It’s Showtime – The Running Man

29 03 2017

Have you ever considered appearing in a Game Show? Like many kids of the 1990’s, I used to dream of appearing in shows like Gladiators, The Crystal Maze, Virtually Impossible, and the biggest one of them all; Fun House. As time went on it became obvious that me appearing in any kind of Gameshow was probably not going to happen, but I kept some tiny day dreams for shows like Cross-Fire, Raven, Bamzooki, Jungle Run and of course Robot Wars (which given its return to TV has got me thinking about it once more). While I may not have been a contestant, many people have as is the point of game shows, many of them striving to achieve the grand prize of money, a holiday or maybe a boat. Win or lose though, many of them should be thankful that they were not competing for the right to stay alive.

Released in 1987 by TriStar Pictures and directed by Paul Michael Glaser; The Running Man is a Dystopian Action Thriller based on the book of the same name written by Stephen King (under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) where a wrongly convicted man is forced to compete in a gladiatorial style TV game show known as The Running Man. The film is set in America between 2017 and 2019, where after a worldwide economic collapse; the country has become a police state and the government soothes the population with the airing of game shows where convicted criminals have to fight for the right to stay alive with a chance of being pardoned by the state.

Former cop Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is wrongly convicted for the mass shooting of civilians at a food riot after he refuses to follow an order to kill the civilians in the first place, and is now dubbed the Butcher of Bakersfield. He along with a few other inmates including William Laughlin (Yaphet Kotto) and Harold Weiss (Marvin J. McIntyre) escape from a labour camp, with Ben going to his brother’s apartment to hide out only to discover that it is now occupied by Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonso); a composer for ICS who are the broadcaster of The Running Man. Taking Amber as a hostage, Ben intends to leave the country for Hawaii, but while at the Airport, Amber informs the authorities and Richards is captured. Taken to ICS, Richards meets the host and producer of The Running Man; Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) who tries to persuade Ben into competing in the show. When he refuses, Killian threatens to enter Laughlin and Weiss instead; upon learning this Richards agrees to take part.

The next day the show begins with people all over America and from different backgrounds tuning in to watch. Backstage, Amber; who is working on the show that night discovers some evidence that some of the news made about Richards maybe untrue and goes in search to find out more. As the show begins and Richards is introduced, Killian reveals that he has entered Weiss and Laughlin into the show anyway. Richards threatens to return for Killian, before he and his other inmate pals are sent on their way through large tunnels on strange rocket powered sledges. The Idea of the Running Man is that the contestants are forced to run through a large area of urban wasteland while being chased by an elite team of Killer Stalkers; if they survive, they are pardoned for their crimes. The Audience though love all this brutality and cannot wait for the first stalker to be introduced; that stalker being a very large hockey player dressed character called Sub Zero (Professor Toru Tanaka). The three runners are penned into Sub Zero’s own specially designed area and are toyed with endlessly until Richards uses a barbed wire fence to strangle him, killing him in the process, the first time that has happened in the history of the show. With the audience in shock, the three runners use this advantage to get away. While in the game zone, Laughlin and Weiss use this opportunity to find the network’s uplink for the benefit of the resistance. Amber meanwhile has been caught, and is forced to enter the Running Man also; she arrives just before two more stalkers enter the game zone in the form of chainsaw wielding Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch) and arc electricity user Dynamo (Erland Van Lidth). Buzzsaw fatally wounds Laughlin, while Weiss is shocked to death by Dynamo. Richards kills Buzzsaw with his own chainsaw, but spares the life of Dynamo after his electric suit stops working. Richards agrees to carry out Laughlin’s last request of getting the uplink node information to the resistance within the game zone. Off camera; Killian sends a message to Ben offering him a job as a stalker, but he refuses, and Killian sends out the next stalker; the flamethrower wielding Fireball (Jim Brown). In the studio and outside however, the audience starts cheering for Richards given his unstoppable killing streak. While being chased around by Fireball; Amber discovers the decaying bodies of the supposed winners of the last series of the show, discovering that their victory was faked. Richards then kills Fireball by blowing him up.

Running out of options (and stalkers), Killian asks the help of retired and champion stalker Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura). Freedom however refuses as he does not like the way the show has become compared to what it was like when he used to do it. Using body doubles, Killian fakes the death of both Richards and Amber by the hands of Captain Freedom. Ben and Amber meanwhile are still in the game zone and have been found by the resistance and their leader Mic (Mick Fleetwood) and learn of their faked deaths. Using the transmitter info acquired by Weiss earlier, the resistance launches a two-pronged attack on ICS. First they show footage of what really happened at the Bakersfield riot and present details that Killian has been lying to the audience for a very long time. Then resistance fighters led by Ben and Amber break into the studio fighting the guards. Amber succeeds in killing Dynamo while Ben confronts Killian. Killian’s bodyguard Sven (Sven-Ole Thorsen) shows up, but decides not to fight Richards as he has had enough of his boss and walks off. Killian tries to convince Richards that he was only doing what the audience were asking for; saying that they love reality TV and televised violence. Richards decides to give the audience what he thinks they really want and sends Killian off in one of the rocket powered sledges down the same tunnel that Richards went down. Killian crashes into a sign on the way out bearing his image and dies, while Richards and Amber leave the studio sharing a kiss on their way out.

One thing that stands out about The Running Man is that while it may not be the first among discussed films of the same genre, or even not as frequently mentioned as other Arnold Schwarzenegger films of note; it is still a very entertaining and enjoyable film. While maybe not Schwarzenegger’s best film or performance, this does not distract from how enjoyable the experience this film delivers. The Running Man is one of those films that is guaranteed to entertain an audience whether it be a seasoned viewer, or even those who are watching it for the first time. Saying that though is pretty simple, as explaining why is even harder. While I could immediately jump on saying that the film has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi about it, I think that could be considered cheating. From an action point of view, The Running Man delivers plenty of it. It does what any quality action film does, which is always having something going on, and never too slow. It has lots of running around, plenty of fights, death, explosions while also allowing the use of drama to give those scenes purpose. It’s swift and uneasy, but does not lose sight from its main plot or setting. It’s very basic levels of action uses its scene and scenario to ramp it up and create more meaning, providing the audience with a continued reason to watch. The film’s setting, while not being fully represented, still presents an idea of what it is like to live in a dystopian America, really representing the lives of rich and poor, but also presenting an idea of how a police state could soothe tensions within the populace to keep it under a better form of control than with strong levels of violence. One thing though that probably helps a lot in its film making is how that while you are watching a film; you are also an audience member of this TV Gameshow. The Running Man is presented like many classic American game shows with the charismatic host and big budget effects, to produce the best show they can. In the case of The Running Man the show has its charismatic and popular host; it has music, dancers, merchandise as well as a reality TV effect to it which always grabs an audience. Another thing in the shows profile is how it incorporates what Pro Wrestling was like around the time of the film’s release with a cavalcade of wrestling gimmicks. While said gimmicks are pretty much non-existent to a point these days, back then it was all the range, and with the show’s Stalkers; while they are blood thirsty killers, they are taking on personas with a detailed and strong gimmick. This combination of reality TV and Pro Wrestling along with everything else makes The Running Man Gameshow the kind of show people could actually get into to, even nowadays as it’s a perfect formula conjured up from some of television’s most popular programming. While you are indeed watching a film, you are still watching a Gameshow as presented in the fictional scenario. With the films level of action, small but basic plot, and unique presentation style; creates a very entertaining and enjoyable film. That does not mean though that everything is plain sailing, or perfect.

The Running Man is actually a very small film; not necessarily in length, more in the form of detail. There is a lot going on in the background and a very strong setting is implied, but not delved into. The film says that America is a dystopian police state, but the only evidence of that is a strong police force that could be considered more as security rather than peace keepers. There are a lot of city scenes, some showing a more privileged sector, and that of a down trodden and poor area too, but there are only two scene shots of this, one on a small street area, and the other on the outskirts with the city in the background, but it does not suggest police state, just city and slums; like many a large city. We are told there is a resistance movement but because we have no grounding as to how bad this police state is, there is no real building of reasoning as to why a basic resistance movement is required or needed. That’s the major problem with this film’s setting; that while we are told this stuff, there is no visual evidence to back it up with, other than some scenes with police forces casually walking around. The only thing we have is this TV Show, and that too causes a major plot problem in that supposedly bringing down the TV Station is all that matters. The resistance works hard to bring down a game show and TV channel; but if you are living in a police state where the political elites have control, why would bringing down a TV channel solve the problem? It’s a big foot hole in the plot, because the more you watch it, the more you want to tell everyone that it really doesn’t matter, it does not really solve much, if anything; it’s just going to get worse from here on out. So the ending is a bit unhooked. It’s a real shame really, because the city from a visual perspective looks really good.

On the perspective that the producers of the film could not see into the future, the film’s game show does not lend itself to the current modern-day culture that we live in. One thing that stands out with the film’s selection of stalkers is how they are designed not necessarily around practicality, but more around gimmicks and personas of pro wrestling at the time of the film’s release. In that respect when looked at now it could suggest that the film may not have aged well, but this is only in one short way. Yes the Stalkers do look a bit ridiculous now, but back then would have looked pretty impressive, and in honesty, they are not all that bad. This however brings me quite neatly into another of the films major issues, which is that the cast on the whole is a bit shoddy. The stalker gimmicks are nicely made and it’s easy to see where the ideas came from and what the film’s producers were hoping to achieve, but there aren’t many standouts. Dynamo for instance comes packed with a costume which even back then would have probably looked ridiculous with the glowing hair and light up costume, it looks dire. Buzzsaw does not really do much other than show off his teeth, and Sub Zero is rather wasted given that Professor Toru Tanaka is actually a pretty cool big guy actor when given an actual chance to show off. In reality it makes Tanaka’s performance in an episode of the A-Team far more career prestigious than in a big action film starring Schwarzenegger. In the end it does come down to Captain Freedom and Fireball, which in itself is rather sad. For the most part, both characters; while given major credited parts find themselves on the side-lines until necessary. Fireball’s introduction is rather late on, but has a much stronger stalker part than the others. His entrance and intro is one of the film’s best looking and most enjoyable scenes, plus he helps shed some light on the malpractices of the show. Jesse Ventura as Captain Freedom has a similar part as he is played as mainly the retired veteran of the sport who has great memories and respect for what he used to do and how he did it. His passion for the sport shows off well as he does not like the new wave gimmicks and probably would want to take on Richards if it was left to him and not Killian. Much like Fireball, he is a late intro and is only really referenced up to this point, but his veterancy and style portrays a really interesting character that creates an on-screen identity before he even becomes relevant. Both Brown and Ventura give good performances but it’s only worth between 10 and 15 minutes of the entire film; they both deserved well more.

The rest of the cast is pretty much near hit and misses with very few of the headliners actually standing out. I don’t really get much of a feeling for Mick Fleetwood’s character, nor Weiss, and while Amber’s character does improve towards the end of the film, it just feels rather late. There is some interesting cast minors such as Killian’s assistant Brenda (Karen Leigh Hopkins), The Running Man’s director Tony (Kurt Fuller) and of course Sven who sadly could have had more of a part. From there though we do get some cool characters; Laughlin for instance has great on set chemistry between himself and Richards. If it was not the case of these two needing to work together, he could be a really good nemesis for Schwarzenegger, but in this case what we have is a strong ally for Richards. While he does meet a gruesome end at the end thanks to Buzzsaw, he does produce one of the film’s most powerful and poignant moments backed up with that killer soundtrack. It is an interesting but good casting as it’s one that could have worked either way, be it friend or foe. Richard Dawson is an inspired casting for the part of the cold and ruthless game show host. Given his background and history of Gameshow hosting, it comes more naturally to him, as he looks and feels like a game show host, no matter what the context. He is able to draw popularity to himself through a natural form of charisma, but on top of that he is also able to play a character, one who enjoys a level of ruthlessness that comes with the power and joy of presentation and production control, one that also makes himself believe that whatever he is doing is not necessarily selfish, but right. It is an incredible part and one played by a naturally talented persona that produces a real sense of reality to a very fictional product. Arnold Schwarzenegger for me is someone whose career I have known about but have seen him in very few roles. I have seen most of the Terminator’s, Batman and Robin and Kindergarten Cop, and it’s hard not to think of the large brutish character we have come to expect from said roles. He is a big muscle guy, but it’s hard to see him in other light especially with him playing very archetypal roles. This however does allow me to see another side to him. Yes, he is the muscle-bound hero, but there is more to him here. There is compassion to his friends, love (in the end) for him and Amber but also a sense of belief between right and wrong given his introduction and background. While the film makes use of his well-known line from The Terminator (just 3 years earlier), there are more lines to come, including a very daft form of spoken humour when it comes to the stalker deaths. While he does have a very physical role to play, he shows and does more than that, and in the process allows audiences who have only seen one real side of him to see more of what is quite a cool and diverse actor when provided with a chance.

The Running man does have some interesting and nice effects to it, all be it though come mostly down to some nicely designed and created set pieces such as the tunnels and the main stage of the game show itself. The jumpsuits (I had to at some point didn’t I) are not too putting off; yes they look weird, sort of like how Arnie would look if he was asked to play Wolverine in the iconic spandex (I really don’t think bright banana yellow is his colour), but altogether look ok in different colours. It’s not the best effects of the film but more than most is definitely not the worst. But it’s not really the films effects where I want to look at; more the film’s incredible soundtrack. The Running Man’s soundtrack (composed by Harold Faltermeyer) on the whole sounds very futuristic, but also very low; not sad but grimmer, helping to construct the idea of a dystopian future. It has a lot in common I think to Escape From New York with powerful and hard-hitting keyboards with a sense of fast and light rock. There are four pieces though I would like to make particular mention of; the start of the show, Laughlin’s death, the broadcast attack and the end credits. Mick’s Broadcast attack features this very light siren like sound to begin with which appears rather irrelevant, but quickly builds to include other sounds. It is a pretty light track until the fast repeating drums come in. Before this, they feature the Running Man’s general theme, something which can be heard throughout the film; but once those drums come in, a different piece comes to the stage. It actually breaks the tension and grim sounds of the previous pieces of music and allows a lighter sense of hope as an attack comes its way. It’s in no way optimistic or celebrating, but it gives a lighter more hopeful energy which suggests change in the film’s plot. It’s still dark, low and tense and continues to produce, but it’s a different vision of what once was and is now to come.

A good film plot, as many people will tell you is about change; change from one thing into something else. The Running Man is a film which features a small but dramatic change, the change of a country from one that is cut in half by class, to one united by a common goal, the same could be said for the change in Richards, as he goes from a criminal, to that of a free man. While the broadcast theme suggests change and hope, the end credits (Restless Heart by John Parr), actually present one, as it’s a theme that is much lighter. Gone are the low-toned sounds of a despotic regime raining down on its citizens, in comes the sound of willful change and hope as we see a nation now with hope for a change in attitude, even if it is very much only suggested. It’s a nice light theme for the film to end on in general and has a nice beginning to it, which really helps provide that breath of fresh as it all comes to an end, all the excitement and adrenaline is now over, so remember to breathe.

The ICS Theme for the game show itself is actually pretty light and does not feel as hard-hitting as a game show’s introduction should be. It does not feel catchy or memorable, just light; but mix it in with the dancers, and a different perspective is revealed, that of less a game show, more of an event, and one that requires and deserves a level of build up to get the audience going before the main event begins. It’s a similar idea I think to when in The Hunger Games there is that 1 minute countdown to the bloodbath, the calm before the Storm, but held in a slightly more glorious way as this time the whole nation is backing it, and because it’s the kind of show which gives audience participation, there has to be that level of joy for them too as the show begins. One track in The Running Man that is not joyous is that of when Laughlin dies. The Running Man’s general musical theme is this sort of keyboard based riff which can be heard in several parts of the film, more of an atmospheric track than anything else, but when Laughlin dies it is played a lot heavier. It’s the loss of a good strong friend and his message for Richards, one which Richards agrees too, but also from belief that Richards should have died not Laughlin. It is a pretty funky track and sound, but especially more so at this point when the notes are pretty much being slammed by the soloist. It is a game of life and death, but becomes more real at this point, and the soundtrack goes out of its way to use this point as the most poignant reminder of this, creating the film’s and film’s soundtrack’s best and most memorable moment.

The Running Man critically is a very hard one to judge. Yes it has its issues ranging from a mainly makeshift cast, to a setting and theme which is not really delved into enough to really provide scope. On the other hand though it delivers an incredible soundtrack, some wonderfully designed set pieces, some interesting moments, but on the whole a lot of very enjoyable moments of action. As a dystopian thriller, it definitely does not hold a lot of ground and there are far better ones out there than this. But as a dystopian action film; this is one of the best. While I still prefer the Hunger Games and Battle Royale; I would happily put this up a good level. It has something that every action film fan would enjoy while also using a unique perspective to create something that is truly unique in cinema. Trust me on this when I say that this is a truly enjoyable film; I mean it, give it a go.

GENEPOOL (The poster is a bit off-putting).

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What I Would Like To Read This Year

1 02 2017

Even more of my books

Since joining Goodreads in 2013, I have enjoyed posting to the site what I have read, am currently reading, and want to read in the future. I don’t know exactly why, but it’s fun nonetheless. Every year since 2014 I have enjoyed the annual reading challenge the website puts up. How it works is that, you say how many books you would like to read in the year and you set that as your goal. Then when you finish reading a book, you make a note of when you finished reading it and then, as long as it’s in the current year, then it counts towards your reading challenge. The website keeps a track of the books you have read and how many, and then come the end of the year, if you are successful it will say that you succeeded. If you read more than the total number set, then even better. Since 2014, I have been successful year after year in the reading challenge, often setting myself the similar goal of about 10-15 books a year; well I am a slow reader, and so that I thought would still be a good amount. This year however I have reduced the number of books I want to read to eight.

Some of my books

During 2016, after a slow start reading one really good book, followed by a couple that were pretty low in enjoyment, I finally found my stride when I read the Anthony Horowitz Power of Five series (as well as a few Mr. Men books too). With the reading of the series going well, I had a thought. I thought that if I could finish the final book of the series; Oblivion before the end of the year, I might treat myself into reading another big book. Well, in the end I did not finish Oblivion until January. Anyway, that did not matter too much in the end, because I had another idea.

Some more of my books

In my big collection of books, there is quite a few I have collected which I have not actually read. Most of them are books that I have received as presents, or ones I have bought but not got round to yet. Anyway, some of these are kind of big; these include but are not limited to Next by Michael Crichton, Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and Stone Heart by Charlie Fletcher. Getting round to these books can be quite hard as they are not part of a series so can sometimes find themselves being muscled out of a reading schedule and then eventually forgotten. The other is due to their size, and when I have a high number of books I want to read in a year, it can feel impractical to read them as part of the challenge. So here is where my new idea came in. Not to slot them in as such, but to give them a level of commitment, and also give myself a shorter goal to work with, thinking that given how some of them are more than twice the size as other books I have read, I can then sort of fill the amount of time in with a much bigger book and give myself some slack by not committing to a high number. Therefore, what I did was slice the amount of books I read into near as half while also still challenging myself.

Hall Of Fame Book Shelf

As a result I have decided to read 8 books this year, but not only that, I have also chosen specific books I would like to read this year too. Instead of considering books like I have done in the past (so when I was reading one, I would think about the next one to read without any guarantee that I would); I have set aside a space on my book shelves and selected a group of books I want to specifically read, the plan being that when I finish a book, I can put it either in the hall of fame section (a section on my shelves where I put my absolute favourite reads: see above image), or somewhere else entirely on the book shelves, and then pick another from the specifically selected section, and carry on that way. The books I have chosen are as follows:

Books I want to read in 2017

Upon looking at that list, and the above picture, you may see that there are actually 9 books in that space. That is because I decided to include Horowitz Horror 1 by Anthony Horowitz; because (it nicely lines up the collection on display, but also) it allows me the option of reading a short story here and there instead of having to power through novels the whole time. The good thing about the books I have chosen too is that all of them but two are singular entries. Only 2 of the books (Steelheart and Stone Heart) lead into a series. Now while that is a bit of a dodgy game I have played with those two selections, by only having a couple, it allows me the chance to see if I like them before I continue the series, but also it means I am not necessarily muscling out the others either.

Steelheart and Stone Heart

That is my plan for reading this year. My plan for other books sort of comes in either next year, or when I finish the 8 main books here anyway (or if I dive into a series). Any books I buy/get/receive from here on in shall be put to one side for the time being for reading consideration another time, as right now I am both excited and optimistic of my chances of completing the reading I have selected for this year and since finishing Oblivion, I have already begun reading Burning Midnight, (because upon finishing Oblivion, I wanted to read something small). At time of writing I am nearly two-thirds through it. So with that going well, I am hopeful that I will accomplish my reading challenge for this year, plus get through the really big books too.

Burning Midnight

GENEPOOL





The Day The Waters Went Up And The Lights Went Down

30 11 2016

skerton-bridge

When I was at school learning Geography; the one thing I would constantly hear from all the teachers, is that the first thing you need in order to start a settlement is the close proximity of water. That is a pretty obvious resource, as though while other necessities are also required; without access to water, your little settlement is not necessarily going to last all that long. One thing though my mind ponders after the events of last year though is that; when a settlement does start-up, do they ever consider how dangerous that water source could potentially be? Much like other cities/towns/villagers around the world, Lancaster has a river. Some of the other locations of the world might have small streams, or big wide rivers; Lancaster sort of has a large wide channel for water but normally, if you were to stand on one of the bridges in Lancaster, you would see that the River Lune appears to be pretty small and shallow. It runs through the centre of Lancaster in a wide trench and pretty deep trench; but normally does not even cover the entire patch of land at the bottom. When it does get high really does depend on whether there is an equinox or if there is plenty of rain to feed it, in which case the river can be nearly lapping the street level of St George’s Quay, which is the lowest road next to the river. St George’s Quay itself has been known to struggle with the flooding at times and over the last several decades, numerous plans were drawn up to try and prevent too much, including raising the road, to building the now erected wall along the river. Even when the river is high, if you go stand on Skerton Bridge, it does not look too bad. It can be deep and the channel is wide, but only really looks high if it gets to the Quay. That all changed on December 5th 2015.

River Lune Flood 5

It was a pretty normal Saturday. It was late in the year, and I had spent the day as normal, sitting behind my Laptop on the table. My head was spinning and judging whether or not I should go and see the film Krampus having seen the trailer a few times and my parents were discussing going somewhere. I think my Dad was supposed to be preaching away, I can’t remember where and I think my Mam was debating whether or not to go with him. Sometime later, my Mam was reading off her kindle, and saw a report announcing road closures, and that there was some flooding around the River Lune. Getting a little interested by this I decided to go out and have a look. The night was pretty dark by this time, it was early December, and I had no idea what I was going to see. I just thought the river would be higher than normal, nothing else. Skerton Bridge is no more than maybe 5 minutes’ walk from my house. I walk the same route every Sunday on my way to church which is less than a few seconds away from the north bank of the Lune. When I arrived I walked onto the bridge, and was amazed at what I saw. Now I was not wearing my glasses that day, I don’t require wearing them all the time but they do help. I walked onto the bridge, and looked down on it. I knew it could be high, but I wasn’t expecting the river to be wider too.

River Lune Flood 1

The river was literally bursting its banks, on both sides. On the north side bank, there is a little hill edged into the left hand side of the bridge. It’s a steady hill which allows people the use of a small tunnel under the bridge, allowing them to cross over to the other side without running through moving traffic. Well; the tunnel had water in it. The whole bank in that area was water-logged and level with the river. I have never seen that before. I heard it may have happened once, when I was perhaps 5 years old, I was now beyond my mid-twenties. The bridge was still accessible, but nearly jammed up with traffic. As I continued to walk across the bridge in awe at what I was observing, I saw that the bank on the other side, which is flat and is something of cycle path, that too had water on it, to the same level as the river. It was the same on the other side of the bridge. The little park near Sainsbury’s feeling a patch of water, submerging pathways. I quickly went back home, before popping immediately out again, with my Mam and my Camera. The dark sky did not help me much in taking pictures, but I got some though. Then, I went over to the Millennium Bridge. The Millennium Bridge is a small footbridge which connects the end of Lune Street with the top of the Quay. Knowing how high the river usually got around the Quay, I wanted to go see. I was right, the river was high there too, but more than I thought. I walked across, and could see swells, little whirlpool like effects near the bridge supports building and turning, and on the dip with the Quay side bridge entrance, I could see the river, nearly within finger reach of the bridge’s lowest pathway dip. It was amazing to see, I took photos and a couple of videos that night, though only one video really worked.

That night was something of a mini adventure for me. It was amazing to see the river like that. To see it not just high but bursting its banks. But what happened next was completely unexpected. I was upstairs watching TV when the lights and power went out. A few seconds later they came back on again without a hitch, but then a little while later, they went out again, but like before returned to full power within seconds. The evening was without hitch for maybe an hour or so more, and then they went out again, and they stayed out. My room was dark upstairs, I could not see a thing, and the only light source was a palaver lamp a friend got me for Christmas a year before (just shake it and it lights up). I looked outside onto the street. It wasn’t just our house, the whole street was gone, even the BP Garage was unlit (although one house across the road had Christmas lights lit up and working?). I cautiously and slowly worked my way downstairs, using the palaver lamp as my only torch. When I got downstairs, there was little light other than a few torches lighting the dining room. I went to bed soon after, but being the kind of guy who still needs something of a night-light to sleep, the darkness was hard to sleep in. It was not just a little dark, it was very dark. I was relying on a wind up torch to give me some help, but as I had images from the Krampus trailer in my head, it was hard not to spook myself out, but I still managed to eventually get to sleep.

Krampus (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

The following morning I awoke, needing to grab my bearings, and remember the previous night. I tried the lamp on my bedside table, nothing happened. Expecting the power to have returned during the night, I discovered it was still off. I got up and proceeded downstairs to see what was going on. The power was still turned off, with only battery operated equipment running. But with no power, there was very little information as to what was going on. We were still able to eat some breakfast, before heading out to church. We walked down the street; some roads were covered in water, it was not the case of water coming over the lips of the hills in the area, it was more the case of the sewers overflowing and simply coming up out of the wells in the streets. When we reached the bridge, we discovered two shocks; firstly, the river was still high. I took another video, surprised to see it still high, and it was flowing strong and fast. I have never seen it do that before. It was like a large open air sewer, carrying out everything it could out to sea, in a desperate attempt to keep the balance. That was the first shock. The other was that the bridge was closed. Somehow, as reports suggested, as the winds picked up, a container had blown into the river and hit the only two road bridges in the city. Both Skerton Bridge the Greyhound Bridge and even the Millennium Bridge were inaccessible.

We still went to church and had something of a bible study/prayer meeting, as there was only a few of us. Many people who come to our church were situated on the other side of the river. The only person to come from that side, did so by parking her car next to Carlisle Bridge, then walk across the very tall bridge that it is, and then all the way to church. It was at church though that we finally got some news regarding current issues. Firstly the lack of power was due to the substation flooding. Reports were stating that it should be back on by: Tuesday morning or evening. We also heard about some of the more serious damage caused by the river, as two people attending church at the time, living not far from us, had their house flooded overnight in a big way. Our little meeting adjourned, we went home, with the two people flooded in tow as my Mam made them some Cheese Sandwiches. Mam was pretty skillful with the beef roast bought at Sainsbury’s the previous night as she was able to have some use of the cooker and made some steaks for us to eat too. As the day went on, it became something of a more mundane and quieter Sunday than usual. Without my usual access to my Laptop or Games, I watched Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal on a portable DVD Player until it ran out of power. Mam and I sat in her Fiat Panda for a little bit to listen to The Bay radio in an attempt to find out some news, but the two clowns on the radio weren’t really all that helpful. Instead of presenting helpful and emergency news, they just sort of did a program like BBC Breakfast, getting other views of other people rather than provide the news that was really desired and needed. As evening drew in, the garage across the road opened a small hatch so some people could buy batteries and bits, so I popped across later in the afternoon to get some batteries to power lights and the radio. Apart from that, my Dad sat down with a book, and we all found ways to ride it through.

Sleeping Queens Kings and Queens

Later on I popped out for a little walk, and my senses and caution were tested as I experienced first-hand, what lack of power meant for the neighborhood on a winter’s day. I popped out with my Camera, and the night was beginning to draw in. I could still see some daylight, but it faded fast. I walked down Aldren’s lane, and saw first-hand how bad the flooding got in that area. The water may had gone, but silt remained, you could see though the patch of the wall where it had come through though, revealing a small channel where it could seep through with nothing to stop it. You could even see the level of how far inland the river got, and how high up the buildings it went, as the dark impression was still on the bricks. The whole area must have been like a mini boating pond, and a lot of silt remained on the path and road. I walked on a little bit, and got feelings and reminders of the film I Am Legend, with the dark night coming in, and houses blanketed without power. I decided to return home before it got too dark. By the time I was within reach of home, it was utter black. Not far from my home there is Ryelands Park, lit up by street lights and piercing lights of the city behind. Across the road there is of course the BP garage, and opposite to there is the once great, now nearly non-existent Skerton High School. Even on a dark winter night, you can see things. There is plenty of lighting from near and afar to light up the area. Well, on this Sunday night, none of these could be seen. I could not see the school, I could not see the faint outline of the city or Castle, I could barely see a tree in the park. In a small open space the only light being produced was from that house’s Christmas decorations, and the cars driving by, judging when it was safe to turn at a spot that once had working traffic lights. The evening was not too bad though, my Mam and Brother played some card games with me for an hour. We played Sleeping Queens and Straw, both fun games. My Dad read his book using a book mark light, and while it was cold due to the lack of heating, we still had an OK night. But like the night before, we went to bed a lot earlier than we usually do. Once again, it was dark and spooky, and getting to sleep was hard, but I managed it in the end. To be honest by this time I was feeling excited and was really enjoying some of the more social and quiet aspects of all this, and was looking forward to another quiet day.

River Lune Flood 2

The following day I woke up and tried the light; power was back on. I went downstairs and could see my Mam running around, while my Dad was busy phoning church members to see if they were ok, all the while the TV was on with News as to what was happening with the power. It was both great to see the power was back on, but also sad as it meant I had to go back to my daily routine at the time of having to do 35 hours of job searching, just to receive a tiny supply of money from Universal Credit. Anyway, I allowed myself some time to treat myself. I told everybody on Facebook I was OK with a post, and then to celebrate the return of Electricity, I chose an aptly named song to post on Facebook: The Power by Snap! I also spent some time texting and emailing others just to see if they were ok and let them know that I was ok. I also uploaded my photos and videos onto YouTube and Facebook too.

So life returned to normal? Sort of… Basically, both road bridges and Millennium Bridge were still unopened, and would remain that way until Tuesday. Well they were claiming that they wanted to make sure they were safe after the container collision. So could not really go into town unless I went the long way round, but I stayed in home to do my job search, while also making sure I put my 3DS and the portable DVD player on charge along with a few other pieces of electrical equipment just in case. It turns out that that was a good idea, as though while there was now power, it was announced that they would be turned off again later, which it was. I was able to continue doing stuff on my Laptop now it had some charge in it, but in the end, it was back to doing the other activities of being without power that I had acclimatized myself to doing the last few days: watching Going Postal and playing on the 3DS, until the batteries went out. From Tuesday onwards, it was pretty much back to normal, there were still feelings and rumours of losing power again, while the news debated the real cost and talked about the stronger tragedies of the incident: people losing their homes, possessions, road closures, broken roads and railway bridges. The news was awash with such things, while other people talked about their experiences and also rumours of more power losses to come, but did not happen, although some had to rely on generators for a while, many of which were in large areas for a week or two afterwards, not to mention the roads that needed mending, and the train bridges that needed rebuilding. But for most of us, life returned to normal. I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday, was at Barnardo’s volunteering that afternoon, and on Wednesday was attending a Christmas Party at UCLan.

River Lune Flood 4

The whole event for me personally was a weird one. At first it was surprising and something awe-inspiring; looking at what was usually a docile river turning into the controlling factor of a weekend. Losing power and taking the things in my life for granted, as though while they came back, they were gone, and I had to find other ways to use up my time, to the re-established joy of spending time with my family joy such an event could bring. A river becoming a torrent, several days without basic luxuries, being apart from many, not knowing if they were ok…or if they had knowledge of what was going on here – or if I was in it? Altogether, this event created an aftermath that would see general life return to normal, but creating a shaken experience as now I could really see the raw power of nature and what power and destruction my usually docile home town river was capable of.

River Lune Flood 3

GENEPOOL (One thing I wish I had done though was find a way into town during the night, just to experience how dark it must have been).





Top 5 Warhammer Armies

12 10 2016

Warhammer Rule Book (Games Workshop - 2010)

During the last week of August, just after coming back from holiday, I was thinking about a game I received off my brother about a year ago called Dreadfleet. It’s a game by Games Workshop, the company that produces the tabletop games Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000 and the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Tabletop Games. Now while it may not be produced anymore, Dreadfleet is a game I fully intend to make and play at some point, as I really want to, but while thinking about it out of the blue, I decided to have a look at Warhammer 40,000 (40K) as I have collected Tau on and off for a number of years. When reading about it on Wikipedia, I decided to compare the dates of when 40k was released in comparison to the Warhammer Fantasy game series. I did not find out in the end as I became fixated on a more important issue: The Warhammer Fantasy Game; is no more!

Dreadfleet

Yes somewhat strangely and bizarrely; after about 3 decades of production, Games Workshop had decided to stop producing the Warhammer Fantasy game without any real reason provided as to why? This made me rather sad, as though while I have not collected that one for about 10 years now, the Fantasy Warhammer game has been an important part of my life. While I did not get to play Warhammer as much as I would have liked to, I have always considered myself as a fan. OK, maybe more a casual fan than anything else, but, no matter what form it came, Warhammer was an interest of mine. While I am more of a 40K player than the fantasy variant (and thankfully 40K is still going…..for now), I can still remember how much enjoyment the original Warhammer had brought me. It was my older brother who first got me involved in it, and I can remember all those Lizardmen I had bought through the years, as well as my brief period when I bought Dogs of War alongside Lizardmen including the purchase of a rather impressive Dragon. While in the end the fantasy battle game was probably not completely for me as I much rather fancied 40K, those memories are with me still to this day, remembering my first battle, my time painting my models with Mam and Dad, my soldiers, my hopes and dreams for the future as I looked into what I could maybe buy some day. I always pondered whether or not I would get back into it, but now it seems that I was too late.

Games Workshop Logo

While the Fantasy game has now passed on and been replaced with something called Age of Sigma (whatever that involves); the memories of Warhammer will always be with me, and as my way of a tribute, I have decided to make a post about my favourite armies in Warhammer. Now, just to be clear; this post is in regards to the fantasy game, and the number that each army is listed by represents more than just what they are like in combat, it’s more what they mean to me rather than which is generally the best army. Sadly, much like war itself, there are some casualties in this list as I decided to base the armies on what they meant to me, rather than just who looks cool. So, just to provide a quick mention, armies not in the Top 5 include: Wood Elves, Beastmen and Warriors of Chaos. So yes, I now present to you, my Warhammer Fantasy game Tribute, and walk down memory lane as I let you in on who were my Top 5 Favourite Armies from Warhammer (in a philosophical sense).

Skaven

5. Skaven and Ogre Kingdoms –Even though I never once did collect them, or even got to play with them, these two armies were for a long time my two favourite picks, if I ever decided to A: Stop collecting Lizardmen and collect something else, or B: Collect one of them if I ever got back into it. Skaven were always something of a mini favourite of mine, I just liked the idea of an army made of rats. They were sort of like Lizardmen, (but Rats) and I just found the idea of them, and their look to be rather cool. I thought that in the case of me having ever decided to stop collecting Lizardmen, Skaven would be the ideal army for me to collect instead.

Ogre Kingdoms

As for the Ogre Kingdoms, they came in pretty late as the whole scene went, but when I first spotted them, I immediately grew to like them, and I even put them ahead of Skaven if it was the case that I ever got back into it. I like these armies both equally, and while I never really got to experience either (except possibly Skaven in Blood Bowl on Steam); they were definitely fore-core-favourites of mine.

Orcs and Goblins

4. Orcs and Goblins – (Not to be confused with the above paragraph, this is just one army) For me, Orcs and Goblins served sort of two purposes in my memories of Warhammer. The first is that, every time I had an intro game, every time I learned to play, and every time I learned to paint models in Warhammer, it was always done with Orcs. I don’t why, but maybe because they were just big and simple to learn from. I remember painting Orcs in the shop in Preston; I even remember having a battle with them during a Warhammer day in Preston when I was about 13/14. While it was never my intention to collect them, I was introduced a great deal to them originally. The other reason I remember them is that my brother collected them quite enthusiastically for a great many years, even at one point having several legions of these metal faced Black Orcs and a good number of trolls to back them up. There is also a third memory: when I was first introduced to the Blood Bowl Tabletop game, I played with Orcs. It’s more just memories, and fond memories at that for me when it comes to Orcs (and Goblins); but the thing is, in Warhammer you cannot go far without running into at least one Orc.

High Elves

3. High Elves – Much like the above, High Elves was not an army I collected, however they did serve a very important moment for me in the history of playing/collecting Warhammer, as it was with High Elves that I had my first battle. Basically, after months of collecting Saurus and not really getting anywhere, I really wanted to play a game, but I could not until I had a commander, but had no idea of how I did that either. Anyway to cut a long story short, my brother had his friends round to play a big game, a sort of triple threat match if you like. Cannot remember who won, but after the game I asked if I could have a quick game, and asked if I could play with the High Elf army. Not wanting to do a full-blown game, my brother’s friends, gave me a small game, me playing with a small group of High Elves, one of his friends playing with 3 trolls, and I can’t remember what the other army group was (maybe Goblins). Anyway, I spent the early part of the match taking down the Trolls only then to get massacred by the other army. I can still remember that game fondly when I think of High Elves, and that is why they come third, because without them, it would have been years before I actually got to play a game of Warhammer, instead just collecting it the whole time.

Asarnil the Dragonlord

2. Dogs of War – While I had been collecting Lizardmen at the time, I fancied changing tact and collect something else for a bit. While I wanted to collect Undead, my Parents did not think it was a good idea. My brother suggested Dogs of War. Originally I did not like the sound of it, because I did not fancy collecting an army made of Dogs, eventually I came round to the idea, and saw that it was not an army of dogs, but an army of Mercenaries, one which was pretty much made up of lots of armies within the Warhammer Fantasy universe. While this collection did not really go anywhere (I got 3 kits in the end), during my mini collection of Dogs of War I managed one of my first major purchases within Warhammer, that of Asarnil the Dragonlord. While I did not get him finished, nor get to play with him (I have no idea if he is still around or not), he still remains one of my all-time favourite Warhammer Purchases.

Lizardmen

1. Lizardmen – From the start of my Warhammer journey, to the last memorable point, Lizardmen have always remained a major part of the experience to me. From the early days of painting basic Saurus, to collecting the new and improved Saurus and starting my first real army in Warhammer; to begin with it was just a fun little thing, but many years later it became a major hobby for me and Lizardmen have always remained a part. I can remember when I first collected them, and had dreams about specific units to collect including Salamanders, Kroxigors and of course the mighty Stegadon. I did get a Kroxigor and Salamander (I think), and at one point had a commander riding on the back of a big lizard creature. While I may not have managed to get units I specifically wanted such as Tichi-Huichi’s Raiders, or more of course the mighty Stegadon or Carnosaur: Lizardmen were the corner-stone of my hopes and dreams for the future of my Warhammer collecting Hobby, and while it all sadly ended before I really ever got going with them, they will always be a proud and fond memory, quite possibly my favourite army in all of Warhammer, not just fantasy, but all versions.

Stegadon

GENEPOOL (OK; the recent depictions of the Stegadon weren’t as good-looking as the original Triceratops creature; that thing could terrify a Mumak).





Another Annoying Little Book

14 09 2016

Mogworld (Dark Horse Books - 2010)

Back in 2014, I finally managed to finish a book which at the time was something of a bane in my reading life. The book was called MogWorld, and it was a book about a character living in a MMORPG video game world and it was written by Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw. I began reading it in 2010, but it was a hard one to read although it was filled with a lot of humour and at times was mega funny. Anyway, in 2014 I committed myself to reading the last section of chapters and then I was glad it was all out of the way and that I had finished it.

Well; now it’s 2016, and I have another annoying little book which I began to read a while ago but have yet to finish. The book is none other than Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. I bought it back in 2013 while I was studying a Screenwriting course at the University of Central Lancashire along with a copy of Syd Field’s book: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. I bought them because, well; the name Syd Field is hammered into your head while on these courses although I have yet to hear of a film or TV show he has worked on, but also because I thought they might help, and I was first introduced to Blake Snyder’s book earlier that same year. I have yet to make a start on the Syd Field one, but I began reading Blake Snyder’s as soon as I got it.

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need (Michael Wiese Productions - 2005)Instantly I could see it was a book that spoken the hidden truth, by that I meant it said things how they were and was in all honesty very funny, but also very descriptive, and easy to understand. It even used examples from the world of film and screenwriting to make its points plus also had a little game inside that you could make a homemade copy of easily. As well as that it also came with exercises, while I have yet to do any of these, the book used them to get you thinking. It also gave me perspective on the 10 basic story lines of cinema too:

  1. Monster in the House
  2. Golden Fleece
  3. Out of the Bottle
  4. Dude with a Problem
  5. Rites Of Passage
  6. Buddy Love
  7. Whydunit
  8. The Fool Triumphant
  9. Institutionalized
  10. Superhero

So why do I talk about it like I have read it and why if I am so interested by it do I consider it annoying? Well, it is very in-depth and I really do like it, it’s a very fun book and I really hope to finish it one day and use it as a way to help me with my screenwriting. The issue sort of comes from putting off reading another chapter for a while, and when you start reading a chapter that references a previous one that you have forgotten, it’s hard to remember the context: that’s what happened. And generally, as my screenwriting course came to an end, plus the enjoyment I used to have for the course by this time vanished; it was hard to keep it up when I wanted to do something else. That was it really and since then, much like MogWorld, it is featured on my ‘currently reading’ profile on Goodreads, consistently reminding me that I have not finished it yet, although the gap from now to the last time I read it is significantly smaller than when I finished MogWorld.

The Foundations of Screenwriting (Delta - 2005)

My hope is that one day, like MogWorld I will finish it and then everything will be happy and I will be able to look back on it more fondly, but right now I just need to just sit down and do it! Whether I start again or not is another question, but right now it’s all about just trying to find a decent time to just do it, while making sure I do not do the same with Project Nemesis.

Project Nemesis (Smashwords Edition - 2012)

GENEPOOL








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