My Year in Song | December 31, 2008

January “Forgiveness” by Engineers
I got this album around Christmas time and it’s been my drifting to sleep music ever since.

February “Catastrophe And The Cure” by Explosions in the Sky
Explosions have been playing in the office for the previous 12 months, thanks largely to James. However it really came to the fore after seeing them play live.

March “Chemistry” by Unkle
This one’s been on the boil since christmas, but the thumping intensity of Chemistry finally bubbled over in March.

April “The Salmon Dance” by The Chemical Brothers
Stupid but fun.

May “Kicking and Screaming” by The Presets
I picked the album up in Australia and it quickly became the soundtrack to my roadtrip and one of my most played albums of the year.

June “A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend
Another Aussie roadtrip purchase, this one took a bit longer to grow on me.

July “Salute your Solution” by The Saboteurs
I really liked this song when I accidentally saw the music video on MTV (or equivalent). The album took a while to grow on me but it’s actually quite good if you don’t mind the country aspect.

August “Latchmere” by Maccabees
Another album that’s been played a lot in the office, it reached it’s peak towards the end of the summer.

September “Electric Feel” by MGMT
I listened to MGMT loads during my summer jaunt to Devon and just kept playing it.

October “Is There a Ghost?” by Band of Horses
This haunting track kept getting played throughout 08, with it’s peak in October.

November “C-C (You Set the Fire in Me)” by Tom Vek
Another artist I’ve played to death, I finally managed to track the album down after scouring all the local record shops to no avail.

December - “Cassius” by Foals
Another group that’s been hanging round in my iPod playlist for some time and I finally got round to buying the CD. Definitely my theme tune this Christmas.

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Garth Marenghi's Darkplace Season 2 | December 26, 2008

OK, so that was a bit mean. If you’re a Garth Marenghi fan (and who wouldn’t be) there isn’t a season 2. At least not yet. However there would be if I had it my way. You see I’ve been re-visiting this classic TV comedy show over Christmas and it got me thinking about the possibilities for a second season.

As some of you know, Gath Marenghi’s Darkplace was a parody of bad 70’s and 80’s TV shows, complete with implausible story lines, bad acting and terrible special effects. Supposedly resurrected from the Channel 4 archives to fill a scheduling gap, the show mixed the “original” footage with cast interviews reminiscing about the good old days.

Sadly this show received a fairly lukewarm reception on it’s initial release, although it later went on to generate a cult following and clocked up a load of DVD sales. The writers of this show went on to pen the IT crowd, while other cast members went on to appear is series like the Mighty Boosh. Anyway, enough preamble. Here’s my idea for Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, USA.

Set in current day Hollywood, Garth Marenghi has sold the right for Darkplace to a US studio who are going to remake the classic British horror series for an American audience. Garth and his partner Dean Learner are bought in as plot advisors to help keep some of the original creativity. The pilot episode will feature them remaking one of their classic episodes, although later shows will obviously diverge from the original.

The new show will be modernised in every sense, with CSI style graphics, 24 style split screens, and plenty of meaningless technobabble to make the show feel smart and edgy. Some of the original UK cast will remain on the show, although they will have to adopt phoney US accents. On top of this there will be a whole new cast of American wannabes along with a load of cameo performances by famous US fans and stars from the original series.

The show would still be cut with interviews with the cast, but this time they would be discussing the making of the new show and how it differed to the old one. They’d also be talking about how their careers had changed in the last 30 years, some becoming a huge success and some disappearing into obscurity. So plenty of opportunity for character development.

So rather than being a parody of 70’s and 80’s TV shows as per the original, this second season would be a parody of modern TV making. You’d still have the overblown acting and heaps of slow motion. However instead of bad 80’s music and shaky cameras you’d have MTV style cut scenes to a rock or techno soundtrack. It would essentially become a piss take of all the modern remakes of old TV shows like Dr Who as well as an indictment on the excess and implausibility of modern television.

I’m not sure if I’ve done a good job at describing Darkplace USA, but I can picture it in my head and in there it’s pretty awesome. What do you think?

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My blog is dying, long live my blog | December 22, 2008

You may have noticed that things have gone a little quiet round here of late. In fact, if you’ve been reading my blog through your feed reader you probably haven’t noticed anything as I average about one post every six week at the moment which is pretty poor. Especially when you consider that at the height of my output I was blogging several times a week and occasionally several times a day. So what’s the reason for this lack of activity? I think it’s several things really.

Too darned busy

The last few years have been pretty hectic and an increasing amount of my time is being taken up by Clearleft and other related activities. There was a time when I’d spend my days reading blogs posts and hacking on web sites, then head home to work on personal projects and blog about my discoveries. These days I spend my working life in business meetings or with my head in my email client. When I get home I’ll simply end up writing that report or catching up the emails I failed to do during the day. Rather than my work being an extension of my life, it seems that my life has become an extension of my work, and without me realising it.

A lack of attention

No, I don’t mean that I lack focus and er, what was I saying again? Oh yes, that’s right. When I first started blogging there were around 10 websites I’d follow on a regular basis and another 10 I’d dip into every now and again. That quickly expanded to 50, then 100 and then, well, you can see where I’m going here. I hit saturation point around 2 years ago and just couldn’t keep up with all the blogs I felt I was supposed to be reading. My attention became spread too thin. I tried to prune my feed reader, but every time I did I ended up discovering more interesting feeds than I’d kill. So I basically stopped reading my news reader two years ago as the number of unread posts was too depressing.

Signal to noise

The ever increasing noise to single ratio combined with a reduction in actual hands on work resulted in less stuff to talk about. Well less techie stuff anyway. I’d fought the good web standards fight and was more interested in UX related stuff or the nuances of running a business. Furthermore, with so many more broadcasters to choose from, the relevance of what I had to say was diminishing as was my reach. That’s assuming I could find time to blog.

New ways of expression

One of the key reasons for blogging is to express yourself and your feelings. I used to get back from a hard days work and want to discuss my discoveries with other people. Blogging allowed me to do this. However with the inception of Clearleft I’d inadvertently surrounded myself with super smart people I could discuss my ideas with and who would usually either tell me that my ideas were stupid or that somebody else had said the same thing more eloquently six months ago.

This is also when services like Twitter and Facebook entered the scene. Now I’m not going to say that micro publishing tools killed the blogging star, but I think they’ve certainly made a dent. Rather than publishing fully formed ideas on your own website, you could post snippets of an idea with much more ease and to a more targeted audience. So I started to find that my desire to express myself was sated by a stream of nano thought published to Twitter rather than a few bigger ideas published to my blog. The format my be different, but the psychological result was the same.

So what’s next

Well I know that I don’t want to stop blogging as it’s an integral part of who I’ve become, if not who I am at the moment. However I do realise that some serious changes need to take place. First up I need to decide if I want to be multi-chanel or single channel. Do I open up my Twitter account to everybody (it’s currently private) and see it more as a micro publishing tool than a way of staying in touch with friends, then keep my blog for longer and less frequent articles. Or do I try and bake some of that instant gratification into this blog and make it more of a tumble log, supplementing the long posts with links, quotes, flickr images and YouTube videos?

I’m sure a log of you guys have been going through the same thing recently, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on the future of blogging and your own blog in particular. Are blogs being supplemented by short form alternatives? Is this the death of narrative cinema. Er, I mean narrative online article writing. How has your blog and your approach to blogging changed over the past few years and what should I do to combat this change, if combating it is indeed the right approach.

Your thoughts, as always, on the electronic version of “the back of a postcard” that is my comments form.

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