Dune & Doctor Who

Two interesting projects have come to light today, both on the Bleeding Cool news website. They are both ideas I have talked about several times in the past: “someone should do this,” I have said. Now someone is.

The first is a documentary about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s aborted 1970s film adaptation of Dune. I learned about this film through my interest in the making of the 1979 film Alien, which was in many ways born out of the ashes of the failed Dune project. The designs I’ve seen for the film are fascinating, and the weird visionary style of Jodorowsky would have been a fascinating match for Frank Herbert’s dense science fiction epic. The sheer talent involved alone makes this one of the great untold stories of filmmaking, and one I’ve long thought demanded a telling; but now that I’ve seen this first clip, I realize Dune could have been even more of a game changer, perhaps the only real followup to Kubrick’s 2001. This one promises to far exceed my hopes. I’m very excited about this.

The second one has not been confirmed, but strongly hinted: Mark Gatiss is apparently working on a TV drama about the creation of Doctor Who in the early 60s. I am a lot more cautious about this project. While Gatiss is a huge fan of the show and a highly successful TV creative (best known at the moment for Sherlock), he is… not at his strongest working with female characters. (At least, so argues Andrew(Bartok), quite convincingly.)

This matters because the version of this story I have always wanted to see (and have wanted to write, had I the time and airfare budget to research it properly) isn’t about the origins of Doctor Who at all, but instead about the early careers of two remarkable women: Verity Lambert and Delia Derbyshire. Both of them were pioneers (in television production and electronic music, respectively, although that undersells their impact) and both of them were young women in overwhelmingly male work environments. DW was where their trajectories crossed, and they both had a huge part to play in making the show an icon of British culture. There is plenty of other fascinating incident in the origin of DW, and of course the men involved were all quite singular, but to me the Lambert/Derbyshire parallel story has a potential that the rest doesn’t match.

So I’ll watch for more news of this one with caution.

(The first scene of my version of the Lambert/Derbyshire story pretty much writes itself.)

Kaibosh: Miss a Meal

Blimey, just realized I hadn’t blogged this – our friends at Kaibosh are fundraising for a big ol’ chiller van they can use to collect lots more food and get it to people who need it.

Miss a Meal in MayInstead of eating out this month, donate the cost of one café or restaurant meal to Kaibosh and help us rescue food for people in need.

This is a great cause and worth a few dollars. Forgo anything from a bag of chips through to a four-course meal at Logan Brown and toss the coin their way. The karma pigs will oink in joyous approval when you do.


Did Lucas ever invent a word with a more pleasing sound than “Wampa”?

For a competition now in progress, my buddies Jon and Jarratt chose to recreate the Wampa cave sequence from Empire Strikes Back. It is grooovy! Check it:

Give them some likes and stuff over at the YouTube page.

EDIT EDIT: here’s the right way to vote for them:
“I posted on Facebook, I got the process for voting for the people’s choice award wrong. You need to:
1) Go to the Facebook V Energy NZ site,
2) Click on the 48 Second link/application from the menu on the left hand side
3) Find our video
4) Click on the “thumbs up” icon. “

From Felix’s War Diaries

For ANZAC day – here is ANZAC day from 1918, in my great-grandfather Felix Rooney’s war diaries. He was in Somme, in France.

Tuesday 23
Got up about 9.A.M. Started bagging rations. Left at 3 P.M. with stores and hot stew for the line. When near Courcelles we ran into some heavy shelling and we had to move some across the paddock. Fritz was shelling all around. I got some of our Coy when we got up, to unload the limbers and get the stew dished out. I went up to H’qrs and delivered the rum. All going all right but this is going to be a warm show. Our transport moved out of the wood we were in, down behind Louvencourt. There are plenty of troops around here, both British and French. Turned in 9.P.M.

Wednesday 24
Cold morning inclined to be drizzly. Just heard that after I left the boys last night, Fritz got on to them with some of his heavy shells. Young Sgt Higginbottom of Ch.Ch. got killed. He was only a boy and a good soldier. 12th Coy had four killed and a good few have been wounded. It is hard luck coming out of the front line and getting knocked about in the reserve trenches.

Thursday 25
Anzac Day. Got everything fixed up for the line. Very close and thundery. Heavy rain in afternoon. My storeman went up the line to-day with the rations.
Boys celebrating the anniversary of the ‘landing‘ to-night.

The soldier Felix reports as killed was Bruce Hickinbottom. His record in the NZ role of honour is here. He was 20 years old.

Lis Sladen RIP

Spare a thought for Elisabeth Sladen, who died yesterday aged 63.

She played the best-loved of the friends of Doctor Who, Sarah Jane Smith, in the mid-70s. The character had such longevity it not only returned recently, but became the anchor for an entire new spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

I genuinely felt upset by this news, which doesn’t happen often. But even if you don’t have my affection for her performance and her character (the embodiment of Vonnegut’s injunction that you’ve got to be kind), you should still recognize what is lost with her. There are few television series that provide worthwhile entertainment for pre-teens, and fewer still that give centre stage to a woman over 60 years of age.

This is a sad loss.

Read the thoughts of her young fans here.

Guest Post: Ending World Poverty! & Kiva

Guest post! I’m delighted to share this post by Sean from the excellent, and at present quiet, screenwriting blog Writing About Writing. (He also exists in the real world where he is a splendid fellow.) It’s about microlending service Kiva, which I’ve mentioned before. Sean – thanks for this, a privilege to have this insight!

Hi everyone, I’m Sean.

Morgue has asked me to share my experiences with Kiva, the microfinance website.

Kiva provides lower-cost loans to the world’s working poor, and Kiva is what that this post is about, eventually. But first I’m going to talk about myself for a while (ha ha, you fool Morgue, giving me this platform!)

I’ve wanted to address poverty for a long time, ever since I did a primary school project that opened my eyes to what my life was like in a developed country, and what I could have expected if I’d been born in a developing country instead. I felt lucky and guilty at the same time.

Anyway, ending world poverty was one of my long-term goals that would occasionally pop into my mind: “Oh yeah, really must do something about global poverty one of these days…”

Flashforward to me getting older. Statistically, half my life was over, and I hadn’t done anything substantive about poverty (apart from those World Vision 40 hour famines when I was that primary school kid).

I heard about Kiva through a workmate, who asked for a Kiva voucher as a going-away present. All very worthy, I thought at the time. But I was also impressed that she’d forgone the usual beautiful bowl/platter/piece of jewellery that a leaving workmate would usually get from the rest of us, for something as abstract as a voucher for a good cause.

Anyway, the Kiva seed was planted, which grew to me checking out the Kiva website, mulling it over, and eventual some action. I asked my relatives to give me money for my birthday last year, rather than the extra DVD/pair of socks that I didn’t really want or need. From that money, I made my first Kiva loans.

Okay, so what is Kiva? Kiva is an online conduit that closes the gap between ‘wealthy’ lenders (that’s me!) and people seeking loans in developing countries. Run out of San Francisco, Kiva was set up in 2005, and now has 572,389 lenders (or so!). Lenders provide their money for free – a lender (almost always) gets their money back in repayments, but makes no interest on the loan.

As a lender, I’m provided with summaries on loan applicants from across the developing world. There’s a description of what the loan will be used for – loans are usually for inputs into a small business e.g. buying stock for a shop, or animals as livestock – and some personal details about the loan applicant, which helps humanise the loan. After viewing the summary, I then have the option of loaning US$25 towards the loan applicant (through PayPal), and this US$25 is combined with loans from other Kiva users to fully fund the loan.

Kiva provides loans through field partners based in the countries concerned. The field partner acts as the liaison between Kiva and the borrower: field partners write up the details of the loan on Kiva, and are responsible for the repayment of the loan. As a lender, I can follow the progress of the loans being repaid, and hear updates on how the loan has made a difference for the borrower.

I get to choose my priorities for the loan portfolio. I usually fund women through Kiva – women have relatively little control over the world’s wealth and resources, so I feel like I’m working to redress that in some small way as well. It doesn’t always have to be business loans either – I’ve lent money to someone who needed to replace their roof in the Philippines.

So what are the issues – nothing is perfect, right?

A field partner did suspend repayments on one of my loans for a time due to political/economic turmoil in the country concerned. They’ve since resumed repayments, as they’ve been able to do so.

A bigger deal was when I realised that field partners charge interest to borrowers, and that this level of interest looks exorbitant by Western standards. There has been some criticism of Kiva for not making this plain enough on their website, which I sympathise with. The fact that field partners charge interest isn’t hidden, but IMO it’s not highlighted either.

But after thinking about it, I accepted that the level of interest needs to be measured against the costs of processing loans, and also the rate of inflation in any given country. As far as I can tell, the lending rates are considerably better than would otherwise be available. Kiva defends the field partner’s loan rates here, saying they need to be high in order to cover the costs of the field partners.

Kiva itself makes no money from the loans they are helping to process. As I make a loan, I have the option of also donating US$3.75 towards the running costs of the organisation. Plus Kiva has various corporate partners and supporters.

So, where am I now? I feel good about my Kiva loans. I’m not going to single-handedly deal with global poverty like I used to dream of. I’m not some kind of Economic Superman. But in a small way, I feel I am making the lives of some people in the world a little better in some ways. That’s what Kiva gives me, and that’s why I like it.

Bigfoot Sighting

The Alligator has posted a few photos from one of our expeditions, as part of my birthday celebrations. They include photographic proof of the existence of the rare NZ sasquatch:

This photograph was fulfilment of a long quest; we had earlier been sasquatch hunting in the Catlins, without any success.

(We’ve shown this photograph to several experts but they all maintain it’s actually a man in a suit, or perhaps a moose. I suppose the truth will have to stay out there.)

Nice one, Wanisan!

White Man’s Akira

Don’t worry folks, even though lots of really big things in the world are going wrong, there’s still room for some very small things to go completely wrong too.

The script for the Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures live action adaptation of anime artist Katsuhiro Otomo’s 6-volume graphic novel Akira has been sent to a short list of actors… I’m told that for Tetsuo, Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield and James McAvoy have been given the new script. For the role of Kaneda, the script has been given to Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake and Joaquin Phoenix. The two leads are expected to come from that group of actors.

[They’re not actually going to have Robert Pattinson playing a character called Tetsuo. The Deadline link says the action has been moved from Neo-Tokyo to New Manhattan. He’ll be Theodore. Justin Timberlake will be Kevin. I guess they won’t be teenagers any more either.]