Thursday, September 27, 2007

My brain has totally collapsed.

Last night, under the influence of god knows what impulse, I finally ventured onto the 79 versions of Popcorn page at I have been avoiding visiting this page for ages because I know I have no willpower and I would end up doing exactly what I did do, which was listen to most of them in one sitting.
I listened to sixty versions of one of the most annoyingly brilliant three minutes of instrumental pop music ever. In one go. Over three hours. Everything from a capella versions, to home made midi files, to The Boston Pops orchestra and James Last to heavy, thudding Techno remixes. I have no idea why I did this to myself except, as I said, I have no will power. All day today, anything and everything anyone has said to me has been filtered through a background soundtrack of be bo be bo biddy boop. Be bo be bo biddy boop. Be bo be bo de bo debo debo de bo biddy bop...

Tonight, in a desperate attempt to Be bo get this be bo insidious musical mega-meme out of my bo biddy bloody boop head, I tried to think of a tune even more annoyingly infectious with which to exorcize it.

Cue the muppets:

Mahna Mahna - do do de doo doot - Mahna Mahna - do do di doot!

Be careful what you wish for...

After only a few minutes Googling, looking for other versions, I discover that Mahna Mahna was originaly written by an Italian composer called Piero Umiliani - for the soundtrack of a 1970s Swedish porn movie??? Dear god, NO! The images that that conjured up were just so disturbingly weird. The thought of vast numbers of hearty, Swedish hippies bonking along to 'Mahna Mahna - do do de doo doot!' in glorious hand-held 16mm pornovision was just too much.

I seriously have no space left in my head to think. It's all full of Popcorn and Mahna Mahna getting mashed up together: bo be bo biddy boop, Mahna Mahna, bo be bo biddy boop...

In 1951 Alfred Bester wrote a classic SF novel called The Demolished Man in which he conjectured a police force with detectives able to read the minds of suspects. The villain of the piece wants to commit a murder but knows that the first copper who came by would be able to pick all the details of the crime right out of his head. To avoid this happening he deliberately gets the world's most annoying jingle, stuck in his mind. 'Tenser', said the Tensor; 'tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun'. His plan is to mask his thoughts from the prying telepaths by having this annoyingly insistent crap in his head drowning out all other thoughts . Right now I know what he felt like.

Be bo be bo biddy boop.
-Mahna Mahna
Be bo be bo biddy boop.
-do do de doo doot
Be bo be bo de bo debo debo de bo biddy bop...
-Mahna Mahna

Only now that I just went and thought of 'Tenser', said the Tensor... I now got that stuck in there as well -

Right that's it. I'm off to bed with a pile of arch-minimalist Steve Reich's CDs (stuff like this) and see if I can wipe my mind's music buffers clean- before I go totally do-lally.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I must decorate more often. After weeks of not having a decent cartoony idea, I was starting to get worried that I had run out of gags. This week I have spent two days painting the kitchen and come up with half a dozen of the buggers in two afternoons. There is something about the monotony of painting a white ceiling even whiter that lets my brain go into freefall, hit the comedy trampoline which lies deep within me, and come back up clutching a wee nugget of funny.

Like This:

This one came as a shock. I've had the pencil drawing of this in my notebook for some six months now and I would look at it from time to time while deciding which of my many half started ideas to work on next and every time I saw it I would be filled with vague dissatisfaction - because the idea was good, but it wasn't funny (a major failing in a cartoon). Suddenly, yesterday, out of the blue, while I was washing up, not having thought about it for weeks, I knew what the joke SHOULD be. Wham! No warning at all. I had the wording reading "Walk for your lives!" instead of "Walk Away! Walk Away!" and I had the joke. It was suddenly funny. I didn't change anything else. I can't remember what I was thinking about (if anything) while I was doing the washing up but it wasn't anything to do with cartoonery. I rushed upstairs to get the idea written down before I forgot it.
When I came back down again three minutes later, feeling more than a little chuffed that I had finally solved this nagging little problem, I got another funny idea. Totally unrelated and fully worked out. Two gags in one day. Yipee!

Today I had another five.

What the hell do they put in emulsion paint?


I've been annoying spiders for a great deal of today. I've been cleaning the windows. A job I eventually drag myself round to doing once every couple of years when the light levels inside get so low we have to wear head torches to eat our tea and Merriol starts dropping some of her famous really heavy hints:

"Liam, remember when light used to come out of those rectangles on the walls?"

Post Hoc rationalisation for my not doing cleaning the windows all this summer (and I must remember this for next year) being that there were lots and lots of spiders living in our window frames. I'm not scared of spiders; quite the oposite, I like them. Spiders eat midges. This is a good thing. Some people buy expensive gas powered machines to kill midges, I just encourage huge numbers of spiders to live in my house. Now it's getting later in the year and the midges have gone for the winter (packed their tiny little suitcases and fucked off to Ibiza or wherever it they go between September and April) the spiders have outlived their usefulness for a bit, so I have been downsizing the local population. I would especially like to downsize the one that frightened the crap out of me in bed the other night. There I was, happily lying there reading some trashy SF novel, when, over the breast of the duvet hill on my chest, charged this spider the size of a small hamburger on legs. I swear to Darwin this thing was on a mission. It was heading straight for my throat, its master's instructions still ringing its ears:
"Go, my little eight-legged friend. Kill, Kill, Killl!!!...!"
I screamed like a girl, threw the duvet to one side, and leapt out of bed. I stood there for ages, bollock naked, book in hand, ready to whack the fucker, wondering where it had gone. I still have no idea. I've not seen it again.

Other highlights of the week included finding I had (literally) poured god knows how much heating fuel down the drain by not tightening up a nut when I bled a valve on the heating system five months ago. I should have checked on this at some point during the summer but never did get round to it, partially because the nettles around that part of the garden had grown to over two meters in hight (that's over six foot in Earth money). I generally stay away from scarily huge, diesel powered weeds.

I wonder if there is any link with the scarily huge spider?

Oh bum! Now I really have pressed most of the buttons in the bad monster movie fuelled part of my imagination (ie most of it - though there is a small portion that thrives on chocolate). Now I'm not going to be able to get sleep tonight. I mean this is how most monster movies start out: an accidental spillage, seemingly trivial incidents that slowly add up to form a larger picture which only become clear when Timmy the adorable terrier is discovered lying dead beneath a quivering six foot plant that WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HEDGE THIS MORNING!!!!

Oh Crap.

I haven't got a dog.

I wonder if I can borrow one.

Monday, September 17, 2007

My Leg's Gone Fizzy

Today was my birthday. Happy birthday me. I am now 48 and my handy inferiority-ometer informs me that by the time he was my age Mozart had now been dead for 13 years.

I need a new yardstick by which to measure my lack of achievement over the last near half a century.

Five minutes Google time later:

By typing "Didn't start writing until he was" into the search box, and reading through the first few hits, I discovered that Raymond Chandler didn't start writing until he was 45, and didn't publish his first big commercial sucess, The Big Sleep, until he was in his early 50s. He went on to win two Oscars.

That'll do me. My inferiority-ometer is now off the Mozart standard and is now measured in 'Chandlers'. Gives me at least another ten years before I have to start feeling guilty and dissatisfied that I have not produced some monumental world shatteringly famous opus. But by then who knows - in a decade's time I may well have done that thing (and stop laughing at the back there - it's my birthday. You're not allowed to laugh at people on their birthdays).

I spent most of the day locked in a room with Mike writing lewd jokes for the first half of the village panto and trying to work out what the hell we are going to do in act two. By the end of the day we had blocked out the whole thing. We now know roughly who does what to whom and where - we have no idea why any of this stuff happens apart from it getting us from where we are now, to where we want to be (ie gleefully typing the words 'THE END') with as many opportunities for silliness and childish lewdity as possible.
I just hope I can remember what all our hastily scribbled notes and 'joke ideas' were when I get to work on it again sometime tomorrow because our incredibly elastic deadline is, even by the local West Coast of Scotland, relaxed, "Ach fuck it, we'll get round to it soon enough", standards is getting a bit tight (basically we have started rehearsals and only have half a script).

I was tempted to throw a few of the choicer moments from what we did today up here but I know Ilona, our director, sometimes reads the blog, and I didn't want to get to the next rehearsal to find she had blue pencilled half the lines before I had a chance to see people go pink as they read them.

Lucy, our princess, went a lovely shade of pink the other day when she finally got the joke about a Mongolian Porn Star being called 'Attilla The Hung'. A moment I shall treasure for a while. I mean, getting sixteen year olds to blush these days is some fucking achievement let me tell you.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Knees Feel Funny

It is a week since my last public blogging. A lot of that time was spent in bed feeling like I had been run over by a bus and very sorry for myself. I had what is commonly known as Man Flu. It's just the same as the normal everyday flu that women get, but with added whimpering and overacting.

On Thursday Holly to go her first school trip to the Sea Life Centre down towards Oban way where she got to be brave with real life starfish and bought Daisy a present from the shop.

On Friday she came out from school babbling about Jesus and how we should talk to him and how he is everywhere...


Let me explain. I don't do God. At all. I have never done God. Neither have my parents, nor does Merriol. God, and all talk of Goddy things, Jesus, Holy Spirits, Giant Flying Spaghetti Monsters and all the other big sky fairies is noticeable absent from our house. (Thinking about it The Giant Flying Spaghetti Monster is probably mentioned most often around here) . I have varied over the years from utter indifference as to people's belief systems, to standing and heckling Bible thumpers on the street, and all points in between. At the moment I'm towards the 'don't give a damn as long as they don't fucking annoy me with it' end of the spectrum but I also know I don't want my kids Bible thumped until they have the mental tool kit to take on board what religion (ANY religion) is all about.

It turns out there had been an assembly at the school and one of the local Ministers had been in preaching at my kid ( he didn't single Holly out I think this was a scatter-gun preachifying).

What pisses me off about this is we were given no warning about this. No one asked us if it was OK to have our kids preached at by one of God's local franchise holders. The same day as this happened she also came home with a medical history form to fill in. 'Has your child had the following shots?', ' Does your child have any allergies?,' Is your child missing any bits we should know about?' That sort of thing. At the end of the form was a small consent section asking our permission to weigh, measure, and check her eyesight etc. We were to sign if it was okay with us that that was done.

So the school has to ask our permission to do measure how tall Holly is but doesn't have to ask if we mind having some outside visitor filling her impressionable little head with one of several hundred (if not thousand) unproven Bronze-age Creation Myths which may or may not conflict with any particular unproven Bronze-age Creation Myths we might subscribe to at home.

Apart from anything else this puts me as a parent in the position of wanting to tell my child to ignore what people in school tell her because they are wrong. It's hardly good start to my child's education for me to tell her her teachers are talking rubbish.

Luckily Holly has an imaginary friend - who she knows to be imaginary - this gives me a quick and simple way to explain this Jesus thing to her and, incidentally, a great deal of hope for her future. She is five and knows her imaginary friend isn't real, which is a fuck of lot more than a lot of 'grown-ups' appear to.

I'll go back to utter indifference as to people's belief systems soon. It's better for my blood pressure.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Merriol has some of the girls over tonight for a fun evening dressing up as nurses, drinking, and watching Green Wing, a baffling medical comedy show which she adores but leaves me cold. Having booked my place on the first bus to hell with my latest cartoon over on The Other Place, I'm off to bed after having been up till three am last night drawing it (I know it doesn't look a like a lot but I ended up with a dozen layers on the bloody thing). I also wrote a joke for the panto at about 2.30. So the night wasn't a total waste of time.
So to bed. I've pointed Firefox at good old freeform Station WMFU, plugged an extension cable onto my good old 70s style BIG headphones (can't stand those things that screw into your ears and get clogged up with earwax), then trailed the cable through to the bedroom. This should cut out most of the raucousness from downstairs. I can only hope that, at whatever time she finally stumbles into bed, Merriol doesn't trip over the cable and accidentally rip my ears off.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

We have mice again. I really hate mice. I don't mind them playing outside and doing micey things in the fields, and riverbanks, and doing the whole Brambly Hedge, Beatrix Potter thing but when they come in my house and start chewing my wiring and pooing on my floors. No. Not having that.

For the past few nights I have been putting down traps and waiting for the deeply satisfying -'Clunk!'- as they trip followed, I hope, by a tiny stifled squeak. Sometimes I get the buggers, sometimes not. I'll come down in the morning to find the trap tripped and the bait gone but with no sign of any stiff rodents lying around. I have been using chunks of milk chocolate as bait but as of tonight I have started using tiny pieces of Snickers Bars on the incredibly small off chance that our mice might have a severe nut allergy and will snuff it from anaphylactic shock somewhere.

I really hate mice.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Strawberry Flavoured Conversation Chewing Gum

Sorry, but it's time for my quarterly 'Buks what i have red,' dump

  1. The Seed of Earth - Robert Silverberg
  2. A Rose for Ecclestiastes - Roger Zelazny
  3. Decade of the 1960's - Ed. Aldiss & Harrison 'Classic' SF shorts.
  4. War Reporting for Cowards - Chris Ayres . Genuinely Laugh Out Loud "How I ended up as a war reporter" madness.
  1. Gentlemen of the West - Agnes Owen.
  2. The Valley of Statues - Robert Holdstock
  3. Kingdoms of Elfin - Sylvia Townsend Warner (This is turning into one of those read every couple of years books. It is delightful.)
  4. Tara - Terence De Vere White
  1. Moondust - Andrew Smith. Subtitled 'In Search Of The Men Who Fell To Earth' a fascinating read which recaptured my childhood sense of wonder at the whole Apollo program - despite a couple of obvious factual inaccuracies.
  2. Authentic Science Fiction - Not very good 1950s SF
  3. Say, Darling - Richard Bissell. Funny backstage novel. I now want to read The Pajama Game to find out what it was all about.
  4. Hieroglyphic Tales - Horace Walpole.
  5. Welcome To The Monkey House - Kurt Vonnegut.
I have only read 13 books in the last 3 months. This is pathetic.

And Movies:

  1. The Lost Continent - Cheap Lost World knock off containing footage lifted from (Dear god! Noooooo!) Rocketship X-M
  2. Lady Ice -Dull Thomas Crown wannabee that seemed to be have been made by filming Donald Sutherland on holiday.
  3. Counterblast - 1948 British 'thriller'.
  4. The Hound of The Baskervilles - Hammer films, l love 'em, total tosh but great total tosh.
  5. The Phantom Planet - dreadful early 60s 'SF'
  6. The Bride of the Monster - Ed Wood Jr's second greatest bad film with some truly inspired weird acting moments from Bela Lugosi.
  7. Rancho Notorious - Great title! Fritz Lang, Marline Deitrich. and Cowboys. Odd.
  8. Dark City - gorgous comic book nonsence. If you ever watch it keep the sound down until the watch shows 12, as it has one of those dreadful tacked on pre-credit narrations that fuck up the whole mystery before it starts.
  9. The Dresser - Tom Courtney. What a brilliant performance and this is one of the reasons I don't watch good films. I was was an emotional wreck at the end of this movie. I have to stop watching films about long unexpressed love. I've seen two recently, Cyrano and this, and I was snivelling wreck at the end of both of them. Hanky jobs both times. I'm going back to watching androids fighting; cheap 60s SF movies don't make me feel life an emotional dishrag at the end.
  1. The Dark Crystal - a cuddled up on the sofa (or in daughter number one's case behind the sofa. "It's a bit scary.") wet Sunday afternoon movie which was not as good as I remembered but it kept the kids hooked.
  2. A Scanner Darkly - weird and interesting (and funny) but how did they let continuity errors get through in an Animated movie?
  3. Prayer of the Rollerboys - in a future world, only one man stands in the way of formation rollerblading, drug dealing, fascist street gangs in white trenchcoats and Flock of Seagulls haircuts - and that man is... Corey Haim. As bad as it sounds.
  4. Withnail and I - I laughed
  5. Goodbye Lenin - I cried. The great thing about watching so many crap movies is that when I get to see a good one it really goes to work on me.
  6. Jimmy Neutron - Boy Genius - CGI animated kids nonsense, and like a lot of animated kids nonsense a lot funnier and better made than most movies for adults.
  7. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - Stupid fun.
  8. Wild Women of Wongo - I had never actually seen this classic piece of drek before. If I have, I had forgotten every frame and after it was finished ...
  9. Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women - it was 'Women Night' on the Crapmoviethon sofa.
  10. Attack of the Monsters - Space Bimbos! Giant Space Turtles! What's not to like? Best Line of the movie: "You're right, we'll eat their brains after we've fixed the ship."
  11. I Was a Teenage Werewolf - (MST3K) This movie didn't have any best lines.
  12. Samson Vs The Vampire Women - (MST3K) My first encounter with a Mexican wrestling Horror movie - a strange genre, and an experience I shared with Phoebe in Portland as she took a break from painting her kitchen. I went to the movies with someone 8 thousand miles away via Skype and a bit of ad hoc synchronisation. I love the Web.
  13. Confidential Report - Orson Welles at his most baroque.
  14. His Girl Friday - Comfort movie.
  15. Steal This Movie - OK, but not great, Biopic of Abbie Hoffman only watched because I have a thing about the yummy Janeane Garofalo and it was only a quid in Tesco's.
  16. Mr. Robinson Crusoe - they don't make them like this any more. Thank god.
  17. The Man Who Knew Too Much - First time I had seen the original version. Some very nice moments but not my favourite (yet) early Hitchock
  18. Orlando - I love every frame of this movie (even those with Billy Zane in them). Every frame.
  1. Cabaret - Liza Minnelli - perfect! Joel Grey - brilliant! Oh but dear god why did they cast Michael York? Tomorrow Belongs To Me gives me the shivers.
  2. I Heart Huckabees - What a pretentious, self-indulgent pile of crap! I hope this lost whoever made it a LOT of money.
  3. Raising Arizona -
  4. Paycheck - total turd of a movie. Pointless, explosion-ridden expansion of an adequate, but not that good, Philip K Dick short story.
  5. The Return Of The Four Musketeers - almost good.
  6. Django Against Sartana - Tinned Spahetti Hoops western.
  7. Witchfinder General - A genuinely one-off piece of movie making. The nearest thing (that I know of) to an English Spaghetti Western. Great stuff.
  8. The Amazing Transparent Man - (Note to self: Avoid Science Fiction movies made in Texas in future - especially those shot in only one week flat.)
That's it. You can breath again now.

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