Monday, September 04, 2006



I’ve spent today writing a 1,000-word article; while most people would work up to that number, obviously I tapped in 8,000 of notes, then started chipping away in a manner almost completely unlike that of Michelangelo. Taking a break, and as it’s three hours ‘til Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, it’s been time to potter on the Internet; some fabulous things about comics, Tony Benn agreeing with Lib Dem bloggers, a splendid anti-Labour song, Rob Fenwick on fibbing… Then I fell asleep on the keyboard and, while getting qwertyface, dreamt someone was mad enough to propose me for Lib Dem President.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is gripping television, despite being very, very slow. Everyone’s just so terribly watchable, particularly Ian Richardson doing every bit of acting ‘business’ known to man and Alec Guinness stealing the scene merely by putting his glasses on. If you’ve not been following the repeats on BBC4, there’s still time to catch the last two tonight and tomorrow; the final episode, of course, unmasks the mole, but tonight has the best scene of all those awfully good scenes. With strong support from Michael Jayston, Alec Guinness as George Smiley faces off against Bernard Hepton’s Toby Esterhase. Three spies, one small room, no flashy action, and absolutely mesmerising as within a few minutes of Smiley’s implacable interrogation by voice and eyes alone Esterhase cracks completely. Even though we have the DVD (worth buying, but look for a sale offer; with a solitary extra and no picture restoration, the BBC did it on the cheap and so should you), we’ve been putting on the odd episode anyway and I suspect we shall tonight.

In an earlier episode, Smiley visits each of those ‘next in line’ in the secret service on behalf of the ailing and possibly demented and messianic man at the top, only to be rebuffed by all three, none of whom think Control any longer has anything to offer them and all of whom are looking to his obvious successor for favours instead. While Smiley’s return from the wilderness to flatten Toby Esterhase through his sheer presence is the first and most stunning of the scenes where he turns the tables on each of those who denied him, I couldn’t help but think of mad-eyed Mr Blair. I wonder who he’s sending out to his formerly loyal followers, and what favours offered to plead for more time at the top are being rebuffed by those scenting the smell of death in the Labour Party?

Alec Trench Lives!

Meanwhile, though not wishing to steal Quaequam Blog’s thunder, I’ve been reading 2000AD long enough to remember hackneyed author Alec Trench, and I’m delighted to have found a tribute to him (thanks to Dave Bishop’s blog article Beware the Pagan Acid-Spitting Plesiosaur). Alec Trench’s Thrill Pitcher randomly generates ‘pitches’ for new graphic epics, made from cut-up old 2000AD characters; so, for example, your strip might have anti-heroes where
“He’s an umbrella-wielding curvacious telepath with New Wave hair. His ex-lover is a pagan axe-wielding bounty hunter on his death bed. They must save London from an invasion by thinly-disguised Soviet stereotypes!”
It’s inspired by They Fight Crime! which uses the same sort of random snippets to create a thrillingly quirky crime-fighting series (well, it would) in which, for example,
“He’s a bookish pirate waffle chef on a mission from God. She’s a chain-smoking insomniac mermaid with a birthmark shaped like Liberty’s torch. They fight crime!”
Reminds me of Richard and my pitch for a crime series, Russell and Russell, in which a dry-witted and penetratingly intelligent history professor solves crimes by recognising that the offence was committed in exactly the same way in 1647, assisted by his lovely, excitable Welsh super-TV-writing sidekick… Richard may frown that I’ve blown that story.

With the V For Vendetta DVD in the shops and its grumpy author taking his name off the credits, as usual, Mr Bishop has also publicised a way of removing Alan Moore from his own graphic novels. Marvel at his famous creation Watchmen, as scripted by, er, Marvel maestro of mayhem Stan Lee…

It’s still not as funny, though, as the lovely Rob Fenwick pointing out that Newsnight’s Daniel Pearl is a fibber. Apparently I wasn’t alone in not getting a reply from the soon-to-be-ex-editor.

Out With the New

And, at last, as Mr Blair gets ready to deliver his most barking speech yet – well, all right, the competition’s fierce, but it has to make the shortlist – backed up by Social Nationalisation Minister Hilary Armstrong, Tony Benn’s trundled out to agree with Lib Dem bloggers that it’s scarily authoritarian. Shame they can’t find a current Labour politician who’s willing to criticise the policy instead of just gossiping about the personalities, isn’t it? As you say goodbye to the Summer, sit back and watch a brilliant anti-New Labour song that lemony Rob Morris has found on YouTube. I’ve got the single somewhere…

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I friend and I came up with a West Wing spinoff that featured Toby, revealing that he suffers from a sleeping disorder so spends his nights leading a double life. I have since decided that his sidekick should be Chlose from 24. And what do they do in the middle of the night in Washington DC? They fight crime! It's called Dial Z for Ziegler.

And my favourite Chumbawamba song - and this is terribly naughty of me - is "Farewell to the Crown".
Cool! I’d watch that. Will it have kung-fu monks? And, now we’ve just started Season 6, he looks wrecked enough (it would explain how terrible he was at the press briefing).

Richard suggests Dial a Ziegler Number as the Pilot episode, and wishes to commission 26 Ziegler-featuring punning titles from you.

And you know I’m not going to chastise you for being naughty, Will ;-)

I’d forgotten, but I bought Amnesia not just for being the only popsters at the time not crawling all over New Labour, but because it has a very cool not-quite-a-false ending where it really gets going just as it was getting quiet. I’m very old-fashioned and like those.
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