The Cold, Cold Ground

When all’s said and done,
No more battles to be won,
Downing of my sun.

Hear this final plea:
I know how long death can be,
Do this thing for me.

Never lay me down
Where only worms will be found
In the cold, cold ground.

Never lay me down
Where my body will be bound
In the cold, cold ground.

 

Haiku Horizons prompt “ground”

 

haikuhorizons

Star Wars countdown… The Revenge of the Sith

This is the second in a series of blog posts as I re-watch the Star Wars films with my 5 year-old son in the build-up to The Force Awakens hitting the cinemas in three weeks’ time. I was away at a SCBWI Conference last weekend, having a fantastic time, so missed Attack of the Clones (a bullet dodged). This week it’s the turn of Revenge of the Sith.

There is much to enjoy in this one, and it almost works as a film on its own merits (leaving aside the last ten minutes when they try to join every last dot with the original trilogy). One of the main reasons for this is that the “comedy” has been largely cut. Jar Jar and 3-PO barely appear in the film, to keep it darker, edgier. BTW, if all this Star Wars talk has just whetted your appetite for more, check out this blog post: http://www.avclub.com/article/star-wars-prequels-dont-deserve-your-hatred-226732 . Needless to say, I disagree with this, but it is well worth a read!

Some thoughts…

War! The first word of the opening scroll promises much, especially compared to previous set-ups (although I’ve at least found one fan of a good historical trade dispute through this). BUT then we’re straight into another space battle that feels like a cartoon. Everything’s too busy. And if you’ve got buzz droids at your disposal now, why do they disappear in less than twenty years? Continuity (both forced, and failed), and consistency, are two of my biggest overall criticisms of the prequels.

General Grievous is a great idea for a bad guy – collecting lightsabres! four arms to use them! – ruined by that over-used trope, comedy emphysema.

R2 flying… Did George Lucas get amnesia about what this astromech droid can do? It’s stupid and unnecessary. This is Exhibit R in the “case against” the prequels.

– The Dooku fight is well-staged, both in terms of choreography and showing Anakin’s descent. Also, the way Obi Wan says “Dooku” makes me think of “doo-doo”, every time.

– The opera scene is Machiavellian brilliance. Wonderfully acted, paced, scored and with visuals beautiful and original. Palpatine tells a story of the power to defeat death. Anakin is hooked. “Is it possible to learn this power?” (A pause) “Not from a Jedi.” The best acted scene of the prequels, by a mile.

– Then, “Exhibit S” in the case against… Obi Wan riding that lizard thing around… Ropey effects, tonally wrong for the film. Just wrong, and stupid. Honestly, was George trying to add crap into the film to make the other bits seem better?

– At the writing conference last week, I attended a workshop on story structure. There we talked about the midpoint of the film, whereby the central character is not the same again. Well, one hour and ten minutes into a two hour twenty minute film, we have Anakin defending Palpatine against the Jedi (Mace Windu in particular), then pledging himself to Palpatine. “Henceforth, you shall be known as Darth Vader…” Cue John Williams theme… Great stuff, but all this analysis of structure is in danger of ruining movies for me!

– The Jedi temple attack, and Order 66 is a wonderful sequence, taking in a host of different worlds and tragic deaths for the unfortunate Jedi. And when Anakin lights his lightsabre in front of the younglings with murderous intent, it brings a lump to my throat every single time. So dark, and sad.

Yoda’s dialogue is overdone, to the point of parody. “Not if anything to say about it, I have…” My son’s reply, reasonably, was “what does he have?” This line made everyone in the cinema groan first time round, and it made me wince this time.

– The fight between Obi Wan and Vader should be the emotional climax of the prequels, and there is some great work from Ewan McGregor with the material, but… it doesn’t quite work. The lightsabres (both blue) are not distinguishable, the movement is too fast (contrast the Obi Wan – Darth Maul sequence, which is fast but believable), and you just get the impression of a lot of twirling rather than a fight to the death. When they start leaping around on ridiculous platforms over the molten rock… it takes it all too far. It adds complication, when it needs simplicity, to strip everything back to these two brothers fighting to the death.

– Interesting contrast between the births of the twins and Vader. Why does Obi Wan need reminding in the original trilogy that “there is another”. Why does Leia remember her mother? When the droid says that Padme has just “lost the will to live”, there is a part of me that says “I know the feeling…”

– The Vader Frankenstein moment is horrible, painful, naff, comically awful… The single worst moment in the prequels (and yes, I haven’t forgotten Jar Jar). Honestly, you’ve got the coolest bad guy in the history of the universe, and then you all but make him drop to his knees and cry. “Exhibit T”

– How come the Death Star takes another fifteen or so years to be finished, when it’s gone from design to shell in a couple of years? Contractor problems? How do they keep it secret for that length of time? It’s almost like this stuff’s being made up as they go along…

Having got to the end of the prequels, it is unlikely that I will watch them again. They are a mixed bag of great moments and awfulness. If they didn’t have the Star Wars name attached, I would have watched and forgotten them already by now, and perhaps that is how they should be judged. The original trilogy though, I can see me dipping into those on rainy bank holidays forever. So, onto A New Hope (as my son calls it), or more accurately (as I see it) Star Wars, next week 🙂

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Autobiographical Haiku

To save my reason,
I write verses as a gift,
But must work for coin

 

I wrote this for secret keeper’s weekly challenge, based on 5 prompt words – gift coin verse work reason. This isn’t the best haiku I’ve ever written, but I am strangely proud of it, chiefly because it describes me so perfectly, using every one of the prompt words in one haiku.

Weekly Writing Prompt #12

Hope you enjoy it too 🙂

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flickr.com/photos/jenumfamily/5530372083

Haiku – "Pepper"

#1 A dream couple?

Bachelor #1
My biggest turn-offs?
Pepper on a f@**ing steak!
&
Moaning non-smokers

Bachelorette #1
My biggest turn-offs?
Talk peppered with expletives;
Smokers; meat-eaters

 

#2
Dancefloor clearance squad…
Works like a pepperspray bomb
With my clunky moves!

 

#3
Recipe for life:
Pinch of salt, dash of pepper,
And a big, tough heart

 

Haiku Horizons prompt “pepper”

haikuhorizons

Haiku on love and death

Ronovan’s haiku prompts this week – “life” and “give” – have brought out a stream of haiku from me on love and death. I hope you enjoy them 🙂

#1
My greatest regret:
I’ve only one life to give,
To service your love

#2
I’d give everything;
Heart’s lock, life’s joys, soul’s sunshine,
For just one more day

#3
Life is for giving:
Share your tender heart wisely
And you shall receive

#4
No more days to give…
I’ll greet death with a smile
For this gift of life

#5
When life’s revels end,
Regrets are for the death-bed,
But give them lightly

#6
My final moments
No more pain shall I suffer.
The night’s bird takes flight

RonovanWrites #Weekly #Haiku #Poetry Prompt #Challenge #72 Life&Give

 

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How the SCBWI Conference Blew My Mind

I spent last weekend in Winchester at the annual SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Conference, in the company of nearly 200 wonderful writers and illustrators. I’ve come back absolutely buzzing with inspiration and ideas, buoyed by meeting dozens of new people, armed with a host of invaluable tips on craft, and possessed of new insights into the industry around children’s books.

I need to catch up on family life and more mundane matters now, but here are five things I learnt at my first conference  :

1 – Expect … Anything!
If a well-spoken man wearing a suit and bowtie comes on stage, do not be surprised if he starts with a clip from Pulp Fiction and invites the audience to dance along with Travolta and Thurman. This is apparently completely normal. All three keynote speakers (Sarah McIntyre/Philip Reeve, Jonny Duddle, and David Fickling) were wonderful, engaging, and interesting, in very different ways. I found myself humming the “eep-eep-eep-eep-eep-eep-eep-eep-eep-eep” song to myself many hours later, and again as I type this…

2 – Dare to share…
Scoobies really are the warmest bunch. I met dozens of people that I recognised by name from the Facebook group. I’m a social wallflower, but the atmosphere so was friendly that it was never an issue for me, and I met so many lovely folk, including two of my online critique group who I’d never met offline. (Hopefully all of my crit group can meet up at a future event/conference.) Special thanks to Liz Miller for introducing me to so many people, and being my personal guide (not to mention transport) to the conference!

3 – Writers are people too…
When I realised that the writer of my younger son’s favourite picture book was at the pirate party, I had to box my introvert and say hello. I told him that my son (nearly 3) is a late developer in terms of language, and can’t yet say mummy or daddy… But he does try to say “no ship, no food, no way home” and other lines from Ten Little Pirates. Mike Brownlow seemed genuinely touched. One of the reasons I write picture books is to hopefully one day be on the other end of this, having inspired a similar reaction in a child 🙂

4 – Nearly everyone loves to dress up as pirates
Some had suspiciously good outfits (my personal favourite was Katherine’s treasure map dress, hand-illustrated and wonderfully detailed… even down to the location of Duddle Island)… Are there lots of secret weekend pirates in SCBWI?

5 – I need to raise my game…
The creative energy was invigorating, but a snapshot into a school visit by Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve – complete with songs, games, outrageous costumes, amazing illustrations and bags of FUN – sets the bar pretty high for the rest of us! Inspired by George Kirk (and Reeve and McIntyre), I’ve asked my wife for a ukulele  for Christmas… Neighbours, beware!

Sadly I didn’t get to talk to everyone that I wanted to say hello to… So I guess I’ll need to go back next year and put that right 🙂

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Photo is of the engaging and piratical Jonny Duddle talking about his book, The Pirate-Cruncher

The Candle

I cup the candle in my palm
And feel its warming glow.
Although its flame is flickering
It lights my way to go.

The world is darkness all around:
Brother turned on brother.
My candle keeps the hope alive:
I will ask no other.

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http://onthevergewithshareenmansfield.com/2015/11/20/stand-united-or-fall-divided/

Haiku – "Love's Reflection"

The below haiku were written for Secret Keeper’s weekly challenge, based on the prompt words – rare sense moment taste reflect. http://thesecretkeeper.net/2015/11/16/weekly-writing-prompt-11/

#1
All senses heightened
Rare moment of reflection
Taste of VICTORY!

#2
Taste of rarest steak:
A moment on the senses
No time to reflect

#3
Taste love’s reflection
Rare, fleeting, momentary.
No sense to be found

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Haiku – "Cover" & "Colour"

#1
Three colours true?
Cover yourself in glory
And first do no harm

#2
Beneath the covers,
Colours are irrelevant
When the lights are out…

#3
Artist at easel
Covers the world in sunshine;
Colours own viewpoint

Written for Ronovan’s weekly haiku prompt. Check out the other great entries here: https://ronovanwrites.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/ronovanwrites-weekly-haiku-poetry-prompt-challenge-71-covercolor/

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