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May 19th, 2003


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05:56 pm - it's so easy (as Chris Evans used to croon)
So many things to write, so little inclination to write them. Today's walk into town gets a jump in priority due to novelty and timeliness.

I discovered for the first time that a particular building has a large domed roof. It's at an angle where not the sort of thing you'd see from a car on the road - I only saw it from walking along the opposite pavement. The building in question used to be a cinema until 15-20 years ago (indeed, a bus driver still referred to it as "the ABC cinema" to me within the last year), then had a good spell as a bingo hall, and within the last three years or so has been turned into a pub in the "It's A Scream" chain. Apparently its large capacity does make it a good place to go and watch sport, but I wonder to what extent this is symbolic of trends in taste for entertainment at large over the last 20 years or so.

Walked home and had a long, sad daydream which I might write into a story some day. (90% chance I won't, though.) On the way, I passed an advertising billboard which was apparently blank white, but with a black line across the middle and "Where do you draw the lines" below, all as if spray-paint graffiti. It was unusual and so thought-provoking. It would be lovely if some of the advertising hoarding companies decided to fill unusued hoarding capacity with stray pieces of art, but almost as lovely if this is the first ad in a teasing, thought-provoking campaign where all is eventually revealed. If it really were just a piece of graffiti on a blank billboard then it would still be quite nice, but it would be hard to believe as the final letter s "went off the page" without being sprayed onto the frame surrounding the billboard.

Does anyone else ever feel that it's harder to read a piece of writing, especially fiction, when you know the author beforehand than it is when you don't? I'm starting to feel this from time to time these days and so a lot of lovely people's fiction is going unread - quite possibly even yours, for at least four of you. I guess I must hate the possibility of reading something and finding that I'm disappointed by it simply because I don't want to have to tell the writer that I didn't enjoy it so much, but I wouldn't not want to give them true feedback.

The syndicated oblomovka points to easyCinema opening in Friday in Milton Keynes. As Stelios says, it's Stelios does cinema. You can book seats at a Friday night peak-time showing of something for as little as 20p if you book far enough in advance. Unfortunately you can only book a week in advance right now, not least because film availability changes so much from week to week whereas companies need to decide where they're going to operate their flight routes months in advance. I don't think the web site is nearly finished yet - Stelios mentions that "you can come to the site with a budget of, say, 50p, and find all the shows that you can see for 50p or less" but this isn't possible yet. (I note with amusement that the advanced search lets you restrict the film selected by genre and that one of the genres available is "Adult". Some might say that's taking easy too far.)

The strangest decision he has made is that he isn't going to be selling popcorn and hot dogs there; I always believed that this was the major money-maker for the cinemas, not the ticket prices, so it'll be interesting to see if he can make this work after all. I understand that easyInternetcafe has turned out to be a money-loser, so I fear easyCinema might be as well. All the same, I hope that he can make this work, not least because easyBus is under consideration, which would seem to be a Very Very Good Thing Indeed for frugally-bottomed domestic travellers like me. easyTrain can only be a matter of time. (Here's a thought: easyTube. Hmm.)

Other big news of the day is the announcement of some new national lottery games partly to support London's bid for the 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately, Camelot haven't released the details, apart from:
  • A weekly draw with cash prizes between £20 and £200,000,
  • a twice-yearly "Olympic Mega Draw",
  • a daily game six days a week with prizes from £5 to £30,000,
  • a lottery game where entries will cost a penny each and
  • a European game held in conjunction with French and Spanish lottery games which will have jackpots of up to £30,000,000.
Presumably there won't be five different new games - I'm imagining there's some serious double counting going on there. My main source is, as usual, a story at BBC News because there's nothing yet on the Camelot or official National Lottery sites, let alone any details of useful and interesting things like the game structures and the odds.

My analysis here is that I'm particularly worried about this twice-yearly "Olympic Mega Draw". The "Millennium Millionaire Maker" started disappointingly and has become even more disappointing every year since when they repeated it as the "Christmas Millionaire Maker". Now they can make this work in Spain with El Gordo (full explanation in my entry about it from last December) but I think this is more due to tradition and historical accident than anything else. It was nice to see and identify a clip of the El Gordo draw on the BBC News, for what it's worth. It's also interesting to see that there was mention of the UK/Spanish/French Euro-Lottery even back then and that the plan looks like it will come to fruition, with an even bigger jackpot claimed than before. (Perhaps there's a difference in measure - average jackpot quoted then, peak jackpot quoted now?) I do hope this Euro-Lottery won't be a jackpot-only game like Lotto Extra - I really don't think that that would be at all popular. I also have worries about what the lottery show is going to look like to watch and whether it's going to turn into a trilingual nightmare or it's just going to have three sets of national commentary dubbed over automated, human-free visuals.

The BBC had a Professor Ian Watson on to speak about the Lottery; he said that he thought that offering so much choice would start to confuse the punter and that they need to concentrate on the single main weekly draw once more in order to stop the decrease in sales. I have to say I agree with this point of view. Camelot don't; in fact, they predicted that "the main Lotto draw will only account for 49% of overall sales by 2005, with other games taking its place". Wrong, wrong, worryingly wrong. Sir Richard Branson must really have cocked his lottery bid up a second time in order not to wrest the franchise from this bunch of clowns. Or maybe they're right and I'm wrong after all; who knows?

I can say one thing in favour of the official National Lottery site. They offer scratchcard-like games which you can instantly play online, and a particular favourite of mine is the 25p Pluck A Duck. Your odds in winning are better than 1 in 3 (actually, 1 in 2.87), but the chance of you actually making a profit from playing are 0.062952, or a faint shade better than 1 in 16. Still, you can have all the fun of playing - minus the profit and loss, which aren't fun - for free like so. Strongly recommended just for the sound effects, and who can resist a game whose rules include the phrase "If the Player clicks on the frog at any time during the Game, it will jump from the lily pad. No value is attached to the frog, and clicking on it will make no difference to the outcome of a Play."?
Current Mood: geekygeeky
Current Music: Chris Evans singing really badly, thankfully only in my head

(15 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:the_maenad
Date:May 19th, 2003 10:43 am (UTC)
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If one of the writers whose fiction you're sitting on is me, don't worry. Read it whenever you like, and give me as much feedback as you feel comfy with.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:May 20th, 2003 06:59 pm (UTC)

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I wonder how many people actually watch the lottery shows?

Certainly less than before, I think. However, Winning Lines and Jet Set are both reasonably well-established, adequately popular formats, which is why they've stuck with them for so long. Winning Lines is still great.

Which branch of the Civil Service do you work for, if you don't mind me asking? A friend who works for the BoE is definitely interested in work. Actually, is it acceptable to pose that sort of question? He could well be interested in talking to you about the sort of things you do, even if not necessarily vice versa.

hey, look, i got an account now :)

*devil horns pop up* Hooked another one! ;-)
(Deleted comment)
From:expetesso
Date:May 19th, 2003 12:27 pm (UTC)
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Today's walk sounds pleasant, though not quite as happy as last week's. Which is fine, certainly. I'm interested in the sad daydream story -- I tend to go for the semi-tragic sort myself, and thus find them a bit interesting when someone else has dreamed them.

I'm assuming my little story is one of the one's you're sitting on, given previous conversation. Let me see if I can type this without being confusing. If you want to read but are avoiding doing so because you don't want to be disappointed if its terrible, no problem. If you want to read and are not doing so only because you don't want to have to tell me that it sucks, though the waste of time would not necessarily bother you, read it and tell me what you honestly think. I would rather hear "you know, this is really rather awful" from someone I know and like than from a complete stranger. If not wanting to read and comment is more for your own discomfort rather than from any wish to spare me any, then don't read. Make sense? Basically, if the only reason you aren't reading is because you're worried about my reaction to your reaction, just read already. If its something else entirely, I only ask that you spend some time getting your fanfiction groove back before Nimbus so we can talk about Psychic Serpent!

I sell lottery tickets at the shop. I loathe and don't understand the games at all. Perhpas they are more sensible on the Eastern side of the Atlantic.

:)
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:May 20th, 2003 07:09 pm (UTC)
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Not sure if I want to talk about the sad daydream. Certainly not yet, not here; maybe elsewhere, maybe later.

I think the reaction I most fear giving is "Well, it's certainly not bad, but I can't really get into it." Now I'm happy enough with the concept that I'm not going to share all of my friends' interests and they're not going to share all mine, but when it's the topic through common interest in which that we discovered each other then it's rather harder to contemplate. It could well be that I'm only interested in certain HP fanfic and that's something to take in which I hadn't realised and hadn't hoped for.

If its something else entirely, I only ask that you spend some time getting your fanfiction groove back before Nimbus so we can talk about Psychic Serpent!

Ooh yes - that's a very good point and a fairly hard deadline, not least because Barb (psychic_serpent, though sensibly she spends her writing time on her stories, not on her LJ...) herself will be there and has promised to beat me down at Othello. There'll very likely be at least an informal gathering of Psychic Serpent trilogy fans at some point along the line; specifically, if nobody else organises one (technically a "birds of a feather" session) then I will.

I sell lottery tickets at the shop. I loathe and don't understand the games at all. Perhpas they are more sensible on the Eastern side of the Atlantic.

No, no, no. We're making rafts of mistakes all of our own.
From:expetesso
Date:May 21st, 2003 03:28 am (UTC)
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Hmmmm... your doubts were unfounded apparently. I'm glad. :-D Tonight, I will be home and around sometime well before midnight GMT, so if either of us are awake far too late it will be through no impetus provided by the other!

Birds of a Feather sessions sound interesting -- that's the second time you've mentioned them. *Checks out website again*

*Waits to hear all about the walk* You've mentioned several entries "in the works" in the past few weeks... I'm looking forward to reading something of one of them!

*hugs*
[User Picture]
From:picklepuss
Date:May 19th, 2003 12:39 pm (UTC)
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I've only recently had issues with reading a fic by someone I knew, and I did have problems with it (more along the lines of squickiness than skill). I gave an honest review to the author, who was waiting patiently on YM for my reaction. As I was attempting to put my qualms into inoffensive speak, I realized that I really enjoyed much of the story. I was only initially taken aback by the intensity of it.

So I guess my suggestion to you would be, to read the fics, but not to review right away. Mull it over in your head, and maybe even write out a drabble, stream-of-consciousness type review first. This may assuage your predisposition or biases, and lead to straight praise and/or constructive criticism. I believe that's what most authors really want anyway.

As for this easyCinema, I'm inclined to agree with the naysayer at the end of the article. The modern movie industry and movie-going public have become such a marketing driven waste that only the biggest of releases are truly cared about. This new style may find modest success in the vein of an art house or "specialty" theater, but its chances for major market survival are minimal. I'd really love to be wrong, and as I can only speak of the American system, I may just be. No matter what, God bless him for trying.
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From:dancingrain
Date:May 19th, 2003 03:49 pm (UTC)
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On the reading/reviewing your friends thing, I'd echo what Tess said. In general, I figure more people read anything anyone writes than comment on it anyway, so there is as always an option to read and then not to review if you find yourself uncomfortable giving an honest opinion. Also, I know very few writers in my general LJ cohort who would be upset by critical feedback. People do want to know whether their writing works for someone or doesn't.

I'm curious if you find this same sort of hesitation about putting yourself in a position where you might be required to give criticism or be dishonest in other areas apart from fanfic. I know I have a certain tendency in myself as well, that I've worked on and have not fully overcome, to omit critical elements when I give feedback both in writing and in RL situations. In both, I tell myself that friends usually want the honest opinions of the people they care about.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:May 20th, 2003 07:18 pm (UTC)
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People do want to know whether their writing works for someone or doesn't.

Sometimes I feel the "does this work for me?" part of taste is the hardest, the unfairest, the most capricious part of the "do I enjoy this?" judgement to get right. There are many undoubtedly fine pieces of work which don't do much for me. When someone I care about produces one, it's difficult to let them know - it's just not very constructive as criticism goes. I'd much rather be able to say "I liked bits of it, but I'd have liked it more if x and y..." rather than to say "I didn't particularly like it, though I couldn't actually tell anything that was wrong with it".

I'm curious if you find this same sort of hesitation about putting yourself in a position where you might be required to give criticism or be dishonest in other areas apart from fanfic.

Occasionally, but not often. When it's someone I know well and it's an endeavour that they care about greatly, I would hate not to be able to be positive about their passion. On the other hand, if I'm working on a team with someone, I try to pull no punches (while keeping within normal boundaries of tact and effective teamwork) and want none pulled at me in return.
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From:sophie10
Date:May 20th, 2003 07:39 am (UTC)
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Does anyone else ever feel that it's harder to read a piece of writing, especially fiction, when you know the author beforehand than it is when you don't?

Definitely. I'm always a little wary of reading LJ people's fics. However so far they've been all good writers so I've not had a problem.
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From:drbear
Date:May 20th, 2003 11:33 am (UTC)
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It's even worse (re: fiction by friends) if you not only know the person but parts of it are set in the area where you both grew up. My friend C.J. Hribal wrote a novel set in large part in a town based on where we lived; it was hard for me to read the novel as a novel, rather than trying to rebuild the place in my mind and see where it differed and which person was which, and what was taken from real life and what wasn't.

[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:May 20th, 2003 07:26 pm (UTC)
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it was hard for me to read the novel as a novel, rather than trying to rebuild the place in my mind and see where it differed and which person was which, and what was taken from real life and what wasn't.

Eek! I can imagine.

Of course, the inevitable follow-up question is "Did you find yourself in the end?" - maybe mixed up with six other people you both knew as parts of a composite character, perhaps?
[User Picture]
From:drbear
Date:May 20th, 2003 08:41 pm (UTC)
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No - and I don't know whether to be relieved or insulted! (But I have found really good representations of a lot of my friends - I wonder if they ever got to reading it....)
[User Picture]
From:gwendolyngrace
Date:May 22nd, 2003 06:34 pm (UTC)

More Nagging

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I told you I'd nag if I hadn't heard from you this evening. You should be asleep, but in the morning: Games, dude. Get a move on. Did you get my email from before, about what is/isn't sorta decided?

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