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TAPE SECRET! The Audiobooks of James Bond

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I wrote, edited and presented this for JamesBondRadio.com.

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Cheers

Dan

TAPE SECRET! The Audiobooks of James Bond | Podcast Documentary

A Hero Worth Meeting

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It’s hard to emphasise just how important Ray Harryhausen was to my wanting to be involved in films when I was growing up (arguably something I’ve still not managed to do completely). He seemed to be exactly what I wanted to be, a very important cog in the machine…yet still behind the scenes, almost anonymous.

And he got to work with dinosaurs all day.

I loved dinosaurs as a kid (I had those 2 inch puffy stickers on my bedpost of what artists in the 70’s thought dinosaurs looked like, which was always more interesting than the way they’re rendered today) and, of course, I loved King Kong, fascinated by the movement of the character, the threat, the power, the size, his amazing white, beady eyes. I can totally see why Ray was so affected by it.

I then noticed the incredible creatures in Ray’s films. I loved the wild, hissing, feral dinosaurs in One Million Years BC, the bizarre creatures in the Sinbad films and Clash of the Titans and was totally enthralled when I eventually got to see The Valley of Gwangi ( I remember being heartbroken that the BBC were going to show Gwangi one Sunday afternoon – which excited me all week – only for it to be cancelled and replaced with some stupid comedy at the last minute. It was years before I caught up with it finally).

As a teenager, figuring it was possible to have a career doing something you enjoyed, I bought his Film Fantasy Scrapbook and lapped it up – this was written at a time when Ray didn’t want to give away all his secrets – but I wanted to know more. I wrote to him via his book’s publisher and basically told him “I love your work and I know how it’s done!” which I think mildly bugged him – though he didn’t let on in his polite reply. (In later interviews over the years, I heard him mention “kids today write to me and say ‘I can see the matte lines!’.” That was me! I wanted to impress him that I knew what a travelling matte was! It wasn’t meant disrespectfully.)

I finally saw him in Bristol at the Watershed when he did a talk with the great animator Bob Godfrey. The conversation turned to employment when Bob said that success had meant he could employ more animators, camera operators, colourists and staff.
“How many people did you have working for you, Ray?” Bob asked.
“Just me,” he replied, meekly.
That’s the thing. He did it all, designed the creatures, animated them, re-photographed them, often co-writing the story and, later, co-producing the films. They wouldnt have existed without him. It didn’t go to his head. He remained humble, quiet, even a bit reserved about it all. I didn’t get to meet him that day but I wished I had.

Within a year he was back at the Watershed promoting his first book in 35 years, An Animated Life. This was the book I wanted all along! Resigned to the fact his art was influential but technically passé, he emptied the archives and spilled the beans on how he did it all. It’s one thing to see art that fascinates you when you don’t know how it was achieved, but to be shown the amount of effort it took to produce that art…well, your admiration goes through the roof.

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One man did all that.

So I finally got to shake his hand, I was happy. He was a gentle, slow moving chap, but that was almost expected having spent so much if his life thinking and living one frame at a time, imagining the bigger picture as slowed down to 24 movements a second.
(As a side note, queuing behind me to get Ray’s autograph was actor Paul McGann who was there with his son. I bit the bullet and asked Paul if he’d sign Ray’s book for me, too, as “I may never meet you again.”
“That’s a very pessimistic attitude!” he smiled, signing the back page.)

My favourite story of Ray’s was that, as a young man, he had built a multi layered model set for animation with several sheets of glass with intricate illustrations of foliage painted upon them separating the layers, making the forest look deep and lush with vegetation when viewed from the right angle.
Building the set started to annoy him and, when some final issue confronted him, he flung the hammer he was using on to the studio floor in frustration…and watched as, in slow motion, it bounced off the ground and through the elaborately painted sheets of glass. He said he learnt patience that day and vowed never to lose his temper doing something he loved again. I often think of that doing what I do. Which is, thankfully, sort of in the same field. I regularly have to edit things I’ve filmed and key frame things. It’s not on the same level at all but it’s meant I’ve had to do tiny bits of stop motion in the past for various projects. I was quite pleased with the way they came out (they resembled Bagpuss more than Bubo) and decided not to prod good fortune with a stick any further lest I come away disappointed!

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One of Ray’s ‘sketches’

The most astonishing aspect of Ray’s career, to me, were is artworks. He made hundreds of highly detailed pencil drawings to help pitch his ideas to studios (so many, in fact, that he released another book in 2009, The Art of Ray Harryhausen). Constantly, throughout this book and his career, he would refer to this awesomely detailed, finely rendered, almost photo realistic works of art as “sketches”. This self-deprecation frustrated me in a wonderful way…a sketch, to me, is a doodle on a napkin in a bar. These are ARTWORKS, Ray! I was quite pleased he didn’t call the book The Sketches of Ray Harryhausen…

Amazingly, in 2008, I was at a revival cinema in London watching Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter (!) when Ray just appeared in the lobby. It was a Hammer film revival event and Ray did work on a (different) Hammer film years earlier. But he wasn’t linked to this film at all. Unannounced, he appeared and sat in the lobby with a drink, shaking people’s hands and signing things. He asked for no money, wasn’t plugging anything, he just wanted to say hi. The screening’s organiser, Don Fearney, who had gone out of his way to fly in the film’s stars Horst Jansen, Jon Cater and Caroline Munro all together for this reunion couldn’t believe that he’d caught an even bigger fish by accident and was as thrilled as everyone else to see him.

So I met him three times. And wrote to him twice. And possibly phoned him when I discovered a ‘R.Harryhaysen’ [sic] in a London phone book (no-one answered, I hung up thanking my stars as I’d have probably died of nerves). And they say never meet your heroes.

Why not, I say, if they’re this charming?

Ray Harryhausen 1920 – 2013

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Me essentially proposing marriage to an evidently delighted and someone bemused Ray in 2008

Read Video Watchdog’s Tim Lucas’ far more eloquent tribute to Ray here

Happy 10th Birthday, Engine Room

The Engine Room in Bridgwater celebrates it’s 10th anniversary yesterday. I was there the day it opened and sipped champagne on the same step ladder in the same room on the same spot I did in 2003 to celebrate the place that has changed my life so much, allowing me to do what I want to so for a living. Here are the cakes.

To all the staff: Here’s to the next 99 years (when the lease runs out).

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Visit them at The Engine Room, Brdgwater

This is Bridgwater

This is…a photo of the first day of shooting on the last big edit we’ve done with the tireless assistance of Phil Shepherd at Somerset Film, based in Bridgwater. It’s all pretty much finished (this picture was a taken a month ago).

Now, an admission. I wouldn’t eat without Somerset Film’s assistance. For one thing they find 70% of my work. For another, the soup is in their (Veggie) cafe is lovely…

Stand by for the link to the film itself.

That was the ‘This Is’ that was…

Old money. Clear as mud.

A reminder of the ultra simple money system we used to use in the UK until around 1971.
In the old, pre-decimal system, the coins used until the decimal system in ’71 were:

The farthing, half penny, penny, threpenny bit, sixpence, shilling, two bob bit, half crown, ten bob note, pound note and five pound note.

1 farthing = a quarter of a penny

2 farthings = 1 halfpenny
2 halfpence = 1 penny (1d)
3 pence = 1 thruppence (3d)
6 pence = 1 sixpence (a ‘tanner’) (6d)
12 pence = 1 shilling (a bob) (1s)
2 shillings = 1 florin ( a ‘two bob bit’) (2s)
2 shillings and 6 pence = 1 half crown (2s 6d)
5 shillings = 1 Crown (5s)
£1 (pound) = 20 shillings
and there was, of course, 240 pennies in 1 pound.
The half-farthing was withdrawn in the late 19th century because of public dislike toward the tiny, pointless coin.
There were, for a time, also:
A groat (4 pennies) or half groat (2 pennies),
a florin (a two shillings or 2 bob or 2 bob bit),
a half-crown ( 2/6d) (2 shillings and 6 pence),
a crown (5/-) (five shillings or 5 bob),
a half-sovereign (ten shillings or 10 bob),
and a half-guinea (10/6d) (10 shillings and 6 pence)
2/6 means two shillings and six pence and is refered to as “half a bob” or “a half crown”. A crown was a five shilling piece or “one bob”. So 2/6 + 2/6 = 5.
The halfpenny piece was pronounced ‘hay-p’ny’.
Two pence was ‘tuppence’.
Three pence was ‘threpence’.
But six pence was ‘a tanner’. (Of course.)
The smallest paper currency was the 10 shilling note.
A guinea was a gold coin worth 21 shillings (or, randomly, slightly more than one pound).
Pennies are abreviated as p but some times you will see them refered to by the abreviation d, for example on old stamps. The d stands for denarius from the latin for penny. So P = D!
As a note of interest pennies (in medieval times) were minted from silver and 240 pennies weighed one pound (1lb) hence the name pound and the expression pound stirling (stirling silver) for the British currency.
The move to decimicialtion was officially in 1971 athough there was a transitional period where both old and new currency systems were used.
Imagine learning that as a kid. How did we ever buy anything?

Thinking of downgrading your iPhone…don’t go for the Galaxy Ace.

Even this would be preferable to a Samsung Galaxy Ace.

A quick word of advice to any iPhone 3G users out there looking to upgrade and save money by getting a Samsung Galaxy Ace because
A) they’re free (iPhones are £300 new)
B) they have unlimited data per month
C) they look sort of like iPhones
D) they were convinced by that old salesman chestnut “I’ve got one myself.”
be aware that using one AFTER owning an iPhone for several years is like downgrading from a BMW to a Smart Car because you think it’ll save money. It will, but at the cost of usability.

I thought the iPhone battery was lousy, but I swear, even when fully charged at midnight and with no programmes left running, the Galaxy Ace will not be alive to wake you up at 8am as an alarm clock. WITH twitter or GPS running in the background, you’ll be woken up by the phone vibrating telling you its run out of battery about 5am (gee thanks, Samsung, what a clever bit of design). How do iphones manage to survive without having programmes running in the background? Think about it, Samsung – the answer is “Very well, thanks.”

Typing on it is like wading through treacle. The full stop button is exactly where the space bar should be so you.get.used.to.typing.like.this. The spell check is worse than schizophrenic, remembering some words and not others and, like an annoying person trying to end every sentence for you, it… tries to end every sentence for you. I’ve switched it off as i was spitting blood. Hence my errors in this post. Which, to be honest, I can’t correct them as there are not enough hours in the day.
The internet browser is horrendous. The address bar and the google search are the same thing which is incredibly awkward.

The speech recognition button is hilarious; asking it to search Google for cohorts, equally displeased with their purchase (“Samsung Galaxy Ace Haters”) meant I was asked “Do you mean Samsung Galaxy Case Peters?”.

Remember, it's free. That's all it's worth. £0.00.

Writing in a wordpress blog text box is like pulling your own teeth out with pliars. It simply WON’T allow you to.control where you type, refusing toscroll up or.down smoothly – the keyboard takes up so much room that, with the address bar taking up the top half of the.screen, you’re left with about 15% of the screen to type on, none.of which does what you ask it to. I’ve resorted to typing blogs first in the Memo programme (an idea clearly pinch from the iPhone’s Notes), only to find it has a 1500 character limit per note! (iphone has none.) So I can even badmouth this damned phone without it trying trip me up.

If you have a friend called Zoë or Amelié then get used to calling them by their first name because any use of accents or umlauts means you CAN’T HAVE ANY CONTACTS WITH NAMES TEN CHARACTERS OR LONGER! Also the contacts’ detail screen doesn’t have apace for email addresses. Imagine that in 2011.

Plugging it in to my mac got no results at all. So not only will it not sync to iTunes, but to get things on or off the phone you need to buy a separate SD card reader. After working the first time, my card now refuses to be recognised by the mac, suggesting i format it completely first. Brilliant.

And as an actual phone – isn’t the point of ripping off a design supposed to be keep the.best ideas and claim them as your own? At least with an iPhone, you can hang up.easily with the big red button. If you move away from the phone call mode on the Ace to browse a contact or your calander to make a date, you can’t back to phone mode to hang up! It’s just embarrassing not knowing how to end a call aged 37.

On the plus side, the camera is very good but if the battery is low (which it always is), not only does it refuse to take pictures, it refuses to.even open the camera app. Incredible.

I’ve clearly been.spoiled by the iPhone and now nothing.else will do. If this was Top Gear, I’d be dropping a piano on this toy replica right about now. Thankfully, for a free handset, its worth £65 on mazuma.com. Which is £65 toward a new iphone.
The temptation to rename it the Galaxy Arse is just too much to resist.

Let us know if you feel the same way by voting below. Ooh, it’s just like Strictly Ice Singing. Only it won’t cost you £4.99 per minute.

Musik in meiner Freizeit Schlafzimmer

Mary O'Shea. By a mic. Last month.

On 9th of November, in both 2010 and 2011 (oddly), the Rightsmart office echoed to the dulcet aural perfume of Mary O’Shea as she recorded several choral tracks (to a pre-recorded backing piano). All in a bedroom the size of a small car.

But then’s she’s only little. (Although her voice is massive.)

It’s amazing what you can get away with if
a) you can sing,
b) you have a decent microphone and
c) you put a big blanket on the wall to soften the acoustics (and then pile on lots of reverb). Click below to hear an example of what was achieved.

You can hear more samples of Mary’s amazing output by clicking here and even buy a CD of her own compositions.

Somebody sign her to a label! She has more talent in her tiniest burp than the output of all the divas and chavs that have minced in front of Simon Cowell over the last decade. You heard her here first.