Monday, November 24, 2008

THE SURVIVORS - debut episode

Last night's debut broadcast of the 70's series remake was certainly better than I'd anticipated given that it had Primeval writer, Adrian Hodges, writing the script. I was expecting a cast of freshly scrubbed beautiful 20-somethings, scampering around a 'deserted' filmed-at-5am London, looking catwalk-beautiful as they fight to survive.

Well, what was somewhat reassuring is the mixed ages of the cast. The main character, Abbey Grant, is a mid-30s mum, there's an 11 year old boy, the alpha-male Greg Preston
looks to be lat 30's and requisite bad buy sprung from prison looks about the same. The rest of the cast are generic 20-something lovelies.

At least it's a start; an acknowledgement that there are other people outside the golden teen-to-late-twenties sweet spot, who, you know...actually exist.

I couldn't help feeling the set-up of the virus was somewhat rushed. Given that the rest of the series (and possible future seasons) will be set in the aftermath, a little more time spent exploring the Big Event itself as events unravelled would have been more illuminating.

The big disappointment in my opinion though was the musical score and the title sequence. If any of you remember the title music and sequence to the original series, you'll know exactly what I mean - it was utterly chilling. This one is just, well, ho-hum.

But the dramatic score was, actually cringe-inducing in places, particularly the 'weepy' moments where the viewer is bludgeoned to death with swirling violins loudly announcing 'sad bit; please proceed to the nearest hanky dispensor immediately'. Actually it was worse than just unsubtle - it sounded dated, like the canned scores used by an 70's American daytime hospital soap opera. 'I'm sorry Mrs Pacelli, I'm afraid it's not good news...' (cue swirly-swirly-violins and quivering bottom lip)

All things considered though, given this could have been as ghastly as Primeval, as naff as Dr Who....I think Survivors did comparatively well. Good, even.

Good....that is, until I hold it up against far better scripted shows out there (Dexter, Battlestar Galactica) and realise we Brits are largely rubbish at producing big-concept drama. Give us a Jane Austin novel to play around with and we're fine. Give us something bold and different and we fluff it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


It's always a big day for me when I type those two golden words right at the end of a novel. A fantastic feeling, exhaustion and exhileration at the same time.

So, if you've just stumbled onto this blog, not a member of the Scarrow forum, then 'Streamers' won't mean a thing to you. So for you Passing a nutshell:-

Streamers is a time travel series of novels for young adults. The 'streamers' in our title are our heroes; children and teenagers plucked from history a moment before their certain death, and recruited into a secret agency tasked with keeping history 'tidy'.

For, you see, with the invention of time travel, there will be those from the future who'll attempt to alter history for their own ends; neo-nazis who'd want the Germans to win WWII, Royalists who'd like King Charles to have beaten Cromwell...a Catholic church who'd have been more than happy if there'd never been a renaissance.

The first book's done. And it's dark. Very dark. And in places quite scary. If I were to try and sum it up, it's TIME BANDITS meets I AM LEGEND meets TERMINATOR.

It's a fun concept to work with - alternative history lines, 'what ifs', time travel, gadgets and gizmos, the future world, the past. And in between the action, an opportunity for characters from the past to see our present world, and alternatively marvel at our technology or pity our obesity/apathy. Plenty of room for some social commentary there!

So, whilst I've written it for a young adult audience, there's stuff in there that I'm almost certain may have to come out at the editing stage. Pretty grim stuff.
But that's for another day, when I begin the editing process. But right now, in fact, for the rest of today...I shall simply bask in the glow of having typed those two magical words...

'The End'.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Oh my...I watched the entire thing on TV. Which is a testament to how incredible it was since I never normally bother with the Olympics at all. Only a country so disciplined, so well organised as China could have pulled off something so remarkable. It was truly breathtaking.

And a little intimidating too.

I mean, I shudder to think how shambolic and embarressing our London 2012 opening ceremony will be by comparison. I have a nightmare vision of a ceremony that incorporates little more than an SClub 7 track and several dozen hoodies body-popping over our wonderfully expensive and politically acceptable 'urban' street-art logo.

Yup, we're sure to conjure up a pretty lame opening show, and somehow make it cost more than the entire annual budget for the BBC. The cost thing....sigh....that's a whole other discussion. There's a very good reason why the Olympics budget will vastly overrun, which maybe I'll moan about in a few days time. Suffice to say, if our Olympics isn't blown to pieces by radical islamists, it'll most likely be a monumental cock-up.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

DR WHO-writes-this-crap

I sat through the finale with my lad, because it's nice to do things together. But blimey...this was truly appalling.

I really don't know where to begin trying to analyse what was basically a butt-clenchingly, excruciatingly embarrassing SciFi pantomime. Coincidence piled on coincidence....exposition layered upon exposition, convenient gadget/plot device after convenient gadget/plot device, reunion piled upon reunion. Cheesey-weesey cartoon baddies monologuing like mad, naff dialogue from beginning to end. Clearly quite expensive stage set, badly over-lit with gaudy lights, MTV editing for over-sugared low attention-span kiddie-winks. The cornball romantic sub-plot with Rose, and that unfair slight of hand over the doctor's regeneration (specifically added to the story line to generate loads of tabloid press speculation as to whom would be brought in to play the next doctor) tsk tsk. Cheap shot.

Oh, I could go on and on.

Suffice to say this was the most awful example of (high budget) story-telling I've come across in quite some time. And that's saying a lot these days. About the only saving grace, were the plentiful and no doubt expensive CG shots, which were, you know...quite nice, but not anything I haven't seen before.

I know Dr Who is for kids. I know this is 'check-your-brain-in' entertainment, and believe me, I thoroughly enjoy big budget brainless sci-fi entertainment. I loved Aliens, Predator, 5th Element, Starship Troopers, Robocop, Waterworld, Independence Day etc etc. But this...this was so bad, so amateur it went sailing past being so-bad-it's-funny, to being so-bad-I-found-myself-nodding-off.

And yet, because it's DR WHO, because it's the good ol' BEEB, because it's become a British cultural icon it is forgiven everything - it's allowed to be utterly crap. In fact I suppose it's expected.

The only real silver lining to this ridiculous finale is that it marks the end of Russell T. Davies tenure as series exec' producer and lead script editor, and that job will now be passed onto to Steven Moffat (the guys who has written the better episodes eg: 'Blink').

What I shall hope for, when Dr WHO 'reboots' in 2010, is what I hoped for when the Doctor was revived in 2004(?) with Christopher Ecclestone as the timelord - something darker, smarter and basically...well, basically entertaining.


A little coffee-time teaser for you. A game I came up with this morning.

1. A room full of nervous people...and there are three spies in there amongst them.
2. The normal people are worried about having spies in their vicinity and their colour honestly depicts how worried they are.
3. Yellow people believe there is ONE spy in the nine squares surrounding them.
4. Red people believe there are TWO spies in the nine squares surrounding them.
5. But beware...the three spies in the room are well-practiced liars and can be appear as worried or relaxed as they want.

On which squares are the three spies?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


So, has anybody found themselves nervously beginning to stockpile food yet? You know, I can't help but notice how many more canned goods I'm seeing in people's supermarket trolleys these days.

I'll be honest and confess right now that we've started building a 12 week food reserve - which is the MINIMUM reserve recommended by FEMA in the states. (I've yet to locate any useful British Govt' emergency advice on food reserves).

But, sheeeesh....that's a lot of cans.

I did a back-of-envelope calculation of the number of cans of a hi-protein/hi-calorie food type...and chose corned beef (800calories per tin) because
of all the tinned products in the supermarket it seems to have the longest storage window (stamped with 2012 sell-bys).

Anyway,for the three of us we'd need between 600-700 cans approx.

That really is a helluva lot of cans.

I noticed though, browsing the net, that there are purveyors of freeze-dried emergency supplies, and these are cleverly assembled into 1person, 2person, 3person, 4person....etc 1 year 'complete survival solutions' with a storage window of 30 years! Again, the vendors are all US vendors who either refuse to ship abroad, or slap on punitive shipping costs.

Shopping around in good ol' ill-prepared-let's-not-panic-shall-we? Britain...I can find nothing like that so far, other than a few camping stores who'll sell you 2-3 day 'Ranulph Fiennes' branded hiking rations, at £8 a 'pouch'.

Does anyone know of a UK supplier of freeze-dried emergency food supplies? If so....please drop me a line or post here in the comments section.

One does hate to sound all shrill and alarmist...but frankly, I'm inclined to believe the next 30 years aren't going to be particularly pleasant. And what's more, I'd rather buy a year's 'survival solution', and not have to worry about checking it's sell-by until I'm approaching my 70th birthday, than keep browsing through my 600 cans that need to be consumed on an on-going basis and having to ask my wife to come up with increasingly inventive ways to serve up corned beef.

Friday, May 30, 2008


If ever there was a person who deserves an award for courage and for truly understanding what is right, it's this woman - Carol Saldinack.

You can read the article right here, also see a newsclip of her discussing this.

Basically, she overheard her two sons brashly boasting about a man they'd beaten up and left for dead. Realising that if it had been one of her own sons left for dead in a pool of his own blood, she'd want to know who did it, she'd want justice brought to bear. So she called the police and handed them both in; a heartbreaking, but right decision.

I hope when the Queen and the government get round to compiling their list for this year's honours and awards, that Carol is right at the very top of that know, above the TV celebrity honoured for 40 years of light entertainment, or the premier league footballer's medal for gallantry, or the retired MP's knighhood, or the BBC weather girl who's boosted her showbiz profile by campaigning against landmines.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


This evening's most gob-smacking momemt of drop-dead stupidity comes from Michael 'I'm a good Jewish boy' Sophocles. How the **** did he....hang on, let me just calm myself down.

Okay, I'm better.

Ahem...I'll start again. How did he think that a chicken could be made kosher by having it blessed by a Muslim cleric? Well the answer did seem to be, he invented his Jewish heritage to look good on the CV. But honestly, you'd think if you're going to invent that kind of detail, you'd learn the most well known word of yiddish - kosher.


Apart from that moment. I thought the rest of this week's show was pretty lame - no different than watching a bunch of over-sugared toddlers scampering around someone's lounge looking for hidden easter eggs.

I'm not sure the right people went tonight - the two Jennys. They were both, I thought, quite strong candidates. I suspect they were victims of the hidden spectre that haunts this show like a dark shadow - the unseen Producer. I'd guess neither Jenny was a ratings winner...too sensible, too grown up, too boring.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


From the very first minute of this week's episode Kevin 'Daffyd' Shaw's card was marked. This time round I saw who was going to get the boot a mile off.

The reason why Kevin's team lost are numerous; chiefly amongst these reasons though, was that the idea was crap. plain and simple. As soon as they gleefully embraced the 'send an eco card' idea, I turned to me other 'arf and I could see on her face the same bemused expression that was no doubt on mine....

...why the feck would someone eco-aware want to add to their carbon footprint by sending a bleedin' card with a message about not adding to one's carbon foot print?

The other reason Kevin's lot lost, was somewhat more painful to watch....Kevin's child-like performance pitching a concept he clearly wasn't particularly au fait with, and hiding behind grown up business words and phrases like 'market positioning' and 'retail foot print' and 'the'.

But the biggest question I have about this evenings show...and this is the one that has me seriously doubting the whole Apprentice set question is this -

Did Tesco really place an order for 6,000 of these eco cards? Re-e-e-ally?

Hmmmm. I'm a little sceptical of that.

I for one shall be scouring Tesco's gift card shelves for these, no doubt very elusive cards, and should I actually manage to find one....I'm buying it. And I'm going to hang on to it for a while. It's going to be a collectors item...heck I might even eventually flog it on ebay.

Anyway Kevin's more Daffyd material for me then. Bugger it.

GRAND THEFT AUTO 4 - a pscho's wet dream

I intend to buy it....just as soon as the dust has settled on the stampede of zitty chavs and wannabee gangstas.

As a piece of game design it's unsurpassed. As a graphics showcase, it's jaw-dropping. It's a game I want desperately to own, because of the free-form structure of the game, and because it's also a perfect research tool for a book I'm writing set in Brooklyn.

But, I gotta say...watching the Youtube movies of various kiddies playing the game, I'm genuinely chilled by what they're doing. If you can judge by these gameplay movies what it is the feral chavvies and gangsta wannabees want to get out of the GTA4 experience, it seems to be the opportunity to blast at woman's breasts and genitals at close quarters, to shoot at passing cars through the winddshield to get that rewarding blast of a horn as the dead driver's forehead slumps forward onto the steering wheel.

Don't get me wrong, as en ex-game designer and now an author, I absolutely DO NOT WANT TO CENSOR creative mediums....but observing the movies of gameplay thus far, I'm deeply worried about the nascent pyshosis displayed by a generation of hooded sociopaths planning their next virtual bloodbath as they lie in bed, presumably whacking-off as they reminisce over the last business woman they shot a dozen times in the vagina.

If there's any opinion beginning to form in my head now, any call to's not to ban any particular game, or to apply limits on what can and cannot be depicted...but for us grown-ups to take a long hard look at the mental health of the generation growing up beneath us - our kids.

I can't help thinking that the gameplay movies I've been watching this morning, were put together by lads very similar in mindset (and most probably appearence - bullet-headed and dull-eyed) as the feral creatures that beat up Robert Maltby and beat to death Sophie Lancaster.

Bugger...I think I've almost talked myself out of buying the game now.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Okay...I like Lucinda, I really do, she's nice. But, I really expected her team to tear her to pieces and eat her alive this week. I thought Lucinda simply wasn't psychotic enough to lead them. So...what a pleasant surprise that someone taking the lead in such a pleasant, courteous, consultative way, managed to get a general thumbs-up from her team.

It just goes to show, that after being nominated project manager, you don't have to sit every one down and give one of those 'I'm-the-bleedin'-BOSS-geddit?!' type speeches, to get a team pulling behind you. A little bit of courtesy seems to get the job done just as well.

Lucinda...the Queen of 'Nice'......ahhhh.

On the other hand, we had Jennifer, the Ice Queen. Actually though, perhaps that's a little unfair. She's slim, attractive and cool - sadly, that means she's guaranteed to be portrayed as a bitch. There's no escaping it.

Poor lass. But just know it makes for the perfect tabloid headline, doesn't it? Something along the lines of....

'Apprentice: Nice Queen Vs Ice Queen'

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


The wrong pair of nuts got lopped off this week in my humble opinion. I genuinely thought Sergeant Simon Smith was a contender for the last three, but seems that from the very first moment, his tenure as Commander-in-Chief was in danger from a combined Claire and Alex (or Kerry Katona and James Blunt) pincer movement.

Yup. The pair of them had it in for him from the get-go.

In fact, I'd go as far as to say...I suspect they actually sabotaged his project, or at the very least, dragged their heels as much as possible. I think they knew, that if their team failed, the entire team would be united in condemning Sergeant Smith's parade ground management style.

I'd hate to manage someone like Claire, really hate that....I think it would make every working day, a nightmare. Someone like her would grind me down very quickly. Someone like her would give me a nervous the very least, a severe facial tic.

So it was with some pleasure, that I enjoyed the non-plussed look on her mug when slimey young Alex stuck the blade in from behind at the last possible moment.

Made me chuckle, that. wasn't enough. She got through. (Obviously a Production call - we all know a bitch like that makes for great she's safe for a while.)

Aww nuts. I like Simon.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Well, I think I've nailed the apprentice I consider to be the biggest's good old Kevin Shaw.

A long time ago, I used to work in telesales, and the cubicles were full of guys like Kevin, who talked a good game, bigged themselves up, said they could do anything they put their mind to, and then left after couple of weeks, with cheeks blotchy-red from embarressment and egg running down their chin after failing to hit the basic sales target.

Hell, I failed too...but the difference was, I never trumpeted myself as a Gordon Gekko or a Jerry McGuire.

Basically then, Kevin seems to be something of a less-than-honest little weasel (as they all do I suppose at one point or another)....

Before: 'I know Italian food, guys. Yeah, certainly....I'm ideal being head chef. Oh yeah.'
After: 'Umm...No Sir Alan, I catagorically didn't want to be head chef. No Sir. No sirrreee. Nope.'

As for Simon, hmmm...I quite like the chap. I can why Alan quite likes him too. I suspect he considers Lance Corporal Simon Smith might be cut from similar cloth; a rough diamond with a bit of savvy. We'll see.

Prediction for a finalist? Well, it's still pretty early to make a call, but if I was going to shove some money on a couple of candidates they would be Lee McQueen (tall fella, dark hair...a poor man's Clive Owen) and Claire Young (Kerry Katona's marginally more attractive sibling)

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Comparatively photogenic bunch this time around, arne't they? No real mingers so it seems. I'm sure, of course, being relatively easy on the eye had nothing to do with the vetting process for the twenty thousand I-will-kill-to-get-my-own-way Apprentice auditionees.

They certainly managed to select a somewhat sociopathic bunsh of wannabess, this year. I'm not sure which guy says 'I will cut from my life anyone who stops me getting what I want' in the opening title sequence, but I really don't wouldn't want to get a sneak glimpse of his dark fantasies. I wouldn't be entirely surprised if he's got a Jamie Gumb styled basement someplace where he's quietly fashioning a woman-suit from tattered strips of human skin.


...a promising opening with bitchiness on the go from the very start. Fun watching Alex, the first project manager for the fellas, working on his blame gameplan after only the first couple of hours. Okay...maybe £5 for a lobster does sound a bit on the cheap side, but full credit for barrister Nick, being the one to go and figure out they were taking a beating on that front, and then report back promptly.

This week...I think he was the wrong guy to go. Peronsallu, I'd have picked Raef, who's already getting on my nerves with his pompous Brian Sewell, mouth-full-of-plums accent.

Monday, March 03, 2008


...well, I guess it starts out looking like this.

If you can't be arsed to read the article in the Independent, the gist is this....even though the world is turning out bumper crops of grain, mass starvation is on the horizon principally because a growing Chinese and Indian middle class have enough money to consume meat, which is rapidly hoovering grain harvests (it takes 8lbs of wheat to 'make' 1lb of meat). That and the demand for bioethanol, mean food staples will become increasingly scarce and increasingly expensive.

I read an essay by an economist a while back that stated that, according to his calculations, a population of 2 billion could be sustained indefinately on this planet, at a living standard comparable to that enjoyed in the west. We're now approaching 7 billion...and every one of them wants that lavish western lifestyle.

It doesn't take a genious to realise, we're on a path to someplace very ugly. Putting Peak Oil aside for one moment, we face a whole load of other 'Peaks'...Peak Uranium, Peak Food....Peak Water for crissakes. The bottom line is we're exhausting every resource, and we're doing it horrendously quickly.

What can we look forward to? A war between the 1st and the 3rd world? A war between China, Russia, Europe and America over dwindling supplies of available food? Food rioting?....that's just a look at the availability of one type of food stuff. It gets worse when we fold in issues such as energy security, political, racial and religious differences.

Bottom line...too many people for one planet. But we knew that. It's just one of those things that one doesn't say in polite company, because it elicits further awkward questions such as....if there's too many people around, how are we going to lessen the number? Which bunch of people most deserve to be removed? Which bunch most deserve to stay?

Awkward....very awkward.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Okay, I'll be first to admit I'm a little naive when it comes to the nitty gritty of making whoopsie, know....a lady. I'm married by the way, so let's not make any premeptive assumptions here about my sexuality - I'm as red-blooded and able to talk cars/sport/Hifis as the next man.

Anyway, I've always considered the 'G spot' to be something of a myth. It's not, as some fellas will think, the clitoris - that little nub of flesh most attentive blokes will rub with all the sensitivity of a blacksmith grinding down metal. It's actually never been medically identified. It's the sort of X-factor of the vagina, you've either got it...or you ain't.

Something of a thorny issue I suppose. If you're one of the 40% who do, life holds so much promise. Whilst the other 60% are doomed to a life of smiling politely at their they dutifully grind away.

An interesting report on BBC's site today, showed that some Italian scientists have identified a slightly thicker bit of the front wall of the vagina appears to house the G spot. Reading the article I'm not entirely convinced all sounds a bit ambiguous. What I would be more convinced by would be something that looked like a button - preferably large, with 'push me' stencilled on the front.

Yup...I'm a typical fella in that I need 'absolutes' not wishywashy answers. I don't want to hear that it's some nebulous 'region' of flesh that's slightly thicker in some woman than others, I want a damned component, dammit....something I can see, and aim for.

So until somebody in a white lab coat can photograph some explicit thingy and explain how it works with a nice big diagram, I'll continue to be something of a sceptic, and suggest that the G spot, has more to do with a woman's state of mind...or....perish the thought, the dexterity and skill of her ape-fisted fella.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Well, what a buzz of response to this story. I listened to the radio interview yesterday morning on Radio 4, and I was thinking then, as he spoke, that the phone lines very soon were going to be melting.

What has quickly happened with the story though, as always seems to happen, is that the media have very deliberately turned what was said it something that wasn't. They've taken his comments out of context in order to get headlines that will have all of us decent folk coughing and spluttering into morning coffees. I've yet to see the tabloid headlines this morning...but I can pretty well imagine what they might be.

So...what was Williams advocating? Well...he's a very 'woolly' speaker that's for sure, using ambiguous, carefully chosen phrases, and it does take a little work to unravel what his intended message is. However....I believe what his message was, was this:

'Why don't we allow the muslim community to arbitrate their own disagreements amongst themselves...using the acceptable elements of shariah law as a framework?'

Now looking at this, in the cold light of a new morning....I really don't think I have a problem with it. And here's why:

a. it already happens in muslim communities
b. it's no different to the Beth Din court system used by the Jewish community
c. it doesn't usurp, contradict or replace British civil and criminal law

What Rowan Williams rather inexpertly did, was announce what is already going on in a clumsy way that's got us all worked up over absolutely nothing. I suppose, the silver lining in this sorry little episode that no doubt will sell a lot more papers, is that I have been reassured by the almost universal condemnation of any kind of religious inroads being made into the legal system of this country.

And that's something, to be honest, to feel very comfortable about.