Archive for the ‘Metablogging’ Category

I feel the need to mark the passing of one year and the start of another in some form, but not (you may be pleased to hear) in the form of any kind of Best of 2011 list. So this is more a sort of general look back and very brief peek forward.

Getting the tedious stuff out of the way first, speaking personally, 2011 went very nicely for me, despite the fact I didn’t actually make a profit on the year, didn’t have a professional experience as good as the best one of 2010, haven’t managed to resolve any of the dangling personal issues from this time last year, and am still living in a garret. January and early February were rather dark days for me, despite the fact that for the first time ever I got paid for a piece of writing work – I had no idea if I had any kind of future in my chosen profession, and the realisation that the novel manuscript I’d spent November writing was 115,000 words of suck was not an easy one to digest.

However! I received the best birthday present imaginable when an old friend got a new job, and his first act was to give me a new job. I have been there now for ten months (on and off) and have no plans to make a permanent departure either. On top of this I finally managed to scrape a place on a Diploma course and that’s going better than I could have hoped for, too. So there are much worse places I could be in right now. The main priority for the first half of this year is to pass the course, but I would also like to have a slightly smoother summer job experience as well. If the prospect of a hassle-free divorce came along I’d jump at that as well, I expect (any experts on international law reading this, please get in touch) – not because I have any plans or expectations in that arena, but because it’s nice to keep things tidy.

The blog (you’re reading it) has ticked over nicely, boosted somewhat by my decision to back up all my old (2001-2009) film reviews from h2g2 here. As it turned out h2g2 survived the year so this was arguably a waste of time, but it’s nice to have everything together. The decision to change the blog name from So Much More Than This to the (I thought) punchier and more informative current title coincided with the number of average daily visits plummeting by at least two thirds: so there we have it, folks – if you want to be read, be vague.

A rare photo of Lacey Banghard where her face is the most prominent element.

Or write about glamour models. My most popular pieces this year (by a country mile) were both gag items about the page 3 girl Lacey Banghard. Slightly depressing but not surprising. Neither depressing nor really surprising were the continuing popularity of old items about Doctor Who bad guys and The Wicker Man (more accurately, photos from The Wicker Man – my actual review of the movie is seldom looked at, but the one for The Man with the Golden Gun is a banker).  Altogether more mysterious is the steady popularity of my thoughts concerning the obscure and rotten Hammer movie The Viking Queen, which is well inside the top 10 list of all-time most popular film reviews. Hmmm.

Carita in The Viking Queen. For some reason I feel I should reiterate that this really was meant to be a serious film.

I wrote less about Doctor Who this year than I would have expected, mainly because I’m not quite sure what to make of the show at the moment – it’s clearly brilliant on so many levels and yet it also routinely leaves me exasperated and unsatisfied. The head writer is brilliant, the regular cast is very good, the writers are mostly great and the inventors are unceasingly inventive – so why is the actual programme no better than ‘pretty good, but…’? I don’t know. I feel a traitorous cur for even voicing these thoughts, to be honest. (Case in point: the Christmas special was so slight and felt – for the most part – so inconsequential that I haven’t bothered to review or even re-watch it. Something is wrong somewhere.)

Masses of film reviews, of course, as you could have guessed. I could gripe about the low standard of behaviour in Oxford multiplexes, or the mixed fortunes of the year, and so on, but I’ve just written a thing all about that as an h2g2 original and I can’t be bothered to recycle it. So, in a nutshell:  the worst film of 2011 was The Three Musketeers, the best three (in reverse order) were Submarine, Never Let Me Go and The Guard, and the one I’m most looking forward to from 2012 is (tough call this one)… The Dark Knight Rises. Never afraid to run with the flock, this blog.

Brendan Gleeson as The Guard, my pick of the year's films.

It’s all gone a bit quiet on the wargamey front, mainly because the Diploma doesn’t allow me the time or money to do it properly. This year was mainly about the new Blood Angels army I’d been considering since 1997. Looks nice and I’m happy with much of it but it turned out to be a tough one to use well. My inability to actually get a WFB army anywhere near finished proved increasingly annoying too. Come August I may be able to do something about this.

I think the uke may be filling the role in my life that wargaming previously took, anyway, in that there’s a very precise technical element to it as well as a personal and creative one. I have no reason to think that the two shouldn’t be able to co-exist once the Diploma is out of the way – I suspect they may actually synergise quite well. We shall see.

Anyway, that was 2011. Despite all the little niggles and annoyances, if 2012 turns out to be of the same standard I don’t think I’ll have grounds for complaint – so fingers crossed and let’s find out.

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It’s just possible some readers may have been slightly thrown by the fact that I have decided to retitle the blog. (Possibly temporarily, but probably not.) 

There isn’t a Big Reason for this. It just occurred to me that the old name was a bit pretentious and vague for what has essentially found its voice as a succession of film reviews, cult TV articles and some wittering on about GW games. I feel that the new one is rather more snappy and indicative of this.

I’m still quite happy with the look of the place, though I’m not sure  the photo of Bryce Canyon is the best image to stick at the top of the page. So, the gauntlet is thrown down: any suggestions as to what would be a better photo to put in the banner, given the nature of proceedings, would be gratefully received.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled nonsense.

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A quick word in praise of the weekly blog of my good friend Jamie Words, which is almost unfailingly thoughtful and upbeat and a worthwhile read. This week, however, Miss Words has felt the need for a complete break from that, so she got me to write her something instead. It’s basically more of the sort of thing you usually find here, only possibly more succinct and less self-indulgent than usual. You might want to leave it a week and check out Jamie Words when normal service has been resumed…

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Hmmm. The hundredth post on this blog lies just around the corner. As you’d expect, I’m trying to think of something especially fatuous and trivial for that momentous occasion, but in the mean time I thought I would share with you, the audient void, my impressions of what it takes to make you mark in the demanding field we call writing random stuff on the internet in the mistaken belief you’re contributing to the world’s culture in any kind of meaningful fashion blogging. Or, in other words, what you should write about if you want to get read.

Now, as a blogger, you’re really reliant on two sources of visitors: stuff you’ve written turning up on search engines, and other blogs and websites actually putting up a proper link to you. In both cases subject matter is obviously key – writing about your corns or something funny that happened on the bus may struggle to break out and find a wider audience. Luckily, the particular beans which are wont to rattle around in my own tin are the subject of a keen – some might say rabid – cult following and a few sites have been kind enough to link to me on a regular basis.

The first to do this was, I think, Moorcock’s Miscellany, the official site of the literary colossus Michael Moorcock. Michael Moorcock himself may have come here (though I seriously doubt it)! Rather unfortunate, then, that the piece they linked to was my review of his last book where I gave it a bit of a slating. What can I say, Mike? We all have off days. Say we can still be friends.
That actual piece didn’t do fantastic business, to be honest, compared to some of the really popular things on the site. So, without (much) further ado, here is the Awix guide to Things That People Seem To Be Interested In.

I must start with a caveat: sometimes things are not as you’d expect them to be. Regular readers may recall the recent post testing my thesis that ‘Torchwood (and particularly the prematurely-deceased coffee boy Ianto Jones) are the subject of a fanatically dedicated cult following and anything tagged with either of them is bound to cause a hits spike.‘ Reader, this is not the case. While the piece in question has received 16 hits in the last two days this is not quite the scale of response I was hoping for. Possibly I have failed to strike the correct note of breathless, unthinking adulation when it comes to the troubled middle child of the Who franchise and poor dead Ianto and his stopwatch.

Oh, he’s dying! Oh, isn’t it sad! Oh – oh, who really gives a damn. Move on, people!!!

Having said that, clogging up the top reaches of my Top Posts Stats table are numerous probably-rather-too-in-depth pieces looking at various aspects of Doctor Who. I’m not sure what to make of the fact that the most popular stuff on the blog is essentially a rewrite from memory of something I wrote three years ago in Italy when I was bored out of my mind and had literally nothing else to do. But as I’ve said, Doctor Who-related stuff is much more likely to get linked to.

Having said that, outscoring any of them is a review of the Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, which has proven to be a real banker, drawing punters in week after week. Not, I suspect, because The Man with the Golden Gun is a particular cult favourite, but because in the piece I finally got to make my gag about Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee, a seaplane and a remote private island appearing in two famous films within a year of each other – oh, keep up, I’m talking about The Wicker Man. Cult status undiminished despite rotten US remakes and dubious impending sequels, it would appear.

A guy arrives at Christopher Lee’s island by seaplane looking for a girl… what do you mean, this is the wrong Britt Ekland movie?!?

Also doing surprisingly well was a review of Live and Let Die, the reasons for which are harder to pin down. Why should ‘racism’ and ‘sexism’ be such popular search terms? Answers on a postcard, please.

However (and that’s a big however) –
However (that’s more like it), let’s keep things in perspective. The Wicker Man piece has attracted 87 views over the period of two-and-a-bit months. The top scoring item on this blog, as I write, has racked up (and I’m choosing my words with precision, folks) 142 readers in the space of the last five hours. Its topic? The Page Three Idol winner, Lacey Banghard. The Sun still aren’t letting anyone else use their pictures of her, so I’ve had to find another appropriate substitute photo:

Go on and Google her name again, you know you want to.

Oh well. I don’t know why I’m particularly depressed that a selection of cheap gags about a girl with a ridiculous name should prove vastly more popular than any of the reviews or critical pieces I’ve sometimes genuinely put a lot of time and effort into. Nice to be read at all, I suppose.
So, anyway: to any padawan bloggers out there, looking to get noticed, here are the topics you want to be covering: early 70s prejudice, Eric Saward-era Doctor Who, Scottish paganism and improbably-named young women with hefty chests. Obvious, when you think about it, isn’t it? Go forth and type.


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Modern Life

Excitingly, this enterprise continues to attract attention, even if it is mostly spam. I only have my spam filter’s word for most of this, obviously. I have no idea how a spam filter actually comes to its decisions as to what counts as spam, but it’s practically a given that it knows better than I do (I am tempted to apply this principle to all aspects of my life in future, on the grounds that I am fundamentally incompetent in practically every respect that you might care to mention). Well, anyway. I apologise should you have been leaving me messages that I have been heartlessly deleting. Also if you are genuinely interested in getting my RSS feed (whatever that may be) – but in any case, I have no idea what one of those actually is, so you’re onto a loser either way there. You can’t be too careful, right? 

(Wish I’d thought of that before I went to Nevada. As a result of using webmail in a major Las Vegas hotel I am now receiving around 80 pieces of spam a day. Sigh.)

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How Very Dare You!

Handsome, modest, and retiring media personality Andrew Marr has declared that bloggers ‘seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting.’

The ‘young’ part I feel somewhat flattered by, but by jingo! You can’t say something like that and expect quiet acquiescence.

I’ll have you know, Marr, that I’m sitting in an attic. And it isn’t even my mothers.

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Channel-surfing’s a bitch. I’d decided to put the current painting project on hold, sit down and try to do some proper writing (this doesn’t really count, does it?), when what should I come across on ITV4 but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This isn’t a Bond movie of the upper echelon, as I’m fond of saying, but it is an interesting one.

It obviously goes without saying (an oxymoronic phrase if ever there was one) that the main distinguishing feature of this particular Bond is Lazenby. Berating the guy for not being Connery is of course unfair, but the movie does go out of its way to remind you that a change in personnel has occurred – the previous movies all get referenced through props, music and images, and the punchline to the pre-credits sequence is our hero saying ‘This never happened to the other feller!’ I used to be entirely disparaging about Lazenby’s performance, but he’s actually not too bad. ‘Think of me as woman you’ve bought,’ says the leading lady at one point. ‘Who needs to buy?’ replies Bond, in an understated but entirely appropriate way.

The Connery deficit is a very real problem though, in that the thing that really should make this film special – the fact that this is the one where Bond’s character actually goes through some fairly serious changes – sort of gets sidelined as a result. The change in character gets eclipsed by the change in actor so the climax of the film loses a lot of whatever power it might have had with Connery on board. Having said that, the plot of this film is rather absurd inasmuch as it revolves around two characters who met in the previous movie not recognising each other in this one! The fact that they’ve both been recast makes this a bit easier to ignore. (My in-depth research – okay, Wikipedia – tells me that the original script Bond was to have plastic surgery, thus explaining the change in actor and fixing this problem in one fell swoop.)

Beyond not retaining the big milkman (or casting Oliver Reed or Ranulph Fiennes in his place), it’s a bit difficult to see quite where the producers went wrong here. In the form of Diana Rigg they have a formidably talented (probably the only ex-Bond girl to star in Brecht at the National Theatre, but I’m open to correction on this) and very hot foil (Joanna Lumley and Julie Ege are kicking around in there somewhere too) – but then there is the fact that she only needs to use about 10% of her talent to blast Lazenby off the screen. John Barry’s score is distinctive and unusually heavy on the harpsichord in places. (I am ashamed to admit that it’s only just occurred to me that the reason why this movie has an instrumental theme is because – well, can you imagine what the lyrics of a song called ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ would sound like? Something by Betty Boo, I’d wager.) The script is pretty decent, if shading a touch towards Carry On territory in places – various puns on balls and stiffness get wheeled out which certainly wouldn’t get house-room nowadays.

If Richard Maibaum’s script has a particular problem it’s that, if anything, it sticks too closely to Fleming’s original novel – it would be nearly 40 years before anything so faithful appeared again. After all the extravagances and absurdities Roald Dahl put into his script for the previous movie – which, in many ways, defines the templates and iconography of the Bond formula like no other – this inevitably feels a bit lacking in the epic by comparison.

So I’m sort of getting the sense that I may have been overly harsh about On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in the past. In terms of dealing with the initial recasting of an icon, it’s certainly not Power of the Daleks – but then George Lazenby is no Patrick Troughton. And James Bond isn’t a chimerical, almost-infinitely reimaginable character like the Doctor. He behaves, interacts and solves problems in certain, very prescribed ways. Given that, this movie was always going to receive a hospital pass unless it did something very special indeed. It’s tempting to compare this movie with Live And Let Die, a much more fun and groovy Bond debut, which succeeds partly because it whole-heartedly jumps onto the coat-tails of blaxploitation cinema – but we’re off into different territory there. Anyway. Sorry, George. I’ve been dissing you unfairly for years. Still glad you didn’t do another six, though.

In other news, I am excited to reveal this blog has received its first spam! (Or so the comment filter seems to think.) Recently I used the internet in Nevada and ever since I have been receiving 30+ junk emails a day from everybody from Psychic Tara to SluiceYourBoat.com, so you would’ve thought I would be used to it. But apparently not! My new friends are Worldwide Newsflash, who’ve linked their Kyrgyzstan coverage to my article on UK domestic politics because, er, it has the word Kyrgyzstan in it once, and Blog Interviewer who have apparently linked to me and would like me to return the favour (I would consider it should I actually be able to find this supposed link). It’s only a matter of time before the Gambian Space Agency gets in touch with an exciting investment opportunity for me.

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