Monday, 24 March 2008

Sighted: the Lesser Spotted Bigwoo

Despite not being officially released into the wild until April 7th, eagle-eyed genius MG has spotted this rare bird in Oxford Waterstone's. Quick, someone call Bill Oddie!

The Lesser Spotted Bigwoo is by nature quite timid, but its magnificently shiny plumage should make it easy to locate. If in doubt, apparently look for it amidst books about cake. And geese. (Yep, I'm in the Cake & Geese section. Who knew?) And do please report any further early sightings of this fine fowl: it's quite exciting seeing it on a shelf like that...

Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris (adult, contemporary). Office workers at a failing ad agency trundle through their mundane lives, which are shared through a collective voice. I haven't come to the end yet, however, so I'm not in any position to pass judgement: so far file under 'interesting conceit, but actually quite uninvolving'.

Musicals! Everyone loves musicals, right? Right? *looks hopeful*

Finally getting round to watching Die Hard 4 (liked the way they didn't bother pretending it was in any way related to the other films: didn't like the startling chunk of misogyny and racism that was applied to one character); eating very fine tortilla (and salmon, and risotto, and cheese, and actually I'm quite full just thinking about it); wondering why The Great Escape isn't on.

Sunday, 16 March 2008


(For those living under a rock/on the wrong continent, that's Ryan Jones, Captain of the Welsh rugby team, celebrating our glorious grand slam in the Six Nations. He looks quite happy, y?)

Sport is mostly a dull thing to me. I was your typical specs 'n' textbook brainiac in school, and PE lessons rolled around on the timetable like a twice-weekly Room 101, performed in bri-nylon hotpants. The only time I ever threw a javelin, it went backwards. Hurdles, being at the approximate height of my armpits, were a bit of a challenge. I did make the school hockey team, but as goalie, a position where the only skill involved is intimidating the opposition by wearing really enormous clown shoes. Watching sport therefore tends to reduce me to a pimply-legged shivering 14-year-old, attempting to do cross-country half-naked through the streets of my home town to the sonorous hooting of passing cars.

But not rugby. It's not a sport in Wales, not really: it's a fandom. You buy the shirt; you argue about the team selection, favourites, past glories; you bellow like a loon at the telly, as if volume alone can spur your heroes on to glory, and then dissect and revisit and delight. It's like Doctor Who, only with really muscular thighs.

For me, too, there's a whopping chunk of nostalgia: going into Cardiff on match days to mooch round the shops and soak up the atmosphere, then home to line up on the sofa and holler (with a half-time cake to soothe nerves). The real joy is that I grew up watching the 80s, when we were mostly crap. And now? Well, look at Ryan's face. :D

I keep failing to babble properly about Scarlett Thomas's The End of Mr Y - partly because I'm not sure I can describe it. It's a university novel: Ariel, impoverished student, is writing a PhD on 'thought experiments' in philosophy and literature while conducting an inappropriate affair and trying not to starve to death. It's a book within a book: The End of Mr Y is a deeply obscure Victorian novel, said to curse anyone who reads it. It's a sci-fi fantasy with bonus time-travel: the cursed novel isn't fiction, but a key to a parallel world. It's a thriller with evil agents and death threats, a romance, a genuinely complex and thought-provoking reflection on relationships, on time, on selfhood. It's twelve books at once, and yet it never for a moment feels muddled or overstretched. Fascinating, intelligent, witty, brain-breaking - all the good things. I loved it. (I'm told by several that her PopCo is equally good: one for the Big List Of Things To Get Round To Reading.)

Biscuits & Lies progresses in lurches rather than leaps and bounds, but progress is progress. I'm still having fun with it, anyway (it's reached the 'Susie makes herself get some work done by coming up with stupid jokes' stage, which is quite fundamental to my working routine). Publication of Big Woo (April 7th! That's actually quite soon!) continues to impend. I'm still working on The Website, but all will be unveiled once there's some 'all' to unveil. In the meantime, the US bound proof (a pre-publication version they send out to drum up interest) has already got a few bloggers Stateside talking, and in glowing terms too. Woo!

Suspecting my house is trying to kill me (ceilings falling down, microwaves on fire: Coming Soon: LOCUSTS!); watching Sunshine (an interesting take on the 'people trapped inside a spaceship' genre - but what the hell is the glittery gold spacesuit all about? Did no one tell the costume guys that the official colours of space travel are white and silver?); painting my fingernails Incredible Hulk green.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Adventures in CSS

Not as much fun as adventures with CSS, I'd reckon.

Or indeed the Go! Team, who I saw this week and are still so. much. fun live. It's like being in an unusually kawaii school assembly run by Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem: all splitting the crowd down the middle for a singalong and prescribing the appropriate timing of one's pogo. Gig was much enhanced by the doorman asking me for ID (and being hilariously floored when I told him my age), a bloke on the way out telling me I had 'the best hair I've seen in ages. Well, six months', and a random after-gig club with a playlist from Grandmaster Flash to the theme from Neighbours. Anyway, here's Ladyflash for the uninitiated.

An interesting piece in the Times about how internet nerds are all girls these days, except in the world of programming. I'm depressed by the 12-year-old who thinks that girls only like the communicative fun bits and should leave the techie business to the boys (especially the day after International Women's Day): maybe our schools need to be wallpapered again with the IT equivalent of those cheerfully grimy girls in boiler suits waving spanners to encourage us to become mechanics. (And let's ignore the fact that I've been living up to my gender stereotype all weekend, harassing Wordpress templates into minimal degrees of submission and wishing it was all laid out a bit more visually.) Then again, is content really a lesser species than code? Web 2.0 isn't just about the back end being Open Source so we can fiddle with it: it's about simple elegant interfaces which let you get on with writing. Bet that 12-year-old grows up to be a journalist...

Not a lot of B&L writing due to the aforementioned Wordpress harassment (more on that soon, once there's anything worth looking at), and scribbling some Big Woo promotional material. Imminent publication: it's like having a proper job or something.

Watching Wales v Ireland and actually getting a bit teary (I am so proud of the boys, bless them, and now I've heard about the gouging I feel less cross about us earning 2 sin bins); finding out that someone very lovely is getting married, hurrah; eating pearl barley; moaning about Ashes to Ashes Alex Drake's bra strap.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Do Not Adjust Your Set

Thank heaven the writers' strike is over. Listed as in 'active development' by Production Weekly:

Producer: Tyra Banks. After being electrocuted to death on the runway, a leggy model finds she can't enter Heaven without first returning to Earth and doing good deeds to earn her way in.

Is it wrong that I really, really want to see that? (Also: I should pitch 'Zinnia Zmith: Googlenurse' to the CW. They are on the special medication.)

Paul Cornell (he of 'writing some Doctor Who I adore and some I despise' fame - not that that singles him out particularly) says British telly needs the US system of writers' rooms. I suspect he's right - nicking the 'showrunner' concept without the 'other people, also possessing good ideas' to go with it is like recruiting Hannibal without the A-Team, and your plan's never going to come together when there's no one to fly the helicopter/be a manwhore/pity any fools in the vicinity - but it's still a concept that breaks my brain. I talk all the time while I'm writing: bits of dialogue, bits of backstory, bits of me shouting 'shut up and type you arsewit', the works. But that's the sort of conversation probably best had with oneself, no? Or is a writers' room full of people doing that all at once, in a super-efficient time-saving fashion, with free biscuits? That, I could learn to love.

The End of Mr Y, Scarlett Thomas: will babble properly when I've finished, but basically it's your average Coraline meets Heidegger via Samuel Butler and a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Brilliance.

Frankly pathetic progress on B&L. But I've been having some pleasingly daft thoughts about Big Woo-related shenanigans and shiny author websites...

Compulsive Prison Breakery (T, it seems ungrateful, but I feel I must share this with you); smirking at the zen calm of Garfield Minus Garfield; discovering the sprouting lentil; wondering if Ewan McGregor can possibly have needed the money quite this much.