Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Black Dog Down - September

There have been a lot of tears this month.

Why, only last week I cried my eyes out with laughter at the notion that the Prime Minister of our great nation might have had sexual congress with a pig. And I never even knew we had a congress in our government. Makes my troubles with a Black Dog positively humdrum.

On a more serious note and one perhaps more liable to have a longer term remedial effect, I’ve found myself politically motivated , not to say inspired, by the resounding success of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Leadership election. Why should this have any effect on my mental health?

Well, as much as you have to acknowledge external detrimental effects you certainly have to recognise and welcome the external positives. Anything that comes along. This, for me, is significant because it sparks a bit of hope in an arena where I had definitely given up. That is, politics.

A guy wanting to put social conscience at the forefront of the parliamentary agenda? Hell, yes.

And yes, I appreciate it all may come to nothing by 2020 because the press assures me such a man is unelectable as Prime Minister. Whereas a varnish-faced swineporker is eminent PM material. But the possibility that a thing may never happen is not a sound case against supporting it. Peter Dinklage may never be Doctor Who, but I’m rooting for him a hundred percent because I know he would be *awesome*. Corbyn would likely not be as awesome as PM because he’d probably be hamstrung by the greed and self-interest of others, limited in the actual good he could achieve in the same way Obama would love to introduce stricter gun controls in the US but, you know, the most powerful leader in the Western world isn’t as influential as a lot of righteous gundamentalists who enjoy a lot of bucks with their bangs.

Anyway, bottom line is, this represents potential for change. And that’s a bus worth boarding. It’s fired some much-needed motivation on a front very much beyond the personal, which is helpful in encouraging me to step outside of my own head for a while and a counter-current to all the wider-world stuff that is all too often a threat to mental health – by which, of course, I mean all that depressing shit on the news.

Measuring the month of September on a more personal scale, it’s true that I’ve not achieved half the goals I had in mind at the outset, but there has been significant movement in spite of some choresome domestic trials that did their best to interfere with my carefully planned schedule.

As with August, I’ve continued to mix a daily dose of social media activity with my work and it’s continued to prove effective in fuelling creativity, as well as simply providing for entertaining and interesting discussions. Just recently we’ve begun a daily diet of Doctor Who talk and that’s always guaranteed to invite diverse opinions, which is great. Stimulates the brain cells and often fuels smiles, laughs and general inspiration throughout the day. It’s like breakfast. A bowl of muse-li, say.

Everything the solitary life of a writer needs. Except the hugs. He could always use more hugs.

Amid all the fun and larks, I think it’s fair to say I’ve been building on the daily routines I’ve developed over the past few months. Adding to the framework. It involves a very disciplined pattern to each day, which doesn’t always hold together, but I’m learning to include a little flexibility. It’s a tricky balance to strike – military-level discipline with permission to go AWOL at any time. Actually, it’s not AWOL if it’s permitted, so you can see I’m still some way from getting the balance right.

There are still two projects outside of my ongoing goals that have moved closer to reality and all of this structuring of my daily and weekly timetable should prove beneficial when it comes to incorporating work on either (or both) of those as and when the need arises.

Leisure time, if anything, is where I’ve encountered my toughest hurdles. Awarding myself an evening off and not knowing what the hell to do with the hours. I mean, I’m not short of entertainment to enjoy, but there have been lonely evenings when the Black Dog has crept in and done its enthusiasm-sapping thing, leeching pleasure from even things I love and leaving them all a bit hollow.

Simplest of cases in point, treated myself to a few biscuits one evening. Ate just three, did not even notice I’d eaten them. Had another three. Another night I ended up munching through a third of a packet of choc digestives. In similar fashion, I went through a bottle of vino without really tasting it. Not healthy. And I’m not talking about the path to obesity or alcohol damage to my liver. It’s more the mental side, taking the time to enjoy the things you enjoy. A treat is not a treat if you go through it in a stupour.

On those evenings, my choice of movie might not penetrate further than the surface of the eyes.

With that in mind, looking ahead to next month, I will have to take care to pay as much attention to rest and play as I have done to the work schedule.

Sometimes work *is* play and I’m happy to say I had at least one day this month when I dashed off a spot of writing and sat back, done, feeling immediately satisfied with what I’d written. Also, for half the month I’d pressed ahead with the creative exercises I’d been doing with friends and that, despite producing some questionable creative results, was generally helpful as before. Looking forward to the next phase of that.

Financially, I am running a deficit, so some paid work would probably be as beneficial as some hugs at this stage, but key parts of that (excessive?) expenditure have centred on lining up treats and trips for myself. Concerts, theatre, cinema outings, whatever. Sometimes you can’t afford not to allow yourself the things you can’t afford.

But to conclude on a positive note, I’m not a drowning man clutching at straws, I’m just clutching at straws because I’d rather fancy a slurp of a long cool drink or several. And I’m not talking about wine – wine with straws would be so gauche. Just some of life’s metaphorical drinks that keep you supplied with that glass half-full feeling.

Like I said on Twitter the other day. If life gives you demons, make demonade.

Now all I have to do is formulate the recipe.

SAF 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Welcome, my friend, to the show that never ends. Except for a lengthy absence from our screens from 1989 to 2005, with a less than satisfactory TV movie in between. And a break in 1985 when the BBC didn’t know if it wanted the series cluttering up its bland light entertainment schedules any more. And next year when it’ll only be half a season because the showrunner is just too darned busy.

Yes, folks, Doctor Who returns to our screens.

My own enthusiasm for the show has been dampened, it’s true, as though it’s spent a year with Bear Grylls in the Delta Magna swamps. But while the relationship may be tired, I still love the dear old thing, damnit. (Luckily I’m restoring my love of the show with revisits of old stories and, hopefully, a couple of projects that have come my way. Hurrah!) And I will doubtless be watching every week.

After all, Peter Capaldi is the best Doctor since Tom Baker and that, right there, is something to enthuse about even before the season’s kicked off.

What I won’t be doing is posting episode reviews. Like Mr Moffat, I'm just too darned busy. And I’m just not sure it’s worth investing more time and energy in dashing off a review than the writers put into plotting their stories. When there’s more holes than cheese, there’s little left to comment on. More crucially, I would probably end up repeating the same things. Because the show repeats the same things like it’s trapped in its own creative chronic hysteresis.

Last year I cited my ‘Top 10’ of those repeat offences under the title Ten Things I Hate About Who. Hate, as I stated at the time, was too strong a word but these are things that, for me, every time they recur, provoke despairing sighs to rival those of Hong Kong Phooey’s very own Spot the Cat. They’re things that would need correcting (and/or eliminating altogether from the format) to restore my passion for the series.

It wouldn’t take very much work at all for a decent script doctor to remedy all ten, but in the absence of any apparent will or desire to change the formula, allow me to introduce the THAW Scale.

Ten Hates About Who.

That’s right, in place of any full review I will be awarding each episode a score out of 10, based on the THAW Scale. One point for each of the chronic-fatigue-syndrome-inducing elements that rears its head like Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day.
The higher the score, the less the episode impressed. Simple.

As a guide/reminder, the 10 elements on the THAW Scale are:

1.        THE MUSIC – too busy, too loud
2.        SOLDIERPHOBIA – Doctor hates soldiers
3.        TARDIS – use of the TARDIS to solve situations
4.        SONIC – use of the magic wand to solve situations
6.        SOAP - Whollyoaks
7.        GENIUS – pretending to be clever and failing
8.        MAGIC – moon-eggs, tree-fairies and the like
9.        NOT-MONSTERS – they’re not scary, they’re just misunderstood
10.      CLARA – girlfriend, just become a character, or leave (again) already

Episodes might not include all the above (gawd save us if they do), but might score more if they’re really heavy on one element. E.g. Forest Of The Night, very very heavy on tree fairies, might easily win itself 4 points just for its special blend of Disney Tinkerbell poo, growfast-and-vanish-overnight fire-resistant trees and miraculously reappearing missing children. Factor in Murray Gold’s din, not-monsters and Clara with all that homework to mark and the Doctor might only have to whip out his screwdriver and wave it around a bit in front of all those schoolkids to drive it up to a decidedly dodgy 10/10. And almost all episodes from last season score highly (ie. badly) for Clara and Soap, because the girl has an aversion to time-space travel and adventure, feeling the need to break up the monotony of it all with holding down a teaching job and crappy carbolic soap style romance with Danny Dull Pink.

A friend of mine pointed out that, on this scale, most old Who would score pretty darned well (i.e. very low), despite perhaps being a poor story. Well, true, but that’s because these are largely modern phenomena – at least as far as their excessive use goes – and there are other reasons a DW story can be poor, of which you will find multiple examples in the show’s 50+ year history. Still, as I watch through some of my old DW DVDs, if I post a review here I’ll include a THAW Scale rating for fun.

NOTE: No other viewers’ enjoyment was harmed during the making of this blog. Your mileage may vary and vive la difference.

SAF 2015