Sunday, March 26, 2006

Not yet beaten

Having recently outed my dad as a comedy genius, I feel it only fair to reveal to the nation the best conversation I've ever had with my mum ever. This was a while ago - pre-blog, but was going to come out sooner or later...

We were discussing whether mysterious origins of my gran on my dad's side (she was adopted, and never talks about her past. Dad was raised C of E, but went to one of them Haberdashers schools). And my mum said:

MUM: Well we always thought there might be a bit of jewishness on your dad's side, what with his nose...

At which point my dad, confused, crosses his eyes, trying to check out his own nose (which is biggish, and got broken years ago in a boxing match - my dad is tops). And then mum looks at me and says:

MUM: And you've always been very tidy.

I laughed solidly for about an hour, and that was as far as that discussion ever got. But ever since then, Jews = the tidy people.

UPDATE: just to add to this, Best Mate said a while ago: 'You just love the idea of possibly being a bit jewish so you can have the slightly exotic outsider thing without actually having the emotional fucking awfulness of members of your family dying in the Holocaust. You monstrous twat'.

To which I said 'Oooooh! Jealous!'.

Or I would have done if I'd thought of it in time.

I wouldn't want anyone to feel they have to gleefully email me links to dreadful reviews for the opening episode of series two...

... but by all means carry on. You complete bastards. I've got some meetings coming up next week, and I fully expect people to be talking to me in a soft sad voice, heads tilted slightly on one side like in that Friends episode with Tom Selleck where his wife's died. I did like the "you don't stop loving an unhinged mongrel just because it's sick on the new carpet" line though, very funny.

I took a GINORMOUS bunch of flowers over to my mum's today to try and make up for the tree incident - I think it's okay, as it wasn't mentioned once. Did have the following great conversation with my dad though - proof that no-one in my family ever feels over-burdened by the need to listen properly to anyone else:

ME: Sorry about my trousers, got splashed by someone driving through a puddle on the way here.
DAD: (interested) Was it a van?
ME: Um, no, it was a hearse.
DAD: Tch. Women drivers.

Long pause.

ME: What?

I never did find out.

Marvellous little pop-up/animated video on the Sad Little Stars site, called 'Don't Fuck With Love' - you'll need to tinker about a bit to find it, but it's worth it - very good.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tree/Not Tree

What with yesterday being shit and everything, it was with a glad heart and a general sense of 'Rah!' that I took up my mum's invitation to cut down her old apple tree that was getting a bit rotten. Being quite outdoorsy by nature, my parents' garage is stuffed to bursting with all sorts of full-on gardening death implements, and though the tree isn't that big, I like to do these things properly. If you think of those scenes in post-apocalypse movies where the hero breaks into a hardware store and tools up, it was a bit like that.

I will admit to taking out a certain amount of personal vengeance on the tree. But soon it was gone, and I stood proudly atop a pile of ruined branches and sections of trunk, eyes afire with the light of victory.

Then my mum got back from walking the dogs. "How are you-' she called, then stopped, staring at me, her mouth a perfect 'O' of horror.

Because with the TEDIOUS FUCKING INEVITABILITY that has made this blog famous world-wide, I had of course cut down the wrong tree.

The dog slipped his leash from my mother's slack hand, climbed the steps to the top of the garden, picked his way carefully through the scene of devastation, sniffed in puzzled sort of way at the hole in the ground where the tree used to be, licked my hand gently, then lay down and fell asleep.

The apple tree I was supposed to cut down was in fact a small trunk just to the left, and only about two feet high. When, a few moments later, I finally turned my attention to the correct tree, it came out of the ground with just one hand. Of course it would. Ha ha! Why wouldn't it?

If you're wondering why the chair has changed position in the photos, it wasn't thrown at me or anything. I had to shift it when I took all the logs up to the woodshed. I thought of saying something along the lines of 'still, apple wood smells lovely when it burns, doesn't it?', but decided against it.

Anyway, it's all fine now, although I will be buying my mother a new apple tree sapling for Mother's Day, which I think is fair enough really.

It does remind me of something a friend of mine* said once. She gets into a number of hapless scrapes, even by my high standards, although she tends to be assisted by more Class A drugs than me. Still, she was telling a number of us this one particular story, which involved a party out in the nowhere**, and her ending up through a convoluted series of events, with no trousers, and not no undercrackers neither. And it was funny, and we laughed, and she looked at us with real anguish in her little cornish face and said 'No no, you don't understand. This is just a story for you. I have to wake up and be this person every single day'. And writing this post now, I sort of know how she feels.

* Not B.M.

** Supposed to be 'out in the middle of nowhere', although 'the nowhere' has an interesting pseudo-mythic ring to it. It's probably just behind Penryn Asda.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

6. Howl through duvet.

1. Get up, go into town and buy a whiteboard.

2. Carefully write up all the different projects I'm working on at the moment, ranging from Vague Half Page Idea I had Six Months Ago, to Secret Special Project I've Been Working On For Three Years And Am Waiting To Hear Back About That If Successful Will Change My Life Beyond All Imagining. This way I look really busy, and I should be motivated to get on with new projects and finish old ones. I hang the whiteboard on the wall. Getting it was a great idea, and I'm glad I had it.

2. Half an hour later get a phone call.

3. Very slowly wipe Secret Special Project off board.

4. Draw curtains.

5. Go back to bed.

Fortunately the 'Bill Bailey interviews Simon Pegg' thing on Chain Reaction was both funny and heartwarming - just two people who have clearly been friends for years having a good chat and giggling at each others' jokes.

Then I realised that a thing I've been working on for a while to no avail might work better as a kids' book than (as it is currently) a treatment for an animated series AND that it would also work perfectly as a roleplaying game, thus allowing me to further develop characters, settings, villains and so on. So I'm currently making up rules for a Nordic anthropomorphic RPG (viking mice!) which I can run when the current Sunday night campaign ends. Perhaps that's what I was destined to do all along.

Still, apologies to the people living below me. For the howling.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Quick links and the crushing weight of friends' expectations

The Working Title website has a Hot Fuzz video blog in which Simon Peg talks about stunt training for his new movie. I'm steering clear because of potential spoilers, but I thought people might want to know. Also, Bill Bailey chats to SP at 6.30 on tomorrow night's Chain Reaction on Radio 4. I'm hoping they start to podcast these eventually, but in the meantime, the 'listen again' function's very good.

And Green Wing now has its own forum on the channel 4 website, so people who partake in sober and considered discussions of their favourite guest presenter of the Friday Night Project can now do so uninterrupted by debate about whether Mac or Guy have better hair. Actually I don't think that's ever been a topic for discussion, but you know what I mean. They do call it 'The Green Wing' though, which is bad and wrong.

UPDATE: Smoo2 asked "How nervous are you, James, on a scale of 1-10, about the new GW series? Or do you try to forget what is past and move on?!"

I'm not particularly nervous, but not out of any great smug complacency; more because I've only seen the first episode of the new series and a few scenes in the editing room, so I'm almost watching it in the same context as the fans or regular viewers. I kind of don't really know what to expect.

It tends to be the actors/producers who get really het up - usually writers are off working on something else by the time the beast is unleashed, triply distanced from the material by time, the change from page to screen, and the speedy-up editing. There's also the weird balance of how much is improvised versus how much is written (in fact at least ninety per cent is written*, but you wouldn't necessarily know from the features about the show). Normally we're fighting over the credit like this:

ACTORS: We love improvising - it's rare that actors get to create a character and see them through to the end of the process. More champagne? Lovely.
WRITERS: The characters were created long before the actors showed up, and they basically arse about at the end of the written scenes and some of that gets put in. I hate everyone. Where's my raven?

If it doesn't go down very well, you'll start to read interviews like this:

ACTORS: Of course, the writers are really in control of the story, we just tag along and fill in the gaps as best we can. Anyway, can we talk about my new film? I'm playing a unicorn.
WRITERS: Of course, the influence of improvisation really can't be understated - the dedication and responsibility they put in, carrying the weight of the whole show and so forth. I'm not paying for this coffee, by the way.

I started complaining about all this to some friends Sunday night. But then I remembered a) they hadn't even heard of Green Wing, let alone seen it, and b) one is pregnant, the other is a qualified head nurse running a cardiology ward, so any worries I have are pointless and trivial in comparison. And there's no pressure of expectation amongst friends who actually have seen Green Wing, as most of them thought it was okay, but are more excited about the second DVD set of Arrested Development. And who can honestly say they're wrong?

* But gallingly, that ten percent can get a much bigger laugh than your own carefully crafted lines. There's a scene I've got in the first ep of series two where Guy and Martin are arguing about a particularly poor Hollywood movie, and Karl (Martin) chucks in an fantastic adlib at the end I really really wish I'd thought of. But I hadn't. Afterwards I hugged him close to me and whispered in his ear 'You did well my friend. I both congratulate you and wish you dead'. Which left him confused, but I think ably sums up the tricky relationship between writers and actors.

What else, um... JPG, talented and gorgeous production designer on GW has his series 2 blog up with lots of bits of info on the making of the series, Drawn! is a great illustrating blog, with lots of pointers for fab new artists, and I finally found 'Microfilmed' a stirring bit of glitchy samply ambient stuff which fell off my iPod last year (although I've just noticed one doesn't seem to be able to download from that link, which is a shame). And it turned out to be by Her Space Holiday, who I already liked.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Things destined to spiral out of control in a hideously tragic, but potentially very amusing way:


ALSO: PP very kindly gave one of his five* copies of Decline and Fall, which I am saddened and disappointed to report I enjoyed very much. Particularly the singing in the chapel bit, which I fully intend to steal at some point. Also, EW plays something of a blinder in getting in and out of scenes, which on a technical level (ooh get me) impressed me all over the shop.

* Five!

I think I'm going to... OMMRPG

Having singularly failed to learn from my last attempt at mixing alcohol with the internet (went out with B.M., drank too much, came home, sent impassioned email to random Doctor Who writer, woke up next morning to be so violently sick I started crying), I went out for a drink with B.M. last night, got back and thought: ooh! I've never played World of Warcraft drunk! How different an experience would it be?

In the space of two hours I:

Was eaten by bears.
Was beaten up by miners.
Was beaten up by a gang of dwarves.
Was jumped on by spiders.
Was ganked by a rogue.
Decided that 'Fist-sized Spinneret' would be a great name for a band.
Found a new cloak.
Attacked a town registry office and killed a number of prominent council members.
Met lots of new trolls I haven't met before. One of them had a pet raptor, it's name was Slashy, but I might have imagined that bit.
Found a shield and enchanted it to be slightly better than my old one.
Found a new hat, (although this covers up my troll character's red mohican, so I might sell it instead).
Learned how to sew linen bags.

In short it was brilliant. And I'm not hungover! Life is sweet.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Last Supper

I found out, while looking up something completely different*, that the Last Supper apparently took place on a Thursday night, which maybe explains Jesus' rather wry smile in the picture.

"This is fun," he's thinking, "But it's a work day tomorrow, there's a lot on, and I'm just not sure I'm going to get everything done".

He did, of course. Jesus was aces!

UPDATE: Dave has suggested that in the interests of free speech I do something as equivalently amusing (as in 'not particularly') about say... Mister TP Mohammed. Dave is clearly trying to stir up some kind of friction between the two great religions of this world, as part of some dark plan. Bad Dave, I will not fall for your tricksy ways. But it is a fair point. I do heartily approve of the Jesus though, and like Maude, would probably have a bit of a crush on him if we ever were to meet, just for the record.

Also, yes, Green Wing 1 repeats start Monday night at 11. Woo hoo!

* Party planning.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Right, that's it.

Over a year now, and I've still only got three quarters of the way through Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and now I've become convinced it's not going anywhere and I'm bloody well giving up.

Fortunately, Stephen Fry's 'The Ode Less Travelled' is blimmin' brilliant, and now I finally understand what an iambic pentameter is. Also a,trochaic substitution which is just that little bit saucier.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

This is all a bit showbiz: sorry.

Went to the Green Wing Series Two press launch at the Bafta. For series one, someone put the tapes in a brown paper bag, slid them under the door of Channel 4 and ran away, and if there was a press launch, it consisted of getting a runner to colour-photocopy some GW postcards and chuck them out of a window in the hope they'd hit a journalist.

The difference of expectation for series two can been seen in the fact that I woke up the next morning thinking 'blimey, those rose petals get everywhere'.

Never been to Bafta before, but there's an online tour on the website (can't find the link, sorry), so I was familiar with the layout, and had already planned a number of 'safe points' - places to retreat and re-arm if during the evening the building were to be attacked by terrorists and/or zombies. Or indeed terrorist zombies.

Anyway, the room quickly filled with at least a thousand hard-bitten journo's, all wearing black, which I thought was a nice touch. I was wearing a washed-out stripey shirt, jeans and a goatee, as was Rob, so when later on we did a bit to camera for the C4 website, we looked like a nice gay couple, although clearly I was the slinkier younger one Rob had picked up at a bar somewhere, who had then ruthlessly worked my way through his contacts book and was now planning to leave him crying in a restaurant while my glittering career outstripped his. May have thought about that a bit too much.

We then got to see the first episode, which I hadn't seen before, on a huge screen ONE MILLION FEET HIGH with a sound system of ONE BILLION DECIBELS. That's all I'm going to say about it really, although I did laugh a lot, and occasionally one of my own lines drifted past, waving at me rather self-consciously, like a friend in a parade. Also, the actors have seemingly abandoned their previous commitment to naturalism and low-keyness, and have let down their hair down a bit, which is nice to see.

The only mini-review I've seen so far said that they thought the gag rate was a bit low, but possibly there was a lot of plot to get through**. Oddly enough, I thought the gag rate was very high, but there's a whole chunk in the middle where it's almost pure stream of consciousness, until the plot suddenly realizes it's gone to the wrong building and runs through the door, sweating heavily and apologizing to everyone. When it's on telly, I reckon probably video it, then at half-time go and walk around the block, or splash cold water on your face or something, and dive back in. Not sure what new viewers will make of it, but as has been pointed out 'Fuck 'em, they had their chance' (I don't think that was in the press pack though).

Afterwards, I saw an award-winning comedy doer and Shakespearean actress who is in Green Wing quite a lot, and who I know reasonably well (look, it's Tamsin Greig, okay? Just to clarify). What, I wondered to myself, would be the best way to greet her? Should I: a) slide gracefully between the lady from the Observer and another lady from that other paper and whisper 'my dear, you look fabulous', b) pretend to be on my phone, wave casually and smile wryly at all the surrounding nonsense, or c) flick V-signs until she notices, then shout 'Hello Stinky!'.

Yes, indeed. I did 'c'. I think there might be something wrong with me.

* 'Cooo-eeeee!' I love that joke. 'Camp followers' you see. Playing with words there.***

** Waves at Media Monkey.

*** Just realised I took out that bit, so * makes no sense at all. Ooh, this is like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Ish.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Three random things:


Went off for a (relatively) early morning swim, to discover the bins I had put out last night had been not so much 'emptied' as tipped all over the driveway. Binbags everywhere, most of which torn open by seagulls; empty noodle wrappers and Games Workshop carriers displayed for all to see. My life, rained on.

Now I've looked this up, and yes, this is almost exactly the opposite of what binmen are supposed to do. Every other bin on the street has been emptied normally. Clearly I have in some way annoyed the binmen. I am now unnerved.


Had quite a pleasant swim, went to sign out, and there's a bit on the form when you have to put the time down. It's important to fill out forms properly, lest the British Empire collapse, and the only thing we have left is guitar bands and being baddies in American films. So I extended my wrist with unnecessary flamboyance - only to realize my watch was still in my pocket. Fortunately, someone had signed just before me, so I just copied their time. I did consider adding a minute, for verisimilitude, but the chance of the minute barrier being crossed between our respective signings seemed slim, so I cast caution to the wind and didn't bother.

The girl on the desk gave me a slightly odd look on the way out, at which point it occurred to me that either a) she thinks I have an invisible watch, or b) she thinks I think I have an invisible watch, which is much worse.


Wandered back through town, popped into Best Mate's art gallery to say hi (she doesn't own it, she just frames things and looks nice), bought stuff from the farmers' market, got in to realize my flies are wildly undone. Maybe that's why the swimming pool girl gave me an odd look. Not sure if this is better or worse.

I've only been up two hours, and have already played out a three-act farce. I'm going back to bed now. I think it safest.

Saturday, March 04, 2006



And some astonishing impressions. I knew Peter S was good, but blimey. The Pacino is particularly impressive.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mmm... rivets...

Originally uploaded by jamesandthebluecat.
I thought I'd have a go at pretty much making up a screenplay as I went along - lately I've been planning out loads of stuff, then losing interest by the time it came to start work proper. So I thought I'd go the other way, and not worrying even slightly about boring things like budget, filmability, or whether anyone other than me would want to see it. Not things I'd normally recommend, but it's good to go bonkers once in a while and see what results.

So I thought I'd do a sort of tribute to those old Seventies comic strips where a plucky British youth somehow finds himself in sole charge of some bizarre mechanical contraption, likeThe Iron Fish, Robot Archie, or The Python. This is all stuff which has been parodied many times before, (Viz did a fabulous pisstake of The Iron Fish, called something like 'Professor Fimstrode's Fabulous Hovering Metal Arse' or somesuch), but I thought it might be interesting to do a more straightforward take - there's something inherently funnier about these things existing in a small English town rather than, say a modern American city, where we're quite used to seeing these things in films and comics. Of course, I could be terribly wrong.

Anyway, I've written about it here now, so I have to finish it. Also, I've come across some design sketches for Victoriana-era Transformers (via boingboing), which is the sort of thing I really should have got over, but possibly never will.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Peep Show and The IT Crowd recommissioned

UPDATE: Re the lyrics of 'Desperado', Latigo Flint comes up trumps (see comment 31). Thanks Latigo.

hannah has pointed out:

(From Broadcast Freelancer)

Channel 4 has recommissioned Friday night comedies Peep Show and The IT Crowd.
The future of Peep Show had been hanging in the balance after the third series of the comedy dropped to an average of just 1.3 million (6%) viewers, despite an extensive marketing campaign.

C4 sources said director of television Kevin Lygo wanted to secure its stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb for a sketch show. However the duo will now return for another 6 x 30-minutes series of the sitcom. It is unclear when the fourth series, made by Objective Productions, will go into production or be scheduled.

Three loud 'huzzah's! And thanks to everyone who signed the online petition thing, which must have helped in some way. All of you are now officially both 'ace' and 'skill'. Good news about The IT Crowd too, which has had a mixed reception, but certainly deserves a second go. Also Richard and I had quite a long debate as to whether the rack of exceptionally geeky t-shirts in the empty office above Green Wing where we were writing (we were told to go and play somewhere we'd cause less trouble) were free for the taking or not. We decided not to steal them in the end, which was for the best as they turned out to be Roy's costumes, so things could have got awkward. Would have liked the Pacman level 256 one though...

I like to think The IT Crowd's 'even numbered ones good, odd ones not so good' formula was itself a homage to Star Trek. Comments about Star Trek: Nemesis will be taken into consideration.