Sunday, March 29, 2009
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.
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.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
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?
Thursday, March 26, 2009
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 ...
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
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
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.
Friday, March 20, 2009
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
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.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
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
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
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
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
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
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 ...'