Oct 13

Top five banned TV Episodes

Does anyone else remember Dick and Dom, in particular Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow? It was a wacky British children’s show in which five children (called Bunglowheads) and one celebrity would enter Dick and Dom’s Bungalow, play stupid games and get gunged. In particular does anyone remember Charlie’s infamous phone call to the Bungalow?

This clip perfectly captures and anarchy that was the show. Although the duo were in trouble several times, for example one game involved gambling on real human babies, the show was never pulled from air. Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow ended of it’s own accord in 2006. None of the over two hundred episodes were ever pulled from circulation and both Dick (Richard McCourt) and Dom (Dominic Wood) have moved on to other projects.

So why do I bring this up? Well, I was reading in the garden the other day and I remembered that several years ago I wrote a list of top five banned novels and I realised that could also make an interesting list of top five banned TV episodes. After I found examples of banned TV episodes, narrowed them down to five and wrote the article I realised that I hadn’t written a post of top five five banned books. I’d written a list of five controversial novels. That’s close, though!

You can read that article by clicking here.

But I’ve written an article about banned TV episodes and despite my expectations Dick and Dom are not on the list but they are definitely worth checking out.

So… here are my top five banned TV episodes. Enjoy!

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Sep 30

Spitfire review: SAS Who Dares Wins

This Spitfire review is a little different to the others. Instead of reviewing one book I’ll be reviewing five, all of which are military themed. So this is a Spitfire Squadron review….

Despite the fact that my father used in the British Military and I loved playing games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield during my youth, it comes as no surprise to anyone when I say that I am not a violent person. I’ve had one physical fight in my life and the nearest I’ve come to enjoying violence is watching action scenes on TV.

Yet I’ve really enjoyed watching SAS: Who Dares Wins on Channel Four. In case you’re unfamiliar with the program four former SAS operatives (Ant Middleton, Jason Fox, Ollie Ollerton and Colin Maclachlan) take thirty members of the British public and put them on an SAS training course. The aim of the program is to raise awareness of the SAS without giving away their secrets and to push the participants to their limits. So far there have been four series including one celebrity special and most of the cast involved have published their own autobiographies about their past. As I’ve just seen Ant Middleton live (which I’ll talk about below) and I have read all of the cast’s books I thought I’ll give them a joint review.

SAS

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Sep 08

Camden Fringe review 2019

I love the Camden Fringe Festival. It’s cheaper than the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it’s local (for me) and I always see high calibre shows. This year was no exception. Although I booked myself into nine shows, due to work commitments, I was only able to attend four. So to the five shows I booked but didn’t see, I’m sorry. I’m sure you were brilliant. The four shows I did watch were spectacular, I would even say they are among the best I’ve seen at the Camden Fringe.

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Sep 01

One year anniversary: Empty Nights

When I woke up this morning I discovered an interesting notification on my Facebook account.

One year ago today, your video “Empty Nights Launch” was published.

A year ago today I published my first novel, Empty Nights. It’s hard to believe that an whole year as past since that day. The date, September 1st 2018, will forever be engraved into my mind but the one year anniversary snuck up on me. I have various things happening in my life at the moment, different work commitments and family events, so it was a nice surprised when I read my notification this morning.

I can remember the months before the launch. I’d spent all of January – July going back and forth with editors, illustrators and publishers ironing out details and addressing any changes. I launched a vicious marketing campaign in August that consisted of making YouTube videos, being interviewed in my local newspaper, reading the opening chapter to a live audience and most notably making a Facebook Live video in which I shared the amazon link to the novel.

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If you’re wondering what I did after Empty Nights the answer is recover. I spent the rest of September 2018 relaxing and although I did plan to end this break in January 2019, I’d returned to the blank page by the end of the month. I spent the rest of the year buzzing with pride, the same pride and adrenaline I feel whenever I talk about my novel. The adrenaline I’m feeling now, as I’m typing this.

The point of this post is to mark my book’s birthday and to say thank you. If you’ve brought a copy of my book, thank you. If you left me a kind review online,  thank you. If you’ve supported me on this journey, thank you.

I wouldn’t be where I am now without you.

Of course, if you have yet to order your copy of Empty Nights you can do so by clicking anywhere in this sentence. You can also ask me in person and receive a signed copy. I won’t mind!

Normal service will resume on this website next Sunday.

 

Aug 25

Review/Interview: Gup the Sailer and the Devil to Pay by Jenai M. Marek

Hello all,

When I published Empty Nights last year I published with an Indi publishing company called MommaShark Press which was founded by Jenai M. Marek. I’ve also worked with Jenai on the Write Up Our Alley YouTube channel which can be found in the tabs above. Jenai has just released her second novel in the Gup the Sailor series, Gup the Sailor and the Devil to Pay, which I read whilst on holiday and I asked her if she wouldn’t mind doing an interview on my website.

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Aug 11

Spitfire Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe

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I love Shakespeare’s Globe. I used to think that watching a performance at the Globe would be akin to watching a Shakespearean play when it was first performed. After doing some research I discovered that all of the female parts would be played by men in drag, the audience would have thrown food onstage if they were bored and the whole place must have stank. So… perhaps I’m better off watching the plays with the benefits of modern life, even if the plays aren’t, necessary, traditional performances.

Two weeks ago I watched A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies and also one of his most controversial  plays. In case you didn’t study the play at school, the plot follows four lovers Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius and Helena  caught in a love square with each other. They flee into the woods the same night that a troop of actors are practising a play for the Duke of Athen’s wedding. Both groups encounter fairies, become bewitched, the lovers fall in love with the wrong partner and one of the actors is turned into a donkey. At the end of the play everything is returned to normal, the lovers marry and the play the actor performs, despite being awful, is met with praise. ( I’m condensing.)

We don’t know when the play was written  but experts believe it was first performed in 1595 or 1596. The play may have been written for a special occasion such as the wedding of Lady Berkley or the feast day of St John although this is just speculation. Although the inspiration of the play is unknown it is worth noting that Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale” is often credited as an inspiration and Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe (which also serves as a direct inspiration for Romeo and Juliet) is performed within the play. It seems Shakespeare was influenced by the tales of Greek Mythology as the Duke of Athens, Theseus, is same Theseus who slew the minotaur.

Throughout history the play has been praised and criticised for a variety of different reasons based on the cultural tastes of the time. Samuel Pepys described the play as “the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life” while other critics thought that because fairies didn’t exist, they shouldn’t be portrayed in plays. James Halliwell-Phillipps, wrote in the 1840s, that he found many inconsistencies in the play ( I didn’t spot any) but considered it a most beautiful play none the less. Modern audiences are much more forgiving, while other Shakespeare plays such as Much Ado About Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew have failed to age well not, Midsummer is still as popular as ever.

Although every show I’ve seen at Shakespeare’s Globe has been amazing, I think this was one of the best. As the audience took their seats a warm up band played on stage and  invited children up to hit a piñata. When the show started the band played in Theseus’ court and assisted the characters by playing romantic music to suit the moment. Due to the wide cast of characters every actor had to take on multiple roles, this meant changing from their human outfit into their fairy outfit, complete with psychedelic colours, within moments.

The best part of the show was Justin. When the troop of actors, called the mechanicals, were rehearsing in their first scene they realised that they were one cast member short. So they picked someone from the audience in the pits (the pits being the standing area before the stage) to join them. My first thought when I realised their plan was Thank God it isn’t me! At the same time… it must be quite exciting to say you’ve done an impromptu performed at Shakespeare’s Globe. The cast members lead him around the stage, spoon fed him his lines and took a selfie with him on stage! I have searched for this selfie online but so far it hasn’t surfaced.

I think that this performance of Midsummer’s Night’s Dream is one of the best performances I’ve seen at Shakespeare’s Globe, on par with Romeo and Juliet. Well done to the cast and crew.

Ten piñatas out of ten!

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Aug 04

Spitfire Review: The Lion King

Hello everyone.

As I’m sure many of you have noticed, Disney are re-releasing many of their old classics as live action films. In this year alone they have released Dumbo, Aladdin and The Lion King with Maleficent 2 coming out later this year. The most recent of these films, and I think the film everyone is the most excited for, is The Lion King. When Disney announced they were making a remake of The Lion King fans were apprehensive. The Lion King was one of Disney’s most successful films of the Disney Renaissance era (1989 – 1999), is cherished by fans and is considered cult classic. Although Dumbo had received positive reviews, fans were worried that the remake would tarnish The Lion King’s legacy.

(Spoiler alert from this point onwards)

Before I give you my thoughts on the film I want to look at how the original Lion King, the 1994 version, came to be. It may be wrong to call the 1994 version an original as most audiences were already familiar with the plot. The Lion King shares the same plot as Shakespeare’s Hamlet. A young prince is exiled from his kingdom, a father is betrayed and murdered by an uncle. The same uncle is later killed by the protagonist and both protagonists have two strong male companions and a childhood crush who becomes a love interest.

Some critics of Disney have have accused the company of ripping of Kimba the White Lion, a Japanese Magna series.  Have a look at the comparison shots below.

Although there is a strong case to be made, some of Lion King’s shots are clearly swiped from Kimba and the names Kimba and Simba are only one syllable apart, I don’t think anyone could win in a legal battle with Disney.

If I had to describe the 2019 Lion King film in a single word I would say “Majestic”. As you can see from the trailer above, the physical appearance of most of the characters is astounding. Aside from talking, they could easily almost be mistaken for real animals. In the opening scene of the film, Rafiki sprinkles a liquid on Simba’s fur during a christening like ceremony. The way the liquid spreads unevenly across Sima’s fur, which itself is moving in the breeze, is brilliant and sets the bar for the rest of the film. It becomes obvious, within the first few frames, that the animators have studied different animal’s body language and movements to create a sense of realism.

Although the plot of this film does change slightly from the 1994 version, it is still as powerful, arguably more so. Mufasa’s death is still devastating, young Nala and Simba are adorable and Zazu, Timon and Pumbaa are hilarious (more on the latter two in a moment.) In other cases the film mirrors shots from the 1994 film as a nod to fan.

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It should also be mentioned that Nala, the female lead, is voiced by Beyonce who loans her voice to the film’s soundtrack.

Although The Lion King was bound to attract fans who had grown up with the 1994 version, it’s target audience is primarily families. With this in mind, I was very surprised that the producers added in several jump scares. Although these scares were followed by a joke or played for comedic effect, I still couldn’t help wandering if it was too extreme for younger viewers.

I also questioned the character’s designs, in particular Scar’s and Pumbaa’s. This film was meant to focus on realism but even with that in mind I found myself preferring the 1994’s version.

Pumbaa

Pumbaa

Pumbaa is… ugly. I know that he’s a warthog and he’s meant to be ugly but compared to the other characters he is the odd one out. I also prefer the original voice actors for Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella respectively) but that is just personal preference. I also prefer the original song Be Prepared song by Scar and the hyenas. I thought the new version was lack lustre.

These points don’t, in any way, ruin the film. I think this is the best film I’ve seen this year. I’ll give Lion King 10 pride rocks out of 10.

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In summary, it’s brilliant.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

 

Jul 28

Top five Truth is Stranger than Fiction stories.

Which of these descriptions sounds more realistic?

  1. This creature is horse-like in appearance, with a typically white mane and a horn upon its head.
  2. This creature has a metre long neck and uses its head as a club to attack other animals with.

Number one, right? The description for the first animal is a unicorn and the second is a giraffe.

This is a crude example of the truth being stranger than fiction. This phrase is used when real life events are so bizarre that when they are written down and sent to publishers, they are dismissed as being too unrealistic despite the fact they have actually happened.

Here are five more examples of truth that is stranger than fiction.

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Jul 14

Five misconceptions about popular books

I wrote this website post as a sequel to, what I thought was, an article I published last year. When I searched for that that old article… I hadn’t written it. It was still in draft form and only consisted of two sentences. Oh.

So, here are five misconceptions about popular books! I hope you enjoy.

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Jun 30

Spitfire review: Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition

Hello all,

I’ve recently returned from my holiday in Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.

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While I was topping up my tan between taking swims in the hotel’s pool, I discovered a book that I’d downloaded on my kindle and forgotten about. The journals of Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition. Scott was a British Antarctic explorer who entered a race against the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen to see who could reach the South Pole first. Scott perished on his return journey having lost the race by a month and when news of his death reached Britain the country had an outpouring of grief.  At the time, Scott was treated as a tragic hero but following World War One and after the public’s sense of nationalism had faded, historians began to question some of Scott’s decisions. We know a great deal about Scott’s journey to and from the South Pole because he made very detailed journal entries. These journals were found in Scott’s pocket when he died and the final line has been called the most haunting line in non fiction:

We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity but I do not think I can write more. R. Scott. Last entry. For God’s sake look after our people.

Robert Falcon Scott – March 29 1912.

I’m aware that there is a sense of irony reading about the Antarctic while in the Canaries but the Artic and Antarctic fascinate me. I’ve toyed with the idea of setting a novel in the Antarctic and I’ve even looked into cruises around the continent (which I’ll be able to afford once I’ve published that best seller!) What surprised me, and spurred the idea for this review, was how emotional I became was reading Scott’s letters. You really get a sense of who he was as a person and his letters to his team’s family members informing them of their loved ones approaching deaths is heart breaking. I sheded a tear on the sun bed as I read and it’s not often I find a book with that much power.

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Here are my thoughts on Robert Falcon Scott’s journals.

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