Southport British Musical Firework Championships 2012

30 09 2012

Yesterday it was the annual return of one of my favourite events of the year; The British Musical Firework Championships which is held in one of my Favourite places in the UK, Southport (If you have not been I suggest you go to both the Town for a day out and also to see the Fireworks, you could probably do both in the same day). While last year I did a full in-depth look at the fireworks, this year I though I would just show some photos from the event. Do remember to look out for the event next year if you did not go this year, YOU ARE MISSING OUT, and that is a FACT. All in all it was a Great Evening with my Mum but my favourite display was the one from Komodo Fireworks. Enjoy

GENEPOOL





MCA – Monster Combat Alliance – September Cool Down

26 09 2012

Last month we had an amazing show. Part 1 of a 3 part series for a place in the world title tournament between Anguiras and Rhedosaurus.  An amazing debut by Desghidorah defeating The King Of The Monsters Champion Rodan. And of course the big showdown between Mothra and Kiryu with Kiryu securing a place in the World Title Series.

Before I continue and announce tonight’s matches I have an announcement to make. Firstly, even though Rodan lost last month’s match I have decided that he should have a place in the World Title series because he won the King Of The Monsters Tournament. While the World title could change hands several times, the KOTM Tournament only happens once a year and winning that tournament means you are one of the Best. So Rodan goes through. However he is not the only one. After impressing me so much on his debut last month I have decided to give the next place in the series to Desghidorah. This could mean that both Rodan and Desghidorah could meet again, who knows but after last month I have high hopes for Desghidorah. There is also a new rule being brought in, if during a fight there is a draw that fight will be re-rolled.

Anyway on to tonight. We have part 2 of Rhedosaurus vs Anguiras. We have Desghidorah in action tonight as he goes one on one with The Death Saurer. Gigan Returns (KOTM 3rd Place) to take on Titanosaurus. And we also have Battra fighting Buraki. But first up we have a World Title Tournament Qualifier vs 2 new monsters to the alliance (what a debut for one of these monsters) as Megaguirus takes on Zudomon.

This will be a 5 fight match – Zudomon goes first.

Zudomon

Megaguirus

5

                                   17

3

17

5

1

11

19

16

2

Megaguiras wins. An excellent debut from Megaguirus as she takes the 4th place in the World Title Series. Zudomon is one of the most impressive looking monsters to enter the series, but maybe looks are not everything.

Next up we have Gigan vs Titanosaurus in a 3 fight match – Titanosaurus goes first.

Titanosaurus

Gigan

19

3

3

2

9

17

Titanosaurus Wins. What is it with monsters from the KOTM series not being any good outside the Tournament, that is two monsters in a row. Gigan was one of the strongest monsters in the series with many high rolls but now he has just lost completely against Titanosaurus who went out in the First match for the KOTM Tournament. Oh well good return for Titanosaurus who is a very tough monster.

Next up we have Buraki vs Battra in another 3 fight match – Buraki goes first.

Buraki

Battra

14

17

12

7

7

12

Battra Wins. It may be a losing debut for Buraki but it was a short but hot contested match. While this may be a loss Buraki fought well but it was not enough to beat Battra.

Next up is Part 2 of the Three Part series. Last time Anguiras got the win, but who will win this time. This will be a 5 fight match – Anguiras goes first.

Anguiras

Rhedosaurus

2

19

1

3

17

9

12

14

18

13

Rhedosaurus Wins. Rhedosaurus really wants a shot at the title, he takes Part 2 with Part 3 next month. So it is now come to a dead heat, next month one of these 2 monsters will take a spot in the World Title Tournament.

Our final match of the night is a match between a Monster who made an impressive debut last month and who is in the World Title Tournament; Desghidorah fighting against one of the biggest Monsters in the MCA; The Death Saurer. This will be a 7 fight match – Desghidorah goes first.

Desghidorah

DeathSaurer

2

5

2

17

14

15

7

8

9

15

9

3

3

13

Death Saurer Wins. Maybe the celebration of getting a place in the World Title series has gone to the head of Desghidorah. If he wants to win the World Title this December he better get his head in the game. The Death Saurer has got his head in the Game, possibly hoping for a shot at the World Title.

Another interesting month for the MCA. We have seen debuts, possible champions and as always, Fantastic Matches. Please return next month to see who wins between Rhedosaurus and Anguiras. We also have the next qualifying match for the World Title series as Godzilla returns to fight Battra. Take Care and Watch Out.

GENEPOOL (MCA Founder and Chairman)





Maze In The Forest – Pan’s Labyrinth

17 09 2012

I have known about this film for years, but I have not really thought about it until just recently. I first heard about it as part of a trailer for the film’s showing on Film4. The only other times I have heard about it is that my Brother kept saying that he has yet to see it. I first took proper notice in August 2011 but it was just a few weeks ago that I decided to watch it. From visionary Director (one of only a few in Cinema today) Guillermo del Toro who has directed films including Blade 2 and Hellboy comes an(Award Winning)  Amazing World (except for the Spanish setting obviously) where the idea of escaping a cruel world with our imagination comes to life.

The film begins with a story of a princess who left her world below the real world. She forgot who she was and died, but her soul returned to a girl called Ofelia (unaware at this time) who is on her way to her new home in the country with her pregnant mother to live with her new Stepfather (A Captain of an outpost in the post civil war early years of Franco’s Spain). Ofelia likes to read Fairytales and believes in Magic. While the car they ride in stops for her mother to throw up, Ofelia finds a strange plinth and witnesses a strange bug come out which she thinks is a Fairy. When they arrive at the outpost she meets her new stepfather and the head of housekeeping Mercedes. In the nearby forest Ofelia finds a strange Maze.

The following evening the Insect returns and becomes a fairy, it leads Ofelia into the Labyrinth where she meets a Faun (at no point in the film does its name get revealed, it could be Pan or it might not have a name, it is only called Pan on the DVD description). The Faun tells her that she might be the princess of the underworld but she needs to complete 3 tasks to prove it. Meanwhile her Stepfather reveals his true self when he mercilessly kills 2 farmers who he thinks were rebels.  The following Morning Ofelia gets a nice dress from her mother. Ofelia goes off to complete the first task which involves putting 3 stones in a Giant Toads mouth who has made its home in a dying tree. She puts her dress on a branch to keep it safe and crawls into the tree roots. While the Captain and everyone down at the mill are preparing for a big feast, Ofelia finds the Toad and gets it to eat the stones (which look like curled up bugs). The creature dies when it throws up its stomach. On the stomach Ofelia finds a key and crawls out of the tree where she sees her dress on the floor in the mud. Back at the outpost The Captain, Ofelia’s Mother and several other local people are having a big feast where more of the Captains cruel inside are starting to come to the surface. Ofelia is found by Mercedes and her Mum is not happy.

Ofelia’s mum falls ill with her unborn son not helping her health. The Faun returns to Ofelia and gives her a root. He tells her to put it in fresh milk and put it under her Mum’s bed and give it two drops of blood every day. He also gives her a piece of chalk, an hourglass and three fairies to help her achieve her next task but instructs her not to eat any of the food where she is going and to return before the hourglass finishes. Ofelia puts the root in fresh milk and it comes to life, she then draws a door on a wall and enters a strange hallway. Inside she finds a table with a full feast on it and a strange creature (pale man) with no eyes at the far end of it. The creature is not moving and Ofelia observes the horrible artwork on the ceiling. The fairies point towards three key holes and instruct Ofelia to open which one; Ofelia opens the correct door and begins to leave, before she does though she eats two grapes thinking it won’t make a difference. Behind her the creature begins to move and has its eyes in its hands. It eats two of the fairies and chases after Ofelia. The door closes as the hourglass finishes. Ofelia draws a hatch on the ceiling and escapes just before the creature reaches her.

Over the course of the next few days her mum begins to recover and Mercedes along with the Doctor meet up with the rebels in the forest who are planning to attack the outpost. One of them is Mercedes Brother. The captain finds the root but does not see the Magic and hands it to Ofelia’s Mum, who throws it on the fire. The Captain begins torturing a Rebel Suspect and kills the doctor.  Ofelia’s brother is born but her mum dies. The Faun returns to Ofelia but finds out what happened with the task and says he will not return and Ofelia will stay as a mortal. Mercedes decides to try and run away, she takes Ofelia with her but is caught by the Captain, He locks Ofelia in her room and Tries to torture Mercedes but gets horribly disfigured by a knife she was secretly holding. Mercedes flees and is almost caught but the Rebels find and save her.

The Faun returns to Ofelia and says she has one last chance but must obey his orders without question. She agrees and the Faun tells her to get her brother and meet him in the Labyrinth. The rebels begin to attack the outpost and the captain chases after Ofelia. Ofelia finds the Faun who says he needs innocent blood to open the portal. Ofelia refuses and wants to take her Brother with her. The Captain finds her seemingly talking to herself as the Faun leaves her. The captain takes his son and shoots Ofelia. The captain is found by the Rebels and Mercedes who take his son and Kill him. Mercedes finds Ofelia in the maze lying dead and sings her a lullaby. Ofelia’s blood drips into the portal and Ofelia enters her underworld kingdom where her Father and Mother are along with the Faun and Fairy. The king tells her that she completed the final task by spilling her own blood instead that of an innocent. This proves that she is the princess. In the real world Mercedes cries for Ofelia. A narration at the end tells of how Ofelia ruled with a kind heart for many centuries and left traces of her in the real world for those who knew her where to look.

The setting of the film is an interesting blend of reality and make-believe. The fantasy world does take a back seat to the rest of the film but this does show the need for it, because life for Ofelia is so cruel that she needs a reason to escape and so it is the same for the audience too and as such it is both a welcome break and a reassuring sight. Both the design and the story for the fantasy world do take inspiration from fairytales and work beautifully but it is interesting how it is embedded into the setting. It is like it is part of the world but at the same time not. Ofelia could be imagining it but there are plenty of parts which show it’s reality to the scene. If you take the toad scene, Ofelia is crawling through the root of the tree and finds the creature. When encountering the pale man monster (who looks very similar to the Blue Man from Hellboy) she crawls through the floor to escape and when she shuts the trap door you can hear knocks like the creature is pounding to get out but you also need to remember she has returned to her house and so those could be noises downstairs instead of within the floorboards. The only evidence of reality we have is the underworld kingdom where she becomes a princess. She cannot be making it up as a dream, she is dead so it could be an interpretation of heaven or a fairytale heaven or it may still exist in the world and her spirit has become a being just like how her spirit left originally through the same portal.

The film’s characters are all a nice blend. Ivana Baquero is great as Ofelia and portrays her well. Sergi López i Ayats is a great villain. The captain is so cold and horrible you just have no sympathy for the character in any way and you just want him to die, which thankfully he does. There are not many villains like that these days which are obviously bad people and not just bad because their bosses are bad or made to do bad things. Maribel Verdú plays Mercedes who is opposite to the Captain and has a reassuring, caring side while also having this sad worry to her as she worries about her brother.

By far the best character though is the Faun (played by Doug Jones). From his first appearance he has a reassuring side as if everything is safe. You have this nice feeling that while the world is cruel it is not always that and when he is a round it is anything but. However this does bring up an interesting question of trust, particularly when you trust creatures that are not human. If you met a faun, would you instantly trust it and do as it says? Obviously you would be a bit wary of it and maybe after time you may begin to trust it, but really, would you trust it instantly?

Pan’s Labyrinth is not for everyone and does contain some gruesome scenes (but this is a Guillermo Del Toro film). While it may not be for everyone it is a film that is a welcome addition to any film collection. A nice blend of Fantasy and Reality with some Amazing Creatures, Great Characters and a Fantastic Story. You may love it, you may hate it, but I recommend it because you may want to Escape Reality to that Maze in the Garden.

GENEPOOL





Virgin VS FirstGroup: The Real Issue

11 09 2012

There have been many recent reports in the news recently about the controversy behind the Government’s decision to hand the West Coast Mainline franchise over to FirstGroup instead of extending Virgin’s current rights for another 15 years. Out of all the big news recently regarding the country, this is probably the biggest and possibly the most controversial. But what people are forgetting is that a train operator is not a train operator without trains. So I thought I would share my opinion on what First West Coast (or possibly Horizon Trains) trains might be like if they do get the WCML.

Currently the only First service on the line at present is First TransPennine Express. So if we were to use that as a bench mark of this it is pretty clear what the service could be like. Transpennine’s dominant model is the British Rail Class 185 (Pennine Desiro). The train is more of a commuter vehicle to a HST (High Speed Train) set and as such is shorter than a Pendolino carriage by about 2 meters. Due to its purpose it can get away with its size but quite a lot of the time the trains are crowded. The trains carry fewer seats than the Pendolino but this could be due to the doors being around the center of the carriage. The Desiro train set as a whole is 3 carriages long and has a top speed of 100 mph.

While the Desiro is better than several other Commuter Diesel Trains it is not a good choice for the WCML. The WCML is an electrified line and because of this HST sets do very well on the circuit because the constant flow of electricity means that they are always connected to the mains and as long as both the engines and power allow it, they can travel at great speeds. Diesel trains can go really fast but because of the amount of fuel needed for them, in a way it is not ideal. But anyway let’s take the Desiro, now First has promised 11 new Six Car trains. Desiro’s already operate like that with some services but quite a lot of the time they split and go to different locations. Six car Desiro’s are feasible but due to their size (inside) the First Class compartment will have to be ripped out in order for normal customers to have a seat. However the space is still not enough because people will still have to stand in an overcrowded train (and it is more than probable that people will not want to stand on a train from Glasgow to London), so it is more than likely that within a year the 6 car trains will have to be extended to 10 car trains. Also there will be a loss in money from no First Class which takes up four Pendolino carriages and so to make this back the trains will have to have an extra 4 carriages added to allow this (14 carriages in total – minimum). This in turn causes 2 further problems:

  1. The train will be so long it will probably not fit on the station platform so people will have to get on the train and walk to their seat on a carriage that cannot be accessed, it will be much the same for getting off.
  2. The train’s power source of diesel will cost so much it may not be economical enough to make a decent return on investment.

So if First West Coast wants to use the line, the Desiro Class is (or should be) out of the question. To make the best use of the line the company needs to have a HST set to run on it. That should be a clause in the contract in my opinion which makes the use of HST sets compulsory for the WCML and ECML. When it comes to HST sets there are several options but when it comes down to it, electrified HST should be used because it’s the obvious answer. Now it is still possible to use Fast Diesel trains on the WCML. If it was to be a diesel choice there are 4 main options and these trains should prevent overcrowding due to their design:

  1. British Rail Class 220 Voyager – Used by Virgin and Cross Country – Top Speed: 125 mph – Seat Capacity: 174 (20 more than the Desiro) – 4 cars per trainset.
  2. British Rail Class 221 Super Voyager – Used by Virgin and Cross Country – Top Speed: 125 mph – Seat Capacity: 162 to 224 – 4 to 5 cars per trainset.
  3. British Rail Class 222 Meridian – Used by East Midlands Trains – Top Speed: 125 mph – Seat Capacity: 192 – 236 – 4 to 7 cars per trainset.
  4. British Rail Class 180 Adelante – Used by First Great Western, First Hull Trains and Grand Central – Top Speed: 125 mph – Seat Capacity: 287 Seats – 5 cars per trainset.

There is of course the possibility of using British Rail Class 43 HST  Engine which is used for the Legendary Intercity 125 (Top Speed: 148 mph). The Class 43 is used by many companies today including East Midlands Trains and Grand Central and is used mainly as a High Speed Train rather than a commuter train. In the case of First if they were to use diesel instead of electricity, it would be an ideal choice (but the Intercity 125 is starting to age and has been for a while). However the 43 cannot reach its top speed due to the speed limit of the WCML being 125 mph. However it is more likely to reach this speed quicker than the above mentioned due to that being the top speed of those trains.

If Virgin is to keep the line it is more than likely that they will continue to use the Pendolinos. Virgin spent at least 1 billion pounds on the Pendolinos and so it would seem likely that they will keep using them for a while. The Pendolino while being slower than the Class 43 has the added advantage of being able to tilt which means that it does not have to cut its speed when going round a corner so when it reaches its top speed it can stay at that speed until it has to slow down for stations. Without Virgin and the entrepreneurial mind of Richard Branson the Pendolinos would probably not be in the country, thankfully they are. There is no real current challenge to the Pendolino. The only one announced so far is the Polaris Train which Grand Central hope to acquire (which also has Tilting capability) but there has still be no news of whether these trains will be coming to the uk or not (it really depends on whether Grand Central’s “track-access contract is extended beyond the initial five years” – Wikipedia).

It is interesting to point out that First have not said anything about taking over the Pendolinos from Virgin. This could be one of the big controversies. It is a good point to think about because First bid at least 5 billion for the line (1 billion more than Virgin) then surely they have enough money to simply have them transferred over to them. The Pendolino makes the more sense seeing as that is the current system and it would be easier to change hands. Also it means that the 2 Hours 30 Minutes it takes from Lancaster to London Euston can stay at that time rather than revert (which with any other train is a possible certainty) to the previous 3 hours. In order to keep that time the line would have to have an increase in speed. Also to make the money that First are suggesting the speed will have to stay that way for more journeys and more money. Also the Pendolinos have 9 cars per trainset making them longer than most rail services in the UK.

In terms of Electrified trains that could run on the WCML instead of Pendolino’s, there is the option of using Intercity 225’s which are hauled by Class 91 Trains. Compared to the diesel-powered Class 43, the 225’s run at 140 mph which is still slower than the Class 43 but with the electrified line and top speed of 125 mph, the 225 Class 91 could be a cheaper alternative to the Pendolino if First decide to go for an electrified train. However the 225 does not have a tilting mechanism meaning it could be slower than the Pendolino overall.

With the possibility of FirstGroup taking over the WCML, it is a worrying time. With no current announcement on rolling stock from FirstGroup it is worrying to think about how the service may change (if at all) and also how fast and comfortable it will be to go from place to place. But we should remember that First Trains are a reliable service and so whatever the decision is regarding the franchise rights and what rolling stock they may use, I am sure (in some way but not entirely) that they will make the right decision or at least a Good Proper one. There is always the hope that they will take over the Pendolinos from Virgin but there are some other options for them to take in case they decide not to. So while we all hope that Virgin keeps the line there should not be too much distress caused if FirstGroup do take the line.

GENEPOOL





Top 5 Heavy Metal Bands That Did Not Appear At The Olympics (Either Ceremonies Or In General)

3 09 2012

From the title you may be thinking “There was Metal at the Olympics?” to which the answer is NO, THERE FLIPPING WASN’T. Apologies if this turns into a rant but the point has to be made that while the Olympic Ceremonies in London this year had a broad range of Great Music including The Who, Queen and Madness, some of the music presented were from useless/pathetic bands. There was of course Paul McCartney singing that Nanananaa Song (Which is Rubbish, someone had to say it) as well as bands like The Arctic Monkeys, Museli and worst of all One Direction. Why was there no Metal, The british invented Heavy Metal and some of the great Legends of Heavy Metal reside in England (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Saxon). Ok, you may want more independent and perhaps lesser known groups to play, well in that case why not DragonForce. Why do waste our times with nonsense like One Direction when we could have had Motorhead. Why did we finish with Paul McCartney when we could have had Black Sabbath. It does not make sense.

Because of this Lack of Metal I have chosen the Top 5 Metal Bands which should have appeared at The Olympics, anyone of them will have greatly improved the Olympics. The list is not a case of best Metal Band it is a case of which had the best songs and would have made the best impact for the London Olympics. Also, all of the following bands are from Britain.

So for all those disappointed Metal Fans (which includes me) lets show what this country is made of, Heavy Metal Fans UNITE.

5. DragonForce – While there are plenty of other Big Name Metal Bands, DragonForce is a lesser known band when you compare them to Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. However due to their independent status they become a perfect choice for the Olympics. If they want lesser known acts why not DragonForce. Not only that but their song Through the Fire and Flames is possibly the most watched video on YouTube (if you know of any that has more views than it, please let me know). Much like bands such as Manowar and in someway Brocas Helm their lyrics are all based on Mythology and that theme does fit into Britain’s Strong Medieval History. So with all these positive points I do not see why they were not chosen (I am using Cry Thunder because Everyone has already heard Through the Fire and Flames).

4. Motorhead – One of the greatest legends in the world of music with the God-Father of Heavy Music on Bass and Vocals, these guys are Loud, Fast and Dangerous. They do show that Working Class style of music which started in Britain with Black Sabbath. Motorhead‘s music is more in your face home-made style instead of following certain codes of how music of certain genres needs to be played for most bands. There is not much more than to say but just listen to the music and you will see what I mean, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, LISTEN TO THE MUSIC.

3. Saxon – Regarded as one of the Best and Greatest Metal Performers and with a name which is strong in British History, SAXON would be a perfect choice for the Olympic Ceremonies. Very few bands these days do sing along sections or get people involved with the Music, Saxon does though. With songs like Strong Arm of the Law (a song about the British Police), And The Bands Played On (a song about the first Download Festival/Monsters Of Rock) and other songs which have a sense of Mythology and Medieval History to them it does not make sense to why they were not chosen to perform. Perhaps the organisers were not too big on English Medieval History, Who Knows (well except for them of course).

2. Black Sabbath – While Black Sabbath is my favourite Band, in terms of the Olympics, their songs  would have been great for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, their songs would not really work for the Olympics as a Whole. If they were at the Opening Ceremony it would have been a whole lot better, “that’s McCartney out of the way and now Ladies and Gentlemen, BLACK SABBATH”. Even if Ozzy was by himself and sang Crazy Train (which would explain the London Underground) that would have been Fantastic, But NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. So Ladies and Gentlemen here for your entertainment (unlike Paul McCartney), here is BLACK SABBATH.

1. Judas Priest – Since the start of the Olympics I have said (CONSTANTLY – IF ANYONE LISTENED IS ANOTHER THING) that Hellion Electric Eye would have been a perfect choice for Olympic Theme as well as Breaking The Law which would have been a great way to explain what a Chav is. While Black Sabbath is the better choice for the Ceremonies, Judas Priest is a Perfect choice for the feel and look of the London Olympics. So without further a do here they are. The Top Metal band for the London Olympics – Judas Priest.

GENEPOOL (I wonder if Danny Boyle is reading this?)








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