Stranger Th1ngs HAVE Happened!: Season One Celebration

“Something Is Going On Here!”

Please Note: This Post contains copious oodles of chocolate pudding and LOTS of tears…

Jim Hopper: “99 out of a 100 times kid goes missing, the kid is with a parent or relative.”

Joyce Byers: “What about the other time…? The one!”

If it had been on disc available to rent from the Public Library – and if my laptop had not detected a virus upon first clicking on Netflix.com last Winter – Brad would have watched Stranger Things lot sooner. 

After a spate of lousy movies and TV shows, and yearning to escape the humdrum of daily toil, the hype for this show could not be ignored forever. Upon learning that Season 1 is set in 1983 – imho, one of the best years ever! – my heart leapt, and thus, my Netflix sign-up duly completed.

Heck, Stranger Things was awesomely hookable enough to watch through several nights AND drag me away from my morning (breaks) of coffee and CONTEMPLATION to compile this Post.

Unfortunately, on this tea and scones side of The Pond, we don’t have Eggo Waffles, but seeing how chocolate pudding is universally scrumptious enough to be found in the fridges of both Hawkins Middle School AND Brad Manor, one reckoned that sumptuous treat would make an ideal accompaniment through this binge-watching malarkey. 

Okey-dokey, got your Eggos at the ready? Let’s engage! 

Mrs. Wheeler: “I hope you’re enjoying your chicken, Ted!”

Mr. Wheeler: “Hey, what did I do…? What did I dooo?”

“On his way home from a friend’s house, young Will sees something terrifying. Nearby, a sinister secret lurks in the depths of a government lab…” 

The opening eight-minute pre-credits sequence of Chapter One is a masterpiece. 

Not only effectively setting the dark and creepy premise, but, with the unexpected aid of Dungeons & Dragons, it introduces our main protagonists as a thoroughly likable gang of Tolkien-crazed perishers. At its simplistic best, this wholesome scene sets Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas as the sort of friends we would want to have hung out with back in the day. How else can it be explained that so many viewers have become so emotionally invested in what befalls them?

Interestingly, their role-playing gaming also informs us as to which beastie we will have to confront: the Demogorgon (a Demon Prince of the Abyss, it is considered the most powerful villain in the 1st edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons). Said beastie and a “mysterious girl with psionic abilities” have gone missing from a top secret facility: Hawkins Lab on the edge of this supposedly quiet town.

What about Chief Jim Hopper (FREAKY FACT: Named after the unfortunate MIA character killed by the Predator (1987); incidentally, Hawkins became the first member of Arnie‘s combo to be eliminated by that eponymous hunter). When we are introduced to him (waking up on his sofa) the immediate reaction was: oh great, methinks, another stereotypical deadbeat cop. But, fortunately, Hopper – played exceptionally well by David Harbour – quickly establishes himself as one of the outstanding integral characters of the series, even driving the plot to such compulsive extremes.

No matter how sternly he warns the D&D gang to stay away from the hunt, they – naturally! – head off into “Mirkwood” anyway to try and find their friend themselves.

This whole opening episode is riveting to watch. And it culminates in the dramatic encounter with the “weirdo” in the woods.

It was a dark and stormy night… 

Lucas: “I bet she escaped from the nuthouse in Curly County.” 

Dustin: “You got a lotta family there?” 

Lucas: “Bite me!” 

One of the crucial factors in this show’s success – and popularity – is the gang, played by an amazing bunch of young actors. It’s oh-so-easy to see how Dustin quickly became a firm fan-favourite. But it’s Mollie Bobbie Brown as Eleven who really steals the show here. With little to no lines to work with during her introductory scenes, her expressive performance is quite easily the most striking by a child-actor seen in a long time. Dr. Brenner summed her up perfectly: “Incredible.”

Sometimes, flashbacks can screw up the narrative flow, but in Stranger Things they work really well, particularly Eleven’s unfavourable memories of “Papa.” It would be convenient, at this point, to mention how great it is to see Matthew “Birdy” Modine again, after too long away from our screens, here playing a villain for a change: Dr. Martin Brenner, Director of Hawkins Lab, and – gee whiz! – such a nasty piece of work too.

Is anybody going to mention what a swell diner Eleven finds?! Any hangout that plays Jefferson Airplane and The Seeds is a cool dive in my book. ‘Tis written: play the White Rabbit song and this White Rabbit blogger will always be pleased no end! 😉

The bickering interaction between the boys in Mike’s basement offers particularly commendable scenes. We get to learn more about their individual characters as they try to work out how to deal with the “Weirdo On Maple Street.” This scene is notable for two reasons: first, the boys learn that Eleven has “superpowers,” and secondly, that’s a swell Dark Crystal poster on his wall! 😉

If Chapter One had the best series opener ever, then Chapter Three offers arguably the most heart-wrenching end sequence of any TV drama: a child’s body is retrieved from the river; Jonathon gets a hug from his mum, whilst Mike pedals home to get a hug from his mum, as Peter Gabriel’s achingly beautiful version of Bowie’s Heroes plays.

And Brad almost chokes on his chocolate pudding. Seldom has one witnessed anything so moving during the early hours…

“Mike?! Mike what?! You were supposed to help us find him alive. You said he was alive! Why did you lie to us? What’s wrong with you? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!” – Mike Wheeler.  

Speaking of flashbacks, in one striking scene, we see the Byers brothers in an endearing bonding moment: bopping along to The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go, which later takes on creepy significance as the mystery gradually unfolds.

Oh, what the ‘eck! We’ve held off this track long enough – you just can’t have a Stranger Things Season 1 round-up without The Clash. Honestly, listening to this ol’ classic stomper will never be the same again.

This is your cue, Joyce:  

“COME ON! COME ON! TALK TO ME! I KNOW YOU’RE HERE!” 😉

Jonathan Byers: “Let me get this straight: Will, that’s not his body, because he’s “in the lights”, right? And there’s a monster in the wall! Do you even hear yourself?!” 

Joyce Byers: “I KNOW it sounds crazy! I-I-I sound crazy! You think I don’t know that? It IS crazy! But I heard him, Jonathan! He talked to me! Will is- is calling to me. And he’s out there. And he’s alone, and he’s scared, and I don’t- I don’t CARE if anyone believes me. I am not going to stop looking for him until I find him, and bring him home!

“I AM GOING TO BRING HIM HOME!!” 

Joyce Byers stubbornly refuses to accept that her youngest boy is dead. Winona Ryder plays the stressed-out mum really well here – a career-best performance, perhaps? 

Right, there are lots of good, freaky stuff in this first season, but none more so than during the fourth minute of Chapter Four. Chief Hopper leaves Joyce sitting, worried and confused, on her coffee table. The camera pulls back, and THIS begins to play.

WOW:

“You can keep the mix if you like. Really, all the best stuff is on there: Joy Division, Bowie, Television, The Smiths. It’ll totally change your life” – Jonathan Byers.

We see Jonathan Byers locked away in his bedroom, lying on his bed listening to Atmosphere by Joy Division on his headphones, trying to shut out the upsetting possibility that his mother has gone insane. 

You see, that was ME exactly thirty years ago, locked away in his bedroom, lying on his bed listening to Joy Division Atmosphere on his headphones, playing and rewinding it over and over and over again, trying to shut out all those scholastic, social or psychological problems… Watching an uncanny biopic of This Brad’s Lifeespecially at that time of night – should be unsettling, but on the contrary, it’s gratifying to learn that someone in the crew saw fit to apply such fine taste in music.

In order for El to try and locate Will, the boys have to smuggle her into the AV room at their school. So they give her a makeover – she has such boyish looks that even wearing Nancy’s old pink dress and a blonde wig – an obvious nod to E.T.’s disguise! – she still looks like Charlie Brown in drag!

Speaking of Peanuts, whilst compiling this Post, this amazing mash-up turned up.

El’s dancing and the Demogorgon’s yawn still crack me up every time.

Good grief! 😉

Joyce Byers: “If he’s so wise, why does he need fireballs? Why can’t he, y’know, outsmart the bad guys?”

Will Byers: “Most of the time, yeah, but sometimes the bad guys are smart too, y’know?” 

Joyce Byers: “Alright, I don’t know who’s been raising you, but I’m going to get you some new crayons (because it looks like he’s shooting cabbages!)” 

Lookee here: ANOTHER quintessential ’80s trope: a lone hero sneaks into a top secret facility and hiding in doorways whenever one of its dodgy denizens happens to walk down that very corridor. In this Stranger Things case, it’s Hop who sneaks into Hawkins Lab in search of that most elusive quantity: the TRUTH.

Really digged the scene following that bogus funeral for Will  in which the boys ask Mr. Clarke how to travel to another dimension. Gee, what a great teacher Mr. Clarke is! He helps the gang cope with their “mourning” by explaining the theoretical principles of parallel universes. Spiffing! 

“You guys have been thinking about Hugh Everett’s “mini-worlds” interpretaion, haven’t you?” 

Yeah, man, not a day passes… 

And so, the gang set off to find the portal that should lead them into the Upside Down. 

Chapter Five ends on a suitably sinister note, with that unlikely pair of Nancy Wheeler and Jonathon Byers venturing out to try and find that “faceless” entity she witnessed behind Steve‘s gaff. Yay, Nancy manages to escape from the Upside Down (at the beginning of Chapter Six). Did anybody doubt that she would? A particularly fine performance from Natalia Dyer, whose character develops from shy cardy-and-long-skirt-wearing school swot to assertive jacket-and-jeans urban monster-hunter. 

And – ha ha ha! – how the blazes could we forget Steve (“This is crazy. This is crazy!” etc.) Harrington? He starts off as the cool cat: “King Steve” = Stephen King – nice touch! 😉 – turns into an annoying douche halfway through this series, but redeems himself by ending up getting stuck into the spirit of urban monster-bashing. 

The same chapter ends with a gripping confrontation between Mike, Dustin and those school bullies. And wahey! Guess who shows up to save the day?

“Yeah, you’d better run! She’s our friend and she’s CRAZY!”

WOO-HOO!

One of my instant favourite scenes, and yours too, no doubt! 😉

Dustin: Do you know anything about sensory deprivation tanks, specifically how to build one?”  

Mr. Clarke: “Sensory deprivation…? What is this for?”

Dustin: Fun….?” 

Mr. Clarke: “Okay, well, why don’t we talk about it Monday, after school, okay?” 

Dustin: “You always say we should never stop being curious, to always open any curiosity door we find. Why are you keeping this curiosity door locked?” 

As expected, the penultimate chapter really gets busy, beginning with a tribute to E.T. – the gang are pursued through the Watkins streets by the “bad men” in their matching vans.

Having just wiped my face (and keyboard!) dry after that emotional embrace between Mike, Eleven and Will on the clifftop during Chapter Six’s finale, so Chapter Seven compels me to ransack the manor for MORE tissues as Lucas makes his heartfelt apology to Eleven, and Mike and Lucas shave hands – everything’s fine and dandy now?

Oh no-ho-ho! 

In come more extras from E.T. Luckily the Chief of Police turns up just in the nick of (clobberin’!) time.

Assembling a salt bath in the school gym is kinda rad, man! Another great, creepy sequence.

And as the gang wait for the grown-ups to return, Dustin goes to raid the school store for CHOCOLATE PUDDING. Attaboy, Dustin! 😉

Hey, if MY junior school had stored such a humongous stash of gooey goodness, then – by Jiminy! – all those detentions would have been way more bearable… 

“This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy! THIS IS CRAZY! What are you doing?! Are you INSANE?!” – Steve Harrington. 

And before you know it: my binge reached the final episode. Gee, it all went by so quick; but wow, what a crescendo.

At the Byers’ residence, Jonathan, Nancy and Steve are occupied with paranormal threats, while the kids are chased through their own school by the “bad men.” Meanwhile! Joyce and Hopper – Hazmatted-up and venturing into the Upside Down to rescue Will – offers another irresistibly creepy highlight. Ultimately, Hop makes a deal with the shady cohorts of Hawkins Lab but what price will he be paying…?

Eleven has a final showdown with the Demogorgon in one of the school’s classrooms, and both are whisked off… to the Upside Down? Eleven has to return in Season Two, right?! Boo-hoo! She’s just got to!  

Actually, before proceeding with Season Two, this brand new Stranger fanboy went back and watched this whole corking caboodle all over again. 

Is this love…?

“Only love makes you that crazy, sweetheart, and that damn stupid” – Florence.

Eh? Come again, Flo?!

Seriously though, this Post set out to be a Review, assessing its faults in addition to gushing over its awesomeness. Let’s face it: tried my BEST to find the WORST, but there are no niggling negatives to be gnawed at here. 

However, one crucial point should be made though:

Got to love the way in which this is described as “A Netflix Original Series.” On the contrary, of course, Stranger Things is a cut-and-paste show, with nods to The Goonies here, E.T. there, and so many references to Stephen King sprinkled everywhere! But it’s all concocted in such a deliciously fun and engrossing way that it can – and should -be savoured as a loving ode to the ’80s. And – oh yes – that synthtillating soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein is wonderfully evocative of the best decade ever.

Primarily, what appeals to me here is that it’s not so much a horror show; rather, its emphasis leans more towards dark fantasy (an intriguing subgenre that is currently fueling some of my best fiction writing!) There is menace; there are one or two moderately gruesome moments but nothing gory. The 1983 setting is mighty fine and dandy – a story such as this could not have worked in the 21st century – gimme walkie-talkies, NOT mobile phones, ANY day! 🙂 And you know the writing is top class when it becomes impossible to select just one favourite character. 

All in all, glad that time and technology could finally coalesce in a highly fortuitous manner to make Stranger Things Season One happen for me. At last! It’s a splendid, but rare treat: watching a perfect piece of television such as this for the very first time. 

Ah yeah, this series grabbed me by the Goonies from the get-go and never let go.  

Now, Brad has to go and replenish his fridge with MORE chocolate pudding, but he WILL return VERY SOON and present you with an Xtra special feature about El, a Season 2 Review and -hey! – a Season 3 Review.

Promise 🙂

 

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT: 

“Pretty… good…” 

Marks Out Of 10? ELEVEN! (or El for short) 😉

 

“Friends don’t lie…” 

 

“The Gentlest Of Giants”: Peter Mayhew 1944-2019

Peter Mayhew Died On 30 April Aged 74.

“We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him” – Harrison Ford.

“He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.” Harrison Ford paid an emotional tribute to Peter Mayhew – the 7′ 3″ actor who brought Chewbacca to life in the Original Trilogy – who passed away at his Texan home on 30 April. Harrison remembered Peter as a “kind and gentle man,” and praised him for being “possessed of great dignity and noble character”.

Brad – like most, if not all, fans – loved Chewie too. So, today, on what would have been Peter Mayhew’s 75th birthday, here are a few words that just had to be shared. 

Let’s face it: where would Star Wars be without Chewie? And what would the Wookiee have looked like without Peter Mayhew‘s brilliant portrayal?  

The idea of having an alien, Sasquatch-like co-pilot seemed so instantly cool to me. Moreover, Chewbacca made me realise that in order to create great SF, you don’t have to adhere to the traditional tired-and-tested aliens-are-always-bad trope.

In 1975, Peter was working as a porter at King’s College Hospital in London, when he learnt that “an American director was at Elstree Studios making a sci-fi movie.” 

He would never forget those magical words:

“They’re looking for someone big.” 

“He was the gentlest of giants… What was so remarkable about him was his spirit and his kindness, and his gentleness was so close to what Wookiee is” – Mark Hamill.

“A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile,” Mark Hamill – forever-immortalised as Luke Skywalker – wrote on Twitter. “He just radiated happiness and warmth. He was always up for a laugh and we just hit it off immediately and stayed friends for over 40 years.”

Legend has it that 6 ft 6. Dave Prowse became the first actor to be considered to play Chewbacca, but he expressed a preference instead for Darth Vader (the iconic role for which he is best remembered). At Elstree, Peter Mayhew took one look at Vaderbut he expressed a preference instead for Chewbacca. “I looked at the character and said: ‘I can do something with that. That has possibilities.'”

Peter recalled waiting in George Lucas’s office: “He and [producer] Gary Kurtz walked in. I did the natural thing. I stood up. Basically, that was the interview. He turned to Gary and said: ‘I think we’ve found him.'”

The actor would go on to wear the shaggy yak-hair suit not only throughout the Original Trilogy but also as a memorable Special Guest Star on The Muppet Show! Lucas recalled him to Kashyyyk for 2005’s Revenge Of The Sith. And, of course, a decade later, arguably the greatest duo in SF movie history were reunited for The Force Awakens. 

However…

“Look, I can’t walk,” Peter informed incoming director: JJ Abrams. Double knee replacement surgery two years previously – necessitated by both age and height – had left the actor incapacitated as a physical performer. “I can do most things, but the only thing I can’t really do is walk. But I can do the facial expressions and everything else like that for Chewie.”

During 2015, in the months leading up to Episode VII’s release, fans and critics alike raved about the much-heralded return of Luke, Leia and Han, but – much to my dismay – nobody spared a thought for the Wookiee… 

Not surprisingly, this legendary character had little to do – the greatest duo’s comeback turned into a letdown. To me, Han’s demise was inevitable, but the fact that Chewie was deprived the moment to mourn was probably that script’s most significant error.

Peter himself summed up the secret of Chewie’s appeal: “The character itself is basically teddy bear. Security! People love security. I bet everybody had a security blanket of some sort during childhood, therefore this character represents the person who looked after you. 

“Chewie just grew – on the first movie he was a minor character; second movie, he became part of the good group, and the rest is history.” 

Peter Mayhew in-between filming that “sci-fi movie” with co-star Kenny (R2-D2) Baker (above);

and with make-up artist Stuart Freeborn (below)

“Peter was a wonderful man. He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature – and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend, and I’m saddened by his passing” – George Lucas. 

“Too short for a Wookiee?”

Almost every school breaktime, Star Wars had to be reenacted in our playground. Yes! Due to my beautiful blond mane, yours truly would get to play Luke!! A rare sign of respect for an otherwise insignificant and shy comics-muncher who always sat at the back of the class.

That’s  almost every breaktime – REAL fights would break out between some boys as to who would be Han Solo – rebellion amongst the Rebellion. Sheesh! The Death Star would have cleared the planet and blown us all to smithereens well before we had to trudge back in for Maths class…

One time, seeing as it was his birthday, one kid received the privilege of playing the moping moisture-farmer. My reaction? To the sheer bewilderment of my playmates – was to immediately opt for the part of Chewie: the co-pilot with a crossbow. WICKED! 🙂

Bizarrely enough, we actually had a Mr. Peter Mayhew teaching at our junior school! He was incredibly tall, but there, alas, is where the comparisons ended. Of course, my year were staunch Star Wars fans, so those more rebellious fellas among our rabble could not resist lumbering along the hall right behind him, “making Wookiee noises” etc. Poor grouch: totally oblivious to this ultracool international pop culture phenomenon, he had absolutely no idea why all these pesky perishers were acting like that. 

Looking back, methinks: yeah, it was a fun prank to do 😉

I’d like to think that THE REAL Peter Mayhew would have been proud of us.

For he represented the best of Star Wars in its original – wondrous and inspirational – form. His boundless passion and positivity ensured him enduring popularity. That, and attending 20-30 Star Wars conventions a year. 

“Much of my personality has gone into Chewie, and people can pick those bits out,” he said. “There are quirky movements that nobody else does. I feel that I’ve put a great deal of Peter Mayhew into Chewbacca.”

 

“The big chance came, so I took it. Star Wars was such a unique opportunity that I couldn’t refuse. It’s an opportunity that only strikes once, so you might as well make the most of it.

“At least my costume was comfortable!” 

Peter Mayhew 19 May 1944 – 30 April 2019. 

 

“I Wouldn’t Say No To A Tuna Melt”: What Can We Expect From Avengers: Endgame?!

Eyes Up. Stay Sharp.

 

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN POTENTIAL SPOILERS

“The world has changed, and none of us can go back. All we can do is our best, and sometimes the best that we can do is to start over” – Peggy Carter. 

“This is the Asgardian refugee vessel Statesman. We are under assault! I repeat, we are under assault. The engines are dead, life support failing. Requesting aid from any vessel within range. We are 22 jump points out of Asgard. Our crew is made up of Asgardian families. We have very few soldiers here. This is not a warcraft. I repeat, this is not a warcraft!” 

Accompanied by such a moody score from Alan Silvestri, wow, methinks, this IS already turning out to be a masterpiece. And we haven’t even got past the MARVEL STUD10S logo yet(!)

After 59 viewings of this movie, it’s still unbelievable as to how all narrative threads of Avengers: Infinity War link up so effectively. 

So it was MARVELous news to learn that Avengers: Endgame will once again be written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directed by those groovy fellas: the Russo Brothers – arguably the ideal creative team for such a Mad Titan-sized project.  

Naturally, the chances of the Russo Brothers revealing ANY plot-point is – as you would expect – as unlikely as Brad having any chance of ever managing to lift Mjolnir.

That’s fine. Chris Evans summed it up perfectly: “Marvel really wants to make sure that their stuff is the way movies used to be,” he said, when interviewed on the Infinity War set. “It used to be that the first you heard of a movie was the trailer. You know what I mean…? It was all discovery and mystery and reveals. That was the fun of movies for me, at least as a kid. So I think Marvel does a good job of prioritising that.”

Such was the almost-insane level of security, Chris was one of the few members of the gargantuan cast to receive a COMPLETE script. Printouts of each day’s dialogue had to be shredded straight after use; fake scenes were even written just to bamboozle potential party-poopers; and when it came to the Big Twist (i.e. half of the cast being written out) those closing moments were NEVER written anyway.

The production team had to go break it, verbally, to that unlucky 50%, that the big purple guy had WON…

“You could not live with your own failure, and where did that bring you? Back to me” – Thanos. 

“Chin there, done that…” 

Rocket Raccoon: “This is Thanos we’re talking aboutHe’s the toughest there is.”

Thor: “Well, he’s never fought me.”

Rocket Raccoon: “Yeah, he has.”

Thor: “He’s never fought me twice.”

“It was very flattering,” Anthony Russo explained, reacting to news that the once-in-a-generation stunning climax to Infinity War has been described as the 21st century’s equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back’s cliffhanger. “We were diehard fans of Empire Strikes Back. It’s our favourite Star Wars movie.”

You see?! TOLD YOU they were groovy fellas 😉

Empire’s iconic twist had a profound effect on them – especially the moment in which Lord Vader lops Luke’s hand off. In every MCU instalment, at least one character is guaranteed to lose a hand; a macabre bunch of Marvel fans have tried to predict who will be the next unfortunate victim of this grisly regularity in Endgame. 

“Agan, one of the great licences that you have with serialised storytelling in cinema is that you can take the narrative to places that an individual, standalone film can’t,” Anthony Russo continued. “That’s one thing we always committed to in Infinity War: telling a story that was not going to go to a conventional place, and it was going to go to a difficult place. And trusting that the audience was ready for that kind of experience with those characters.” 

Speaking of taking the narrative to other places, as a quantum weirdness buff, the prospect of the remaining Avengers utilizing quantum gubbins to somehow undo the Snaptastrophe could not make me squeal with delight any louder. 

Watch this multidimensional space…

“Even if there’s a small chance. We owe this, to everyone who’s not in this room, to try” – Natasha Romanoff.

“It’s not about how much we lost. It’s about how much we have left. We’re the Avengers. We gotta finish this. You trust me?” – Tony Stark.

“The fact that they could break these two stories and make them as different as they are – to me, in the history of all the writing I’ve ever seen, it’s the single greatest story-breaking achievement,” Robert Downey Jr. remarked on the Infinity War set.

There is something about the original Iron Man movie that has been bugging me forever. And it wsn’t until a recent rewatch that it suddenly struck me – as decisive as any of Shellhead’s repulsor rayblasts.

Consider the very first glimpse we get of Tony. No, it’s not a view of Tony’s mug, but a close-up of his hand holding a drink glass.

Look at the way he’s holding it. Photoshop the glass out and it looks like he is… ready to snap his fingers…

The oldest Easter Egg in the MCU and nobody noticed. Maybe it’s Stark’s destiny to wield the gauntlet in the Last Roundand snap Thanos out of existence…? 

But hey! 

Don’t listen to me.

Tried to predict the contents of Peter’s Awesome Mixtape Vol.2 and only got 1.5 out of 14 right. Perhaps that is the reason why most of my Followers have now drifted away… (Better not brood over this or Brad will start to look as miserable as Thor in the Endgame trailer – oh Lord (of Thunder), hope he gets a chance to shine in this movie. Still reckon that he and Rocket should get their own groovy movie together. “Cool? Cool.” “So cool!”).

No matter how adamantly the writers and directors stipulate that these are two very separate films, Infinity War and Endgame were conceived and written concurrently, with the story framework set out during the last quarter of 2015, and the scripts developed during the first five months of 2016. 

“Without being able to reveal anything about Endgame,” Markus explains, “They’re very different movies structurally and tonally.” 

One has mainly stayed away from the ever-trundling rumour-mill, but it would be amazing to see the likes of the Ancient One, or Hela – and Loki, of course! 😉 – make dramatic returns to the MCU.

One amusing story in paticular caught my attention: In the last few weeks, a growing number of fans have been speculating – all over again – that the golden boy himself: Adam Warlock will be The One to save Tony and Nebula! With uncertainty surrounding the prospects of a Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3, stories of Adam’s cinematic debut being pushed discretely forward naturally gained pace. As integral to the Infinity saga (in the comics) as Thanos he may be, even this fanboy readily accepts that no matter how groovy this prospect sounds, Adam’s appearance in this movie remains, alas, highly unlikely. 

Even with the characters-who-survived-the-Snap, chances for the already-dense 181-minute running time being staggered further by any new faces popping up also seem remote.

Or are they…? 

Peter Quill: “The Avengers?”

Thor: “The Earth’s mightiest heroes.”

Mantis: “Like Kevin Bacon?”

Thor: “He may be on the team. I don’t know, I haven’t been there in a while.”

“There will be great stakes for the characters,” Joe Russo warns.

There will be consequences, both brothers have advised.

Whilst it his been said that Infinity War was the brawn, Endgame will be the brains.

Oh, and the heart. A heckuva lotta heart.

If you thought last year’s epic brought on more emotional intensity than you thought mentally and physically possible, expect this year’s jawdropper to crank up the feels even further. So make sure to bring lots an’ lotsa tissues…

God, it seems like a thousand years ago since that playboy-billionaire-philanthropist-quip-dispenser fought his way out of that cave…

The most persistent speculation concerning Endgame plot-points involves Steve Rogers making the ultimate sacrifice. Indeed, Chris Evans’ emotional last-day-on-set tweet implied his departure from the franchise here.

But does it have to mean the death of Steve?  

The trailer indicated that these two valiant characters will, at last, reconcile after the almost-calamitous fallout from Civil War; personally, that would be one of my top moments to expect.

And it will come just in time. 

My instincts regrettably inform me that we will have to bid, instead, a heartrending farewell to Tony Stark. 

Throwing in my ten-satangs-worth – ’tis, after all, MY blog, by Jove! – during the inevitably edge-of-yer-seat finale, it looks like Steve is a goner, but Tony will step in – at the last minute – and pay the ultimate price. Wracked by post-Snap torment, this demise in particular sends Steve over the edge, and makes him secretly commandeer the time-bending technology (that everybody saus will feature prominently in this movie) so he can “escape” back to the ’40s.

And get to have that date – and a life! – with Peggy. A less morbid, more tender, denouement to the Cap’s story-arc – still going to play havoc on everybody’s tear-ducts though! 

That is how this ol’ sentimental boobie would have written it…

Let’s hope we can still expect some mirthful moments amidst these seemingly morose proceedings. Heck, if we can hear rib-ticklers as classic as: “Dude, you’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards” then it should be mighty fine and dandy! Expect Markus and McFeely to supply an engrossing narrative and deft dialogue; expect the Russo Brothers at the helm to tighten the pace and proceedings by smacking our gobs (and not numbing our bums).

But most of all, dear friends: 

expect the unexpected from this Endgame(-changer). 

Allfather, let the Marvel Magic flow through us one last time…

ASSEMBLE all these elements in the right, awesome order and Brad will certainly be ONE VERY HAPPY BUNNY!!

“The rabbit is correct and clearly the smartest among you” – Thor.

 

“I know I said no more surprises, but I was really hoping to pull off one last one…” – Tony Stark.

 

“The Woman Is Breaking Free!”: The Evolution And Revolution Of Women In SF

A Look At Women’s Roles In SF On International Women’s Day 

“Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?” – Ellen Ripley.  

Many many moons ago, at school, there was one quick, and somewhat sad, way to tell the difference between boys and girls:  

boys read science fiction – girls did not.

Traditionally, my fav genre had been restricted to being a “Boy’s Own” pursuit long before my arrival on this Pale Blue Dot. My constant comic-reading consisted of Starhawk, Strontium Dog and Rogue Trooper – all male characters, of course! – used to irk some of the girls in my class no end. Despite trying to hide my mags, or chuck them over the playground wall, they never directly expressed any curiosity, or interest, in this reading-material. Shame, ‘cos such interaction might have extricated me from my insufferable shell a lot sooner…

No worries.

Science fiction has always exuded a voracious appetite for change. And to reflect those gradual, now quickening, changes in society, most notably in attitudes towards, and rights affecting, women, the genre has dramatically achieved so much to this end and, promisingly, continues to do so. 

To accompany this analysis, there will be a selection from the feminine side of Brad’s jukebox: 

“This is what Jodie Foster said when she first looked at me: ‘You’re not nearly as big as I thought you’d be.’ I thought she was joking so I kind of giggled but she kept laying it on thicker and thicker… She wouldn’t let up. I was a little crushed…” – Dave Bautista. 

At its best, science fiction makes us THINK.

And there was one particularly awesome comicbook cover that single-handedly altered my mindset in regards to women in SF.

In one of my most beloved books from the Library Brad Manor, a compendium: Alien Creatures, by Richard Siegel and J-C Suares (1978) – “Dedicated to those who haven’t landed yet” 😉 – on page 40 to be exact (that fact is proudly printed indelibly in my memory), this exquisite classic vintage cover (by Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta, above) of Weird Fantasy #21 made me realise the potential of incorporating strong, distinctive female characters in my own fiction. 

Note how the traditional gender roles haye been reversed: this woman – armed and sensibly-dressed (obligatory goldfish-bowl permitting) – assumes an assured, active and commanding position in the foreground while the male is reduced to just scantily-clad manflesh. Bold, and very progressive, especially when you consider this artwork was originally published – slapbang in that “Boy’s Own” era – in 1953!

2000AD – still “the longst-running comic in the galaxy” – has always been considered to be an highly-esteemed tag to have on any comic writer’s/artist’s resume, and yet it’s most notable alumni began their respective careers… working on girls’ comics!

Lately, my scope of classic comics has veered towards British publications of the ’70s. Whilst searching for the “lost Starhawk stories,” in The Crunch, imagine my astonishment, but sheer delight, upon discovering “Ebony”: a black, female MI5 agent; for 1977, this looked like an extremely impressive and empowering premise –  the spitting image of Nina Simone, she’s every bit as tough and classy as Pam Grier! And way too cool to be this obscure. (Not surprisingly, there are no clear images of her online).

While stories for boys centred on action, comics for girls concentrated on romance. 

Interestingly enough, there was indeed only one (albeit short-lived) British SF/fantasy comic for girls from that time: SpellboundHeard a lot of encouraging items about one of its contents – that quartet of enhanced femme fatales: the Super-Cats, so will endeavour to check out this “Fabulous Four.”

Back then, one would have been branded a “sissy” if seen with a girls’ comic, but now, who cares…? 

“Let me tell you something about sexism, girl. When you wear that costume, it cheapens you, but when I wear it, it cheapens them. It’s all about how you use it” – Emma Frost. 

How apt: playing this on the Eighth Day of this month 😉

No NO, Lady Go-Go! 

Let Hazel show you what a bona fide unorthodox-but-awesome songstress really looks and sounds like!:

J. Jonah Jameson: “You! Ms. Marvel!! I knew one of you super-creeps was responsible for this! Good or bad, it doesn’t matter – you’re all the same. You’ve got to be stamped out… and if J. Jonah Jameson has anything to say about it, lady, you will be!” 

Ms. Marvel: (I hear you, J. Jonah, and I’d love to argue the point, if I had the time… but I don’t. I doubt you’d listen anyway. Still, that’ll probably become one more editorial hassle Carol Danvers doesn’t need…)  

“The horrible immorality” argued Anatole France, ominously, as early as 1905, “…is to be the morality of the future.”

Whereas bygone authors of general fiction felt restricted from writing about the realities of human relationships, science fiction auteurs went ahead anyway and experimented with gender as well as genetics, and sex and sexuality in addition to science and scientific plots.

The main credit for breaking through the barriers of taboo is usually given to Philip Jose Farmer, whose The Lovers (1952) dealt with the unfortunate consequences of a love-affair between a man and an alien, although some would argue that Nice Girl With Five Husbands  (1951) by Fritz Leiber, at last deserves critical reappraisal.

The 1960s proved permissive enough to see an influx of more gender-based stories; Harlan Ellison’s anthology: Dangerous Visions (1967) confirmed that any speculative fiction concerning sexual matters could thenceforth be published, while the ground-breaking Left Hand Of Darkness (1969) by Ursula LeGuin offered a more sensitive approach to sexual roles and mores. The 1970s witnessed an increase in feminity – and feminism – through science fiction with the most prominent examples being: When It Changed (1972) by Joanna Russ and Marge Piercy’s Woman On The Edge Of Time (1976). 

More varied roles for female characters appeared on a relatively healthy basis up to the end of the 20th century, and beyond, culminating in the current blossoming subgenre of YA fiction.

Princess Leia: “All troop carriers will assemble at the north entrance. The heavy transport ships will leave as soon as they’re loaded. Only two fighter escorts per ship. The energy shield can only be opened for a short time, so you’ll have to stay very close to your transports.”

Hobbie Klivian: “Two fighters against a Star Destroyer?”

Princess Leia: “The ion cannon will fire several shots to make sure any enemy ships will be out of your flight path. When you’ve gotten past the energy shield, proceed directly to the rendezvous point. Understood? Good luck.”

Arguably, the strongest, most positive female role in science fiction has to be Ellen Ripley, superbly played by the incomparable Sigourney Weaver. 

The character had originally been written as male, but Sigourney impressed the director: Ridley Scott to such an extent that he not only changed the course of movie history, but furthered the opportunities for women’s roles in science fiction. Crucially, when she returned in the equally-impressive sequel: Aliens (1986), the addition of terrorised infant, Newt, allowed Ripley’s character to be enhanced by expressing long-suppressed calm and compassionate maternal instincts.

We inevitably turn our attention to the woman’s role that defined its time: Princess Leia, immortalised by the late great Carrie Fisher. 

Some would argue that she was upstaged by that young farm boy; he was the one who destroyed the Death Star and received the glory, cake and medal, but the cultural – and psychological –  impact that Leia had on each generation over the last forty years makes said space station look like a ping pong ball…

“Well somebody has to save our skins…”

But that was before the dark times.

Before Disney…

What chance do we have? The question is “what choice.” Run, hide, plead for mercy, scatter your forces. You give way to an enemy this evil, with this much power and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now!” – Jyn Erso.

In this modern Star Wars era, there is, alas, not much to get excited about.

The lone redeeming item is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It offers a striking lead performance by Felicity Jones – an ingenious case of casting as Jyn Erso; her soft and slight build belies the fact that she has had to become tough, confident and resourceful – she was more of a “rebel” in every sense of the term than any other member of that Rebel Alliance. 

One of the multiple problems that beset Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the baffling observation that although the cast featured a commendable and considerable number of female figures in its cast, due to poor writing, strong, discernible characters did not manage to flourish. 

Naturally – ‘cos you know it’s Brad – we come to the MCU, the franchise that just keeps on giving. There are various instances of strong and commanding superheroines therein, to name but a few:  

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is the only reason to watch Iron Man 2 (which should have been the Black Widow we all deserve!) and she further excels in the Avengers movies AND Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Hayley Atwell is exceptional as Agent Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger; whilst my personal fav (see below!): she’s not a queen, or a monster, she’s Hela, the Goddess of Death.

And we come to the latest – and possibly most game-changing – instalment: Captain Marvel. 

Where there’s good, there’s bad – cue the rise of that “horrible immorality” in the repugnant form of sexist trolls who have crawled out of the depths of their own ignorance, this time, to belittle Brie Larson: the first female lead in a Marvel movie. Rather than shut down her TwitFace™ account (or whatever you blessed younglings call the bally thing) she’s done what any honourable superhero would do: STRIKE BACK.

“Up an’ at ’em, lady!” 

“You know, I used to want to be a Valkyrie when I was younger, until I found out you were all women. There’s nothing wrong with women, of course, I like women. Sometimes a little too much. Not in a creepy way, just more like a respectful appreciation. I think it’s great, an elite force of women warriors” – Thor. 

And so, considering how – over thirty decades ago – such a prospect would have seemed unthinkable (certainly in my school yard), SF enjoys a poignant and promising age in which more girls and young women than ever before actively watch science fiction movies at the cinema, read SF novels – AND comics!! –  participate in, and cosplay, at comic conventions in record numbers. More crucially, some have been inspired to create their own far-reaching fiction!

Let me say how, for me, this is a genuinely thrilling and reassuring situation to behold. Long may it continue! 

Let me finish by saying just this: 

Those girls who, back in the day, nabbed my comics, now, most likely, have daughters who wholeheartedly embrace science fiction! 

And, what’s more, if they can craft an intergalactic saga better than anything this humble ol’ nerfherder could muster, then that would be really groovy. 

“Go get ’em, girls!”

 

Sarah Connor: “Kyle, the women in your time, what are they like?”

Kyle Reese: “Good fighters.”

 

“Higher, Further, Faster”: The Curious Case Of Carol Danvers

Discover What Makes Her A Hero

Carol Danvers: “I want to go to college. I’ve been working part-time almost two years now, but I’m still way short of the tuition fees. I need a loan. You’re my last hope, Dad.”

Pa Danvers: “And my answer’s still no. We live well, Carol, but I’m no millionaire. I can afford to send one of you kids to college and it’s going to be your brother, Steve.”

Carol Danvers: “That’s not fair!” 

Pa Danvers: “Life isn’t fair, kitten. Besides, you don’t need college to find a good husband.

Carol Danvers: “Dad, who said I want to spend the rest of my life playing the happy homemaker?!” 

Pa Danvers: “Don’t take that tone of voice with me, young lady!” 

 

“Air Force?! Well, why the heck not?” the young teen Carol Danvers wonders, having stormed out of the family home after yet another rowdy bust-up with her Pa.

A poster outside the local USAF Recruitment Office satisfies her longing for adventure, so the day after her 18th birthday: “without a word to her parents or a backward glance… she enlisted.”

The rest is…

A history – one of the most complex, convoluted, and controversial, of any comic book character.

Th original superhero to go by the epithet: Captain Marvel” was Mar-Vell, created by Stan “The Man” Lee and “Genial” Gene Colan in 1968; he was introduced as a guardian of the Kree, protector of the planet Hala against the dreaded Skrulls. (More about them later).

The character of Carol Danvers appears to have been created – as that most lame women’s “role”: Captain Marvel’s love “interest” – by “Rascally” Roy Thomas and “Genial” Gene Colan. She first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (March 1968) as a non-superpowered USAF officer.

This is the very first scene to feature “Miss Danvers”: 

“Dr. Lawson, this is Miss Danvers! Man or woman, she’s the finest Head of Security a missile base could want!” – General Bridges. 

 

The Vision: “Your evasive tactics will do you no good, Ms. Marvel — against one who can dematerialize his body and short-cut through solid obje– KARRRRGH!!”

Ms. Marvel: (Plan B was to use my Kree science to jury-rig the power cables running beneath the bridge — into a field generator capable of subjecting his immaterial form to a stress beyond endurance…) “He’ll be unconscious for a while. I’m sorry it had to come to this, but in a way — it serves him right. Up an’ at ’em, lady! There’s still the super-truck to be dealt with…”  

Carol Danvers made her solo debut with Ms. Marvel #1 (January 1977) written by Chris (X-Men) Claremont.  

Mar-Vell still retained the title of Captain Marvel, so to differentiate from him, Carol assumed the title of Ms. Marvel” Apart from bare legs and midriff, she wore a very similar red and blue costume. At that time, the use of “Ms.” reflected bold feminist connotations – having left NASA to become Editor of the Daily Bugle’s Woman Magazine, Carol regularly “fought” Battle Of The Sexes duels with J. Jonah Jameson. 

And won. Every time. 

Despite this, it must be said that Marvel Comics originally had a rather half-hearted approach to female characters, with She-Hulk and Spiderwoman serving as just female variants if their more iconic male counterparts. Thus, regrettably, it seemed as though Ms. Marvel could do nothing but continue this trend. 

The 1st ish of Ms. Marvel is impossible to find – and, thus, ridiculously expensive.

No worries.

#5 (May 1977) one of the better ishs, featuring a supercool guest star appearance by The Vision – includes some invaluable backstory.

During an intense duel between Captain Marvel and Colonel Yon Rogg – Carol had her notorious accident with a device known as the psyche-magnetron. Essentially, it spliced Mar-Vell’s DNA with hers: “she had the strength of ten men, the knwoledge and instincts of a Kree warrior, and thanks to a sophisticated electronic webbing built into her costume… she could fly.” Most crucially, she was possessed with that uniquely Kree power: Seventh Sense in which she could anticipate danger before it occurred.

From ish #20, (October 1978) the “All-New” Ms. Marvel – the notorious black halter-neck leotard and longer boots (and, curiously-much-longer hair) – took over. It is in this garb that she first joined The Avengers. Unfortunately, the next stage of Carol’s “life” is the most controversial (and will only be mentioned briefly here).

In her essay: “The Rape Of Ms. Marvel,” comicbook historian Carol A Strickland criticized one Avengers storyline that concentrated on the “abduction and impregnation” of the Fighting Fury by Marcus (alleged son of Immortus). Why oh why did such an inappropriate and obscene plot have to sully none other than The Avengers #200?! As an Avengers fan for most of my life, it is outrageous – almost criminal! – that what should have been an epic landmark ish can never join my collection…

Moreover, where were the Comics Code Authority? How could they have “Approved” THIS?!

 Even Claremont spoke out against it, and proceeded to “undo” this inappropriate storyline when he produced Avengers Annual #10 (1981). He further redeveloped Carol’s character whilst working on The Uncanny X-Men. During one cosmic adventure: #164 (December 1982), an alien race known as The Brood imbue her with energy manipulation and absorption powers and thenceforth, she becomes known as “Binary.” Essentially she could generate the power of a star. 

When she soon reverts to her Ms. Marvel persona, Carol retains these powers.

 

“Think you’re the only hero in the world…?” – Nick Fury.  

The very first grapic novel in comics history happened to be Death Of Captain Marvel, featuring the demise of Mar-Vell (in 1982) but Carol did not assume the Captaincy right away. No, the first female hero to use this title was an African-American: Monica Rambeau (seen in her white and black garb on the cover above).

Incidentally, in the upcoming movie, Carol’s best friend is fellow pilot Maria Rambeau, Monica’s mum – an interesting twist to the origins story.

 

Carol knows the Skrulls have infiltrated Earth, and it kind of creates a sense of paranoia. The Skrulls are after something, and part of the mystery of the movie is Carol trying to figure out what they’re after and getting it before they do” – Anna Boden.  

Considering the Kree-Skrull War’s overwhelming importance in the comics – in fact, “The Kree-Skrull War” happened to be Marvel Comics’ first major cosmic story-arc, featured in The Avengers in 1971, written by Roy Thomas, with art provided by Neal Adams and both Buscemas (John and Sal).  

With such multiple plot-threads, it is difficult to determihe which aspects, if any, will make it into this movie. It is surprising how no mention of that major, seemingly-eternal conflict has not featured in the MCU.

Until now. 

Strangely enough, although Ms. Marvel spent the first few ishs of her solo ’70s series trying to come to terms with her Kree powers, there was never any mention of the Skrulls: sinister alien shapeshifters. 

However, in Marvel Team-Up # 62 she joins Spidey to fight the Super-Skrull: a Skrull antagonist possessing the powers of the Fantastic Four (see below):

 

It’s absolutely incredible! I got the opportunity to work on the film which was amazing… Carol is a character who has lived inside my head since about 2010, and I feel, right now, really proud of her” – Kelly Sue DeConnick.

July 2012 marked the moment when Carol Danvers officially assumed the title of Captain Marvel. 

In a dramatic reintroduction of the character, its writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick, had offered an irresistible pitch: it could “pretty much be summed up with ‘Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.'” 

Carol rejoined The Avengers the following year, starring in the Captain Marvel / Avengers Assemble crossover storyline: “The Enemy Within”. She and her Avenger teammates must do battle with Yon-Rogg, the Kree officer responsible for the explosion that caused her to receive her powers, and in defeating the Kree, Danvers loses her memories... 

And in May 2014, Carol Danvers joined the Guardians Of The Galaxy.

0_0

When asked, during one interview, that all-important-question: 

“Who is the most powerful being in the Marvel Universe?” 

the late, great Stan Lee immediately replied:

“Galactus. Without a doubt.”

Continuing the MCU’s unabashed trend of distorting the original comicbook plotlines, Kevin Feige – Marvel Studios’ Head Honcho – has stipulated that Captain Marvel IS the most powerful being in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, it is intriguing to discover that the Captain Marvel movie will be set in the ’90s – most tantalisingly, over twenty years before Tony Stark became Iron Man…

It will certainly be interesting to see a de-aged and patchless Nick Fury and such familiar faces as Korath and Ronan again.

Unlike Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War – both devoured (with glee) on their respective days of release – this blogger won’t be watching the 21st instalment of the MCU until next week. 

Why?! you cry. 

Saving it for a (hopefully special) birthday treat 🙂

 

Captain Marvel: Die Hard With Avengers 😉

“It’s very surreal to get suited up… And the idea of that star and these colors, it represents strong willIt makes me emotional. She is the most dynamic character that I have ever had the chance to play” – Brie Larson. 

 

Captain Marvel is released this Friday: March 8 2019 International Women’s Day(!)

 

Plaid – Ralome: Mellow Music Monday

Abandon Stress, Angst And Caps Lock All Ye Who Enter Here

“You really have got a lid on it, haven’t you? What’s your secret? Mellow jazz? Bongo drums? Huge bag of weed?” – Tony Stark.

 

“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.”

Love, light and peace. 🙂

 

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the Earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind…

“To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over about the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives” – His Holiness The Gyalwang Drukpa. 

 

“Dear fellas,

I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but now they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry…”

Brooks Hatlen.

 

“Illuminatio”: The Return Of Brother Brad

Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat – Fortune Favours The Brave 

“Mutato nominee de te fabula narratur” [The tale is about you, but the name is changed] – Horace. 

 

“…godlike Shapes and Forms

Excelling Human; princely Dignities,  

And Powers that erst in Heaven sat on thrones, 

Though of their names in 

Heaven records now 

Be no memorial…”

 

Lo, Brother Bradthe medieval scribe-monk who vowed to thwart the onslaught of wraithkynde on Earth hath returned. An irresistible urge to resurrect that accursed entity known as MY NOVEL made a most welcome appearance. 

You may recall some time back, when faced with the option of either writing a cosmic adventure, or a medieval mystery, time – and (lack of) energy – might be saved if – yea, ’tis so! – both were combined into one intriguing entity. Initially, a two-part tale appeared on this blog during August 2015.

It became such an immersive joy to compile that the need to write even more of it compelled me to set up a separate blog-site: themedievil.wordpress.com where one could experiment with drafts and the layout of ancient language. 

Now, this project is (tentatively) entitled: The Monastikon Chronicles.

“One of my ancestors” – a scribe-monk of no fixed abbey – must carry out the solitary and ungodly task of smiting members of “wraithkynde” – evil extra-terrestrial beings who have crash-landed in 12th century southern England. This dark, archaic science-fantasie, is light years different from the bright, frothy-mirth to be found in my Fartlighter Bradventures.

Is alternating between such diametrically opposed writing styles difficult to maintain? 

Not at all! Variety is the spice of Bradscribe! 🙂

One thing is for sure: if and when the movie adaptation finally comes to fruition, the theme “tune” has already been selected: a lilting, evocative chant by Hildegard von Bingen, a German nun from the 12th century – contemporaneous with Brother Brad – whose considerable range of the most extraordinary 900+ year old musical compositions have helped set the tone, and directly influenced, a great deal of The Monastikon’s content. 

Atmospheric, sonorous choirs have always had a profound effect on me. And my writing. In addition, dark ambient producer: Metatron Omega has provided me with some truly inspirational pieces, setting the right mood to help me create my own medieval world. These album notes struck a particular chord with me:

“The hermit travels beyond enlightenment, and deep into the perception of the Unknowable.”

Straight away, the parallels can be drawn: unmistakably, thathermit” is Brother Brad, while his “Unknowable” oppoments are the wraiths: a malevolent race of shapeshifters from beyond the stars… “…and deep into the perception”? i.e. yea, they have been expecting him!

“The everlasting voices of monks lost in space and time, searching for knowledge as they echo through dimensions…”

This soaring masterpiece exceeds even my own stringent Bradtastic expectations: 

 

“Faber est suae quisque fortunae” [Everyone is the architect of their own destiny] – Appius Claudius Caecus.   

From the very beginning, it felt imperative that the narrative be related in the first person. As every good writing manual will tell you, the main advantage in selecting first person point of view, is that it provides a sense of immediacy. There is also a degree of intimacy as the reader feels like he/she has direct access to the narrator’s thoughts. And not to mention: a sense of authenticity. 

Actually, this approach is a necessary one.

Of the numerous aspects of medieval life gleaned from my extensive research, especially notable was the fact that during the age of the large monastic houses – from the early 12th century (in which my novel is set) until the early 16th century – all brethren were actively encouraged to maintain a vow of silence, at all times, thus seriously hindering any chance of Brother Brad interacting with his fellow monks!

Only the highest echelons of that particular house: the Abbot, the Infirmarer; the Receptor et al offer the inclusion of dialogue in my story.

That is, dialogue with human characters…

Already, drafts of some feisty confrontations with wraithkynde have appeared on my other blog-site. And readers will be interested to know that these otherworldly antagonists are garrulous as well as ghoulish! 

Encouragingly, the onset of this winter season presented a fresh chance to get back on track. Driven by the need to revive and rework the considerable backlog of unfinished fiction projects that clutter the draws and bureaus within Brad Manor, some encouraging sections have been developed during this past four months, compared to the last twelve months prior to that. Moreover, that blog platform is an ideal place from which to develop my novel, as each Post represents a passage from this venerable scribe-monk’s journal. 

Part of my fascination with Marvel’s The Mighty Thor, stems from the intriguing way in which Stan Lee and Jack Kirby accentuated the Lord – sorry! God – of Thunder’s legendary origins by making him speak in a faux-Middle English manner. In the 12th century, if and when anything had to be uttered in monasteries, it would hake been related in either Olde English or Latin. Did have the opportunity in my second year of university to actually study the latter, but, of course, there was no way of knowing back then that such a project as this would come to fruition.

It has been fascinating working Olde English – in particular its extremely antiquated approach to spelling – into my fiction. However, one recent (successful) author of historical fiction: Robyn Young – who concentrates on the Knights Templar during the 14th century – remarked how her anxious agent advised her that readers are generally put off by an overabundance of olde grammar.

Indeed, am very grateful that – a couple of years ago – one of my few readers sent a Comment to let me know that he’d had difficulty following my olde-style composition. Admittedly, this writer went overboard (and enjoyably so) with that particular draft. Despite being prepared to offer a Glossary of Olde English and Latin terms, to ensure publication some significant reductions in olde prose will, inevitably, have to be administered!

As the motto of Augustus – the first Emperor of Rome -advised: “Festina lente!” [Make haste slowly!]

“Try and get a sense of the whole world that you are writing about if there is one location… History [is not] all dates and facts and figures. There [are] all these incredible stories about people and narratives and things that inform us of our families past or our countries past” – Robyn Young.

Of the three simplistic stages of any novel: a beginning, a middle and an end, one is fairly confident to state that at least the first has been set!

Brother Brad witnesses what would, at that point in history, be described as a “falling star.” He realises that it is an “unearthlie vessel” – it changes course in the sky and its speed decreases during its descent…

Having traced its “occupants” (there were at least three wraiths to emerge from it – frustratingly, the exact number is unknown) to the nearest abbey, the course of the novel focuses on Brother Brad’s attempts to deduce which monks are not what they appear to be…

Naturally, the denouement will be determined by what takes place at the core of the novel. Unfortunately, the original premise did not seem credible or plausible; the alternative course of actions impressed me even less. Before you could say: “Carpe diem,” my creative momentum vanished, and although some further effort was put in (by providing more back-story and developing one or two minor characters) you may have noticed that work on my novel ceased completely.   

There is another – but more telling – reason why my novel stalled during the middle of last year (and my enthusiasm to write/revise it has suddenly revived). The Monastikon is, essentially, a Winter’s tale. Very much like the infant 20th century Brad many moons ago – who lost count of the days away from school due to one winter snuffle after another – Brother Brad constantly bemoans the wretched weather blighting his sojourn at the abbey. This light relief is further accentuated by the realisation that none of the other monks are not the least bit troubled by the disagreeable climate!

As Ovid once said: “Perfer et obdura!” (Be patient and hold out!)

Know ye this, my blessed band o’ Bradficton buffs!

In addition to new instalments – posted at the end of each month – there are plenty of archived posts where a lack of energy or enthusiasm for creative writing meant that stand-ins consisting of no more than quotes and a music video had to suffice; over the next quarter, my aim is to revise these posts, and hopefully present something worth reading!

It would be very much appreciated if you could pay a visit to the latest instalment here: 

Any feedback/criticisms would be most welcome! 

 

Alas, ’tis my task to write these Chronicles.

Anew.

For you see, the original manuscript, which Brother Brad had so painstakingly laboured over – like so much of the relics and other holy paraphernalia from the Middle Ages – was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries that swept through every region of Tudor England between 1536-1540… …

 

“I want knowledge! Not faith, not assumptions, but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His hand, uncover His face and speak to me” – Antonius Block.

 

“He Was A Navigator On A Spice Freighter”: My Father’s Top 10 Movie Moments

I Am Groovy, Like My Father Before Me! 

I am Auda abu Tayi! Does Auda serve?  Does Auda abu Tayi serve? I carry 23 great wounds, all got in battle. 75 men have I killed with my own hands in battle. I scatter, I burn my enemies’ tents! I take away their flocks and herds. The Turks pay me a golden treasure, yet I am poor! Because I am A RIVER TO MY PEOPLE!!” – Auda abu Tayi.

Hard to believe that my father – former globe-trotting RAF sergeant and Jedi Knight – passed away on this day 10 years ago.  

Considering how difficult it has been trying to concentrate on writing anything else this week, this Post seemed like an ideal celebration to compile. 

Having had absolutely no paternal guidance himself, he sometimes found it difficult to be Dad – “I’m just making it up as I go along, man” 🙂 Whatever problems or disagreements we had, it would only take one of us to suggest: “Let’s watch a movie” and everything would revert to being as right as rain again.

He really digged a smart script – he constantly criticised my short stories, complaining about the drab dialogue, constantly advising me to listen –always listen – to the way people talked. Thus, he picked up some iconic one-liners along the way, many of which are included here. 

He appreciated some really fine performances, most notably: Eli Wallach (as Tuco) in The Good, The Bad And the Ugly (1967); Robert Lacey (as Toht) in Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981); and Robert De Niro in practically everything he did! But mainly the Godfather Part II (1974), Midnight Run (1988) and Heat (1995).

Possibly the most impressive performance he ever watched came from Anthony Quinn as Arabian tribal chief: Auda abu Tayi in Lawrence Of Arabia (1962). To us, that will stand forever as the Greatest Movie Ever Made – Quinn alone could easily have filled this Top 10 list (but of those few good clips, none of them stay online for long)

Today, you could have been treated to: the Top 10 Planes That Dad Loved To Fly. However, guessing that you probably wouldn’t recognise most of them anyway (for those of you taking notes, No.1 happened to be the de Havilland DH 98 Mosquito 😉 ) instead, this list will just have to suffice.

 

 

10. “Don’t sweat it!”

Southern Comfort (1981)

Paris Texas (1984) was one of those great Americana movies we enjoyed together, mainly because of that haunting soundtrack by Ry Cooder. 

My father had been THAT CLOSE to getting a job Stateside, but after that fell through, he “disappeared,” trying to travel as much overland as possible. So when we found Ry Cooder attached to the soundtrack of this thriller set in the Louisana bayou, we thot we’d give it a go.

Mostly, a mean, moody and magnificent work, but the last ten minutes was a revelation. For the next few months, my quest for Cajun LPs stretched far and wide…

Allons dancé!

Cajun Trapper: “I ain’t gonna kill y’all if I don’t gotta… you got a bayou over dere… take it… stay to the west side… you’re gonna find a road about a mile up dere.”

Hardin: “Do you mind tellin’ us what the Hell this is all about?”

Cajun Trapper: “It real simple… we live back in here… dis is our home, and nobody don’t fuck with us…  Now, if I was you all, I’d quit askin’ questions and haul ass… ’cause my buddies… dey not nice like me.”

Hardin: “Are we supposed to say thanks?”

Cajun Trapper: “You not supposed to say nuttin’… soldier.”

 

9. “War changes men’s natures…” 

Breaker Morant (1979)

An anti-war war movie set during the Boer War (1899-1902) based on a true story. 

Dad stayed up well after his bedtime, completely absorbed in this courtroom drama (and he detested courtroom dramas!) that featured one of the most notorious cases of military injustice.

And at breakfast the next morning, he couldn’t help but go on and on about it. Would have bunked off school that morning, just to listen to his enthusiasm all the way until lunchtime, if Mum hadn’t told me to skedaddle. 

We regarded this as the greatest Australian movie ever made. Yes, that’s right, we thought it’s even better than Mad Max!

Strewth!

It really ain’t the place nor time to reel off rhyming diction,

But yet we’ll write a final rhyme while awaiting crucifixion.

For we bequeath a parting tip of sound advice for such men

Who come in transport ships to polish off the Dutchmen.

If you encounter any Boers, you really must not loot ’em,

And if you wish to leave these shores, for pity’s sake, don’t shoot ’em.

Let’s toss a bumper down our throat before we pass to Heaven,

And toast a trim-set petticoat we leave behind in Devon” – Lt. Harry Morant.  

 

8. Litmus Configuration 

Midnight Run (1988)

A cool, entertaining and highly recommended buddy comedy – how many times did this grace our VCR?! It got to the stage where we could hurl whole sections of dialogue at each other, and still never get tired of watching the actual movie. 

The amazing – yet under-rated – Charles Grodin only had to walk through the door into this scene and Dad was already in stitches. 

1:24 always cracked him up even more: 

“YOU GUYS ARE THE DUMBEST BOUNTY HUNTERS I’VE EVER SEEN! YOU COULDN’T EVEN DELIVER A BOTTLE OF MILK!” – Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas. 

 

 

7. “Wake up, time to die!” 

Blade Runner (1982) 

My father loved to read Philip K Dick’s novels, so couldn’t wait to watch the TV premiere of Blade Runner. 

So much has been written about its influential visual futurism, but it was one of the replicants: not the obvious choice: Roy Batty, but Leon, played by the crazy-eyed Brion James who Dad paid particular attention to. His role as the one-armed Cajun trapper in Southern Comfort was the other reason why we watched that movie!

Always dig that mo @ 0:35 – when Dekard draws his gun and Leon immediately bats it away.

As Dad so eloquently put it: “Way too cool, man!”

Leon: “What do you mean, I’m not helping?”

Holden: “I mean: you’re not helping! Why is that, Leon?”

 

 

6. La Golondrina 

The Wild Bunch (1969) 

Yeah, this is the typical “Dad Movie” alright.

Expect nothing less than one long gore-fest cram-packed with incredibly stylised bloody action sequences in Sam Peckinpah’s infamous masterpiece: The Wild Bunch.

And yet its most peaceful moment, when the bunch are riding off to certain death, that really struck a chord with Dad. He instantly fell in love with La Golondrina (The Swallow); it’s a Mexican tune written in the 19th century.

Had to take note of its time on our tape whenever he often requested just “THAT MOMENT from The Wild Bunch.”

“Very smart. That’s very smart for you damn gringos…”

Dutch Engstrom: “They’ll be waitin’ for us.”

Pike Bishop: “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

 

5. The Imperial March

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 

You may already know how this blogger was blessed to have gawped at the original Star Wars trilogy in the cinemas on their respective original releases.

Even more exuberant to have a father who – for the next three decades – never failed to admit how glad he was to have taken me (and several excitable chums from school on numerous occasions!) and share the joy to be had from that galaxy far far away. 

(For the record, his fav “character” – you’d never guess! – turned out to be Salacious B. Crumb – HA!)

So many thrilling individual moments to choose from… 

He loved that now-legendary shot of Luke gazing into the twin suns and EVERY SINGLE TIME it came on, he’d whistle along to the Tatooine Theme, but the Imperial March provoked a more striking action: EVERY SINGLE TIME we reached 1:27, Dad would start slamming his heel into the floor in time to the Imperial beat. Hannibal (our tabby cat) could sense that particular disturbance in the Force comin’ – honestly, he never fled THAT FAST in sheer terror from any other movie…

“You found something?” 😉

Darth Vader: “The Rebels are alerted to our presence. Admiral Ozzel came out of lightspeed too close to the system.”

General Veers: “He… he felt surprise was wiser…”

Darth Vader: “He is as clumsy as he is stupid! General… prepare your troops for a surface attack.”

General Veers: “Yes, my Lord.”

 

 

4. The Smoker

For A Few Dollars More (1965) 

Arguably, the coolest western ever made. 

Dad taped this for me during my last year at junior school; he’d enjoyed watching this in an open-air screening in Yemen back in ’68. Gian Maria Volonte as El Indio, was one of Dad’s fav villains. Which of his scenes to select?

But then memories of how Dad laughed every time Klaus Kinski appeared, especially here @ 0:10.

This scene is probably the most TENSE confrontation in movie history.

Saw a lot of my father in Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Lee van Cleef): true gentleman; expert marksman; absolute BADASS!

Wild, The Hunchback: “Well well, if it isn’t the smoker. Well… Remember me, amigo? ‘Course you do. El Paso.”

Col. Douglas Mortimer: “It’s a small world.”

Wild, The Hunchback: “Yes, and very, very bad. Now come on, you light another match.”

Col. Douglas Mortimer: “I generally smoke just after I eat. Why don’t you come back in about ten minutes?”

Wild, The Hunchback: “Ten minutes you’ll be smoking in hell. GET UP!”

 

3. “When you cast it in, what did you see?”

Excalibur (1981)

Not only were we entranced by this stupendous and spellbinding retelling of the legend of King Arthur, but we were gobsmacked by the music of Richard Wagner. Siegfied’s Funeral March, especially, had quite an inspirational and spiritual hold over both of us. 

With its almost ethereal imagery, and powerful performances, this was John Boorman’s masterpiece.

Studying ancient British history – and the legends/mythology stemming from these isles – became our joint mission; and Excalibur brought the two of us even closer together.

Now you know why this movie is played in Brad Manor every year on the fifth night of the second month…  

Uther: “The sword. You promised me the sword!”

Merlin: “And you shall have it; but to heal, not to hack. Tomorrow, a truce; we meet at the river.”

Uther: “Talk. Talk is for lovers, Merlin. I need the sword to be king!”

 

 

2. “Bet you were thinking: now why don’t he write?” 

Dances With Wolves (1990)

Aow, it really is getting more emotional now…

My father’s final trip to the cinema came in January 1991. Dances With Wolves satisfied his fascination for American Civil War history, and marked the directorial debut of Kevin Costner, whose The Untouchables (1987) we had enjoyed immensely.

Dad always remarked out loud at the superb training of Two Socks. Except for our last viewing together @ Christmas 2008 – it would mark the final viewing session we shared together, but by that time, he was too weak to keep awake through most of it…

Oh, THAT music: 

“There’s a wolf who seems intent on the goings-on here. It does not seem inclined to be a nuisance however, and aside from Cisco has been my only company. He’s appeared each afternoon for the past two days. He has two milky-white paws. If he comes calling tomorrow, I will name him Two Socks” – John Dunbar.  

 

 

1. Bad To The Bone 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) 

His favourite movie star.

His favorite rock song.

So when these two most formidable entities in the universe collided in our living room back in ’91, it became one of those life-affirming moments. Heck, with Arnie’s shot-gun twirl, the big rig carnage on the LA freeway and many more energetic sequences, will never forget how Dad kept jumping out of his armchair.

The Original Brad To The Bone 🙂

As that other “great old man” once said: “he was the best pilot in the galaxy and a good friend.”

He always told me: NEVER GIVE UP, and yet he gave up a career in the RAF to become a full-time Dad. 

In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.

“No, no, no, no. You gotta listen to the way people talk. You don’t say “affirmative,” or some shit like that. You say “no problemo.” And if someone comes on to you with an attitude you say “eat me.” And if you want to shine them on it’s “hasta la vista, baby” 

Gordon Bradford (4 December 1925 – 6 February 2009). 

 

Lekebusch Longboarding! Manic Music Monday Goes Downhill

The Need For Speed. And Swedish Techno… 

“We all live amid surfaces, and the true art is to skate well on them” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 

While writing fiction – short stories or novel chapters – it is imperative that music accompanies my prolonged creative sessions. (Hopefully, a Post featuring something more substantial to read should appear on Bradscribe before this month is through! 😉 )

Techno can really drive the pace of a scene, and heighten action sequences. Listening on YouTube is fine – most vids are uploaded with only photos of the record label, but there are various channels that make an effort to provide cool visuals to enrich a particular track. These are great to watch during a hot choccie break. 

One fine and dandy example is Obscurus Sanctus by Cari Lekebusch – these (smartly-dressed) daredevil downhill longboarders received a few plays on my laptop when it first appeared almost eight years ago.

Almost forgot about this vid when it came to compiling these Manic Music Monday posts; had no idea if it still existed online, so am happy to share it with you today – enjoy!

The beat is suitably groovy; is the vid Manic enough for you? 

 

“I’m not short, I’m just more down to earth than most people” – Joe Cool.  

 

The Midnight: Explorers

To The Freedom Fighters

To The Everest Climbers 

To The Castaways

To The Midnight Riders

To The Spark Igniters…

“Mom, remember that stuff you were tellin’ me about your dreams and doin’ what you want to do? Well, if I really want to be an astronaut and go out in space – and really do that, it’d be ok, right?” – Ben Crandall.

 

Dear Friends,

Following yet another losing battle against this madhouse that is the 21st century, Brad has decided to strike back and hold an ’80s Party this week. 

Had such a groovy time this past weekend dipping into 80s pop classics and Retrowave numbers, so can’t wait to share some of my top picks with you! Therefore, this edition of Manic Music Monday offers a preview of what nostalgic delights lie in store. 🙂

Have recently discovered The Midnight: a group who have really tapped into the sounds and vibes of that decade. This vid exudes such a welcome feelgood quality, includes an amazing assortment of movie clips, and, being a joyous celebration of all-things-80s, it seemed just too cool to hold back.

After last week’s Retro Review of The Goonies this vid is a reminder that Joe Dante’s Explorers (1985) had also passed me by! Have started watching that, so perhaps another Retro Review might be in the works…

Hope you can make it to the party in mid-week. It’ll be lovely to see you! 

And – hey! – if Brad is really on the ball, you should be getting the latest Fartlighter Bradventure by the end of this week! 😉

Cheers!

 

Wolfgang Müller: “Explosions in space? It’s impossible.”

Darren Woods: “What do you mean? You can hardly see the strings.”