Sunday, 19 March 2017

Everything is....








Everything is.... just a little bit up in the air right now.  Nothing feels quite right.  Lots of things feel rather unsettled.

The job security of me and my work colleagues has had some doubt cast over it, time off always feels fleeting... eked out between housework and hobbies and more housework, my mind is rarely at rest with all the things I'd liked to do and need to do and haven't got the time to do, fling in a recent bereavement in the family and you've got a mixture of emotions and mental health high-jumps bumping along with your average day-to-day existence.

How invigorating it was to leave behind the real world for a day, taking advantage of a rare combination of two days off in a row (miraculously including a Saturday off work) to tie together the opportunity of attending the Brickish Weekend at the National Space Centre and visiting family in Leicester.

A rather recently resurfaced love of Lego (I blame the Batman Movie and its accompanying minifigures) has left me with a geeky itch that I needed to scratch, and a whole slew of space and sci-fi themed displays and builds at a tourist attraction mere minutes from the majority of my wife's family was just too good an opportunity to pass up.  Within minutes of getting through the door we were already parting with cash... picking up a Ralph Wiggum as a belated valentines present for my wife, and then buying a 'classic' set of doors and windows (again, i must add, because my wife likes them.... ok, i liked them too) along with some other well-worn pre-loved bags of bricks and pieces and marvelling at a bunch of custom minifigs... we'd spent somewhere near an hour or so getting excited before we'd even left the vicinity of the 'brick fair' and the huge Paris themed build that was situated nearby the various sellers.

In fact we spent so long taking in so many of the builds and also talking at some length to the people behind these creations that we actually saw precious little of the Space Centre and its permanent exhibits, thankfully this can be easily remedied as booking our single visit online also secures an annual pass, perfect for the next time we're visiting family again.  And the creators themselves were equally as fascinating as the Lego builds on display, talking honestly and openly with both me and my wife about their passions, their ideas and sometimes about the price-tags that have fuelled their involvement, the complete lack of pretension and a willingness to 'just chat' was not only refreshing but also informative and very rewarding for me, and possibly gave my wife an insight into what she may have let herself in for.

With a handful more 'grab bags' of bricks and pieces (including a small mixed lot of wheels, again, suggested by my wife) in our tote bag we headed back to see family once the Space Centre's doors had closed, and I was more than a little surprised when my brother-in-laws curiosity about my purchases resulted in three adults in their thirties (two male, one female) all sat around building a variety of vehicles and oddities from the assortment of regular bricks and random components that we had accrued over the course of the day.

Time spent looking at Lego and 'playing' with Lego left little time to do some of the obligatory family rounds, but a couple of whistle stop visits to see family members of a wide range of ages was a perfect way to end the day, including some rather intense imaginative play and dance moves with a four year old that left me sweating and out of breath before a two hour journey back to London.

I'd met and talked to some fascinating people, seen some inspirational and breathtaking Lego builds, bolstered my own collection, built a spaceship (of course), spent time with family, dance partnered a care-free four year old and enjoyed quality time with my wife....

Maybe, just for today, everything is awesome!

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Time, and Time Again.

previously published on Desperately Seeking Susan Boyle

It isn't very often that I discover the music I am reviewing by way of answering a listing on Gumtree... But so the story goes, my contract was coming to an end at work and I was scouring the internet for jobs, then I got bored and distracted and instead started scouring Gumtree adverts for musical collaborations instead of job vacancies.

And so I came to meet up with Yann Ryan, enjoy a few alcoholic beverages with him in a pub near Liverpool Street Station and slowly begin work by trading files and ideas back and forth across the internet.

At some point, these new re-imaginings of mine became stuck in hard-drive limbo as real-life sucked me in and spat me out, but I had felt fortunate enough to have been given access to the raw and effecting audio files, to be able to isolate the bewildering vocal take and sit there in wonder as it repeated over, wondering how anything I could do could possibly even attempt to improve upon such a rustic and fully formed talent.

Around a half and a half later or so and I feel my fortunes have changed, I think maybe I can check in on Yann and possibly put this project to bed, but in this time Yann Ryan has pulled together an EP that includes some the tracks I had a stab at reshaping in a far different form, and I'm happy that these songs are finally out in the world, the music that I had been so eager to share but felt that I had to sit upon for fear of over-stepping boundaries can now be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.



Released last December, the Time EP is a downtrodden and fragile affair that is buoyed by the gravitational pull of Yann's crisp, oaken voice, a voice that stopped me in tracks when I first heard it, and the strength and intricacies of his songwriting still captivate me.  Few artists would even dare to weave their lyrics with such obtuse vocabulary as 'inconsequential' and casually reference 'Bosnia Herzegovina', but Yann makes it feel effortless, and the unique outlook he adds to the remit of the singer/songwriter is refreshing.

I still hope that the tracks we collaborated on will still come to light in one form or another, but for now I am happy to support Yann Ryan's talents and selflessly share his music with the wider world without the cloak of self-aggrandising.

Regardless, I'd like to catch up with Yann again over a few more pints and wish him well.

Out now via Bandcamp


Friday, 30 October 2015

sequential art storytelling

Why not give myself another pipe dream to wrangle with.

You know me. Blogger, Poet, Experimental Music Artist, Author...

and plenty more besides.

So why not add another string to my bow.

Why not stop telling myself that I'd love to write a comic book and actually get round to writing one...

And so the thought process behind my little venture for October started a little like that and ended up with my rough doodlings of a man-beast battling with stick figures across a plotted out 11 page story.

Like many people before I had wanted to run before I could walk, I've had an idea for a D-list DC universe character for a while, so long that I don't actually believe he even exists in the current New 52 DCU, it is a story than spans life, death and superheriocs. DC are the comics I've loved to read and are the ones I'd love to write... But I've never written a comic before!

 

Instead of diving feet first into my ambitious project only to find that it may forever be beyond my reach I chose to cut my teeth on something simpler...

Create a hero, 50s style.

Hero. Bad guys. Fighting. Other stuff... The end.

A real rush job, tell a tale, have a ludicrously dressed assailant fighting crime and wrap it up quickly. How hard could it possibly be...

Thankfully the seeds for my ridiculous hero came to me before I tried to put pen to paper, I wasn't looking for perfection, I was simply looking for fun... I imagined him to be a character designed in the boom of superhero creation, a simple time wasting wonder that would be thrown together in order to fill space in a cheaply printed strip, never knowing if people will care to read it or ever see more of your champion.

 

 


I've grown on writers that have pushed boundaries and one day wish to emulate the Grant Morrisons, Neil Gaimans and Allan Moores of this world. But not right now.

I grabbed some blank sheets of paper, folded them in half and wrote down what I thought would be the main beats of each page. Ten minute job. But the scripting and panelling became a far longer process, trying hard but trying not to try too hard, trying to keep it simple but to understand the pace of my story and how I expected it to progress.

Each page probably took me between 45 minutes and an hour as I deliberated over panels and speech bubbles, how many punches to be thrown and how many generic gangsters should enter the fray.

I toiled with ideas for supporting cast and plot, fearing it would be too derivative or seen as a mere copycat of other heroic tropes... But then again my agenda was based on the works of an era when heroes looked alike, with publishers keen to emulate the sudden popularity of a super-so-and-so, and so I steamed ahead with my story of cops and robbers and a mysterious figure fighting for right.

And so this is the story of how I became a nearly-but-not-quite comic writer, with one original creation under my belt and a rather fun draft of thumbnail pages to my name. I'd like to see my character fully embellished, with an actual artist giving life to my stick figures in fedoras.

I've already got plans for his teenage side-kick, his arch-nemesis and a handful of spin-off titles, they remain unwritten as yet, but it should be enough to keep a movie franchise going for several years at least.


 

Saturday, 10 October 2015

a blogger?

 

a blogger?

is that what I am? I check the ever declining post count that sits aside the years that scroll down the side of the page like a dipstick being plunged into my own personal history. more frequently coming up empty.

am I a blogger?

 

sometimes I wish that I still was. I still have a blog that exists, but everything is changing. The Internet is changing. Attitudes are changing. Interests are changing. I am changing. And blogging is a strange lost art, not just to myself but to so many creative outlets that I used to ponder over and draw inspiration from.

Now I see bland advertising and twee snapshots of happy lives that link to instagram profiles. I'm sure that somewhere out there my happiness lays in wait, but I've never the time to look for it.

 

And I mourn my own lack of writing. This is my diary. A public domain documentation of the person I am happy to present for display. On occasions I even read my own prior blog posts and smile at who I was, and feel proud that whatever was inside of me in that moment has been captured, and preserved perhaps forever.

 

So am I a blogger?

I'm certainly not a career-minded brand that exists in every corner of the world wide webs global reach. I'm too tired for that. The internet seems to keep displaying bad timing as far as I'm concerned. I haven't got the energy, and the energy I do have I am putting into other things that I am not always annotating.

I've got meals to make, a house to keep clean, a garden to tend to, a wife to support practically and emotionally. I'm sometimes exhausted by life, but I still want to be more.

 

But am I a blogger?

Right now, I am a comic book writer. I've only just started and I don't imagine my first run through will be particularly amazing, but I have wanted to do it for a long time, and I decided that October would be when I become that thing that I want to be, I'll just have to find time to be all those other things I still want to be.

And perhaps I should blog about my comic book writing, I'm pretty sure that is something I would have enjoyed reading about in the blogging hey-dey of whenever it was, before the whole world fitted in my pocket. Perhaps I will. Or perhaps I won't.

 

And I'm trying to tweet more often. Not for any real reason other than to stay sane and determine that I have things to say that are more interesting than boring things, but that is only a matter of opinion anyway. I am still slightly fascinated by twitter, not as a 'social network' (if that is still a thing...) but as what I always remember it being referred to when people referred to it and it was a novel idea... as a 'micro-blog’. Where I can think things, and express them, in miniature.

It's more time effective for a start to dash off a handful of sub-140 character nuances that nobody will read than to spend time crafting an exemplary display of the written world which will hobble onto my blog to be read by no-one.

But right now I have chosen to take my thoughts, mush my fingers all over a touchscreen and conjur up a rambling stream of consciousness that I shall drop onto my once well-attended soapbox and I've enjoyed the chiming sense of release that such a practise emits.

 

I call this a blog post from a far-too infrequent blogger.

 

 

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Sound Art Experiment number 11


Music can be a powerful force when used correctly.

Full of the joys of summer and the sounds of diplo I made my mixtape comeback with the latest instalment of Tayalarz, and the news of Dr Dre finally delivering on his long-awaited promise of a new album that fans have been waiting more than a decade for had prompted me to make a start on a 'Compton' influenced mix.

And even tho that creation may be in the extremely early stages and may eventually be lost to gestation, with the computer fired up and the hours growing small I chose to revisit a few neglected folders on the harddrive.

Lo and behold did Saturday morning creep up on me and shake me from my bed with a new desire.  

In this age of stealth albums nobody was expecting the penultimate SoundArt to grace the world with its presence.  Very few people were even wanting it.  But regardless.

The SoundArt project was a simple idea.

Instead of giving my brother my music and asking him to produce artwork influenced by the sounds he heard we would flip the script, he would provide artwork and I would be influenced.  12 images and 12 tracks produced over 12 months to create a full length experimental album within a year.

Track 1 debuted in December 2008....

(ahem)

SoundArt11 is a curious creature.  Staring at the stars and asking the ultimate questions as the artwork seriously suggests that we are not alone.

Other tracks have been much more of a sound collage, this perhaps could have been but now sounds more of a sound presentation... Taking it's musical cue and liberally borrowing Doorly's dubstep remix of Calvin Harris' 'Not Alone' as theories jacked from YouTube play out over it.

Previous instalments have heaved with creativity, either pulling things apart or putting them together, SoundArt11 was always intended to play out that way too, but the whole ethos of this expression of art was to let it find it's own way...

Only this morning was the majority of this track spun on its head to give it a more complete feel, choosing to play with a larger chunk of the original remix than originally intended and then swinging by the buena vista social club to provide a backdrop to a healthy discussion on the intelligence of our species that had been longing for a dancing partner for a long time.  The last piece of the puzzle fell from the sky, hailing from a planet that no longer exists.  I rented Man Of Steel two years ago in order to reuse a message that seems to resonate throughout this track, and also through the entire project.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Afew thoughts on Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts

Well this nifty little package features a cheap looking toy of some strange robotic animal that also appears to be some sort of featured villain in this DVD release, along with some other dubiously designed animal-bots that appear to be throw-backs to the knock-off transformer toys of my youth, plus superheroes, apparently quite a few superheroes. And Batman.

Of course, And Batman.... this is, after all, Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts.

So let's get this straight.... A redesigned animated Batman, robo-animals, super villain team-ups and then chuck in Green Arrow and Flash alongside an already present pair of sidekicks and I would guarantee that this feature length cartoon should be written off as a disaster, a shameful toy tie-in or child-centric superhero brand recognition exercise.

I'll humbly admit that I was wrong. I tuned in with low hopes and perhaps for the first twenty minutes could have turned off convinced that I was right and may have been wasting my time. A lot happens quite needlessly, some of my favourite heroes pop in sporting wardrobe choices that the jury are yet to pass judgement on, but thankfully the action is under way, and it rarely lets up.

Villains of an animal based appearance take centre stage to kick off the caper and before you know it we have the good guys all on scene in Gotham. Origin stories, introductions and exposition go hurtling out the window and any real sense of canon is deliberately mishandled and left ambiguous, ripe for discovery as the adventure plays out...

Bruce Wayne knows Oliver Queen is Green Arrow, we have two previous Robins reporting for duty as Nightwing and Red Robin. But this seems to be everyone's first encounter of Penguin and Man-Bat. Flash's secret identity is never even addressed...

All these curious threads and more are dangled like nerd-bait for those that like their continuity to be regimented and follow comic book tradition. Yet the story is never dumbed down at all and it is best enjoyed if you simply strap in and go with the flow.

If it has flaws then they are easily forgotten and happily forgiven as a real sense of fun sits at the forefront of this potentially polarising team-up that somehow seems to go someway to follow up the magnificent Brave and Bold series and meet a high standard against almost impossible odds.

 

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Fast, Furious and Fascinating.

The initial hype and excitement has receded and the queues at the multiplex are already moving onto the next blockbuster when I finally allow myself to be dragged along to the latest Fast and Furious film.

And to be honest, the franchise genuinely fascinates me. Particularly the fact that with this many sequels to its name it still guarantees itself a top billing due not just to petrol heads and actions fans, somehow morphing itself into a cinematic event with a global audience that is gripped by the further exploits of these former street-racers whose ongoing antics have taken them further than the initial concept should feasibly allow.

Boiled down to the basics these movies were essentially a testosterone fuelled mix of fast cars, the casting of scantily clad extras to gyrate, jiggle and share the screen when the aforementioned cars were stationary, and some action packed set-pieces to quicken the pulse. This formula was then taken and multiplied, with the inclusion of a ever-growing rotating cast of characters until it flipped the script on a possible future of sketchy sequels with diminishing returns and marked itself as a legitimately bankable franchise with the reemergence of Vin Diesel for the fourth instalment.

It has hardly hit pause since, with the rotating cast being brought together as 'family' for heists and adding additional big-hitting action stars to the mix to create a boiling pot of machismo that trumps the premise of The Expendables fused with the crime-caper team-up of Oceans 11 and it's own sequels. The Rock, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell... I can hardly wait to see who they draft in next time.

I'll admit that my own interest wobbled slightly when scriptwriters have pushed more story rather than just fast-thrills and maybe the London based adventure felt too close to home for me to sufficiently suspend my disbelief, but thankfully Furious 7 remedied this by being so unbelievable that turning off and tuning in was the only option.

The whole thing, from start to finish, was bat-shit crazy. Almost every logical next step in the story was sideswiped in favour of more jaw-dropping preposterousness, fights and fast cars and military operations and so forth, all turbo-charged with barely a toe dipped in reality, it became hilarious in its audacity, but by consistently topping itself in each new scene it had me enthralled.

 

Forget street-racers, criminals and FBI agents, everyone involved in these films have now been granted superpowers and clobber each other in ways that even the Marvel Cinematic Universe would shy away from, the plot structure played just like a 16-bit video game with baddies periodically turning up at the end of level to take a beating and then disappear until the next stage, and the plot holes are more like gaping wormholes, but it doesn't matter, because it's fun. Seriously, I have seen criticism and vitriol poured on superhero movies for inconsistencies and unbelievable circumstances.... think about that for a moment, movies... about superheroes... that do not exist!! But Furious 7 leaps these minor details with a steroid injected stride that carries it to some higher level of action film.

But with the inevitability of another sequel looming large I just don't know where the franchise could go next while it travels on this kind of trajectory.

Or perhaps I do... With the rumour of Jump Street crossing over with Men In Black for an upcoming sequel it seems that this franchise-hopping may be the obvious escalation needed to keep the Furious films from slowing their pace. It is a well used concept in comics and has been seen in video games, but only on rare occasions have these pop-culture mash-ups made it to the big screen, but I'm going to be disappointed if the next chapter in the story does not feature a climactic battle with Dominic Toretto at the wheel of Optimus Prime or Bumblebee. Perhaps a computer hacking angle could be replayed to counter Cyberdine Systems and the apocalyptic rise of Skynet. And the crowning glory of the movie will be Robocop joining the fray as a shining beacon of hope as he rides in to save the day on a majestic mech-unicorn that has been custom fitted with NOS.