Monday
Nov212011

The Brain in the Rubber Mask

I’ve heard it said that a man’s brain resembles a series of tidy, nicely constructed compartments or boxes that are not connected in any way, and a woman’s brain is like a complex ball of wire wool where everything is connected all the time.

Obviously, any of us who have been knocking around for a few years will know this is simplistic nonsense, good for a gag in a mock lecture on gender difference (I say this with confidence having given many such performances) but not much relevance to real human experience.

I have known women who’s compartmentalized emotional and psychological make up is almost chilling in it’s clinical tidiness, and plenty of men who are such a haywire blend of intellect, emotion and fuzzy confusion that they can barely string a sentence together.

I do believe there are some differences in the way men and women think, it is a subject I discuss regularly with the long suffering Mrs. She is a woman of rare emotional sensitivity and intelligence, it’s a skill I admire greatly and not one I am overly blessed with.

I often realise I’ve had a feeling or an emotional response after the event, while the feeling is in the act of overwhelming me I would claim that everything is normal, even though from an outside observers point of view I might be acting completely irrationally.

However, during a recent experience I was very aware I was having feelings at the very moment I was having them. It’s all to do with having your head covered with alginate and plaster of Paris. As a psychological experiment, there may be a few health and safety issues that reduce the likelihood or University researchers using this technique, but I can vouch for its effectiveness.

Get a bucket of cold alginate (it’s the stuff dentists use to make a mould of your teeth) and slap it over the subjects face, all over, leaving two small holes around the nostrils to allow them to breath.

Now, while this takes place let us venture inside the head of the subject. All rational thought and indeed previous experience tells the subject they are not going to die. They can breath, they just have to remain calm and still.

Okay so far, but the baser parts of the brain, the medulla oblongata in the reptilian or hind brain will really kick off. All the signals it’s receiving are alarm based. The entire face is thickly covered in something cold, that means it cannot survive, that means ‘get ready to fight.’

Meanwhile the more advanced areas of the brain, the bits we would classify as conscious are trying to keep everything under control. The best description for this activity and the one that has always made the most sense to me is to liken the human mind to that of a rider and a horse.

The rider is our conscious mind, the bit we are aware of and ‘think’ with. The horse is the hindbrain, the base bit, the thing that keeps you breathing, keeps your heart going, lets you move. In certain circumstances, during hunger, thirst, danger, violent conflict, sex, this horse pretty much takes control. The rider just grips on for dear life. If you have ever ridden a horse that goes batshit, you’ll know this can be a fairly hairy but occasionally exhilarating experience.

But if you are sitting on a chair in a quiet room surrounded by kind, patient, sympathetic people, you’ve just had a drink of water, you’ve just blown your nose, then there aren’t any obvious danger signals around.

So when I had my head cast for the upcoming Red Dwarf series last week, something I’ve had done literally dozens of times, I tried to find a place of peace where I could observe what happened to my reptilian brain and through that my body.

As soon as the cold alginate hit my mush, my breathing and heart rate went off the scale.  My body was rapidly in the same physical state as it would be if I had just run as fast as I could up a steep hill, I was sweating, panting and I could actually hear my heartbeat. Wudooomp, wudooomp, wudooomp, fast, very fast. I know my resting heart rate is around 45-50 beats per minute. I would estimate that while I sat motionless as the casting team slapped plaster of Paris bandage on top of the alginate to give it strength, my heart was pushing 120 BPM.

My mantra from conscious brain rider to utterly wild, snorting base brain horse was ‘calm the fuck down, calm the fuck down you crazy piece of shit for brains.’

While the horse didn’t calm down for the entire 20 minutes I was under plaster, it also didn’t throw the rider. I didn’t freak out and start clawing the rapidly drying edifice from my face. I managed to hold on until everything had set and the carapace was eased off.

The resulting euphoria was intense and probably slightly annoying for the wonderful team from Animated Extras who did the job.

What stayed with me though was the undeniable proof of theory, that it is our job as human beings to manage the wild beast within, not crush it out of existence as it is an essential part of our makeup, but understand and manage this beast as best we can.

That said, if you can find an occupation that does not require you to have a head cast, I say go for it.

 

Monday
Oct312011

Red Dwarf X

That’s right, you read correctly, there is to be a new series of Red Dwarf. Not a one off, not a Christmas special, a new six part series. It is written and directed by Doug Naylor. I have not read any scripts yet but even if I had I would not divulge the contents.

Who will be in it?

All I know is the fab four are all taking part, Cat, Lister, Kryten and Rimmer.

Who will play the parts?

The original actors will reprise their roles. Chris Barrie as Rimmer, Danny John Jules as Cat, Craig Charles as Lister and yours truly as old novelty condom head.  There will be some special guests, no one is confirmed yet.

Will it be recorded in front of a live audience?

Yes, the series is being recorded at Shepperton Studios in Middlesex in front of a live audience. When the tickets were released they were all snapped up in less than 30 minutes. The ticket distributors website crashed, the phone lines melted so sadly there are no more tickets available. It was all a bit sudden, I didn't even have time to tweet about it.

We record two episodes before Christmas and four in the new year.

You can also check www.reddwarf.co.uk, the official Red Dwarf website for details

The series will be broadcast on Dave in the UK sometime in 2012.

And today I tried on the mask and it fitted beautifully.

‘Smug mode turned to max.’

Also, I will be releasing an audio version of the legendary behind the scenes shock horror expose book I originally published in 1993. The Man in the Rubber Mask.' Oh wait, that was a really cheap plug, but it will also be a cheap audio book. News coming soon.

Tuesday
Oct042011

The Man in the Rubber Mask Audiobook

Just a quick update on this project.

The Man in the Rubber Mask is an autobiography focusing on the period between 1988 and 1992, when I was working on series 3, 4 and 5 of the BBC sci-fi comedy series, Red Dwarf. It ends up describing the experience of going to Hollywood to work on the ill fated American pilot of the series.

The book was published in 1993 as a paperback, I’ve heard from many people who still have a tatty old copy shoved away in a box somewhere.

As part of an experiment for a new book I am just finishing writing, (it’s nothing to do with Red Dwarf although it is a sci-fi novel) I decided, with some encouragement from the fine folks at Audioboo, to record the Man in the Rubber Mask.

So now I’ve finished, it’s nearly 5 hours long and I really enjoyed recording it. I hadn’t looked at this book for years, reading it brought back many memories of the period, plus a stark reminder of the truth of being in the mask. Only a few weeks now before we start recording the new series of Red Dwarf.

So the long term plan for this book is to release it very soon, like in the next few days. It will be a download to own MP3, with chapters and pictures and all the smeggy goodness required. It’s occasionally funny, horribly honest and revealing and at times a little smutty.

I will of course post links to the download ASAP.

Wednesday
Aug172011

The Man in the Rubber Mask Audiobook

The Man in the Rubber Mask. chapter 1 (mp3)

The Man in the Rubber Mask. Chapter 2 (mp3)

This is an experiment release of the 1st two chapters of 'The Man in the Rubber Mask.' It was published in 1994 I think. The book only covers the period from series 3 to 5, and the pilot we made in the USA in 1992. I am updating the book now, and will continue to do so after the recording of the new Red Dwarf series later this year.

I will announce how this will be published soon, but it will be a paperback, printed on paper with a cover, an old fashioned book. It will also be an e-book and obviously it will be an audiobook.

At the moment the chapters are free, you can download the MP3's and keep 'em for ever. (remember to back up) but sometime soon, September I hope, I will release the whole audiobook at a very cheap 'early adopter' rate. If you subscribe to my Audioboo feed when this is ready, you will not only get the entire book as it stands, you will get a bonus new slab of fresh Red Dwarf smegness in 2012.

What an offer!

At present I don't have any more news regarding the recording of the new series, I know we start shooting in mid November this year, as soon as I hear anything more, I will reveal all that is permitted to be revealed.

 

 

Sunday
Apr102011

Smegtastic


Many many years ago when sitting around the rehearsal rooms, the cast of Red Dwarf used to joke about still doing the series in 20 years time. We dubbed in ‘Dad’s Army in Space’ and did old men acting as we blocked out a scene.

That was 22 years ago, I’m sure none of us was serious, of course we still won’t be making the series in 2012. That’s the future, we’ll all be wearing rocket pants and eating food that’s just pills.

Well, now the news is finally official.

It’s been stewing around for a while, Craig sort of let Starbug out of the black hole a couple of months ago on a local radio station, strangely what he said was picked up by the press.

My lovely twitter followers picked up on that and my tweet stream became a raging torrent.

So I thought I’d ‘help’ by explaining things and posting what I knew here. Oh deary me how that made everything worse. There were lots of phone calls, lots of stress behind the scenes. I took my post down and just didn’t say anything.

So, now Doug Naylor has made an official announcement at this years Red dwarf convention in Birmingham here’s the news as I know it.

In November this year we start to record a new series of 6 episodes, presently titled Red Dwarf X. I’m not sure of the Broadcast dates but we finish recording them in early February 2012.

I don't know if this is going to be a prequel to the three specials we made in 2009, or the follow on, or if Kryten will have a new turbo boost for his groinal attachment, or if it takes place on the ship, or Starbug, or if the Skutters will have speaking parts or even indeed, if Rimmer will be any less of a smeghead. All this is to come.

I know for certain that Craig, Chris, Danny and myself are all in the series. I do not know if any other characters will be appearing. I do know that Doug has barely started writing the scripts, so, although I didn’t hear what he said at the recent Red Dwarf convention he probably doesn’t know either.

I do know that the new series will  be recorded in front of an audience, we have hired an enormous studio but as yet I have no details as to how, or where tickets will be available from. 

Many people have asked why we are doing the series for Dave and not the BBC. Again I don’t know the full story but for one thing the company behind Dave, UKTV (they also broadcast Carpool) is part owned by the BBC so the series is almost made by the BBC.

When the specials we made in 2009 were broadcast on Dave, the ratings showed that it didn’t really matter, more people watched Red Dwarf on first showing than watched BBC2 – 3 and 4 combined. Red Dwarf holds the record for the most watched non-terrestrial broadcast ever, or something. Doug will undoubtedly correct me. Anyway, it did very well.

All this aside, what has just hit me personally in the last few weeks since I’ve known the shows were confirmed is that I have to go under rubber again. Everything about working on Red Dwarf is a treat, amazing scripts, great crew, wonderful cast, but I admit I am not looking forward to the rubber.

Anyway, as soon as I have more news, I will post it here.

 

This rather distressing image is what happens to old novelty condom head at the end of a long day. 

"Oooh, sir, that looks most uncomfortable!"