28 March 2009

Security, Grumpiness and Not Much Else.

After a week-long course on Information Security Management Principles, I am now completely devoid of the ability to think. My mind is something of a blank.

Although my day job is 'security advisor' I specialise in policy, awareness, and physical/procedural security. I will regularly lead out-of-hours security sweeps, the occasional training course, and act as mentor for ISMSs (Information Security Management Systems). However, I wasn't prepared for precisely how much this weeks course would involve the dreaded 'Information Technology' or 'Information Systems' or whatever the hell we're calling it at the moment.

I think it's fair to say that once I'd managed to make the 7 levels of Network Communications (of which there are, bizarrely, only 5) stick in my mind, my cerebral cortex was already so far gone that, medically, I could have been pronounced braindead.

Including walking in to work, I pretty much did 12-hour days all this week. And, of course, there was the absolute pleasure of the exam yesterday. I was the first to finish, but that is no indication whatsoever of how correct my answers were. In a multiple-choice exam, the best method of attack is 1) answer all the questions that you easily know, 2) Go back and spend a little more time on the ones you're not sure about, 3) Guess randomly at the ones you simply can't even begin to understand. Reading some of the questions, I had a look on my face like a dog who's just been shown a card trick.

Results are due next week but, frankly, I'm so far beyond caring I could officially register as a nihilist.


An unexpected side-effect of all this activity, is that by the time yesterday evening arrived, I was an empty shell. You know that kind of detached, unemotional way that you can sometimes sit there and want nothing more than silence and a complete lack of psychological input? That was me.

There was nothing on the TV, I didn't want to watch a movie, I didn't want to do anything. All of which caused me to feel so incredibly grumpy that I wouldn't have been surprised if my foul mood actually physically manifested itself as a thunderstorm or small earthquake.

Imagine an elderly man whose wife is long since dead. His children don't bother with him now that they have their own families and, in any case, his general demeanour doesn't particularly endear him to them or his grandchildren. He has a dog but, instead of providing some measure of pleasing company, it does nothing more than eat, sleep, bark at stupendously aggravating times, and leave coarse, difficult to remove hairs on his furniture and clothing. Imagine that he has been to the shops, discovered that the supermarket is out of Warburton's Toastie bread, there's an extra ten pence on a box of teabags, and 2 out of the 4 onions he has bought have unpleasant brown discolouration in their centres. Trudging home through a fine drizzle which has soaked into his shoes, dampening his threadbare socks, he arrives indoors, takes off his coat, and removes his shoes and socks. Walking into the living room to have a sit down and eat a small beef paste sandwich, he then proceeds to put his bare foot into a cold, wet coil of faeces that his annoying dog has left in the middle of the carpet. As the excrement squishes between his toes and wriggles its way like four slowly waving flatworms through the gaps, he drops his sandwich in horror and the dog, moving with uncommon speed, pounces upon it, tearing into the soft white bread and licking the beef paste from its hairy chops.

Imagine that. Imagine the man. Consider, if you will, the absolute soul-rending hatred, the crushing sadness, the sheer unadulterated fucking grumpiness. Now multiply that by, let's say, infinity. That's how grumpy I felt yesterday.

I'm a bit better this morning though.


Lots of ideas for Mortal Remains, still all tumbling through my head, although they have been somewhat sidelined because of the course.

However, in an exciting development, I will be meeting up with Mike, the author of the screenplay, to talk through some of the thoughts I have. Hopefully, we can piece together something resembling a structure, allowing me to carry on with the rewrite.

Nothing else to add at the moment on that subject, but I expect there will be plenty to say by the end of this week.

15 March 2009

The Horror Marathon Continues

I have a cold which means my nose is running like a tap, I'm aching all over and thoroughly bloody miserable.

On the plus side, I've managed to achieve 'Assassin' status on Burnout: Revenge on the xbox 360, so, you know, swings and roundabouts.

My horror marathon continues, having re-watched 'The Ruins' last night.

Fantastic little film that I really like, partly because it has the balls to create the most ridiculous yet unnerving 'monster' that I've seen in quite some time.

The structure is sound, with some half-decent character development.

Tonight, I shall watch either Blood And Black Lace, one of the Giallo genre of movies, or The Whip And The Body. Both are directed by Mario Bava who, according to a chap on Twitter, includes shots of which Hitchcock would have been proud. Praise indeed.

Either that, or I'll re-watch Mirrors instead. Functional, interesting character development and some nasty shocks. One of the better horror movies of recent times, in my opinion.

By the way, if anyone has any recommendations for good horror films, let me know. All comments gratefully received.

12 March 2009

Horror, Pirates and Brinner.

I've decided that, in an effort to kick-start the creative centre of my brain, I shall watch at least one horror film per night to get myself mentally in shape for the rigours of rewriting Mortal Remains.

I could go and revisit old favourites like An American Werewolf In London or The Thing, which would certainly be a noble pursuit and one which I won't yet discount, but I feel it's necessary to see what's out there at the moment - what's drawing audiences in (or not, as the case may be).

As a side note, American Werewolf only scores 7.5 on IMDB. What madness is this? I was expecting to see an 8 or 9, not a mealy-mouthed 7.5. At least The Thing gets 8.1. Young people today. Tch.

Last night I sat down to watch The Unborn, directed by David S. Goyer.

Goyer is a strange beast. As a writer, his CV is a roller-coaster ride of impressive highs (Dark City, Blade, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) and disappointing lows (Kick Boxer 2, Demonic Toys, Blade 2, Blade Trinity, Jumper).

As a director, his modest CV is composed of films that you've either never heard of, or desperately wish that you hadn't (Zig Zag, Blade Trinity and The Invisible).

So, with some trepidation, I sat down to watch The Unborn in the hope that it may teach me a few lessons on the art of the horror film.

Lessons were learnt. Well, as many lessons as you can learn in ten minutes, because that's as far as I got before I flicked it off. Straight away, you're plunged into the story of a woman who is seeing and hearing strange things. Occurrences from her dreams bleed into real life, people act oddly around her. But, because it jumps straight in, you never get a chance to see what her normal life is like pre-madness. There's no light or shade and you don't feel anything for her apart from disinterest.

So, the lesson I learnt was, take a little time to explore your characters. Make them real, funny and three-dimensional. That way, when the horror begins, you have the opportunity to make the audience care that little bit more than they would if you just shoved a parade of catalogue-models in front of their faces and offed them in grisly ways. Mortal Remains is a slasher movie, for sure, but hopefully a slasher movie with some class.

In a desperate bid to salvage something from the evening, I then watched Eden Lake.

This is the directorial debut of James Watkins, writer of My Little Eye and Gone, neither of which I'd seen, but they seemed to be half-decent from the comments I'd read. In fairness, I wasn't expecting anything too exciting.

I was very wrong.

Eden Lake was marvellous fun and hugely disconcerting at the same time. Wonderful casting with the younger actors, among whom I recognised Thomas Turgoose from This Is England.

There are some lovely performances from all concerned and the film drags you in directions you don't want to go, especially the dénouement which some people have found intensely annoying, but I thought was absolutely right.

True, the whole thing could be interpreted as "Daily Mail - The Movie!", presenting a horrifying picture of Britain today, but I certainly didn't recognise that. Yes, there are a small percentage of what are called feral kids roaming the streets, but any more than 10, 20 or 30 years ago? I don't think so.

This film certainly presents a vivid example of a lack of parental control taken to its ultimate conclusion, but it's more a vision of the future than a mirror. Think Soylent Green and Silent Running and their obsession with environmental damage and you're on the right lines with this film and its prediction of our immediate societal future.

In any case, it was enormous fun to watch, ticked a lot of 'horror' boxes, and gave me a few things to think about. I'm very glad I watched it.


I went to see Watchmen last Friday (which I enjoyed immensely, despite never having read Alan Moore's highly lauded graphic novel) and was reminded of what an enormous rip-off the cinema experience is.

After having bought three tickets online for an astounding £8.35 each, I was also charged £3 for having the sheer audacity to use a credit/debit card. I think that Odeon are the only people I've dealt with online in the last few years that still charge for paying by card. But, of course, since their rapid expansion and the closure of smaller, provincial movie theatres, the monopoly is complete and there is now no other choice than to suckle at their swollen teat for cinematic nourishment.

So, for three people, the total came to approximately £25. Once in the cinema (and after having paid nearly a fiver for a medium soft drink and a very small bag of white chocolate mice) we went to our seats. They were, naturally, 'premium'. "No sitting wedged in uncomfortable, restrictive seats with poor leg-room, for me!" I chortled. We then spent the next two and a half hours wedged in uncomfortable, restrictive seats with poor leg-room. And for only an extra £2 each!

Odeon appears to have realised that people will happily pay through the nose for a bit more room, an opportunity to stretch out their legs, and some extra padding 'neath the posterior, so they've taken out all the old-style premium seats and crammed in thinner, less-padded ones with only a few inches of leg-room in front, in order to gain as much revenue as possible, and kind of missing the point in the process. "Soon, all your money will be ours, all ours!", they must have shouted, before going off to drink champagne out of a hooker's belly button.

There is also the perennial problem of 'people who talk in the cinema'. I could write pages and pages about the low-life, ignorant, selfish, fuck-nuggets that chatter incessantly during movies, but I suspect this post would fall off the end of the page, wrap around the back and disappear up its own fundament. So, I shall draw a discreet veil over the matter and, instead, point you to this news article. A man, incensed by some bone-heads yapping during a movie, weighed up the options and decided that the only way to resolve the issue was by pulling out a handgun and shooting one of them.

Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

So, I've paid nearly £10 for an uncomfortable seat where I get to listen to peoples conversations, be distracted by the light of their mobile phone screens which clearly don't have an 'off' button, and listen to famished families munch their way through the loudest food money can buy.

The obvious question is, why put yourself through all that when you can download the film and watch it in the comfort of your own home instead?

It's a good question and, apart from the whole "It's illegal" angle, I can't think of a valid reason why not.

But, yet again, this is where the industry keeps getting things wrong. They overcharge. Whether it be music, books, movies, whatever, they charge too damn much. I recently bought an album called Taoist Priests by Hugo Race And The True Spirit on Play.com. Not wanting to wait for it, I plumped for the downloadable version which, once money had changed hands, was on my laptop within a few minutes. Immediate gratification pleases me.

The trouble is, the physical CD is priced at £8.99, but the download version is £7.95. Wait, what? I can have a physical item, CD, jewel case, booklet, delivered to my door for £9, but it's only a pound cheaper if I download a zip file from a server somewhere. How the hell does that work?

As for movies, if I were to buy, for instance, Saw V from Play, it would cost me £11.99. Wait a few months and it'll be £6.99. A few months more and I might pick it up on sale at £3.99. Why in the name of all things holy can't it be sold for, say, a fiver from day one?

If 100 people see it at £11.99, 95% will pass on by. If 100 people see it at £4.99, 50% will buy it*. You do the maths. The trouble is, the entertainment industry doesn't see it that way. I'm reminded of the character Ichikawa in Martin Scorcese's Casino :

"He bet one thousand a hand instead of his usual thirty thousand a hand. But I knew, the trick with whales like Ichikawa was that they can't bet small for long. He didn't think of it as winning ten thousand, he thought of it as losing ninety thousand."

In my opinion, the reason piracy is so prevalent, is that people have opened their eyes and realised that they're paying too much and alternatives are available. If the entertainment industry was to wise up and offer a reasonable product at a reasonable price, they may just find themselves making more money than ever.

* Not actual figures. Made them up. Probably hugely wrong. Don't care.


Tonight, due to a surfeit of sausages and bacon, I shall be having 'Brinner'.

Is there anything more anarchic than eating breakfast foods at dinnertime? I really feel like I'm sticking it to the man.

Rules are made to be broken.

Live your life.

Remove the yoke of oppression from your neck.

Freedom forever!

Oh and, lastly, brinner FTW!

The excitement of impending bacon may have caused temporary insanity...

8 March 2009

A small update

I haven't updated the blog for a little while now. The reasons are two-fold.

Firstly, I've been very busy with work. In the last few weeks I've been away to Nottingham, Birmingham and Lincoln. Lots of travelling, lots of things to do. This has resulted in little free time.

Secondly, I just couldn't be bothered. Not a major problem, I feel, as nobody reads this anyway. Curse you all and your callous indifference.

Progress on 'Mortal Remains' has been slow, as I continue to throw ideas around in my head on how to make it work better than it does currently.

I think one of the main difficulties is that I don't really watch that many horror films so, as a result, my knowledge of the genre is somewhat limited.

Most horror films follow a pretty simple formula and there isn't a huge amount of room for interesting things like character development or depth. Unfortunately, these are the things that interest me the most.

However, I still aim to complete the rewrite. More actual writing required. Must...start...to...write...