Thursday, July 28, 2005

Lost in his own museum

The Lost MuseumAdrian Salmon's characteristically splendid cover for my Benny play has now been released into the interweb. Woo!

The play features a number of rabbiting Aliens* played by m'self and my wee brother. I can exclusively reveal that the the small, bald, purple, pointy-eared Alien in the foreground of the cover was performed by my brother.

Our director was keen afterwards to point out that Tom was the better actor. Grr!

Or perhaps that should that be Ang!

[* Though, in the script, they were described as "locals" not aliens. It's Benny and Jason who are the aliens.]

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Some humbugs

"The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm's way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to another - particularly when the place you arrived at had probably become, as a result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e. covered with tar, full of smoke and short of fish."

Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, p. 134.

I've been slowly rereading the Hitch Hikers books (whenever there aren't the Doctor's newspapers about for taking to the loo) and the above bit really struck a cord.

I don't like driving. I can drive, and not too badly, neither. But it's like washing up, or proofing technical and policy documents. I'd just rather not, if that's all right. It's tedious, repetitive and it's not often I fit around the steering wheel anyway. And I hate the attitude - especially in London - that driving's a war of attrition, where you try and out-do as many other road-users as you can, without letting them nip in front. Me, I'm quite content to sit on a slow wending bus, reading or daydreaming silly titbits for stories, or even just staring out the window...

Of course, keen-driving pals and family members have already explained - and in depth - why I Am Wrong on this, too. And in the manner they also sometimes explain that, 'Simon, quite a lot of Dr Who is not very good...'.

Yes. I know. But I reckon they'd still agree that the whole driving experience would be a lot more agreeable if not so many people were utterly sold to it. Drive when you have to, not when you can.

Anyway, for going to a chum's wedding in a few weeks' time, I've just had to hire a car. Had to apply for a credit card, too, because (unlike the last time I did this, two years ago), you can't hire a car without one.

Credit cards, and their whole mantra of "Hey! You, lucky fellow, could owe us lots of money!', can sod off too. Not had a credit card since my earliest days as a student - a period with an inevitable moral lesson on the virtues of self-will. Which has all been paid off, what with it having been - Christ - a decade ago.

One of the security questions on ringing to activate the card (which a cynic might view as an underhand method of attempting to sell more product to someone who's just signed up to your services, and getting them to pay for the call while they're at it) was age next birthday. Not 'How old are you?' but 'How much worse is it going to get?'

Cheers for that. Almost a year to go, and I'm already dwelling on it. Humbug 3: Cannot be arsed with birthdays either.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Any colour you like

Some pontificating, when I should be doing writing I was meant to have finished on Friday.

Had a very nice day at a wedding yesterday, chatting to people I've not seen in ages and people I'd not met before. There was some excitement at Baker Street on the way, though, with the police trying to keep people out of the way as they dealt with a group of violent, shouty blokes. We assumed BNP - though comparing notes with other likewise delayed wedding guests, it wasn't an exclusively white group. There's something particularly brilliant about the BNP being a multi-cultural organisation...

But just why? As the Doctor said, this is hardly what the police or London in general needs just now. Assuming it was all some sort of response to terrorist bombings... Well, what is it we call people whose sole purpose is to spread a little more misery and fear?

What makes me most angry about this and all the shit over the last few weeks is that it's easy to make things worse. Any fucker can hit out, smash stuff, damage other people. Mending them again takes years of dedication and exams and long hours doing shitty placements as a junior doctor. Making things better needs effort and brains and compassion and all the kinds of virtue you'd think were essential to anyone's utopian vision. But bollocks to the idea that al-Queda and the BNP are working for a better world. Vicious tantrums yes, practicable ethical framwork? No, it seems it's always the easy option.

It's no show of strength to break things, it's a sign of weakness.


Friday, July 22, 2005

Lemon Avenue flying straightly

Went to the Nelson and Napoleon exhibition on Wednesday, and met up with some old chums me and the Doctor hadn't seen in ages. The exhibition is fun - with some great and violent Gillray prints, recruitment posters exorting all good Englishfolk to "hate the French, damn the Pope", and even the underpants Nelson was wearing when he got shot. There's also a rather groovy interactive tabletop wossname, where as a digital map shows the battle in progress, you can touch the screen with your finger for more information on each of the boats.

Still, it's all rather "clean" and serious, with very little of the bloody misery of ship-life and war on show. There's little of what the Doctor refers to as "social history" (which, I think, means that it would have been better and more vivid if it could have been more like the excellent Master and Commander).

Yesterday, oblivious to bombings, we went to see Henry IV part 2. Although excellently staged and performed, it's not as exciting or engaging as part 1 - a bit like Kill Bill, I said in the pub afterwards. We're going to watch the third part of the trilogy on Sunday, care of the DVD of Olivier's Henry V that my in-laws got me for my birthday.

Speaking of DVDs, Jonathan Clements passed this on.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

We are history

The fab new issue of Dr Who's MagazineThe fab new issue of Dr Who's Magazine has details of authors and stories for History of Christmas.

You can get yourself a copy of the very-spiff-indeed magazine from Panini's website.

Some titles have changed since DWM went to press, and I've still got the running order to work out. So here's details as they currently stand:


36 years ago today, Neil Armstrong clambered down from the lunar module of Apollo 11 and fluffed his lines. Google Moon - brother to the quite astonishing Google Earth - is celebrating this anniversary in style. Check out the extreme zoom, and I especially like the news (in the FAQs) of the forthcoming Copernicus initiative.

I am writing about Apollo 17 at the moment, as it happens. The last two blokes to stand on the moon's surface blasted off back home on 14 December 1972. And nobody's been back since. It's odd that by the time I got born a few years later, people had stopped going to the moon.

Other odd stuff, and yesterday I had to explain to m'colleagues the difference between a wiki and a Wookiee.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Humphrey Belcher's cheese cauldron

Shire boy Simon Guerrier, sporting genuine hairy lipSpent a fine and chappish weekend in Brighton doing stag things, where I was Not Good at both raft-building and croquet. The latter was not assisted by the state of the pitch, which was dry and ungrassy and too fast.

I'd expected much teasing on this expertise yesterday, as I detailed my adventures to the Doctor - she after all calls me 'Shire boy' at the best of times. But I'm assured me she's quite the croquist (if that's not the word, it should be). It's an elementary skill of the vicar's daughter, I guess - along with topping up drinks and making canapes. She is a good wife, and I have made sacrifice of household chores today in her honour.

Caught the sun quite nicely, too: there's a satisfying, high contrast arc of white on the fleshy bit between my thumbs and forefingers.

I'm just 100 pages from the end of Harry Potter, having fallen into it by accident last night. Best one since Azkaban, I think - tighter written, better plotted and generally just funnier and scarier by turns... I love the feeling of haring through a book because you can't put it down, while at the same time not wanting it ever to end. The heading for this post, incidentally, is from page 187.

Good things happening on my own writing front, too. An email today confirmed things are all go on.... something exciting that will be announced in due course. And, on the train down to Brighton while chatting to a chum, the line, 'Well, I saw a light on...' popped into my brain unbidden. Not the most awe-inspriring revelation, I know, but it perfectly clears up all the bother I'd been having with something I'm working on, so yay. Explained what it's for to the Doctor last night as we meandered to last orders up the road. When it got to that line, she laughed. So that's all okay then.

Well, anyway. This isn't working, is it?

And nor would be sneaking off now for another chapter of Potter. But...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Cover up

Dr Who and Fear Itself, by Nick WallaceAmazon are boasting the cover to fellow first-timer Nick Wallace's Fear Itself.

It's beautiful, and I am sorely envious.

Picked up the lovely-looking DWM special today. And a card for Joseph Lidster, who is apparently quite old. Amazingly enough, there's going to be a little drinking tonight to celebrate.

Oh, and I also bought a sandwich and a rhubarb yoghurt which was nice, too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Toxteth O'Grady

I have a horrible bloody cold. It just isn't right when it's so hot and sunny and lovely outside.

Years ago, I asked the old man (who knows such things) why we even have snot:
Well, it is a long story, but in essence, this is how it goes: the nose is the air contioning unit for the lungs. It works a bit like a Dyson vacuum cleaner. When you breath in, the nose spins the air into a spiral as it goes down the nose. All the bits of dust, earwigs, germs etc get spun by centrifugal force to the edge and become stuck to the mucus lining the nose. The mucus, with its trapped bits, is moved from the front to the back of the nose by thousands of tiny whiskers, which are beating together all the time. The whole thing behaving like moving fly-paper. The central core of clean air goes down to the lungs, while the mucus goes down to the stomach. There, the bugs and bits are destroyed, and the mucus broken down into glucose, and transfered back to the nose by the blood, where it is turned back to mucus again.

Sometimes the system doesn't work. Allergy makes little white blood cells diffuse into the mucus, and this can make it turn yellow or even pale green. The cells are not really white, just whiter than the red ones. Some germs excrete coloured dyes, mostly green, and these can poison the little whiskers, so they won't beat. The mucus doesn't move along; the water in it evaporates, and it gets very sticky and snotty. If it gets snotty enough, germs can even grow in it. So it all get a bit complicated, especially as acid in the air, and other pollutions, can damage the little whiskers too.

So now you know! A potent source of acid in the air is from exhaust fumes of cars and lorries and so on. There is a hole in the ozone layer over Switzerland. If you are south of about Birmingham, you are under this hole. The hole allows ultra-violet light through, and this light reacts with the exhaust fumes to make them more toxic to the nose. So London is a good place to live!
Even sitting out in the sun for hours on hasn't sorted it out. Bleurgh. Was picnicing at posh opera, thanks to some well-connected chums. Lovely day - though getting home turned into a bit of a faff, and only possible due to great kindness of other people.

Somewhat to my surprise, though, I managed to tie proper bow-ties. Blimey. And despite the raw, red nose, the Doctor seemed to approve of the outfit. She, of course, looked quite brilliant.

Back to work yesterday after some days of due to head being full of snot. Almost through all the Christmas stories. Oh, and I'm being interviewed on Friday about UNIT. Then off to a stag weeked for, by complete coincidence, one of the cast members.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Top hat

More lyrics from Great, which I am now writing a full, proper feature about. One day it will be available on DVD. Yes, one day...
Get a big top hat if you want to get ahead,
It doesn't really matter if you're not at all well-bred.
You're certain to be treated as a great success,
By adopting an inordinately tall head dress.

As the Queen once said to Albert,
'We are not amused by that.
But one thing tickles my fancy -
That's Brunel's big... top hat.'

Get a big top hat if you want to get ahead,
He always has it off when he's lying in bed.
He wears it to the opera and the London zoo,
And he'd feel undressed without it sitting on the loo.

He went to the Crimea,
The guns went rattatat.
They shot off all the Balaclava helmets,
But they couldn't hit his big... top hat.

Get a big top hat if you want to get ahead.
He wore it on the happy day he first got wed.
He wore it on the honeymoon day and night,
And he asked her if it fitted and she said, 'Just right'.

His wife, she was delighted.
He said, 'I'm glad of that.
I wouldn't like a woman who said "No, no"
To my bloody great big... top hat.'

Get a big top hat if you want to get ahead,
It doesn't really matter if you're not at all well-bred.
You're certain to be treated as a great success,
By adopting an inordinately tall head dress.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Keeping buggering on

As Liadnan says:
Screw you, whoever you are. London's still standing. And if it burns to the ground, we'll just build it again. We've done it before.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Coke and aspirins

I am hungover as a bastard, and don't quite remember all of last night.

The Doctor took me to the World's Most Photographed exhibition, and there was a pint of beer and quite a lot of wine and even a vodka martini involved. Really am getting too old for this. Hangovers should not last into the afternoon. Though I have somehow acquired an umbrella.

There were lots of interesting snaps - including one of Adolf Hitler looking a bit of a knob in his lederhosen, and an extraordinary one of Muhammad Ali as St Sebastian. That said, the Greta Garbo ones all looked much of a muchness to a philistine like me, and all from one brief period at the height of her career.

The cat has been sympathising with my delicate state this morning. Just a moment ago he snuck in from the garden with another toad. The little sod.

I am now halfway through a bottle of coke and in the midst of some Christmas stories. The authors should get announced in the next issue of Dr Who Magazine - in about a fortnight - so I'll not name names just yet. Though I notice there's a blog or two dropping the subtlest of hints. Tut.

Oh, and blimey, London is going to host the Olympics. Bugger. Probably means lots of work for me to do tomorrow.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Design by Beethoven

BBC News is reporting on the logo for the UK's presidency of the EU. It's an odd sort of non-story, where some people like it, some people don't, some people couldn't care less.

I especially like the last line:
But John Williamson of brand consultants Wolff Olins was scathing about what he said was a sugarcoated image of countries "flying in harmony, shoulder to shoulder".

"This presidency is about re-writing the rules of Europe," he said.

"The difficult decisions that have to be made, the tension, the debate - that's what has to be symbolised somehow.

"Picasso and Beethoven must be turning in their graves."