. Cardiac Arrest
36. Follyfoot
37. Dirty Dancing
38. The Prisoner
39. Battlestar Galactica
40. For Your Consideration

41. Stranger Than Fiction
42. Notes on a Scandal
43. Ocean's Thirteen
44. Doctor Who Arc of Infinity
45. Ugly Betty
46. The Holiday
47. Frasier
48. Night at the Museum
49. Nancy Drew open
50 Doctor Who Blink

51. Fracture
52. Last King
53. Columbo
54. Casino Royale
55. The Prestige
56. Friends and Crocodiles
57. Peep Show
58. My So-Called Life
59. Hot Fuzz
60. Music and Lyrics

61. Heroes
62 The Queen
63. World of Pub
64. This is England
65. Blades of Glory
66. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
67. Happy Feet
68. Rolling Stones
69. Shooter
70. Forbidden Planet

71. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
72. Zombie Diaries
73. 28 Weeks Later
74. Pursuit
75. Perfect Stranger
76. Arthur
77. Thank You for Smoking
78. The Libertine
79. Zodiac
80. Fantasic Four

81. Amazing Grace
82. Premonition
83. Inland Empire
84. Sunshine
85. Miss Potter
86. The Illusionist
87. Snakes on a Plane
88. World Trade Center
89. Perfume
90. Primeval

91. Serenity
92. Cheers
93. Because I Said So
94. Open Season
95. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
96. The Bourne Ultimatum


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Graphite by example

Presumably you're on the side of the writers in the US strike: if not, hello, it's funny you should stop by here just when I'm talking about you and the other five people backing the producers.

But if you are one of those, do please look away now and don't spoil the surprise: I've just sent you a gift. Like socks at Christmas, it's a nice gift that you're going to get sick of.

Writers across the world are being asked to show support for the US strike by sending a box of pencils to the heads of the studios holding out. Being writers, these pencils are imbued with symbolism and you want to chip in, don't you? It'll cost a dollar: click here to do the deed.

Ta to Piers for blogging about it even as he should be giving me notes on a script.


Friday, November 09, 2007

All is well

There are birds in the trees. I'm writing again. My Oscar is in the post. I don't want to make too big a deal out of this, but on my way over here, I healed some people.

Yes, I have an iPhone.



Some writing competitions require you to enter entirely under a pseudonym. So the other day Maxine Desk, who inexplicably lives at my address yet doesn't contribute a penny to the food bill, got a letter from a theatre company saying how sorry they were she'd been rejected, how they knew this was a blow.

I couldn't even remember entering the contest, I don't know what I sent, I don't know who these people are. If there's a real Maxine Desk out there waiting for news on her script, let me know. No need to hurry.

This utter blankness over a contest I've entered is unusual, yes. But I'm minded of it because the reverse has happened today: a contest I've said before would be the best TV writing competition in the world, ever, if they had only thought to beef up the prize. Really, they were so close: a guaranteed TV commission, a guaranteed TV agent, some cash and the opportunity to work with Tony Jordan plus a good stab at getting your winning script filmed. Would it have hurt them to add a bacon sandwich and an iPhone?

I haven't made the cut.

This time, though, even more than remembering who I emailed my entry to, I also know the names of the judging panel and they are all people I rate very highly: Stephen Fry, Julie Gardner, it goes on, you count them, I can't face it. So instead of a faceless producer, there's a panel of people whose writing I admire and who do not admire my writing. To be practical here, they might have loved and cherished every syllable, but I didn't make the cut and a miss is as good as a mile.

There won't be feedback on this one (Red Planet's judges must've read at least 20,000 pages of script, they'd never be able to comment usefully on my 10) which usually means you have to shrug and move on. The scale and weight of this one means that's harder to do, and it's much easier to re-examine the material and try to guess where I got it wrong. So I'll obviously be doing a bit of that.

But otherwise, you know what needs to be done next, don't you? Every sane person in this world would tell you that that thing to do is to keep writing and, if you were even halfway clever you would already have other things out there. I have other things out there.

But still, I'm tired of being a rebel. I am stopping writing now, it's all over. I've been eating my own bacon sandwich while I've talked to you and soon I'm going out to buy my own iPhone.


PS. Rackfay is pig latin, if you hadn't guessed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Okay, I'll play

Take three blog entries into the shower?

Not sure if this is a busy day or not, but it's definitely not my usual Tuesday news shift at so I admit it, I am intrigued: Piers Beckley just tagged me to copy what he's done and list five things about myself that "other people might think lame, but which make me who I am". He's preceded in this by Helen Smith. (Hello, Helen Smith.) Who's next depends on you.

But in no especial order, here you go: me in five lame point.

1) Just so stories
When a piece of writing is just so, just exactly right, it can and regularly does move me to real tears. Can't define what's right but I know it when I get that tingle. Dar Williams's songwriting does it to me repeatedly; Christina Rosetti; Alan Plater plays. It's almost endless.

2) I'm scared of paper
Strange, but true: I have papyrophobia which is strictly speaking a fear of paper. I know you think I'm joking, being a writer and all, but while I think fear is a strong word, it's about right. Small pieces of paper, especially, can make me shake. Consequently the BBC's habit of using post-it notes a lot does give me problems, most particularly because I regularly hotdesk there and can be using other people's computers instead of my own paper-free one.

3) I'm a nut for cartography
'Course, I gave that away about an hour ago, but still. Mapping, GIS, all this stuff, arrests me. I am in no small way excited by the Maps application on iPhones.

4) Pilgrimage
When I went to Los Angeles, I made a pilgrimage to Pershing Square where the exterior of the Los Angeles Tribune newspaper offices were in Lou Grant.

5) I like typing
More than writing, sometimes. The feel of the keys under your fingers; I'm a self-taught touch-typist, once clocked at around 120 wpm, and writing is a tactile thing for me; I like the sense of kneading words together with my fingers. I think a lot about how we can think of keyboards in different ways; right now, for instance, I'm not looking at mine and all it means to me is the next letter, the next word, yet in a word processor I can in the very next second be using those same keys to save, to print, to email. I also think a great deal about word processors; I used to write about them. A friend recently complained that it was ridiculous that Microsoft charges hundreds of pounds for Word, "it's only a word processor", and by God she regretted it - or she would have done if she hadn't glazed over a few seconds into my "Ah, but you say that..." speech.

Am I allowed a sixth? You're the only person I can think of to send this to and suggest you do one yourself. No telling me that you have already. This is primarily because every bleedin' writer on the planet has already done this business. I am late to the table, again.


Unnamed lands

No reason you should know this, but I'm a nut for cartography. If you have a look at the About me page on my website, you'll see me with my nose in a book: it's a beautiful volume called Mapping Boston.

But being a writer, a particular fascination for me about mapping is the naming of places and features. If you don't already know this, you may be startled by just how much rage is stirred up by toponyms: there are several places in America called "Squaw Tits", for example, and somewhere in the States there's a "Nigger Point". My first reaction is to change them, but if you erase them, aren't you sanitising history? And if you don't, aren't you perpetuating the offense? That's my ideal drama: two opposing sides, both deeply felt and both rousing anger, but both sides right and both wrong.

I've learnt today about an almost opposite thing: a place that has no name. It doesn't sound possible, does it? You think of the world as having been thoroughly and completely explored, named, practically settled. (Incidentally, the UK is the most-mapped region of the globe, seriously. And of course it was started for military reasons; why don't we twig the reason it's called Ordnance Survey?).

But imagine a place with no name. You'd want to name it, wouldn't you? And pretty quick. So, yep, one of the current issues being debated by the US Board on Geographic Names is what to call a stream in Washington state. I'd tell you where it is but I can't find it, it doesn't have a name.

It will. I just can't decide whether this is good silly or bad silly: it's likely to be called Lambee Creek - "in honour of a nearby resident's 12-year-old cat, Lambee".

Quote from USA Today.


Here's that cover

Previously on this blog... I told you I'd seen a draft of a Radio Times cover that I wanted to tell you all about - and realised halfway through the sentence that I was simply not allowed to. If you don't already know, covers are extraordinarily important. When I was on PC Direct magazine we'd have covers meetings and you'd see that, all else being equal, the cover affected sales by 10 per cent or more.

Anyway, now read on. Or rather look on. The issue is on sale as of this morning and the cover has been released: Outpost Gallifrey has the largest image of it I could see and that's here.

I told you I'd watched the image be really painstakingly arranged on the page (Peter Davison and David Tennant were shot in front of a green screen; the TARDIS behind them is a separate image). This isn't the cover I saw, it's a different shot of the men, but it still makes me think what I did at the time. That it's weird.

Good weird, but still. Much as I liked Peter Davison's Doctor at the time, he looks so jarring now. Hard to believe this is the same show that it was, don't you think?