Sad Bastard

Ending with a beginning


I went to see Monsters University recently. Or rather, recently to when I’m writing this; probably not recently to when I’m posting it. It seems to be taking me longer and longer between writing and posting.


Anyway, Monsters University …




… is a really, really good film which I just didn’t really enjoy. I liked all the component parts. I liked the characters, scenes, dialogue, imagery, story and music … but was, largely, bored.

No, not bored … disinterested. Disconnected. I watched, but didn’t care.


I think that’s because of Monsters Inc. If Monsters Inc. didn’t yet exist or I hadn’t yet seen it, I would have loved Monsters University …

But it does and I have.

To me, the central dramatic question of Monsters University is “Will Mike become a scarer?”

Well … no. No, he won’t. I know I won’t because he isn’t. Present tense. Monsters University is all in the past. Monsters Inc. is the present. Mike isn’t a scarer. That’s one of the facts which was indelibly stamped on my brain before I went to see the film. It’s part of who the character is. In the same way I know Captain Kirk isn’t a painter and decorator or Batman isn’t a florist.

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Or perhaps a more relevant way of looking at it is Doctor McCoy isn’t a starship captain and Alfred isn’t a costumed vigilante. If they had grown up wanting to be the hero, then that would be an interesting and semi-tragic bit of backstory; but I’m not sure it would make for an interesting film. It’s a good piece of a film, but is watching a character fail to become the person you already know they’re not a good story in and of itself?

Putting it another way: can you root for a character/invest in their story when you know they’re not going to achieve their goal?

The odd thing about the Monsters University is that’s the whole story, there’s nothing else to it. I can’t remember ever seeing another film where the ending was so clearly set in my mind.*

Okay, so I didn’t know the how or the why of Mike’s failure; but I knew he would fail.

You could argue you know the end of most films – Superman will save the day, Indiana Jones will find the treasure and James Bond will get the girl. Sometimes twice and occasionally (and uncomfortably) whether she wants him to or not.

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But to me, that’s normal suspension of disbelief. I know the hero will win but am prepared to pretend I don’t in order to enjoy the film because, fuck, this might be the one time they fail. I’m 99.9999999% positive they won’t; but they might.

To me, the fun of a film lies in that 0.0000001%

But that’s not what I saw in Monsters University. This was knowing the hero is going to fail. 100% positive. Worse than that, it’s knowing the hero will be much better off (and happier) once he has failed.

It’s watching the hero pursue the wrong goal and having to wait 90 odd minutes for him to work it out.

To me, Monsters University is an origin story, which is fine. I love stuff like that. I love watching how famous partnerships began or careers got started. I know Clark Kent will become Superman, Bruce Wayne will become Batman and Peter Parker will become Spider-Man. I know all this and can’t fool myself into pretending they might not. I can’t suspend my disbelief. When I know the outcome, it stops being a WILL question and becomes a HOW. I don’t really find HOW questions dramatic – they can be interesting on an intellectual, documentary level; but rarely on a visceral, emotional level. Luckily, origin stories are usually structured so the origin, the HOW they become the thing you know they will become, is at most half of the film. After that, you get another story.

Most recently: Superman had to fight off Kryptonians intent making Earth more dangerous for themselves; Batman had to stop some loons from destroying Gotham by making everyone else loonier and Spider-Man had to stop a bit of a dull lizard-bomb.


Sometimes these origin stories weave the second story into the origin narrative (like in X-Men or in Batman Begins); sometimes the first story comes to a grinding halt (there you go, sir: snazzy cape, natty boots and a set of super powers … you’re all done! I expect an arch-nemesis will be along to monologue at you in a minute or two); but either way you get two stories:

How did X become X?
Will X overcome Y?

I like WILL questions. Will X fall for Y? Will X rescue the thing from the other thing? Will X find his glasses?

HOW … meh. Okay, I am interested; but I don’t care.

Monsters University is all HOW and no WILL.

Which is such a shame. Monsters University is clearly a superb film. It would have been fantastic as a stand alone film. And Monsters Inc. would have been fantastic as a sequel.

But that’s not what happened.

Monsters Inc. is a superb stand alone film; but I found Monsters University to be oddly empty and just backstory. I think it adds a lovely new sheen to Monsters Inc. Next time I watch Monsters Inc. it will be with fresh eyes, seeing nuances I didn’t know were there before. Monsters University has made Monsters Inc. even better than it already was … whilst at the same time failing to keep my attention.


I guess the problem was, although there were two questions, one cancelled the other out:

How did X become X?
Will X become someone else?

In order to become emotionally engaged in the second question, I would have had to stop asking the first question. I would have needed to not know it was an origin story. To me it needed a different second question – a WILL question which I didn’t already know the answer to which was wholly resolved in the movie. WILL Mike find the thief? WILL Mike uncover the dastardly plot? WILL Mike unmask the villain?

I guess the lesson I learnt is HOW questions pique my curiosity, but WILL questions engage me in the story.

Or something like that.

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I also thought it was really odd the way they ended the university section of the film. When Mike and Sulley discover they don’t need Monsters University in order to be the people they want to be, it’s kind of akin to the filmmakers telling you you don’t need to bother watching everything until this point in order to enjoy Monsters Inc. It’s a film about a character going to university where he discovers he doesn’t need to bother going to university. Oh. Right. So Monsters University is a waste of time? Is that an allegory for this whole film being a bit of a waste of time? Is allegory the right word?

We may never know.

Obviously I’m in a minority with this feeling – certainly the family behind me in the cinema loved the film. Loved it so much they shrieked with laughter at everything. EVERYTHING. Mike walks into a room, hilarious. Sulley breathes, hysterical. Randall has fingers, tears of laughter and whoops of fucking joy.

In fact, come to think of it, the HOW and the WILL of Monsters University were drowned out by the more pressing WHAT and WHEN of the family behind:

WHAT the fuck are they laughing at?
WHEN will they either shut the fuck up or laugh themselves to death so I can enjoy the film?

Maybe that was just the problem all along?

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* People usually toss Titanic into the conversation round about here, because they knew the boat would sink. The boat sinking isn’t the fucking point! The boat sinking is a HOW question, one you watch with detached interest. The WILL question is “will Jack and Rose get together?” If you thought the answer to that was obvious from the start, then I think you’re lying. Because they didn’t and NO is almost never the answer to that question.

Obviously, if you didn’t like either of the characters or the film as a whole then you probably thought maybe, maybe not – I don’t care … but you didn’t KNOW.

Unless someone told you.

Or it’s mentioned in the beginning of the film and I’ve just forgotten. Which it might be.

Lincoln! That’s a film where I was a hundred percent certain of the answer to the WILL question. That film tries to ask WILL he succeed; but really it’s just a docudrama about HOW he succeeded. I kind of enjoyed that film without really being emotionally involved.

Categories: Bored, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Things I've Learnt Recently | 5 Comments

When is it okay to illegally download media?

Never. It’s never okay. It’s illegal. That, by definition, means it’s unlawful or not allowed.


Okay, so it’s never legal to illegally download a movie or song or TV show; but when is it morally acceptable to do so?


It’s fucking illegal, I thought we’d covered that?


Illegally downloading anything is stealing. It belongs to someone else, someone who doesn’t want you to have it for free.

This is something which drives me fucking mad – people don’t think of it as stealing. It fucking is! It’s not yours, you’ve taken it without the owner’s consent – you’ve fucking stolen it!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. Do whatever your conscience allows; but at least have the fucking balls or even the basic intelligence to admit/realise you’ve stolen it.

I keep hearing the same argument on radio or TV – some fuckwit admits to a reporter that he illegally downloads media and then justifies it with something like:

“Well, if DVDs weren’t so expensive I wouldn’t have to steal them.”


Yeah, good point. You know what else is expensive? Ferraris. Ferraris are really fucking expensive – do you steal them? Houses, they’re pretty expensive too, why not steal them?

Oh wait, you have a right to possess Season 16 of The Simpsons for free, do you? A human right? Is that enshrined in your country’s constitution? Or in the Ten Commandments? Thou shalt be afforded immediate access to a shitty cam version of the latest blockbusters? Where does it fucking say you shouldn’t have to pay for something which doesn’t belong to you?

Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. I’m not saying I don’t do it. I’m just saying call it what it fucking is – stealing.

You know what really pisses me off though? People won’t pay for a DVD but go and buy a knocked off version. They’re not prepared to pay the people who made the film, but they’re prepared to pay the people who stole it.


That’s fucking madness.

Oh, but it’s cheaper, is it? Oh well, that’s alright then.

Paying someone to steal a car for you is much more acceptable than stealing it yourself.

Except, oh no … it really fucking isn’t.

The problem is, stealing media has become so widespread that no one even realises it’s a problem.

I was in a meeting about a TV thing recently and the producer wanted me to watch a particular show as research.

Have you seen it?


Oh. Maybe there’s some way you could watch it somehow?

I don’t think so, it’s not on any more, is it?

No. If there was some way you could watch it, it would be very useful.

I don’t think there is.


The stupid thing here is he clearly wanted me to download it and watch it; but he couldn’t actually tell me to steal another TV company’s product, because it’s fucking illegal.

I did download/steal it. It was shit. But that’s beside the point.

Or rather, it isn’t.

I’ve written some bad films which were very heavily torrented. The people who stole those films then complained about how bad they were. To me.

Fuck. Off.

Writing those films was a traumatic experience. It was every bit as painful for me to write as it was for you to watch. And I’m not even being compensated for that pain!

Worse that that, some guy in a market somewhere is getting paid my nerve-soothing money.

del boy G1

How is that fair?

Well it’s not and life’s not fair. So it’s just tough shit.

But at least have the common fucking courtesy to man or woman the fuck up and admit that you stole it. You didn’t torrent it or share it or download it – you fucking stole it.

Is there ever a time when stealing stuff is perhaps not quite stealing?

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I don’t know – maybe. Maybe if you pay for Sky Movies and the film you want to watch is on there, but only on the day you’re not at home and (for some reason) you have no way of recording it and you’re going to be out of the country so Sky Go doesn’t work and (for some other fucking reason) you’re not capable of setting up a simple fucking VPN to get around that … then maybe, just maybe it’s alright to steal a film you’ve technically already paid for so long as you don’t actually keep it forever?

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Or if you buy the DVD but want to watch it on your phone but haven’t got any way of ripping the DVD to your phone so you steal a copy for your phone. Is that stealing? Yeah, but … maybe that’s understandable/allowable?


Or if a show is on the BBC and you’ve technically paid for it with your licence fee and you want to watch it while you’re temporarily abroad but forgot to download it on the iPlayer before you left and still can’t work out how a VPN works?

Is that still stealing?

Or is that just circumventing an annoying process which stops you viewing the content you’ve paid for at the time and in the manner you wish to view it?


I don’t know.

All I do know is stealing is stealing and stealing is wrong. You may choose to do it, but it’s still stealing and it’s still wrong. Doing it makes you a thief, that may or may not be acceptable to you, it’s not for me to judge because I don’t own a snazzy wig. It’s up to you do whatever the hell you like; but thinking it’s anything but stealing just makes you a fucking idiot.


Categories: Bored, Industry Musings, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard | 2 Comments

P90X vs biscuits


I was having dinner the other day with the admirable Arnopp, conversing about all things writerly, when the conversation drifted (as it often does) to exercise.

Now you may think exercise is an odd thing for two writers to talk about, given writing itself is about the least energetic thing you can do (even though thinking does burn quite a few calories); but that’s kind of the point.

There’s a tendency for writers to pile on the pounds a bit. I guess it’s due to moving nothing but your fingers and eyes for hours on end, usually within sauntering distance of the biscuit barrel.


I don’t know why, but chocolate biscuits seem essential to the writing process. Or my writing process at least. Some people like to choose the right music to write to, I like to choose the right biscuit to set the mood.

The end result of years of finger-waggling and biscuit-guzzling has left me slightly larger than intended.

I don’t know how it works for women, but as a man I’ve always said “The day I can no longer see my own cock will be the day I hit the gym in earnest”.

Well, that day … never came. Although I suspect I may have been leaning forward a bit.

The day that did come though was the “clothes are too tight and I can balance a mug of tea on my stomach whilst sitting bolt upright”. Okay, so the personal tea shelf is quite useful; but the clothes thing was annoying.


So it was time to do something about it.

But what?

I’ve been an occasional gym member over the years and found it takes too much time getting there/back; plus, if you work out how much time I spent in a gym versus not in one, I largely paid NOT to go to the gym.

Which is a waste.

There’s a free gym on the Secret Writing Island; but I could never guarantee it wasn’t full of other people. I hate going to a busy gym Having to constantly modify my workout to anticipate which machine/piece of equipment will be empty next just irritates me beyond belief. Seriously, if you ever see an episode of Death in Paradise in which everyone in a gym is dead except for one chubby, spoon-wielding,  ginge – IT WAS ME!


Years back I used to train three different martial arts on various nights … but I’m a family man now and disappearing every night is frowned upon. Mostly by me. So that’s out.

Time is another restriction. I don’t want exercise taking up all morning. Nor do I want it taking up all evening. If Mandy’s out of the country then I have to look after Alice and can’t really leave the house, so I needed an exercise program I could do in my own house, with limited equipment which didn’t take longer than an hour a day.

Enter P90X.


I don’t know if you’ve seen the infommercials for this; but it’s all over American TV and looks really, really fucking annoying.

But … I wasn’t getting any thinner it seemed to tick all the boxes – an hour (ish) a day, limited equipment, no need to go to the gym.

I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to research, so I spent a few months poring over the details and decided … oh fuck it, why not?

And you know what? It’s been really good.

Well, mostly good.

I’ve enjoyed it anyway.

Or at least the bits where I wasn’t lying broken in a pool of my own sweat vowing to hunt down and murder Tony Horton.


I didn’t do the before and after photos because … well, it’s a bit weird; but let’s just say after completing the program I can happily report my penis and I are once again seeing eye to eye.

To be fair, I didn’t even do it properly. Instead of six days a week, I did four or five and I didn’t even bother with the meal plan. I did give up chocolate, sweets, crisps and biscuits for February (never give up stuff in January, it’s too long. February’s much more civilised) and have subsequently found I’m not that bothered about snacky stuff now.

Or, you know, significantly less so.

Immediately pre-P90X I ate 16 Lily O’Brien’s chocolate chip cookies in less than an hour.

That’s just silly, in anyone’s delicious book.


P90X is essentially a series of alternating muscle/cardio videos – 14 in all. You do muscle/weight stuff on the odd days and cardio stuff on the evens. The muscle stuff is broken down into groups so you don’t work everything at the same time, whilst the cardio stuff is plyometrics (an hour of ‘fuck me is this nearly over yet?’ jumping and squatting), Yoga (an hour and a half of ‘fuck me, I can’t do that!’ whilst dislocating the odd shoulder) and Kenpo (an hour of vaguely martial-art-themed punching and kicking. I’m quite good at that one).

I’ve found I can do it immediately after Alice has gone to bed or early in the morning before breakfast, depending on whether I’m in the UK or on the Secret Writing Island. It’s an hour of effort with no travelling time … and, well it worked for me.

I look better, I feel better and I’m thinking better. Hopefully that translates into writing better too … but probably not.

For me, it’s a good system at a reasonable price. Even more reasonable if you get a second hand set off eBay.

No, there’s nothing revolutionary in it. Yes, you could put a similar program together yourself; but there’s an inherent level of motivation to be had from following a video. It’s far easier to give up or slow down (on the cardio bits) if you’re just doing your own thing, so for me it was worth it.

There are dozens of similar products out there, this was just the one I chose. I think I’m going to try Insanity next because the adverts amuse me.

“Most of you watching this won’t be able to do Insanity. If you try, you’ll fucking die so don’t even bother.”

But if you’re feeling a bit porky and want to sort yourself out, you could do a lot worse than checking out P90X.

Like I say, it seems to have worked for me.

Or at least, everyone keeps telling me it has. At great length and in effusive detail. Which is exactly the same as having friends and family following me around saying:

“Fuck me, you used to be so fat. You were massive. Oh my God, you were so big I wanted to be sick.”

All fucking day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some one-handed press ups.

I need the other hand to eat these biscuits.


Categories: Bored, My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way, Things I've Learnt Recently, Writing and life | 5 Comments

They loves it at Cannes, they does


Occasionally I get asked to write (or re-write) a script by someone (be that producer, director, actor or anonymous other) whose idea “went down really well at Cannes”.

Sometimes they’ve shown this idea to huge celebrity x or massive producer y or ginormous studio z and the response was incredibly positive – they love the idea/treatment/script and said this person should go away and get a script (re)written. Come back and see us when you have!

This used to impress me as much as it impressed the person who wanted to hire me to work on their fabulous idea. I mean, if huge celebrity x, massive producer y and ginormous studio z think it’s a good idea then it’s got to be worth working on! At least the person I’m writing the script for has someone in power eagerly waiting to read it when it’s done! That’s got to be better than writing a script for someone who has no idea what to do with it afterwards, isn’t it? I mean … they love it! Right?


Well, yes … and no.

Yes, because the person doing the hiring has at least worked out how to get the material in front of someone who could, potentially, make it.

And no because if the idea/treatment/script were any good then said important person would have bought it.

The vital bit of the second paragraph is “go away”.

“I love it! Come back when you’ve developed it further!” means “Fuck off and take your stupid fucking ideas with you.”

But this is a polite industry staffed with “artistic” people who react badly to criticism, so no one is honest. Not really. A producer/exec/actor will rarely tell you something is truly awful because they don’t want to offend and they don’t want to risk being wrong.

Just because someone puts a god awful idea in front of you today, doesn’t mean they won’t come up with a work of genius tomorrow. It’s unlikely in most cases, but not every piece of work from a good writer is going to be perfect. Or even good.

Similarly, just because you don’t like an idea doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad – someone else may like it. Several hundred million someone else’s might like it. If they do, then it makes sense to invest in that person’s bad ideas because … well, fuck it. If the idea makes money, it doesn’t matter what your personal feelings are about it.


There are plenty of films I think are appalling which have been smash hits – if I’d been in position to commission those ideas, I’d have lost my studio untold millions. Okay, so that happens; but if you decline politely then at least you’re in a position to say yes to the film maker’s next project. If you tell them to take their talentless shit and fuck off then they’re unlikely to want to do anything other than yell “I fucking told you!” through your letterbox at three in the morning.

So no one says no. Or rather, they say no; but make it sound like “I love it … but it’s not for me.”

Which leaves me in the interesting position of dealing with people who think their idea is awesome because no one’s told them it isn’t.

And in a way that’s fine, because they hire me to fix it.

Sometimes there is a nub of a good story buried in the script/treatment/idea and there’s something to build on – those are the jobs I accept. Sometimes there really isn’t anything to it – those are the ones I politely decline, for much the same reasons listed above.


The problem comes when the hirer believes the “It’s great! Please go away.” means their idea is so amazing it doesn’t need much work. Those projects are tricky because they don’t want to be told what’s wrong with their idea – they know for a fact there’s nothing wrong with it because x, y or z loved it.

It’s really hard to explain to people what x.y or z really meant without upsetting them. I try not to get involved with people like that because … well, it’s just frustrating and pointless. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to determine how immovable people can be on ideas before you sign the contract.

I wish I could. I wish there was some kind of collaboration test I could get potential employers to fill in. Something which would let me know how open they are to new ideas and how clingy they’re going to get to the bits which don’t work.

But there isn’t. Or at least, I don’t think there is.

So instead I’m left with my fallible intuition and the annoying realisation that I will occasionally get trapped in one of these pointless arguments.

I should just tell them the truth.


If they loved it they would have bought it there and then! Money is the only yes!

But I never do. I just swear a lot in private, wait a couple of years and then change their names and genders so I can whine about it on here.

Does that make me a hypercritical coward?

Yes, probably.


Categories: Industry Musings, My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way | Leave a comment

The HMV high


On the day it was announced HMV was going into administration, producer Jonathan Sothcott posted this on his Facebook page (reprinted here with his permission, don’t go copying and pasting it willy nilly now):

524694_227574980676343_1530184419_nAdministration doesn’t mean closure but today’s news about HMV appointing administrators makes it a dark day for the UK film industry. With 90% of physical sales made at supermarkets, HMV was the last bastion of the niche title after the fall of Virgin, Zavvi, MVC, Choices, Tower Records etc. With the supermarkets (understandably) focussing on big budget studio product and uber-commercial top 20 material it means there is nowhere left to buy independent films that don’t make the cut. As a producer, I’m fortunate that my films generally get picked up by the supermarkets. As someone who loves DVDs, I’m gutted that my choices have been so limited.

As a teenager I caught up on more cult movies in the Brighton and Croydon branches of HMV than anywhere else. I know there wasn’t an internet then so the concept of ‘rare films’ made collecting videos more exciting but it was an experience that generations to come are unlikely to have. On Christmas Eve I queued for over an hour in HMV in Croydon buying Christmas presents and it gave me a renewed hope that the rumours were not true and that HMV might live to fight another day.

Alas it was not to be. There’s a lot of silly talk about downloads replacing physical formats and how you have to ‘face up’ to it – scant comfort for the 4,300 people facing unemployment. Download might be on the horizon but I promise you it isn’t here yet. No HMV will push piracy rates up and it will be the illegal downloads that skyrocket.

Sad, sad news.

And it got me thinking.

It got me thinking about how much I enjoy the act of buying something physical, of walking into a shop with cash and walking out with a product I have to wait until I get home to watch.

It got me thinking about what it will mean for low-budget film-makers in the UK and how (apart from a select few who “qualify” for supermarket sales) HMV is the only outlet where people can buy their films; but most of all it got me thinking about how exciting it is to see your own DVD for sale in a shop.


Now, I don’t know if that means anything to you. Mainly because I don’t know who you are.

You may not think seeing a DVD of a film you’ve had a hand in creating on an actual shelf in an actual shop is particularly exciting. Maybe you’ve had so many DVDs released you no longer care? Maybe you’re far too cool to get excited about such trivial things? Maybe you’ve never made any contribution to a film, script or otherwise, and just don’t see what the fuss is about?

Me? I fucking love it.

Regardless of the quality of the film itself, I find something electrifying about seeing my work in a shop. Being able to buy it in public is part of it; but a greater thrill is anyone else can buy it too!

They might buy it in front of me!

They might even tell their mate what they’ve heard about the film. Good or bad, doesn’t matter – it would be an unfiltered opinion!

Okay, so you could argue that the internet is full of unfiltered opinions; but you could equally argue most internet opinions are written using the ‘cunt’ filter. (Yes, including the ones expressed here.)


Even better than that, maybe the guy behind the counter will make some comment on my purchase? Maybe he’ll tell me I’m wasting my money and should buy Football Fuck Ups Vol 18 instead? Maybe he’ll look me in the eye, recognise I’m in some way connected to the making of this DVD and acknowledge me with a knowing nod of the head?

None of these things have ever happened,  by the way; but they could! One day, they might, who knows?

Okay, they probably won’t; but buying your own DVD in an actual shop is so exciting (to me) that it overrides all reason.

First time I saw a DVD of my work on sale was The Evolved. Annoyingly, I bought it before I’d thought of taking a pic.  I had to go back into the shop (or store, for t’was in America) and ask the clerk if I could put it back on the shelf and take a photo of it (lest he saw me taking it off again afterwards and accused me of stealing).

Surely this would be the moment where he recognised my greatness!


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No. He just said “Yeah, whatever. Do what you like.” and strolled off to be impossibly cool somewhere else while I giggled insanely and snapped the photo above.

Not immediately above, higher than that.

Not that one, the one above that.

Go back and look at it! Between The Exorcist and The Evil Dead! How fucking cool is that?

The photos are in chronological order, by the way. I suppose I should move them around so that one is next to this sentence; but I just can’t be fucking bothered.

Oh, I’ve just remembered! I got so excited about seeing The Evolved in store that next time I passed an FYE, some months later, I went in and bought it again. Yes, I am the guy who bought all the physical copies ever sold! Both of them, that was me!

The guy in that shop did pass comment on the DVD, he looked at the cover, looked up at me and said …

“Holy shit! What the fuck is that?”

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I love seeing my work on shop shelves and I love buying them with my own cash … and it saddens me that generations of film-makers to come may not have that opportunity.

If HMV goes (as it probably will) then only those who make the kind of movies supermarkets want to sell will get to experience that buzz; and supermarkets are notoriously fickle about what they will and won’t stock.

Yes the death of HMV would have wider implications for the UK film industry (this article in The Guardian highlights most of them); but from a purely selfish level, I need that small victory at the end of the process.

Writing a film is fucking hard. Dealing with the development process is even fucking harder. Watching the final product emerge as an absolute fucking mess is just soul destroying; but being able to walk into a shop and buy a copy of the DVD, no matter how atrocious its contents … it’s a high I genuinely hope those who’ve never experienced it get to love one day.

But realistically, no HMV means you probably won’t.

You can’t see this, but I’m now doing my sad face.

HMV history in pics

Categories: Industry Musings, Just for the Record, My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Stalker, Strippers vs. Werewolves, The Evolved | 1 Comment


Every year, for reasons I can’t quite remember, I do a post which rounds up exactly what happened to me over the past twelve months. To me, these recap posts seem interminably long, dull and quite pointless … but for some reason they always get read more than the original posts did. I have two theories to explain this odd behaviour:

  1. The majority of you wait until the end of the year so you can get the whole  sordid tale in one go.
  2. The majority of you are fucking mental.
  3. I said two theories, why would there be a three?

But with that in mind, let’s  begin. I promise this list will be as dull and as pointless as ever. We begin, in …


I began the year seven days after everyone else because I’m fucking hardcore, despite having been teetotal for 22 years now.

Maybe I just forgot the new year had begun?

Either way, I began with an explanation of one of my favourite writing techniques, THE BOX.

This technique is so awesome and so useful, not only have I not used it since; but I have no recollection of ever using it in the first place. I’m assuming I just made it up.

You know, lied.

Then I had a moment of genius. I know it was genius because Steven Moffat said it was. On Twitter. This is as close to a fact as you can possibly get without using things like set-squares and alphabet-heavy theorems.

This post garnered more views than my arse did that time I accidentally left it in Trafalgar Square. What’s more, people seemed to  like it. It wasn’t really anything much to do with writing and had more to do with my inability to repair a car … but it’s quite funny.

Essentially, I explained How to beat procrastination and was generally awesome while I was doing it. Assuming ‘awesome’ is a synonym for ‘a bit sad’.

You should read it.

I’ll wait.

I immediately failed to capitalise on this massive new following by bloging about some confused Thundercats and rounded off January by having a film I had almost nothing to do with, Stalker, released on DVD.


And lo, the second month did dawn and lower, I did shout a bit about baby-earrings, hotel sink-plugs, iTunes and shitty writing advice.

Ten days later, I was still pretty upset about people charging writers for bad advice and gave my own bad advice for free. This time about dual time-period script writing. I have since ignored every single one of these ‘rules’ … with catastrophic results.

I should learn to listen to me more.

Or at least learn to read the stuff I write.

I also got upset about Tuesdays and stupidity.

Decided Rosie Claverton is ace …

… and then drowned in bullshit.


I watched Deviation in various international locations.

Wondered when The Descendants was going to end.

Showed you the quad for Strippers vs. Werewolves

… which is far better than the film itself.

And then went on a trailer frenzy for season three of Persona:

I finished March by getting into the quarter-finals of The Sitcom Mission.


Don’t know about you, but I’m bored now. I’m also full of duck and empty of sleep. I might give up at any minute.


April was the month … some stuff happened.

Stuff a bit like …

Pointed out ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITIES happened fairly regularly, best not to get too upset about them.

Explained the difference between a character being likeable and people fucking right off with their stupid fucking notes about kittens and fucking rainbows. Or something.

Swore I’d fucking show you all by explaining why script format was important. This would be it, the definitive guide to every aspect of script format explaining why I’m right and you’re all fucking wrong.

Which isn’t egotistical at all, it’s just the way of the world.

And then there was the Strippers vs. Werewolves première.

This post is well worth reading. It’s a master-class in how to blog about the première of your own film when you think it’s shit, without mentioning how shit you think the film is; but instead mentioning sausages. A lot.

Seriously, go read it. See if you can find any mention of how shit the film is.

They were fucking awesome sausages, mind.

After the première, the film came out in the cinemas because this is what happens.

Here, watch the trailer. Just because, alright? Just fucking watch it so I can have a rest from all this fucking typing.


I began May by making good on my promise to explain every aspect of script format. I started with the title page … and then gave up. For ever. I mean … what’s  the fucking point?

The 7th of May was Me Day when the whole world revolved around me for 24 hours.

It wasn’t my birthday or anything, it was just a day when the whole world gathered round to worship me and celebrate how amazing I am. Or was. You may not remember it because I think you were temporarily dead that day.

Ooh, this post on Script Trajectory was quite good. Must have been ill that day.

The papers in May did a mighty fine job of promoting the BluRay/DVD release of Strippers vs. Werewolves by pretending not to know something they patently do and being all sniffy about it in a headline grabbing way.

I can’t be fucked with this, I’m knackered. I’ll finish it off tomorrow.


Hooray! It’s tomorrow!

For me, probably not for you.

June! The month of … more stuff.

Surprisingly little stuff, actually.

All I did was make a mis-step and bitch about people asking me perfectly reasonable questions.

Fuck you, June, you suck.


July was the month I was recruited by a clandestine organisation to invade a nation of pixie warmongers who live in an old forgotten tea cup behind my garden shed. I was given a spud gun, a nifty secret hat and a licence to break wind in public and sent off to murder pixies. After a series of, frankly, quite dull adventures involving grit and teaspoons, I found myself in Yakatang (the capital of the pixie nation, it looks a bit like Harlow only not quite so grim and with a few extra pixies). I was all set to assassinate King Ian (Yakatang’s chief biscuit maker and all round bastard) when I realised the whole incident was merely the result of a dodgy kipper that morning and I had actually invaded Lakeland, naked save for a pink Santa’s hat and brandishing a small clockwork frog.

Come to think of it, that might not have happened either.

I can’t really remember July, can you?

Oh wait, yes I can. In July I …

Went to the BBC TV Writers’ Festival, met all sorts of splendid people and burbled insanely about The Dukes of Hazzard at every opportunity.

I also said Fuck You, Mr Arnopp.

… and then got all serious with some musings on disability in scripts. That one’s worth reading again.


In August I declared myself FREE to whatever the fuck I want, any time I fucking want to do it!

Then did this …

… which probably wasn’t worth the effort.

Then I watched The Dark Knight Rises … which was worth even less effort.

I did fuck all for a couple of weeks and then I had a serious think about the difference between horizontal and vertical careers. Basically, producers can opt for horizontal careers, scriptwriters can’t.

I rounded off August by giving away literally hundreds of literal pounds … because I’m either nice or a complete fucking mug.



Slipped off to the secret writing island for interesting conversations about ‘the first ever genital piercing’ and ‘how to wake someone up with a spoon’ before proclaiming I had a new regime … and then failing to do anything about it.


Bigged up Helen Smith‘s new book The Miracle Inspector, because she’s all kinds of lovely and I felt like it.

The Miracle Inspector by Helen Smith

I paused for a bit longer and dropped in a secret plug for Jason Arnopp’s new book without anyone knowing I’d done it.


Hmm … it kind of looks like I spent the entire month on my secret writing island. Wonder if that was true?

Ooh! I got really shouty about people giving bad advice!


Which was probably uncalled for. Except it wasn’t! Don’t listen to the cunts!

And finally I rambled a bit about changing writers/directors/producers on a film. Which is just fucking annoying, so stop it.


For fuck’s sake, are you still reading? Go out, get some air. Have some fun or otherwise do something more useful than your time.

Like what I am.

October was the month I …

Rambled about recycling jokes.


Realised I shouldn’t be allowed to write horror movies because I don’t really like ’em.


Wrote a long, boring, yet strangely fascinating blog about file names.

And then gave away a free BluRay of some shit or other.

Here’s a photo of me with a spoon.


Why? Why the fuck not?


Thank fuck this is nearly over. I’m not doing this again, I’m bored shitless, fuck knows how you feel.

Met up with some writers …


… and talked about Pets and Zombies. A subject which is nothing to do with either, but just more dull talk about scripts.

And then I saw Looper and explained the RULES OF THE UNIVERSE. There are surprisingly few of them.

Wait, is that all I did in November?

Cool. Let’s hope December was as pointless and then I can go and get some food. I’m having a curry, in case you cared.


Got beaten up by a four year old.

Explained why fighting naked isn’t always sexy and having your arse and boobs on the same side definitely isn’t.


Somehow managed to defend iPhones while slagging off myself. How the fuck did that happen?


And then promoted a festival because someone asked me to and it was easier than thinking of anything new to write.

totally serialized

And really, that was it. That was the whole year.

Fuck me.

I did do quite a lot of proper writing too, I just didn’t really talk about it much. I script edited hours and fucking hours of Persona, wrote far too much of it and worked on multiple drafts of seven features … so not too bad.

But not good enough.

I will do better next year.

Which is in about five hours’ time.

If you want proper stats and all kinds of flashy animation about all the stuff I blogged about this year, then you need help.

Or this link.

Hope 2012 was super-sexy-awesome for you, now stop reading this, go out and get pissed.


Categories: Bored, Career Path, Festivals, Industry Musings, My Way, Opportunity, Persona, Progress, Publicity, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard, Sitcom Mission, Someone Else's Way, Stalker, Strippers vs. Werewolves, Things I've Learnt Recently, Two steps back, Writing and life | Leave a comment

File names

How do you label your drafts?

And by that, I don’t really mean ‘What do you put on your title page?’ (although that’s an extension of it) but more ‘How do you name your files?’

Do you have a system? Do you stick to it? Do you vary it from job to job?

I’ve found Producers, Directors and First ADs all tend to have their own preference and if a project is for a specific person or once it moves into pre-production it’s best to check with them and use their system; but what do you do on spec scripts or for those people who just don’t care?

Personally, I’ve experimented with several different versions and still haven’t quite made up my mind.

I used to put the date in the file name; but fairly quickly opted not to. Mainly because it just seems completely unnecessary; but also partly because it looks a bit messy to my eye. When I was working on PERSONA+, some writers would send in drafts with the date in the file name; but since the dates had no hyphens, dots, slashes or dashes in them it took me a while to work out what the numbers meant.

And by ‘a while’, I mean seconds (okay, maybe minutes) not hours or days. I’m not that stupid, I just come across that way.

At first I thought it was some kind of version/draft identification number akin to the Dewey Decimal System … but quickly realised I was being a fucking idiot. It all became a little more confusing when some writers would submit drafts with 17102012 in the title page, others would put it backwards 20121017 and the odd American writer puts 10172012.

Okay, so I’m organised and I separate out each draft into sub-folders by writer, story and season, which means the latest draft will probably be the bottom one (for I order them chronologically^); but not everyone’s like that. Some people dump them all in one folder. Others seem to dump everything on their desktop (or whatever the Mac version is called. Probably something cool* like ‘scorpion laser’ or ‘knife claw tiger’ or ‘launch view orgasmatron’ or something).

Anyone having to scroll through a list of randomly ordered dates to find the correct draft(s) is going to have a huge problem working out what’s what and which system the writer is using. Having said that, if they’re that disorganised they can’t keep files in neat folders, then fuck them anyway – it’s their own fault.

So I don’t put dates in file names, it’s simpler. Also, if it’s a spec script, the producer usually would rather there’s no date anywhere on the script or file – a dated script can seem … well, dated. If it takes 2 to 7 years to get a script into the production, anyone receiving the script in the seventh year with a seven year old date on the front may be a bit put off – if it’s such a good script, why has no one wanted to make it earlier?

Stupid question, but it gets asked.

Some writers like to put their own name in the file name. I don’t think that’s relevant either unless it’s a sketch show perhaps, where the production team receive hundreds of submissions – maybe it’s useful then … but maybe not. I’ve seen some scripts where the writer puts his name before the script’s … I find that weird and egotistical; but maybe you don’t?

Then there’s versions vs drafts. Some people use the two terms as if they’re interchangeable. Maybe they are? I don’t know. I tend to think of a new version as being a completely different story to the last draft. Usually accompanied by a change of writer. To me, a new version is what you get when the notes on the last draft go:

Change all the men to women, set it in the fourteenth Century instead of Present Day, make it about dogs instead of people and change the location from a newsagents to a florists. On the moon.

Right. That’ll be a completely different script then?

No, you can keep the same title.



Phillip Barron

(Version 5 Draft 2 - 22/10/12)

I never, ever put Draft 1 on anything. Not ever. Not even when it’s the first draft of Version 7. Don’t know why.

At the opposite end of the scale, when the notes are so minor they’re not really changes at all but just tweaks (like changing a character name or fiddling with the odd word here and there) then calling it a new draft seems wrong. In these cases, I tend to go decimal – Draft 7.3 – It’s a neat way of keeping these drafts separate, without actually calling them different drafts, because sometimes people get nervous at the word ‘draft’ and assume you’re going to demand a new set of payments.#

So that’s kind of the system I settled on – PROJECT NAME (Draft #)  or sometimes PROJECT NAME (Version # Draft #)

Or rather, I haven’t quite settled yet.

Because I’ve noticed a small problem with that – if the PROJECT NAME is particularly long, then the draft number is sometimes hidden by email or file browsing apps. Again, that’s not always a problem if the receiver’s folder (or file list) is organised alphabetically or by date … but if it’s ordered in some odd way, it means that person has to hover over or right click on every draft to find out which one is the correct one. So sometimes I write:


But then I think the client probably doesn’t understand why and just thinks it’s fucking odd behaviour.

I know this is a long post obsessing over a detail which probably doesn’t really matter and has no effect on the quality of the script … but I like details. I like obsessing over them and I like to make every aspect of the script, from the content to the file name seem presentable.

Sadly, the truth is whichever system you use, there are some clients who will lose every draft of the script every single time; because no matter what you put in a file name, it doesn’t cure absent-minded idiocy at the other end.


+ Other helpful practices included calling the submitted script file PERSONA – something which probably makes perfect sense on their computer, because it’s the only script they’re writing for the show. When you get four a month in with no identifying data beyond the title of the show … it makes a little less sense. Particularly when you have to email all four scripts to the casting director.

^ This in itself is stupid. Why don’t I sort them so the newest one is at the top and needs the least amount of scrolling/reading to find? Don’t know, that’s why.

* Wanky

# If your contract specifies a fee per draft and you go calling every tweak a draft, clients can get a bit wary of asking you to change the things which need changing – this is not a good situation to be in.

Categories: Bored, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 6 Comments

We control the vertical and the horizontal

When I first embarked on my writing career, I had a notion. A plan, if you will. It was a simple plan which seemed largely foolproof and went thusly:

  1. Find a small group of hungry young producers and directors to work with.
  2. Make small films for next to nothing.
  3. Repeat with more money.

In theory, we’ll all grow together and rise up the ranks until we weren’t just part of the British film industry; but effectively were the British film industry.

Like I said, foolproof.

Apart from all the fools masquerading as hungry young producers and directors.

And one other, slight flaw …

Not everyone wants to make bigger and more expensive films.

From a writer’s point of view, this seems crazy. Okay, so we don’t all want to write $300 million US movies … but surely everyone wants to make films which are expensive enough to give you a reasonable pay day?


That’s kind of the goal, isn’t it?

Well, no. Not for everyone.

From a production company’s point of view, a better business model is to grow horizontally, not vertically. Why take the profit from one film and sink it all into a more expensive film when you can fund two smaller films for the same price?

Films are a risky investment and frequently make no money whatsoever. In fact, if you ever get the chance to browse the film market of Cannes or AFM, you’ll be forgiven for thinking most films never make a single penny.

So if it’s so risky, why chuck both eggs in the one celluloid basket? Why not make two, cheaper (and therefore less risky) films? Best case scenario, you make twice as much profit as you would otherwise. On the other hand, if one tanks, at least you’ve got a second iron in the fire.

If both of those make a modest profit, then you invest in three or four cheap films … and so on. Growing your business horizontally makes sound financial sense – if you do a good job, these films have as much potential to be a runaway, mega box office success as a hugely expensive one … but with less risk. In most cases, even if the film’s awful, it’ll make you your money back plus a little bit extra.

Lots of little bits extra make an extra swimming pool for your mum much more likely than gambling all your savings on one cash cow.

The problem with this approach is it works for a company, but it’s not sustainable for a writer. A production company can make six, eight or twelve tiny films a year because they can hire six, eight or twelve writers and directors and pay them each a tiny fee.

There’s nothing wrong with the tiny fee, if the budget itself is tiny and everyone gets paid accordingly. It’s only unethical when some people are getting big fat cheques and some aren’t.

As a writer, you’d struggle to write four features in a year. I mean, it’s not impossible and it can be done … but if each script needs six or eight or ten drafts then it could be equivalent to writing up to forty scripts (depending on how much changes in each draft). If you add on the thinking time and the meetings and the procrastination and the masturbation … you wouldn’t have time to do much except die of malnutrition and sleep deprivation.

Producers may want a vertical career, but a horizontal one is a valid choice. It’s not for a writer – writers either have to aim high to begin with or start at the bottom with a view to rising through the ranks.

But then there’s another problem.

The traditional view of the industry is a walled garden. Once you’ve broken in, you’re free to play with all the toys. Um … garden toys, presumably.

The problem is, that view is wrong. In fact it’s complete and utter bullshit.

There is no single, unified industry. It’s not a club you enter for life. Beyond the wall is another wall. Lots of walls. It’s all fucking walls and no one behind one wall knows anyone behind any of the others. In some cases they haven’t even heard of them. Or you.

You can be very successful in one area and completely unheard of elsewhere.

Okay, so some people transcend that; but they do so by being awesome at a variety of things. A writer with a hit TV series can”t just wander into the film garden and start picking the flowers. Hell, he probably can’t even wander into a different TV garden (you know, like the kids’ TV garden or the crime garden) or sometimes even the same garden. Writers with a hit TV or film can still find a surprising lack of interest in their next project or at least have to work equally as hard as they did to break in in the first place.

Personally I managed to get a lot of repeat work and recommendations in the same garden, which is, I guess horizontally; but am completely unknown anywhere else. I’ve accidentally ended up with a horizontal career instead of the intended vertical.

I have no idea how to end this post or even what I’m trying to say, beyond not everyone has the same goals and there are more walls than you might first think.


No, I’ve completely lost my train of thought.


Categories: Career Path, Industry Musings, My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way | 4 Comments

Fuck you, Mr. Arnopp

You probably don’t know this, you may not even care; but I’ve been at the centre of a conspiracy for years now. Time and again I have been subject to the vile whims of one man and his campaign of … well, not terror. Annoyance is probably a better word.

As an aside, I believe all Terrorists should be referred to as Annoyingists from now on. I have two reasons for this:

  1. It sounds less cool and anything people can do to make terrorists sound stupid is a good thing.
  2. They don’t really strike terror in anyone, they’re just bloody annoying.

I never sit around terrified I might get blown up or have a plane crashed into me, but I do get really fucking annoyed every time I have to take my shoes off at an airport. That’s your legacy, you fuckwits. You may have killed quite a lot of people’s loved ones; but all anyone thinks of when they think of you is how fucking irritating you’ve made going on holiday. Good job. Thanks for that.

But anyway, I have been the victim of a conspiracy for … um … a bit. This man:

Has gone out of his way. Far out of his way. As far as Birmingham (which may not be that far if you live in West Bromwich) to make sure I don’t get to see his debut feature film, Stormhouse.

That’s right, ladies and gentleman, a writer who doesn’t want you to see his work. Actually, he does want you to see it, he just doesn’t want me to see it.

I can’t quite remember how this vindictive campaign of bastardness began or even if it actually happened outside the confines of my imagination; but happen it probably did and I’ve suffered greatly. Or at least, mildly. A bit mildly.

But I’m too clever for the affable son of a bitch. What he failed to take into account is my limitless patience and my lemming-like cunning. I’ve bided my time, I’ve allowed my bile and exclusion-rage to boil down until it’s a simmering dodecahedron of intense bitterness … and now I’ve struck!

I have a copy. I bought it. It’s mine. Fuck you, Mr. Arnopp – I can watch it any time I like and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.

Except maybe murder, blinding me, breaking into my house and stealing the DVD, burning my house down, pouring jam into the DVD player, smearing my TV with the excrement of fire ants, employing a small horse to stand between me and the TV … actually, there’s quite a lot you could do to stop me; but I’d rather you didn’t if that’s all the same to you?

Stormhouse, written by this man:

Directed by this one:

Available in the shops right now. Go buy it, just in case Mr. Arnopp doesn’t want you to watch it. Head him off at the pass before he instigates a (largely) imaginary vendetta against you.




———————— UPDATE —————————


Categories: Bored, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way | 7 Comments

Strippers vs Werewolves – the première

I got some new glasses yesterday. Thing is, statistically, I don’t wear glasses.

I mean, obviously I do wear glasses, but so infrequently I might as well not bother.

In fact, I only wear them for driving in the dark or going to the cinema; so when I picked my new pair up yesterday I needed to find an activity which involved doing both.

Thing is, what involves going to the cinema and driving in the dark?

Hmm …

Oh, yeah!

Something like this would be perfect:

And so, with no further ado beyond some lunch, some shopping, a cup of tea and a bit of a sit down, Mandy and I got dolled up in our finest:

… and set off for London Town.

I, um, didn’t take a photo of us. Suffice it to say, Mandy looked awesome and hot and awesome. I was considerably less so, being ginger; but did my best.

Ooh, one of her shoes looked like this!

The other one looked kind of the same, but opposite.

And lo, on the twenty-fourth day of the fourth month of the last year according to wacko conspiracy-theorists, we did arrive at the Apollo Piccadilly Circus:

I, um, forgot to take a picture of that too. Hang on, I’ll see if there’s one on the internet …

It’s kind of almost exactly like that, only with lots of photographers outside and boards and posters all over the place saying it was the Strippers vs. Werewolves première. It was really exciting, I wish I’d taken a photo of it now.

As we walked in, the press took these photos of Mandy and I:










Oh. Looks like they forgot to take photos too. Which is weird because I did do the production re-writes of Pat Higgins‘, frankly, awesome script and am therefore of no consequence whatsoever.

Bloody press, eh? No wonder they’re in so much trouble over phone-hacking if they can’t even take a few photos of celebrities such as myself. I feel sorry for them when they have to tell their editor later on (who is doubtlessly a very angry, cigar smoking man with a flat top) that they completely failed to get photos of any–
















I see, that’s how it is, is it?

Well, I bet these so called ‘photographers’ didn’t get this shot:

Because if they did it would probably be better framed and not on an odd angle and maybe more in focus.

By the way, The Daily Mail described Lucy Pinder’s outfit as “drab”; which I can only assume is idiot-journo-speak for “didn’t have her tits out” or “dressed completely appropriately for the occasion” because I think she looked stunning.

And then the movie started! The moment I’d been waiting for! The moment when I could wear my new specs!

To preserve the sense of occasion, I recorded the whole film on my phone for you to watch here:

Oh, don’t know what happened there.

Never mind, you can watch it on Friday in the cinema or catch it on BluRay or DVD from May 7th.

The showing was a complete success – my specs worked perfectly; and after tucking them away and being gleefully hugged by one of these ladies:

… Mandy and I slipped off to the after party which was here:

Yeah, I forgot to take a photo of that too.

To be fair, the Zoo ladies were blocking the entrance and drawing a massive amount of attention, so we had to wait until they’d finished and we could slip in quietly. I didn’t want to upstage them:

The Penthouse is a pretty spunky place (if you’d seen the website I just got the above image from, you’d feel sick typing that sentence). I completely failed to take photos of either the view or the interior; but luckily @louisabradshaw took this one of the view:

Which I stole, sorry! And the interior looked like this:

Only, without the tables and the girl and … well, it’s the same room; but it didn’t really look anything like that.

We got some free sausages though! Did I mention the sausages? They were free and they were sausages.

I ate lots.

Because they were free.

Then we chatted to some people, had some free drinks and some more free sausages.

Free! They were free!

There were other canapé things there too, but the sausages really stuck in my mind. And my teeth.

At the end of the night, just as the clock struck midnight, my dress turned back into rags and I fled the scene leaving behind one glass … no wait, that wasn’t me.

At the end of the night, we went home on the train (which took forever) and then I got to wear my glasses again driving home:

You can choose to believe that’s a missing photo of the train, my glasses, me driving home or my house. Knock yourself out, I didn’t take photos of none of them.

In fact, the only worthwhile photo I took all night was this one:

And that, to me, is worth all the free sausages you can eat.

Just not all I can eat, because I’m a greedy bastard.

Categories: Sad Bastard, Strippers vs. Werewolves | 9 Comments

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