I’m home alone this weekend, so what better time to become acquainted with ‘Shoot the DVD Player’, a spanking new movie review podcast from Tim and Anna — or as I’m choosing to think of them, our new Margaret and David.
Two shows I’ve been enjoying in recent weeks: the Welsh-language rom-com Cara Fi (viewable with English subtitles on BBC iPlayer) and Toby Whithouse’s period spy thriller The Game — both of which benefit from the writing talents of the ever-awesome Sarah Dollard.
The fourth issue of pinknantucket press’s Materiality journal (funded by a Pozible campaign) is now available to buy in hard copy and digital form. The theme for this issue is ‘surface’, and the contributors have approached the topic in all kinds of fascinating ways. Also check out the recent ‘speaking scars’ series on the pinknantucket press blog.
I was reading the Wikipedia entry for an episode of Doctor Who I was watching last night when I happened upon this anecdote (new to me but apparently well-known) about the broadcast of the story on Chicago station WTTW being interrupted by a pirate transmission.
The first occurrence of the signal intrusion took place during then-independent station WGN-TV’s live telecast of its primetime newscast, The Nine O’Clock News. During Chicago Bears highlights in the sports report, the station’s signal was interrupted for about half a minute by a video of a person wearing a Max Headroom mask, moving around in front of a sheet of corrugated metal, which imitated the background effect used in the Max Headroom TV and movie appearances. There was no audio other than a buzzing noise. (…)
Later that night, around 11:15 p.m. Central Time, during a broadcast of the Doctor Who serial ‘Horror of Fang Rock’, PBS member station WTTW’s signal was hijacked using the same video that was broadcast during the WGN-TV hijack, this time with distorted audio.
As Chris Knittel and Alex Pasternack’s comprehensive account of this infamous ‘broadcast intrusion’ concludes, ‘there was no clear motive, no clear message, and thirty years on, no clear perpetrator’.
We are lead to believe that if the outer shell of [the TARDIS] becomes coated in green jizz, then the occupants suffocate in about four minutes.
Must confess to being slightly alarmed to encounter this digression while reading an otherwise jizz-free history of the TARDIS interior roundels.
From Bill Hayes’s New York Times essay on maintaining what might be termed ‘writing fitness’:
Then I woke one day, and a line came to me. It didn’t slip away this time but stayed put. I followed it, like a path. It led to another, then another. Soon, pieces started lining up in my head, like cabs idling curbside, ready to go where I wanted to take them.
I like this as a description of how it feels when a new project starts to find its form and shape.
To lay the foundation of human-machine interaction you need to put thought into things and that requires that you put things into thought. This is why most interfaces suck, and most interfaces will continue to suck. No model, method, or tool will change that. Thinking is painful. (…)
Well-designed products do not just save us time, they make us enjoy the time we spend with them. They make us feel that someone has been thinking about us, that a nice person took care of the little things for us.
Puts me in mind of Frank Chimero’s chapter on the importance of empathy in design.
In the cold light of day, years after the event, I can say I think the costume was possibly something of a mistake.
Our early conversations and the revisions Roald made had to do with the shape of the story, the major characters, how the story began, how it ended, and what was missing. One significant change involved two chapters about problems the hero had at school. They were good stories, but I didn’t think they belonged in this book. Roald disagreed, strongly, and we argued about it. That was not fun. Eventually he agreed and the two chapters disappeared, but not forever.
It’s not just the reader’s way in, it’s the writer’s way in also, and you’ve got to find a doorway that fits us both.
It’s only really when [Doctor Who] returns in 2005 that a singular narrative is imposed again. The effect is rather like the way that, after a mass extinction (in this case the extinction of the TV programme), very quickly whole new ecological niches will open up and biodiversity will increase rapidly, before (as in this case) a new apex predator (the new series) comes along and causes another wave of extinctions.
Andrew Hickey on the influence of Virgin’s Doctor Who New Adventures novel series — one of the major sources of new Doctor Who stories during the period in which the program was off the air.
Torchwood itself is a parodic mirror of Doctor Who – its original function was as a decoy name for shipping film of Doctor Who, the name an anagram of ‘Doctor Who’. […] The idea that Torchwood mirrors Doctor Who is telling, as Torchwood is tacitly presented as the answer to the question ‘what happens when the Doctor doesn’t show up.’ They are defenders of Britain, and, like the Doctor, quintessentially Britain, stemming out of a long British tradition and particularly from the iconography of the Victorian era. But where the Doctor is the eccentric gentleman inventor and the old man guarding the gates to fairy, Torchwood is the militaristic ambition of glorious empire.
Philip Sandifer reviews the Doctor Who series two finale, ‘Army of Ghosts / Doomsday’.
What is most real is the process, not the written representation, but the writer’s attention to the process of writing. That is what gives a work its vitality, and what gives the reader a heightened awareness, an experience of life.
Author Jane Mendelsohn on one of the most fascinating parts (to me) of the writing process: finding a story’s style, the bridge between its conception and execution. Or as Mendelsohn puts it, ‘solving the problem’ of how to tell a particular tale.
Ex-Community and now Modern Family writer Megan Ganz, fifty minutes into her interview with Writers Bloc podcast host J.R. Havlan, shares a technique for getting through first drafts:
(On Community) we did this thing (we called) ‘spit drafting’, which was basically (that) you’re writing a script, you have the outline, you know what’s supposed to happen in the scene, but you’re having a hard time actually writing out those scenes, you’re having a hard time getting the jokes…
So instead of writing dialogue, you type it out and say… ‘I am in a fight with you right now’… ‘I have a response to you fighting’… ‘Well, I think you’re a jerk because you wanted to eat a pastrami sandwich and I didn’t.’ You’re getting the shape of the scene and you’d write it about to the length of how much that scene would take up in your script.
Sounds like a fun way of breaking through first draft paralysis. Also, Ganz admits that the Community writers used to swear in their spit drafts ‘like crazy’, which sounds fun too.
I’ve been meaning to post this for ages: Mike Lynch at Nannygoat Hill and Peter J Casey at Major to Minor share the process by which they construct palindromes for their regularly masterful Artwiculate ‘Word of the Day’ entries.
And that was the last time his daughter asked him to make Fuzzy Felt pictures with her.
Having a ploughman’s lunch.
(He’s all “But it’s six hours until dinner and I can’t plough on an empty stomach!”)