Hawarden Limerick

Several years ago, I wrote some poetry on a course I attended. Nothing serious, just having a bash. I’ve posted some of them before. This time, I thought I would share with you a limerick, which I hope will both amuse and entertain. And don’t worry, this composition is family friendly.

As a note of explanation, the village of Hawarden is situated near where I live, in North Wales. The name is pronounced “harden”, to rhyme with “garden”. It’s a nice place. Here is my poetic tribute:

 

Hawarden Limerick

There was an old man from Hawarden

Who had a monkey in his back garden

The monkey, so rude

Played with his food

And he never once said pardon.

 

I thank you.

 

R.I.P. Stan Lee

Stan Lee

28.12.1922 – 12.11.2018

This week we lost another hero, the one and only Stan Lee.  Writer, editor and publisher at Marvel comics – not to mention creative genius behind some of the 20th century’s most memorable characters.

I use the words “hero” and “creative genius” in relation to Stan for completely legitimate reasons.  The work of this man was ground breaking and had a massive impact on culture; he was also a genuinely decent human being.

Together with a creative team including legends such as Kirby, Ditko, Romita and Buscema, Lee was responsible for creating some of the most imaginative and ground breaking characters in comics.  Fantastic Four.  The Incredible Hulk.  The Amazing Spider-Man.  The Uncanny X-Men.  Thor, Iron Man, The Avengers and on and on.

Marvel characters may have been heroes, but they were not perfect.  For the first time, comics characters had real world problems.  They wrestled with the same everyday issues that their readers faced.  These superheroes leapt from the page with a load of personal baggage – and this new approach was revolutionary.  And very successful.

My favourite example is Spider-Man.  Spidey was a cool wise cracking hero, but Peter Parker was a nerdy kid; an outcast.  The guys didn’t want to hang around with him and the girls didn’t want to be with him.  As time went on, he struggled balancing classwork, relationships, a part time job and superhero-ing.  At any point in Spidey’s adventures, any or all of those issues could tumble out of control.

You can read numerable tributes to Stan Lee online, by all manner of people from all walks of life.  One positive from his passing is seeing how universally admired he was.

Reflecting on my own experience, I can remember seeing the Spiderman cartoon and the Hulk TV show as a tiny kid in the seventies.  By the age of seven, I’d graduated to my first Marvel comic (I vividly remember buying it and still have it to this day).  I was hooked.  I devoured comic books; all I wanted to be as a kid was a comic book artist.  To this day I attribute any grasp of the English language that I possess to these publications.  Including English exam results.

Stan Lee’s creations fired my imagination and inspired my creative aspirations, and those of millions all over the world.  They still do to this day, both in comic book form and the hugely successful movies.

This Marvel Universe – Stan’s Marvel Universe – was one where the outsider was welcome.  Bigotry and intolerance were not his way, nor that of his creations.  In making the underdog the centre of the story, Lee emancipated millions of us.

I’m proud to proclaim Stan Lee not only an innovator, but a true legend and one of the greatest creative individuals of the 20th century.

Excelsior!

In Memoriam – Carrie Fisher

carrie-f

Carrie Fisher

21.10.1956 – 27.12.2016

It is with great sadness that I write this blog post, regarding the passing of Carrie Fisher.  Carrie was a great actress, writer and producer and had an immense impact on my life.

Carrie Fisher was from Hollywood royalty, and had a very successful and creative career both in front and behind the camera.  Without neglecting her many achievements, there was one role that outshone all the others.

Of course, Carrie Fisher was particularly famous for playing Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movies.  Anyone who knows me will know that I have been obsessed with Star Wars since I was five years old, so to lose someone who has been part of my life for so long has been heartbreaking.

The importance of the Leia character cannot be overstated.  The Princess was no stereotypical damsel in distress – rather she was fiesty, confident and in control.  She held a position of authority as a leader in the Rebel Alliance and was at the forefront of all the decision making and events.  She was tough and skilled (ever see her miss with a blaster?) – but also showed compassion and humour.

All of those qualities were massively important and showed me – and other boys of my generation and since – that women could be strong, dynamic and powerful leaders.  Leia was a role model for a generation, not just male or female.

Princess Leia was adored by women the world over and rightly so – she showed the girls that she could be just as brave and heroic as the guys.  She was intelligent and committed and she stood up for what she believed in.

This character was embodied perfectly by Carrie Fisher.  Carrie knew she was part of a big boys club and had fun with it.  In doing do, she created a figure in popular culture who will be admired and respected for generations to come.  Carrie was not without her demons – she would fight them constantly through out her life – but this tenacity was embodied in her portrayal of the Princess at the centre of the galaxy, fighting for a better life.

It’s very disheartening to note that I began my writing in 2016 with two memorial pieces for personal heroes who passed away.  It looks like my last blog of the year will be about another.

So let’s remember what Carrie Fisher – and Princess Leia – represented to so many.  Courage, faith in your beliefs, and the desire to make things better.  Those are qualities that we will all do well to take with us into the future.

Halloween Horror Fest Circus

Vampire Circus (1972)

Yes it’s Hammer time at the Virtual Hot Tub, with this macabre classic from the legendary British studio!

A remote village, quarantined due to a strange plague, becomes the host to a travelling circus.  The circus entertain the villagers and distract them from their everyday woes; though they hide another motive.  That secret agenda involves a vanquished vampire count, and a despicable plot for revenge!

There’s no Cushing or Lee in this early seventies curiosity, yet Hammer are able to create a new spin on their Gothic tales with this unusual and striking film.  The boobs and gore identify the seventies vintage of this film, yet there’s plenty of atmosphere to embellish the tale.  Vampire Circus is a novel idea, and proves what the studio could do even without relying on the big names (stars or monsters).

Sadly this isn’t a feat that Hammer would replicate often in their twilight years.  Never the less, Vampire Circus is much more hit than miss.  The viewer will witness some real spectacle, some real frights – and the dark atmosphere of Hammer horror at it’s best.  Recommended.

8/10 vampire circus

From Hell (2001)

The crimes of Jack the Ripper are given a fictionalised re-telling in this 2001 Hughes brothers film.  It’s based – very loosely – on the Alan Moore graphic novel; relying heavily on conspiracy theory, a dash of clairvoyance and Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline. from hell

The conspiracy at the heart of the story is, of course, absolute nonsense, but then the original source novel didn’t set out to identify the culprit.  Rather, From Hell was a dense tome covering the mythology and occult roots of London and it’s citizens.

The film version goes for a more straightforward dramatic approach, as we follow the case and slowly unravel the mystery of the killer’s identity.  If you can suspend disbelief, forget the ridiculousness of it all and enjoy the ride, it’s a great film.  Fantastic sets give From Hell a very genuine feel, along with some decent performances (though not all) and enough shadows and murder to make it an effective thriller.

Go and read the book – it’s an incredible work.  But I’ll happily state that despite the clichés and the total fudging of fact and fiction – let alone disregard for the source material – the film From Hell is definitely worth a watch.

8/10

Sci-Fi Weekender 2015 – part 2

Sci-fi Weekender 19th – 22nd March 2015

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Welcome back to part 2 of my Sci-fi Weekender 2015 update!

Saturday began in the usual manner for for my intergalactic crew mates and I – fairly lazy hanging around the caravan.  The home comforts were pretty good t be fair; with a fridge stocked with beer, decent TV and plenty of space we had a good base for our weekend.

To be honest there was less of interest to me personally on this day.  The highlight though was a Q&A with Judge Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra.  The two were escorted on to the stage by a squad of mean looking Judges, and proceeded to tell the audience about their many years working in comics.  All good stuff, though a bit less about the Dredd movies and more about the actual comics would’ve been preferable.  But I guess that serves me right for not asking my own questions.

One Man Lord of the Rings was next, and not being a Hobbit geek (unlike Star Wars) I was off.  I heard it was good though.  Time to mill about round the various merchandise stalls, though there less of a science fiction theme to this year’s traders.  With MCM Comic Con on the same weekend at Birmingham NEC, I guess most traders opted for that instead.

Another strange tweak to the event this year was that Hafan Y Mor was also hosting a Prog Rock event on the same weekend.  Hence the large number of music related items on sale, perhaps.  Though having these two events at the same time appeared to be a strange mutation at first, I decided to check a few bands out over the weekend and found some that were certainly worth hearing. IMG_4015

Back on Friday I witnessed the strange jazz prog of Knifeworld, which I enjoyed after my ears got used to it.  “I want this music out of my head!” was the view of one of my gang.

On Saturday afternoon, I witnessed Landskap.  They had an almost doom/stoner rock sound, with slow heavy guitar riffs – augmented by an almost Doors-like keyboard.  Very, very good – saw the whole set and loved it.

Next it was back to the Sci-Fi Arena to see the Cosplay preliminaries.  As ever there were some amazing entries – well made, authentic, but also incredibly original.  The best part was spotting characters from film and television that you just weren’t expecting to see.  The Guardians of the Galaxy and Mad Max ensembles were both awesome.  Lego movie Batman, Futurama robots and more were just amazing.

You can see some of the photos here, but there were also dozens of fans who were dressed up, and hadn’t even entered the competition.  Plenty of people had obviously put a lot of thought and effort into their costumes, but were happy just to be part of the fun.

I did feel bad for one group, though – they were all in monochrome outfits (complete with make-up) to look like the old black & white Flash Gordon serial.  However, they’d missed registration through no fault of their own.

The Cosplay was again a real highlight od Sci-Fi Weekender this year.  So many fabulous and imaginative outfits, I couldn’t pick a favourite.  My thanks to all who agreed to me to take a photo – you’re all superstars!

In the late evening, I popped over to the Prog Rock arena to see Rick Wakeman.  Rick was performing on his own, with just a grand piano.  Instrumental versions didn’t really appeal at first, though it turned out to be a fantastic set of lush, almost Classical songs.  There was a Sci-Fi tie in with an absolutely wonderful recital of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars”, which Rick had preformed on originally.  Plus the between song banter was hilarious! IMG_4068

Back to the Sci-Fi arena for the Cosplay finals – which saw a hard fought contest eventually won by the young Tim Burton character family!  We ll done!  Then it was party time, with characters from all conceivable franchises across the genre seeing the weekend out in style.

It was a long trip back to the real world.  We met some awesome people, saw a few familiar faces from last year, and had a great time.  Here’s to next year.  If only I had a Tardis, I could do it all again…

I have dozens of photos left.  I’ll do a bonus section as per last year in the coming weeks.

The Sci-Fi Weekender website is here.

You can find Sci-Fi Weekender on Facebook or follow on Twitter: @scifiweekender

The Prog Rock website is here.