A kind of magic

30 06 2009

Because I miss Freddie more than I will miss Michael:

Also, in the rest of world: shit is happening. Just saying.





Overboiling

29 06 2009

Hot isn’t it?

I spent most of the weekend seeking shade and working on a long-hand draft of a new short story.

I really enjoyed working on something new, even though I know that what I produced fell short of where I was at with short stories this time last year. In many ways that was the point of the exercise. You see in trying to avoid one trap (not finishing things) I fell foul of another trap: overdrafting.

When I last updated you on the writing I was redrafting (despite promising myself I wouldn’t) The Scarred God in an attempt to turn it into something of marketable length. I made good progress at first until, as it does sometimes, Life got in the way. When I returned to the work I found the new material poor and awkward, it felt wrong, it felt like the story was being overboiled and bending out of shape.

It was depressing as hell.

Meanwhile, in the real world Life was happening, things weren’t panning out as I’d hoped and I was feeling pretty fed up. I decided to write some flash to finish something, anything, new in the hope it would kick me out of my funk and let me get on with stuff. I couldn’t make it work. Hell, I couldn’t even think of a thing to write.

I was blocked.

I’m not impervious to writer’s block. I distrust it. I don’t really believe in it as a thing in itself but as a symptom of other issues.

When I thought about it I realised I hadn’t written anything substantial and new since autumn of last year. I’d produced a couple of first drafts before starting the aborted redraft of Forever and then shelved them as I laboured at that ill-fated draft for five months and then mucked about with The Scarred God for a couple of months. I needed a change.

Hence I have put The Scarred God to one side. I have decided to produce some new short stories to clean off the rust and then I plan a final line edit of The Scarred God (not worrying about length but just polishing the prose). I will decide what to do with it when I’m done but I imagine, to keep me tinkering, I will release it as a podcast or some such thing. Not, you understand, to self-publish but to move on. We’ll see.

I have also set myself a minimum amount of new fiction, novels and short stories, to produce (and submit) a year.

Lesson learned.





Review: Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen

28 06 2009

transformers-revenge-of-the-fallen

Michael Bay returns to cinemas with a second installment of the Transformers franchise, that glorious silly commercial-in-disguise piece of Americana film making. I’m not being sarcastic: I enjoyed the first film as I marked on this blog at the time.

The question for me was: could Bay continue to surf the nostalgia or would he wipe out?

The story picks up a couple of years after the first film. The Autobots are working for the U.S. government hunting down Decepticons, Sector Seven has been disbanded and Sam is still seeing Mikaela as he heads to college. Things are ostensibly going well but that would make for a dull film. It turns out the federal government are growing concerned that the Autobots are actually attracting the Decepticons, in reality the Decepticons want something called The Matrix of Leadership for someone called The Fallen and Sam appears to be channeling the same information that drove his great grandfather mad.

Keeping up?

No, and to be honest I didn’t either. The film has plenty of Bayesque action sequences that do exactly what you’d expect and involve big explosions, breathtaking CG and provide plenty of spectacle on the IMAX. There’s also the requisite leering camera all over Megan Fox and Isabel Lucas pushing this film hard as the boys own adventure that it is. Plenty of laughs from a comedy double act of Autobots, John Turturro back as the mad Agent Simmons and Kevin Dunn and Julie White are a cringeworthy delight as Sam’s parents. All the elements are there for a successful sequel.

But.

The film is plagued by odd decisions and poor choices. There is a confusing, complex storyline that really has no place in a film that should be light-hearted fluff.  A poor choice of actor for the character of The Fallen in Tony Todd*. Todd’s distinctive voice is instantly recognisable, as well as totally out of place, and breaks the suspension of disbelief because of his association with other iconic characters, destroying the point of doing photoreal CG. I didn’t see the Fallen, I heard the Candyman.

I am flummoxed by the decision to have Shia LeBoeuf play the straight man as it throws off the dynamic of the central characters and necessitates the presence of an extremely irritating sidekick in Ramon Rodriguez. LeBouf is entertaining as a comedic lead but dull as a straight out hero verging on the tragic.

The combined impact of these flaws is to make the narrative arc much harder to follow than in the first film. This lack of coherence is further compounded by sloppy editing and poor continuity that makes the first act feel more like an episode of the cartoon than a multimillion pound blockbuster and not in a good way.

That said, at its core Transformers is – selling toys aside – about giant alien robots kicking the shit out of each other and that’s something I, for one, can live with. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy Revenge of the Fallen. Unlike it’s predecessor there are much more extended and frequent Transformer fight sequences, sweeps of new robots and the welcome addition of Soundwave. The film hits enough of the high spots to provide the spectacle and enjoyment of a decent popcorn film that doesn’t tax the brain too much. Even G – who has no childhood nostalgia built up around Transformers – enjoyed it.

If you’ve seen the first film, are prepared to go in without expectation and enjoy popcorn films then you’ll have a good time.

Otherwise: give it a miss.

* Note: I am not saying Tony Todd is a bad actor, just that his casting in this role is problematic because his voice is so distinctive he is recognisable and that I find it hard to hear his voice without thinking of Candyman.





Yes, erm, long time no see…

25 06 2009

There are various reasons I haven’t been around and I don’t intend to get into them here.

It seems like I’ve been saying that a lot for which I apologise. I anticipate a more normal service resuming tomorrow with either some flash fiction or a review. Beyond that I think there will be a writing update very soon and perhaps some updates about what I am doing with this here blog.

Tonight I am writing The Plan (an actual plan or the plan to be precise about it, as opposed to a story).

May be back later with some friendly plugs for folks that you should check out.

Bye for now.





Britain

18 06 2009

“The elections are a matter for the Iranian people, but if there are serious questions that are now being asked about the conduct of the elections, they have got to be answered,” – Gordon Brown

I applaud Brown for this sentiment.

Bloody good thing we don’t have to worry about an unelected Prime Minister and a divinely appointed head of state, don’t you think?

Pass the tea.





Luck

12 06 2009

So I turned 30 this week.

I am now at an age which I never, when I was young, imagined being. Other than that and a distressing inability to read without my glasses, I don’t feel much different. Anyway, I’ve been celebrating this week.

Last weekend I was in Wales to do the family thing. It was great to see all my family, including a fair few of my cousins and my niece (who is now walking). There were also many incredible gifts, including an awesome chess set that my family had clubbed together to buy, a very cool book of the day I was born from my sister (who is in Oz) and a bunch of other, equally cool, stuff.

On my actual birthday I had my customary day off and pretty much did whatever I wanted: got up late, wrote, read, went to the cinema, hung out with G, the usual. And this weekend I am off with friends (many of whom I have known half my life) for a bloody good knees up.

I have survived three decades, I am healthy, I have a large closeknit family, good friends and G.

I am very lucky.





Back

7 06 2009

I’ve been away for the weekend seeing family as my birthday, rather awkwardly, falls on a Wednesday this year.

I had a fab time but am a bit done in by the journey home. Normal service resumes tomorrow.