Weekly Ramble #66

Solitude is difficult. Even as an introvert myself human interaction with strangers plays a part in my my life. Just seeing other people gives comfort that none of us are alone in this. For a world that is so well connected there’s a deep sense of loneliness in all of this and some are going to struggle. Those who live alone especially so. 

But even if the most dire of situations you’ll find opportunity. There is only one agreement about this rather mystery illness that’s sweeping the world; it’s contagious. What can you do to fight a contagious disease; stay healthy. Use the time given or lent to you for exercise, catching up on sleep and for cooking good healthy food. All three of these register as self care in my eyes and in times where you cannot physically socialise to feel better, find other ways.

This distancing deal might be around for a while to come. Standing in two meter lines at checkouts and only going out every ten days, my grandparents had it worse and I’m not comparing because I know the impact this is all having. The economy is going to fall to shit, jobs are going to get lost but if you have your health, your body will look after you throughout whatever tough times lay ahead trust me.

The world needs you to take care of yourself so do it by any means necessary. 

 

The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle by Donald Lee – Review

An inspiring array of modern life lessons told from experience with a spiritual outlook…  

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From the opening pages its clear to see that Donald Lee is a tenured teacher and has used his many experiences to create what is a gem of a book about so much in life with music/performance teaching being the theme.

It consists of short parables that present readers with insightful lessons on many different subjects ranging from time management, knowledge, belief, having fun, performing, forgiveness, failure and so much more (50 in total) – all of which come from the authors time spent teaching band. Every parable begins with a quote from an inspirational figure and closes with a reflection that galvanizes the lesson and an overall insight on each subject. The main insight is spiritual growth and this book will help you look towards being happier, peaceful and successful in whatever you tackle.

There are a heap of self help and spiritual type books out there that cater to certain subjects but this one you’ll find has mass appeal across ages, beliefs and walks of life to provide spiritual insight on ourselves and others. It’s inclusive to anyone much like music and teaching. Everyone will find something to relate to in this book that has meaning and inspiration because we are all in the big band of life together!

‘What you seek is within you, not without you…’

5 Stars – I thoroughly enjoyed this. Thank you to the author for reaching out and providing a copy in exchange for a review – all thoughts are my own! Reviews left via amazon and Goodreads… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonic the Hedgehog – Review

Hollywood forgets every so often that audiences are made up of real people who don’t always want films that carry a political statement or modern day protest. Breaking boundaries is great and all but sometimes films only ever need to be family entertainment in the form of an escape to be a success and that’s exactly what Sonic the Hedgehog is.

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My very first memory of video games is sitting beside my older brother while playing the then SEGA console of the time and seeing that blue speedy ball flash past the ever so colourful visuals while he collected gold rings. Sonic the Hedgehog is a gaming establishment and I have forever cherished the memories of playing those games as they came out in the early 90’s.

Over the years there have been a stack of video game to cinema adaptations. I can count the enjoyable one’s on a single hand and so when I saw they were finally giving Sonic the same treatment, like most I was hesitant in my belief. Turns out they did it and they did it rather well!

Over the weekend my brother joined me at the local cinema and like those days of old we watched that blue sphere rush through rich cinematic landscapes but this time with a narrative and so full credit goes to Ben Schwartz for voicing the ‘fastest thing alive’. And now after they improved the CGI of our main character it does look quite good.

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The story is simple and easy to follow; they’ve blended Sonic’s world with ours and so that’s the story; an alien hedgehog has been living in solitude on Earth until he gets discovered by ‘Green Hills’ local cop played by James Marsden who brings character balance to the film; he’s not only fun himself but bounces off the humour Sonic piles into the dialogue. Although there were many gags and funny moments; most were aimed at younger audiences but overall everyone will find the humour and fun in this. Our antagonist comes in the form of Jim Carrey, now say what you will about him; many don’t like his style or his performances but I thought he brought a perfect sinister level of creative humour that gave life to the iconic Doctor Robotnik – again another character who has never spoken in the earlier games. Some of his one-liners are typical Carrey which mainstream audiences will laugh at.

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You’ll find plenty of nods and tributes to the original games such as names, music interludes and even dialogue moments. For big time fans of Sonic; check it out, you will most probably enjoy the majority of it. To see my original gaming hero reach number 1 in both the US and UK film charts is quite special and credit where credit is due because they have done a good job in providing a film that might not be protest towards anything or have a ground breaking cast; but it’s entertaining and fun for all ages. Sometimes that’s all stories need to be!

8 Rings out of 10 

The stories that inspire us – ‘The Simpsons’

The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…

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America’s   The world’s favorite family get nowhere near enough credit these days and for a show that has been running one year longer than I have, that deserves a mention. The Simpson’s has not only paved the way for so many animation shows over the years but it has been the bringer of humor, fun and even some very moving character moments. It’s taken up a tenured residency in the homes of so many people and I know for a fact even today there is nothing worth watching at 6pm other than most probably the greatest cartoon ever created.

Many of us take The Simpson’s for granted and there is a theory that it’s nowhere near as funny as it used to be. While I partially agree, just the other day I laughed out loud during a moment of a very recent episode. The sheer amount of characters and their interactions make the show’s premise pretty much limitless and the 30 plus seasons carry that truth via Matt Groening who some folks would refer to as a ‘boomer’ but it is with his humor and imagination these stories come to life. Whether it’s a tribute or spoofing of a popular film or even a nod to a current political moment, there isn’t much that doesn’t get a mention in Springfield.

While some of the ever important characters may have appear to be parodies of those in the popular limelight , they have lasted in creating their own identities that people love to watch. Of course this is aligned with ever important real life celebrity cameos and a just a dusting of real world family values and you have the show. 

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Over the years there have been countless moments that have not only inspired my comedy but have kept me company since as long as I can remember. Who could forget the Springfield Monorail or even when somebody shot Mr Burns. Sideshow Bob must get an honorable mention while also nodding to Homer Simpson’s many many adventures, from tripping on chilli to tackling alcoholism or even thinking he had only days to live. The annual ‘tree house of horror’ episodes are now as ritualistic and trick or treat for Halloween.

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Above all it’s a show about life and how to embrace the funny side of it while also learning lessons. For years the Simpson’s has entertained us and for that is must be honored.

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Is there a chance the track could bend?

Do you have a favorite moment from The Simpsons? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Ramble #60

The bravest people amongst us are the ones who realise that they need to reach out for help. To seek a solution for whatever problem you face means deep down you care. And self care is so damn important in this life.

It’s okay to not be okay sometimes and admitting that is a victory in it’s own right. The truth is I have the highest regard and respect to those who talk about it in any way, shape or form. It’s alright to express your emotion in whatever way that helps process feeling. By all means cry, laugh, growl, sit in silence or even blog about it; hell I’ve processed stuff by writing whole novels (my poor readers…).   

I can only speak from experience when times have been tough in life and although it may appear you are falling down branch by branch landing between your own legs each time, trust me when I say eventually life does give you a break (from the nut shots).

Some things aren’t forever and this includes the suffering our minds can go through; just think of it as another stage in this journey called life. As much as it’s easier said than done coming from a guy in a ‘good’ place currently, these days we’re all not far from spiraling.

You could feel like that one in one thousand kid roaming the school hallway knowing and feeling that this place isn’t where you fit in; I’ve been there and some day soon that sensation of not belonging, much like school will fade. You’ll find those who are like-minded, that’s a human instinct to find others like yourself and school; it’s a public place, you have to do it for now but not forever.

You could be working a shitty job for a shitty boss just trying day in day out to prove your worth; some folks will never understand or appreciate that worth; by all means work hard and gain experience but not everyone deserves your energy and graft.

Remember that your own mind well being comes first and there are numerous ways to overcome rough patches; take a social media break, binge watch an entire series on Netflix , and personal favourite; keep a diary of how you feel and then look back on those days gone by to see how strong you’ve become. Lean on your friends, those who are true friends will be there when you are in need.

Life has a funny way of getting better eventually and whatever storm your in now, will blow over, trust me, even though I don’t know everything…

Do what you have to do to take care of yourself in this life.

What quote gets you through life?

I shall close with my go to quote from one of my true heroes…

 

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The stories that inspire us -‘Hamlet’

The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…

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Shakespeare, the original story teller. The true architect of language and narrative. You’ll find his influence near enough everywhere when it comes to the written and spoken word; sometimes you won’t even know you are using a phrase that he originally influenced. His works these days have even extended to cinema and television. 

Many of us came across the Bard’s work during our school years. Too many walk away from those lessons thinking his work is boring and almost inaudible to follow. That’s a tragedy in its own right and probably down to a lack of teaching execution. Although I don’t blame teachers not being an effective vessel to explain Shakespeare, like all art it’s  an acquired taste and also subjective.

For me Hamlet is the true epitome of story telling. It has almost everything a good story should have. Love, life and death with near enough all the elements that make a good story just that. Betrayal, deception and triumph; enveloped by that word ‘tragedy’.  They never taught me about Hamlet at school. I remember ‘Macbeth’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ but the Prince of Denmark and his laments I didn’t find out until I was cast as him in the play.

When you take on a work for the stage, be that by any writer you take a part of them and perform it as your own. You also sometimes; not all the time, become engrossed into their story and by becoming a character you only truly appreciate the weight of a story and it’s true power.

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Death is all around Hamlet, the character and the story. His ever so famous ‘to be or not to be’ monologue is about the contemplation of such and as the story unfolds death slowly reaches over near enough all involved. He urges love interest ‘Ophelia’ to get away which becomes an unintentional shun leading to the shuffling of her mortal coil. ‘Claudius’ plays the typical step father figure that is cliche even to this day – he did have a hand in killing his brother who happens to be Hamlet’s father the King; sound familiar yet Simba?

The only significant survivor by the close of play – spoiler alert; although you’ve had hundreds of years –  is ‘Horatio’ who utters those ever so famous words but before then we see a deceptive plot to poison Hamlet which goes ‘badly’ for Shakespeare’s standards along with a memorable duel. As I said it has everything and as our language continually evolves further and further away from that used in this classic tale, it’s so important we remember and honour it.

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For those looking to improve their craft on stage nothing will do it better than the words of William Shakespeare. From modulation and dictation all the way to understanding of how a basic story is put together and all the way to being able to learn lines – if you’ve learned and nailed Shakespeare on stage, everything and I say everything you do after will be noticeably easier. Great stories of tragedy or even triumph never fade and well I suppose the rest is silence….

Do you have a favourite Shakespeare work? 

Weekly Ramble #59

I am fully immersed into book editing mode. Delving back into the pages and words I laid down nearly two years ago has lifted me. It’s surprising how well polished I left what I thought to be a first draft of ‘Darke Awakening’. Over the books and years my style of drafting has evolved into an edit and go process which pays off when you return to a project. 

This book will have it’s challenges but the most difficult part of the writing process has already been figured out. It’s a masterpiece, an intricate complicated shitstorm of fun intertwined with several story arcs combined to tell one great mess of a book which I personally adore. It may well be a tad ambitious but what I have edited so far has restored my faith in a story told over three books; Open Evening, Cemetery House and Darke Blood – three books readers must take on to enjoy this next one and hence the real challenge in all of this; marketing the whole thing.

Personally and it might sound indulgent and egotistical but I’ve said this before; I actually don’t care if people don’t like what I write, I do it for the story telling and not the reaction of mass audiences.

Yeah we get bruised as creators when someone gives us a scathing review but that isn’t why we are in this game. We do this because we want to create and to contribute towards art and literature. We do this because it fulfills us and shines a light into this dark void of life. Opinions and audiences are variable, the story we tell is the constant.

To reach the summit of those two sacred words ‘the end’ is to truly live as a writer. And to create something from the imagination entirely from scratch is to be free. All of us live to be free. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stories that inspire us – ‘Dumb and Dumber’

The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…

Comedy is often overlooked in this world. The ability to make one laugh is possibly the most human thing someone can do and to me one of the easiest ways to make someone comfortable or uncomfortable. Most of us know there is a very fine margin between comics and depression but laughter can be a vessel out of the darkness.

‘Hey, wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?’

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‘Dumb and Dumber’ is a film that many might judge by it’s simplistic title and much of the story is simple but to me it’s a fun and even heartwarming story about friendship. Two friends Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) are going nowhere in life ‘unless you wanna work forty hours a week…’ and set out on a road trip to reunite a briefcase that Lloyd witnessed a woman drop before getting on a flight. It’s the typical road trip buddy story where the pair find themselves in stupid but very funny situations.

‘Why you going to the airport? Flying somewhere?’

Like a lot of cinema in history it has a few non PC moments but for most of the film Dumb and Dumber carries an innocent level of comedy in the realms of stupidity – both on a physical and literal level. Without over analysing it, the script is a juggernaut of quotes that I say to myself quite often. Much of my comedy influence has come from this film over the years where both actors put in considerable performances and today their resumes are decorated.

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Carrey and Daniels are household names

The film appeals to a wide range of ages which is the key to all successful comedy. There are more adult style gags which will go over younger audience’s head’s while the physical and straight up silliness will get everyone laughing. Although this film was released in the early 90’s it still stands up quite well and the soundtrack like all Farrelly brother’s films is golden.

‘You know, Lloyd, just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself!’

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For many years and even today this is film that brightens up my day. It’s fun, silly and easy to watch. You can find the influence of Dumb and Dumber in much of my work from my novella ‘The Teleporter’ to the Pantomime plays I have written.

It is my opinion that without comedy the world would be a much darker place. And if you are ever feeling down in any way my advice; find something that makes you laugh – for me that’s Dumb and Dumber.

Do you have a go-to comedy film or series? 

Weekly Ramble #58

I’m sad but proud. After spending ten consecutive years performing for my community drama club I have hung up my ‘acting’ boots – they were a fine pair of acting boots, very comfortable in fact and the parts I have trod on that stage will stay with me for life. The truth is I thought I would be a lot more upset but I guess the pride and happiness of what has been achieved in those years is shining brighter than anything else. And the real truth is, I’m not leaving for good, I’m just leaving the stage…

Over the past couple of years the Iver Heath Drama Club has entrusted me to write their annual pantomime shows; a leap in its own right and possibly the greatest compliment my writing and myself has ever received. That’s what I am going to continue doing, writing stories which is the dream that was forged out of performing for that wonderful club. I vowed to that family to pledge my pages, my pen and my stories – a deal that I will honour for as long as I write.

As a performer I got the perfect ending on that stage, having adapted our own version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs I was then cast as the Magic Mirror which is apt because ten years ago it was my first role. Sometimes things go full circle. This time around I gave that role more meaning and along with everything I had gained on that stage it became the epitome of all of me. Even though it sounds like this was all about me, it wasn’t and this ending was about passing on the torch, or crown to those who deserve it.

While the high of the most successful IHDC show begins to wear away I shall recede back into writing stories and reading some truly wonderful stories on my TBR list. While one door closes many other will open not just for me but for those who let me belong to what is a fantastic community run club. I have already drafted next years script!

And just remember this;

The greatest stories aren’t the ones we read,

The greatest stories aren’t the ones we write,

The greatest stories are the ones that we live.

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Weekly Ramble #57

Seeing your own writing come to life and put onto a stage in front of an audience is something I am still getting used to. It’s an incredible and rewarding feeling. As writers, bloggers and creators many of us don’t ever get instant applaud for our work. Books can take years to ever gain any type of gratification so most of you can imagine when an audience member approaches me and say’s that I did a good job, it’s probably the pinnacle of being a story teller. And I wont lie, even after the past weekend which now seems a lifetime away; I’m still rather high from it all and perhaps I should be. 

The truth is I am damn proud of the stories I have created but the plays, they are truly special because they are made by the performances and the production. My writing is a mere first step, or even a suggestion of an idea; the rest is in the hands of everyone else. Those performers and everyone else involved should be proud, not only because they have brought a fantastic show into this world but because there aren’t many good  moments in this life to be proud of. Life can be bitter sometimes and it can bite you hard and bring you down. You must find things to be proud of to cast light over the shadows of hardship and that’s up to you. Taking pride in one’s work is probably more important than any other type of praise or reviews; the fact that you did it and it made a difference; a positive difference in your life is all that matters when it comes to story telling.

Be proud, all of you!