Sunday, 28 June 2009
When the handsome prince did not return home to the palace, the King sent out search parties all over the land, charging his knights and servants with the task of locating his lost son. They searched across the wide green fields, but they could not find him. They searched in the dark forests and caves, but they could not find him. They searched all the way to the top of the highest snow-capped mountain, but still they could not find him. Many times the king’s men crossed the bridge the prince had become, and he would try with all his might to cry out. But how ever hard he tried, the only sound the prince could now make with a pitiful creak.
Many months passed, and with great sadness, the King and Queen accepted that their son must be dead. A grand but solemn funeral was held for the lost prince. Everyone in the kingdom mourned and wept, and black flags flew from all the towers and spires across the land. Thousands of wreaths of flowers lined the palace courtyards, as the solid gold coffin was carried down the steps and out to the royal mausoleum in the hills, carrying the prince’s armour, shield and sword. As the procession crossed over the bridge the prince screamed at the top of his lungs, furiously trying to alert his family and subjects to his plight. But the feeble groans of his new wooden form were lost in the midst of the cries and shudders of the grieving crowds. For a long time a sombre mood covered the kingdom like a thundercloud, blotting out any thought of happiness.
However, there was one person who did not mourn the prince’s supposed death. Bitter little Cecil watched with glee as the panic began, and revelled in the despair he had caused. This fun was short-lived however, as soon the little creep began to fear that his dastardly actions would be discovered, and punishment would then ensue. So he and crooked mother fled the kingdom, their exit unnoticed in the frantic search to find the prince. They travelled far, across icy mountain ranges and arid hazy deserts, their paranoia driving them like frightened sheep.
Although Cecil had played his devious trick upon the prince, it did not quench his thirst for retribution against his former master. Whenever he crossed a bridge, Cecil burned with hatred against the prince, and would stamp his feet upon the wood or stone that lay beneath him.
"How d’you like that!?" He raged. "Not so tough and handsome now!"
One day, as Cecil and his mother travelled, they came to a deep gorge that barred their path. A rickety old rope bridge spanned the chasm, which Cecil and his mother began to cross. The old anger and jealousy stirred within the ugly wicked creature and he began to stomp his feet harder and harder upon the fragile planks.
"Stop it you fool, you’ll kill us both!" Cried Cecil’s mother, clinging to the frayed ropes, but Cecil did not listen. As his foot came down the bridge snapped, sending Cecil and his crone mother plunging to their doom, taking with them all of Cecil’s hatred and the dark secret of the prince’s betrayal.
Hey y'all! Sorry I haven't written anything for a little while. Been quite busy at work and with other stuff. Plus my parent's computer is sloooow at doing anything and we don't have wireless boardband, so posting an update generally involves 10 to 15 minutes for windows to load and then another 10 to 15 minutes for the anti-virus software to stop hogging all the memory and allow the internet to be barely useable. Oh well, could be worse. Could be dial-up.
Dial-up internet was amazing! Of course at the time you didn't have anything compare it with, so you were just happy to have a webpage load, even if it did take an hour. Who can forget the sound of the modem firing up? It was like artoo deetoo having a fit! And then there was the wonderful situation when someone was on the phone and you'd hear them speaking mystically from the back of your computer saying, "yeah... NNNNGHGH yeah, someone's KKKKFGG just turned the flippin' GFHHHJH internet on." Those were the days.
Anyway, steering frantically back on course, here's some stuff I've been up to instead of writing my blog. On Thursday I went back down to Portsmouth for the day to give my student house a final clean before leaving my keys. I severely underestimated how long it would take us. We were there for about 6 hours in total, but we left it spotless. The 'we' I am refering to here is my girlfriend Lauren (we're actually engaged but I always call her my girlfriend, might get in trouble for that), her grandma and myself. Now I know what you're thinking; how could I press-gang a poor elderly woman in cleaning my house? Firstly, she's fairly young and secondly, she offered to help, so... The job would have taken twice as long if she hadn't come, she is a master at cleaning, bless her. Anyway, the job is done now and I'm glad of it.
Yesterday, which was Saturday, I had a band practice with some guys from my church and my job at a certain frozen foods supermarket to take up my time. I decided to organise some music events over the summer with the help of Lauren, because there are a few people who can play well at my church, it's just a case of getting us organised. The practice went really well, considering we only played for an hour and a half, and for the first time in 3 or 4 months! Work wasn't too bad, I do the home delivery driving when they need me to, which gets me out of the shop and into the ghettos! It's not all bad though, I can listen to the tennis in the van, so every cloud...
To finish, just a small mention of the recent passing of Michael Jackson. I'll be brief because I don't have anything too valuable to add what others have already said. I hope his family can find peace at this difficult time and that we will remember him for the music and not the controversy. I wasn't the biggest fan but I still respect him as one of the greatest musicians and performers of our time.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Once upon a time there lived a handsome prince. His hair was dusky brown, thick and lively, his face was chiselled like a precious stone, his body muscular and fit, and his eyes were oceanic blue, one glance reducing women to swooning fits. Everyone wanted to be his friend, laugh at his jokes or blush at his romantic advances.
Everyone, that is, except for ugly little Cecil the servant. Imagine the complete opposite of the handsome prince and you would get an idea of what Cecil looked like. His back crooked, his eyes squinting, his face like a squashed potato, he would boil with jealousy towards the prince as he did his chores around the palace. Sometimes, when the prince was showing off to his sycophant friends, he would force Cecil to the ground and use him as a footstool, his band of followers falling about in fits of laughter.
When Cecil went home, tired and hurt, he told his mother of his humiliating day. His mother, who happened to be a rather powerful witch, concocted a plan to get revenge on the prince, the boil on the end of her nose twitching with delight. With her cauldron boiling on the fire, shadows and fumes fluttering madly, she prepared a magic potion, cackling as she outlined her vengeful scheme to her sniggering son.
The next morning Cecil sidled into the prince’s ornate bedchamber, groaning under the weight of a huge cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, black pudding and fried bread.
"Lovely day, my liege," he said, grinning a mischievous grin as he swept back the purple velvet curtains.
"Oh, is it?" Yawned the prince, squinting in the bright sunlight.
"Oh yes, sir," replied little Cecil. "It’s so nice outside you can see a perfect reflection of yourself in the river. Oh, it would be marvellous to see a face as handsome as yours glistening in the water." The cogs began to turn in the vain prince’s mind.
"Do you know what? I think I’m going to have a walk down by the river this morning, as it’s such a lovely day."
"I though you might have that idea," said Cecil, trying his hardest not to giggle. After washing and dressing, the prince strode out of the palace and down to the river, Cecil scuttling after him.
"Look how handsome I make this river look," said the prince his chest puffed out with pride as he gazed at his reflection in the sparkling water. He did not notice Cecil creeping up behind him. With all his might, Cecil shoved the prince off the riverbank. As his master fell, Cecil opened the flask containing his mother’s potion and threw the contents down after him. With a puff of acrid smoke the prince began to change. His arms and legs stretched out across the river, grasping the muddy verges. His back arched up high. His whole body stiffened, turning to stone and wood. Where the prince once was, there was now a bridge!
"Ah ha!" Cried Cecil with glee. "Now we’ll see who walks on who!" With that, he stamped triumphantly across the prince and ran off to tell his mother of his success, leaving the young man stuck in mute, unmoving rage.
I forgot to mention this in the Common Dreads review but Enter Shikari were one of the main influences on a band that my old housemate Tom and I set up a couple of years ago. It didn't really get off the ground but we did manage to record some tracks which can be found on our myspace page. We were called 'Helvetica Outbreak' and we played a fusion of drum and bass/trance/metal, so not surprising that Enter Shikari were an influence.
Anyway, the band is very much moribund now as Tom as finished uni and gone home, but you can have a listen and see what you think. Click here to get to the myspace page.
Coming soon on 'The Musings of Samuelj' is another short story, a fairy tale I wrote for my university course called 'The Prince and the Bridge'. Hope you enjoy!
Monday, 22 June 2009
Monday, 15 June 2009
Sunday, 14 June 2009
The scientists rushed out of the airlock, bouncing along in their bubble suits, entering Lobert’s dome.
"What have you done now Stein?" Raged Findus. "You better not have-" He stopped, struck speechless by the sight of his colleague, standing on the alien soil, wearing no projective suit.
"What have you, what…" Findus tried again, but words failed him. The four scientists with him were also dumbfounded.
"I’ve done it, I’ve made the atmosphere breathable," Lobert exclaimed excitedly. "I don’t know how, but I’ve done it." The scientists looked at him in shock.
"Look, watch me." Lobert took a deep breath and theatrically exhaled. The scientists cried out in unison, joyfully rushing to Lobert’s side to shake his hand and clap him on the back, his uncovered flesh clasped in the plastic of their gloves. Even Findus congratulated him serenely, making Lobert swell with pride.
All the scientists, technicians and other assorted staff were summoned to the dome to witness the extraordinary event. Lobert saw Xan smiling at him amongst the assembled people, from military officers to the cleaners. Lobert felt guilty. It was obviously Xan’s input that had brought about the change. He looked back into the scientist’s eyes, trying to impart his feelings. Xan seemed to understand, raising a hand as if to tell Lobert not to worry. When they all had arrived Findus quietened the buzzing crowd, whose gaze was fastened on Lobert. The head scientist raised his hands to bring them to silence.
"My comrades," he began. "Today we stand on the brink of a new era for Taurus Delta. Today, we are indebted to Doctor Stein, for reaching out and grasping a new home for the human race!" The crowd clapped and cheered, Lobert flushed with embarrassment. "Now," continued Findus, hushing the men and women, "let us join in tasting the air of this, our new conquest." In unison, all fifty-seven of the dwellers on the planet removed their helmets and took a deep breath.
Horrified dread rushed over Lobert Stein as he watched his gathered colleagues scrabbling frantically at their throats, their faces turning blue and then purple, as they fell to the ground. Their heads shrunk grotesquely, and with a chorus of wet, squelching pops, their brains were crushed by the noxious gases clamping down on their skulls. Lobert screamed as he staggered backwards, shouting to the central computer.
"What seems to be the problem Doctor Stein?" The computer’s voice dripped like honey into his ears from the dome’s internal speakers.
"They’re all dead" he cried.
"Yes, it seems they couldn’t breath the air, the fatal reaction causing-"
"Why didn’t you stop them?" Lobert interrupted.
"I assumed it was part of your experiment," the computer replied, placidly. "A controlled test, so to speak."
"What d’you mean, controlled test? Hang on a second, why can I breath the air?" Lobert manically questioned.
"Because of your success in melding the properties of the alien creature with those of your own. I assumed that was your reason for keeping the creature in such close proximity."
"Melding properties? What the hell are you talking about?"
"By spending time with the creature you have entered its evolutionary pattern, absorbing it’s ability to breath in this harsh environment." Lobert felt his neck and recoiled in shock as his fingers ran across the gill-like flaps on his neck. How had he not noticed them before? "I assumed," the computer continued mockingly, "that you were aware of this change."
"But why didn’t you stop them from killing themselves when you knew they couldn’t breath?"
"As I have already related to you, I assumed this was part of your experiment, using a control group to show the difference from your personal reaction." The computer continued tiredly.
"Obviously from a human point of view, the loss is tragic. But you must see Doctor Stein, that you have made a breakthrough. Mankind is in your debt."
Lobert stood bewildered, staring down at the bodies of his fallen comrades. Philip watched him silently from his rock. It was then that as Lobert clapped his hands to his head in desolation, he felt six small lumps growing out of his forehead, just big enough to be noticed. Philip watched him beadily; glad to have a new friend to share his planet. He and Lobert walked out into the dusty wilderness, leaving the computer alone with the bodies.
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
My work experience is still going really well but things were hectic in the office today, so I had to work extra hard to keep up. Plus the tube strikes start tonight (God bless you TFL) so my journey home was sweaty, confined and uncomfortable. And there was a massive beast of an insect (it looked like a moth) that kept threatening to fly in my face on the train, and being crammed in I couldn't do anything to stop in buzzing at me! Oh well.
So tomorrow morning I shall be up at 6.30ish and getting the bus at 7.30, which will make its way slowly to Oxford Circus. Gonna take my laptop with me and continue a story I'm writing for a competition if I get there super-early. Going to a book launch after work, lets hope it's fun!
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Directed by Danny Boyle, starring Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor and Freida Pinto, written by Simon Beaufoy.
It has been said before, and will be seen by some as only a quotation, but let me say it anyway. In the words of film critics and regular Joe cinema-goers alike, Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire is a masterpiece.
Based on the novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup, the film tells the story of three children growing up in the ever-changing metropolis of Mumbai, India. The narrative of Slumdog Millionaire operates on many different levels, showing us Jamel’s (Dev Patel) awe-inspiring struggle to find his destined love, the beautiful Latika (Freida Pinto), the tortured relationship between him and his forceful brother, Salim (Madhur Mittal), the jealous attempts of quiz-show host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) to thwart Jamel’s chance to win twenty million rupees, and also the growth and transformation of Mumbai as a city, over the past decade.
Slumdog Millionaire is one of those films that defies the rules and becomes both critically acclaimed and a box office hit. With eight Academy Awards under its belt and grossing an impressive $352 million worldwide (even more impressive considering it almost went straight to DVD), it is a film that has obvious universal appeal. It is hard to pin down what it is that makes Slumdog so popular, because all the elements of this film of so skilfully crafted. Superb casting, flawless cinematography, breathtaking locations, expert writing and an emotive musical score all work in unison and could all be claimed as the key to its success. Or it could just be that deep down everyone wants the underdog to get the girl.
As already mentioned, the casting of Slumdog Millionaire is a masterstroke. With the main characters being shown at three different periods of their lives, each actor chosen needs to not only perform superbly, which all do, but physically resemble each other. The likeness between the nine individuals who take on the different forms of Jamel, Salim and Latika is so striking that you really feel you’ve been there for the whole of their epic journey, that you’ve grown with them as they do on the screen. Dev Patel in particular stands out in his first headline feature film role, oozing charisma and intensity, only looking nervous when his character sits on the hot seat with the chance of winning millions.
Being a Western viewer, I felt that Slumdog Millionaire opened up a new world to me in the form of Mumbai. I do not see myself as an insular or Eurocentric person, but I did feel challenged by Boyle’s vision of modern India, through the almost biopic film of its capital. Stunning images dripping with colour and life are suddenly replaced by ones of horror, cruelty and pain. We see the Taj Mahal in all its splendour, but also the landfills of waste that people scavenge through for a living. Despite what may be said about this film, it is not ‘feel-good’ for the most part, unless you happen to enjoy torture and mutilation. However, at no point does the film fall into the trap of becoming overly moralistic and avoids preaching to the audience. We see India and Mumbai as are, flawed but also beautiful.
Being an avid music lover, I find that often the composition for a film can be its making or breaking point. With this in mind I can safely say that A.R. Rahman’s score did not disappoint in the slightest. When listening to the songs and instrumentals used within the film, the themes and emotions pour directly into your ears, flooding you with the strange, thriving majesty of Mumbai, the danger of Jamel and Salim’s journey, and most importantly the yearning that fills the protagonist’s heart to be with his true love. The musical highlight of the film is obviously the triumphant and anthemic Jai Ho, along with the dance finale that accompanies it, paying tribute to the Bollywood film industry that the film owes much to.
If there is a tiny flaw in Slumdog Millionaire, and I am clutching at straws, it is that the subtitles seemed rather disjointed. Random lines of dialogue would suddenly be accompanied by a visual translation; where as other sections in Hindi were left untouched. In some cases a thickly accented phrase in English would be subtitled. This may have been the cause of editing issues or possibly an attempt to include those who would not be familiar enough with the accents shown in the film. However, in using the indigenous tongue of the film’s location Slumdog Millionaire retains its believability, regardless of subtitling issues.
As well as the main feature, the single disc version of Slumdog Millionaire includes some interesting extras, such as a making-of documentary, some commentaries by cast and crew, and a few deleted scenes for good measure, making it a respectable package for the price of a single disc release.
Regardless of my personal need to go against the flow, I conceded this time to agree with the majority, and join in the praises of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Heart-achingly powerful and incredibly uplifting, this film will most likely be my favourite one of the year. The bar has been set.
Oh my goodness, I am all shopped out! My girlfriend Lauren came down to London to see me this weekend, and other than meet up with some friends, eat lots of tasty food, and watch a man juggle chain-saws whilst wearing only pink boxer-shorts, all we've done is shop!
Saturday, 6 June 2009
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Directed by McG, starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington and Anton Yelchin, written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris.
Although one may want dismiss the latest in the Terminator series purely on the grounds of its director’s stupid name (who on earth is called McG?), I urge you strongly to reconsider. Rising from the mediocrity of T3, Terminator Salvation is a heart-pumping, immensely enjoyable action thriller, returning the terrifying scarlet glow of the terminator’s moribund eyes to the big screen with gusto and glee.
Terminator Salvation begins by introducing us to the matured, chiselled and battle-hardened John Conner (Christian Bale), who is an officer in the Resistance, a rag-tag band of human survivors fighting against the relentless force of the Skynet, a self-aware military defence network intent on the extinction of the human race through the use of metallic endoskeletons known as ‘terminators’. Conner is a messiah to many who believe he is humankind’s only hope, his quest at present to discover the location of Kyle Reece (Anton Yelchin), a teenager who will grow up to become Conner’s father through time manipulation. However, the mysterious resurrection of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a former death-row prisoner from years earlier, holds dark meaning for both Conner and Reece, and of course, the whole of mankind.
The latest in this summer’s group of franchise reboots, along with the dismal X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the surprisingly good Star Trek, Terminator Salvation has a vast universe to draw from, which is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. With the inherent time-travel story that runs through the Terminator narrative there are always theoretical issues for any nerd to pick up on. For example, if humans eventually can travel back in time, why do we show so much restraint in only using this technology to save John Conner, and not to go back and eliminate Hitler?
However, Terminator Salvation succeeds in bringing out the elements that make the Terminator series so popular. The visual style of the film is reminiscent of its predecessors, drawn from a very bleak pallet and using gargantuan industrial and technological environments as the backdrop for the film’s action. The evil mecha-beasts that are terminators appear in familiar forms, such as the towering humanoid T-600, but also include some new additions to their ranks, like the massive, steam-belching robots with shoulder-mounted cannons that snatch humans up to be experimented on, and the eel-like hydrobots that lurk in lakes and rivers, waiting for an unwitting human to munch upon.
A very good choice made by the writers of Terminator Salvation (John Brancato and Michael Ferris) is to avoid the folly of T3 and not dole another chase story, ground already majestically covered, and possibly exhausted, by the first two Terminator films. Although there are elements of this concept in Terminator Salvation (unstoppable machine pursues, frail human outwits it, machine rises up again, pursuit continues) the overall story is very enjoyable, if not exactly original or completely unpredictable. The familiar Terminator characters fit well into the almost Saving Private Ryan style war story and fans of the series will be delighted to finally be seeing the day after judgement day, the devastating war only shown briefly in the first and second films.
The elements that make up Terminator Salvation are all strong within their own rights. Bale is no stranger to gruff, rough and tough characters, but does not take a backseat in rejuvenating John Conner as a commanding by troubled man. Worthington fails to shine particularly brightly but does give a solid performance, in contrast to Anton Yelchin, the boyish Chekov in Star Trek, who presents us with a powerful and energetic vision of the young Kyle Reece. Also worth mentioning is Helena Bonham Carter's well played, small but crucial role in the film, which I will not discuss in detail so as to avoid spoiling plot points. The music is dark and pounding, with the trademark metallic clashing familiar from the earlier films, supported by ear-splitting and floor-rumbling sound effects. The dialogue isn’t anything to shout about in particular, but when you insert the “I’ll be back” and the “come with me if you want to live” in the right places, there’s not much you have to do.
Cut from the same cloth as its predecessors, but forging its own path, McG’s Terminator Salvation is an incredibly fun cinematic experience, with explosive action, a thrilling plot, effective performances and the obvious possibility of sequels to come. Let’s hope the Terminator reboot can continue as strongly as it has started.