No, I Did Not Drop The Ball Last Week!

25 01 2017

football

Last week, the more frequent and eagle-eyed readers of my blog would have spotted that I did not post anything. Just to reassure you, no I did not drop the ball; it was sort of intended.

a-monster-calls (Focus Features - 2016)

Since 2011, I have been posting blog posts on this blog every week. I have been blogging in total for over 7 years now, but it was not until 2011 that I started posting more frequently, and have been doing so ever since. So why last week’s interruption, well there is sort of 2 reasons behind that. One is because I was hoping to post my film review of A Monster Calls, but after getting ill, and running dry of the emotions that the film created, I got a bit behind. The other though is that I have decided to scale back a bit when it comes to my blogging. Here’s why:

Steamboy (Sunrise - 2004)

In August 2016, I finally got a job, a job I am still doing to this day and am really enjoying; however when I first got it I was unsure as to if I would still be able to keep blogging frequently, so what I did was write a bunch of posts to post over a period of time instead of there and then. This idea worked, up until I started doing it for the rest of the year. I had written posts weeks, if not over a month ahead of when they were due to be posted. This took some of the fun out of blog posting, because when I have written a post, there is a great deal of excitement and energy about it, which makes you excited to see it simply get posted; if that is done weeks ahead, when it is finally posted the excitement has gone and so has the energy. Posting weeks ahead is only useful if you have a schedule to keep or have plans for a string of posts and need the extra time. For me it really took the fun out of it and as such I began to emotionally struggle with the blog, well thanks to both that and one other reason: Views.

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When I started this blog, views were never really on my mind, as all I wanted to do was just write. When I discovered the views feature, it really started to grip me and I would look at it to see what was enjoyed, what wasn’t, and within a few years it pretty much took my main focus as I logged into WordPress every day. The views feature when you’re starting out can actually be quite fun, because when it’s the case that a lot of people are viewing your blog, that gives you a good boost of energy, but when they start to dwindle, that in return can get you down. Since 2011, I have actually kept a spreadsheet of my blog views on my computer, the main purpose being is that when I first started, WordPress used to provide views in a fun line graph, but this changed to a bar chart on the system, and as I quite liked the line graph, I decided to keep the spreadsheet to create the line graphs.

Godzilla 2014 (Legendary Pictures - 2014)

Come 2013 however, and the success I had achieved in 2012 quickly evaporated, and my blog views each month went from 3000-4000 views, to just over 1000. May 2014 saw a brief increase to over 2000 views mostly thanks to a certain film that was released that month, but since then views have been going down slowly. For the last 4 months of 2016, I received no higher than just over 900 views. I should just be happy that people are still looking at my blog from time to time, but when the views are sharp in your face when you turn on and go into the dashboard, and you see this continuing drop, it just gets you down, and with me losing the excited energy about the posting of posts, things really started to look grim. Then I had an idea, which upon considering it, made me very positive.

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The issue; was that firstly the viewing figures were getting me down. So to combat this, I am no longer going to keep my own records, plus have managed to move the views window out of the way so it’s not completely in my face when I log on. I still have it to one side to look at every now and then, but now when I log in to WordPress I don’t get down when the views are down, because I don’t know if they are or not. Secondly, putting up posts every week did sort of begin to affect the kind of posts that I put up each week. This blog does not make money for me in anyway, it’s meant to be fun for me as well as a possible platform for my thoughts and interests, so why should I keep up a post each week? Posting each week does help me to keep it going and the frequency does help. The one thing I don’t want to do is give up, because in my current emotional state I may never get back into it if I did, so I decided to reduce the frequency to a post every 2 weeks. This keeps the frequency going, but does not put me in such a bad position. I can work on my posts more and have a little more freedom with less stricter personal deadlines, but also with more time to think and plan, I can potentially do more posts like the ones I really want to do. This does not stop me posting more frequently if I wanted to, but does not mean I have to rush a post out if I am late. It just gives me some options. Since deciding to go down this path, I have actually begun to feel a lot more positive and excited again about blogging and posting. While it’s in the early stages, I am beginning to feel pretty good about it. The rules I have put in place for myself are:

  • Post every couple of weeks at least.
  • Reduce number of film reviews a year too.

Film reviews have been a big part of this blog since the release of Inception, with me persisting to try and release one a month or at least 12 a year if I miss any. Doing big film reviews though do take up some time, and to allow myself as much freedom as I can, I am reducing my own required number down to six. If I am posting for half the year, I will do the same for film reviews too, but still continue to do them, just reducing the required amount in a year. So while it used to be at least 12, it is now 6. I am not intending to retire from blogging any time soon, I just want it to be fun again but also not tiring; so with this plan in place I am still hoping and planning to do the same as I always have done, just less frequently, and who knows, maybe this will turn out to be better than before, but right now that is not the important thing for me, the important thing is to be having fun again.

inception (Legendary Pictures - 2010)

GENEPOOL

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An Ordinary Life – Ethel & Ernest

14 12 2016

ethel-and-ernest (Cloth Cat Animation - 2016)

What do you dream of? Do you dream of riding a Unicorn and battling the Troll King in the city of Colossus on the furthest edge of Saturn? If so, then you have misunderstood my question. When I ask what you dream of, I ask that in the meaning of, what do you foresee for yourself. Do you dream of a big mansion, lots of money, a gold-plated Rolls Royce and a pet Jaguar? That sounds like a pretty good dream for yourself and I wish you luck in your endeavors to achieve that, but is there anything wrong with a simpler life: a life that involves having your own house, a nice job, maybe a husband or wife, a nice little car and a kid to call your own? Well, given a recent example I recently discovered, I can see a lot of pleasantry in just living a nice long-lived ordinary life, seems quite nice.

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Released in 2016 by Cloth Cat Animation and Directed by Roger Mainwood; Ethel and Ernest is an animated adaptation of the Raymond Briggs graphic novel of the same name. Raymond Briggs is of course best known for his graphic novels including The Snowman, Father Christmas, Fungus the Bogeyman and When the Wind Blows, many of which have since been adapted further into films and TV shows. Ethel and Ernest follows the story of Briggs’s parents from when they began their courtship in the early 1920’s right up to their deaths in the 1970’s, along the way showing their incredible life through an ever-changing world, delivering their own experiences in some of history’s most notable moments.

ethel-and-ernest-book (Jonathan Cape - 1998)

The story begins with Ethel (Brenda Blethyn) working as a lady’s maid who over the period of a couple of days is spotted by a young man on a bike. After a few days the young man all nicely dressed arrives at Ethel’s work place and introduces himself as Ernest (Jim Broadbent). He invites her out on a date and after a few more dates, Ethel requests that she leaves her employ as a maid so that she may Marry Ernest. Her request is given, and the two marry, followed by getting a house together, and Ernest getting a job as a milkman. As time passes by, the two of them sit down into a normal living routine, with Ethel becoming a housewife and Ernest fascinated by the ever passing technological world, installs a radio and a cooker plus a few more home improvements to make it theirs. Outside of their lives, things are changing, Britain is on the brink of war with Germany, and people are out of work. While all this is going on, Ethel and Ernest conflict with one another due to their respective beliefs, with Ernest acknowledging his working class life, while Ethel believes that she is more middle class and up. Eventually Ethel is treated with the birth of a son they name Raymond (Luke Treadaway), but giving birth was a real strain on her and is told that it’s best that they don’t have another.

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Britain engages with Germany as World War 2 starts, and Raymond is sent to live with Aunty Flo (Gillian Hanna) and Aunty Betty (Pam Ferris) in the countryside as he is evacuated with thousands of other children. Broken hearted at home without Raymond in their lives, Ethel and Ernest plod on with Raymond taking another job as a fireman during the Blitz Bombings. The two of them erect both a Morrison and an Anderson bomb shelter, and are privileged with seeing Raymond in the countryside and have him home one weekend, although he and Ernest narrowly miss an attack from a Doodlebug. With the war over, the family returns to normal, with Raymond going to grammar school and Ernest seeing improvement in his work load, although the two cannot stop bickering with the election of a Labour government and Churchill being kicked out of office. As Raymond grows up, he begins to do things very different to his parents that they just don’t understand, such as his desire to go to Arts School, while his parents can’t see much of a job coming out of it. Raymond grows his hair out, although Ethel continues to press a comb onto him. Eventually Raymond meets a girl called Jean (Karyn Claydon), who unfortunately is not able to provide grandparents to Raymond’s parents. The two of them get a house in the countryside that Ethel considers to be a dump.

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As time passes by and the world steadily advances further, life for Ethel and Ernest begins to slow down. Ernest retires from his job as a milkman and Raymond gets a job as a teacher. Ethel and Ernest take in a more quiet life, but Ethel’s health begins to deteriorate, and as time passes by begins to forget things, even those closest to her. Eventually Ethel dies in hospital, leaving Ernest to fend for himself. After some time goes by, Ernest too dies. Back at his parents’ home; Raymond makes note of a tree in their garden, one he planted when he was just a boy.

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Ethel and Ernest is a rather pleasant film which at first does not really present itself as a film, more a sequence of short films spanning the life of two very ordinary people. At first it’s like an animated slide show, and one I felt presented the story of these two-bit by bit, maybe frame by frame or chapter by chapter. The film however is at this point just starting its engine, as when life settles down, the Drama begins. At first these are two gentle lovers just enjoying life as it can be, but now they face the prospect of actually having to live together, and what we discover is that they are two polar opposites. They share dreams and desires for the future but like many of the time cannot see how much life will change ahead of them, or how quickly it is enacted. While it is very pleasant though, the film is somewhat tragic, as it ends the only way life can, in the Death of these two people, and how their life affects those around them at that time. But in that though we are presented with a cold hard fact of the knowledge that life must come to an end and how important it is that we don’t waste it, it’s one chance in only one chance. The film though while ending like this however reminds us that even when these two people passed on, that in life, although maybe not absolutely perfect, they still lived an extraordinary life, one that was filled right to the brim. Maybe not the most glamorous or exciting, but definitely a positive life, and shows that no matter your standing, class or background, a good life can still be had.

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The film’s story I find is very similar to The Wind Rises, as though while in essence it’s just a story of the parents of Raymond Briggs, it also tells a very broad story of the growth of England from post World War One right through the tumultuous years of World War Two and the progression of life luxuries beyond that. It does this in a very unique way to. I have seen lots of documentaries in the past regarding what happened in World War 2, but most of these have taken the form of talking about the front line, the enemy, the Battle of Britain, the blitz, other countries and the evacuation of children; however I have not ever (I think) seen a documentary or presentation of the life lived by those in London during this time. I am not saying that said things have not been done before, but they do seem pretty rare. Here, this film really shows that with mentions of the Anderson Bomb Shelters and the like, to mentions of life for those working to keep London built and even the raids of Doodlebugs. It is a very nice way to tell a story but also presents information of what England was like that at that time.

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While all this is going on of course, we get a real glimpse of the lives of Ethel and Ernest. The film does have some great cast members and features some cameos from people at the time presented in their original format, but this film really does work to show us what these two were like by making them the front-runner of every scene. But while it may be an idyllic life for those of a similar situation, there is a minor level of conflict between the two. Ernest for example is very much a working class man. He works hard because he knows he has to and is good at his job. He loves Ethel a lot, and even uses his manual labour skills to good use in improving their lives in any way he can; he is very much a working class hero. Ethel meanwhile comes from a more upper class background, although this is only shown in what she used to do for a living. This background though very much impacts her way of thinking, and though while their lives appear very much in similar vain to that of the average working class family, she genuinely believes she is not Working Class. This conflict between the two remains throughout, and while although this causes tension between the two-way of thoughts, they are less hostile, more just ways of thinking. In reality they are two very different people and share no real commonality in belief. This continues further when Raymond grows up, starts acting more like a teenager, a rebel against the old-fashioned views and respects. This causes Ethel to look at her son differently as he changes like a changed world, growing his hair out, not looking for a normal ‘job’, going down a different route, not buying a ‘house’ and of course not being able to provide her with a grandchild. It really shows the change in respects over time as though back when they were young; Raymond’s choices would not have stood up to anyone, but now the world is more free it goes against those older respects and really delivers home in a very presentable and obvious way the difference between the old and young generations.

ethel-and-ernest-cast

Being based on the works of Raymond Briggs, the film strives to present its artwork and look in the same style as his book and his personal drawing style. The film looks very traditional in its animation, although shows some points where it nearly leaps off the page. It is 3D shaded but not flat 2D either. The animation is very fluid and very detailed, and within a few seconds really draws your attention in as it’s nice and clear but also very fun in presenting its information as well as world and characters. One thing thought that really stood out for me though was how it used 2 different styles of artwork to portray life and death. You see, when the film is playing, all the images are nice and colourful, nice and bright, as if to show their life and how easily they just jump off from the page. But then as the film continues, when it presents a moment of death, the style changes; while it still carries all other forms of life in the same style, death is a more static, 2D image, that is very detailed still, but the life is completely withdrawn, like they who they once were is gone and the body; like the drawing, has no life.

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Ethel and Ernest has an interesting use of music, as for the most part there is pretty much no soundtrack, but that is in to say that one has not really been provided, but not there is no music either. No, instead the film uses a lot of old-fashioned and well known pieces from respected composers of the time using popular music of the current time the story is in. One piece though that has sort of been used as a standing point of at least some form of a soundtrack is that of a piece by Paul McCartney called In the Blink of an Eye. I am not really all that a fan of McCartney, but this piece of music is a nicely fitting piece. It sounds very progressive in its tune and presents other animations to mind as they pop into your brain. It sounds very British and really helps to create a vision of the passage of time in British lands and fits nicely with the images of this film. It’s progressive but also retrospective and just nicely fits in there as when the credits roll on they show how beautiful a life it was for Ethel and Ernest and really how well it was lived.

Ethel and Ernest really is such a pleasant film. It tells a nice story of an average family, not an average family who happened to be spies or anything spectacular on an action like scale, just an ordinary family living a pretty ordinary life. It tells a story of the inner conflicts and opinions of married life, plus also tells a story of Britain and the changing of attitudes and respects with the passing of time. It is nicely animated showing stark contrasts between life and death, creating some really humorous moments and at the same time bringing to life and telling the real life biography of two amazing people. Ethel and Ernest is a real family drama and a really pleasant film to watch, easily a future classic, one that families can (and probably will) continue to enjoy watching with one another in years to come.

GENEPOOL





I Think The Word PPI Should Be Banned, Who’s With Me?

30 11 2016

Dial Phone

Unless you have no TV, Phone, Email Account, Facebook, Twitter, Video Games Console, Front Door, House, Windows, Friends and Never go outside; then it may be possible that you have never heard of PPI. PPI (of course) stands for Payment Protection Insurance and is according to Wikipedia: “An insurance product that enables consumers to insure repayment of credit if the borrower dies, becomes ill or disabled, loses a job, or faces other circumstances that may prevent them from earning income to service the debt. It is not to be confused with income protection insurance, which is not specific to a debt but covers any income.” Well since about roughly 3 years ago (if not more), rumours spread that banks and loan company’s might have miss-sold it to their customers, and there was an opportunity for those who were miss-sold it to reclaim it. That was great news if you were miss-sold as it meant that you could reclaim money. Being sure is very important in these circumstances, and you would prefer to have a definitive yes or no, and if it was the case that you were miss-sold money and be given the opportunity to have that money returned to you, you would jump on it. On the opposite side of the coin, if you knew for a fact that the answer was originally No to the question “have you ever been miss-sold PPI?” then you would be happy as it would confirm that you have not necessarily lost money either. When it comes down to those who found out the answer was ‘Yes’ however; they needed to be given the opportunity and service to reclaim that money. However for those who found out that the answer was indeed ‘No’, then you would think that they would just be left alone to get on with their lives, not be talked down to by TV Adverts or be phoned round the clock by harassment agents belonging to call centres for 3 flipping years.

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Ever since the word PPI made it onto the streets of the UK (if not the world), agencies were set up to try and ‘help’ you get your money back, (possibly for a cut of the returns) if you were one of those people who was genuinely miss-sold PPI, however for those of us who weren’t, we were still included in the seasonal fun of asking if we had. It’s nice to see some inclusion from these agencies for once, but after the number of times they have asked, told them that I hadn’t or that I was not interested, they still keep calling back. Now it is probably down to some kind of automated machine which brings up my house number for some lone drone to then ring me, but after 3+ years of being given the opportunity for any PPI to be refunded, you’d think everyone would have received it by now wouldn’t you? But supposedly the answer is No, and so they continue to ring up and ask to the point where they must be committing Harassment by now. It’s for this reason that I think the word (or at least those 3 letters of the three words in that order that make up those 3 letters in that order) PPI should be banned! These companies have now had plenty of time to find and return the money miss-sold, and now it’s time for this whole affair to end!

TV

Now there is one thing of course that could be a problem if it were to stop, and that is those poor people; who have been employed to ask everyone else, would be unemployed as a result. Alternatively, if they were allowed to spread their wings and be given an opportunity to go find other work, then they would be able to learn and maintain real skills and achieve proper prospects for themselves (more at least than they must be getting right now ). It’s a win for everyone: we stop getting harassed, and people in a slum of a job right now get a chance at far greater work opportunities. We of course still need to give those who may still be waiting (if any by now) to receive their money back, but I think the sooner the better. I was thinking maybe around March 2017. You know, these companies would then be given some time to have a proper hard go at their supposed job, but then come the first second of April 2017, they would have stop outright, and the term PPI would be banned, and any use of it down the phone could see the charging of a hefty fine (if not a Prison Sentence). Then we can get on with our lives and be safe in the knowledge that nobody will call us regarding our current PPI Status or be ruining TV with the use of that word either. Now if it was the case that some people still had money to reclaim, then in that case it should go down to professional investigators whose soul task it would be to do a proper professional audit trail and reward it justly (like the people on Heir Hunters), not harassingly. If by the end of that, there is still money to claim, but no one to claim it, then why not spend it on giving free ice cream to the people of the UK (not those who work at reclaim PPI companies, they don’t deserve it), and then we can get on with our lives. Now I realise of course that I have no real power to ban the letters or word PPI, and it will take some form of petition and act of government to achieve this, but as an idea, do you agree? Alternatively however, we could find other uses for the Letters PPI, maybe some kind of whimsically funny pun on something else, and then if that were to work; every time one of these people phoned up and said PPI, then we could just laugh at the funny lettering, and get some level of Joy from PPI instead? What do you think?

GENEPOOL





North And South

16 04 2016

Great British Flag

Milking the cow,

Reaping the grain,

But for why I don’t know how,

I continue with this strain.

Not enough money,

To feed my family,

If circumstances could differ,

Behind a desk I would prefer.

GENEPOOL








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