Sunday, July 30, 2006

Parker (Introduction)

So, what is Parker?

[Warning - long post on the pre-history of Parker]

Back at the start of February my friend and collaborator Jim went to Parker's Birthday. During this, he suggested that his life could be a sitcom. From what I recall, his idea was that it would revolve around PARKER, a blue-shirted accountant, and his dizzy blonde flatmate CLAIRE, with supporting characters LARA (Parker's girlfriend[1]) and CHRIS (Claire's brother). Why we thought this idea had legs I don't know.

Many ideas were put forward. The first one still potentially in use came from Stan:

Meanwhile I have a suggestion for Chris T's catchphrase in Parker"Well Ladies it's been a pleasure, but I've gotta go."My actual suggestion is that the tag line is "Well Ladies it's been a pleasure, but "and each time it can have a new "comic" ending!

To which I replied:

For Parker, the sitcom - more Chris Exit lines


Well ladies it's been a pleasure but I'm on the trail
of a Sasquatch



Well ladies it's been a pleasure but Drew Barrymore is
waiting for me downstairs

INT Camera goes to window and...

EXT There indeed is Drew Barrymore, leaning out of
the drivers-side window of a car


Get your arse down here Chris - a traffic warden's
just come round the corner!



Well ladies it's been a pleasure but my trousers are
on fire

Close up on Chris' trousers which appear unremarkable

Close up on Chris' face


Not this pair


Eventually (the end of March) I wrote a scene (from Episode 2, Girly Night [3]) which was generally received positively. We then filmed some credits, a fight scene and an improvised scene where we all sat around talking rubbish. The major drawback to these was that none of the principle characters were actually in the scenes [4]. As might be expected we then got into an argument over which of us was to be the Gaffer, Best Boy and Dolly Grip for the rest of the run. A plan to get Stan to photoshop people in at 25 frames a second was eventually abandoned.

Other idea's include:

The sitcom "Parker" should have a duel in every
episode (29 April);
Filming of the sitcom "Parker" where a lowly chauffeur to an English
lady drives a pink Rolls Royce in his spare time to make some pocket
money (12 May);
> Somehow I managed to be treble booked tomorrow
> night and so I have
> had to forgo a massage in favour of having
> dinner with Anne's parents and lunatic aunt.
... there's definitely a Parker
episode trying to escape there
(29 May);

Which brings us broadly up to the week before last (developments since then to follow in later posts).

Will we ever actually film anything? Well, frankly, my weak point is writing dialogue [5] and most of my friends aren't good enought actors to improvise well. This matches up with the quality of equipment (no offense intended Jim) and our experience at using them.

But stranger things have happened. And I've already made someone laugh. So it's not a complete waste.

[1] Lara expressed a preference that the sitcom to revolve around her and Parker. She'd not thought through that this would involve literally half a dozen people making fun of her relationship with Parker.

[2] Although Jim was dubious:
Thanks neil.

One problem.... how do we get Drew Barrymore on the team?

[3] Despite it's positive reception, it is tragically in need of a rewrite, not least because I put an entire episode's ration of jokes into a dozen lines.

[4]Crew list from an email on 10 April:
Director of photography

Jim is the creative genius behind the
unauthorised extended edition of the Peter Greenaway
classic "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, Her Lover and
Stan". He has produced and directed the entire run of
"Baldy TV". He is available for private work
including Weddings, Christenings, Childrens' parties
and Divorces.

Executive Producer

Neil has produced a number of projects, none of
which have been released.

Third Ninja

Gareth has appeared in "You only live twice", "3
Ninjas", "3 Ninjas kick back", "3 Ninjas knuckle
down", "3 Ninjas high noon at mega mountain", "Power
Rangers ninja storm", "Kung Fu Girls", "Wayne's World"
and "Ally Mcbeal".

Mr Schnee
Dolly Grip

Mr Schnee has worked extensively in the crime genre.
He is the inventor of the cheaper and simpler
alternative to bullettime (tm) - the
push-that-camera-dolly-faster (tm) system.

[5] Writing dialogue and putting in footnotes. My two weak points are writing dialogue, putting in footnotes and cribbing from Monty Python. Amongst my weak points are writing dialogue, putting in footnotes, cribbing from Monty Python, and a fanatical devotion to the Pope.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Betrothed by Sir Walter Scott

Recently I pulled The Betrothed out of my books to read pile. I am astounded by the style. It's faux-mediaeval written in the early nineteenth century and flowery beyond belief. Here's an example, where the heroine Eveline is being comforted by Rose after the death of her father at the hands of The Welsh, who are beseiging them in the castle Garde Doloureuse:

So saying, and overpowered by the long-repressed burst of filial sorrow, she sunk down on the banquette which ran along the inside of the embattled parapet of the platform, and murmuring to herself, 'He is gone for ever!' abandoned herself to the extremity of grief. One hand grasped unconsciously the weapon which she held, and served, at the same time, to prop her forehead, while the tears, by which she was now for the first time relieved, flowed in torrents from her eyes, and her sobs seemed so convulsive that Rose almost feared her heart was bursting. Her affection and sympathy dictated at once the kindest course which Eveline's condition permitted. Without attempting to control the torrent of grief in it's full current, she gently sat down beside the mourner, and possessing herself of the hand which had sunk motionless by her side, she alternately pressed it to her lips, her bosom, and her brow, now covered it with kisses, now bedewed it with tears, and amid these tokens of the most devoted and humble sumpathy, waited a more composed moment to offer her little stock of consolation in such deep silence and stillness, that, as the pale light fell upon the two beautiful young women, it seemed rather to show a group of statuary, the work of an eminent sculptor, than beings whose eyes still wept and whose hearts still throbbed.

From The Betrothed, Chapter IX

Note that the second half is all one sentence. I couldn't bring myself to copy any dialogue.

The problem, to modern eyes (or mine, anyway) is that the style gets in the way of the fictional experience. It's a heart-breaking portrait of a young woman who's been forced to be strong after the death of her father in order to prevent the castle falling, and now the facade crumbles. However, I keep stumbling over the long sentences which build and build and build to make the powerful image or thought, but when we get there I've lost track of what we started with. Not to mention that I stopped to smirk at the word "bosom".

And yet... what it does do is give us the fantasy of an age of chivalry within the very language of the book. After a while, the language becomes more familiar and less awkward, and it draws you in.

I could do an actual pastiche of Sir Walter Scott. But what would be the point of that? He wrote so many books of his own, that to write something in the style of him is superfluous. Putting in extra effort to sound just like him and make the story less readable would be silly.

The challenge would be to write something to give the effect of reading Scott, without actually writing like him. It would be a C21 version of early-nineteenth century faux-mediaeval style. Of course you'd need a reason why the faux-mediaeval story is being told in a faux-early-nineteenth century style. Which peculiarly enough, gives me half an idea...

It makes me think of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, a C21 version of early-nineteenth century novels, except with magic. Clarke, doesn't actually write like (say) Jane Austen[1] but gives the impression of having done so, without sacrificing readability. Unless I'm mistaken, there's some faux-mediaeval in the footnotes. It's also a damn-good book.

Combined with Scott it gives me the idea for a story of a nineteenth century antiquarian, writing about a mediaeval event. But don't hold your breath waiting.

[1] I choose Jane Austen as an author writing at the time the book is set (1806-1818 off the top of my head)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Brocolli Soup and Big Bear week

Note: If you've come here looking for Gordon Ramsey recipes for broccoli soup, you might want to try this recipe or this video. If you want to see what I've done with a stripped down version keep reading...

To make a point, Gordon Ramsey made a "simple broccoli soup" on an episode of "Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares". So simple that for some time I didn't use it as there was no room for improvisation without losing the the whole point of it.

Then, during the recent heat my Mum mentioned cold soup. I'm not a big fan, but I flashed back to a perfect cold soup on a boiling day in Canada, a memory that's 13 (or so) years deep. This was a way that I could make "Simple" Broccoli soup my own.

Simple Broccoli Soup

2 heads of Broccoli
Yoghurt (optional)

Cut up then boil the broccoli heads in the salted water until soft. Drain the broccoli, retaining the green broccoli water. Blitz the cooked broccoli until it's not quite smooth. Add broccoli water to the broccoli to make a thick gloopy consistency (how gloopy is up to you, but as it chills it becomes more gloopy). Leave to cool.

An hour and a half before serving pour into bowls, put a blob of yoghurt in the middle of the bowl and cool in the fridge.

As you might imagine, how much you like this is dependent on how much you like broccoli [1].

Originally I'd only been going to chill them for half an hour (just enough to make it cooler than the baking hot patio) but our dinner was delayed by "Big Bear Week" on BBC1. Six months ago this would have been required viewing, three months ago I'd had enough of bears, but now I was dragged in when I discovered that one of the spots they were watching bears was on Whistler Mountain, a place I'd visited 13 years ago in Canada. That wasn't where I had chilled soup, nor did we see any bears that day, so it wasn't a big coincidence. But "Big Bear Week" is fascinating. Watching polar bears spend six months wandering around aimlessly without eating is strangely compelling.

For some reason Big Bear Week doesn't seem to have an offical BBC online presence. On the other hand Big Cat Week (or "Big Cat Diary") has plenty of coverage. The BBC also provide three (3) recipes for chilled soup. This situation can legitimately be blamed on Meg, or, possibly, broccoli.

[1] My Dad reported an unfortunate side effect of eating this soup, but from experience I feel this may be an unfortunate side effect of my Dad eating most vegetables.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Nothing of Interest Here

Hopefully, this blog will never have anything of interest in it, and, even if I make a mistake and it does, only three people will ever read it. Which begs the question of why I'm doing this.

Essentially the reason is: currently, to clarify random ideas that I find, am shown or make up, I write it down or type it up. Then I email or tell my friends about it. Most of it is nonsense. But the process of writing it has focused the ideas and given me some writing practice. Which is all good.

It doesn't work when there isn't an audience.

Rather than having to read my emails to find out if I've put an invitation to dinner at the bottom of a message about the Morecombe and Wise breakfast sketch and why I don't watch Stargate Atlantis, the time dependent messages will go by email, and the stuff that noone really needs to see can go here.

Also I'm in the middle of trying to write a story and messing about with this has nicely prevaricated away the morning.

Less self-referential analysis and more brocolli in the next post.