Ivan, Jan, Johan, John, Harris

The opening titles to Storybook International, a CITV show from the 80’s. It served as a signal that the next 20 minutes would be spent watching a tedious badly-dubbed foreign-made morality tale, and wondering why He-Man couldn’t be on every night.

Which is why I’ve used the flamboyantly-dressed herald of disappointment as the avatar for Friday’s Short Stories. It seemed appropriate.


A darkly comic fable set in the Budapest metro, Kontroll is a film about rival bands of ticket inspectors – and it’s actually much more entertaining than I’ve just made it sound. There are dark forces at work on the metro, causing a number of apparent suicides. And there’s a girl in a teddy costume.

It’s all highly symbolic, and frankly sometimes a little baffling, but it’s always funny and engaging, and there are enough arresting images, intriguing characters and crazy ideas thrown into the mix to keep you interested to the end. And it has a couple of brilliant chase sequences to boot. And if you recognise teddy girl’s father, it’s because he was in Radiohead’s Karma Police video (which drove me demented until I worked it out).

Apparently Nimród Antal, Kontroll’s writer/director, will be working on the new Predator film. Dunno whether that’s a good thing. I mean, I like Predator movies as much as the next (geeky) man, but I’d rather see another offbeat, personal tale instead of a franchise-servicer, but hey, maybe it’ll be both.

Friday’s Short Story

storytellerHe patched up the dam with his hands and his heat vision, posed for photographs, signed some autographs, rose into the air, hovered long enough to salute the cheering, grateful crowds then returned to his kitchen in a blur of red and blue.

He opened the packet of bread and reached past the crust to select the third and fourth slices and heard the sound of a flare gun going off in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

After setting the oil tanker down in a Honolulu dry dock he hovered long enough to salute the cheering, grateful crowds then whoosh, and he placed the bread under a medium grill, started to grate the mature cheddar into a bowl and he felt the faint yet distinctive vibrations of an attack by a giant radioactive monster off the coast of Kamakura.

The creature safely shrunk and placed in an empty screw-top beer bottle, he paused briefly to give two thumbs up for the assembled news teams then up, up and away and turning the bread and chopping some olives and gunfire in downtown Metropolis and he tied the Octomaster and his henchmen up using tentacles torn from the large, and largely unnecessary, robot octopus they had been travelling in and gave a wave to the chief of the MCPD and leapt a tall building in a single bound and pulled the grill pan out and carefully spread the cheese and olives evenly over the bread.

The evil genius had barely opened his mouth to gloatingly exposit his plan to decimate the eastern seaboard using the giant atomic gorilla he had grown in a big vat under his volcano lair before he was slammed through a wall by what appeared to be an angry red and blue streak of impatient energy.

He knelt at the grill: not quite done. The timing was crucial.

He gently set the stricken Jumbo Jet down onto the runway, and, leaving the passengers and crew none the wiser as to how they had pulled out of the nosedive at the last minute, he checked the grill again. Brown. Bubbling. Perfect.

The perfect cheese on toast. He got a plate from the draining board and, with thumb and forefinger made heatproof by exposure to yellow sun radiation, delicately lifted the toast from the grill. He smiled. He heard the sound of tyres screeching, and a child crying and shouting for a lost cat. He looked at the toast. He wasn’t a cat person.

Johnny happily reunited with Tintin, and aware of the dangers of leaving the front door open when you own a cat and live on a main road, he flew through his kitchen window and tipped the cold toast into the pedalbin.

He opened the packet of bread, and reached past the crust.

The Perfect Cheese on Toast
by Harris
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Now Til 69

Just because it makes me want to dance. From The Shortwave Set’s brilliant album Replica Sun Machine (produced by Danger Mouse, who has had a hand in a fair few of my favourite albums of the last 5 years) this song rocks and shimmies, and has got me boogying like a chipmunk. Be bop a lula. The video is absolutely shit. Sorry.

Sketchy Future

I had a nice day in Leeds yesterday, meeting up with a few comedy writers and performers, and in a room above a pub we took the first baby steps towards starting a working sketch group with the aim of performing stuff live, maybe doing an Edinburgh show in 2010 and then… well, taking over the world with our amusing skits and vignettes, obviously.

There seems to be a diverse mix of styles in the bunch, both in writing and performing, so hopefully something interesting will come of it. At the very least it’ll be good to be take control of the process again, and do stuff for ourselves, as those of us who’ve written (or tried writing) for telly have got a bit sick of the ball ache (or the lady equivalent) of trying to please people who don’t appear to know what they want. We know exactly what we want: to be funny.

Anyway, it’s early days yet, but it’s quite exciting nonetheless.

The Brothers Bloom

I think The Brothers Bloom just conned their way into my top-whatever list of films. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, this film sparkles visually and the script is warm and funny. It’s reminiscent of a globe-trotting 60’s caper movie in style and tone, all sunshine and exotic foreign locations. It’s knowing without being cynical, and sweet without being cloying. It’s swoonsomely romantic and it has a kitten in a rollerskate. And it made me laugh out loud, like, twelve times or something.

The Brothers Bloom is a con movie, but unlike most films in this genre it’s less concerned with the cleverness of its plot twists and turns, and more interested in exploring the links between deception, storytelling, and love.

It also has some spectacular hats.

You know what? I think I suck at film reviewing. Ignore me and watch the film. If you don’t like it, contact Rian Johnson for your money back. He said to say that. Honest.

Friday’s Short Story

storytellerI have been sitting patiently in this cupboard for about as long as I can bear it. It’s hard to tell exactly how long that is because the door is shut, and it’s dark, and I’m dead. Probably a few years though, if I had to guess.

That door will open any minute now.

Haunting a cupboard is easy, but boring. Unchallenging. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a little corner of the corporeal world that I can call my own, and it’s good to have a job to do, but the trouble is nobody has ever opened the bloody door. Ever. And for a ghost, ever is quite a long time. It’s properly ever, you know, from the point you die to the heat death of the universe. As close to infinity as a person can get. And I’m spending it in a cupboard. Which is, I’ll admit, starting to get me down.

Any minute now.

I’ve tried to keep busy. I’ve sat here rehearsing techniques and strategies; planning temperature drops, disembodied murmuring, a little whispered breeze to the back of the neck of whoever might open the door; all the things that I figure would constitute a really top-notch haunting. I’m not just going to waft about going “Wooooo!”. I do take it very seriously, but so far it’s all been for nothing. Because the door stays shut. And I sit here, all see-through and, frankly, a little testy. Testy because I’m feeling useless, and also because I’m having a bit of a crisis. I’m starting to doubt my own existence.

That door will open.

Because, when I think about it, I’ve never actually seen a ghost. I’ve been worrying about that. Couple that with the fact that I’ve never even seen myself – of course I haven’t, what with it being dark in my cupboard, and what with me being transparent and everything. I suppose that makes sense, right? But… but what if I can’t see me because I’m not actually here? What if ghosts don’t exist, full stop? What then? Because that raises all sorts of interesting questions about me, and my, well, I was going to say “my life in this cupboard” but as life is the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, that wouldn’t really be accurate, but what is the noun for the condition of being a ghost and why did nobody tell me what it was before putting me in this cupboard? If somebody did put me here. I can’t remember. It was a while ago.

Any minute now.

I’ve thought about trying to open the door myself, of course I have, but the way I see it I must be here for a reason. I wouldn’t be sitting dead and invisible in a dark cupboard if there wasn’t some purpose to the whole endeavour. That would be crazy. Maybe… I mean, I could maybe just reach out a phantom limb, I must have one, I can’t see it but I must have at least one, mustn’t I, and push the door, give it a nudge, open it a crack, just a crack, no harm in that, take a peek, see what’s what, I could just pop my head out, look around, take a step or two, outside the cupboard, not too far, and I’d find somebody, and frighten them, get that reaction, then I’d know because they would feel it and believe it and I would believe. I could.

It’s dark in here and I’m not sure I’m real.

That door will open any minute now.

by Harris
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