Friday, 4 December 2009

Been away

For those of you wondering what has happened to this blog, things sort of got away from me after we performed at Edinburgh Festival. And I do intend to get it running with regular updates again, but first it's probably a good idea to catch people up on where I have been and how Edinburgh went.

I went to Edinburgh ready to perform, only to discover once I got there exactly how frightened and nervous I was. Even at the time, I couldn't find any words to accurately articulate exactly how scared I felt, so what chance do I have of finding them now?
I was so worried that the material wasn't good enough, that it wasn't going to be funny and that the crowd wouldn't respond at all, and it would be awkward and embarrassing.
At one point I even contemplated in my mind, how possible it would be for us to pull out of the gigs.

But as predictable as this sounds, as soon as I was there and was faced with the prospect of actually doing it I was absolutely fine. We went on stage and our first show was a success.
For completely the wrong reasons, but still a success.
It seems our performances were a little rusty and people were responding to the bits between sketches and all the improvised stuff, but not the sketches themselves.

Our second show didn't go as well, it was raining heavily outside and we had only managed to pull in a very small and drenched crowd. Which made me rather nervous and way more prone to fuck ups, and even worse, pointing out those fuck ups in a desperate attempt to validate myself and get at least a cheap laugh. This was a huge mistake and I should never of acted like that.
This was my personal low point of the week, I really blew it that day, and even now, I can't apologies enough to the other guys for these mistakes.

But that's when it all changed, with two days practice under our belt, on the third day we went out to one of our largest crowds and absolutely nailed it.
Not only was every sketch getting laughs and in all the right places, we were really starting to enjoy ourselves. In some way's I think I fell a little bit in love with that audience while on stage, those utterly wonderful people made every single second spent preparing that show worth it in an instant.

The fourth gig went just as well and did nothing but raise my spirits even more. The fifth gig brought us yet another rain swept audience that put in a good effort but ultimately didn't connect with the material as the previous two crowds had. But it was at this point that I realised that sometimes that just happens. Out of our control, we were just as good on stage as we had been the two previous days and yet we had a much more reserved reaction. I learned not to beat myself up about it.

The final day was an odd mix, the crowd found themselves somewhere in the middle, they laughed more often than the two soaked and small audiences but still seemed a little detached from the material, laughing occasionally at some gags but leaving us with nothing but awkward silence at others. Almost as if they weren't really paying attention all the time.

The week itself was excellent, when we weren't rehearsing, rewriting or performing we spent our time in pubs reading the audience reactions to our show they left on the appraisal forms we handed out at the end. Which were positive in the majority, and hilariously insulting in the minority. My favorite negative reactions included

"A scathing indictment of our education system."
and
"Better than going to work..."

Other than that we went and experienced some of the amazing things that festival had to offer. We saw and met comedians Matt Kirshen and Carl Donnelly as well as seeing all sorts of weird and wonderful free shows from unknowns like ourselves.

My highlights were...
Seeing Casper improve every night in regards to his stand up. His acting was always spot on, but he struggled on the first night with his stand up because of his nerves, and it was truly amazing to see his confidence grow to the point where he would just walk on and completely own that stage on the final couple of nights.
Meeting Matt Kirshen, he's a bit of a hero of mine and was an absolutely amazing on stage and a really nice guy off.
Living with all four guys for the week was a damn good laugh, there were some amazing moments, such as Casper asking us if a blue shirt would work as a black shirt.
Some amazing "On Stage" mistakes such as Casper getting his line mixed up and proclaiming he preferred Men.
Going to the random bar round the corner after ever gig and drinking while reading through the audience responses.
Getting to spend time with my friend Frankie who I hadn't spent a significant amount of time with in years.

So, after all that, I got back fully intending to blog about the entire experience as it was probably the most exciting things that has ever happened to me, but was simply too tired, and the longer I left it, the less relevant this blog felt. But It was an incredible experience, and I learned two very important lessons from it.

Number one, always have faith in your material.
And Number two, accept that not every audience is going to respond to your material the way you want.

So I thought I should recap the people who don't already know through following my tweets how it went.

And since then I have simply been busy with university work, since this year as well as our dissertation they want us too write two other essays, a film and pitch a separate project.
So that's been keeping me busy since.

So, sorry it's taken been me so long to get round to posting this, and hopefully now I will start updating this regularly again... well. At least as regularly as can be expected when I'm involved.

Thanks for reading.
-- Dan

PS: Damn, and I originally just intended to write a paragraph or so explaining where I have been. I think it got away from me, didn't it?

PPS: Will be back with some bloglettes soon.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Road to Placement Crisis

It’s been three months since I last posted a blog.
I know I know… shame on me.

I don’t think I need to explain what exactly I’ve been doing these past three months that’s kept me from writing this blog. I’m sure you all know by now that beyond finishing my second year of university, me and three friends have written, rehearsed and put together a one hour stage show for the Edinburgh Fringe festival which we will be performing at the festival in three weeks.

On the whole it’s been an odd experience. Unlike anything I have ever done before. Well, except for the writing part, I’ve kind of done that before. So I figure my first blog back should explain exactly what I have been doing these last three months.

Now if I’m honest, I can’t imagine this is going to interest that many people. So feel free to click that little x in the corner of your browser now if you don’t really care about the process of creating “Placement Crisis”. Because I really can’t imagine I’m going to be able to retell these events in a way that particularly entertaining.

I promise a more entertaining blog in the next day or so, but right now. I wanna get all this down as a record of the last couple of months of my life. Particularly the last 7 weeks.

So during our final month of university (May) me and the other guys putting on the show held several meetings, but found that they tended to quickly deteriorate from us discussing ideas for sketches into youtube sessions where we would just end up showing each other our favourite sketches from other sketch shows via the web.

It seems we were all so busy working on our final projects and essays for our course that we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to give up what little freetime we had for more work. But we kept trying never the less. We all had a couple of ideas, tried a few more meetings and were working on bits and pieces of ideas while we finished up the year, but ultimately it was futile, we were simply too busy to get any real work done.

On May 27th we did one of the final pieces of work our university required of us (A pitch). And the very next day we had what I considered to be the first real and productive meeting. We discussed everything from the content and tone of the show to the press release and photoshoot.

Yeah. That’s right…

Photoshoot.

This meeting is also significant as the first moment I regretted my decision to be apart of this project.

For the benefit of those of you who don’t know me personally, over the past 2 years I have gained two stone in weight. And for those of you who haven’t seen me recently, in what appears to be some cruel practical joke being played on me by the universe, all that weight appears to have gathered on my face.

As someone who has never had an issue with weight, I wasn’t used to it and the sudden image of me with 18 chins was more than upsetting, it was downright horrifying.

Don’t believe me? Allow me to demonstrate.

This is a picture of me drunk in a club in 2006 with my friend Simon.

This is a picture of me drunk in that same club in 2008 with my girlfriend Nadia.

Notice the change in face shape…
And now I have to do a photoshoot looking like I do these days? Not impressed.

But my current appearance wasn’t the only reason that a photoshoot was a problem, a day before we had discovered an old email informing us that we only had till the 31st to send off our press pack to the people organising the festival. Giving us only three days to take the photos, edit them into posters, write a press release and send it all off.

Wow, how well organised we all are. It all felt like a bit of a sham at this point… we had barely met, we had barely written anything and now we had discovered our inadequacies had led to us forgetting to do one of the most important tasks in this whole thing. Without the press pack how could the show be advertised, how would anyone even know it exists?

So, the very next day, the 29th, we found ourselves sat in Tom and Chris’s house on Evelyn road converting it into a set and having our picture taken. With a day notice we had managed to hire a photographer thanks to a contact supplied to us by a friend.

We couldn’t think of anything particularly original to do with our poster in the short amount of time we had, so we just ended up simply taking some pictures of ourselves and making them look as “Studenty” as we possibly could. Which has kind of become the theme of our show.
We also took several pictures with our faces pressed up against the glass doors of the house with the intention of making them look like we had shoved our heads in a photocopier using Photoshop later. This of course never quite turned out as we planned, but did look pretty good in the end.
We then spent the following day (The 30th) editing the pictures and writing the press release. Finally we sent it all off via email on that evening, a whole 24 hours before we had to.
It didn’t look great, nor was it particularly well written, but it was done, and we were finally starting to chip away at the mounds of stuff we had to do.

I can’t find the press release we sent of on that day on my laptop, but here are the posters.

So after that we decided the best thing to do was to each go away and write some sketches individually that we would later edit as a group. This was largely unsuccessful. By the 4th of June when we next met, we only had three or four sketches between us. Only one of which was ready enough for us to do a table read of.

That was the final straw, we needed to focus, we needed to knuckle down and get to work. We needed at least 15 sketches for the show and had previously decided we should write about 40 so we could guarantee the best quality material would get into the show. The problem was that from that day (the 4th of May) we had only six weeks left before we had to move back to our homes (The 19th of July) and would be separated an unable to work on the show, so even though the show itself was 10 weeks away, we had to be ready to perform in six.

We decided to not have a meeting for an entire week.

Now this may seem like a stupid idea, it may seem counter productive, but we decided that if we all went off and spent the week focusing on writing 10 sketches each we would have 40 sketches and be able to start the group editing session one week later.

Just two days later I moved into the house that Chris and Tom lived in as this had become our regular meeting place and it seemed like the logical thing to do since they had a spare room going.

Oh yeah, that, and I got kicked out of the place I was actually living. So you know… it made sense.

On the 8th of May Chris checked Chortle.com (As he often does) to see what was happening in the comedy world only to discover the website was now doing a feature on this years Fringe line up. And sure enough there it was. Listed with one of the images we had taken just two weeks before. Placement Crisis.

http://www.chortle.co.uk/shows/edinburgh_fringe_2009/p/17280/placement_crisis

This was both a glorious and terrifying moment.
Suddenly the whole show was very real. Much realer than it ever had been before.
It was suddenly dawning what we actually had to do. And it couldn’t of come at a better time, it really motivated me to work hard during that week.

So a week after our last meeting on the 12th of June we gathered (Which wasn’t so difficult for me since I now lived about 20 seconds away from the meeting place) with our sketches (On average about 9 each) and spent the entire day going round the room one by one reading them out to each other.

The original plan was to choose our 15 there and then. Meaning that when we next met we could start the editing and cleaning up process for those 15 as a group. But we didn’t feel confident.
I think we all knew we only had about 7 or 8 really solid sketches between us. And that wasn’t good enough.
We decided to give ourselves two more days to each write 4 more sketches. Of course due to someone being busy we ended up extending that gap to three days and didn’t meet up again till Tuesday the 16th.

This turned out to be an excellent idea. The sketches people brought to this meeting turned out to be stronger than most of the material we had presented a few days before.

Now in total we had roughly 50 sketches. And by the end of that day, we had chosen 18 sketches. The 18 sketches we intended to feature in our show.

We met up every day for the next three days and spent hours and hours editing each chosen sketch one by one. Adding jokes, improving dialogue, cleaning up stage directions and generally making them better. During this process we even decided to loose a sketch I wrote entitled “band”. There were several problems with that script, but the main reason was it simply didn’t feel as strong as everything else we had written.

So the end of the week came and there it was. On the 12th of June I was holding in my hand a 17-sketch script entitled “Placement Crisis”.

And that’s when it began. After two days off (The 15th of June) we were meeting again, doing our very first table read through of the show. It was exciting. Very exciting. We decided we would do four days of table reads, recording them in the day and reviewing the recordings in the evenings to help us lean the lines as fast as possible. After several 9+ hour days we took a couple of days off.

On Monday the 22nd we had our first rehearsals. This was where I really felt out of my depth as someone with only limited experience acting. It was more time consuming than I ever imagined it could be as we had to block out the sketches bit by bit, working out the positioning of the characters and moves around the stage. But it had to be done, and it gave us two extra days to get more familiar with our lines. In the end this process felt very valuable, and it was also exciting to finally get to deliver this dialogue while acting.

By Wednesday the 24th we had all learnt our lines and the show was really starting to come together. Now we had just three weeks to go over and over the show until we had perfected our performances and knew all the steps and lines off by heart.

And that’s what we did.

Every day from 10 o’ clock till 7 o’clock we ran through the show over and over again until we were sick and tired.

Sick of the rehearsals, of the house, of the material and if I’m honest, sick of each other.

The rehearsals were so tedious that despite the fact that lots of things happened during those three weeks, there is really nothing to say about them. Other than the fact that everyday we ran through the show as many times as our exhausted bodies would let us.

The show became my life, I was waking up, performing, eating, sleeping and then starting the cycle all over again. That’s all I seemed to be doing. It was one of the toughest few weeks of my life.

But I want to make it clear that as difficult as it was, I don’t regret a second of it. For every difficult moment there was a rehearsal so good it reinvigorated us, for every restless night there was a night of deep sleep, for every argument there was a fantastic or hilarious moment. (Like the time we suddenly burst into song during a rehearsal and started singing our lines in one of the sketches and performed the entire thing like a musical.)

About a week before I returned to Manchester for some well deserved rest we finally got the props and costumes sorted and got to do a full week’s worth of dress rehearsals, which were very exciting.

And now we are read. Ready to have a few weeks off so when we go to Fringe we are rested up and ready to kill it!

So, that’s what happened. A week ago I moved back to Manchester and have been catching up on sleep since.

Sorry this was so long and boring.

If you managed to read the whole thing I salute you.
Thanks for reading.

-- Dan

Friday, 1 May 2009

On the Fringe

Alright, alright. No excuses, it’s a month today since I last posted a blog (And that one wasn’t exactly great.) and for that I’m sorry. Let’s face it, that’s pretty poor on my part. Unfortunately I’m still in “insane and mass amounts of work from uni” mode and won’t be free much until my last substantial piece of work is handed on the 14th of this month.

But once I hand it in I promise I will post loads to make up for the gap. I might even start posting on Twitter and Facebook frequently again as well! Who knows!

Anywho, on with the topic at hand…

Two years ago I harassed a short conversation out of comedian David Mitchell after a live show in Bournemouth. During which I asked him for some advice on breaking into the world of comedy writing. He told me that the best thing to do is to take a show to the Edinburgh “Fringe” festival. He explained that a festival like that attracts the kind of people that matter, and in turn can be very beneficial to anyone’s career. So for the last two years the idea of playing the Fringe festival has been festering at the back of my mind until I just have to give in and accept that it was something I would have to actively pursue. But if my honest, at this stage of my career, actually performing at the Fringe festival seems a little unrealistic.

Even as recently as November (When I met some new and very talented people as I entered the second year of my screenwriting course) the idea was discussed, but being the stereotypical lazy and procrastinating students that we are, nothing came to fruition. This type of opportunity, no matter how great was unlikely to happen while university and money were a factor. Not to say it wasn’t ever going to happen, but not for a couple of years… or at least so I thought.

This year my university has been trying to get me to arrange a work placement for the summer. This is a mandatory requirement without which I will not obtain my degree. These six week placements are one of the many daft things my uni does to justify us paying £3000 a year for the course. I had something lined up at my old college, but it fell through last term and since then I have been living in denial and pretending that placements weren’t mandatory and did very little to actually pursue another one. Mainly because of that terrible habit I have of being bone idle. Of course this isn’t a recommended way to approach something as important as a section of my degree.

But Earlier this week, a friend of mine by the name of Sam Fletcher (Casper to those who know him) brought the idea of doing Fringe back into the forefront with the brilliant notion that we could do the Fringe festival to fulfil our placement criteria.

Now, how this all came about is a story in itself, but I feel that that is a story to be told at another time for reasons I will explain when that time arrives. The short version however, is that after an insane dash to meet the Fringe festival’s submission deadline, we managed to find a venue, fill out all necessary paperwork, make some pretty big decisions in regards to the premise and details of the show itself and convince our university to let us count this as our work placement. (Huge credit to Casper for his part in making this happen, what a legend he is!)

So now, myself, Tom Chettoe, Chris Billingham and Sam Fletcher (or tickthebox as we are now collectively known) are taking a show to Fringe!

We four will be writing and staring in the show, which is titled “Placement Crisis”, and will be a sketch show combined with some shot stand up segments. And anyone out there who is interested is more than welcome to come to show us some support during our six day run at “The Hive” in Edinburgh. We start on the 16th of August and perform between 1pm and 2pm every day through till the 21st. Oh, and it’s free.
Email tickthebox@areyoustilltalking.net if you have any questions or enquires about the show.

I am so excited.
It all happened so fast it didn’t even feel real at first. It felt like so much of an all or nothing move. We had to make so many decisions so quickly that it felt vaguely like we were walking off the edge of a cliff. None of us entirely sure weather we would land in a large pile of feathers after a short fall or plummet hundreds of feet to our deaths as we are impaled on jagged rocks.
But nothing brings you back to earth and slams the reality of the situation into your face quite as hard as seeing this. The blurb for our show as it will appear in the Fringe festival programme.




Scary huh?
Well I’d like to think that I am a perfect combination of scared and excited. I keep flipping between the two. But in truth, right now, the excitement is winning in a big way.

We intend to film some of our rehearsals and script readings and put them on our youtube page in future. So look out for that! Also, we might be doing a few warm up shows before we go for the festival. Although, admittedly that is all still incredibly theoretical. But for updates on that and the show itself you can either keep your eyes on this blog or add tickthebox on twitter.

Twitter.com/tickthebox

I can’t wait, I hope to see you all there!
Thanks for reading.
-- Dan

PS: Shit, it’s only four months away? I’m back to scared now! I had better get writing!

PPS: I have had to stop running the E-mail updates service for this blog. It was becoming more work than it was worth. Sorry to those of you who use it. If you want to know when I post new blogs you can add me on Twitter where I always post when I update. Twitter.com/dandoolan

PPPS: Here is one of our promotional leaflet ideas.
Any thoughts? Send them to tickthebox@areyoustilltalking.net


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

April First Sucks

I fucking hate April First.
There.
I said it.
It’s not even a real holiday…

It's quite possibly the most retarded idea since instant mash potato yet people still insist on waiting all year for this one day for the chance to pull some half arsed prank on their mates without consequence.
The annoying thing is, it doesn’t even work…

Let’s pretend you have a delicious pack of Salt and Vinegar flavoured Pringles and I want to steal them from you. Which incidentally if you did I probably would want to steal them. But that’s not the point. The point is I wouldn’t tell you that I planned to steal them and I certainly wouldn’t be moronic enough to let it slip WHEN I intended to do this. You would be on your guard and take necessary measures to ensure the safety of your delicious snacks.

April Fools day is like that. We know it’s coming and are ready for it, so why do you bother. It’s a day that causes mass suspicion as everyone in the world is expecting everything to be some form of prank. Of course this often backfires when news stories break and people decided they are false when they are not. EG; The death of comedian Mitch Hedberg in 2005, The 1946 Aleutian Island earthquake tsunami that killed 165 people and the introduction of the AMC Gremlin in 1970. Which I might of considered a joke no matter when it was announced.

The more ridiculous aspect of the day is that we don’t even know where it came from in the first place or even why we do it. My favourite theories to explain it’s origin include the one where the people of yesteryear were randomly mocking the people who celebrated summer too early or the theory that explains that April First was the first day of the year according to the France calendar at one point until some British King decided they should use January the first like the rest of us. He decided that the best way to make that stick was to have everyone who still used April First ridiculed, taunted and labelled April Fools. I prefer the second one... but neither could be accurate.

God I’m craving some Pringles now… I wish I used something different in that example…

Anywho…

Naturally, you think I sound like a bitter old man having a bitter old man rant. But it’s not like you can choose weather you take part in it or not.
No matter weather I like it or not I still have to take every piece of information I receive with a grain of salt and tread carefully with my friends.
Do you know how many time’s I’ve been Rick Rolled today?
Or how many fake news articles I have read?

Anywho, I'm bored of ranting now.
Enjoy the silliness of this non holiday.
I’m off to buy some Pringles.

-- Dan


PS. Did I mention it’s not a real holiday?

PPS. The short length of this blog is my April Fools prank.

PPPS. So is the fact that this is the first blog I have posted in about a month.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Who Watches The Watchmen?

I don't normally post reviews in this blog, but due to the length of this review I really felt this one needed to be posted here and not on my facebook page like my previous ones. So here is my review of Watchmen.
And just so we are clear...
HERE BE SPOILERS.

There are no words to describe how loved Watchmen is as a graphic novel. It truly is one of the most celebrated graphic novels of all time, and for anyone who hasn't already read the book, I truly recommend you do.
In many ways, the book is unfilmable. It's detailed and complex back stories, adult themes, political and social commentaries, episodic nature, philosophical ideals, subtle action and sheer length make this book the polar opposite of pretty much everything Hollywood has become.
Now with that said, I think it's understandable that many people and fans were concerned at the idea of this movie.

I am the kind of person who likes to go into a movie with no expectations to avoid disappointment but I'm such a fan of the original work that I found it very difficult to contain my excitement for this movie, combine that with a stunning trailer and a promising director and I couldn't help but have high expectations. And in the back of my mind I knew that ultimately, those expectations were going to tarnish my impression of the movie.

So imagine my surprise when it not only matched my expectations, but exceeded them.

Zack Snyders love, admiration and respect for the source material is obvious from the first frame, and that is exactly the kind of director a project like this needs. His stunning visuals and determination to keep this as faithful as possible are what make this movie so incredible to me.
Obviously, this could never be a shot by shot remake of the book, but it surprisingly isn't far off.

It manages to maintain all the key plot points and back stories, and it even manages to keep the nihilistic, political and social ideals that lie in the books core present. As well as making the bold move of maintaining the books adult themes, leaving the scenes of attempted rape and highly graphic violence in. This will no doubt surprise fans of recent and more family friendly comic book adaptations, but pleased me greatly.

The story itself is mostly coherent.
The first act is almost perfect, introducing us to the players and starting to dive into the back story without missing any key information. The only character I feel is a little under developed in this act is Adrian Veidt. Who didn't get alot of screentime.
The second act is where the problems, if any, lie.
Some of the characters motives are unclear and the development of the overall story starts to become a little convoluted. It's this act where someone who has read the book would be able to fill the gaps in, but Joe Average who isn't familiar with the source material would struggle.
Rorschach's backstory is given enough screentime to be developed clearly, but somehow this script fails to do that. It skips out key information and doesn't cover the story of how Rorschach acquired his mask. The same can be said for the conspiracy plot. It isn't made clear that the Comedians death, Rorschach's imprisonment and Dr. Manhattan's exile to Mars are connected and that events are being manipulated by an exterior foe. And once Nite Owl and Silk Specter free Rorschach from prison, the investigation that leads to the reveal of Adrian Veidt seems underwhelming because the character was underdeveloped and because the audience were not really clear on exactly what it is he is supposed to have done. The third act is alot more coherent and didn't confuse many audience members until Dr. Manhattan killed Rorschach as the motives for this killing were not made clear.
But, these issues are nothing more than a minor blemish on the achievement that this film is.

Now, on to one of the largest points of controversy, the changes made to the ending.
As excited as I was for this movie, the idea of major changes to the ending was worrying. But watching it I discovered that the major changes weren't so major after all. The only real difference is that instead of tricking the world into uniting to face the common threat of alien menace, the world is tricked into uniting against the common threat of Dr. Manhattan himself.
Now, I'm going to receive alot of hate mail for this, but this ending is an improvement on the original.
The idea that Adrian Veidt unites the world against Dr. Manhattan just makes so much more sense to me. And as much as I missed the visual of a giant squid decimating New York and the dialogue that goes with it, this made more sense and kept the plot focused on the characters. The people I as an audience member was invested in.

Speaking of the characters, the cast were phenomenal.
Every single actor was perfect for the role they were given, in looks as well as performance. I literally cannot emphasise enough what an incredible job these guys did bringing these characters to life.

Most of the omissions didn't bother me, as much as I loved the full story behind Rorschach's psychiatrist as it appeared in the book. It isn't relevant to the overall plot and was comfortably omitted to make room for central plot development. Removing things like this also kept the movie focused, which is a good thing because I think audiences would reject a movie that goes on as many tangents as the book did.
The only omission I was truly sad to see made, was the death of the original Nite Owl. In the book this was a truly important moment that fully demonstrated the chaotic place the world had become and this highlighted how necessary Adrian's plan was. The fact that is was removed also made the set up scenes, which were left in, seem clunky and out of place.

One thing that impressed me is that despite the fact they couldn't fit all of the plot's and characters in, every single one was at least referenced at one point of another in this movie. Everything from the snowglobe to the original Nite Owls book showed up briefly in one way or another during the film.
Many of these references were hidden, subtle or appeared in the beautifully shot title sequence. I have alot of respect for Zack Snyder for doing that.

One little gripe, the group were on two occasions named "The Watchmen" in dialogue. Which may seem like a confusing complaint to people unfamiliar with the source material, but they were never referred to that way in the book. The title derives from the graffiti that reads "Who watches the watchmen."

The real brilliance of this movie is how little it cares for Hollywood conventions. Much like the book from which is has derived it does not bend to tradition. No large action set pieces were shoehorned into the movie to pull in wider audiences, none of the characters were flawless perfect superhero types and the ending remained far from happy.

Overall, I cannot sing Zack Snyders praises enough.
I was thrilled with how the film turned out and cannot wait for the directors cut, which will contain 40 more minutes of film.

If you're a fan of the books, you MUST see this movie.
If you're not, should definitely consider it.

Thanks for reading.
-- Dan

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Bloglettes 2: Revenge of the Bloglette.

Welcome to Bloglettes 2: Revenge of the Bloglette.
The response to the first collection of 3 mini-blogs was mostly positive, so here is another dose of random blogage. (Yup, another made up word which will no doubt feature in the title of Bloglettes 3.)


Google Search Terms

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit that most of my traffic is made up of my friends and people who know me from either the real world and the Internet world. I think only a small percentage of my traffic is built up of people who don’t know me.

Occasionally random people trickle through from search engines such as Google. I know this because I use something called Google Analytics to observe my web traffic and I’ll be honest when I say that it’s surprisingly thorough. At first I used to just look at the “Visits” statistic once in a while and leave it there, but one day I found out it does much more than that. It can tell me where every individual visit originates from, what percentage of my traffic use mac vs. windows, what browsers people are using and even how people got to my site.

The other day I noticed that the tab marked Google didn’t just show me the number of people who came to my site from the search engine, but it also showed what search terms people used to find me.

And can I just say…

What the fuck people?

What the fuck?
I clicked a second tab to list the top 20, here is a cropped image from the webpage. (If anyone wants a full print screen of this to prove it’s real, email me. dan@areyoustilltalking.net)



Now you have read that list, I would like to discuss a few of them.

No. 8 – directors cut o lder cunt
Well I can only assume that this one was supposed to read “Directors Cut Older Cunt” and all I can say to that is I don’t want to know what that guy was looking for.

And I hope to god he didn’t find it here.

No. 9 – drunken pillocks
Ok, this one makes more sense to me. I can imagine somewhere in the world another human being in this unlikely but possible situation where they find themselves typing this into Google. But here is my question…

What the fuck google?

Why did you send them here?!?!?!
Was this some new form of Internet bullying?
Was Google trying to insult me by putting me as a result for this search?
Did Google have a merry little laugh at my expense?

Honestly Google, how in anyway is this website what that guy was looking for? When someone searches for something do you just put every page on the entire internet up in order of relevance hoping that no one will ever catch you out by going to page 890393932 and noticing the sites you’re listing have nothing to do with the original search query?

I tried to look it up. I typed ‘drunken pillocks’ into google and went through the first 80 pages and didn’t find areyoustilltalking.net anywhere. I gave up after that, but someone didn’t. I accepted the possibility that someone searched this phrase, but I genuinely can’t understand anyone going through 80 plus pages of that.

Of course the jokes on me, because now I have used the term so many times I will probably feature near the top of the results now.

12. lonely hearts in bournemouth
Oh Google.
Your words cut me so deep.
Why must you continue to hurt me?

On what plane of existence does Google assume I’m a lonely heart?
Can I just clear up the fact that I have a girlfriend who I have been with for nearly 4 years now.

15. procrastination in a.a.
Well, I have to assume this is in reference to Alcoholics Anonymous and not the Automobile Association. They procrastinate enough for everyone.

It makes sense that someone found me through this, I did after all write an entire blog on the Art of Procrastination. But seriously that’s just sad, why go to AA meetings if you just want to Procrastinate?

I have an idea.
If you want to procrastinate, get drunk.
Boring things go by real fast when you’re drunk.

17. sledgehammer head smash
I understand how this lead to me. I wrote an article entitled “Fun Time’s With Sledgehammers”.

But seriously.
If you are the person who found this site through that search term…
Click off this site.
Leave your living room.
Leave your house.
Get in your car or use public transport.
Get out at your nearest hospital.
And go see a doctor.

That or go throw yourself into a lake.
Whichever suits you.


World of Warcraft ruins lives.

It's true, I swear.

As some of you know, a few weeks ago my Internet was down. Now moving on from the fact that during that week I leaned exactly how pathetic and hopelessly dependent I am on the damn Internet. I found myself spending large quantities of time in Internet cafes. And even thought I hated the expensive, slow, smelly, noisy and generally irritating experience that going to the Internet cafe is. There was one moment that made me chuckle.

I was sat there reading Screenwriter Danny Stacks insightfull blog (which can be found at http://dannystack.blogspot.com/ He owes me for that tremendous plug.) when I was disturbed by the sound of someone's phone ringing. And since I was in a foul mood already, I turned with the intention of giving the guy a good staring at to make it known exactly how annoyed I was at his disturbance. But when I saw his face I decided against it, he looked like he was about to throw up. He had turned Green, genuine panic and sadness etched on his face. I don’t think he needed a glance from me to upset him any further.

Judging from the phone call I then overheard, it seems that he had been at the café longer than he should have been and had missed a job interview. I felt even more sorry for the guy when I turned and noticed he had been playing World of Warcraft.

But he was, on this day, rather lucky. He managed to get another interview for a couple of hours later that same day. I turned back to my computer and forgot all about it. ‘A happy ending’ I thought to myself.

2 hours later the sound of another ring tone pulls me out of my deep and thought provoking email session. (Being honest, I’m lucky if I send emails that even have coherent thoughts in them, let alone thought provoking ones.)

Suddenly I felt Deja vu.
It’s the same guy answering his phone.
Again.
He missed the interview.
AGAIN.

How is that even possible? A single fuck up is understandable, BUT twice?
Once again I noticed that he had been sucked back into the World of Warcraft, explaining his irrational behavior. Needless to say that it didn’t seem like he got a third chance. He left pretty quickly after that, looking pretty upset.

So there you have it. World of Warcraft, apparently a game so addictive that it will make you miss a job interview.
Twice.

Thus proving my theory that World of Warcraft ruins lives.


Where oh where is his Oscar?

Someone explain to me why oh why does Mickey Rourke NOT have an Oscar right now?
And similarly, why the fuck does Specoli?

I’m sorry but that’s a complete joke.
Mickey Rourke gave one of the most incredible performances I have EVER seen in ‘The Wrestler’ and it is beyond a travesty that god dammed Sean Penn got the damn thing.

And while we are on the subject, why was the Dark Knight not in the running for best picture?
You would think earning over a BILLION dollars would have some weight with the Academy.
But noo.
You would think having critical acclaim from almost every source would have some weight with the Academy
But noo.
You would think having one of the actors involved also being nominated for best supporting would have some weight with the Academy.
But noo.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that superhero movies aren’t usually Oscar worthy, but come on, it didn’t need to win. Just a nomination, a nod to give it the respect and credit it deserved.

The reader?
Who’s dick is that film sucking?


And on that absurd note, my second round of bloglettes comes to a close.

Thanks for reading.
Dan

PS: Yes I do realise that by putting the phrase’s ‘dick’ and ‘sucking’ in such close proximity I am tempting fate and simply making myself an easy target for Google to mock with it’s list. Next thing I know one of the search terms used to find my site will be the 'biggest twat faced little wanker in the world'.

PPS: And yes, I also realise that I referred to Google as if it was a real person in this blog and I don’t care. It’s a bullying little no-it-all that needs to be put in its place. No matter what my parents tell me, ignoring it won’t make it go away. Bully’s don’t bore that easily.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Bloglettes

Sometimes I find myself so void of decent ideas for a blog that I simply don’t bother wasting my time and yours writing one. Because the last thing the internet needs is more underdeveloped drivel from me. My message board posts supply enough of that.
This does mean that I might not always post consistently.
And that my friends is my chosen excuse for why I haven’t posted anything for a while. Shear lack of inspiration.

Another thing that becomes an issue when deciding what to write about in this blog is that even though I can have subject in mind, I find I struggled to pull enough coherent thoughts together to write an entire blog on the subject. So lots of little thoughts and bits and bobs go unwritten. So, this time I am going to be experimental and post a couple of Bloglettes. Yes, that’s right, I don’t care if it’s not a word, that’s what they are. So this blog will be a small collection of mini blogs.

Here we go.


This just in…

Don’t you just love this country? The way we react you would think that we have never seen snow before in our entire lives.

“There seems to be a strange white substance falling from the sky… EVERYONE RUN! FIND COVER!”

The fact that it has snowed has actually made news over here.
Is it just me or does that seem really pathetic?

“This just in, in case you’re a moron or haven’t looked out your window lately, it’s snowing. More updates on that as we get them. ”

20 minutes later.

“Just an update on our “Snow” story from earlier this evening. It’s still snowing.”

And the funny thing is, this entire country seems to have come to a halt and I can’t help but ask, why?
Some university’s closed their doors today, huge numbers of trains were cancelled, from what I hear the entire London underground came to a halt last night, 80/90% of shops closed their doors, entire department stores closed and people seem to be avoiding leaving their homes… I don’t understand.
I actually heard them advise that people stay indoors on the news, what the hell?
No other country in the world reacts to snow like this…

It’s just snow people. It’s not like it’s made from frozen acid particles and will burn or melt your flesh. It’s not like it’s irradiated snow that will turn us all into mutants.
It’s just frozen water particles. Why the hell is that some kind of problem?

I didn’t really have a point, just thought it was funny.


Snowballed by the Homeless

Speaking of pointless, snow and funny. I found myself (As the title suggests) being bombarded with snowballs earlier today.

I was simply checking my bank balance when a snowball crashed against my arm.
“No problem” I thought to myself.
“It’s just some chavs being dicks as usual.”

So imagine my shock when I turned round and noticed a homeless man stood on the other side of the street sporting a wide toothy grin on his face. He pulled back his arm and suddenly I had a face full of snow.
I spat out some snow and then turned to leave, being hit by a couple more before I rounded a corner.

I genuinely didn’t know what to do at the time, I mean, what were my options?
Throw one back and engage in a friendly snowball fight with the man?
Yell at him?
Laugh at the little skamp, and inform him that he had successfully “punk’ed” me?
Leave?

Obviously I went with the latter.
I guess the reasoning was that it seemed to be the most neutral of the options, the one that involved the least interaction with the situation (which is a very British thought process). So I lowered my head and left.
If I’m honest, at the time I couldn’t even decided if I was mad at him.
After a little contemplation I’ve realised I’m not mad. That would be a really shitty reaction. It was just a man with tragic circumstances trying to have some fun, and who am I to judge that? Not to mention that it was just snowballs and I really can’t claim that they did any damage to me or even inconvenienced me a little.

I hope he snowballs the hell out of everyone in Bournemouth.
And I hope he enjoys every second of it.


Dan Doolan
and the search for the slightly disappointing YouTube clip.

Last month I was looking around the Internet and read that the Saddam execution video had found it’s way on to Youtube. Now, I’m not a disturbed person or anything but I guess morbid curiosity kicked in. Combine that with the brilliant excuse of him being an evil twat, which I used to tell myself that watching the video was sort of OK in some weird and twisted way, and I couldn’t help myself.

So I began my search.
Which turned out to be more difficult than I thought as I was using youtube, the place where retards with cameras go to play. Thousands of videos of pathetic twats discussing the footage I was looking for clogged up the search, not to mention all the people who put up fake ones. My favorite of which being the one that started as the real video but then turned to footage of a stuffed animal perched on a chair with a rope round it neck. The chair was then kicked away and the poor stuffed animal was hung from a ceiling fan to the sound of a “YAY!”.

So, basically 90% of the videos there were everything BUT Saddams execution, so it actually became a little bit challenging to find the full video on the net. And I couldn't help but think, is there a point when you have searched a little too hard to see a video of a man being hung? I think so and I think I probably surpassed that point.

Anywho, twenty-odd RickRolls or so later I finally found the footage I was looking for. I braced myself for the worst and clicked play.
And you know what? There is really nothing to see… just some home video camera footage of a man falling out of frame. Not sure it was wroth the RickRolls, the hung stuffed animals or the time. God only knows what had really inspired me to find the footage in the first place and I’ll probably feel guilty forever in the knowledge that I was vaguely disappointed it wasn’t more graphic.

Also, is it weird than when finally I saw the video all I could think about was how poor the production values were? I mean, it’s an important moment in history; they could of splashed out for a studio and an audience or something. A little bit like the lottery, that’s got a full studio and no one gives a shit about that.
In fact, why not put the lotto in a basement with a home video camera and let the execution use the studio. I love the idea that the footage would have had pantomime style reactions from the audience to go along with it.
Saying that, they could of also made the footage better by setting it to the Benny Hill theme.


So, that wasn’t so hard was it?
What do we think then, bloglettes a good idea?
More in the future or do I return to my usual formula?
Send your thoughts to
dan@areyoustilltalking.net

As always thanks for reading! (I do realise it is painful for some of you)
-- Dan


PS: I don’t have anything clever or witty to add in my PS this week. Come back next week.


PPS: I hope you don't think any less of me after that Youtube story.


PPPS: Take a look at the search labels/tags for this post, that's a pretty random collection of words.
Snow, Homeless, Saddam, Youtube, Bloglettes.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Boredom and Morphine.

Just got back from the hospital.
I learnt three things from my 26 hour stint there.
Lesson 1. Leave your dignity at the door.
Lesson 2. Hospitals are boring.
Lesson 3. Morphine is brilliant.

For those of you wondering why I was in the hospital in the first place, I’ll quickly explain. The NHS as a system, is a big pile of poorly organised shit unless your either really really old, really really young or pretty much dying. Anyone in between is pretty much fucked as I discovered.

And even though my ingrown toenail would have only required a small and simple procedure to fix when it first came about. They decided it would be more fun to dick me about from doctor to doctor and antibiotic to antibiotic for 2 years until it got so bad that a full on surgical procedure would be required to remove the entire toenail. Which is much fun than a simple one, eh? And of course that procedure took 6 months to organise in itself. So well done NHS! What a lovely waste of time and money.

Anywho, so I arrived at Stepping Hill at 7:30am on Thursday and quickly learnt Lesson 1. When you go to the hospital you should pretty much just leave your dignity at the door. There is simply no way your leaving with any, the sooner you accept that the better. Not with all the embarrassing things your bound to do in front of everyone on your ward, like the drug enduced bowel movements or those gowns that leave your ass hanging out for everyone to see. But being honest, I think that’s just the way it is, for example last week during my Pre-Op physical I was asked to swab in a questionable place and I expected the nurse to leave me in the exam-room to do it. Instead she sent me, giant swab in hand, to the toilet. The toilet on the other side of the waiting room.

Fantastic. The walk of shame.

“Hey look at me everyone! That’s right; pay attention to me, the guy wondering through the waiting room with the swab in hand, blatantly about to be swabbing somewhere questionable, gross right? Oh don’t worry, the lock on the toilet doors broken, I’m sure you will catch a glance when the senile old man forgets I went in and swings open the door.”

So anyway, I arrived on the morning of my operation ready to sign in and that's when I learnt lesson two.

The reality of a hospital is the exact opposite of how it comes across on TV, the pace of hospital life couldn’t be slower. Exciting stuff does happen every now and then. But in between the excitement is nothing but long long stretches of waiting and boredom. Broken up with occasional dull repetitive fact checking sessions with the nurses and lot’s of paperwork.
Over the course of my time there, I had my Pulse, O2 stats and Blood Pressure taken at least once an hour. Even before I went into surgery. I was also asked the same set of 10 questions about 70 times. My name and date of birth, which would of course be on the chart at the bottom of my bed, I can only assume that they got some kind of sick and warped pleasure from the experience. They also wanted to find out if I had an allergy’s, previous complications in surgery’s, previous metal work, loose teeth… that sort of thing.

It was frustrating because at first I accepted it as a necessary evil. But after the 20th time, and knowing that as the doctor/nurse asks these questions they were looking at the paperwork containing all the answers from the last time I was asked, and eventually it just got on my nerves.

And then the waiting… oh don’t get me started on the waiting. I was told to arrive for surgery at 7:30am. And like the good boy I am, I did. And I sat in my bed, silently reading Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy for 8 and a half bloody hours before they brought me down for my surgery. Later on I would discover that I was 6TH on a list of 6 people waiting for surgery.
Wait a second. I thought they had a shortage of beds these days? No freaking wonder when they have people needlessly taking up bed space as they wait 8 hours for operations. I could have been out… doing something… or something.
I kept telling myself that there was a reason, a method to the madness. But I just can’t come up with one. I really don’t know why they brought me in a 7 when I was last on the day’s waiting list. There was obviously no chance of me getting in before 2pm.
The other problem is that at the start I felt calm, acceptant and ready for the procedure but as the day and the wait went on, I found myself getting more and more anxious about the surgery. Which is not how I wanted to feel.

So eventually I go down for surgery. Another set of those rather familiar questions, and into the operating theater I went. Which went quite well I thought. Instead of the usual being asked to count to 10 while the anesthetic kicked in, the anesthetist asked me for some clever last words.
Unfortunately “See you on the otherside” was all my brain could muster up before the room faded away. I somehow feel I let myself and the surgical team down on that front. It annoyed me, as I am sure I could of done better. Just obviously not under those circumstances. But don’t worry folks, next time I go for surgery I will go prepared with something clever, quick witted, pre written and ready to roll.

Then consciousness returned and I quickly learnt lesson 3. Morphine is utterly brilliant.

“Erm, my foot feels as if it’s been put through a meat grinder and set on fire” I merrily responded to the Nurses question on how I was feeling.

I don’t remember a lot about my time on morphine except that everything was brilliant. Everything made me happy and most importantly… everything was brilliant. I started to appreciate things that were simply not appreciation worthy. I started telling anyone who would listen about the “brilliant a job the hospital had done on my meat ground flaming foot” and that “People give the NHS a lot of stick, but its pretty much brilliant some of the time”.

I smiled and sat on my bed as they wheeled me all my way up to my ward. I showed what was truly on my mind as I asked for a sandwich from a passing Nurse who was clearly rushing to do something completely different and rather important. I hopped onto my bed enthusiastically crushing my sore foot in rather brilliant manner, throwing up all over the bed and passing out… you know. Brilliantly.

When I woke an hour or so later the morphine had clearly worn off and I returned to my normal bitter self and with one very specific desire. Food.

I had not eaten since 10pm the night before and it was now 8pm. The Nurse brought me a sandwich (Unfortunately not the same Nurse from before, that would have been “Brilliant” weather I was on morphine or not.) and seconds after my first bite I found myself being sick again.

This was a most unfortunate turn of events. It felt like a rather crewel trick the universe was playing on me. I was hungry, but the second anything touched my stomach I was throwing it back up again. I simply couldn’t keep it down. And I tried and I tried and I tried. Time and time again for an hour or so I was brought food, took a bite, puked it straight back up and then went for another bite. Eventually I gave up out of shear exhaustion and went back to sleep.

By the time I could hold down food, which was one of the criteria for them letting me go home (Along with being able to stand on my own, Pee and do the Macarena), it was too late. By 11pm I had returned to my normal state, a little drowsy, but holding down food and quite well in myself, but it didn’t matter as 10pm (The cut of point for discharges) had passed and I was stuck at the hospital until someone could discharge me in the morning.

So that’s what happened, I stayed there till bout 8 the next morning, got taught how to walk on my new crutches by the physio, got given a weird Rocky Horror type shoe and off I went.

So there you have it, I hope that through reading this you have learnt what I have learnt.

Anywho I have gibbered enough.
Thanks for reading.
And a special thanks for making it ALLLLL the way to the end of this everlasting ramble.

-- Dan

Friday, 2 January 2009

Reflections of a Year Lost

Well there it goes.
2008.
Done. Finished. Over.

Someone suggested that I should write a blog reflecting on the last year and discussing the future. But when I thought about it, the sad reality is. I found there wasn’t much to reflect upon. Or at least nothing particularly positive.

To reflect upon the last year is an odd thing for me. To me, life is progression, and for those of you who know me or read my blog regularly, you will understand that last year was NOT a year of progression for me. And if life is progression and this year I made none, did I even live at all?

Sometimes it feels like I didn’t. Everything came to a screeching halt for me. It was like living in slow motion, watching everyone else’s life whizz by as I became more and more frustrated. Helplessly kicking and screaming for it to let me catch up. Sometimes I jokingly refer to it as the lost year. My year wasted.

Unfortunately, I can’t really describe my feelings on this topic in words because the words simply do not exist. Nothing really fits or describes the emptiness I feel when I reflect on the year lost.

So empty that reflecting on it seemed redundant.

So, that’s a downer, eh?

A whole year and nothing to show for it?

Well no, that is not 100% the case.
As I thought about it I realised something I have never realised before.
Maybe this year wasn’t as lost as I thought. Maybe some good did come from it.

When I think about it, being forced to slow down gave me an unexpected gift. Some time to think. And not just about life, but about me and my place in this world. I learnt so many life lessons that I now believe were crucial in making me a better person that I really don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t had that time to learn them. Not only that, but in an odd twist of fate, missing that year of uni meant I had to join a new class upon my return. Something that didn’t upset me as my previous class HATED me. And the weird thing is, my new class is full of awesome people that I get on with a hell of a lot better than my first class. And if I hadn’t of missed that year, I wouldn’t of met them and that thought sucks. So the lost year gave me new friends.

And it’s not like things haven’t improved. Since returning to a full paced life this October things have been awesome.

So a year wasted?
No. I think I have been looking at it all wrong.

And besides, being honest I don't think I have any right whatsoever to complain about that year because it may have sucked. But I still consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world, not only because things have improved since then. But I realise now that even then I had more than most. A girlfriend who loves me, some great friends who supported me and a roof over my head. It sickens me to know that so many people have it so much worse and I sat there and moaned about it at the time. The fact that I even had the gall to complain about my situation this year is genuinely insulting to anyone with real problems.

So that is it.
The final words you will ever hear from me on the subject.
The simple truth and a lesson to anyone reading.
No situation is as bad as it seems while your living it.
As long as you have the fundamentals, consider yourself lucky!

Thanks for reading.

-- Dan

PS - And what’s in the future? Who knows?
More positive thinking I hope!