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“When they want to write ‘Clusterfuck!’ in big letters on the front page but can’t because it’s a bit rude they can now reach for an alternative”

The Thick of It is a team-written show. The writers take it in turns to be on set for any last-minute changes that might be wanted… As these scenes tend to already be in pretty good shape, the notes from the creator, Armando Iannucci, at this stage are normally pretty brief… On this particular occasion he was in a hurry and all he said was: Take a look at this.

Writer Tony Roche on how he came to add the word ‘omnishambles’ — which has gone on to become the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year for 2012 — to the already rich lexicon deployed by fictional communications director Malcolm Tucker in the BBC Two political comedy.


“The logo of the Mitt Romney / Paul Ryan campaign was a tell-tale sign that it was not going to end well for the Republican candidate and his running mate”

Yves Peters at The FontFeed suspects the writing was on the wall for the 2012 US presidential election as soon as the Romney-Ryan ticket unveiled a campaign logo set in Trajan — a typeface typically associated with antiquity and epic motion picture spectacle, but now relegated to the standard, the inconspicuous default typeface for movie posters.

As such it is now commonly found on collaterals for the lower end of the range in film posters: horror and gore, straight-to-DVD movies, low-budget pseudo-inspirational films, and other B-movie fare. These are certainly not connotations you want to make when you’re trying to win a presidential race. By using Trajan so prominently Romney / Ryan sent out the wrong message to film-savvy voters: We are passé, we are sub-prime, and we will rip out your guts and eat your brains.


“I like the Proustian approach of making a simile 500 per cent as long as the thing it’s describing”

You as the narrative voice put in a simile under the pretext that you’re helping the reader to understand better what something looks like or feels like. In fact, it’s just an excuse to put in a little espresso shot of what you hope is lyrical beauty.

From a GQ interview with Ned Beauman about his second novel, The Teleportation Accident.


The Empire strikes duck

His facial expression is somewhere between exhaustion, sorrow and bafflement, as if some kindly carers have taken him on a day trip of which he has little understanding.

David Mitchell’s description of George Lucas, recently photographed wielding a lightsabre alongside a Jedi Mickey Mouse and Minnie Princess Leia on the occasion of Lucasfilm being acquired by Disney.


My micro life: 4:47pm, 2 November 2012

It was from watching the movie Ghostbusters that I realised authority is not above reproach. Also that authority can be embodied by a man with an alleged lack of a penis.


“Halloween: Some Prefatory Remarks”

Fifty minutes of gothic tales, ghostly anecdotes, urban legends, nursery rhymes and appropriately spooky tunes.

A Halloween podcast (or should that be ‘pumpk-cast’?) masterminded by the svengali of spooks, Mr @timsterne, and featuring yours truly.


“Amazon is great when you know what you’re looking for but hopeless for browsing”

Anna Baddely, editor of the Omnivore, writing in The Guardian on the relative inconspicuousness of digital backlist titles on ebook retailer sites compared with new release titles, and whether this suggests a gap in the market for a virtual “secondhand” bookshop.


“As highly praised as Doctor Who is by its viewers, the programme praises itself even more”

The Economist’s books, art and culture blog on the Doctor Who series 7 opener, ‘Asylum of the Daleks’:

All this self-mythologising isn’t very British, frankly. It is off-putting, too, especially as (the Doctor) was conceived, in 1963, as a dotty old meddler in a time machine that did not work properly. The essence of his charm was that he was not an intergalactic superhero in the Flash Gordon mould, but a wandering eccentric. The programme was a celebration of the nerdy underdog, not the strutting bully-boy that the Doctor has become.

Hits the Dalek right in the eyestalk. (Thanks to @timsterne for the link.)


My micro life: 9:12pm, 6 September 2012

I never carry appropriate wet weather protection because I refuse to support the corporate hegemony of Big Umbrella.


My micro life: 6:33pm, 6 September 2012

It’s really more of an Inhuman Centipede when you think about it.


“I’m often up for a lazy movie if it’s on TV”

couchmovi.es is a project by Tyson Armstrong that lets you “quickly see which movies are on TV”1. Great idea, elegant execution. You can read about the (rapid) development of the project on Tyson’s blog.

I have this weird thing where if a movie is on TV and I own the DVD, I’ll put the DVD on. couchmovi.es helps me continue to be weird.

1. On Australian free-to-air networks


Austr(al)ia, nah?

Don’t know your Australia from your Austria? Your Sydney from your Salzburg? Mike Lynch at Nannygoat Hill has a helpful guide for the confused.


My micro life: 4:02pm, 18 July 2012

I’m at that special age where I’m still young enough to sense when I’m exhibiting bum crack, but just old enough not to worry much about concealing it.


“While parents are pulling the purse strings, it is they that booksellers must appease”

Author James Dawson on balancing a realistic portrayal of teenagers (and swearing) in teen fiction against the objections of gatekeepers, arguably the most powerful link in the publishing chain:

Interestingly ‘shit’ was only allowed as a curse, not as a bodily function (all bodily functions were removed at the edit, to make the characters more aspirational). It was only when editing my new, second novel that I asked if I could use even stronger swear words in an extreme situation of peril.


“The unsung heroes – and heroines – of the freak drama are the narrators, because they survive, they keep staggering along, less beautifully, less ornately, more grimy and weary by the day but staggering still”

(It) is something, perhaps, about their entitlement that makes these freaks so unbridled. They have been bred up within the establishment, they know the rules intimately, and so they know, precisely, how to break them. Also, their confidence attracts the less socially secure… from less elevated backgrounds, who are constantly ill at ease in any social situation. Then, the freak emerges — beautifully tailored or, in Withnail’s case, looking somehow stylish even in a sweaty suit he hasn’t changed for months, riddled with aphorisms, squandering their privilege with such sophistication, such intelligence, that it is fascinating to observe.

The Withnail character from the film Withnail & I is compared with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby and Evelyn Waugh’s Sebastian Flyte in this examination of the ‘my friend the freak’ genre, in which a first-person viewpoint character narrates the (mis)adventures of another, more compelling, eccentric, self-destructive and generally wildly entertaining character.


“Life ain’t good. But it ain’t bad, next to nothing.”

A new 8tracks mix, featuring music by Magic Trick, Gaz Coombes and The Smashing Pumpkins.


Tatooine barbeque

LEGO Star Wars diorama

“No, Stormtrooper, I did not say ‘These are the droids we’re cooking for’.” #dioramafriday


My micro life: 5:04pm, 11 July 2012

Hats were invented principally to hide hat hair.


My micro life: 9:39am, 11 July 2012

Making plans to open a specialty bottleshop called The Amazing Cider-Man.


“There is nothing better — at any age — than writing and reading purely for the pleasure of it”

My nascent writing skills took a huge leap forward when I started writing fan fiction as a teenager… I lost all the inhibitions and hang-ups of the classroom… and wrote purely for the fun of it.

@snazdoll on the value of writing (and reading) fan fiction. I agree totally: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy inspired me to fill whole exercise books with thinly-disguised knock-offs; even if the writing was terrible, I was learning the conventions of dialogue, paragraph rhythm, even stuff as rudimentary as indenting text for readability. Later I got into fan fiction through reading and publishing stories in Doctor Who fanzines. Fan fiction was far less visible then than it is now, so I guess that’s why I never felt much shame about it; there was nobody around to sneer at it.

There isn’t a university of writing. There are courses that help talented writers reach their potential or forge professional networks, sure, but for that talent to exist in the first place, would-be writers need the freedom to fill exercise books or post to fanfic boards, without inhibitions or hang-ups.