The Power Of The Press

"I don't want this situation involving England because in two days, during which I was not coach, my life was invaded. My privacy was totally under siege. There are twenty reporters outside my house now."

- Luiz Felipe Scolari declines to manage the England football team.


Spin-Off City

Laura Roslin and Sarah Jane Smith: two fictional M.I.L.F.s separated at birth.

News broke this week that Doctor Who is to enter spin-off territory for the fifth time this year with The K-9 Adventures. It's an animated children's series with the cute canine robot computer companion from the Seventies - British pop culture's risible answer to R2-D2. I won't be watching. K-9 and Sarah Jane both guested on the new series tonight, as did Giles from Buffy. (There was a Buffy moment in a school corridor when the Doctor couldn't decide what to call his "Scooby Gang".)

The other spin-offs are K-9 And Company (pilot episode for a rejected 1981 series), Doctor Who Confidential (behind-the-scenes documentaries), Totally Doctor Who (touts the next episode of the main series to children every Friday) and Torchwood, the upcoming adult drama starring the omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness that's been described as This Life meets The X-Files. The beast cannot be stopped.

B.B.C. Wales have copied the Sci-Fi Channel by making podcast commentaries available not only online but also, for digital viewers, as an alternate audio track on the repeat showing. That's got to be a first.

Finally on Nerd Watch, N.B.C. in America this week announced the first science fiction "family saga", set on a thriving Caprica some fifty years before the story of the revamped Battlestar Galactica begins. If it keeps continuity, they're going to have to dust off those old Seventies Cylon suits! I will be watching.

How Am I Driving?

Good God was I ever pissed off last night I'm back I was gonna write and I'm in a bad mood because a two and a bit hour journey from Luton airport took four I'd been sick my entire trip to Galway my stomach was doing somersaults as I sat in traffic near Heathrow I had a hunch I wouldn't feel up to my planned trip to London today nuts too mad to even be bothered with grammar just get this bile out of my system.

The M25 was at a standstill so I avoided it completely, going via Harrow. (Around this time I regained the use of my punctuation.) I calmed down as I got closer to Bristol because getting home and to bed looked increasingly like it might actually happen. I stopped for a coffee and the barista was really friendly to me. What a difference a smile can make to a person's day!

By the time I got to the M32 I was smiling and leftfield re-workings of Radiohead classics filled the car. I sang along and thought how Keep Left Unless Overtaking would fit right in on a Radiohead set list. I saw that slogan on a driver information screen over the motorway recently and dreamed of a new era of peace on Britain's roads.


Top Five Reasons Why I Didn't Write For A Week

5. Sometimes it feels like work so I don't do it. It'll still be here tomorrow.

4. I made an effort to keep in better touch with distant friends. It may turn out to be my quarterly token effort but it feels good to get e-mails from people you didn't hear from in months and it feels even better to visit them.

3. Doctor Who is back for a second series and it took me days to decide that the first episode was fun but little else. Tomorrow, Queen Victoria gets mixed up with werewolves and kung-fu monks. Now that's more like it!

2. Edie Kate was born to two wonderful people that I've known since high school. She's 7lb 4oz and healthy.

1. I've been looking for somewhere new to live. I'm still looking.


Chumley Huffington Says Hi

I work with a couple of anime properties and was just researching one online. I came across a list of the original Japanese characters' names paired with their counterparts in the American dubbed version. 'Cheesy' is not the word. Nash Bridges has nothing on these guys:

Katsuya Jonouchi (Joey Wheeler)
Hiroto Honda (Tristan Taylor)
Insector Haga (Weevil Underwood)
Hayato Maeda (Chumley Huffington)

Dinosaur Ryuzaki (Rex Raptor)
Ryuji Otogi (Duke Devlin)
Asuka Tenjouin (Alexis Rhodes)
Ryo Marufuji (Zane Truesdale)
The Seven-Star Assassins (The Shadow Riders)

Presumably the Shadow Riders represent an objection to assassins on children's television in America, whereas it's acceptable in Japan.


My third Half-Nekkid Thursday contribution was taken at work today. It's pretty much the shot I was going for last week before the world and its mother conspired against me. I wouldn't necessarily say it was Not Safe For Work but it's probably Not Safe For Meal Times!


Das Shoebox

We drove up to the barrier with no I.D and no clue what we were going to say to the guard. Fortunately there was no guard. The barrier sensed the presence of our Volkswagen and raised. No questions. We'd infiltrated Bavaria Film!

Looking at the company's resumé you might wonder why on earth anyone might want to do such a thing. See film #176 on that list. Before he turned to schlock like Air Force One and Troy, Wolfgang Petersen made a superb war movie called Das Boot. (I should clarify here that it's an exercise in tension, boredom and the ultimate futility of fighting your fellow man. Very little gets blown up. For three hours. If you prefer "movies" to "films" you're really not going to like it so don't come crying to me. Likewise if you think feeling sympathy for sixteen-year-old Germans who have been sent to the bottom of the ocean in a tin can is somehow unpatriotic because they were the enemy.)

The original film set is preserved as a museum piece in the grounds of the studios. When I heard this I just had to see it. It's a replica of one whole level of a submarine with no missing "fourth wall" - so the cast had some help feeling claustrophobic and the camera crew captured every shot from inside that enclosed space, as if they were a documentary crew on a real Unterseeschiff. A guided tour arrived minutes after we left so it's a good thing my personal guide thought it was too risky to make love on one of the bunk beds (though I refuse to believe we'd be the first to try).

The model sub used in the film's pre-digital effects shots was outside in the rain, but I imagine it was quite used to getting wet.

My latent language skills got flexed a little last weekend and I'm keen to stay in practice. I'm working my way through the meagre amount of movies I own that have German dialogue and English subtitles. Das Boot arrived in the mail on Monday but I didn't watch it yet. I did, however, watch Woody Allen's Love And Death so I'm able to say that Russian Jews have horns and German Jews have stripes. Somehow I don't think that's going to be too useful in everyday conversation!


I'm In Love With A Fictional Character


Six weeks ago I picked up Battlestar Galactica where I left the second season when I left the States. I've tried my best to keep cool this year but I can't hide it any longer: it's the bomfuckingdiggity. Not only do you get episode commentaries online for free long before the D.V.D. box sets release but (for the latest episode) you can listen to them "break" the story in three hours-worth of writer's meetings too. So anyone at all interested in the creative process for television can listen to (i) the preparation, watch (ii) the final edit and then hear (iii) the writers' post mortem. Sweet!

Based on that, I was gonna write some deep analytical shit about dramatic structure. How one-shot stories frequently get expanded into two-parters because there's just so much gold to be mined in the show's concept. How cool it is that the creators let their baby breathe in this way rather than cutting story ideas off before they can fully develop. How they over-use flash-forwards to create mystery and raise suspense levels and that bugs me because the "pre-cap" in the title sequence already sorta does that. How rewarding it is to be a fan of this show and how good they are at keeping you invested in it.

I might have drifted onto 24 because it's the only other show that I watch on a regular basis (until Saturday) and they do an increasingly good job of giving each hour of the day its own dramatic beginning, middle and end.

Like I say, I was gonna write all that... until I saw Starbuck working out in the gym fifteen minutes into tonight's episode. The camera angle focussed on her sweaty pectorals. "She could beat me up," I said, because her arms are twice as cut as mine and any excuse for physical contact with her would be fine with me. "She could do what she wants to me," said my 74-year-old father. "It'd finish me off whatever it was."

She's forthright and you always know where you stand with her. She's beautiful but no cookie cutter. Best of all, underneath that devil-may-care exterior is an intelligent actress from Oregon. Then Starbuck started talking about her ass in that O.T.T. way they do on American T.V. shows:

"Ever since I got back you've been on my ass like a bad rash."
"That's why you're riding my ass so hard."
"You want my ass so bad you can taste it."

It's a good thing I don't live alone yet is all I can say.


"In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends."

- British 'essayist' John Churton Collins, 1848-1908.


Two Nations Divided

When I started my current job and didn't have as much time to blog any more I asked if other people wanted to post here, to help keep the content up. If you have your own blog you have no reason at all to take me up on that offer but Neil doesn't, and he has something to say in keeping with the themes here. So, over to Neil:

I've been invited to write about the differences between America and the mother country and where better to start than the mens' room? Both have machines to dispense vital male supplies but we clearly differ in what we consider vital.

U.S. vending machines obsess on oral hygiene and making sure your breath smells good - assuming minty fresh is your definition of good. It isn't mine, but what do I know? The machine I saw yesterday had a selection of gums and mouthwashes, plus those peculiar strips that make people's eyes water and will surely give rise to abnormal levels of stomach cancer when anyone can be bothered to study them.

British vending machines are solely devoted to the pursuit of "getting your leg over". (At this point I should stress that I haven't availed myself of a mens' room vending machine for an awfully long time however I'm sure oral hygiene wasn't high on my list of priorities when I did.) You find at least three types of condoms: sensitive, ribbed, and ones with go-faster-stripes down the sides. The only concession to oral hygiene is found in the assortment of flavours - strawberry, orange, chocolate, liquorice, pickled onion and tikka massala, to name a few. I was too busy getting my brain around the notion that making your groin smell like a pickle is an aphrodysiac to note whether minty fresh flavour was available.

U.K. machines also contain Nurofen, presumably in case the object of your alcohol-induced lust gets a headache from all the fumes rising from your nether regions.

Dropping Eaves Again

"Are we still in London?"
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. We're still in the airport!"
"You know I'm not as clever as you."

"I think I'm in heaven."

"Bitte darf ich ein Photo von Ihnen machen?"

"If we find your phone, we'll call you."
"You'll have my phone."

"Ha ha ha!"

"On this fish it says, 'Allergy advice: contains fish.' Isn't that stupid?"

"Daddy, do aeroplanes run on petrol?"
"No, honey. They use kerosene. It's like petrol."
"So they don't have to go to the petrol station?"
"The petrol station comes to them."


Who Ate All The Pies?

For my second Half-Nekkid Thursday contribution I present what some will consider a bit of a cop-out. An hour ago I quite literally sat down to take my grand idea of a picture but I couldn't make the shot due to fading light. I requisitioned lamps from other rooms to compensate only to find the camera switching off when I tried again - a sure sign that the batteries are low. I remembered how the warning icon flashed up for the first time back in Germany. Nuts! I promised to post today because I've been away from home every Donnerstag for the past couple of weeks.

So I shelved that idea, went to a better lit room and pulled up my shirt.

What we have here is the stomach of a man who likes his dairy foods a little too much and doesn't do sit-ups. I'm not ashamed of my little Buddha belly because it was such fun earning it and I'm always suspicious of people who are in fantastic shape because they clearly don't have time to read enough books. "Feed your head," the Dormouse said.


Touch Wood

Adjacent to the memorial of two generals somewhere in the tourist trap that is the centre of Munich on a Saturday afternoon when Cologne F.C. is visiting stood four statues in a row. They're lions and they're the same blue-green colour as the statue of Christ at the cathedral in Canterbury.

"Meet you at The Blue Jesus?"
"I know where you mean."

Except each lion held a shield with small patch of shiny where it had been repeatedly stroked over the centuries. Traditionally you touch the lions for good luck and my friend touched one while I took a photograph. From there we went to the San Francisco Coffee Company and stood in a line so slow you'd swear they were making the drinks in San Francisco and having them delivered. It's there that she realized she'd lost her phone when she'd taken her jacket off half an hour earlier. She was sure it wasn't in any other pockets because she'd hesitated putting it there before we left the house in case it fell out...

We retraced our steps exactly through the tourists and football fans until we got back the to the World Cup 2006 Exhibition. It's a touring promotional show for German-hosted championship this summer that just happened to be in town the same weekend as I was. I stopped to record for posterity Goleo because he's the crappest mascot I've ever seen and that's when Kate took off her jacket. They made an announcement for her but who really hands in a phone when they find it except you and me? Kate fretted about the numbers of famous people she had in the address book because of her job, not to mention the hideous amount of other media you can store on a phone these days.

We found an E-Plus store and cancelled and replaced various S.I.M. cards, which cost money. When we got home we found the phone on the kitchen table. We laughed our asses off and didn't even care about the money because it was the lesser of the two inconveniences by far.

How lucky was that lion really? (The statue, not Goleo. Goleo is crappy.)

Years ago, after watching Withnail & I at Glastonbury Festival, Nick and I somehow (remember the conditions, imagine the state we were in) became obsessed with the concept of touching wood. You say "touch wood" and touch something wooden to bring yourself luck. It's almost as acceptable nowadays to touch your head as if it was made of wood, and hilarity ensues. But does that actually count?

What if you say it but don't touch anything? What if you only think it because maybe there are strangers around and you don't want to talk to yourself? If you only think it and don't touch anything is that two minuses making a positive? If none of these scenarios bring luck, do they simply bring zero luck? Or is there a concept of negative luck? That's just bad luck, surely? Do you incur the wrath of a luck god when you don't do it properly? We rode that one until it didn't have legs any more.

So was it bad luck losing the phone or better luck all-round once we'd found it again? Maybe you had to touch all four lions? If you touch 50% or more of them are you still in the black? Or is an all-or-nothing deal where once you start you need to complete the course or fail? Is there a time limit? Rankings? Etc.