Star Wars – Who Are The Last Jedi?

I’m thrilled by the announcement of the latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi.

Since childhood this saga has held me captive. As a young boy in primary school myself and my friends waited eagerly for the release of The Empire Strikes Back. We’d devoured the first film, then simply referred to as Star Wars, and couldn’t wait for the follow up.

At the time the rumour mill had suggested there would be 9 films in the series of which Star Wars was the 4th.

The prequel trilogy was fun to watch but didn’t much feel like Star Wars, for me. A little too polished perhaps. But with The Force Awakens I leaped right back to my childhood and relished every moment. Strong characters, fantastic action sequences and the promise of some wonderful story-telling with the characters that I’d grown up with.

Whether the last Jedi refers to a single or plural Jedi is mouth wateringly enticing. It’s probably a little too obvious that Rey or Luke should be portrayed as the last of their kind. Perhaps also a little too obvious that Finn should emerge as being force sensitive and play a pivotal Jedi role. I don’t know.

I’d like to think that Kylo Ren’s character mellows somewhat. They went to great lengths to reveal his identity in The Force Awakens and show a vulnerability that is uncharacteristic in ‘bad guys’.

Rey, on the other hand, was a tough cookie throughout. Little is known of her history and this intrigues me. She may just be somebody who has a particular axe to grind with the Jedi and could fall under the dark spell of the mysterious Snoke. Is Snoke Sith? I’m really not clued up enough on this to offer any thoughts. I’m sure there’s a dedicated forum or twenty out there with plenty of insightful speculation.

So roll on December and the next instalment of the Skywalker Saga.

The image of Rey against the sunset was created using Photoshop.

Ink Illustration Of Carole Lombard

I love the beautiful women of the 1930’s silver screen. Rita Hayworth, Greta Garbo, Fay Wray. These ladies looked stunning and I love to sketch their publicity shots using different media.

Carole Lombard, in particular, I find hypnotic. Those eyes.

So here I’ve had a bash at a quick ink drawing. I’ve taken some liberties with the hair.

For the eyes (crucial to get those spot on) I started with two large dots for the pupils and built around them. Essential to place the eyes correct in the head and get the right amount of white space around them.

Carole Lombard. Velocity Sketcher. Corel Painter 2017. Click for larger version.

Football. Saturday evening. Wine.

It’s Saturday evening and I’m drinking wine with my feet up watching City take on Spurs at home.

Something I told myself at the end of last year was that I wouldn’t let football sway my mood so much in the coming months. But it’s already gone out of the window. I’ve loved Man City for as long as I can remember and in recent years they’ve become more thrilling to follow.

But a bad performance or a bad result and I’m rocked to the point where I just can’t see the wood for the trees for at least a couple of hours. A bad result and a good performance I can stomach. But a bad performance and no points and I’m livid. It’s crazy. I’m twice the age of these players. Why on earth should I care so much. I guess it’s a cultural thing. We English guys love our football.

The wine is good. A Chianti from the Co-op. £8.99 and worth every penny.

Earlier today I spent some time planning a story that I started last year. The details are a little vague just now but the outline is working very well.

I’m keen to create something for a young adult audience in a similar vein to Tim Burton or Neil Gaiman. Something dark yet fun and whimsical. I love Gaiman’s use of dialogue in particular. He has a neat way of pushing the story forward with the most efficient conversation. Something he no doubt borrows from and admires in Hemingway. As do I.

City have enjoyed a good half hour and are now labouring a little. Spurs are back in the game. Neither side look in control but crucially we still look like the home side. There’s nothing worse than a team coming to the Etihad and taking control. The stats are with us (7 shots to Spurs’ 1, 65% possession) but the goals are still evading both sides.

I watched Coraline yesterday. It’s been on my list for a long time and finally got to sit and watch it. I didn’t much care for the visual style of the film but the story was superb. I take a lot of inspiration from that. Gaiman has a wonderful sense of story in him that I find is delivered in a classic way. There’s excellent setup with truly satisfying payoffs. More importantly for me, we always understand exactly what the protagonist wants.

This to me is a wonderful thing to read and absorb. I don’t know who the quote is attributed to but somebody once said, ‘if you want to write well, figure what your lead character wants and just follow them.’ Wise sentiment.

City have scored twice in quick succession and Spurs have somehow pulled one back. This one’s heading for a grandstand finish. Typical City. Comfortably two up and suddenly facing the prospect of 0 points.

 

 

Invaders!

Occasionally I enjoy just putting some music on and illustrating. I’m a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails so this morning I put their album Hesitation Marks on and fired up Corel Painter 2017.

I enjoy the contrast between organic and tech and have always wanted to recreate some iconic images in that style.

I remember playing Space Invaders back in the day in the arcades. It went a long way to defining who I am nearly 40 years later.

Great fun to draw.

Vikings and Ragnar Lodbrok

I’m gripped by the History channel’s Vikings. As a nerd for Norse mythology it’s right up my street.

There’s something about the blend of characters that works just great for me. As with Game of Thrones, the central theme is control.

Though Ragnar himself is a fine and battle-hardened warrior he shows great empathy and cunning. As a farmer his natural instinct is toward land ownership, but he is also fascinated by foreign cultures. Something that lands him in a head-to-head conflict with his trusted (and balmy) friend, Loki.

What I love about this show is its grittiness. Like Game of Thrones it offers some fairly engaging battle sequences, though we tend to pull away from the pointy end making contact with somebody’s neck just moments before the ketchup gets spilled.

In many respects it’s Game of Thrones Lite.

The Vikings’ story is not nearly as intricate as the spaghetti threaded storylines of Westeros. But that’s no bad thing. Essentially it’s a story of family, pride and loyalty with the tantalising prospect of exploration and wealth from distant shores. Something that it shares in abundance with Game of Thrones.

Through the eyes of the central character, Ragnar, we see a different world to the world that we may automatically assume to be the one in which Vikings lived.

Ragnar is clever. Where most hot-headed Northmen may shoot (or swing) first and ask questions later, Ragnar thinks several shots ahead. An astute warrior with remarkable intuition and a strong sense of leadership. When his fighters have their backs against the wall and run out of options, he brilliantly conspires to rescue the situation. (Season 3 – Paris)

This depth of Ragnar Lodbrok’s character is exciting for a writer. While all around him is potential chaos, he sees a certain clarity that allows for smart and often informed decisions. His attachment to the gods fades over time thanks to his acceptance of a key figure from his first raid. This intrigue with foreign cultures that are alien to his inherent beliefs serves him well despite those amongst him taking great issue.

As a writer and keen storyteller the Vikings premise is a strong one. There’s plenty of conflict and plenty of character growth, but there’s also a healthy amount of intrigue and exploration.

The protagonists venture far beyond their comfort zone with no apparent fear of failure. The gods have their back and for those that die in battle, Valhalla awaits. Indeed this lack of fear for death (“for death has already been decided, so fight well”) is what gives the Northmen their edge. Whereas their enemy is often clad head to toe in steel armour, the Norse raiders wear hard leather and furs. The best form of defence? Don’t get hit. (C) Mr Myagi :)

I’m up to the first episodes of Series 4 just now. I recently read that the 5th series is in production with 16 planned episodes.

 

Slash Says It Right

I’m a big fan of Slash and the original GnR lineup. The soundtrack to my late teens and early twenties was written largely by Slash and co.
I’m thrilled that this year I will once again get to see Guns ‘N Roses perform in London. The last time was at Wembley Stadium around 1992. A cracking day that I’ll never forget.

So I found this cool picture and quote from Slash that pretty much captures my mood just now.

New Year 2017

The new year presents an opportunity to think differently. It does, of course, also present the opportunity to behave differently.
I’ve never been a fan of the frenzy of new year’s eve. It ultimately boils down to a flick of a number. A bumping of a number by one. That in itself is enough to render the associated frenzy ludicrous in my book.

But circumstances have gone against me in recent years and I’ve jumped on the opportunity to make a mark in the sand and step over it.

Since I was diagnosed with a degenerative condition that affects my mobility, everything has gone slowly downhill. I divorced my wife and have spent the last few years living alone. I stepped off the property ladder to rent whilst I figure out my next steps.

The last few years have flown by.
In May 2015 I quit my full time job to ‘go it alone’. The best move I ever made. My income has reduced but my quality of life is far superior to when I was chained to a desk in a mundane office job.

This year, 2017, I want to step things up a bit.

I’ve enjoyed the freedom to write and freelance my web skills and all in all it’s been hugely rewarding. But I want to complete, if you will, the circle of interests by rekindling my love for developing arcade games.

I write games using open web technologies that currently centre around HTML5, JavaScript and CSS3. These games (which you can see at my arcade playstar.mobi) have been reasonably lucrative for me over the last few years but in recent months they’ve become a little stale.
So it’s time to breath some life into them and create some new and exciting games.

I also want to write more. This blog is sadly rather neglected and it’s the first thing I want to change.

I know, I know, we all say this don’t we. It’s true that we see January 1st as the ‘I’m gonna change’ day, but for me there’s an opportunity to write rather than read here that I need to seize upon.

I spend most of my idle time reading social media. Mainly Facebook.

I don’t mind Facebook but it’s far too much of an automatic / knee jerk thing to dive into. There are far better sources of information out there than catching up on what my acquaintances have had for dinner.

I want to read quality journalism some more and browse sites like Wikipedia. I want to take random prompts to research cool stuff.

To that end I’ve signed up to The Guardian (I’m a closet lefty at heart) to catch my global news. I’ve also reignited my Pinterest account. Yes it’s all pictures but those pictures can lead to some pretty cool websites.

For a long time I’ve relied on the BBC website for news and information but in recent years it’s really become an amateur’s resource. The journalism is poor and often badly presented. More of a quick-social-fix than trusted resource these days. Well, it is for me.

I’ve cranked up Flipboard once again. It was always an interested app to flick through once I’d filtered out the overly American content. Not that I’m anti-American, not at all, I just don’t always know what the stories are talking about.

So happy new year to me and here goes for trying to evolve rather than change. Not so much a new me as a progressive me.