Sunday, March 29, 2009

Clippings of Delight Part 4

And my favourite press clipping of all time ...

Your final instalment. Any others I have are too rude or too nasty to post.

The future's bright. It has Sugar Puffs.

I've just been watching - and thoroughly enjoying - my DVD of Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD, the second big screen outing for Peter Cushing's Doctor Who. I clearly remember seeing this film as a young kid; it was the first time I'd ever seen the Daleks in colour and it was on a double bill at the local cinema along with Thunderbirds are go! Remember, this was 1966 and we didn't get proper colour TV in the UK until the early 1970s (and even then, my parents didn't go colour until the old monochrome set died). It was also a big budget, big special effects fest compared to the William Hartnell version of the same story. I loved it and I'm sure it helped to cement my life-long love of Who.

It starred Hammer Horror stalwart Peter Cushing as Doctor Who (not 'The Doctor') and Roberta Tovey as his granddaughter Susan (considerably younger than Carole Ann Ford's TV version). There was also a new character, a grown-up niece called Louise (Jill Curzon) and comic relief from Bernard Cribbens as policeman Tom Campbell. Some forty years later Cribbens, of course, would play Donna's grandfather in series 4 (2008) of the new series. Cushing is often airbrushed out of Doctor Who history as his films are not strictly canonical. It's true that they were remakes of Hartnell's first two Dalek stories. And it's also true that the TARDIS interior had to be changed because the BBC held the copyright on the familiar console design. But Cushing did much to promote the TV series and his films deserve to be celebrated nowadays, even if they did get a frosty reception from film critics.

It's always fascinating to watch old films and TV series as you get a sense of the era in which they were made. The cars, the fashions, the hairstyles, the music soundtrack and even the language all help to date a film. What's curious about this film was the utter lack of any attempt to predict what London would look like in the year 2150AD. Whether through laziness or budget constraints, our future capital looks suspiciously like 1967 with crappy old Bedford vans and banners advertising Castrol motor oil.

The weirdest thing for me though was the ubiquity of Sugar Puffs. Posters advertising them popped up with strange frequency during the film ... so I did some digging. And sure enough, I discovered that the film was part-sponsored by the makers of the Honey Monster's favourite breakfast cereal. In exchange, the company was allowed to run a special competition on its cereal packets (with a Dalek prop as the prize) and feature the Daleks in its TV ads. And they were allowed product placement in the film. Which explains why Sugar Puffs signs and products can be seen throughout.

Blimey. You learn something useless every day don't you?

The best intro to a show EVER

I just love the way he beats the crap out of everyone and then nonchalently shoots the escaping bad guy in the arse. Pure 1970s' class. Thanks @blockbusterbuzz!

I'll have the Hot Dog and Plankton please

Every so often my SKY+ box (that's a Tivo to you lovely overseas people) throws a little wobbler and displays the wrong info for a programme. I've had the description of an episode of 24 appearing under the heading of Doctor Who, for example. But a few days ago, I had a real beaut. It was just so oddly ... right.
The Brits will get this straight away but I will explain for my international visitors. The description of the programme was for a wildlife show called Nature's Great Events. The header, however, is for the show Heston's Tudor Feast in which experimental chef Heston Blumenthal makes the most extraordinary dishes for a group of celebrity diners. Michelin-starred Blumenthal - whose Fat Duck restaurant has twice been voted the best restaurant on the planet - likes to try things that no one else would risk. Which is why his restaurant serves bacon and egg ice cream and snail porridge. So plankton really isn't that unlikely is it?

But, I wonder, would he ever serve real hot dogs?

With thanks to my daughter Kerys for the truly disturbing photo of her friend's new puppy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

And on the eighth day he said, 'Oh sod them'

If you are a UK resident, you may have seen this rather alarming news story today:

According to no less a person than the highest ranking cleric in the Church of England, God has given up on us. 'God will not intervene to prevent humanity from wreaking disastrous damage to the environment' we are told. Prayer will not work. Really? If that's the case, as my chum Stu Peel asked God on his excellent blog today ... "Remind Me, What Exactly Is It You Do Around Here Again?"

The story - especially when coupled with the recent insane disinformation from the Pope about condoms actually increasing the African AIDS pandemic - has once again opened some maggotty wounds in the debate between theists and atheists. Certainly the Twitterverse was buzzing all day today and, catching what I could in between meetings, there seemed to be a general sense of disbelief. And not just among us disbelievers either.

Ever the one to add my not inconsiderable weight to any healthy debate, I drew people's attention to my rambling post from October 31st last year. You remember ... the one about me wanting the freedom to express my atheist views without people assuming I'm attacking their beliefs? Still doesn't ring any bells? Here it is then. Or a link to it at least.

One of the wonderful surprises that emerged from writing this piece was the intelligence, honesty and reasonableness (?) of those who commented. Whether a believer or an unbeliever, everyone was willing to discuss this huge issue in sensible adult fashion. And, following today's re-publishing of the piece, a whole new set of excellent comments came in. All of which serves to remind me that the vast majority of human beings on this planet are good, kind, compassionate, smart people. It's a tiny minority of mad bastards that give religion a bad name. I think, deep down, we all know that.

Oh, and a secondary benefit of this blogpost-recycling was that three new people started to follow me here (hi guys!) and I picked up some 40-odd new followers on Twitter. So thank you @jedlomax, @redmummy, @toppage, @sorenlorenson, @neonbubble, @hennievd, @astrodad, @motgimmers, @uuo, and most especially @giagia for spreading the word today.

What did I say about the power of Twitter?

Clippings of Delight Part 2

More of the same tomorrow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Still not tweeting?

There have been a few very good magazine articles about Twitter recently, most focussing on the 'do you get it' question. Well, I've 'got it' right from the start and, in the past month, I've seen its power on several occasions. It was terrific at generating a backlash to the Sunday Express's appalling treatment of the Dunblane kids (led by Graham Linehan - @glinner). It's been wonderful for following Stephen Fry's (@stephenfry) world travels as he follows in the footsteps of the late Douglas Adams - remember that twitter can post photos too. It was a lifeline to the fans for beleaguered Jonathan Ross (@wossy) as he sat in Daily Mail-imposed house arrest. And how I've roared with laughter at Peter Serafinowicz's (@serafinowicz) silly pun games and Robert Popper's (@robertpopper) insane phonecalls. Plus, I get regular snippets of trivia from QI (@qikipedia) and The Museum of Curiosity (@curiositwitty) and a daily dose of Media Guardian (@mediaguardian), The Onion (@theonion) and Boing Boing (@boingboing). My tweeting has been a source of constant entertainment and information as I've travelled to and from work, appointments, interviews and events.

I'm now being followed by 156 people including Bill Bailey, Jonathan Ross, Phill Jupitus, Robert Llewellyn, Bjork, Russell Brand, Dave Gorman, Peter Serafinowicz .... plus lots of my friends, colleagues, and fellow writers. Quite what they see in following me I have no idea but I'm grateful for the attention. I have some way to go before I catch up with people like Stephen Fry (344,431 followers), Britney Spears (573,927) or Barack Obama (582,492) but I'm working my way up slowly and steadily.

Surely it's time you were tweeting too? Find me at @stevyncolgan.

Curiously, however, the number of people following my blog has been stuck at 48 for over a month. Perhaps I should be blogging more than tweeting? And don't get me started on audioboos ...

Clippings of Delight Part 1

More tomorrow (I have lots). x

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today's best headlines

I was mildly amused - despite the tragic story it related to - by this headline (above) in the morning issue of Tuesday's London free Metro newspaper. Then, just a couple of pages on in the same paper I found this:

Now, I was never very good with numbers but that says to me that last year they were executing 3.5 people a day. Can you execute half of a person? However, these two clippings paled to insignificance besides this gem of a headline from the Sun:

That's a story you just have to read don't you? It reminded me of that hugely mad headline that was published in the News of the World back in the late 1970s. It stated:

'Nudist Welfare Man’s Model Wife Fell For The Chinese Hypnotist From The Co-op Bacon Factory'

That will take some beating and is still, to my knowledge, the best headline ever. Interestingly, the story behind the headline was even more bizarre than the headline suggests. According to journalist Jon Slattery, 'It had all the elements of a Whitehall farce and starred the welfare services chief of a large London borough who was a practising naturist and walked round his home in the buff. His wife, a part-time model, had had an extra-marital relationship with a gentleman of Oriental extraction who did indeed work in a Co-Op bacon factory and was an amateur hypnotist and therapist in his spare time. The nudist welfare chief had actually encouraged his wife's friendship with her Chinese paramour in the belief that he was treating her for problems in their marriage – until, that is, one day he climbed into the loft, drilled a hole in the bedroom ceiling and observed his good lady and the hypnotist indulging in some practical therapy on the bed below.'

He then goes on to explain that 'The one fact the otherwise admirable headline omitted was that the welfare chief had managed to get up into his loft despite having two artificial legs, so he was actually a legless nudist welfare man … Unfortunately, the sub-editor later admitted he couldn't work the word ‘legless’ into the headline for lack of space.'


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cover Story

In case you hadn't spotted it over there on the right, this is the proposed cover for the paperback edition of Joined-Up Thinking, due out in September. The hardback edition sold really well - there aren't that many left out there on sale (I know ... I've tried to find some to give as gifts) - but we're not resting on our Laurels. Or our Hardys. Those lovely people at Pan Macmillan have gone for a fairly radical overhaul to try to make the paperback fairly jump off the shelf. And good thing too ... it's a tough time for book sales across the board so I need all the help I can get.

I've already had a couple of people say that they think the title should be in joined-up writing. A step too far? Or a necessary step? Comments and suggestions are welcome as always.

Bath Time

Sadly, I don't have time to write very much about my trip to Bath on Friday but here is a handful of pics. They are mostly of the abbey - the reason I went was to photograph the extraordinary Jacob's Ladders carved in the stone of the tower.
But there also some shots of the river Avon and the city. And at least one of the odd gurning hunchback who amused us all with his fiddling and his treadmill operated guitar-playing machine. It was quite ingenious; one foot created a steady strumming rhythm across the strings of a steel-bodied dobro guitar, while the other foot operated a set of pedals that, when depressed, pushed metal 'fingers' onto the fretboard to play chords. All that effort. Genius. Shame the music was so monotonous. But 10/10 for effort and originality.
He got a shiny new £2 coin from me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Express your Disgust

I've made no secret of how much I detest tabloid journalism. I hate the sensationalism. I hate the outrageous invasion of privacy. I hate their shoddy justifications. I hate their lack of courtesy, professionalism and basic humanity. So when this story broke in the Sunday Express a week ago, I was truly horrified:

The story shocked a lot of other people too; not the content of the story, you understand, but the fact that the Express had run such a terrible, unwarranted and, frankly, disgusting front page. Here's what Father Ted co-creator Graham Linehan wrote on his blog after reading:

'The Dunblane Massacre was an atrocity almost beyond imagining. A man named Thomas Hamilton walked into a school in a small Scottish town in March 1996, and shot dead sixteen children and one teacher. It was not what we’ve since come to think of as a ‘normal’ school shooting as it was a primary school, and all the children were aged between five and six years of age. We were filming an episode of Father Ted that week, and on the night of the recording, no-one, the audience or the cast, felt terribly inclined to have a good time; difficult to throw your head back and laugh when all you could think about were those kids, their parents, the town…but most of all, those kids, those kids, those poor kids …

All those useless thoughts, sent to torture the unwary after a tragedy such as this one, we knew them well. If only someone had sensed how dangerous he was…if only handguns had been banned a year before it happened, rather than a year after… In the days and weeks that followed, we were all endlessly replaying the same fantasy of somehow managing to stop Hamilton before he got to the school gates. But there was nothing we could do, of course, except respect the memory of the kids who died, and thank dumb, blind chance for the survival of the others.That basic human reaction, that powerful urge to protect those children, has always been something I presumed was shared by most other human beings. But a lady named Paula Murray has disabused me of that particular whimsy.

Paula is the journalist who thought it was well past time that the survivors of the Dunblane massacre were given a tabloid punching. To that end, she befriended a group of them on Facebook and collated their photographs and comments. Clearly aware of the legal guidelines in place to protect those under eighteen against invasion of privacy (and the specific instructions that the Press Complaints Commission issued regarding the Dunblane children), she waited until they hit eighteen. Then she wrote this.

'The story continued inside under the headline “SICK MESSAGES SHAME MEMORY OF CLASSMATES”, referring to the normal, teenagery stuff they were saying to each other on their profiles. (I should say thank you to those on Twitter who helped me black out the names and photographs of the kids). As others have pointed out, the gist of the story is that these kids are showing disrespect to their dead classmates by… being alive.

Here’s an example of Paula’s scoop: “For instance, (name deleted), who was hit by a single bullet and watched in horror as his classmates died, makes rude gestures in pictures he posted on his Bebo site, and boasts of drunken nights out.”

Rude gestures. Boasting. Drunkenness. Now, I’m coming late to this one… complaints to the PCC have been made by two of the victims of the article, the piece has been pulled from the Express website… so we should probably forget about it, right? I don’t know. I think the line that has been crossed here is different to all the other lines the press routinely cross.

The press likes us to believe they’re a properly regulated body, but they’re anything but. First of all, The PCC seems to be a completely toothless organisation by design. It is made up of representatives of the major publishers, who are obviously not inclined to be too hard on themselves. Also, unlike Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority, who have easy-to-use complaint forms on their websites, the PCC don’t even accept third party complaints - in other words, unless you are the person named in a printed article, they’re not interested in hearing your opinion. So when faced with an affront to our humanity (which is what I believe this Express story is), there is no official channel for us to register our anger. That’s right - if you are offended by something on TV, Radio or in an advert, you can complain; if you’re offended by something in the print press…well, you’re just going to have to walk it off, because literally no-one wants to know.

So, I think it is up to us to take a stand for those kids who had their privacy so ruthlessly invaded. Paula Murray set out to do a hit job on those kids– character assassination (of the most pathetic, intelligence-insulting kind) was the aim, and the weapons were a Facebook account and an editor with a moral centre as atrophied as her own. If there is a line beyond that one that the press can cross, I think we should make it harder for them to do so. So! What can we do?'

There then followed an on-line petition that has gathered over 6000 signatures so far and is growing more fulsome by the day. Apparently there will be an apology in this week’s Sunday Express about the Dunblane story ... but you can be pretty sure that it won't be front page. However, even if the Express does apologise, we should not let up on the pressure. We need to know what safeguards they are putting in place to ensure that nothing like this happens again, and how the journalist (Paula Murray) and the editor (Derek Lambie) will be punished for their appalling lack of moral judgement.

So if you feel as I do, dear visitors, please sign the petition. And please feel free to pass this on.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why my face is the colour of a shamrock this morning

Happy St Patrick's Day! The quarter of me that is Irish (top right, sort of near the shoulder) will not be indulging in 'the craic' today as I had quite enough of that sort of thing last night. I was at a book launch in the City of London for Justin Pollard's new book Wonders of the Ancient World. And what a splendid do it was. A splendid book too. Justin has written yet another archaeology book that is both informative and eminently readable. I can see a copy of this in every school library.

What I particularly like is that while it focusses on the obvious ancient engineering marvels like Stonehenge and the Great Wall of China, it also covers lesser known but just as extraordinary structures like Newgrange, Mohenjo Daro, the Buddhas of Bamyan and the amazing Ellora.

Justin is one of the primary writers for TV series QI but is also a producer and director. He also spends some of his time as a historical advisor to the movie industry. Recent examples include Elizabeth, Elizabeth: the Golden Age, Atonement and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Justin (centre) gets some unexpected man love from director/producer Richard Butchins (L) and Museum of Curiosity producer Dan Shreiber (r).

So, have a great night out tonight ... but drink sensibly, okay?
What am I saying ...

Monday, March 16, 2009

First Spring Sightings

The sun is out, the air is distinctly warm and all's well with the world. Or, at least, it always seems well when the sun's shining. Just two weeks ago we had our (hopefully) last little fall of snow and the evenings have been a mite chilly recently so the sudden arrival of Spring is a welcome release from Winter's grip. In the Summer when it's sunny every day (of course I'm speaking metaphorically here - this is Britain), we hardly notice how great the sunshine is. In particularly hot Summers, we even get fed up with it. One reason I could never live in a hot country is the unchanging weather. The turning of the seasons is a joy and the arrival of each new phase brings its own pleasures whether they be cuckoos and bluebells, beach barbecues and ice cream, creepy skeletal trees and chunky warming casseroles, or tobaganning down a hill and roasting chestnuts in the hearth. TSpring is quite definitely here and I'm loving it.
It's been a day of firsts for me. As I type this, I'm sat in the back garden with XTC's superlative Skylarking playing on the Bose and a nice cup of hot black Earl Grey tea. The birds are going mental in the trees and a particularly loud gang of goldfinches is proclaiming their territory. Huge red kites are lazilly circling overhead and pigeons are having a shouting match with the seagulls who've moved up the Thames in recent years to colonise the roofs of office blocks and hunt among the rubbish at the refuse dump and recycling centre (brilliantly called 'High Heavens' - true!). Miniature daffodills are everywhere along with purple crocuses and the first green spears of this year's chives. There are sticky buds on the ends of my trees, blue tits everywhere and, judging by the way one of my dogs is rolling in something nasty, there are nocturnal foxes on the prowl too. But these are not my firsts.

Today I heard my first lawnmower. The gardens around here are quite big and don't lend themselves to electric mowers - unless you have a very long extension lead - so most people own a petrol job. As I type, I can hear the distinctive roar and throb of a two-stroke engine hard at work. It's a sound that signals pleasure but also resignation. It means that I'll soon have to start cutting my own grass with all of the back ache and sweating and hidden dog poop that mowing involves. My second first was a big fat bumble bee. Sadly, that sighting was also tinged with some sadness as I only saw it briefly as it audibly bumped off my windscreen while I drove Dawn to work. But my third sighting was a total joy; two lemon yellow Brimstone butterflies fluttering in a frenetic fandango over the rockery. I never saw Brimstones as a kid. At least, I don't remember seeing any. I suspect it's because their caterpillars are quite picky eaters and we didn't have much buckthorn in Cornwall. It was all Cabbage Whites, Peacocks, Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals we saw, plus those tiny little blue and brown meadow butterflies. Brimstones are usually the first butterflies we see around here in the Spring and the sexes are quite easy to distinguish; the males have bright sulphur-yellow coloured wings with an orange central spot. The females are more of a pastel yellow or pale green but also with an orange spot. The two I was watching were male and female and as this time of year marks their extended courtship and mating, I guess that they were getting it on. Awww. Nice.

Incidentally, there is a train of thought that the word 'butterfly' came about because of these beautiful and ubiquitous insects. Did they just name it after the first yellow thing they saw when waking uo one morning? Good job the first thing they saw wasn't the dog heading outside for the first wee of the day then.
Piddlefly just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

Photo: Gert Ellstrom

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I'd rather be a hippy than a banker

Good morning you lovely, generous, humanitarians, you. I say that because, once again, the British public have shown their compassion, decency and generosity in supporting Comic Relief. Despite the credit crunch, falling house prices, job losses and collapsing High Street chains, you have dug deep into pockets and searched down the back of the sofa and raised a staggering £59,187,065 (as of this morning); nearly sixty million quid to save lives and offer hope to those who desperately need it in the UK and Africa. As always, among the skits and sketches on Friday night's show, there was a serious message, often in the form of harrowing films showing us the plight of others. Like the little girl of alcoholic parents who phoned a helpline believing she was bad because she hadn't any Christmas presents. Or the young mothers in Africa dying in childbirth for wont of simple, cheap medical aid (there is a 1 in 8 mortality rate in some places). and that tiny 12 month old baby whose last breaths and parents' grief were captured on film as he succumbed to malaria. Just £1 could have saved that child by buying a mosquito net ... just 18p would have bought an injection to save one young mother from bleeding to death during the birth of her, now, orphaned child. So very well done all of you who donated. Rich or poor, almost anyone can afford a pound and just one pound can save lives and you'd have to be a pretty cynical and hard-hearted person not to donate a pound. That's not even two Mars Bars. And how about foregoing that Friday night takeaway meal and donating the money instead? £30 will buy 75 HIV tests for children in Africa. We had beans on toast.

So well done everyone. Fecking fantastic. Now, if we can only persuade governments to do the same, what a world this will be. Because, sad but true, the amount raised by Comic Relief is pitiful compared to the £500 billion bailout that Gordon Brown has given the banks. Yes, yes, yes. I understand that the financial solidity of a country's commerce needs banks to provide a solid foundation. We need the banks to be doing well as that drives industry, lending, home-ownership etc. But £500 billion? When they buggered it up with their own self-interest in the first place? It does annoy me ... especially when you realise that it's 10,000 times as much money as we all raised with our pounds. Ten thousand!

There is something desperately wrong with a society that rewards greed and rescues failure when children are dying of preventable illness, when women suffer violent abuse every day, when old people die of loneliness, and where people with mental illness have no facilities to ease their difficult lives. Yes, I sound like an old hippy, but aren't compassion and understanding and generosity of spirit the things that make us human?

And don't get me started on how much we pay grown men to kick a bag of wind around a field ...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Six of the Dullest

Chris Hale has tagged me to list six things or habits of no real importance. Oh, and happy birthday you old fool. So, to the rules:

1) Put the link of the person who tagged you on your blog.
2)Write the rules.
3) Mention 6 things or habits of no real importance about you.
4) Tag 6 persons adding their links directly.
5) Alert the persons that you tagged them.

This was so pointless and silly that I simply had to break away from writing the new book(s) to have a go. So, here are six utterly inconsequental things about me.

1. I have never owned a cardigan.
2. I prefer my eggs poached. Or fried. Or scrambled. Basically I really like eggs.
3. I don't play computer games.
4. Cows make me smile.
5. I don't share a birthday with anyone famous.
6. I don't have a criminal record. Except for 'Do you believe in life after love' by Cher. Oh, the horror.

I'm now going to be very, very naughty and not pass this one on. Yes, I've broken the rules but for no other reason than I won't get the chance to read the responses for a bit as it's all I can do to even visit my own blog at the moment. Busy is not the word. Oh, now I think about it, it probably is the word. But do feel free to grab it, blog it and pass it on.

The blogging may be sparse but there are always one-liners from me on Twitter. Hopefully, will be back with a decent blog post soon!

Happy birthday again, Chris!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Mat Fox strikes again

As if his Twovels were not enough, Mat's also been writing Tweenplays; 140 word treatments for famous movies. See how many you can guess correctly:

1. Girl washes up minus body parts. Police chief gets nervous as swimmers decimated. Takes scientist & sailor out on small boat. BOOM! Shark dead.

2. Rosebud? What does it mean? Old man dies, was rich and powerful, had newspaper, and political aims. Affair ends those. Goes reclusive. (Was sled)

3. Big musical family get nanny in Austria. Father very strict but likes a sing-song. Nazis move in, curtains make nice suits. Escape and married

4. Boy and girl in love despite warring families. Have balcony tryst,marry. Is she dead? No! Poison suicide! Oops. She was not dead, but is now.

5. Asthmatic villain crosses galaxy chasing robot with vital blueprints. Hang on, that young man seems familiar - whoops, there goes my crib

6. Brrrr. Hate snow. Tempt enemies to clouds, appease mercenary, win major family argument - Fathers Day will never be the same from now on.

7. Getting back to nature - new crib nearly finished. Lightning strikes twice, told boss to stick job, family reunion goes better than expected

And who is this actor?

Scouse boy trains for God, fails. Starts pretending and hits big time in long scarf. Gains twilight fame with saucy voiceovers

The Sunday Twovel Challenge

Yes, alright. I know that you don't all Tweet. However, I'm still enjoying Twitter and hope that it continues for some time to come. Or at least until the next fad comes along. It doesn't take up my time like Facebook or MySpace does, it's a bit of fun and, most importantly for me, it's another nail in the coffin of tabloid journalism.

As Stephen Fry so eloquently explained at his recent London Apple Store Meet the Author talk (free to download from i-tunes), the reason that the tabloids continually attack Twitter is because it genuinely scares them. The arrival of 24 hour TV killed their capacity for news exclusives and so they rounded on celebrities and whichever of us proles occasionally attracted their attention. Or they plumped for the shock headline in order to make us all scared to leave our houses. But now that we all have the truly democratic and instant ability to refute or comment on news stories, the papers cannot respond quickly enough ... and they don't like it. How many news stories has the Daily Mail published about Twitter? It's a fair few, I can tell you. Mr Fry has over a quarter of a million followers on Twitter now. Consequently, he has the power to instantly point out to 272,879 people (as of 10am this morning) whether he believes an article to be fair, neutral or a pack of vitriol and lies. And his followers continue to grow. Barack Obama has 364,312 and his followers grow daily by a factor of hundreds. Of course, we must remember that these people's opinions are just that - opinions. But at least we have the ability now to see several sides to a story. As Oscar Wilde once said, 'In mediaeval times, they had the rack. Now we have the press.' To that we can now add 'And in 2009, we have Twitter to get the bastards back.' Twitter may be gone in six months but it is a step on the right path.

But enough of the politics. Back to the fun. My good chum Mat Fox has suggested a challenge based upon the Twitter format i.e. 140 characters or fewer. He's suggested that we all try to write a novel of that length. So, let's call this beast a Twitter Novel ... a Twovel. Anyway, always up for a challenge, I had a go and posted my Twovel to Twitter:

"The sun's going down". He looked towards the desolate ruins of London. "They'll be waking soon. Just two bullets left, Jo ... for us, maybe?"

Fun, eh? And here's film maker, writer and TV presenter Lara Greenway's first Twovel:

Beyond the mountains, a sun sparkled sea. A dusty track - the car stopped. Left or right? Either had to be better than the road left behind.

And this from @markadley from Newcastle upon Tyne:

Sunlight. A piercing wind. He opened his mouth and she fed him. Together they fell into the void. Silence. A beating heart.

Crikey! Over to you, people. Run around ... now!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

More on that Toby Whithouse Q & A ...

The quite, quite charming Lara Greenway has proven herself to be something of a girly swot and has posted what amounts to a near transcript of the Toby Whithouse Q & A on her blog. Well worth a read, all you budding writers and Being Human fans out there.

The link is here.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Toby or not Toby? Yes, it's Toby

I've just spent an informative and pleasant evening at the Soho Theatre in London in the company of a number of my writer chums. We were all there for a Q and A session with Toby Whithouse - creator and writer of Being Human. For my overseas chums, I'll explain that Being Human is a comedy drama series set in Bristol. It asks the question, 'If werewolves and vampires and ghosts were actually real ... how would they fit into society?' Enter George the house-proud werewolf who's terrified he'll hurt someone - especially his girlfriend; Mitchell the vampire with a conscience who wants to fit in with his neighbours; and Annie, the ghost of a woman murdered by her fiance and now haunting the house she once lived in, now rented by George and Mitchell. It's a clever, witty and wonderful series that has the format to explore all kinds of issues like alienation, being different, and what it means to be human. The first season has just finished its run and I enjoyed every minute.

This evening, Toby confirmed that a second season has been commissioned (8 episodes instead of 6) and regaled us with tales of his career as an actor, stand-up, failed sitcom writer and now series creator. We also got his take on writing for a living - he's written for all kinds of shows including Hotel Babylon and Doctor Who. His School Reunion episode was the one that reunited the Doctor with former old companion Sarah-Jane Smith for the first time. Tonight, he freely admitted that the hardest part of that gig was writing for K9 ... to the extent that he even 'accidentally' left the robotic pooch out of the first draft hoping that no one would notice. As if that was ever going to work ...

Will he be writing another Who? He did coyly hint at 'writing another episode for an established TV series' so who knows? Meanwhile, a splendid evening was had by all. If you ever get the chance to see him do one of these talks or Q and As, grab it. He's a natural raconteur, has a great sense of humour and is more than happy to share what he knows.

I asked him if he could find a way to introduce the Mummy and Frankenstein's monster into the mix. He looked at me, grinned and said ... 'Awww ... now you've got me thinking ...'