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Film Review – The Big Short

A Paramount Pictures Film, Directed by Adam McKay

Released: 23rd December 2015

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall and Jeremy Strong

Review: I don’t know much about economics; I never have and I probably never will. But that still didn’t stop me from enjoying The Big Short.

Out of the recent ‘big’ movies I’ve seen; The Force Awakens, The Revenant, Deadpool; The Big Short offers something different and, in my opinion, far more entertaining.

Adam McKay has crafted a masterful picture with witty dialogue and an intriguing structure.

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His assembled class shines, with each of the main actors; Carrell, Bale, Pitt and Gosling all giving stellar performances which are further enhanced by their lesser-known co-stars’ also thoroughly enjoyable performances. Before seeing the film, I was in the mindset that Bale and Gosling were to be the stars of the piece, but that is not so. Bale plays the interesting yet awkward Dr Michael Burry who, although appearance throughout the film, acts as a bookend of sorts of the film. Gosling, meanwhile, is the enabler, mixing his portrayal of smarmy businessman Jared Vennett (based on Greg Lippmann) with hilarity and cunning; summed up near the film’s conclusion where he asks the audience ‘did you think I was the good guy?’.

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That’s because the real hero of the story is Steve Carell. Carell is lumped with one of the sorts of roles he is known for as witty angry manager Mark Baum (based on Steve Eisman). His messy looks and messier temperament drive the main narrative forward, and his confrontations with the various other characters are golden. Pitt is also one of the ‘good guys’, but to a lesser extent, stepping out of the spotlight to serve in an ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ type capacity.

McKay also brings a wealth of other famous names into the film, as The Big Short continuously breaks the fourth wall in a clever manner, whether that be Ryan Gosling running us through proceedings and telling us which parts of the film are more accurate than others, or bringing in celebrities like Selena Gomez and Margot Robbie to help explain the economy of the mid-2000s to us in terms we’ll understand. He cleverly introduces Robbie as the first guest selection; for anyone not entirely focused on the movie, he sets her up sipping champagne in a bubble-bath as she talks us through what’s going on.

margot robbie2

It’s this clever inter-cutting of comedic film and serious documentary style info-drops that make The Big Short such a great watch. Adam McKay knows what he’s doing, and cleverly tackles the fact that economic collapse isn’t a laughing matter. As we reach the final act of the film, Carell’s character asks the audience (both his in-film and the viewers of the real world) “Still got a sense of humour? Well, you shouldn’t”, before the film is transformed with wholly serious and emotional scenes that bring us into the present day and remind us that we’re far from safe.

McKay ends with a statement that the main problem his characters have faced throughout the film, has just reemerged in 2015; as if history were repeating itself. Definitely a film to get you thinking.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2016 in Film & TV

 

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How The Force Awakens Could Have Been Better

So I’ve been working over my other blog; previously known as BLacknERD Reviews into a little site called newtocomics.com (don’t bother clicking the link, it’s not online yet).

There’s some stuff on there that’s no longer relevant. No point wasting writing though, so I’ll be posting some of it here. Starting with my thoughts on how The Force Awakens could have been better. I wrote it some months ago now (January 8th, to be precise), but even so, enjoy:


 

The-Force-Awakens-IMAX-Collage

I’ve been pretty vocal about my issues with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and even now, three weeks, one day, eighteen hours and fifty-five minutes after sitting down to watch it upon its release, it’s still on my mind.

Yesterday, I was looking at the IMDb page for the movie, and having a look at some of the reviews. I found them somewhat comforting, as the [categorized: best] user-reviews you come across assured me that I’m not alone in my opinions, despite the overwhelmingly positive response the film garnered (it’s now the highest grossing US movie of all time).

One review, in particular, summed up my sentiments pretty dead on, explaining that the main problem is that the film lacks progress from the original trilogy, and instead is basically just a soft reboot of the franchise.

This, coupled with my appreciation of YouTuber Michael from Belated Media‘s videos, wherein he edits the stories of the Prequel trilogy (minor edits of The Phantom Menace and then pretty much complete rewrites of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith to follow this new story-line he has created) inspired me to do the same for The Force Awakens.

I figured it could be a bit of fun, and perhaps an interesting read for you all. A What if? Because I’m not being obsessive. Honestly.

Seriously, stop judging and listen to me on this.

Anyway, some rules and restraints, because without restraints we’re no better than Tusken Raiders, are we?

I’m not going to out-and-out rewrite the film. That would be silly. Or sillier than what I’m doing, anyway. Instead, I’m just going to change some things, which in my opinion would rework the film into something more complete, whilst still leaving room for the next to films to build from. In italics are my reasoning and background information on the film.

I’ll be using the basic plot outline from the film’s Wikipedia page, and going from there. I’m also assuming you’ve all seen The Force Awakens by now. But if not, obviously SPOILERS!


 

Approximately 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star, Luke Skywalker has disappeared after one of his students turned against him and tried to destroy his new Jedi. In response, Luke has taken a batch of new students and retreated to an unknown destination.

Meanwhile, the First Order has risen from the fallen Galactic Empire and seeks to eliminate both Luke and the New Republic.

Learning that the First Order have learnt of the map to Luke’s location, and are planning to make a move, New Republic pilot Poe Dameron meets Lor San Tekka, Luke’s eldest student, on the planet Jakku.

Stormtroopers under the command of Kylo Ren destroy the village and capture Poe, whilst Lor San Tekka is killed in the ensuing firefight. Poe‘s droid BB-8 escapes with the map, and locates scavenger Rey Solo, at a junkyard settlement under the protection of Chewbacca.

Rey has been left on Jakku to avoid the gaze of the First Order, who are aware that the map to Skywalker requires a force-adept, and to protect her from the same fate as her brother, Kylo Ren.

Having Chewbacca stay with her for however long also demonstrates his loyalty to Han Solo, and would make sense for them to be living within proximity to the only person who knows where Luke actually is.

Also, considering the title is THE FORCE AWAKENS, having a jedi show up early on shows that Luke has actually had some success in the past thirty years. 

Ren tortures Poe and learns of BB-8. Stormtrooper FN-2187, unable to kill for the First Order, frees Poe and they escape in a stolen TIE fighter and Poe dubs FN-2187 “Finn”. They crash on Jakku, and Finn appears to be the only survivor. He searches for Rey and BB-8, but the First Order tracks them and launches an airstrike. The four flee the planet in the Millennium Falcon, piloted by Chewbacca.

The Falcon breaks down, but is saved from the First Order by a much larger ship, piloted by Han Solo who reclaims his former vessel and is reunited with his daughter and best friend. Han explains that Luke tried to rebuild the Jedi Order but went into exile after a student turned to the dark side and destroyed all that Luke had built.

With Han having an emotional connection to Rey and Chewie, it makes more sense for him to arrive to pick the Falcon up as quickly as he does. It gives us a reason for the Falcon to be on Jakku specifically, and also removes the nonsense of him having it stolen from him and returning to the smuggling game, throwing all his development and relationship with Leia to the Sarlacc Pit.

I’ve decided to skip the whole part with Maz Khanata; as frankly, it annoyed me, and ‘finding answers in a den of criminals’ has already been done four times in the saga already (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, A New Hope, Return of the Jedi).

Likewise, the Starkiller base, if it makes it into my trilogy, has not yet been built. Like the den of criminals, we don’t need a third death star straight away. To make it a greater threat, it should be built up over the trilogy (as Lucas intended in his original films, might I add) and not just destroyed straight away.

Plus, destroying the New Republic in the first film ruins all the progress made after Return of the Jedi. We need progress, not a reboot.

And so, this is where my film deviates from Abrams’ version for a bit.

Having saved Chewbacca, Rey, Finn and BB-8, Han returns the group to Coruscant, where Leia and C-3PO are waiting for them. The family share a reunion, and Rey is shown what she is heir to. As she gets reacquainted with her mother, Han does some bonding with Chewbacca, and reveals that although he is glad the war is over, he does somewhat miss his more rebellious life. Meanwhile, Finn struggles with being on the main planet of the New Republic, a place he has spent his whole life being trained to hate; he feels guilty and awkward around them, but his choice to leave the First Order has now truly begun to seem right.

Having these scenes allows for more character development. This  isn’t to say I didn’t think J.J. Abrams’ version had it, but what with some of the ‘creative missteps’, shall we say, they weren’t the developments that the characters deserved.

Han, for instance, still longs for a life of adventure, but due to his commitment to Leia and her efforts in building the New Republic, he has put that part of his life to rest and not just run away. He is still the same character, but he has grown. It also gets rid of that nonsense with the CGI tentacle monsters.

Having settled in, Leia explains the reason that the First Order are hunting them, and begins revealing Rey’s heritage that is the Force. As Leia exposits what has happened since the fall of the Empire, Imperial Loyalists learn of Rey’s identity and contact the First Order. As Leia reveals that she has been collecting links to Luke (such as his old lightsaber, a gift from Lando), the loyalists stage an attack on the Solo/Organa homestead and kidnap Rey. They also attempt to take BB-8, but the heroes manage to keep him safe.

Up until now, Leia has been trying to respect Luke’s wishes by not seeking him out. This is the turning point where she realizes there is a clear and present danger, and that the Jedi are needed. 

On the First Order base, Rey is confronted by Kylo Ren, who reveals himself to be her brother. He in turn presents her to his Master, Supreme Leader Snoke via hologram, who is actually the old Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis, in disguise. Plagueis reveals that by rights, the two siblings belong to him, as he has orchestrated the whole Star Wars saga, manipulating the midichlorians in Shimi Skywalker to create Anakin Skywalker. Plagueis orders Kylo Ren to return to Korriban with his sister, before… ending the call? I dunno.

Although I’m not entirely sure of the whole Plagueis/Snoke theory, which has apparently been denied by Andy Serkis, this, I feel, is a way to unite the whole nine films, once they’re complete. Because although people didn’t like the prequels, they did happen, and it’s time to face that fact.

This also gives the chance for more Force Ghosts when Plagueis is seen in person. Palpatine could be watching as a ghost from his side, arguing about how things should be done, and also providing exposition on how Plagueis survived in Episode XIII. Is this too much for new fans to take in? Perhaps, but it is entry number seven in the franchise, so really, its not that big a deal.

Alternatively, Snoke could just be a Plagueis fanatic or something. The motivations remain the same. 

Back on Coruscant, the group come to terms with the fact that the First Order is more powerful than they realized, and that if they take Rey, she too could fall to the Dark Side of the Force. Leia begs for the full backing of the New Republic’s forces to retrieve her daughter, but they argue that they have already wasted enough resources endeavoring the retrieve the map she originally stressed they needed, which still remains in their possession. Furious, Leia begs Han to save their daughter, and urges him to return their son, Kylo Ren alive.

Using the Falcon, Han, Chewbacca, Poe and Finn infiltrate the base with a small group of soldiers loyal to Poe. They find Rey whilst setting explosives around the base (like in the film, she uses the force to escape captivity, allowing us to still see Kylo Ren go beserk), before being confronted by Ren.

The two factions engage in a gunfight, as the base is put on high alert. Hoping to give his friends a chance to escape, Han confronts Ren, calling him by his birth name, Ben, and implores him to abandon the dark side. The pair find themselves conflicted, and Han starts to ponder if Ren is in fact still the son he once loved. Determined to prove himself to Plagueis, Ren kills Han. Enraged, Chewbacca shoots Ren in the side and sets off the explosives.

Now that Kylo Ren and Rey are brother and sister, the upcoming battle between them is more emotionally fueled than in the actual film, where Rey’s logic is more ‘this guys a jerk and he killed that other guy I barely knew but offered me a job’.

The group begins their escape, and an injured Ren pursues them outside. Finn retrieves the lightsaber Leia gave him to pass on to Rey and engages Ren with Poe’s help, hoping to spare Rey the pain of fighting her sibling, but is overpowered and badly wounded. Rey takes the lightsaber and fights Ren, overpowering him with the Force and again, Poe’s help.

Having Poe here makes the fact that a Stormtrooper and someone who has just learnt of the Force beating Kylo Ren by themselves more believable and gives viewers more chance to see what has become a fan-favorite character.

However, before she can strike the killing blow, Rey halts, stopping Poe from doing the same, and restrains her brother, taking him aboard the Millennium Falcon, which Chewbacca has recovered. Desperate to kill Ren, Chewbacca is forced to stand down out of respect for Rey, whom he has spent the past nineteen years with.

Back on Coruscant, Leia, Chewbacca, and Rey mourn Han‘s death.

There’s also a funeral/memorial scene or something, because if Qui-Gon, Padme and Darth Vader got one, so should fucking Han Solo, body or no!

With Kylo Ren under watch, Leia asks Rey, Chewbacca and Finn to take C-3PO and find her brother. The group fly off to an uncharted system, where they find Luke surrounded by his new pupils, with R2-D2 at his side.

The End.

I think the actual ending for The Force Awakens frankly looks a bit stupid/awkward.

I think by showing the progress Luke has made instead of him just being a whiny bitch, the film gets a more fulfilling ending: Luke has clearly succeeded in some form, furthering his journey from Return of the Jedi and Ren HAS been brought home alive, like Leia requested, but at a cost. When the gang is reunited, with Ren in the picture, there will be more conflict to start within the next film, as although he is their relative, they all resent him for killing Han.

This way, the film has obvious ties to the rest of its trilogy, but works even better as a standalone, because it ties off the majority of loose ends, and unites the whole Saga, keeping it focused, like Lucas intended, as a family drama.

Furthermore, you could get a whole side-plot going about how, in spite of Luke’s efforts to defeat Vader, if him and Leia are reunited, they do essentially rule the Galaxy like Vader wanted all along… Something to think about. 

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2016 in Film & TV

 

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Two Years of WordPress

Well, this is depressing. I have this site set to come up whenever I open chrome for the first time and today I was greeted with a ‘happy anniversary’ from WordPress.

Two years this blog’s been going. That’s older than some of my nieces and nephews.

I think.

I don’t actually know if I’m honest with you. I’m only their step-uncle.

But what I do know is that I’ve had a crisis of faith over the past few months. My desire to write has been dulled; I still get ideas, but I never get round to putting them to paper. They just sit in the archives of the notes on my phone, untouched and dying away.

Or at least that was the case over the winter (we’re out of winter now, right?)

But in chatting to my neighbour about life and travelling, I’ve been reinvigorated to make that my goal once again, rather than just resigning myself to a miserable existence has I had been doing for the past few months.

Unfortunately, that means working more, which whilst worth it for the money, is tiring and sometimes frustrating. I’ll try and fill you in the next few days.

In other news, it was Brian‘s birthday yesterday, so a belated happy birthday to him. I didn’t manage to see him, but he never made it back to Scotland in the end unfortunately. He’s survived the whole Christmas period out on the streets, and never once lost his resolve. He’s a better man than I. It’s not a sad ending to his story though, because this time next week he’s getting his own room nearby. So although it’s been a rough road for him, for now, he’s getting his happy ending to his story.

Now I just need to focus on what sort of story I’m going to tell for myself, because apparently, two years ago today was the day I properly started making an effort to become a writer with my first ever post, The Dude Abides.

Let’s see what happens next.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2016 in Life

 

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Brian the ‘Christmas Hobo’

So an interesting thing happened on my way back from Truro.

I’d quickly hopped on the train to go meet a guy in the Sainsburys car park and do some dodgy dealings for an Xbox One I’d found on eBay.

Got it for £194, rather than the store price of £299. What. a. steal!

Anyway, that’s not important, I just wanted to brag.

En route to the station I walked past two men having a chat. One of whom looked a little worse for wear. I thought nothing on it and went about my journey.

About 45 minutes later, I was back in Penryn, where one of the previous gentlemen said something to the two girls in front of me. They looked prim and proper, clad in fancy coats and quickly hurried away at his gestures and words.

I removed my headphones as he turned to me. All he wanted was a cigarette. Stopping to actually converse with him, it became all-too-obvious that he was homeless. I passed him the cig that I had just rolled, whilst rolling another one for myself.

As I sat down to smoke with him, he began telling me his story.

Some weeks before, his wife had broken up with him, leaving him penniless and out on the streets. He had taken refuge at the station with naught but some sleeping bags and some clothes.

Only to have said sleeping bags removed from his stash and thrown away by the railway workers.

Things weren’t going well for Brian.

But things took a lighter turn when he told me about the days leading up to Christmas. Having sat there, a lone sentinel of the station, Brian had begun chatting to many of the people who passed his makeshift abode, much like he had with me.

Apart from his wife purposefully waking him up at about half six every morning on her way to work, he had been treated well by these other passers-by.

They had bought him flasks of tea, small bits of alcohol, and foodstuffs; when I was sitting next to him he had besides him a plate of macaroni cheese. Not going to lie, kinda jealous, I love mac’n’cheese, but I shouldn’t complain.

His new friendships had grown to such an extent that one kind occupant of the town even had her children wrap him Christmas presents, which they would deliver along with a bottle of whiskey in the days to come (the bottle of whiskey might actually have been from someone else, I have the memory of a sieve). Furthermore, he had been promised four different Christmas dinners! I would call him a lucky bastard, but you know, homeless and all.

But it gets better.

To add to his happiness, an encounter with the police earlier today had informed him that not only were they okay with him staying there, but they were getting close to locating his sister in Scotland, and that he may well be able to travel home tomorrow for Christmas.

In true Scottish style, he was celebrating with a flask of cider.

Unfortunately, all I had on me was the Xbox, so I couldn’t really help in any meaningful way. Until he told me that the reason he had been sitting on those steps for so long was because he was dying for that aforementioned cigarette.

Huzzah! A chance to help. I rolled him as many cigarettes as I had filters on me and gifted him with my lighter, so I could hear more of his story and help in any way I could (which, unfortunately, wasn’t much).

He continued, telling me how he had got his black eye (which was bloody huge, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to handle such pain, but then again, I’m not Scottish), his thoughts on the Xbox and just how much he was actually enjoying the company of the townsfolk.


 

I just thought it was worth mentioning, because I found it rather touching. Christmas miracles and all that. Mostly because I don’t really give two shits about Christmas myself, but I’m glad such a turnaround can happen for someone who was so in need.

If all goes well, he’s due to be heading off tomorrow. I may go check his progress, have another chat.

Until then, good luck Brian. If I was a religious man (Dudeism aside), you’d be in my prayers.

Oh, and FYI, I didn’t just dub him the ‘Christmas hobo’, he calls himself that, with a laugh no less. What a guy.

So Merry Christmas to everyone, I guess? That’s a good note to end on, right?

Good. Have a Happy New Year as well.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2015 in Life

 

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The Professional Writer: Ike and I

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking more and more about my second blog.

Actually, that’s a lie.

I haven’t been thinking about it, and that’s exactly the problem.

A problem that led to a bit of a panic last night when I realised I had to pitch my ongoing idea for my ‘Professional Contexts’ module and came to the conclusion that I don’t have the motivation to keep a ‘writers blog’ going; mainly due to the fact that since it’s creation, I’ve posted a total of one thing.

And that one thing is something I wrote in class, ie. not for the blog.

So here’s how things are really going to be (I’m serious this time):

The new blog, now with the new domain name of BLERD Reviews is going to take a focus on reviewing comic books, comic-related movies, and whatever geeky extra film and television I deem relevant (read: Star WarsDoctor WhoAsh vs. Evil Dead, etc).

Meanwhile, the writing I do for my course that I deem readable will return here.

Starting with Ike and I, my retelling of the Icarus myth.

And as a sorry, I’ll throw in an alternate telling of Rapunzel (The Last Ride of Erhard Jäger) at the end.

Enjoy!

Ike and I

I first met Ike Caruthers some years ago. He was quite a sight to behold; one of those muscular men you see parading around who know exactly how good they look. He had a perfectly square jaw, with beautiful flowing blonde hair and deep piercing blue eyes. His nose was long and straight, with a Grecian look about it. I usually take an instant dislike to such men; their overconfident personalities; their bodies that look like they’ve been pumped full of steroids. But Ike was different.

Although his bravado occasionally neared the overwhelming levels of his muscle-headed peers, I could see that he had a sensitivity about him. When he first entered the salon, his smile betrayed a sense of nervousness. In my eyes, he was already close to perfect, but he assured me that this was not the case.

I welcomed him, and he explained to me that he was preparing for a prestigious party at ‘The Labyrinth’ club in a few months time.
He had found a positively gorgeous angel costume, and with it he hoped to be the most beautiful man at the event. He made a joke about something called ‘peacocking’ before winking at me, as his smile grew increasingly more confident. He would go on to tell me his only regret was that his fair complexion left him with pale skin. He claimed that for his costume to be truly perfect, he had to look more sun-kissed than his rival, Martin ‘The King’ Minos. Minos was hosting the party, and the previous year had said some absolutely devilish things at Ike’s own event. This year, he was hoping to settle the score by outdoing the host with his gorgeous looks.

Ike continued to frequent my salon, continually complaining that he wasn’t yet ‘beautiful enough’. I warned him that he was in danger of overdoing it, but he assured me he would be fine. I had grown quite fond of him over the course of his visits, but eventually I had to deny him service. And so, just as quickly as he’d entered my life, Ike departed; making claims that he would find another tanning salon.

I often wondered how his party had faired, but in time, I found myself another man and we moved on with our lives.

I must admit that I was both shocked and saddened when I bumped into Ike once more. I was in the hospital waiting room when someone croaked my name, “Dave..? Dave Dalus?”

I turned, finding myself looking down upon a leathery, balding man who appeared to be withering away in the corner. With a heavy heart, I looked into those same piercing blue eyes and recognized him as my old angelic customer. He had skin cancer, he explained; the very thing I had warned him of all those years ago.

I ignored his continued claims that he was no longer beautiful and embraced him, knowing, unlike all those years before, that this would be our last meeting.

The Last Ride of Erhard Jäger

In my time as royal advisor, I have come across innumerable tales of creatures such as lycan, vampyr and the walking dead. But by far the most fascinating of these tales was that of my good friend, the late Erhard Jäger; a monster-hunter of some renown.

It began when reports emerged that a peculiar sickness had overcome the prince whilst courting an anonymous maiden. After one such visit, the prince returned covered in crusting red growths that pulsated and seeped the blackest of liquids. With each day, his cries grew worse and Erhard was summoned to the king’s throne room. He was informed by the prince’s erratic and frantic screams that a monster now dwelt in his beloved’s tower.

The next day, Erhard set off for the tower, where he found the peculiar sight of a long braid of hair hanging from the window, up which he made his ascent.

Entering, he found the room to be dark and filled with the stench of death. From the other end of the room came a soft weeping that beckoned Erhard forward. Cautiously, he lit his torch and surveyed his surroundings. The room had naught but desolate stone walls and a simple kept bed. As he drew closer to the weeping, he felt something crunch underfoot. Looking to the floor, he found beneath him a corpse covered in the eerie black liquid that now seeped from the prince’s skin.  

He crept closer still; holding the torch high, so that he might look upon the maiden, and what he saw was a sight that would haunt him till his end.

Where once stood a beautiful girl now stood something spat from the depths of hell itself. On half her head, her long golden tresses had been removed to show the skin crusted over in a hue of bright crimson. Cracks leaked the same black liquid that flowed from both the prince and the corpse behind him. From her eyes, now blackened across the sclera, this liquid also flowed.

He stepped back in a moment of uncertainty, causing her to focus on his presence. Pouncing forward, she bared sharp nails at the hunter, tearing at his skin with unimaginable strength and ferocity.

Understanding now that the girl the prince had loved was now no more, Erhard swung his strong fist across her jaw, hearing it shatter with unexpected ease.

The maiden stared at him, her jaw hanging loose and her skin peeling from her face, as the black liquid continued to course from her wounds.

Pouncing once more, she ushered a bellow from Erhard, as her claws pierced his skin; scratching into his face and chest. Thrusting her away, Erhard lifted his mighty axe, relentlessly hacking into the screaming maiden’s body, drenching the empty room in her now-black blood.

It is my intent to relay this news to the king, who is now in mourning, as the curse that overcame the maiden eventually took his son.

Of course, Erhard did not know of this occurrence when he stumbled through my door, his skin slowly hardening around her scratches into the scab-like substance that covered the maiden’s scalp.

Neither did he know that there was only one cure for their affliction. And so, once Erhard had relayed his story to me, his expression turned from one of remorse to one of shock, as I plunged my dagger into his heart, halting the beast’s invasion of my old friend.

I worry now that by killing Erhard I have done the world a great disservice, and if this brings about some dark future, here before you lies my confession.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2015 in Life

 

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The Professional Writer: My Professional Profile

Shit just got real on my degree.

Up until now, when people asked me about my degree, I would respond that it’s ‘laid back’. This is where that all changes.

We’ve started to push down on the accelerator as we drive along the road towards being a writer, and as such, that demands some changes.

This blog will continue to run and be updated, but rather than having a seperate category for work-related things, I’ve just gone that extra step and started a new page altogether. It’s called Emrys’ Escapes.

So far only the ‘About’ section has been uploaded, but as time goes by, I’ll try and post some portfolio building stuff. And if my lecturer is correct, that means two posts a week, whether that be on this blog or the other.

I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit scared.

I’m just going to continue to think about my Halloween costume to take my mind off of it.

I’m going as a pussycat.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2015 in Life

 

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Accidentally published this without a title, and thus, this is now the title (Short Stories)

I figured it was about time for an update and the best part is, what with all the quick little writing workshops we’ve been doing on our course, there’s no need to write any new material. Huzzah!

#Laziness

Also, because although all these things are pretty short, together they add up to something mighty, I thought I’d just throw out a little plea here. If anyone has any humorous or interesting stories about Tinder, I’d love to hear them for a compilation of writing I want to try… uh… writing. The names would all be kept confidential, of course.

Anyway, the first piece is a short story I had to write revolving around the word ‘Malaise’ (don’t worry, I didn’t know what it meant either at the time).

Malaise

He sat there, un-moving, as he stared out the window. In the time he had been sitting on the train, many people had come and gone, but he had remained, like a lone sentinel, guarding the carriage. In time, someone decided to engage him in conversation. She was a friendly looking young woman, wearing a pantsuit and carrying a small briefcase. She was rather flustered as she explained to him that she was on her way to work.

“It’s my first day at the job” she blurted at him, blushing slightly. The excitement was rippling off of her.

In response, he simply refocused his gaze from the outside scenery and smiled slightly, before nodding, and looking back. The woman looked down, slightly put-off. She had thought the man handsome, and figured his encouragement would send her down a good path for the day. She tried again.

“Where is it you’re off to?” she asked him.

“Crewe” he muttered back.

“Oh dear” she started.

“Yeah, I know, I know. Crewe’s a horrible place” he said as he returned his gaze to the scenery outside.

“No, it’s not that, I meant to say that Crewe was where I got on; that was two stops ago” she explained to him.

“Oh. That’s a shame” he claimed. His attention still focused on the scenes unfolding outside his window. It had started to rain, and at this, a slight smile snuck onto his lips before quickly disappearing.

Before she could continue, the train pulled to a stop. The man made no effort to move; instead he now studied the people milling around outside on the platform.

“Don’t you think you should get off here and head back?” the woman asked him.

“You think so?” he asked, but again, before she could answer, the train pulled off once more. She looked at him uneasily. By this stage, she had stopped adjusting her clothes to look smart and presentable, and had begun switching between staring sadly at him, and trying to find what he was looking for out the window.

Meanwhile, from the back of the carriage, the conductor locked eyes on the man and began marching forcefully forward.

The man matched his gaze, before looking back out the window.

Next up is a short story written in parataxis format. We could write it about whatever we wanted. I promise it isn’t telling of my true thoughts.

There’s no title, but I’m sure you can figure out what it’s about:

It was too much. My housemates were rushing down the stairs. Someone was banging at my door. Blood stained the carpet. The banging continued. I looked at the knife. I looked at her face. She was motionless…  

The next short story is one we had to write using some instructions about either baking a cake or changing a tire. Being the manly man that I am, I chose the cake. And thus, it is aptly called:

The Cake

“Bit heavy on the sugar there”

“You’re not helping Jessica” I growled, secretly fearing she was right.

“I’m just saying, you don’t want to give the kid diabetes for his birthday. No one wants that”

I shot her the most hateful look I could, attempting to remind her that her presence here wasn’t necessary. She smiled at me devilishly, before pouring another glass of wine. She then poured a second glass and offered it to me. The wine was bright crimson; it fired horrid thoughts of splattering her blood across the room with my rolling pin. I took the glass and had a sip.

“Careful you don’t let that go to your head. You don’t want the cake to be even worse than its currently shaping up to be” she smirked.

I added the lemon zest, savouring the zesty aroma and hoping it would distract me from the incessant pestering my ex-step-sister was offering.

“Is there not something more useful you could be doing with your time? Blowing up balloons perhaps?”

She laughed at my question; a strong hearty laugh that descended into a fit of coughing. She then calmed herself with a sip of wine, before pulling out a cigarette. “Oh sweetie, you’re hilarious. I don’t have the lungs for blowing up balloons. Get Michael to do it”

She lit up her cigarette, whilst simultaneously lighting up another grin. I wanted to punch her in the face.

“Please don’t smoke in here” I asked, trying to hide my frustration as I beat together the lemon juice, water and vanilla. I paused as I reached for more icing sugar, only to be interrupted as she blew a huge cloud of smoke at me, driving me into a coughing frenzy.

“I don’t understand why you didn’t just order a cake anyway. That’s what Michael was planning to do”

“Well, I’m the one throwing the party, so I’m doing it my way. Not Michael’s” I explained to her, tipping in some more icing sugar and resuming my thankless beating of the mixing bowl.

“How old is Timothy, anyway? Fifteen? He probably doesn’t even care about the cake”.

“You’re seriously not helping, Jessica”.

This next story is called The Probe. I don’t think there was any specifications here; just my warped mind at work. We eventually had to whittle it down to 120 words, but that version really doesn’t make any sense. We did however generally have to have a ‘resolution’ that the story was about. This one, I suppose, is about knowing your limits when it comes to drink…

Oh God, my head. I drank far too much last night. I, wait…

It’s dark. Cold. Where am I? Metals floors. Metal walls. Oh God, oh God, what’s happening? Movement outside. Footsteps. Someone’s coming this way. ‘Okay, okay, what’s in here? A picture. A picture of—

What the hell? Is that a hard drive? How on Earth did it get up there? I really hope that’s not mine. 

Before I can check, the door smashes open. A man saunters in. He looks at me with intense fury.

“How did you do it?” he demands.

“Do what?! I don’t know what on Earth is going on!”

“The hard drive belongs to our employer. He wants it back. Give it to us”

“I seriously don’t know what you’re talking about” I blurt at him, although I’m starting to piece it together. It is mine. It is definitely mine.

“Look man. If this X-Ray is of me, I don’t know what happened. I just woke up here. That’s all I know. I swear!” I shriek at him, as he lumbers forward, ready to take action.

I feel an intense pain as he delivers a punch to my jaw and my head springs from his fist to the cold hard flooring. Blood splatters across it.

“Please, don’t–” I beg. He hits me again.

“How did you do it?” he screams at me, following through with another brain-shaking punch.

“I shall ask one more time, how did you do it?” He demands. He continues to stare intensely at me from his dark, seemingly lifeless eyes. I stare back. He’s a hairy herculean man. Not the sort you’d want to mess with. Not the sort you’d want making demands about how you woke up with an important hard drive stuck up your arse.

These final few extracts are less short stories, more just… extracts, I suppose. They’re just things. Good things though, I hope. Read away.

The first was one in which I had to write about a new place or person I encountered. Again, fairly self explanatory:

He was a rather burly man, with a thick handlebar mustache that marked him out as someone who would no doubt have undergone various masculine endeavors in his younger years. Had I not heard him speak, I could have seen him as having once been a cowboy who had misplaced his stetson and gotten lost in Cornwall.

Similarly, before I had properly engaged him in conversation, he had carried the air of a man of the community. In keeping with the idea of him as a cowboy, he would have perhaps been a sheriff, but instead of raising his hat like they do in the movies, he would instead raise his cigarette and nod as he walked past my house.

“What are you up to today then?” he asks me as I sit down on the bus. I tell him about my ‘homework’, where I essentially just have to go somewhere new. He laughs at this. “Alright for some”, he jokes, before telling me he’s just finished work in Truro. Turns out he’s a counselor, dashing my mental image of him wrangling animals and roughhousing in taverns. 

Damn. So close, right?

Next up is a piece about George Orwell being shot, which we had to rewrite as someone else. I chose Jack Kerouac (don’t worry, it’s nearly over now).

It was a fantastical sound, one that ripped through the sky, seeming to stop time in its tracks. I knew in this moment that I had been shot, for a most terrible pain ripped through my body. It was the most terrible pain in all the world.

I thought in that moment of all the people in my life, and how I would never see them again. I thought of New York, and those women that I had danced with and loved and who had a beauty that was not matched by any others.

I tried to move my arm, but shock and numbness had overcome me as I lay in the dirt, unable to move or speak. I thought of one girl in particular as blood poured forth from my mouth. A bright crimson red, that filled me with both awe and an intense sadness.

The final part of this is something I wrote today. We had to write a reference, for ourselves, using the voice of someone we admire. I chose my aunt Mary. There are several reasons for this, which I won’t go into here. You may have noticed her name pop up in a few news stories about the influx of immigrants in Calais.

The fake reference is as follows. I hope those who know her will appreciate it.

I believe my nephew would be a promising addition to your organisation. He is a kind and motivated boy who has the drive to accomplish any task that is set before him.

His working methods are stable and effective and despite his young age he has amassed a wealth of experience in dealing with people through his time at the Ruthin Tandoori takeaway, Café-R restaurant, Leonardo’s delicatessen, Homewood Bound shop and volunteering for the Nightline organisation.

All of these various jobs have given him the discipline to manage various tasks at a time, and I truly believe that one day he may be able to keep up with my routine of walking the dogs, looking after the kids, dealing with their humorous but slightly outrageous (and very, very French) father, cooking, building schools, looking after refugees, teaching English, studying extra degrees, hosting guests, taking in any animal I set eyes on, writing magazine articles, setting up a cafe and riding my horses all on a daily basis. He has potential, and may one day be as hardworking as I am. But probably not, because it may not be humanly possible.

Perhaps you should just hire me instead; I’ve managed to free up a spare few hours on top of all that; don’t ask me how, I’m just bloody fantastic at time management.

Made it all the way through? Well, it’s appreciated. Give yourself a pat on the back and know you have my thanks. I’ll send some positive thoughts your way when I think you need them. Don’t ask how I’ll know because I haven’t figured it out yet.

TTFN xo

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Life

 

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