The Centrifuge Brain Project

The ‘science fiction future’ event at the BFI on the South Bank in London last weekend included a wide variety of short films. It was a very mixed collection but there were some gems. Here's one of them. It starts out looking like a serious documentary about a scientist studying the effects of G forces on people, and then you begin to realise that it isn't… :-)

The first Hobbit movie broke the Law of Fantasy

The new Hobbit movie, the second in the trilogy called ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ is due out soon in London. I am a big Tolkien fan and I adored ‘The Lord of the Rings’, particularly the DVD version with its longer and more authentic cut. But I’m not looking forward to this second movie in the Hobbit trilogy. I did watch the first instalment in the trilogy last year, at the cinema, with popcorn, but something went badly wrong in that movie, something awful. They made an impossible fantasy movie. Read More...

Science warp at the BBC

Science is brilliant. I love the fact that a scientist doesn’t give empty opinions, but bases them on factual evidence that he or she always supplies along with his or her opinion. Also, that if someone else gives an opinion that the scientist knows to be false, the scientist will explain why it’s false and offer up the evidence to support their view. When this is combined with a desire to educate and inform, such as often occurs on the BBC, the results can be hugely praiseworthy.

Something though seems to have gone horribly wrong with the BBC’s balanced reporting of scientific information this week. Their most popular video article concerns ‘the five second rule’ for food dropped on the floor. In it, Sophie Van Brugen, with the help of Dr Ronald Cutler, sets out to discover if the following rule is true, that ‘if you pick up food dropped on the floor within five seconds of it falling, you’ll be safe’. It’s a popular idea, as illustrated above from the wikipedia - ‘five second rule’ entry. Read More...

Quantum of Solace rant

It’s coming, filling the horizon like a great dark storm cloud with a massive advertising logo stuck on the side. The new James Bond movie is out this year and I’m dreading it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a huge fan of Bond movies my whole life, from the dark weirdness of Dr No, through the snazzy kit and cool style of Goldfinger, all the way to the visual panache and charisma of Goldeneye. I even like Timothy Dalton’s ‘The Living Daylights’, which, if you give it another go, is a really enjoyable action movie. But I hated Quantum of Solace. I hated it with vengeance. For months afterwards, I made voodoo Quantum of Solace dolls and stabbed them repeatedly with home made stilettos (which originally referred to a thin dagger by the way, rather than women’s shoes). I cursed the name ‘Quantum of Solace’ aloud on moonlit nights in the centre of standing stones, hoping for demons to do my bidding and remove it from reality, or alternatively a Chthulhu-like beast to come from another dimension and suck every square inch of its footage into the nether voids of space. Either would do.


New comedy television script: 'Aftermaths'

I've completed another television comedy script. This one's about four male teenagers who wake up in their school library to find that something strange and terrible has happened, leaving everyone else in the world either unconscious or missing. Unlike more traditional disaster movies, they're not thinking about how they can rebuild society, help other survivors and find a cure for what's happened. Their main questions are 'have any attractive females survived?' and 'if they haven't survived and have become un-dead instead, is it okay to get off with one?'

Here's the script. I've sent a copy and an episode synopsis to Dominic Lord at the JFL agency who asked to read any new scripts I created. Last year's script, 'just the two of us', hasn't yet been commissioned but it's early days yet. I've also added 'aftermaths' to my scripts page.

Simon's Cat

Hmm... I think I'm definitely procrastinating here. Maybe I should go and sit in the reference library? It's cold out there. Don't want to move. Actually, I can't move because this conservatory is about four degrees above freezing. Fine motor control is one of the first things that go as a person drifts into hypothermia. Then they get sleepy.... zzzzz. Only joking! Anyway, that wouldn't make any sense. Why would someone type 'zzzz' after they'd fallen asleep? Then again, maybe that would be sleep-typing? Perhaps my sleep typing would be better than my awake typing? Is my conscious mind getting in the way of my creative flow? Am I lying in bed at night, my thoughts in dreamland while my body desperately searches for a laptop to pen a brilliant opus? That's embarrassing; as a writer, I'm better off unconscious.

This is definitely procrastinating. I did wean myself off playing with my new iPhone, well, fairly new, it was second hand but it's still got its internal compass, accelerometer and pseudo-GPS. I wish I had those things, well, I've got an accelerometer but I don't have an internal compass. Birds do. They've also got some kind of GPS and they can fly. So, ranked in terms of ability, it's birds first, followed by my iphone and then me last. Nuts.

I'm definitely writing a stream of consciousness blog entry here, like Jack Kerouac but without the magical atmosphere of late fifties jazz, bohemia, the wide open plains, friendship, exploration, sadness, disillusionment and, in the end, an early death. So this blog entry hasn't got anything in common with Kerouac's writing apart from its long, unwieldy sentences and complete absence of a plot. Hmm... need to work on that. Then again, this blog is probably a healthier version of Kerouac. It's not as memorable or inspiring but you'll live longer; sort of a Beat-writer lite. Low fat Beat-writer. Family filtered Beat writer. Tory party approved Beat writer. This is making me nauseous.

What was the point of this blog entry? Oh yes, Simon's cat; it's good. Time for an EMBED tag...

Doctor Who: Season six and my Tarditis

I've written another article for a Sci-Fi Now competition (I am doing proper writing projects too but I think it's good practice!). This one is a review of Doctor Who: Season 6. Here it is:

It was near the end of Doctor Who season six that I knew I'd developed Tarditis.  Read More...

Sketch for Radio 4 show 'Newsjack' - David Cameron hires a zombie

Here's another sketch I've sent to the Radio 4 Newsjack programme. Old cuddly David gets satirised again... Read More...

Sketch for Radio 4 show 'Newsjack' - David Cameron cooks breakfast

Here's a script I've sent to the Radio 4 Newsjack programme, a snippet of political satire... Read More...

New Scientist caption competition

Being an ardent fan of the New Scientist magazine, I couldn't resist entering its caption competition. The picture is as follows:

My entries were:

'Are you sure this'll be okay, Dr Jekyll?'


'And with that final drop, they had created the world's strongest espresso'

New Scientist are running one every week for four weeks, no purchase necessary!

The film 'Star Wars' is really about... conception!

I loved the first ‘Star Wars’ film, I still do. I don’t think any film will ever have as profound affect on me as that movie. A big part of its influence was because of its timing. It came out when I was seven years old; a skinny kid living in suburban london who loved fantastic ideas and stirring stories. I wanted something big and awe-inspiring and slick and glorious and grandiose and absurdly naive. Read More...

Cyclists or teddy bears; who's the most dangerous?

A hot topic this month in the world of British cycling has been the plan by Tory MP Andrea Leadsom to bring in a new Bill to target dangerous cyclists (Covered here among other places).

Although the number of people killed in the UK by cyclists is around one every other year, she still feels it's important to send a message to these two-wheeled potential killers. The example she has given of a cyclist killing someone is a case where a cyclist hit a pedestrian who'd strayed into the road. To make things worse, he'd reportedly shouted at her 'I'm not going to stop!' before he hit her. Read More...

Just the two of us - TV comedy script

During last month and this month, the BBC have been running a television sitcom or 'narrative comedy' competition. Even though I haven't had much luck with the BBC up to now, I'm still very keen to keep trying. For this competition, the BBC wanted entrants to write a one page description of a narrative comedy idea along with a sample episode of between fifteen and thirty pages. The full details are here at the Laughing Stock website. I've now submitted an entry called 'Just the two of us'. Read More...

Carry a Rubber Ball. Make it part of your healthy lifestyle!

It's driving me nuts, that Benecol margarine spread advert on the radio. It's the one where they interview various people who say that they changed their lifestyle because they were worried about their health. They explain how they started exercising and avoiding unhealthy food and, along with all that, they had some Benecol margarine. Straight after saying that, they say their cholesterol levels went down and they'd recommend anyone else taking Benecol. So Benecol reduces cholesterol? Does it? Does it my backside! Read More...

The power of 'up to'

The biggest advertising strategy of the last twelve months (or more) has, I think, been the use of the phrase ‘up to’. It’s everywhere now in sales signs and adverts. ‘Up to 50% off!’, ‘Up to 70% off!’. You’d think that most people on seeing these signs must say to themselves ‘well, that doesn’t mean very much’ but retailers clearly don’t regard that as a problem. Based on how much it’s being used, companies in the U.K. seem to think it’s a sure winner for improving their sales. They’re confident that telling people that at least one of their five thousand items in stock will be 70% off in the upcoming sale, even though that single item has probably all the desirability and functionality of owning a deranged skunk, is an actual winning formula.

Are we missing something here? Are these companies, with their skilled and experienced staff, pointing us in a new direction? If using ‘up to’ is such a gold mine, should we be trying to use it in aspects of our own lives? Maybe the power of ‘up to’ can be used in our emotional relationships?


The Utter horror of the 'three for two' offer

I was in Waterstones today to buy a present for a relative. I had a rough idea what I was after and went straight to the appropriate section. There, stacked neatly on the shelf, were two books by John Lindqvist, the writer behind the hit Scandinavian film ‘Let the Right One In’, which I think is currently being remade in America on the grounds that the original is full of foreigners who talk funny. They’ve also shortened the title to ‘Let Me In’. I guess this is because a) no movie about Vampires should ever refer to them as ‘The Right One’ or b) Five words in a title is too long. Since ‘Twilight’ and ‘True Blood’ are incredibly popular and are stuffed full of blood sucking creatures of the night who somehow retain tender romantic feelings while their souls sit writhing in the nethermost depths of hell, I’m guessing it’s mostly about the title length.

Film tie-ins aside, I picked up the two books by Lindqvist that I wanted. Sorted! I could go home and have a cup of tea. Then I spotted something. Sitting prominently on the front cover of both books was a sticker marked ‘3 for 2’. Oh. That’s good, I thought. I have two books I want. I can pick up a third for nothing. I looked around casually. There were lots of ‘3 for 2’ books on the tables around. I’ll definitely want one of those.

The only thing was, each one I spotted I didn’t want.


How owning a DVD ruined my evening

About five years ago, I was sitting in my flat, glancing through the television guide when I noticed that 'Indiana Jones and the last crusade' was on television, wednesday 8:30pm to be precise. What was even better was that it was on the BBC so there wouldn't be any adverts. Brilliant! I thought. I made a note of it and planned to get some snacks in, get back from London in good time, settle down and enjoy the movie.

Then a grim truth hit me. I already owned an 'Indiana Jones and the last crusade' DVD. There was no need to wait until wednesday evening. I could watch it whenever I liked.

I was completely deflated. Weird, isn't it?

Lycra louts and trouser suits

Here's a personal favourite, resurrected from the pre WordPress crash days. Enjoy!

One phrase that has puzzled me in recent years is ‘lycra louts’. It is used regularly and with a fair amount of emotion but I really don't know why. I can understand ‘lager louts’ since drinking lots of lager can make the best of us into anti-social idiots. But why do people demonise cyclists wearing clothing that reduces chafing? If anything, you’d think it would be the opposite way around. The cyclists without the lycra would be the menace. If I cycled for four hours in damp underwear that had been rubbing itself against my sensitive areas with all the delicate softness of a cheese grater, I would scream and shout if someone got in my way. But it’s the opposite. Read More...