A chance to laugh at my beard!

That’s right. About a month ago, I had a full beard. I was asked to film  a piece on the university’s new education apps. So I did. And now everyone in the university recognises me. This could be worse I guess. Here it is for some communal lolling if you aren’t part of my university.

The Goddess of Dawn and the Northern Wind – The Dissertation Diary

Dissertation Diary, I have neglected you. I apologise. *Apology accepted* Good! Let’s carry on.

I’ve not actually detailed much of my dissertation and what it is about so it’s time to do that and to allow some closely guarded information to slip through the net. I have had this idea since the summer and starting back at university. Four months on, I’ve stuck to it. I’ve had my doubts and I’ve had to do some very morbid reading about leukaemia and cancer. But I’ve also been able to do some rather joyous reading and researching about this beautiful thing:

Aurora BorealisYes this is the wonderful beauty of nature that is the Aurora Borealis. Set in 2012, the story is about a young man, who is just about to lose his battle with illness, and wants to see this wonderful sight before his time is up. He enlists the help of his elder sister and his best friend to drive him up to the farthest reaches of Scotland where the event is uniquely visible at this time. Capers along the way, drama, races against time; all ensue. Along with a secret agenda of the young mans, involving his friends, that will affect the rest of their lives.

Out of the 300 or so odd words I had previously, none remain. But I’m currently up to nearly 2000 new words. Which is 1/5th of the entire 10,000 I have to do. Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll have that all written and I can leave it for a week before some serious re-writing. One of the hardest things (other than names, I’m terrible at naming characters) is deciding on a style for the piece. The stories I’ve written have very much defined my voice now and I think I can quite confidently write and create a piece that is me. But by style I mean this: how should it look? This isn’t a very long novella, so should I break it up into chapters? Smaller pieces of an overall arc? Or should I just go for it as one dense piece. I’ve decided at the moment to go for chapters, which can always change (thank you word processors). I also need to work out how to write something without giving it away too much but also without spoiling everything. I can’t say it yet, because I don’t want to spoil the enjoyment should you get to read it. But everyone that does know the secondary plot line likes it.  Also I must attempt to avoid anything completely cliche. Which, I’m sure you’ll all appreciate, is a complete arse to do.

I have to present this story to my creative writing colleagues and tutors on Thursday in the form of a presentation. Of course this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. In fact I may well take my earlier blurb on my story in with me, that looks pretty succinct. I’d already completed this plan where I had suggested certain books I’d read. My tutor met with me, obviously completely aware of my style of writing and ambition, and told me to read two books, neither of which I’d thought of. Those being Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (a natural choice I suppose given the setting) and a book that exemplifies the quest genre with my satirical British wit. That being The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy books by Douglas Adams. At that point in our meeting that I pull out my iPhone to show that  I was re-listening to the radio show at that very moment. Clever timing.

So maybe I’ll update you again when the presentation is over. In the mean time I’ve lots of other things to read, write, panic about, think about and watch. Here’s a link to the above picture from the BBC website and here’s some audio that I’ll be listening to whilst writing. You can listen too, thanks to the magic of the internet!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-19881645

Writing Playlist

Words: 1875

Read: White Noise – Don DeLillo, The Thin Man – Dashiell Hammett

Reading: Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy

The Pope’s Pink Slip

*Telephone rings*

Pope: Hello. Pope speaking?

God: Hey Pope, it’s God. Sorry to call, I would have emailed but the snow’s knocked out our internet.

Pope: Oh hey, God! What’s up?

God: Listen, I don’t know how to say this but we’re letting you go.

Pope: Oh. Really? Ok. Why?

God: Well, the economy sucks and we’ve suffered. All the cutbacks and savings we need to keep this red wine stuff flowing. And, honestly, this has been a big  PR disaster with you in charge. Sorry man but we’ve got to let you go.

Pope: Fine, but you can’t fire me. I quit!

*Hangs up phone*

Satan: Damn… So close.

Musings on Channel 4’s Utopia *SPOILERS*

I’ve resisted writing about Channel 4’s Utopia for the past four weeks. I’ve watched the show, as broadcast so far, and read the reviews. I’ve seen all of these rave critiques of a spiralling plot with cleverly woven webs of deceit, characters that are relatable and honest and stunning visuals. It saddens me to say I don’t agree.

Now I don’t want to pass judgement until I’ve seen all of it, obviously as a show of this nature could all beautifully come together at the last minute. But to me, this is all just a little bit too X-Files and has been done before. For the record I liked the X-Files although when I recently watched them all, it became utterly repetitive and reliant on its conspiracy arc episodes.

*SPOILER ALERT * If you haven’t seen the show and want to, STOP READING HERE and go watch it first. *SPOILER ALERT*

With the exception of Arby (explained later) and Wilson Wilson, who’s involvement has completely petered out now he’s out of his tin foil hat style environment, I find none of the characters engaging, alluring or find any kind of empathy with them. I find most of their dialogue rather clunky, obvious and uninspiring. The show itself goes through many silent periods before being overrun with far too technical plot exposition far too quickly for anyone to understand. In the first X-Files series Mulder constantly leaps to a massive, fairly uninformed, conclusion about twenty minutes in to an episode. Along with visceral dramatic diatribes directed towards Scully, who rightly looks at him like the arrogant psychopathic prick he persuades us he is. That’s exactly what this show does to the audience. They go all Mulder and we sit there like Scully going “Eh? Oh, fuck off.” The entire sudden realisation of The Network’s protein being in every food stuff – thanks to a villainous corporation noted in the comic manuscript we’ve barely had any exposition of (both parts 1 & 2) – is just too much too quickly and really quite unimaginative. In fact, I had no idea this big background villainous entity was even called ‘The Network’ until I read the reviews. Granted, I may have missed that in an earlier episode, but still it shows how little the script is willing to let on.

I choose the word ‘script’ on purpose here. Visually, the series is brilliant. Great locations and a stunning colourful and varied nod to the comic books and movies that has inspired it. The acting has been pretty awesome in places too. Emilia Jones as Alice in Ep. 4 was a fantastic performance, Fiona O’ Shaughnassey playing Jessica Hyde as the ultra violent, slightly child like, rouge (River Tam from Firefly anyone?). But none more so than Neil Maskell as Arby. Arby is the only character who appears genuinely interesting and so borderline psychopathic that you can’t help but want him to completely lose it. In fact, I will admire his plot and how his character is affected by the eponymous comic book that we’ve seen so little of. A genuine connection of discovery that nails it. But that is because Maskell has played it so expertly. A similar child like quality to Hyde, suggesting their shared past, but with a more true feeling of hurt, confusion and a slight innocence despite his actions. We don’t give a toss about the implausible global pharmaceutical conspiracy, we want a person to care about! Other than that, I don’t feel the series is actually going anywhere. Jessica Hyde was introduced far too early, leading to very clunky drawn out travelling/hiding scenes to wreak potential havoc on a love relationship we don’t care about. Jessica’s secret motives are so secret, we don’t care about them. Becky’s seemingly double agent ploy is so unexplained, we don’t care about it… You see where I’m heading with this.

I’m not intentionally being nasty towards the show or another writer’s writing (I’m not a critic per se, more of a practicing observer) but I honestly don’t care about anything except Arby. People who I’ve spoken to who’ve seen the show (not reviewers, genuine audience like me, you, anyone NOT reviewing), honestly don’t care about anything except Arby. Which makes me wonder why the rest of the show is so damned frustrating with its clunky style? It can get it right somewhere, so why not the rest? Don’t even get me started on the seemingly pointless and utterly infuriating storyline involving the civil servant Michael Dugdale which seems to be purely there as exposition for background evil. Or the sudden appearance of Milner, the stiff upper lip lady spy, who reels off government department acronyms like a child describing their Pokemon cards. These distract from the general plot and annoy me. A plot which now seems to be a weekly edition of “Who is?” Who is Jessica Hyde in Ep. 1, Who is Mr Rabbit now in Ep’s 3&4; with long, confusing and utterly boring expositions of how they effect the plot of our characters and seemingly lead them no where but to another “Who is?” moment.

I will watch the rest to see how it pans out because it will frustrate me if I don’t. And if you are enjoying it, fair enough. Do not let my diatribe put you off watching, inspiring or giving television producers the desire (excuse) to have a get out there and create some intriguing telly. But for me it’s not working. When I first heard the idea (after it felt like pulling teeth from the writer in the C4 interview to get anything sensical about it), I thought that it would have made a great kids TV show. Reminiscent of the Russell T Davies shows like Dark Season, imports like Round The Twist, and the like. It doesn’t need the violence and it would appeal to a young adult, maybe even younger, audience with the parents getting intrigued also. I think it makes a good adult show too but sadly, that isn’t being realised in my eyes.

A Great Big Spiffing Update

Yes, I haven’t updated in exactly one month, one day, and seventeen hours-ish. Bite me. At least I’ve updated the website. Doesn’t it look pretty and slightly less functional now? Less like a Dignitas brochure.

So I’m not going to update you on the dissertation as there’s not really any update to be had. University has been providing me with enough procrastination devices, reading, essays and general rubbish to keep me from making some progress on the one thing it needs me to do. But here’s some things that have been happening!

For one, I completed my dryathlon for charity so donate to me you tight gits. PINT84 £1 to 70070. Cancer Research UK will benefit greatly from it. I’m not exactly adonis yet in the body stakes but it’s slowly happening. Here’s hoping by May, I’ll look like the uglier version of (flavour of the month), the guy who (random celebrity status). The dawn is approaching where I need to seek some kind of gainful employment, working experience (I know I have seven years already), and the like. So if you know, can point in a direction or can help, tweet me! (@cleaverslips) I can write pretty things (flowers), gaming or nerdy things (kapowww! – 404 error), sporty things (FORE!), opinionated things (Uggh that bloke looks a bit rubbish on that news programme. Who does he think he is, the Prime Minister?) and funny things (makes fart noises). I can also use the steamy thingy on the coffee machine, which is probably more what you’re after in an employee anyway.

Writing wise, I’ve spent a lot of time rewriting a piece I did for a uni class. Normally, I’d post it once I’ve got my grade, but this I won’t. It’s autobiographical and to be honest, it became a bit of a labor of love for me. Literally, it’s about dating so, correct usage of the word literally there… Literally. Maybe you’ll see it when I have enough money to be happy and enough ego to warrant writing such a piece. However, my excursions into radio will bring something cool to your ears!

Hopefully starting in the next two months, me and a few friends are going to record a radio sketch show pilot. Just because we can really, and we only have the technology for another few months. The working titled “Hang The DJ” will be a pilot podcast, recorded in front of a live audience and performed by the friends and myself. So far, four pages out of a maximum 30 have been written as has some music for a comedy song. I’m quite excited about it (especially as my friends are funnier performers than me) and hope it will pave the way for a series available in podcast form. At least it’ll give me some writing confidence and a chance to hone my craft rather than the rejections from BBC’s Newsjack.

I have written a short story which I am letting stew for a while before editing. I can tell you it’s called The Taxers and is about a post-apocalyptic farming colony. Hopefully I can find a way to get it published. There’s also a few other ideas flying around, including a Valentines Day piece about a mystery Valentine who leaves random clues over their workplace to woo their prospective interest. I will publish it on here when I get around to it. PURELY OUT OF SPITE TO WRITING MAGAZINE! Yes, I ask you, as a magazine that offers short story competitions (which another friend got shortlisted for but a far inferior story got the nod), and also that offers internet/iPad subscriptions, in this 21st Century mobile world, how can they refuse a submission from me? I’ll tell you. I don’t count as a subscriber as I do so via my iPad, so they won’t let me submit anything. To do so, I have to subscribe by filling a form in the physical magazine and sending it off with a cheque with my story. I’m feeling myself rambling here but UP YOURS writing mag! Come see me when you decide to crawl into the future. Maybe I’ll fax you the directions on how to get there.

Also, Superbash, NFL, fun nights had, Dodge Brothers ticket sorted, lots of board games and geek T-Shirts purchased, lots of books, stuff, etc, yada yada. Just follow on twitter, instagram, all that kind of thing. I’m there.

Currently Reading: Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy, Tales From Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made? – David Hughes.