Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Daniel vs The soup ladle

Isn't it annoying when inanimate objects suddenly get a mind of their own? When it happens to me, it seems they are out to get me. I've just made myself tomato soup and in the process I had a little confrontation with a ladle.

I decided I was going to be careful not to make any mess or have any spillage when I began heating up my soup. Any drops of soup that ended up outside the saucepan I made sure to wipe away with a kitchen towel. The ladle that was sitting in the saucepan took note of my efforts to keep the surfaces tidy of soup and then took it upon itself to fall out of the saucepan splashing tomato soup everywhere. I picked it up, cleaned the kitchen surface and then put the ladle back in the saucepan to stir it. Moments later the ladle decided to fall out again, and then after that it would refuse to stay in the saucepan for even a second. I didn't want to have to keep taking the ladle out when I wasn't stirring the soup because it would mean having to wipe it down again and again everytime I took it out, so instead I kept one hand on the ladle to keep it steady while I stretched the rest of my body around the kitchen to grab myself a spoon and a bowl, and did other things like putting cups and what have you in the dishwasher. This was a lot of effort to go into for a simple bowl of soup.

A couple of minutes later my soup was ready, and with the aid of the ladle I poured it out into my bowl. But then something happened that I know the ladle had been planning, probably in collusion with that prankster of fate, Sod's law, for the last 2 minutes. I'm not sure how it happened but as I went to put the saucepan down the ladle flew out of it and hit me in the stomach, getting tomato soup on my jumper and all over my jeans, before sending soup all over the cupboards and the floor. What made this an even bigger kick in the groin was the fact that I had just put a load of washing on and had no other trousers to wear, clean or otherwise, because they were in the washing machine. If the ladle was like one of those cartoon ones with a face and could talk, it would be laughing its spoon like head off, and if it had arms and hands it would probably be giving Sod's law a high five right now as well.

So, yesterday I had a meeting with the Personal Development tutor, Marian Meyer, about my dissertation. If you've been reading most of these blogs you would probably be aware that I've been freaking out about it. Not that uncommon though, the final year is a difficult time for students. But I've been really stuck with my work. I've had all sort of anxiety's and problems that have just been holding me back from even getting started and I really didn't know what anyone could do to help me. But in that short hour with Marian she helped me make a plan of the first couple of chapters of my disseration and has me believing for the first time in months that I could actually do this. So right now the plan is to write about 2000 words a week over the next four weeks until hand in. It's going to be a real slog but it always happens this way. It's like walking a marathon only to realise that you're not even halfway there and if you want to make a decent time you're going to have to sprint the rest of it and half kill yourself in the process. This is the way most people work, and I think sometimes some people work better under pressure of a looming deadline.

So in summary, I hate to summerize and conclude todays blog without a decent conclusion because I can't think of one... (actually, that wasn't a bad conclusion at all. It rounded things off well enough and it didn't seem to matter that it didn't bring what I was talking about to a close, so long as it brought todays ramblings to some sort of closure then it did its job.)

Monday, 25 February 2008

Back again (but not really)

I'm back!

I never actually went anywhere, but I thought i'd start today's post with that because I'm posting this as a note on facebook, which is something I haven't done for a while. A few people I spoke to this weekend were asking about my blog and had thought I'd stop writing it because I wasn't publishing it as a note on facebook anymore. Basically I had gotten a little lazy and got an application off facebook that imports links to my blog everytime I write a new one, saving me the hassel of doing it through the sometimes annoying note importer. I suppose the only downside to having this application is that it doesn't show up in the news feed when I have written something. But I wasn't too bothered by that. I thought if people were interested they would still be reading it directly from my eblogger address. As it turns out that's probably not the case. It seems having a message pop up on the news feed saying "Daniel has published a new note" is the only way to get most people to have a look at it.

A month ago I probably would have said that it isn't important to me if people are reading it or not, but I would just be lying to myself. Without coming across sounding needy, I want people to read my blog. Suprisingly, a few people seem to think that they aren't meant to be reading it. It's quite funny but a few people I know guiltily own up to reading my blog, like it's some sort of secret diary and I'm going to be angry if I find out they've been looking at it. I guess it's because blogs often have that "dear diary" sort of feel to them. But rather than being your most secret inner thoughts, instead they're your thoughts written down for the purpose of being read by other people. There is something quite vain and egotistical about that. At least that's what I used to think, but of course I can't have those opinions now because I have one myself. What a sellout i've become eh?

I'll just wrap up by saying thank you if you're still reading this thing, because If you aren't reading it then I am just talking to myself. Which would be kind of pointless wouldn't it?

Sunday, 24 February 2008

The hangover compromise

I had a great night last night. Got to see loads of people that I haven't seen for a while - some of them I hadn't seen for years - and we had a laugh. As you would expect I was pretty drunk by the end of it, and I seemed to be suffering from the onset of an early hangover for the entire night - Almost everyone I spoke to got to hear about the huge headache I had. I have no idea why it started so soon. I think it's because I went to see my dad in the afternoon and had a few drinks there before I went to the party at about 8 o'clock. Before I had even got there I had a headache. I reasoned that if I just drank lots more the headache would go away but it didn't. Funnily enough it got worse, but I persevered anyway. By the time I got home and in to bed at about 3am my stomach was churning and I felt sick.

Generally it's never the alchohol that I've been drinking that causes me to feel like this. The alchohol will give me headaches but it doesn't usually make me feel like I've swallowed a washing machine. The only stuff that causes that is too much sugar. I drank far too many J.D. and cokes that night, and it's always the way with JD and coke, or alchopops, to make me feel like a sick child at a birthday party who has eaten far too much ice cream and jelly before spending a few hours jumping around on a bouncy castle. My stomach was rumbling and making so much noise it was keeping me from getting to sleep, but eventually the alchohol did it's job and allowed me to pass out.

Amazingly when I woke up in the morning the headache was gone... It doesn't make any sense whatsoever. It's like I got drunk and suffered the after effects of a heavy night of drinking at the same time. The only evidence left over from the previous night's bout of alchohol consumption was fur on my tongue, and a taste in my mouth like a cat had decided to shit in it while I was asleep. It left me wondering if this was a better way to enjoy a night out; get drunk and hungover at the same time, thus saving me from a day of harsh recovery. I think I would prefer that. Being drunk with a headache is a bonus because it can halve the amount of pain you would have to endure the next day. From time to time we all do things when we're drunk that we live to regret the next day, but wouldn't the painful reminders of your previous nights frolics be less painful if you didn't have to go through the physical pain of a hangover as well as the emotional pain of embarrasment and regret?

Perhaps... Or maybe you might be of the belief that the physical pain itself is some kind of karma for what you did the day before. But we'd all like to be spared that karmic retribution everyonce in a while wouldn't we? Or I'd be happy with the compromise I was given last night because I was definately thankful for it this morning.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Back home for the weekend

I am back in home in London today (well, the suburbs - it's just easier to say London). I got up nice and early to get the coach at 9:30 and endured the 2 hour journey despite constant chatter, some casual racism from a few passengers in the coach directed at two German girls and a huge hulk of a man taking up all the space beside me (he wasn't a "fat man" but he did have a lot of fat on him. He was just kind of 'big', and seemed to take up more space than he should be able to. He was like a planetoid - he had his own atmosphere - you couldn't see it but it was there, stealing my personal space.)

My reason for coming home this weekend is a leaving party. Three of my friends are about to go traveling and they're having a farewell party tonight, so I kind of needed to come back home for that because it will be my last chance to see them for a year... Not that it should make much difference to me really, i've been at Uni for almost 3 years so it's not like I've seen them that often in that time. Actually it's pretty typical that they choose now of all times to disappear around the world, now, when I'm almost done with university and about to return home... Are they just doing this to get away from me?

Of course they aren't. I am actually pretty envious of what they're about to do. Travelling never used to really appeal to me when I was younger, the same as the idea of going to University never appealed to me, but here I am. But I don't think I'll be able to take another year out now, I feel i'm too old. No, I don't mean I'm too old for travelling, and I'm not saying I haven't got the time to do it, but my focus for when I finish this degree is to start a career for myself as a writer. Taking a year out for travelling might give me some experiences worth writing about but I don't want to spare that kind of time. Well not all in one go anyway.

What I think i'll do instead is to make an effort to do a short bit of travelling each year. Something like a month out of each year to explore a country I've never been to before and see the world in parts. That's a plan worth sticking to I think.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Pie and chips

Mmmmmm, pie and chips. It was such a pleasant suprise to see the chippy still open after another long walk home from work. It meant I wouldn't have to eat any of the disgusting chips and dry chicken from the KFC inspired chicken place around the corner from my house. I suppose I shouldn't be so suprised that it was still open past eleven o'clock, being placed directly opposite the only pub that was about 2 miles away from everything else, it would make sense to stay open until late.

I walked by the pub in perfect time to see a fight break out. Loads of angry drunks were parading about outside shouting at each other, then the next thing I knew someone got hit and went flat on his back. The guy who hit him must have some punch because the guy on the floor was out cold.

So now i'm back at home and the house is empty. It seems everyone has decided to go away this weekend, myself included. I'm getting the coach back home to London tomorrow, and it's because of that that I was a little later getting home tonight than I should've been. I a coach tickets through the internet and needed to get it printed out. I was going to use my housemates printer before he left but I kept forgetting, so on the way home from work I stopped off at uni to use the computers in the "scriptwriters" room and print the ticket off.

For those who might be reading this and are not scriptwriting students, and don't go to Bournemouth university, we get 24hour access to the buildings providing we've paid the £5 deposit for a key fob. Us scriptwriting students have our own room to use. When I got in the room tonight there was another student in there, maybe a 1st or 2nd year cos I didn't recognise him, and I don't know how long he had been in there but the room had the smell of a room that had been lived in. Like a teenage boys bedroom, it stank of sweat and stale farts, it was rank.

I miss using the writers room. Most of the writing on my 60 minutes script was done in there last year during the Easter holidays. It was the best environment for me to work in because there were too many distractions at home, and the fact that I had put the effort in to walk all the way from my flat into uni made me write with more purpose. I wish I could do that now, but due to a load of bureacratic bullshit the room is often being used for lectures and seminars during the daytime. When the room was first made it was never supposed to be used for that - but that little promise only lasted a couple of terms.

When I finished up in the writers room I had to walk the quiet corridors of Weymouth house. It can be quite eerie walking around there at night. There were no lights in the stairwell, and you could occasionally hear people moving about. When I realised who they were, I suddenly thought that I had good reason to be a little anxious. There is one particular group of people that you are almost guranteed to find in Weymouth house at any time, day or night, and they dwell exclusively on the ground floor of the building. They are the Bournemouth University Animation students. No single group of students are as likely to go postal as these guys. Imagine spending 3 days solidly working on something and what you have to show for it is about 15 secs long? (and I'm probably being optimistic by even saying that). What if one of these guys decided to snap as I'm walking through this empty building and jumped out and bludgeoned me to death with an iMac? (a part of me would actually sympathise with him, because I've worked with those iMacs in the writers room and they are a fucking nightmare. Actually it would be weird if I was killed by an iMac because I've had so many violent fantasies about putting my fist through their smug little screens, it would be almost a strange twist of fate if they were used as instruments of death on me.)

But fortunately no animation students decided to attack me this evening. They probably have some time to go yet before their deadlines. I'll be sure to keep clear of the uni when their deadlines come around.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Sonnets of the darkhorse

Hmmmm, what oh what should I blog about this morning? You see, my days are often filled with the same stuff right now so if I just wrote what was on my mind everyday this blog will become far too repetitive. I would be better off just copying and pasting stuff from previous days over and over again.

I suppose if I did want to do that I could perhaps make it a bit more interesting and use one of those William Burroughs inspired "cut up" generators, mix and match a few posts and then copy that new, jumbled up and chaotic text into here. Actually I'll get on it and do that right now. Just a minute....

...Okay, I found quite a good 'cut-u' machine on the internet that you can program to do poetry. The results I found pretty suprising because usually they just generate a complete rhythmless mess of words.

This was my first go at it, and all I did was give it a link to my blog, set it to 5 beats per each line, and got it to create rhyming pairs and this is the result:

Chronicles of odeDan
distraught inroad

Gday trepidation
free titillation

Oops i disgracer
To do bait tracer

Yesterday i stair
To grey silverware

Ll do it a rat
I ll do trail tat

My mind instruction
Clear rent conduction

Doing this thing wig
Quite at that page jig

Want it to be gait
Has pretense roommate

Sort of habit vine
Had the bazaar shrine

Of a blog i maid
folktale allayed

Everyday nard
Have to burr retard

I don t wainwright
The excuse patch height

Was busy master
I did dom tapster

A few drinks after nude
timbrel servitude

Got carried shiner
wildfire recliner

Drank fadrank fa rent
Too much ley lent

Then i was dead beauts
phone acidifiers

I thought some of the stuff in there was pretty funny. Particularly the line: "Of a blog I maid, folktale allayed".

I cut some of it down as well because it was even longer than this. You've probably noticed there's a lot of made up words here, as it seems to take it a step further than most of your basic cut up generators on the internet, and actually take words apart as well to make them rhyme.

Tomorrow, if I feel I can't be bothered to type anything I'll just do this again. It's easy and fun.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

A missed day

oops, I completely forgot to do my blog yesterday. I kept saying to myself "i'll do it a bit later, I'll do it a bit later", but then it totally slipped my mind altogether. A clear sign that doing this thing is not quite at that stage I want it to be where it has become some sort of habit. I've had the tendency to neglect doing it quite a few times lately. It almost become an every other day blog instead of a blog I was to do everyday. I'll have to remedy that.

I don't even have the excuse that I was busy yesterday because I did absolutely nothing. Like I predicted on Monday's post, I went for a few drinks after the writers' circle and got carried away with myself. I drank far too much wine and then I was dead for half of Tuesday, and then kind of in a state of undeadness for the rest of the day. On days like that I will achieve nothing, except for the great achievement of achieving nothing all day.

But I did eat lots yesterday, and drank lots too (only water and squash though). A big part of my recovery plan from hangovers is to eat as much as possible and buy loads of cartons of apple and orange juice. I got my housemate to buy me some pie and chips on his way back from blockbusters yesterday evening, then about an hour later he had cooked dinner for everyone, and like a fat pig I ate that too. Though before that, all I had had to eat were a couple of sandwiches and cherry bakewells so I was starving by the time the chips came.

So today's plan is to get some writing done, and it's often nice to kick that off by writing in this blog.

Until next time...

Monday, 18 February 2008

A quick blog before uni

I'm leaving the house to go to uni in about 30 mins coz I've got library books to return and a writers circle meeting to oversee. If I put of writing in my blog until after there's a chance it might not get done. After last weeks meeting I went out for a few drinks, got drunk, and failed to write my blog. I'm avoiding do the same today.

Because I only thought of writing this just now I haven't really given myself a chance to think of what I could write about, so this could be pretty brief and unfocused. I suppose I could try and talk about what I have done today but i'm not really sure what i've done. I've had one of those days where I haven't seemed to have done that much yet I couldn't tell you what it is that I haven't been doing.

Actually, the last few hours I've done stuff. Like having a shower, got some shopping, and I've worked on my feature script a little bit. I'm pretty certain where I'm generally going with it now and have finally made some choices so it's not in the strange king of literary quantum state it was in before. The possibilities have been narrowed down and it's got a sense of direction. The sooner I can get to actually writing the thing the better.

I was hoping to have something to bring with me to my meeting tonight, but my feature idea isn't in a fit state to be read out. Maybe I'll talk about it with the group like I did last week with a boxing feature film idea my housemate and had came up with. It all depends how I feel in the meeting I suppose.

Hmmm... I'm just looking around my room at the moment thinking that it is in need of a good tidy. I've often heard it said that the state of your bed room or working space reflects the state of your own mind and right now I'm inclined to believe that. It is time for some organisation. With the twenty minutes I've got left before I need to go to uni i'm going to get a little tidying done.

Fare thee well.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

This comic book geek is disappointed

A late blog tonight, but i went to see Jumper this evening and decided before I went that this blog would more or less be a review of the film.

I first heard the premise of the film Jumper sometime last year and didn't think much of it, after all teleportation isn't particularly new in films. It's been seen plenty in Star Trek, and even in regards to the superhero genre we've seen it in X-men 2 with the character of Nightcrawler. To me Jumper just didn't have much of a high concept - that is until I saw the trailer a couple of months ago and was blown away by it. Because teleportation in this film isn't like Nightcrawler from x-men who can only do relatively short distances, and it isn't like in Star Trek, where it is a mode of transportation and not central to the plot. This was a film about a person with the power to go anywhere he wants in the world on impulse. It's about someone having a power that gives them almost unlimited freedom... Too bad they made such a mess of it with the actual film itself.

The trailer looked amazing. You could see it was an action adventure with some really impressive set pieces, and the comic book geek in me got really excited about it. I didn't think it was going to be another run of the mill Hollywood special effects movie because of the people involved in making it. The director is Doug Lieman, who did Bourne Identity and Go (but also Mr and Mrs Smith, so maybe I should've approached the movie with some caution). One of the writers was David S Goyer, who co-wrote Batman Begins with Christopher Nolan, probably my favourite of all the superhero movies in recent years.However, quite soon into the film I started thinking that it seemed like it had been put together by a bunch of amateurs who for some reason had a huge budget to work with. They basically made a film that relied to heavily on its action set pieces, but didn't spend enough time in developing the characters and the emotional core of the movie.

The word that kept going through my head to describe this film was 'shallow'. They potentially had this great premise: To explore what someone would do, and what would happen to them, if they had these amazing powers. But they don't go very far with it. In fact most of these kinds of questions is covered in the first act before Samuel L Jackson turns up with that look on his face that he always does. You know the one: He closes one eye slightly, like he's squinting, and he eyeballs the protagonist in an attempt to act sinister, but instead, after doing this for so long in his films, it just comes across as comical now - get a new sinister face Samuel!

There was so much more they could've done with this movie. I expected there to be more of a relationship between him and the other jumper Griffin. Afterall they have a rare ability, but the main character David doesn't really seemed that suprised or bothered that he has found another person who is like him. I also thought they should've explored the villains and their intentions a lot more because they do have good reason to want to hunt jumpers. The kind of power a jumper has is easily abused, and all the way through the film both jumpers frequently abuse their abilities and there is never a moment when either of them perhaps question this. Some of what i've mentioned here does seem like it was considered in the script, and is touched upon in one or two moments in the film, but it's not really taken very far. Like a scene right near the beginning where David watches a news bulletin on TV about a flood where people are trapped and in trouble, but he doesn't even give it a second look and instead takes a trip to London to get off with some woman. In some ways this was nice to see, because if your average person was to get some sort of superpower his first thought wouldn't be to put on some tights and help some people, it would be "right, how can I make some money outta this?" But they don't attempt to address this issue any further, when they easily could've with the films villains the 'Paladins'. Instead they are an ancient religeous order dedicated to hunting down and exterminating all jumpers because they have a power that only "god" can have.

But even all that wouldn't have mattered so much if they had just spent more time developing the characters and their relationships with one another. The film was so emotionally vacant, the characters were barely even one dimensional, and aside from the protagonist you don't really find out that much about them. The character of Griffin seemed like he could have an interesting past, and while it's hinted at and you could possibly fill in the gaps, you wanted to know a little more about him and why he is the person he is. It was just bad writing.

So to sum it up, Jumper was a film that delivered far less than it could've done, relying on some entertaining set pieces and fun action scenes in an attempt to dazzle audiences past the fact that it lacks any sort of interesting emotional or moral story at the centre of it.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Celebrity autographs and other stuff

I went to a comedy gig last night and saw Richard Herring perform his latest stand up act "oh fuck i'm 40" but I'm not going to start quoting bits from the show or critique it in anyway except to say that I enjoyed it. It was funny.

I got to meet Richard during the gig backstage, and afterwards i bought his latest DVD, which he signed for me, and we got a lift off him to the train station. Now to most other people none of this will be any kind of a big deal. It's not as if he's someone really famous like Tom Cruise or the Queen. In fact hardly anyone really knows who he is or that he was on TV some years ago now as part of the double act Lee and Herring, in Fist of Fun or This morning with Richard not Judy. But I watched those shows as a teenager and loved them, and i really like his stand-up act so meeting him (well it's actually not the first time i've met him) was kind of a big deal to me and I felt nervous about it and didn't really know what to say. I'm bad enough when it comes to speaking to "normal" people I meet for the first time, so when I meet celebrities (who I am afraid to say are better than the rest of us lesser mortals) I lose almost all power of communication for fear of embarrasing myself or the people i'm with in front of these "demi gods". I am exagerrating a lot here. Fame doesn't really excite me that much - or at least it shouldn't. I don't want it to.

I'm not really into a lot of the other weirdness that comes with meeting the rich and famous either. The main one is the celebrity autograph or signature. To me, that is something completely meaningless as an artifact to take away with you. I know I said Richard signed my DVD, but I didn't actually ask him to, and I wanted to tell him not to bother signing it but i didn't want to sound like a dick. It was a nice gesture and everyone else who bought the DVD before me were having thiers signed, but to me signing his name on the DVD sleeve over the picture of his own face was akin to graffiting the brand new DVD i had just bought.

I know what you're thinking "you ungrateful shit - that was a friendly gesture from one of your comedy idols and you're complaining about it" - but no, that's not true. I am grateful for meeting him, i'm grateful for seeing his show, getting a DVD (signed), and I was grateful for the lift to the train station. I'm just using this example to attack the fascination with celebrity autographs; they're stupid. What do they actually mean? Proof that you've met a celebrity and they can write your name? - Even as proof of meeting a famous person I would say it's pretty weak. It's not as if they're signatures are very readable - they're an eligible scrawl across a piece of paper, most of them don't even look like they're writing out real letters, they're quite often a curvy line with occasional dramatic bumps and ridges. It's no accident that they're like that either, the celebrity has perfected them so they can be written with speed. And if someone comes up to you waving a piece of paper in your face saying that George Clooney just signed it how are you able to verify the truth of what they're saying? It's not like there's a huge database with the signature of every celebrity from Angelina Jolie right down to Wolf from Gladiators that I can check to see if that person is lying or not. In this digital age where people verify who you are with pin numbers and electornic finger printing, could this be the future of the celebrity autograph? A celebrities pin number or thumb print? Will celebrity stalkers ditch the notepad and pen for a personal verifone machine?

Getting your picture taking with someone famous is something I can understand because that way you do have verifiable evidence that you were standing in that spot with that person at that time. Although even that can be faked now what with Adobe photoshop and digital technology. With time and effort (a very sad and wasteful use of anyones time), you could have a picture taken of yourself fucking your girlfriend (or boyfriend) and afterwards photoshop in the face of Lindsey Lohan (or Brad Pitt if you went with the boyfriend scenario, or even if you didn't go with the boyfriend scenario and wanted to make this interesting) to make it look like you slept with someone famous. But that's just sad and not to mention insulting to your lover (i did consider putting in a joke after that sentence saying something along the lines of "that's probably why my last girlfriend left me", but i thought it too obvious and crap. In fact I don't actually see why i'm bothering to mention it. I might delete this part. Besides me and my last girlfriend broke up because of my own personal insecurities, and I'll thank you for not forcing me to bring up those painful memories again - I joke.)

Hmmmm, todays blog has gone off in a slightly different direction to what I planned. My original intention was to make a point about meeting people that are only famous to you. I was hoping to lead on that bit about meeting Richard Herring on to my desire to meet one of my biggest idols Alan Moore. Another person that very few people will have heard of despite being (in my opinion at least) perhaps one of the greatest writers of the last thirty years - which I agree is a pretty bold thing to say, even more so because he writes comics not novels. But a lot of people will be familiar with his work through the terrible film adaptations they make such as V for Vendetta, League of extraordinary gentelmen, From Hell, and the upcoming movie The Watchmen. If it wasn't for Alan Moore's The Watchmen you probably wouldn't have stuff like Heroes. He was the first comic book writer to write something that got comics taken as a serious work of fiction making the term "graphic novel" popular - a term used by those who read them but are too ashamed to call them what they are: comic books.

I think I've said all I feel like saying today. Until tomorrow.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Alder hill and back - the 'Odyssey' in bite-size

I've been ordering a lot of books of Amazon recently to the point that it's almost become some form of addiction. I can find almost any book I want on there and they all look so very cheap as well. You can get books for £3.50 or even cheaper sometimes. But you soon realise that the prices almost fool you because you end up paying a couple of quid for postage and packaging, but it still works out cheaper than buying it from a shop. has free delievery but it doesn't quite have the range Amazon does, and the books themselves tend to be slightly more expensive, so again the amount you spend wouldn't be much different if you went Amazon or play anyway.

One book I ordered was James Joyce's Ulysses. It's always ranked high in the top 100 works of modern fiction so i've been thinking of giving it a read for some time. It's been a while since I've read any challenging kind of prose writing - most sci-fi or thriller writers aren't particularly skilled in that area. They're good on plot and action - a style of writing much better suited to screenwriting than novels. Dan Brown is a prime example of a writer who can plot well and come up with interesting and exciting situations but he can't write for shit. Not that I can either, that's why I'm doing screenwriting.

So the book was supposed to come through the post yesterday, but given the girth of the thing, it couldn't fit through my letter box so the postman left one of those cards to come pick it up. In itself the story I'm about to tell isn't particularly exciting, humourous, or full of action, but it is kind of ironic, so I think it's worth writing down here (with the rest of the often mundane and trivial crap you find in blogs).

I had to walk to the nearby post office with the card to collect my book, but when I got there they told me the book isn't there. I have to collect it from another post office in Alder Hill. This doesn't usually happen if we miss the postman in the morning. He would usually have the sense to leave it at our nearest post office.

The alder hill post office was about a mile away, at the top of a very big and steep hill, and after a long and arduous journey (not really, but I'm putting that here for "dramatic effect" *yawn*) I finally reach the post office. They tell me my post isn't there yet. The postman hadn't returned from his rounds. It was now a quarter past twelve, the office shuts at one-thirty (why am i writing the time out with letters instead of numbers? It just means more typing (why am i typing "why am I writing the time out with letters instead of numbers?, i'm giving myself more writing to do just by pointing this out! and when i write my blog directly into my blog like this there isn't even an option to copy and paste so I had to type out virtually the same sentence twice giving me even more writing to do)). Back to the story - the postman should be back within the next forty minutes, but the place would be closing shortly after that so I didn't feel it was worth me going home only to have to walk all the way back again. Instead I decided to go for a wonder.

The delightful irony of what was happening dawned on me. Like Ulysses is James Joyce's modern reworking of Homers Odyssey, my efforts to track down and pick up a book that was supposed to be delivered to my front door had turned into a sort of bite-sized version of Homer's greek epic. I was in some far off land far away from home and a journey that should have taken me 5 minutes to complete was now going to take me an hour and a half (oh the horror!).

I decided I would see what was on the other side of the hill and it was then I was lured by a sirens call, (for those of you not familiar with the Odyssey, it's a reference to that but i'm not going to explain it here - just means more typing for me, look it up on wikipedia if you can be bothered). Not far off in the distance I saw a big yellow M. It was calling me to it, and I knew that i should resist it but I couldn't. The Alder Hill McDonalds drive thru had me under its spell and it pulled me in. Shamefully I sat down and had my fill of burgers and chips. (quite an amusing little side note to my visit to this McDonalds: I saw a kid of about seven run up to what he thought was a drive thru speaker, stick his head right in it, and start shouting food orders - it was an outside astray).
Not much happened in my "adventure" after this. Unfortunately this was as far as my story of getting the book would parallel the journey of Odysseus in Homer's poem. I didn't meet any men with one eye, or offered some modern drug equivalent of the lotus leaf. I just waited around a bit, did a bit more exploring of some of the shops nearby, laughed childishly at the name of the pub next door to the McDonalds (it was called "The Dorset Knob), and went back up the hill to collect my book.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

6 weeks to hand in

So Sunday night we received an email ("we" meaning everyone in the 3rd year of the Bournemouth media school), reminding us that we only have 6 weeks left in which to write our dissertations. For me, the disseratation is the thing I have given the least thought, because everytime I start to think about it I just get very stressed and upset, and a strong desire to simply run away and dissapear takes hold of me. I have spent the last 5 years working towards assignment deadlines and I'm absolutley sick of them. For the past couple of months I've really wanted to do some creative writing, but in my own time, not for a university deadline. This makes it hard to justify why i've been so lazy with writing my major, but in a funny way, it's not because I'm lazy that I haven't been writing as much as I should it's because I'm feeling rushed to do it, and I'm overly concerned with how good it needs to be.

The big fact is, I can't handle pressure very well. But I'm not talking about pressure from other people, or from my course, I'm talking about pressure from myself. It's strange, but the best way I can describe it, is that its like i'm short circuiting my own brain. When I feel under huge pressure I become anxious and confused and suffer a strange sort of breakdown. This happens to me almost everytime I think about my disseration, and would happen with every theory assignment I have written in my three years at University. I would constantly get confused about what was expected of me and how I should be writing my essays. The marks I have receieved for my essays these past couple of years are quite eratic. I've had a couple of firsts but I've also recieved thirds - only just barely passing assignments sometimes. When I try to communicate my difficulty with discursive writing to other people I generally get the same response "why don't you look at what you were doing in the assignments where you got a first and see what you was doing differently". I've tried that. It's strange though, I'll read my good assignments and walk away with an understanding of what I've got to do, but it will only last a short while, then when I try to tackle my dissertation again i'm like "I have no fucking idea what is going on... I'm confused." I don't think anyone can help me with this because it's something in my head doing this. Some bad experience with an essay I did in the past that I can't seem to get over maybe, I'm not sure.

I was reading a chapter from a book yesterday called Optimal Experience, psychological studies of flow in consciousness. But now that I think about it, the particular chapter I chose to read was the last thing I should be reading right now.

Anyway, it's one of the books I've been looking at for my disseratation, and it's about how people are most happy in an activity that creates a state commonly reffered to as "flow". The flow consiousness occurs when you are emersed in an activity that is challenging but not beyond your abilities to achieve it. All of your energy and concentration becomes heavily invested in the exercise and all sense of time goes out the window, and the world around you blurs into the back ground. You need only examine the face of someone engrossed in a game of Tetris to see the flow state at work. However, if the task at hand becomes too challenging the flow state will be broken by feelings of stress or anxiety, and conversely if it becomes too easy boredom takes over.

The particular chapter I was reading was examining school pupils who had been given an assignment to complete. The first part looked at two pupils where "overarousal" was a problem. They were two students who knew and understood their subject matter but ran into huge problems from the word go due to anxiousness. Obviously, every student goes through feelings of anxiety when completeing an assignement but for these two students it turned their essay writing experience into a nightmare, and their mental state was clearly reflected in the assignments they turned in. The writer of this particular chapter of the book, Reed Larson, said the two pupils caused this state of panic by having expectations for their essays higher than they could meet. What they saw themselves achieving in their heads was never as good as what they put on the page, and the harder they tried the more overwhelmed they became with their work to the point where they lost control of it. When they handed it in they were so confused and anxious about it they really had no idea of what mark they would get from it.

Reading this chapter brought back memories of past essay writing experiences, and it is for this reason that I haven't even been able to get properly started on my disseration. Everytime I think about it I get hit by these same feelings of anxiety and confusion, and all I've been doing recently is reading. That's what I've been doing today. Trying to ease myself into it by just reading some books and writing down whatever comes to mind. But its always there; a creeping sensation of anxiety coming over me and wrecking havoc with my ability to concentrate and take what I'm reading in.

These feelings are only going to increase dramatically and with greater frequency over these next two months so I better start getting used to it now and get on with it.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Blockbuster angst

Yesterday was pretty unpleasant. I mentioned in my last post that I had to work an eight hour shift starting at 2 o'clock. Now I'm sure anyone who is reading this who isn't a student won't be feeling very sorry for me, but that's okay. I know most people are having to do this 5 days a week, and if you don't enjoy your jobs I feel really sorry for you. We all say we gotta do this for the money but if you're in a job that is totally unfulling and is a misery it is horrible isn't it? But I would argue that it's worse for me in my job because I only go in once or twice a week, rather than doing the 5 day a week slog that some of you might be doing.

I suppose you want me to justify what I was saying in that last sentence?

No... I'm not going to.

Okay then I will tell you why.

If you're working 5 days a week in a miserable and unfulling job, you've immersed yourself into a routine. You're job, as horrible as it is, has become a habit that'd you'd probably like to break but can't. You have subjected yourself to this gratuitous and almost daily activity for so long that the misery of it has become a fundamental part of your life and so you're able to "put up with it".

I on the otherhand don't have a routine of misery and unfulfillment to put up with every day. I am my own boss and can pretty much conduct myself how I want. If I don't feel like doing any writing today I don't have to, though if I don't I'll probably feel guilty about it later and have work that bit harder to keep up (like I'm doing now in the final stages of my degree). But at least I'm in control. Then of course there's my job at blockbusters. That horrible, miserable job, that I actually kind of liked once, but now I dread having to go in. I literally find myself counting the days until I have to work again, whereas you nine to fivers are counting the days to the weekend. Do you see? For those who work the monday to fridays, the end of the week is almost like a reward for lasting another 5 days in your job. The weekend is when you get to kick back and have fun (unless you have children then I feel really sorry for you - you have no life). I on the other hand have to work those weekends. I have nothing to look forward to.

I am just having a little joke with this rant here, but I just felt like expressing a little of my blockbuster angst today. I haven't got anything against working, just so long as you're getting something out of it. Be it good money, or you love the work, or the job you're doing is doing some good somewhere. Last summer for example, I was working 7 days a week for the whole 3 months of my "summer holiday", and I wasn't even getting any money out of it. From Monday to Fridays I was working in London doing an internship that taught me a hell of a lot about screenwriting, and I even got to work on a feature film that could be getting made over the next couple of years. Then on the weekends I was working at *sigh*, Blockbusters for a little extra cash. That summer was hard work but I didn't mind it because I was enjoying what I was doing.
As long as I can get a job that gives me similar satisfaction when I finish here I will be very happy.

Friday, 8 February 2008

quickie before work

I've decided to write in my blog now before I go to work rather than waiting until after work. Chances are, if I wait until later to do my blog there's a good chance it won't get done. Either I'll forget that it needs to be done when I get in, or I will remember that it needs to be done and wait until later to do it but forget about it anyway. Also if my mates are out tonight and somehow convince me to go out after work I'll not get it done.

The downside of doing this now though is that I have to get it done within 20mins before I have to leave to get my bus. Another downside is that between now and last night all I have done is slept and write. Like I said yesterday, I can't keep talking about my uni work in every post because it will bore me. However, if I keep up with what I've been like today and yesterday evening there will be little less to talk about. I have been going non stop all day today since about 9 this morning and I'm feeling pretty disapointed that I have to go to work at blockbusters for the next 4 or 5 hours. And it gets worse. Tomorrow I have to be in work from 2 in the afternoon until 10 in the evening leaving me little time for anything else. 2 to 10 shifts are the worst shifts you can do in a job like this. It takes away most of your daytime and deprives you of most of the evening to.

I used to work fulltime in a conveinance store sized Budgens about 5 years ago and my shifts were exclusively 3pm to 11pm, five days a week with only one day off at the weekend. It became a pretty depressing job as it deprived me of a lot of my social life, and my manager kept promising to start rotating the kinds of shifts for me to do but he never got round to doing it. I think it was because I was the only supervisor that could work the evening shifts and they were shit with coming up with a replacement. I think I lasted 6 months in that job. I quit one day when they decided I should be working the whole weekend and there was a big barbecue on on the Friday.They'd known for some time that I was fed up with working the evening shifts all the time and I can tell it was going to be a long time before they did anything about it. I had told them in advanced that I needed the Friday off but they still scheduled me for it so I didn't go in.

When I came in for the next shift there was a big argument between me and the store manager, and the two assistant managers. When I said how fed up I was with working the evening shifts the store manager, Charlie, told me because of the stunt I pulled he had no intention of moving my shifts around now - this is when I told them where to go and walked out. I felt pretty good about that.

Of course, Blockbusters isn't like that. It's only a part time job, and the hours are flexible there. I'm just really really really really bored of working there now. I've been working for blockbusters for almost 5 years now since I started going back to college and I can't wait to quit that job the moment I'm finished with uni.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

A new look for the blog

I've given the blog a new look. When I wrote my last post (yes it was the day before yesterday - so what?) I thought I might try out something new. I don't really know how to fully customize it for myself so I chose one of the templates available on the site. I think the template was called "Harbour", and it kind of has that beach front theme. Seeing as I'm living in Bournemouth not far from the beach (well, it's about 2 miles away, and technically I'm in Poole), it would seem quite an appropriate choice.

I suppose I should talk about the progress I'm making on my work, though I'm starting to get tired of writing about that all the time now. Even when I'm not writing about it on this blog, it is quite a popular topic of conversation with me and my friends as well, because most of my friends here are scriptwriters too. Some of us have even taken to banning the use of certain words as well, such as the word "dissertation". My house mate Paddy insists that we should call it "the long essay", or "a series of short interlinked essays" - or something like that. I've taken it a step further and insisted that any talk of the "dissertation" be forbidden, almost like I'm refusing to acknoweldge its existence. I know that is the metaphorical equivalent of burrying my head in very deep sand, but everyone has their own special way of dealing with crisis so don't knock my own tried and tested methods.

But I will say that I'm starting to enjoy the writing of my major. I'm kind of attacking it from all angles at the moment. I've been fleshing out my characters, planning out the plot, writing a treatment, and I'll probably start writing scenes that probably won't even end up in the finished product tomorrow. This isn't usually the way I work when writing. In the past I generally plan the thing out from an idea, into a synopsis, then an outline, treatment, and then a step outline before I even start writing the script.

Most of the time this is probably the best way to work because it allows you to develop your stories in a very linear and organised way. But I've got so many ideas in my head for this script, and a variety of possibilities of which way it could go that I have to get everything out onto the page in anyway I can. So at the moment my final major screenplay is in a slightly chaotic state of development but I'm finding it quite an exciting way to work. Anyway, it shouldn't be long before chaos eventually gives way to order and I'll have a very well planned out script to write.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

An extra 5 hours for me to waste tonight

Woo hoo! I'm not working tonight!

I somehow got it into my head that I should be working at Blockbusters tonight but I just phoned them and found out I'm not supposed to be working until Friday. It feels like I've gained 5 extra hours in my day today. It's almost like having a terminal disease and finding out you have longer to live than you were originally told (though not that much like it, it is kind of like a non-terminal less tragic equivalent - there's an earlier blog post where I make a very similar joke to this about a guy on death row so I don't need to go into this any further. Yes, I am a "one trick pony").

So now I have 5 extra hours to spend tonight I suppose I should use them productively. Which I could do. I feel as if i'm in a very productive mood today but I think that mood came about from thinking I didn't have much time to be productive in the first place. If I could fool myself into thinking that I had work in the evening when I don't every night I could always be in a productive mindset and get loads done.

Another reason for my enthusiasm to get some writing done is a book I started reading today. I got it from the library and it's one of those inspiring books about freeing your artistic self and overcoming creative blocks. What I've read so far isn't anything particularly new, but whenever I first start reading a new "self help" book that I haven't read before, be it on writing, or NLP, or anything like that, the first few chapters always leave me feeling like I can achieve anything. They're really inspiring, and absolutely convince you that this time will be different. That this time you're going to follow everything they say to the letter. You're going to put the effort and the time into this and it's going to change you're life in ways you never thought possible.

Then a few days later you come down from that strange high you found yourself on. Gravity has caught up with you and it has dragged you down. It's almost like sobering up. That enthusiasm and hope has faded away and you're back to your old ways because you never really worked at it long enough to get out of your old ways.

So if this always happens with these books, if it is always the way that when you're first start reading them they leave you inspired and enthusiastic for a short while before the novelty wears off and you're back to how you were before, lazy and unmotivated, what can I do to change this?

I think I may have it. What if I keep buying new self help books and just read the first few chapters?

The advice in all of them is very much the same, but that's not what you need from them anyway. You want to feel inspired and full of hope that you're going to change you're life and all of those books are very good at doing that on the intial first read. However after that it is like their charge runs out. You try reading that same introduction again and it doesn't have the same kick that it did before, much like subsequent heroin trips will never rival the feeling of that first taste (according to what i've been told of course - I wouldn't know personally... Honest).

I think it could work. I'm pretty certain that there is an almost inexaustible supply of books on creativity and writing that I can keep dipping into for those little rushes of inspiration and enthusiasm. There should at least be enough to keep me motivated and writing long enough for me to write at least one succesful script and retire to play Xbox or mess about on Facebook until the end of my days. If that fails to work then I guess I will be spending the rest of my life playing xbox and messing about on Facebook until the end of my days, because I'm not doing much more than that at the moment anyway.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Taking liberties

I watched another one of those documentaries yesterday. Yep, the kind that seems to push all the right buttons to send me into a state of rage. It's called Taking Liberties, and it's a documentary about how our civil liberties have been eroded away during the ten years that Blair has been in power to supposedly "protect" us from terrorists. Though as this documentary shows, many of the abuses of power by Blair and the police force have not been used to target terroists, but basically anyone who disagrees with what the government are doing.

The documentary opens with a three coach loads of protesters from London going to an anti-war protest at a US military base only to be stopped shortly before their destination by the police. The police run a thorough search of everyone on the coaches, they find only some toy soldiers, scissors, and dust masks, then they force everyone back on to the bus and forcibly escort them back to London. According to the police, from the items they found they've deemed the protesters as dangerous and might cause a breach of the peace.
So the police put everyone back on the bus and prevent them from reaching their destination to conduct a peaceful protest march. At one point a guy tries to step off the bus to try and talk to the police because what they're doing is illegal and a load of policeman come up to the door and hold it closed so that no one could get off. For the whole of the journey back to london they have police vans and motorcycles with them all the way preventing them from stopping or getting off anywhere.

This is just one example of the abuses of the powers that the government has given the police. Now I've never really been a person who hates the police, and even when I was younger I considered becoming a policeman, but over the last year I have come to have very different ideas to what purpose the police actually serves. If you look at the way the government likes to tackle crime their strategy has always been to invent new laws, throw more police at it, and give the police more "powers" to deal with crime. Powers such as detaining suspects for a whole month without charge, or the power to stop and search someone under the terroism act section 44 without having to explain to the person why you've stopped them and why you're searching them. Recently a few friends of mine have joined the police, and one of them was saying to me how great this law was - admitedly he was joking around a little bit about it when he said it.

The government keeps giving new powers like this to the police perhaps in the belief that they will use it responsibly, but the fact is that the police are human beings, human beings who are given power over other human beings, and you can't trust people to act responsibly when they are in a position of power. So although they may be given these stop and search powers to "protect" us from terroists, what's to stop them abusing this law to stop and search anyone? In the documentary you see examples of police using anti-terroism laws on people who are obviously not terrorists but protesters. This is an obvious abuse of power.

But there are other abuses of power shown in the documentary that are even worse. Such as a man who was a suspect in a terror plot and was found to be completely innocent by a jury, however despite being an innocent man he was still placed under house arrest following the trial and hasn't be able to leave his house for 2 years. An innocent man but still a prisoner.

Or the fact that our government condones torture by allowing CIA "torture flights" to refuel here in England before being sent to other countries such as Uzbekistan and Algeria where suspected terrorists are tortured into answering questions for the CIA. The American government obviously thinks that by not torturing people themselves on American soil they are somehow free from the guilt (nevermind what American soldiers have been doing in Guantanomo bay). However even our government is implicit in the crime as the documentary states that, under international law flying people from a country that doesn’t torture to one that does is illegal. Any government who facilitates this are seen as being complicit in the crime of torture themselves.

Anyway, the other night I had a dream about nuclear war. It's not the first time i've had a dream like this in the past few months. In the dream we're more or less waiting for the bombs to drop. For whatever reason, the people in charge of our country have gone to war with another country and they've launched a nuclear attack at each other. All through the dream I'm terrified of what is about to happen but I'm also feeling angry. I'm angry because I have no control over what's happening. I'm anrgy at the people in charge who have taken the lives of myself and everyone elses in their hands and about to kill us all. I'm angry and helpless. Then the bomb drops. We hear the blast, see the huge flash of light and we're still alive... but not for long. Despite surviving the bomb blast we now have to suffer a slow and painful death from radiation poisoning. The whole time I'm thinking about the people who caused this to happen and how helpless I felt to stop them.

These are probably the scariest dreams I've ever had and I'm not having them because I fear nuclear conflict. I think I have these dreams because of how helpless I feel to affect change in a world that desperately needs sorting out. For a long time I have felt that peaceful protest is not enough. Yes it has had it's victories, but really it's effect is more symbolic. It's just you standing up and saying "no, i don't agree with this!". For me this is just not enough.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Profit before people

I watched the Michael Moore documentary Sicko last night, and as I expected it got my blood boiling. The film is all about the so called "American health care system", and it opens quite nicely with the story of two people who needed medical treatment but couldn't afford it because they didn't have health insurance. One of them was a guy who lost the ends of two of his fingers in an accident. The hospital told him they could save the middle finger for $60k, or his third finger for $12k. The guy could only afford to save the third.
After telling these two stories Moore says that this film is not really about the people that don't have health insurance, it's about those people in American who (in theory) have health insurance.

Over the course of the movie Moore demonstrates through various real life cases how health insurance companies frequently deny the proper health care and refuse to cover the medical bills of people who take ill or are injured. And they'll try to deny claims for just about any reason, such as one woman who got cervical cancer at the age of 22 and her health insurance company refused to cover her medical care because she was too young to be getting cervical cancer!

Decisions to deny claims like this happen all the time with any sort of insurance company, because like every other business it sets up shop to turn a profit. Insurance companies don't offer people "health insurance" because they want to be there for people when they get sick, they offer people health insurance in the hope that they don't need it. So what often happens when people get ill or have some sort of accident they will look for ways that they can deny their claims.

One part of the documentary got me thinking about where I work at Blockbusters. Blockbusters at one time or another are always running deals and promotions, and the idea is that we the employees must try and convince the customers to take our promotions. So if a customer brings up one DVD we have to try to get them to take 2 dvd's under "2 for £7" promotion. Our store is in constant competition with other stores, if we score a high percentage of deals there can be perks for our store (though the bonuses will generally go to the store manager), if our store performs badly (like it has recently), then the store manager can get in trouble, receive warnings, or even be demoted for consistently poor performance.

The same system works for the medical professionals who work for the medical insurance companies in America, only their targets are slightly different. Basically, they must ensure that a certain percentage of health insurance claims are denied. I think in the documentary they said it is something like around 10%, which some may think is a small amount, but these are peoples lives, and it doesn't matter if this 10% of people really need the treatment, they're going to be denied their claim if the company can find a loop hole around it. So under this system, the medical professionals who deny a higher percentage of claims than anyone else will recieve all sorts of bonuses and pay rises, while the ones who don't could possibly lose thier job. When you have a system that works like this then only the most effecient and cold hearted people will be working in these companies.

This is what you get when you put profit first, and that is the aim of every business on the planet. It is one of the main reason why capitalism is so wrong because it treats greed as a virtue. Watch Sicko, watch Corporation if you haven't already, and perhaps like me you'll find yourself taking an anti-capitalist stance as well.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Feature script tutorial today

Right, I gotta leave for work in half an hour, I'm all changed into my uniform so i'm ready to leave as soon as the clock strikes half past. This also means that I gotta write this blog pretty quick, but it shouldn't be a problem as the way i've been writing recently it's been turning into more of a "stream of conciousness" type activity anyway.

I was thinking i should probably take a look back at what i've written in this thing since i've started it as I think there is a definate shift in what i've been writing, and one or two people I know have pointed this out as well. One of them said it's gotten better recently as you can tell it's not as thought out as before. My early efforts used to take me well over an hour sometimes, and despite the fact that I wanted to write it without caring what people reading it were thinking, i couldn't help but be affected by those kinds of thoughts. But i don't really have those thoughts that much anymore, mainly because I think the novelty of writing this has worn off so I'm putting in a different kind of effort now. It's more relaxed and I like that.

So, I had a tutorial for my feature script today. It went okay. My tutor didn't try to tell me my idea was bad, so I guess he okayed it (or, it's just too late now to be fussing around with ideas and I need to write something). Plot wise I should be fine, he said I know the genre pretty well so i shouldn't have any problems with that, but it's the emotional story that should be my main concern right now. He's helped me to see how important it is for the plot, in particular in reference to the main source of antagonism in the story, that I know what personal demons the characters have. Without explaining my idea here (and I don't think I can be bothered to do that right at this moment, it will take some time), this will not make that much sense. Suffice it to say that at least one of the characters needs some sort of tragic or traumatized past that will effect or even cause the main problems in my story. Confused? Probably.

At the end of the meeting it was agreed that I should have at least half a first draft of the script done by the beginning of March, it sounds like a lot but at the same time, when you get on a good roll it is possible. Besides I've written a whole 60 page script in 24 hours before, so having 45 - 60 pages written in a month for a half a first draft doesn't sound like a particularly difficult feat to achieve does it?