Category Archives: Nostalgia

Five Triple-Oh

I just spent all week slamming plot points onto PowerPoint slides and reshuffling them, attempting to climb out of the plot-related rut in which I’ve found myself.  As a result, I am glad to say the second and final acts have finally fallen right into place.

The first act is still very fuzzy and uncertain, but I doubt it’s going to right itself – or, indeed, write itself – with any amount of further planning at this stage.  It’s reached that point where you’ve just got to scribble out reams of total garbage, then empty the bin and assess which bits can be used for junk modelling.

Therefore, this week I have decided: it is time for a big push forwards.  Over the course of the coming week, I am going to write at least 5,000 words.

That is a fairly high word count for me.  Anyone who recalls some of my old graphs will recall that I tend to write around 600 words per day.  On a roll I’ll pass the 1,000 mark but, at the end of the day, rolling isn’t going to win me the hundred metre sprint.  (I am pleased with that quote.)  I’ll have to be disciplined to make this work, especially with my shockingly limited progress lately.

Still, if I hit the ground running, 5,000 might not be quite enough.  It seems wrong not to drive myself to reach for the stars and see how far I get.  You don’t know if you don’t try, right?

To tackle this issue, I’ll take a leaf from the proverbial book of fellow blogger Jim Franklin, who set out his 2013 year targets as Xbox achievements to complete.  Instead of these, however, I think I’ll give this task a Crash Team Racing theme.

For anyone too young, old or deprived of life meaning to know what I’m talking about, I am referencing the time trial relic races on the Crash Bandicoot racing game, which still stands as one of the best games ever made.  If you haven’t played it, I demand that you buy it for your Playstation 3.  And if you don’t own a Playstation 3, I demand that you buy a Playstation 3 exclusively to have bestowed upon you the honour of having played this game.  Even Chandler and Joey played this game – true story.  So:

 Sapphire relic:
5,000 words

Gold relic:
10,000 words

Platinum relic:
15,000 words

On your marks.  Get set.  Go.

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Once Upon A Time (Yesterday)…

So I wrote a children’s story yesterday.

Pfft, you think you’re surprised.

I really don’t know how children’s stories did not appear on my priorities list.  I really don’t.  It seems so logical now that I think about it.  I like small projects.  I like rhyming.  And I actually rather like children’s poetry and picture books.  I don’t read them when I’m by myself or anything, but when I have the opportunity to read to children I can’t say I don’t enjoy it.  Though, saying that, I did read Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson by myself today and laughed out loud.

It definitely stems from childhood.  My mum is normally an introvert but has always been big on audience inclusion.  She has turned me into a person with absolutely no inhibitions at pantomimes.  I, “He’s behind you!” and, “Oh, yes she did!” with the best of them when all the grown adults around me seem to be wildly out of their comfort zones.

She is also a huge fan of reading children’s books aloud.  It even happened today when I brought a draft of my story downstairs for her to look at.  I didn’t even ask her to do it.  I think she’s actually suffering from withdrawal because my brother’s growing out of it and she’s basically waiting on me to procreate a fresh audience for her.

It’s true that parents need to read to their children.  My mum loves to be dramatic and expressive and animated when she reads.  She always made childhood reading interesting and fun, and now in adulthood I read aloud with the same enthusiasm.  They say narrative voice is important when an author writes a story.  Well when I wrote yesterday, that’s what I heard: my mum’s storytelling voice.

So many people are bashful about it.  They mumble and talk in a monotone and get all self-conscious.  Don’t.  Be like my mum and me and learn to just laugh at yourself a bit.  Because if you do it right – really drop your inhibitions and go for it – you can fuel an interest in the written word for the rest of your children’s lives.


It’s Tekken Me Back

Kids, (my apologies, I’ve watched so many How I Met Your Mothers I’m beginning to think this is the only way to introduce anything) one thing I have neglected to mention to you thus far is that I used to be a humungous Tekken fan.  Tekken 3 was the first demo I ever had that came by itself, rather than in a collection, and it held my ten-year-old brain utterly transfixed.  There I’d sit, endlessly using Eddy Gordo to whomp Paul Phoenix and Forrest Law, resolving to one day purchase it and both of its predecessors and complete the hell out of them.

I took up Taekwondo to be like Hwoarang and am fairly sure the fact that channelling electricity is my desired superpower is attributable to Jin Kazama.  To this day I have the magazine I scored from a kid at primary school showing the connections between all the characters up to Tekken 3.  I cherished it.  It was a soap opera for a tomboy less bothered about who was sleeping with whose mother as much as which entity had consumed whose mother’s soul.

You know, real freakin’ problems.  God.

During my degree I was like, “I could study South Korea. Hwoarang’s from South Korea.” No joke.

Granted, over time my interest dwindled.  I settled into nonchalance when the series suddenly decided the Devil Gene was actually passed down from Jin’s great-grandfather when initially it had been the result of his father’s pact with the (apparently Vimto-flavoured) devil.  I had rolled my eyes when the series created hype around the secret identity of Steve Fox’s dad and then completely forgot to follow it up at all.  I only bought Tekken 6 out of a sense of loyalty to a series which had given me so much enjoyment in the past.  Regardless of how much crack the writers had snorted since then.

“Could we get him in Irn Bru?”

Over the last couple of days, however, I’ve been growing attached to the series again.  I like its simplicity and its campy undertones.  I like hitting things.  I like dressing up totally ripped people in silly hats and staring in laughing bewilderment as I am confronted by random groups of topless miners like I’ve stumbled across an underground gay bar.  I enjoy being weirded out by Unknown wearing only purple goo like a victim of Ivan Ooze in the Power Rangers Movie whilst looking suspiciously – oh, so very suspiciously – like Shannen Doherty.

Jun’s sister, my arse! I mean, look! Is it just me?! Surely it isn’t just me.

It’s soothing somehow, this childhood relic of flashy moves and pretty people.  And it’s made me remember something: I love big casts.  I love them.  I loved Heroes and X-Men and Battlestar Galactica.  I love the edge of absurdity it touches that one simply cannot easily get away with using only a couple of protagonists.  Stupidity and disconnected sagas and cheesy revenge motives.  There just aren’t enough of them around anymore.

And, right now, I’ll admit… I really want to make my own…


The Storydactyl Grows Feathers

Only as the final few rectangles of card fell to the kitchen table did something magnificent occur to me this week.  Something which tickled my organisation glands and caressed my nostalgia nodes.  Oh yes.  Ladies and gentlemen, I have a new process.

You see, recently I have been drawn back to the plot cards I invented a few weeks ago.  To recap, the plot cards are small cards describing story events – however major or minor – which I feel need to go into the plot.  I place the cards into chronological order so I can work out which sequence of events makes the most sense and where every plot point goes – or doesn’t  go.

Anyway, I had come up with some extra little events to add to this collection, so I went ahead and started looting the crafts drawer (I live with a nine-year-old) for some card and scissors.

However, here I faced a harrowing organisation crossroads.  You may recall that I used pink card the first time around.  What I didn’t mention, not least because it has utterly no relevance and can be of interest to nobody but me, is that when I cut out my second set of cards, I cut them on a different shade of pink card by accident.

When I took to the kitchen for my third encardment, therefore, I had a choice.  I could either use one of the previous colours, accepting that one of the sets would be the odd one out, or just go for different colours and be done with it.  I picked the latter option and out came the yellow card.

What I did not immediately realise, however, was the latent novelty of having been, uh… forced to do this.  As I accumulate more and more card sets, I can see which parts of the plot I started with and when and how I have added to this original model.  I can actually look back and see the evolution of my idea.  Check it out!

The dark pink set came first, the light pink set, second, and the yellow, third.  The first set is all towards the end and beginning, which shows how little clue I had about those middling chapters.  It’s really satisfying to see how much I’ve incorporated into that section since then.  Feeling good about it.

So, why is it nostalgic?  Well, in the good old days, the process of defragging one’s computer was a colourful affair.  Not just for a 90s child obsessed with charts and colour-coding, but literally.  There used to be a bar with hundreds of coloured lines in it.  These represented shards of computer files scattered in different locations on the computer.  As the computer reunited the pieces of each file, the strands would reunite into big blocks of the same colour.  Whenever I see my pack of coloured cards in profile, I think of that.

Or a really, really fruity bar code.


Bubble Wrap is for Breakables. Your Child Is Not A Breakable.

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Why a Farthing Wood image? Oh, don't worry. I'll get to it.

Hi, guys!  Sorry for the late update, but work was hectic yesterday and, considering last week was so busy too, I really needed some me-time to lie on the sofa looking in the vague direction of the TV.

To spur me on, though, I’d like to announce a collection of tiny milestones!  I can now celebrate my fifth post, tenth like and twentieth Twitter following.  So, thanks a lot to everybody who has offered support in these early stages.  I really appreciate it.

As for progress?  Ha, progress!  I feel like I went to bed last Wednesday night and woke up this morning to find a load of ugly shaded out squares all over my pretty grid.

Nonetheless, other things were accomplished.  Aside from seeing friends and going to a gig, I also finished watching the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time and finished the first volume of The Hunger Games.

Overall thoughts on The Hunger Games?  It was a decent book for teenagers, and it certainly had enough suspense to keep me reading.  However, certain things did disappoint me a little and I can’t help but feel compelled to bring up one of my (strictly non-spoiler) thoughts here.

Here’s my issue.  Considering its subject matter, The Hunger Games almost completely evaded mentioning gore at all.  People did get injured, at least, and badly at times, but I still felt removed from the action.  Even the deaths of the tributes seemed to receive only brief and cursory mentions.  When people express disappointment that its rating has been reduced to a 12A I am personally surprised it bordered on a 15 for anything other than its overall theme.

At the risk of sounding old, my question is this: doesn’t the media coddle young people a little too much nowadays?  The Hunger Games is a teen or young adult book, isn’t it?  When I was that age, less than ten years ago, I read Point Horror books, and adult novels about grisly murders, hostages and stalkers.  I don’t remember an awful lot about them now, and they didn’t traumatise me at the time.

It was the same when I was a kid.  I watched some pretty grim stuff, all of which was aimed at families and aired on TV with few qualms from broadcasters: the film, Watership Down, for starters.

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No, I wasn't kidding. Here is a close-up. Just in case the kids didn't quite catch it the first time.

The Animals of Farthing Wood was also a popular show, about a group of woodland creatures displaced from their habitat by developers and trying to find a new home together.  Many characters were killed off over its run of three series, and in a variety of different ways.  Pheasants were shot and eaten by farmers.  Toads almost died of dehydration.  Hedgehogs were run over.  Rabbits were strangled with snares.  The baby field mice were snatched by a shrike and impaled on thorns.  Nonetheless, I know many people who watched and enjoyed it as children at the time.

Then there were all the Disneys and Don Bluth movies, none of which were known to pull punches.  An example I’d like to draw here is The Lion King, hailed as a Disney classic and favoured by many of my generation.  That movie dealt with powerful emotions like guilt and grief and facing up to a terrible mistake.  Indeed, it managed such a dramatic death scene it eclipsed even Bambi’s efforts.

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One of the baby rabbits, strangled by a snare. Yes, this show got the BBC seal of approval. Back in the good old days.

Yet what is ironic to me is that, in this day and age, I highly doubt something as critically acclaimed – and as recent – as The Lion King would even be made.  Producers would fear a backlash even though children of this generation, from my understanding, loved the film upon its rerelease in 3D.

Frankly, I find it worrying that so many movies and TV shows are happy to make villains for kids who aren’t scary, and protagonists without any real problems.  Ultimately, entertainment is a child’s first shot at empathy.  If characters have few real emotional challenges, where will this skill be practised or developed?  Who and what will be the objects of their fear if not Darth Vader, Cruella De Vil or Ursula from The Little Mermaid?  Death is also largely avoided, yet where would you rather your child learned about grief first: from The Lion King or from personal experience?

Family entertainment no longer tries to take on more mature themes.  It’s all just slapstick, one-liners and celebrity cameos.  Maybe if we credited our children with the ability to understand complex emotions, and trusted them not be permanently traumatised by a drop of blood onscreen, we might be doing the best for their development in the long-term.