Monthly Archives: September 2014

Recipe for success

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I hate following recipes.

That’s not to say I’m one of those people who can fashion a gourmet meal out of kitchen scraps, artfully combining them in new and inventive ways by pure instinct. Truth be told, I hate cooking anything I haven’t cooked before – especially if it’s meant to be something recognisable at the end.

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The problem I have is recipes aren’t really instructions. They kind of try to be sometimes, but generally assume you have a degree of cooking knowledge and can understand the difference between complex terms like ‘fold’, ‘beat’ and ‘whisk’ which to my feeble mind all mean ‘stir’.

Possibly vigorously.

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They also use phrases like “a pinch”. A pinch? How much is a pinch? My fingers might be bigger than yours. How do you know I haven’t got massive fucking fingers? That’s hardly fucking science, is it?

My main issue with following recipes though is the fact I can follow them exactly and still not produce the meal I was supposed to be cooking.

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“This is what we’re having for dinner” says Mandy “and here’s the recipe.”

Okay, should be easy. We’ve eaten this dozens of times over the years. I know what it’s supposed to look like and taste like and …

By the way, there is a scriptwriting link coming. Honest.

… roughly what goes into it. Following the recipe should be a doddle.

Except it’s not.

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It never is.

Because one of two things happens: either I get halfway through and discover Mandy hasn’t bought a vital ingredient (for she does the shopping in our house since she spends far less time in the Caribbean than I do) forcing me to stop at a crucial junction and either run to the shops or substitute something random for something I have no idea what it was supposed to be.

“Olive Tapenade? What the fuck is a tapenade? Will Frosties do?”

More often than not, it’s at this point I give up and head for the nearest burger joint.

If I’m not missing an ingredient then I finish cooking to discover the result doesn’t look, smell or taste anything like it does when Mandy makes it.

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Which is frustrating since I was following her recipe.

Of course, the key to unravelling this mystery is to understand one simple fact: Mandy doesn’t follow recipes. She invents bits, for she is a wonderful cook. She doesn’t use Olive Tapenade because she knows I don’t like olives (I once drank a pint of olive oil – that sort of silliness tends to put you off) so substitutes it for something tomato-y.

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In other dishes she doubles, halves, omits or adds various ingredients because she’s cooked these dishes a few times and likes to experiment. When she serves a specific dish it’s not actually the one specified by the recipe because she’s altered it into something else. I can follow the same recipe a hundred times and never come close to approximating the dish she serves because I have no idea what it actually is.

And I don’t think this is uncommon. A good cook looks at the recipe and then disregards the bits which don’t fit his or her tastes. A good cook recognises a recipe isn’t a set of instructions, it’s a set of guidelines. It’s a statement which says:

“I did it this way because it works for me, do something similar which works for you.”

It occurs to me that this might be the correct approach to use when learning screenplay structure. Some writers are appalled by the notion that something artistic might have rules … completely ignoring the fact that ALL art has rules. Or perhaps just guidelines. Or recipes.

They’ll point to great artists like Picasso and go “well he didn’t follow the rules, so why should I?”

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Which is odd, because if you ever go to the Picasso museum in Barcelona (you know, that one somewhere down off Las Ramblas – near that bar which has trees in it and fairies and a haunted castle-room-thing at the back … no idea what it’s called. The museum. Or the bar for that matter.) then you can clearly see Picasso learnt all the rules, painted some rather dull portraits before giving up and just taking the piss out of people.

At least, that’s my theory. There’s this great exhibit which you see an original artwork by someone or other and then Picasso’s version next to it. The original is a near-photo-quality portrait. Picasso’s version looks like Bod.

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And is worth ten times as much.

In other words, Picasso learnt the recipe and then did his own version. He changed the bits he felt needed changing to suit his style … but he still followed certain rules of composition.

Probably.

I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about and appear to be mixing metaphors all over the place.

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Or am I folding them?

Possibly beating. Not sure.

The point, if I ever had one, is there’s nothing wrong with seeking out other people’s recipes for scriptwriting. I find it interesting to study them and see what I can learn from them. I don’t follow them to the letter though – I like to mix and match, to deviate from the recipe in ways which enhance the script.

Or at least I think they enhance the script.

Maybe they don’t?

Maybe I should just follow the recipes exactly? Maybe I should just shut the hell up because I’ve no idea why I started talking about this crap?

Yes, that sounds more likely.

Here, have some recipe-themed funk instead.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

TV programmes only I’ve seen: #1 – Tales of the Gold Monkey

I had a spare afternoon recently so I sat down and wrote out four new blog posts – four weeks’ worth of pointless tosh … and now I can’t find them. I suspect I saved them to my desktop and then deleted them in some frenzied docu-purge … but I can’t be sure.

Bugger.

So, instead of what was probably a torrent of meaningless rambling, I’m forced to write something meaningful and insightful … or talk about 80’s TV.

Yeah, fuck it, 80’s TV it is.

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There are certain TV programmes I loved as a kid which no-one else appears to have heard of. Well, clearly not no-one because somebody must have heard of them or seen them. I find it highly unlikely I was the only person in the UK to have watched these things … it just sometimes feels like that.

Which is a shame, because these programmes are an important part of my childhood memories – they’re cultural touchstones only I seem to have touched… thus rendering them completely and utterly useless. I mean, what’s the point of holding onto a memory for thirty-odd years if you can’t reminisce about them with anyone? So this post (and any subsequent ones, if I can be arsed) are solely designed to see if anyone else shared these tiny moments of joy in the dark and dangerous past.

First up:

TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY! What a fucking awesome show! It had everything: planes, violence, a one-eyed dog, sexy (important to a ten year old) women, violence, Nazis, exotic locations and more violence. And cigars.

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Cigars were very important on TV in the 80’s.

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Tales of the Gold Monkey was a cross between (rip off of) Indiana Jones and Only Angels Have Wings (which apparently no-one else has seen either, so it’s pointless mentioning).

Set on a fictional South Sea island (probably – I was ten! I have no idea where it was set.) Tales of the Gold Monkey was a rollicking adventure series, the story of pilot Jake Cutter, played by Decker from Star Trek (not to be confused with Riker from ST:TNG who was completely different. Completely. Honest, he had a beard and everything!).

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Jake was the pilot (and one time owner, until he lost it in a poker game or something like that) of Cutter’s Goose, a frankly awesome sea plane … or possibly the only sea plane I’ve seen portrayed in a TV show. One of the two.

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Jake, together with his alcoholic engineer, Corky(?) …

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… and Jack (a one-eyed dog who barked once for yes and twice for no (or the other way round, probably the other way round) and was the most intelligent character in the show)

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… they flew around a bit and fought Nazis and hunted treasure and punched people and … just generally had adventures. They may or may not have discovered a few lost civilisations – I can’t remember.

Yes, I know I can just use the Internet to fill in the details, but that’s really not the point, is it?

Is it?

What else?

There was Sarah (I think she was called Sarah, she looks like a Sarah in my head) who was … um … something. A US spy, perhaps? Did she run the company which employed Jake? That sounds about right. I think she owned Cutter’s Goose. Or maybe she didn’t?

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Now I come to think of it, maybe Jake lost Jack’s eye in a poker game and not the plane? I’m guessing Sarah was Jake’s will-they/won’t-they love interest and/or added to keep Dads from turning over in the way all 80’s adventure shows added at least one token woman to be tokenly sexy … but then usually dressed them in oddly unsexy, neck to ankle dresses with lots of frills.

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Apart from Jodie in The Fall Guy, of course.

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Oh, and Daisy Duke.

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And maybe one of the truck-bound engineer women in Knightrider? I’ve a feeling there were two of them and one was decidedly more token-sexy than the other … but I may be wrong.

Did this happen on women-based adventure shows like Charlie’s Angels or The Bionic Woman? Did they chuck in a scantily clad bloke just for kicks? Probably not.

Fuck it, I will – just to add balance.

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Tales of the Gold Monkey did have a female co-lead (or co-sub-lead) anyway. Oh and a Dragon Lady-type character who probably wasn’t actually Chinese since I’m not sure they let Chinese people be on telly much in the 80’s.

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In my mind she ran the drug trade and was in league with the Nazis and was very sexy, but I might be getting her confused with a character from Buck Rogers?

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Or maybe even Flash Gordon?

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Fucking hell, did Princesses in space never wear clothes?

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I think there was a fornicating vicar who was a Nazi spy and a guy who ran the bar (Golden Monkey Bar?) who might have been in Planet of the Apes.

Or am I making this up now?

Maybe Tales of the Gold Monkey wasn’t as formative a memory as I first thought? There certainly seems to be less of it than I thought I remembered.

I don’t know why no-one except me saw this show. Possibly it was an age thing? It only ran for one season so anyone a year or two younger than me (apart from my brother, who definitely saw it) might not have been allowed to stay up until whenever it was on whatever day it was on?

Or maybe it was shit?

Maybe I’m largely getting mixed up with this:

I’ve got a vague feeling Bring ’em Back Alive was on at the same time on the other side (yes, THE other side. There were only two channels back then … if you don’t count BBC 2, which no one did when we were ten).

Regardless of the quality of the actual Tales of the Gold Monkey, the version in my head is awesome and I’d love to write a movie version of it. So, you know, if you can arrange that for me it would be greatly appreciated.

I’m going to stop now because I’m bored.

TALES  OF THE GOLD MONKEY – find it, watch it, love it!

Categories: Bored, Random Witterings | 5 Comments

Conversations to quit over #2

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Great script, great script … just a couple of points, really. Names.

Names?

Names.

Okay.

There’s too many of them.

Too many characters?

No, you’ve got the right number of characters, but there are too many names.

You want some of them called the by the same name? Like six Barry’s or five Mildreds?

No, no, no. You’re not understanding me.

Oh, you noticed?

The protagonist has too many names. Dan, Danny, Daniel … it’s too many. Pick one name and stick to it.

Right.

It’s confusing.

I see. The thing is, it’s kind of meant to be like that.

Confusing?

No. His mother calls him Daniel because she’s a bit stuck up and is disappointed in him, his father calls him Danny because he can’t let his son grow up and still thinks of him as a little boy, and his friends call him Dan because to them he’s a peer.

Yeah, exactly. Confusing. One character, one name. Like Indiana Jones. One name. Everyone calls him Indy.

Expect Marcus Brody who calls him Indiana?

Well, yeah, except him.

Or Short Round who calls him Dr. Jones in public and Indy in private?

Um, well …

Actually, I think all the Nazis call him Dr Jones too, don’t they? So does Belloq, maybe?

Yeah, but that’s fine, because he is a doctor.

Right. And his father calls him Junior.

Yes, but that’s his father.

Come to think of it, is it only the women who call him Indy? And Short Round. Sometimes.

The point is, Indiana Jones isn’t confusing, but this script is.

Because?

Because I didn’t understand it.

You didn’t understand that Dan, Danny and Daniel referred to the same person? Even when the dialogue and character name always refers to him as Dan throughout the entire script? And the only time his father calls him Danny, there’s only the two of them in the scene and the dialogue is immediately preceded by the action line “Dan’s father grabs Dan’s arm”?

Exactly!
(beat)
Would it help if we replaced Danny with a talking kangaroo?

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Categories: Bored | 1 Comment

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