It’s been another good day for #amwriting as the first draft of my current novel in progress #HelloMrMagpie has reached the 22nd of 36 planned chapters and closed in on 77000 words. Whether they are the right words in the right order remains to be seen but I’m delighted with, at least, the quantity of my current output. I am fully prepared for some hefty editing and rewriting once I’ve concluded the initial version and plan to be at this stage early in the new year. Anytime before that will be a bonus.
There have been a few things that have stolen my attention today without which I might even have been looking back and flicking the Vs as I passed the 80000 word mark. In fact, if the words in this piece had been part of the novel instead, then I’d be less than 1000 away from 80K. Friday night’s planned writing also didn’t happen due to the Channel 4 programme Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C – donate here) taking over our family living room. Once I caught some of the clips of those who had either beaten or succumb to the illness, it was a case of wiping the many tears away and thanking my lucky stars for my own and immediate family’s health. There was no way I was going to be able to forget what I’d watched and put myself into the character of my two protagonists.
This morning, Saturday morning (18/10/2014), was therefore once again my primary time for completely escaping into the plot. Writing in the first person as two separate characters, I genuinely believe there is a need to turn myself into those people. Some may thin this is odd but I need to believe I am Paul Archer (formerly known as Blake Chapman – I don’t want to give too much away though) and even more strangely, his wife Helen. I mean I need to believe I am them mentally. I can confirm when it’s time for the Helen chapters I am not dressed in women’s clothing or trying to act overly feminine. Maybe I should be.
As today progressed, the distractions came, some of which I opened my arms to but others to which I was less welcoming. I’ve written previously about trying to cut down on the time I devote to football, but I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to watch my team Brentford when someone posted an online link to live TV footage of their trip to Wigan. I tried to multi-task and continue writing during the match but was scared I’d miss a goal as the live stream being, erm, unofficial, meant there were no action replays. The match finished 0-0.
My #teendaughter then wanted to watch a movie on Netflix and chose the adaptation of John Boyne’s ‘Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ as she has recently been studying the World Wars in history. Shamefully not yet having read the book, I had just an inkling it wasn’t going to be the happiest story ever but was still rather taken aback by what happened. I suppose you have to at least cover some facts when writing historical fiction. Luckily the dry your eyes mate tissues from the previous night were still close to hand.
So, the football and the film, I don’t mind losing time to. What I struggle with is the subsequent minutes lost tonight, given over to watching X-Factor.
Now I usually hate creative snobbery. Don’t look down on the person reading Sophie Kinsella just because you’re currently ploughing through Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s complete works and don’t think you’re better for listening to rare The Fall b-sides than anyone shuffling their iPod through Steps’ Greatest Hits. However, when it comes to television I find myself turning into Victor Meldrew and complaining about many of programmes. Don’t even get me started on that new ITVbe channel.
So, while I’ll respect anybody listening to the likes of Little Mix, Ella Henderson, James Arthur and any other recent artists to have taken this route to a recording contract, there are a number of issues I have with the current format of the programme. What I find most disturbing is its continued popularity among youngsters and what they may be learning from the show.
Just from the incomplete show I viewed tonight, I was able to identify quite a few factors 🙂 that p*** me off the most. In fact, pop-pickers*, here is my Top Ten hit-parade* of things that annoy me most about the X-Factor:
10. Blatant product placement – for this series, just like the last couple, there will always be clips of the ‘contestants’ on their tablets. Last year the deal was definitely with Samsung. I haven’t watched enough this time round to see this year’s tablet manufacturer of choice, even if every one of Mel B’s contestants was tonight shown chatting to her one through Skype (probably another brand placement).
9. Judges bickering among themselves. Yes life can be competitive but sometimes, quite a lot of times, you do have to work as a team. The judges $just seem to be so intent on winning that they will often argue between themselves. Some people may find this entertaining, I find it draining.
8. Judges belittling the acts that have been put through. However s*** the performances are, it must take courage to get up there and sing in front of the cameras, crowd, crew and judges. The judges have no qualms about absolutely crucifying the acts who don’t perform to perfection. As well as manipulating the contestants in the name of entertainment I can’t stand any feedback being given in a bullying form.
7. The Aggression in Mel B’s voice. She just seems to have taken number 8 to a new level (erm, number 7). I imagine being a parent to someone getting some of her snidey, snarling feedback and climbing down the seats to confront her. Yes, you may have been part of one of the most successful girl bands of all time, but come on, you’ve had your fair share of c**p performances – may I refer you to the Costa Bingo ads.
6. The Italian fella with one of the better voices who won’t be getting Nigel Farage’s, and quite a few other people’s, vote. It’s not the Italian fella himself that I find annoying. He seems a sound enough chap. Unfortunately, despite the fact he even seemed to impress Noel Gallagher on the SU2C Gogglebox last night, I’m just fairly confident the Italian fella (I’ll have to keep calling him this because I’m rubbish with names) won’t win and might not even make the final. With UKIP hypnotising far too many voters into falling for their (lack of) policies, it would seem there must be at least a quarter of the population who wouldn’t want this foreigner progressing too far in such a British show. I hope I’m proved wrong in this one.
5. Factually incorrect interpretations of the ‘theme’. It was ‘80s week’ this week. There were songs that were definitely made famous in earlier decades (Jealous Guy, Imagine and If You Don’t Know Me By Now were first hits in the 70s by John Lennon, John Lennon again and Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes) that were then re-released or covered in the 80s. I guess these ones can kind of count if the boundaries are stretched a little.
The one I really struggled with tonight though was It’s a Shame. The rap part of the song (“Sister, my sister” or rather “sista, ma sista”) clearly came from the fine Monie Love version (youtube link). I remember vividly this being part of me and a couple of mates’ DJ set when we thought we were about to set the music world alight in 1990. The chart records show it was indeed a hit across the globe in 90 and 91. The original version of the song however, which was co-written and produced by Stevie Wonder no less, was recorded by the Spinners in 1970.
So Mr.Cowell et al, by all means have it included in either 70s or 90s week but no, not the 80s.
Pedants may point out that Grandmaster Flash had a cover of the song on their 1982 debut album The Message. That hardly makes it a HIT of the 80s.
4. People on the Reality TV ‘Circuit’ – That posh Jazz singer model girl, I’m still rubbish with names, was instantly recognisable in our household, and I daresay many others, for her appearance on a fashion reality TV programme. Don’t quote me but I think it was called The Face and had Naomi Campbell close to meltdown for a few weeks. She also cropped up this week on some other reality type programme too, so is clearly working the circuit. Also, the really rubbish singer guy, this year’s Jedward-Wagner-Chico-Rylanesque joke contestant, rings a bell as someone who has appeared on Come Dine With Me. Are they really struggling to find enough decent singers in the recruitment process that they have to trawl round the Reality TV circuit?
3. Just adding quantity to try and improve quality– Stereo Kicks are a boy band on the show. I can’t believe I remembered their name. They aren’t a three like the current Take That line up or a four like the last Take That line up. They aren’t even a five like the original Take That, Westlife, Boyzone etc etc line ups. They have even outdone S Club 7. It was when they screamed through the Don Henley (at the time a solo artist, that’s 12.5% of Stereo Kicks – in number, not talent) song ‘Boys of Summer’ that I had to put my headphones on and look away from the TV set.
Eight? Eight members of a boyband? It shouldn’t work and at least the boys prove it doesn’t work. It’s like those razors where they used to just add more blades to make them seem better. Where the f** will they stop with this nonsense? Will the next series have ten girls and Mel B telling giving them all a suitably s*** nickname? The group could be called The Diverse Girls or something? Members of the band giving their real names away to be known as Well-to-do Girl, Athletic Girl, Frightening Girl, Young Girl, Blonde Girl and five other Girls? I won’t be surprised.
2. The man/woman on the street – getting their chance to be a star. Last year it was a prison warden. This year it’s that bloke who might, or might not have been, on Come Dine With Me. A horrendous rendition of Rick Astley’s Neber Gonna Give You Up (now THAT is an 80s song) burst through the headphones Stereo Kicks had made me wear. It was really, really bad. As it was so really, really bad, he should be confident he’ll get through another few weeks. There will be enough people either wanting to give him a further chance in ‘pursuing his dream’ (TM) or others who want to vote him through at the expense of those who may feel they have a genuine chance of making a career out of this.
1. Still having the costly phone and text votes – “Mum/Dad, can I phone up and vote?” No. It should be THAT easy. Teach your children the value of money. Donate that money to charity if you insist in dialling some numbers on your phone to make you feel good. It will go to a better cause and have more chance of making a difference. Your vote for Act A won’t make the slightest bit of difference in whether you get to see Act A return the following week. Some of it however will go towards making Simon Cowell even more obscenely rich than he is before you dial.
I didn’t even mention the Winner’s Song which is usually a murder of a song you will never listen to in the same way. What will it be this year? You’re probably best off looking for some other Syco, Sony or ITV related act as these seem to be becoming increasingly incestuous.
Oh well, at least the show has now finished and I can end my rant because Jonathan Ross is back with his (usually) entertaining chat show. I’m sorry but I did warn you, the X Factor turns me into Victor Meldrew. So, who’s on tonight Wossy? David Attenborough? Ah, nice one, he makes proper television programmes and has been doing so for longer than my Life on Earth. Steve Carell? Funny fella who should hopefully bring some much needed laughter to this weekend of tears.
Well, who are your first guests Jonathan? Mel B and Cheryl Fernandez-F***ing-Versini from the X-Factor.
Oh, for f**s sake.
*I realise many readers will think wtf at these phrases. They were both used by cheesy UK DJs in the 1970s and 1980s.
Thanks for reading,