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Not very me

I bought some new shoes the other day, it took absolutely ages to find some I liked,  and even when I was walking away I wasn’t 100% about them. I got home, took out my new purchase (looking for some validation or confirmation about them) and my wife said that they were not very me. Why not? Yes, they are very different to my usual trainers, I admitted. I then decided on the only logical course of action.
Taking them back.

So what does my style mean? I don’t mean in a fashion sense, or even in an identity way. Why have I suddenly started buying the same stuff? I think the answer is simple… I haven’t. There was no sudden change, it’s a mixture of the following.

A) Laziness. I have developed my style over many years and via many massive fashion errors (massive). Why bother to try something new when my track record is that bad? I just go into the shop and look for Adidas shell toes or some form of chunky skate shoe, it’s what I’ve done for the last 10 years. I wear band T-shirts and baggy jeans, again something I’ve done for a good few years. It’s just…

B) Comfortable. Not just metaphorically but literally. Have you ever worn a pair of chunky skate shoes? It’s like wearing slippers. I also like to associate myself with great bands that I love to listen to, it’s what I do. Or maybe…

C) I’m unable to process anything new. I think Homer said it best,
“Every time I learn something new, it pushes something old out of my brain.”
I quite like what’s in my brain thanks, no need for a remake.

Does having a style mean you are one of a kind? Individual? Unique? I thought so when I purchased my new phone cover. It made the back of my iPhone look like a Gameboy. I went to the pub, proudly put it on the table and waited for the wonderful comments congratulating me on an awesome choice. What I got was my friend Rob pulling out his phone and waving the exact same cover at me, proving that I am not as individual as I would like to believe. I can also guarantee that most of my friends from home own a grey hoodie (as do I) and skate shoes. Myself and Rob even have the same hat preferences!

I wonder if I look like an old guy to the kids, if they look at me the same way I looked at the man in the denim jacket with band patches sewn on them? And do I, like that rock dude, care that much about it? Has my style defined my age or is my age defining my style?

heavy metal denim jackets

The other side of the coin would be what I would look like if I was 30 and followed every trend? Would that be better or worse? Would I be the guy in the room trying desperately to fit in? Hey kids, I’m one of you!

My main concern though is this… Will they still make my style of clothes and shoes in 20 years time? Will Marks and Spencer stock Etnes or DC’s? Will I be wearing baggy jeans with an elasticated waist band. Will I care by then?

Enjoy your weekend. I’m off to take my trainers back.

They are not very me.

Lots of questions this week.  Send any answers on a postcard to http://www.andrewauthor.com

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Sequels, Remakes and Trilogies part III

Episode 3: the recycling of the film

The remake. I feel like I need to get a few things straight before I dive in. There is a film I must leave at the door and not mention again. To do so would make me swear (something I do very often but have tried not to do on this blog). It is a film that I loved as a child which had the ever awesome Gene Wilder as the star. Willie Wonka and the chocolate factory (1971) was remade horrifically. Even worse than that, it was done by a director I love and a star whose acting I admire. I will just leave it there.

The Italian job is a tough one for me. The original film is iconic in both its stars and script. It is one of those films that have seeped into everyday language with sayings that are very recognisable as having come from the film. I watched the original as a kid and loved the car chases and action. As an adult I still love those things but the dialogue is clever and witty and has further endeared the film to me. The new version is a pretty good film but lacks a certain something, certain flair, a leading man that is both charismatic and funny. If the new film had not been called the Italian job then I think I may have liked it more. Having said that, if it hadn’t been called the Italian job then people would have called it an Italian job rip off. Lose, lose I suppose.

Ocean’s eleven, what a great film. The remake I mean, not the original. The original was way before my time but I can see it has certain charms. You can tell that the people on screen are friends and that the story is meant to show off this chemistry. The new film needed to have a cast capable of standing up to rat pack comparisons, and it didn’t disappoint. Even the bit part players are Hollywood openers! I think though for me, the best part of the film is its intelligence. It’s increasingly hard to make a good heist film with all the casino technology in place, being able to get past it seems increasingly impossible. Not only did this film manage that, it did it in a way that was believable.

The remake of the remake.

The incredible hulk

I caught the original Hulk the other day (the 80’s one starring Lou Ferrigno) and found that when Bruce Banner turned into the Hulk it was pretty scary. In fact it was very scary. I then took a look at the remake, then the remake of the remake. The CGI is not very scary at all. I am unsure as to whether this is because I know its CGI or whether the original Hulk actually grabbed people by the throat and had to coordinate stunts. The last Hulk was impossibly big, didn’t move right and just looked plastic. The new films for me went on too long, had very weak storylines and the last one had a leading man who was neither big enough nor believable enough to be an action star.

I really hope this reboot craze stops with the new new Spiderman. It seems that ignoring the previous film has the advantage of being able to do whatever you like and start again. The problem is this: if the film was made badly then maybe it’s the premise that’s flawed, not the previous actors or directors. Most cartoons are best as just that. It takes a special kind of superhero to become a movie star.

My overall feeling about the remake is this.

1) If it aint broke, don’t fix it

2) Leave it alone for 30 years plus before a remake is even considered

3) Don’t re remake it. If it didn’t work once or twice, third time is unlikely to be a charm.

Take heed Hollywood, and tremble at the ravings of a 30 something semi popular children’s writer.

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Sequels, Remakes and Trilogies. Part II

The film of the series (not the snappiest of titles).

You have to do an amazing job to be in with a chance of appealing to the original fans of the show, either that or go down the star trek route of actually having the actors from the series play the film roles. It worked well with both the original star trek and the next generation. As a real Trekkie (can’t believe that just got spell checked to a capital letter), I loved the films. Having William Shatner and Patrick Stewart on the same screen at the same time? Yes, yes oh yes. The same thing happened with firefly and the film version serenity (well worth a look) and the sex and the city films (not my cup of tea but the Mrs. loves em). They are recognisable characters playing recognisable parts and they work. Well, with the exception of the Simpsons movie. That was a real doh.


The problem comes when you transfer a TV show (especially a cult classic one) to film with a new cast. Basically, you can’t replace Mr T, Hannibal, Face or Murdock. Not if you want to tap into the original market anyway. I’m not saying the A-team film was awful; it wasn’t very good either though. I think the main reason was the original actors were those characters. Mr T is BA Baracus. I find the same with the avengers and the saint, and don’t even get me started on the new star trek film!

There is evidence that it can work though. Look at the Batman franchise. I loved the Adam West show, I loved the Tim Burton films (not any of the others though, why Arnie? Why?), I love the new incarnation. I think they are all sufficiently different, and no one actor really owns the role. There is no Mr T in batman (neither literally nor metaphorically).

I will finish with my 2 favourite TV show to films. It also strike me that it may well be because they started as sketch shows.

The Muppet show: I loved the Muppets as a kid and love the first Muppet movie. They took a sketch show of believable characters (albeit puppets) and showed us what they were like when they weren’t on the show. The plot is thin, the acting is hammy (terrible pun, sorry miss piggy) and you can see wires coming out of their arms. This to me though adds to the charm.

Monty pythons flying circus: An amazing TV show with a string of amazing films. The show and films are my dad’s era really, but I think they are timeless. My favourite of the lot has to be the life of Brian, if only because of the outrage of the religious community.

That’s it for episode 2: the return of the over opinionated bloggist.

Episode 3 promises the remake and the remake of the remake. I’m going down the Godfather route though (not making it rubbish, hopefully) and leaving a gap between parts 1 and 2 and part 3. Until next week.

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Sequels, Remakes and Trilogies. Part I

Seeing as this is, in part, about trilogies I thought I would do it in 3 parts. Which will be the best? Will part 3 come years after part 2? Will it have a prequel blog? Will I re do it in a few years? Will I just get on with it? Ok, here goes…

Episode 1: the Blogfather

I shall start with the Godfather. As I have said before, I came late to the godfather trilogy. It’s one of those films where the critics said you either love it or you haven’t seen it. I agree wholeheartedly. Part 1 is great, part 2 is epic, part 3 is duck suckingly bad. What happens with these great film makers? Too much time on their hands to write? Mellowed by old age? Just need the money? Part 3 could have been great. Instead you have a story of priests, borderline incest and a really dodgy hair cut. And In the end, it’s the fall from the chair that kills this great character. People may say its old age, heart attack, an aneurism. I like to think he has just realised what a pile of poo he had made and fell to his inevitable, but timely, demise. Shame on you Al Pacino. Check out the end of part 3 and you’ll see what I mean, very funny.  (Cheers John and Nick for pointing that out).

Back to the future is much the same. 1 and 2 fit so well together and have that rare quality of being able to be followed by everyone, while at the same

time making you feel smart for being able to follow it. It has hoverboards, skateboards, a cool car, outstanding music and is very funny.

Part 3? A western that is not a western. No car, no skateboards, no Hewie Lewis and the news. No thank you very much. It’s not an awful film but it has no place in the trilogy.

Two trilogies that (in my opinion) don’t feel like they have add-ons.

Star wars: my dad told me (I sound about 10 years old starting with that) that when ‘return of the Jedi’ was released that some people had the same disdain for the Ewoks that I have for Jar Jar Binks. I find this odd. I loved the Ewoks, I wanted to be Wicket! The point is that the 3rd in the trilogy was not as widely loved as the first 2. I think all the original films are awesome, but then I was very young when I first saw them. The same can be said to be true for the kids I teach and the prequel trilogy. One of them once said to me that the original trilogy was old and boring. All I could do was stand there, dumbstruck and confused, and mumble something about the youth of today. Either way, the films all have a flow from the first scene of episode 4 to the last of episode 6.


Lord of the rings: the first of these was a bit dull. I loved it (the whole trilogy) but even I struggled with the extended version of ‘the fellowship of the ring’. Unlike other trilogies though, they get better. Yes, I know it was Tolkien’s writing, that the books are amazing and that they were always gonna be great. I suppose that I was primed to like them, being a uber geek as I am. It is the only trilogy I can think of (and am open to suggestions of others) that ends better than it starts. Not that the middle one is the best, the last one is.

Thanks for watching (reading) part 1. In part 2, the film of the series. I pity the fool who misses it, unless you have something better to do. Then that’s OK by me.

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Defined by a decade (or dance like my dad)

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I love the 90’s! Sounds like a bad album title, but it’s a statement I stand by. I have recently been listening to a 90’s radio station and have realised a few things… Firstly, I love music of the 90’s. Secondly, songs I didn’t like at the time are now songs I sing along to (am I mellowing or am I just happy to have remembered the lyrics?). Thirdly, I find myself dancing around with my 2 year old whilst singing (with him shouting “no daddy”) at the top of my lungs. And yes folks, I am dancing like my dad. I’m not saying its all good. I do remember some of the horror of the 90’s, simply red for example

When I was growing up, I found that my dad seemed to be stuck in a certain period of music. He loved the late 70’s and early 80’s, his decade was 75 to 85. To be fair though, it was a pretty good time for music. A bit of style council (shout to the top), a litttle squeeze (tempted) and a lot of Luther Vandross. I love this period in music, its not mine but it’s good. My dads top 5 are as follows…

Paul Simon – diamonds on the soles of her shoes.

Luther Vandross – stop to love

Paul Young – wherever I lay my hat

Frankie goes to Hollywood – relax

Eurythmics – sweet dreams

My point is this: I am not so much stuck in the 90’s (I own a great deal of music from the last 2 decades) as I am defined by it. You get to a point where all the music that comes after it just doesn’t seem as good, when you start to say things like “what’s this rubbish?” or “they just sound like they’re ripping off such and such”. I used to hate it when my dad said that to me but now I understand a little better.

So for what it is worth, and in true hi fidelity style, here are my own personal top 5 tracks of the 90’s…

Smashing pumpkins- today.
I loved and love the pumpkins. The fact the Billy Corgan is a terrible singer just makes you love em more. A real marmite band.

Red hot chilli peppers- under the bridge.
This song is even better when you know the story behind it. If ever you want a good rock and roll story read ‘scar tissue’. Awesome book.

Placebo – nancy boy.
I really wanted to be part of this band, skinny dudes with make up and odd hair. This was a great jumping round you room song.

Ocean colour scene- the day we caught the train.
Being in a club, under age, drinking newcastle brown and shouting the lyrics. Good times.

Blind melon- no rain.
I liked a girl in a band that covered it. Very shallow but a great song.

I have kept my top 5 main stream and free from rap and dance. I could have included so much more such as groove is in the heart, u can’t touch this and a certain shade of green.

I would love to know your top 5 as I am keen to see if I have missed any obvious ones. My list is open to change and I reserve the right to be wrong.

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I’m with the band.

I’m not really. To be completely honest I never have been. I used to dream of being a famous rock star or heavy metal singer, I wouldn’t let anything stand in my way. The only problem was that I couldn’t (and still cant) sing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally tone deaf but I know that I am no Freddie Mercury or Prince. Many years ago (more than I would like to admit) I decided to give it a go. I was a typical drummer, hidden at the back, good at my job and never noticed because of it. I  was in a band fronted by my girlfriend at the time and, although she could carry a tune, she was not that great. I decided that if she could do it then so could I (that coupled with the fact that we had split up) and so I stepped out of the shadows and into the light. Now, although she was not a great singer, she did have something that I  didn’t…looks. I was a long haired Jay Kay (singer from Jamiroquai) wannabe. Not ugly, not good looking enough to sing the way I did and get away with it.

Why did I want to be a rock star? List time me thinks…

1) Free stuff. I wanted free clothes, food, drink but most of all I wanted free trainers. I wanted the worlds biggest collection of Adidas shell-toe trainers. I loved, and still love Adidas trainers. I had dreams of being sent pairs of trainers I hadn’t even ordered, prototypes, exclusive and of course having my very own pair made, Micheal Jordan style

2) No work. No job, playing music all the time, millions of pounds. Yes please.

3) Fans. I wanted to be adored by millions of fans. I had also just split up with my girlfriend so I wanted her to see me being adored by millions of fans (the female ‘come backstage’ kind). I wanted to go on stage, utter one word, and have the crowd screaming my name. My name, not the name of the band.

4) Not selling out. I was convinced that every band I ever listened to at that age sold out. The fact was that they got a bit older, mellowed out a bit and decided to go in a different direction. To me though it was as if they had taken my favourite pair of Adidas trainers and done a big number two in them.

We didn’t do bad as a band and even had a couple of gigs in London at respectable venues. To be honest, I was just glad to have 4 people who believed that I could sing enough to write and perform with me. Some of my friends who I used to play with (in various different bands with silly names) are still in bands.

One of them is an Acoustic, Folk, Country style band called splintered man. Follow this link to have a listen. They are truly brilliant.

The second is a metal band. Caution, this may make your ears bleed. To listen to carnage archive follow this link. I love em.

The Last is quite different (but no less brilliant). They are a new type of musical genre, they play drunkabilly – it’s a bit like rockabilly after one too many shandies. To listen to the God damn disasters follow this link. 

As for me? I’ll stick to the writing. Many of my friends and family will be glad to hear this!

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The best and worst Trilogy

What makes a good trilogy? Is it a good idea? is it something that gets better as you watch or read each one? Is it something that is well thought through? I am unsure what makes this magical thing of 3 great things, I can however tell you what makes a bad trilogy. Here are my top 3 bad trilogies.

1) The Godfather. This may surprise some, especially those that know me, but the Godfather trilogy is guilty of committing a terrible, terrible crime. The first Godfather film was amazing, made even more so by the fact I hadn’t seen it until the age of 25. I loved the interwoven story line, the effortless violence and completeness of it all. I loved it. Then came number 2. It was even better than the first and added another great Italian actor into the mix. The dual story lines went extremely well together and the whole ‘how times of changed’ angle was great. Number 3 was s**t. End of story. From such high expectations came a less than mediocre film. Why oh why!

2) Back to the Future (although the illustrator of the Squidge series disagrees). The first 2 films were interwoven so well that you couldn’t just stop at the first, although it dies stand alone very well. The ideas behind it, the great acting, and the fact that it makes you feel smarter than you are by being able to follow it. It hits all the right notes. Number 3 though, oh dear. It is all the things a western shouldn’t be and it really feels tacked on to the end as a money spinner. A flying steam-powered train? Really?

3) The Matrix. What a concept. seriously, what a concept. The real world isn’t the real world, the real world is a desolate waste land. Only one (the one) can save man kind. WOW. I walked out of the matrix thinking ‘how will they ever follow that up?’ The answer? Badly. I think that the idea of Zion was a very bad one, as did many other people. So much so that you can watch the Matrix de-zionised. check out U-tube. 

So then, to the best 3. Trilogies that I love.

1) Star Wars. It’s Star Wars, what else do you need? And yes, I am ignoring the prequels. Mr Lucas was given the green light on one film, even though he had 6 (or 9 if you believe certain quarters) he chose to start at number 4. He basically went for the best one for commercial viability. It gets better with both Empire and Jedi.

2) Lord of the Rings. Either the books or the films, I’m not fussy which. All films and books are wonderful, clever, linked and, as with all great stories, a tale of good versus evil. Now some people think they are a bit long and others liked them enough to buy the extended version. Guess which one I was! I would quite happily spend an entire day of my life watching back to back extended films. I have already done it with the 7 star wars films (I included the clone wars animated film).

3) Squidge: Little elf, Little bear. Ok, Ok, I admit it may not be the greatest of trilogies but it is close to my heart. It’s the story of an elf, a bear, some lemmings and a wolf pack. It was really fun to write, lets hope it is as fun to read.

Squidge: little elf, little bear.

That’s it from me. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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A piece of cake

April is my friend. April the person, not April the month (all though I quite like that too).  A very simple statement, but one that took a lot of thinking about. It’s not that I had to think about whether or not I like April. She is a very lovely lady who I have never heard say a bad word about anyone. Even further than that really, as she always seems to find the positive. If I say that someone is a horrid person she will respond with a ‘yeah I suppose,  but maybe they were just having a bad day’ or ‘maybe they would be nicer if…’
A very wonderful quality that I most certainly don’t possess.

It’s  just that she was my friends girlfriend for a while before she became my friend as well.  Let me try to explain what I mean, in list form of course.

1) up to 1 month. You meet the person once or twice and have a very quick ‘aren’t they nice’ or ‘what the hell is he doin with her?’ if you get the first comment then phase 2 comes in

2) 1 month to 6 months. How do they get on with your partner? You rely on the judgement and opinions of the significant other in your life because, let’s face it, you chat with your mate and leave the girls to it. Sexist? You bet. I didn’t make the rules though.

3) 6 months to 1 year. You end up in a one on one conversation with them. This may have happened before but this conversation is much longer. Do you have much to talk about other than your mate, their boyfriend. If so then that leads us to…

4)1 year and on.  would you meet them for a coffee/drink, email/text them or chat on the phone with them without you, them or your respective partners thinking it is a bit weird or odd or awkward?

If you can get through all of these, and April and I have, then you can call them YOUR friend and not ‘my friends girlfriend/wife’.  So yes, April is my friend.

Anyway, on to the real reason for chatting about my friend April. She is an author. She has a book. You can buy it on amazon and in various good bookshops. April is a cake magician.

I don’t mean that she makes cakes disappear , quite the opposite in fact. April makes cake pops. She takes a piece of chocolate cake, puts it on a stick and then makes it look like anything you want. Bride and groom cake pops, celebrity cake pops, you name it, she can do it. My favourite by far though is the one that looks like a bag of popcorn you get at the cinema. The other great thing about them is that they taste as good as they look.

 

So if you have the time, and if you are so inclined, go check her and her book out.

Top of the cakepops

Aprils website

 

 

 

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School trippin

Going on a school trip is a lot like childbirth. Bear with me here and I will explain. The school trip, like having a child, involves planning, anticipation, worry, lots of information, a risk assessment,  but above all else, the ability to forget the pain.

If you speak to a woman just after child birth they can’t even think about doing it again. And yet, we don’t have a nation of single child families. After a couple of weeks the pain subsides, the memory fades, and you are left with a wonderful feeling.

With the school trip, you ask a teacher who has just returned how it went and they will tell you that the are exhausted, that they didn’t get a break, and that they will never take that bunch of little terrors out again. A couple of weeks pass and the kids talk about the trip with fond memories, remembering facts and information that you have forgotten. It’s one of those ‘why I became a teacher’ moments. The making a difference in society kind of thing. So you start to think about the next trip and the cycle starts again.

Now I’m not silly enough to believe a link much past my silliness, but the thought tickled me.

So, our class trip was a huge success. The kids loved the interactive elements as well as the reading and thinking parts. I would have to say that it was one of the best I have been on. Here is why (bring on the list) …

1) the journey was pretty short and on the  DLR (docklands light railway). This was fantastic as they had plenty to look at.

2) no parents(we took student teachers). I have been in classes where the parents come along and they might as well bring a massive bag of cotton wool to wrap the kids in. “it’s raining, he might get sick”, “such and such called my daughter a name”. They also spend a fortune on their child in the gift shop, even though the other kids have been told to bring a maximum of £2.00.  Which brings me onto…

3) we avoided the gift shop. Children spending half an hour trying to decide if they want to buy an overpriced pencil, eraser or badge. All being followed around by a security guard, ready to pounce on any dangerous 10 year old pen thieves.

4) we had lunch early. This meant that no child had the chance to ask when lunch was or moan constantly about being starving. Something about having a pack lunch on your person seems to do this.

So, a good school trip with a large class, 4 trained staff members and a fun time had by all.

We even managed to ‘deliver’ all the children back to school safely. The mums will be happy!

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Bestselling Author?

Strange as it may seem, and odd as it may feel, I am charting in both IBooks and Amazon Kindle and actually selling my books.

Let explain the oddness of this. Last year I had 1 book out, a publisher, an editor and an illustrator. This to me was odd. How could I, a hyperactive teacher, have all of these things? The book did really well, but that, I told myself, was because we were giving it away. Still, it did 50,000 or so and I felt a real pride of accomplishment.

Fast forward to this year. I was out with the lads yesterday (a very stereotypical gathering of men whose wives, girlfriends etc… had gone to a baby shower) and they asked me how the book was doing. A very simple question, but I froze in answering. What I should have done is go on a 10 minute sales pitch about the http://www.squidgeelf.com, or this website with all the links to the books, the kind of ‘tell all your friends and tell them all to tell their friends’ thing, but I didn’t. I told them that it was doing well, asked if they had read it, answered any questions, and left it there.

I think that because the book is selling, because it seems to be doing well, and because they are my mates from way back when, I was worried about sounding a little up my own backside!

I am very proud of what I and the proving house team have done but I do find it difficult to see myself as an author.

Andrew Thomas

Author?

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