Wednesday, March 18, 2009

...I can kick!

I have to do a lot of interviews for work. It always looks good to have some vicarious face-to-face contact in the magazine for the reader. It makes whatever you're writing about look more authentic if you've actually spoken to someone involved. No making it up or cribbing from other articles (which happens more than you might think).With the internet feeding off its own bones, republishing stories and linking links, exclusive access always looks good.

But there is a ridiculousness to it all. In games, the information is metered out precisely to a fixed plan. They might reveal a character one month, a weapon the next, a new level the one after. It's all about ratcheting out the content, click by click to keep the interest up. The result of that is that sometimes people are only allowed to talk about what you already know. 

So today I had an interview for a game I can't name which is built on surprises and twists. That meant plenty of 'we can't talk about that yet' style answers. Or worse, reiteration of the question. I consider myself a fairly good interviewer. I ramble terribly, occasionally: the bullet points in my head unraveling like meandering winds full of litter but I usually get what I want. Plus you edit out all the '...' joining unfinished clauses so you look a bit sharper. But this time was hard and left me feeling like I'd just got them to read back the feature in their own words. Stupid bloody media training. It takes all the fun out of trying to get anything juicey.

[By the way the picture and title comes from this which is possibly the best thing to ever happen in the history of the world.]

Monday, March 16, 2009

And now a word from our sponsor

So it looks like I've seriously fallen off the wagon. Or on it, I'm not sure which way round it would go in this case. I've not posted anything for a few days now. But I needed the rest. I'd been spending all day being busy at work and then coming home and spending the four or five hours I had in the evening trying to create a post on something. Anything. 

Sometimes, when you write something you love, it's great. The sense of accomplishment more than makes up for sacrificing the evening. Especially if someone notices and makes a comment. When you're just grinding through it to hit quota, however, it's the most demoralising thing on the face of the planet; a little piece of you dying inside as you hit 'publish' to satisfy an agreement that only you are honouring in the first place.

Thing is, I was still writing. Specifically freelance. Actual paid work. And I've got two more commissions in progress. A big feature and a 'not really a commission but I'm going to pretend it is' piece for a friend that I want to do well. Better, even, than I might publish here. I'm going to keep posting and try to get one up a day. But if they seem slight, or inconsequential, or even entirely absent it's not because I'm giving up. It's because I've written something else, somewhere else. And there is a limit you know. I am enjoying this, I just gotta take a break every now and then.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dollhouse review - redux

I didn't really like my Dollhouse review in a previous post. I was writing it to send to a magazine and had spent the evening reading their style to try to copy it. Something that's never going to produce great work. While I still agree with the points I made it felt wooden and forced. It also utterly shat upon the 200 word limit I originally decided on. So I had another go; trying to be a little less stuffy and more concise. This is the one I sent in the end. 


Season one, episode one


Let’s be honest here: the Dollhouse may well be the biggest geek's wet dream since Star Trek's Holodeck. A secret organisation hiring out mind-wiped slaves called Dolls to the super rich, pre-programmed with the personality of their choosing. With Eliza Dushku's Echo leading the parade of pretty (vacant) young things it's not hard to imagine what Mister Wealthy Billionaire might get up to.


This only makes it harder to swallow when Echo’s assignment turns out to be hostage negotiation. Riiight. It’s a ludicrous leap of faith not helped by Dushku's thin performance of the forceful psychologist’s personality she’s been imprinted with (wear glasses, sound annoyed all the time) or the fact the script is never more than serviceable. Perfunctory dialogue is chewed though by lifeless, stereotypical characters with none of the sparkle or wit of creator Josh Whedon's previous efforts. A boxing montage used to emphasis just how much a cop won't back off, creates a spectacularly heavy-handed moment of exposition, slapped on so thick you could see it from space. The overall premise and hints of a larger story arc - as Echo's brain-dead shell becomes self-aware - are promising, but unless the series ups its game substantially there's little here to make this a must see.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Konnie Huq's broken hand

I'm fairly sure I felt something crack when I shook Konnie Huq's hand. I didn't really register just how petite and fragile she was until I squeezed her tiny little child-like paw. And coming immediately after Charlie Brooker's workman-like mitt I didn't think to adjust the pressure applied. Cue the sensation of spaghetti snapping in a balled fist. She left pretty quickly after that. It wasn't the best of starts.

I was at the videogame BAFTAs, discovering that I was slightly worse around celebrities than I am normal people. Meeting Atari founder Nolan Bushnell was fine, I had a purpose: “Congratulations Mr Bushnell on your fellowship to the Academy, may I have a picture please?” Easy. Every other encounter I sort of doomed without even trying by thinking that, a) they must dread randoms approaching to notch off a meeting, and, b) what the hell would I have to say to them?

It's not that different to how I deal with most people, really. That only made it more disheartening when one of my friends just kept rolling up and striking easy conversations with a “Hello, how are you enjoying the evening” approach. Why didn't I think of that? Annoyingly, I got on really well with some of the celebs I met once the threshold was crossed, which only made it more frustrating to find it an obstacle in the first place. We spent ages talking to Ralf Little and Michelle Terry (who's in England People Very Nice). Both were lovely and I was genuinely sad to end the evening and go separate ways. Anyway, it's made two things clear: firstly, I have got to loosen up a bit and, secondly, I should pay more attention when shaking girls' hands.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I played football tonight. Strictly speaking, I played a private game of 'stop ball go in net', otherwise known as goal. Or just nets. That's about as far as my ability to blend in goes. If I was Jason Bourne I wouldn't be able to get a taxi, let alone cross international borders, such is my ability to pass as one of the crowd. I'm basically a bad man. Not evil or cruel to animals; just 'bad' like Kraft cheese slices are a poor example of dairy produce.

I don't understand football. I don't care about it. I constantly query references to footballers in the articles I edit - will people understand this? What is a Drogba exactly? But I do understand one thing: this puts me at a serious disadvantage. I'm uncomfortable around people I haven't know for at least a couple of years. I struggle at small talk and falter generally in most social situations. Something that would be instantly remedied fifty percent of the time if I could pull football out of the hat like a magic conversation rabbit. I often wonder just how different things would be if I could join in with that stuff? Ultimately, however, that's never going to happen and instead, I'm doomed to stare politely into space at the pub. Maybe I'll bring a book next time.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Not today

I know I should be writing something but I'm having one of those 'enough' moments. Oversleeping has meant cramming crap loads into a short space of time. Okay, it included seeing Watchmen at the cinema and a fairly lax Saturday but I've ended the weekend editing a feature. Good enough to file it while I'm doing a training day tomorow, therefore not delaying it too much, but not enough to make me happy. It's proabably fine but I suck at subbing so I need to check stuff loads before I'm happy.

Anyway I'm tired, pissed off and have that sort of downer you get after drinking too much so this is all you get for an entry. Fail.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Wrestler - review

The raw camera work and natural sound suit this study of ageing perfectly. Watching Rourke as Randey The Ram, a once great wrestler now inexorably degrading, can be painful to watch and the feeling of spying on this ebb only makes it all the more uncomfortable. 

It's clear he can't carry on but it's equally apparent he knows little else. He is what he is: a tired old bear swiping at life with dull claws. It's a powerful performance; Rourke at times apparently struggling to find the strength just to breath, let alone climb in the ring. Elsewhere he displays a childlike inability to deal with, or understand, what's happening to him. It makes his relationship with Marisa Tomei's stripper, Cassady, as touching as it is flawed. Both are entering the next stage of their lives as lost as each other. The estranged daughter sub-plot, on the other hand, struggles to fit naturally into the narrative. And as a result the later half of the film flounders - the otherwise raw and moving portrayal of decline stalling as it approaches resolution. But it's a minor failing and one that only delays rather than spoils the reverberating and memorable conclusion.