Wednesday, 25 February 2009

They're not, for a start.

It is wrong of me, absolutely wrong of me, and I don't pretend it's anything other than wrong of me; that whenever I see the headline about teenage pregnancy on the front of the copy of 'The Week' that's lying around the flat at the moment- 'Children Who Have Children' - I find myself humming '...are the luckiest children in the world'.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Cabin Pressure - Repeat of series one.

Just to let you know... The first series of my radio sitcom Cabin Pressure, about a tiny charter airline and starring Roger Allam, Stephanie Cole, Benedict Cumberbatch and me, is being repeated on Radio 4 at 6:30 on Tuesdays starting tomorrow (February 24th). After that time, you should also be able to hear each episode for one week after broadcast on the BBC iplayer or via Listen Again.  Hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Why geese are such filthy liars.

In John's gospel (not this one, the other one), the thing that finally clinches it for Pilate that Jesus is a stand-up guy after all is his answer to the question 'What is Truth?' But we never get to hear what that answer is. It's very much like when Bill Murray whispers to Scarlett Johannsen at the end of 'Lost in Translation'.
So, not having the opportunity to ask either Jesus Christ or Bill Murray, I thought I'd try that modern oracle, 20Q favours the Socratic method of teaching, and here's what the two of us worked out together. 
Truth is that which is neither animal, mineral nor vegetable; cannot be washed; does not bear live young; is not colourful; is not an omnivore; does not come in a pack; can sometimes be found in a classroom; does not weigh more than a duck; can sometimes be sold for money; is sometimes used by a basketball player; is sometimes worth a lot of money; can sometimes be heard; was used over 100 years ago; is sometimes annoying; is sometimes dangerous; can help you find your way; is something about which John Finnemore knows some songs; and is not mathematics, science, physics or a lie.
Shame it didn't ask the last one first, really. Or perhaps: 'Can it be handled by Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee?'
You'll notice that that took more than twenty questions. This is something that 20Q blames on its previous players, and, I know I'm partisan, but I agree. They do seem generally to be a rather Polly-Annaish, naive bunch, who believe the truth is never dangerous; never annoying; cannot be sold for money and is always to be found in a classroom – and yet with seemingly erratic pockets of hard-bitten cynicism, such as when they bitterly snarl that Truth is never used by a basketball player.
One thing we can all agree on, though – Truth is never heavier than a duck. 

Monday, 9 February 2009

Well, don't encourage her...

Headline of The Times' report on the Carol Thatcher affair:

"Carol Thatcher's golliwog remarks 'made eyes roll in the green room'."

Surely that only made things worse?

Friday, 6 February 2009

I decided it was 'doubtful' that Magnus Magnusson carried a weapon. Because who can say for sure?

 Here at Procrastination Central, I have just spent ten happy minutes playing with this, an A.I. version of Animal Mineral or Vegetable. I started off with the straight forward version - 'Truth' was fun, I might tell you about it later - then I moved on to the version where you play as a famous person. It beat me easily when I was Phil Silvers, and with difficulty when I was Oliver Cromwell (though that was because apparently other players, when asked if Cromwell is retired, have responded 'Probably'; and when asked whether he was a Catholic have responded... 'Yes'. It's my guess those players were not Irish.) Then I beat it by posing as Magnus Magnusson, whom it rather surprisingly identified as Yitzhak Rabin. Which is what gave me the idea of playing as myself, and seeing which famous person it confused me with. Here's what happened. 

1) Are you under 40 years old? Yes.
2) Do you wear makeup? No. 
3) Have you ever been married? No.
4) Are you in movies? No.
5) Have you had a Top 40 hit in the last 10 years? No
6) Were you ever part of a duo? Yes
7) Do you play an outdoor sport? No.
8) Are you an actor? Sometimes.
9) Are you British? Yes.
10) Are you a comedian? Yes
11) Do you perform live? Sometimes.
12) Do you have blond hair? No.
13) Are you a TV show host? No.
14) Are you multi-talented? No.
15) Are you skinny? No.
16) Are you involved with music? No.
17) Did you die your hair? No.
18) I am guessing you are David Mitchell. 

Well, I'm not. I'm less 4, less 14, and increasingly less 15 than him. But what does make that a bit odd is that today happens to be the day of the launch of this series: , featuring David Mitchell, and written by him and some other bloke. 

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Pairs of people I always confuse with one another, just on the strength of their vaguely similar names.

  • Laura Linney - Lindsey Lohan
  • Fern Britton - Fearne Cotton
  • Sam Rockwell - Dean Stockwell
  • Mark Steel - Mark Thomas
  • David Thewlis - David Threlfall
  • Mick Hucknell - Michael Hutchence
  • Toby Litt - Tim Lott
  • Annie Lennox - Alice Cooper

Some of these I feel more justified in than others. The two Marks, for instance, are to all intents and purposes the same person - Annie and Alice, I accept, are not. In some cases, such as the Marks or Messrs Litt and Lott, I know there's two of them, but can never remember which wrote / appeared in what. In some cases, I think both people are one of them: I know, for instance, that there's a cosy middle aged TV presenter called Fern, but until I started writing this I'd never really established whether her surname was Britton or Cotton. Google now shows me that Fearne Cotton is a remarkably different kettle of fish. And in other cases, I have until recently thought there was one person, of whose name I was not certain, who had had the careers of both. Excusable, perhaps in the case of the two English actors of similar age called David Th-----; less so in the case of Messrs Hutchence and Hucknell. And positively actionable in the case of Mesdames Linney and Lohan.