Time for a Ceasefire.

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War has always been with us and I presume always will be, so long as there are natural resources that are desirable and ideologies that separate us. Human beings will always have disputes and sometimes that will escalate into violence, mostly on a catastrophic scale that nearly always causes unimaginable suffering and devastation. A sad fact of life is that negotiation is tough and destruction is far easier, and more profitable.

One conflict in particular has been with us for decades and even though there is not a chance in hell of victory it continues to this day, much to the detriment of society and especially the developing world. Billions of dollars have been spent in an effort to eradicate illegal drugs from the streets of the western world. As of 2019 there has been no return on that investment and in my opinion the world is in a worse state today, in part because of the war on drugs. It is an unwinnable war that has to stop, not even a change of tactics will do. Hostilities must cease with immediate effect.

This is not a statement that I as a father of two would make lightly but a radical change has to be made concerning worldwide drug policy, or at least in this country (U.K) anyway. ALL DRUGS SHOULD BE REGULATED AND SOLD LEGALLY! It sounds crazy to advocate the selling of weed, speed, MDMA, cocaine and heroin from licensed and regulated establishments. To have such substances freely available on the high street seems like madness, hippie idealism from the sixties but in reality these substances are freely available on street corners the world over.

That is really the biggest problem with the war on drugs, even though we’re at war to stop them flooding our streets the drugs still flood our streets. Dollars are wasted, corpses piled high and the war stops nothing! Law enforcement officers lay their lives on the line while drug gangs kill each other for the right to supply certain areas. Money from our taxes is funneled into this futile crusade and across the globe the main drug traffickers are given celebrity status i.e Escobar and El Chapo Guzman, their grim stories immortalised on Netflix. 

From the point of view of where I am from, Wales U.K, the availability of hygienically processed and lab tested drugs would have saved countless lives as there have been many deaths among the people I went through school with, mainly due to cheap street smack (Heroin). Almost all drugs are contaminated with other substances that add to their mass and therefore to its value but force the users to ingest mystery ingredients that may cause short or long term health hazards. Regulation and proper processes of manufacture could eradicate that issue once and for all.

When Burger King sell more Hamburgers than McDonald’s the staff of McDonald’s don’t gun down or stab their rivals and neither do the staff of weed shops in the U.S.A. Similarly, drug gangs do not mount advertising campaigns to outdo their competitors or resort to smears! Drug gangs arm themselves and then brutally fight it out on city streets for dominance, leaving a trail of corpses and grief in their wake. A large percentage of the violent crime that occurs in the U.K. the U.S. and anywhere in the developed world is down to drugs one way or another. The gangs offing each other in record numbers or the addicts resorting to desperate measures in order to get a fix.

The violence we see on our televisions or news websites completely pales in comparison to what is going on in Latin America, Mexico especially. The drug of choice for the masses is Cocaine, an expensive substance when compared to other drugs and incredibly lucrative for those willing to traffick large quantities to America and Europe. Incredibly lucrative commodities are fought over with bitter intensity and the war for domination taking place daily between the many Mexican cartels is on a level, if not exceeding the Syrian civil war! In Mexican towns and cities, minutes from the U.S. border there are beheadings and mass graves that are hardly ever newsworthy events on the U.S. networks.

A proper legal trade in drugs takes away the control from the traffickers, decriminalises hundreds of millions of users that under today’s draconian laws face possible jail time and adds millions to the government’s available budget through added tax revenue. Why we are not steering our drug laws in this direction is beyond belief and very disappointing. The U.S. which at one point took a much tougher stance on drugs than we in the U.K. did is now striding more progressively forwards while we trail in the dark ages. It is going to take a brave politician to change any of our antiquated drug laws and glancing at our house of Parliament I don’t see any candidates. Hopefully one will rise soon and begin to change the world for the better.

The testimonies that have helped me to form this opinion are that of journalist Johann Hari and former undercover police officer Peter Bleksley. Check out their work and if it doesn’t change your mind it will make you see the war on drugs in a different light.

I live in hope.     

 

The Brave Remain.

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The pressurized door closed tight with a satisfying clunk as metal pressed against metal, the hydraulics groaning as the inner workings applied an enormous amount of force sufficient enough to keep out the deadly extremes of outer space. The final transport shuttle was ready to depart, ready to take those lacking sufficient mettle to the awaiting interstellar cruiser that sat just outside the atmosphere. The cruisers were taking the human race to the far corners of the galaxy so that they may escape certain annihilation!

Those that remained on the ground whistled and jeered as the transport departed, derogatory names were yelled and the occupant’s courage questioned. Less than a thousand soldiers remained on what was once Earth’s most important military outpost and they each believed that they had been chosen to strike the enemy first. To deliver the initial hammer blow before the Earth fleet mopped up the rest and the war had been won.

Kombat-Major Ed Urquhart strolled among the men he had been left with, a smile danced on his lips as he watched them dig in with no fear at all, the optimism brought a tear to his eye. These were good men who would go to any lengths and would risk everything for the human race…and boy were they going to be pushed farther than ever before! The marauding Alien race had been named by Earth’s media as ‘Ugliens’ a typical tabloid amalgamation of the words ugly and aliens!

The Ugliens had let slip over their comms channels that they intended to take the outpost moon for themselves but Urquhart and his cohorts were ready to thwart their nefarious schemes. The alien’s numbers were going to be overwhelming, their will unshakable and their weaponry devastating but the only person who seemed aware of that fact was Urquhart himself…hopefully he could keep it that way.

The defenders of the human race were pumped up for a rumble and ready to slaughter the alien menace. Urquhart milled around among his young and enthusiastic charges, actively encouraging the bravado laden stories and promises of heroics to come. Some vowed to kill hundreds while others aimed much higher and all to a soundtrack of whooping and hollering from the others in attendance. One or two of the squad commanders gave Urquhart a funny look or flashed a knowing glance his way but most were blind to the truth concerning the battle that was on the cusp of eruption.

Kombat-Major Urquhart fell back to a command post once the military compound had been sufficiently fortified, there he remained on his own with just a command console for company. From the console he could view the battlefield from helmet mounted cameras that each soldier carried and also each armored vehicle, orders could be issued to either groups or just individuals. The pieces of armor were evenly placed but the infantry were spread thinly around the perimeter…too thinly.

Repelling an Uglien scout party would be tough but even making a dent in the vast invasion force that was coming was suicide at best! Next to the console he placed his great grandfather’s Colt .45 for when the defenders of Earth had been slaughtered and only he remained. Rather than fall into the grasp of the enemy claws he was going to go out on his terms and forego the agonies of the Uglien torture chamber.

The soldiers in the know, those who had realised that the end was very near were surely cursing their luck and calling Urquhart all of the cruel names under the sun but they were more fortunate than their commander. He had seen the Ugliens and their capabilities up close and knew that the remainder of humanity could only run so far and all that they would achieve is to delay the inevitable…all would perish!

Urquhart’s men would be the first of billions to die and at least it would be quick and they would have each other at the very end. If they are going to be killed in action then it should be amongst friends and comrades that they ascend to Valhalla or wherever they think they’ll end up. Urquhart was going to die alone and nothing is worse than that.

The End.

 

Flash Fiction

 

black pistol with bullet shell in mid air

Family business.

“Phil…Phil hold up your gun and smile” demanded Jerome who sat with a .45 in one hand and an iPhone in the other. He attempted to force the smartphone into the hand of Eric, he in turn pulled his hand away and protested “I’m not taking no picture of you two holding pistols and all this gear on the table…forget it!”

The moronic smiles fell from the faces of Phil and Jerome as the wind vanished from their sails. “Aww come on what’s the problem…you won’t be seen if you take the picture” pleaded Jerome.

“And when you two get hauled in and the cops want to know who took the picture, what then huh? No way…take a selfie or nothing!”

After the incriminating photo had been taken, together with a few other shots of both guys gazing longingly at the 10 kilos of Cocaine that lay on the table, Phil noticed the displeasure apparent on Eric’s pasty face.

Phil nudged Jerome and gestured towards Eric, Jerome tore a sizeable slice from the pizza that separated them and offered it to Eric who refused with a frown and a shake of his head.

“You’ve gotta eat boy…” pleaded Phil “…come on we should be celebrating, everything went to plan. We got the gear, there are no living witnesses and when Rudabaugh turns up we’ll be rollin in it…I’m sure some beer and whores will put a smile on ya face.”

The two seasoned criminals chewed noisily on the takeaway food and continued to play with the bags of narcotics as though they were toddlers with Lego blocks. Eric however fidgeted nervously on his creaky wooden chair, his gaze locked on the carpet at his feet.

Jerome’s patience finally shattered and he angrily demanded to know what was up with the younger man.

He stalled a little longer but more shouting from the grouchy old crooks forced a response from him “Well err…you said this dirty cop could be trusted but are you sure? He could just shoot us and take the stuff for himself…couldn’t he?”

Phil grinned smugly “Listen up kid…police corruption is great for guys like us. It gives us a chance to make some real money…”

“And it makes sure we don’t get caught!” interrupted Jerome, the two cackled like comic book villains.

The laughter ceased when Detective Rudabaugh burst into the apartment, his eyes landed on the drug pile instantly and his whole face lit up with joy. A pair of firm slaps landed on the backs of Phil and Jerome who smiled like rewarded children. Rudabaugh congratulated “I didn’t think you could pull it off but you’ve done well boys…” his eyes fell onto a familiar face “…and who’s this?”

Eric smiled and stood up “It’s Eric sir…Eric Rudabaugh.”

Two shots from Eric’s gun killed Phil while Jerome had his throat slit from behind!

Father and son left with the spoils.

 

My take on the Brexit shambles.

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First off I am a remainer and a staunch one at that, when the votes were counted and the Brexiteers had won (!!!) and that the sensible had lost, I was gutted for the first time ever where politics is concerned. I had assumed all along that BoJo (Boris Johnson) and Nigel Farage were absolute lunatics with a tiny but noisy following and that they had no chance of swinging the referendum. It is safe to say that I grossly underestimated the extent of the bad feeling that people in this country feel towards Europe, a disdain I cannot understand.

The fact that where I live, Wales, overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU came as a massive shock especially when you consider how much Wales has benefited from EU investment in my lifetime. Bypass roads to reduce traffic congestion, college courses to improve education in the over 21’s and industrial estates to encourage business were all largely funded by Europe. Brussels sees Britain as a whole and funds projects fairly whereas Westminster only has eyes on London, there is barely an interest in Cardiff never mind the Valleys where I live. It is both funny and tragic to see some of the people I work with who are surprised to learn that the posh boys Boris Johnson and the extremely toffee nosed Jacob Rees Mogg don’t really care about them and are only in it for themselves! As if that is a big shock!

The worst part of the referendum that I saw was the racism and xenophobia that were drummed up by the Brexiteers and exploited to its fullest. Mocked up pictures on social media showing a lone white girl surrounded by girls in Burkhas and asking ‘why did you let this happen’ are not helpful to anyone and have absolutely nothing to do with Brexit! It was like being back in the eighties hearing all the rubbish about the deluge of foreigners pouring across the channel and stealing all our native jobs. Perhaps that labour invasion hasn’t reached South Wales yet but out in the real world around me I just don’t see it. Work is out there, if lazy, feckless British people can’t find it then they aren’t looking hard enough. If someone wants to come here and work hard I don’t see that it matters where they were born.

None of us know what will happen after we finally pull out but the fact that the leave side won after stirring all this anti-foreigner hatred up leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth. But then even if they had won from a purely financial standpoint it’s still a shitty thing to do. Its saying a big ‘screw you’ to our neighbours, we don’t care if you all starve we’re going to look after our own so to hell with you all. Surely the more connected we are as a species the better things will be, I can only see leaving the EU as a massive step backwards. In the past we cared enough about Europe to participate in the Great war, World War 2 and to send peacekeepers to the Balkans and now we’re saying go to hell! It’s so sad.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse we’ve had to endure the six month run-up to the date that we’re supposed to be leaving. That day came and went and nothing changed, apart from that we made ourselves appear woefully inept and a laughing stock of a country. The problem is, I think, that the whole of Westminster is playing ‘Game of Thrones’ instead of sitting down and sorting this mess out. Boris never wanted Brexit I don’t think, he just wanted David Cameron out of the way so that he could grab No.10 for himself. Unfortunately the cheated public turned on him so he wisely did not run in the leadership race. Theresa May is trying to find a solution but has no backing, even when she offered to step down her deal was not accepted. Most tories don’t want a leaving deal they just want the top job and so does Jeremy Corbyn. It saddens me to say but I expected Corbyn to be a shining light of example when this all kicked off, putting party aside to do the right thing for the country but he just wants to be Prime Minister and it’s blatantly obvious.

The country doesn’t want a new leader at this time, it wants to be led, hopefully to a better place but were things that bad before the referendum? I don’t think they were. As much as I don’t like the outcome the result has to stand for the sake of democracy, we can’t just keep staging referendums when we don’t get the result we desire. We have to make the best of it, which is something we do rather well in this country.

The one upside of course is the fact that Farage and his ghastly UKIP party have now made themselves redundant. They have caused a lot of damage to our country but now hopefully he and his followers will crawl back under the rock from whence they came. The whole leave campaign was founded on lies and scaremongering and that has been known since the morning of the referendum result when Farage was pressed on his claim that the 350 million pounds that the EU cost Britain per week was now going to be used on the National Health Service. His weasley response was priceless “Err well I never actually said that!”

All of this uncertainty is turning the UK into the sick-man of Europe, I just hope that we can recover and that we can stop polarising into tribalism, that route will end in bloodshed and tears and nowhere good.    

Our Lady of Paris.

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There are many awful things that happen in this world on a daily and I’ve no doubt an hourly basis but the sight of the Notre Dame cathedral on the news, angry flames reaching from the roof to the sky was a horrendous sight to behold. As a history lover and someone who can appreciate fine architecture it really was sad to see a magnificent building, one of the finest that there has ever been on Earth, engulfed in fire and being destroyed before our very eyes.

Initial construction work began under Bishop Maurice de Sully in the year 1160 and was not completed until 1260, although there have been modifications in the intervening years. The fact that it took one hundred years to build is a staggering fact, nothing takes one hundred years these days! The people who began the building work never got to see the finished cathedral which is not something that anyone would undertake in this day and age. Obviously with modern technological advances in construction it would not take one hundred years to build a cathedral but if we were able to commit to a project of that length, just imagine what we could construct. Anything we put our minds too.

A cathedral is a place for Catholics to worship god and it could have been built to a much simpler design and in a far quicker time but that was not the point. The plan was to build something magnificent and boy did they deliver. The design and the craftsmanship that went into fulfilling the design brief is outstanding by modern standards never mind the standards of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

The fact that in the aftermath of the catastrophe the French government vowed to rebuild and refurbish the ‘Lady of Paris’ was good to hear and I am glad but the originality has been lost forever and there’s nothing that can be done about that. The stained glass windows can be replaced but with modern facsimiles and that is the best that can be done. It was also good to see the hundreds of millions in donations from the wealthy business owners of France. If it had been Saint Paul’s Cathedral here in Britain then I don’t think Sir Philip Green, Richard Branson or any of those lot from Dragon’s Den would be pledging any of their personal fortunes to help in any way.

Many of these old historical sites and architectural marvels, especially those that have stood for hundreds of years are taken for granted simply because they have always been there. So take this incident as a warning, our history is out there for us to visit but it may not always be so get out there and experience it before it’s gone forever.

The Store.

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“Where ya headed?” asked the store owner, his ugly mug grinning as though he knew something we didn’t. Information was precious however in these harsh and uncertain times so I answered vaguely “East” and left it at that.

The grin vanished and a scowl appeared in its place “What d’ya think you’ll find there? Happiness or something?”

“Or something sounds good to me” I quipped.

The scowl deepened, he didn’t appreciate my humour or the lack of information I seemed willing to share. I then remembered the reason we’d visited this run down shack in the first place “Hey handsome, you gonna sell us that converter we need or just ask dumb questions?”

With no gossip forthcoming he seemed done with us, as though the business transaction that had brought us here were of no importance now. It sure was important to us, without that part we wouldn’t be going any further into the ruined lands.

He rubbed his big square chin with one hand and eyed me suspiciously before answering “Yeah I got one…but it won’t do you no good see…”

I refrained from answering verbally but glared at him until he elaborated further. His eyes averted ours and became fixed on some random point just over my shoulder, as though some awful scene were being played out just for him. His voice wavered as he cautioned “Nothing good lives out that way…only devils and monsters! Slow suffering and death await to the east…y’all seem like good people…turn back while you still can!”

“Perhaps we’ve come to clean up this land…enough of the doom give us the part and we’ll be off!”

Whilst shaking his over-sized head disappointingly, the store owner ambled over to the far end of the counter and from a low shelf he retrieved a scuffed and worn metal suitcase. He slammed it on the counter with total disregard for the vital components that lay within.

I clicked open the catches to inspect the goods, our engineer Diaz nodded and began cursing in Spanish, a sure sign that the parts were good.

The store owner laughed himself silly as he held out a palm “That’ll be five thousand dollars and you have to cough up before you leave cuz I won’t be seeing you dumbasses ever again…not once the badlands have swallowed y’all up!” he doubled over in mirth at his own funny joke.

Upon straightening himself up he saw that only he had been laughing…once he could see past the barrel of my pistol! To say he looked surprised would be putting it mildly and he tried to speak but could only stutter.

“Just so you know old man…there ain’t nothing out there that’s as evil as we are so don’t you worry we’ll be fine!”

We were already headed for the door by the time his bullet riddled body hit the floor…you just can’t trust anyone these days!

The Future is yours

It felt strange to be in school stoned, again! Only this time the fear of being caught was absent, much like I had been in that final (IMPORTANT) GCSE year. There were to be no consequences for starry eyes on this occasion, just a slip of paper from a secretary and I was on my way. I’d like to say that I savored those final school moments, breathed in the musty odour of old books and school kids damp from the incessant Valleys rain but I’d be lying. I tore open my GCSE results, my shoulders sagged once I realised that 100 missed days and no revision HAD made a detrimental difference to my achievements and then I left the school grounds for the very last time.

I left in a hurry, eager for adulthood that was going to be a breeze compared to the rigors of secondary education. For me to even have thought that, even at sixteen years old shows what a naive, away-with-the-fairies shit-head I truly was. I strolled home under a fog of Cannabis that gradually lifted as I covered the mile and a half from Treorchy comprehensive to deepest, darkest Pentre. Mam was hard at work in a local factory while Dad covered the motorways of Britain at the wheel of a heavy goods lorry, both were safe in the knowledge that I was busy trawling the local businesses and factories for employment. If they had known that I was sat in front of Gran Turismo on the PlayStation drinking tea and smoking reefer, it’s fair to say they would have hit the roof.

I’d smoked half a doobie, drank my sugary tea and then tore around the virtual race tracks of the world, cursing the Laguna Seca corkscrew corner along the way. It was when I paused the game and lit up the second half of the spliff that it all hit me smack in the guts. It was mid August and it was mid summer holidays but for once it was not mid six weeks holidays. There was no going back to school…for me…ever again! I tried in vain to blow smoke hoops (something I never mastered in 15 years of smoking) whilst gazing at my results slip, just to check whether they looked any better. They didn’t!

Dreams of university and a career in archaeology had long since departed, although to be honest they were dreams of an Indiana Jones lifestyle and not realistic aspirations at all. When Baldrick appeared on Channel 4 hosting Time Team, a career of digging trenches in the rain somewhere in Britain whilst wearing a dreadful pull-over did not seem appealing in the slightest. Where were the rolling boulders and colourful baddies??

Parents and teachers preached about working hard in school and how it would pay off later in life and I laughed, as naive young know-it-alls do. Only now in my thirties I look back and wish that I had heeded that very advice. The same advice I’m now dishing out to my 8 year old son and soon will be to my year old daughter, I just hope that they are smarter than I was and that they listen.

For 22 years I have worked either exhausting building site jobs or mundane factory work,mostly the latter. The guys I work with are great and the pay keeps a roof over our heads but as for job satisfaction there is absolutely zero. The dream job these days is to be an author which is something I have been working at for around 8 years. working towards such a goal only in spare time though is really tough. Life throws up obstacles that derail the writing process but the biggest hurdle has got to be the day job. The Forty hours per week that I spend on the factory floor making products that I cannot afford to buy are forty hours that I am unable to write. Forty hours wasted but as nobody else is volunteering to pay the mortgage that’s just how it’s got to be, for now.

Hopefully one day, one glorious day in the not too distant future the ‘ day job’ will be writing but even if that doesn’t happen I will continue in my spare time, plugging away. The original (foolish) aim was to make a fortune but very quickly I realised that telling a story that people read, that they get, is far more important. There are times when I wish that I’d known in school that one day I’d want to be a writer and actively aimed for that through qualifications but then I wouldn’t be me, not the ‘me’ I am today anyway.

Hopefully being ‘me’ will be enough for readers to want to read what I have to say, to appreciate the worlds that I build. That’s all any of us can hope for really.

Listening has never been better.

The platform of podcasting has been around for a number of years, the term ‘podcast’ being invented by a journalist in early 2004. I first heard that there was such a thing when the Ricky Gervais podcast exploded into popularity many years ago, I didn’t listen to it at the time but have since heard many clips and watched the animated series that spawned from it. Up until about eight months ago I never really paid attention to the world of podcasts but since August 2017 I have been addicted. I realise that I am very late to the party but then I usually am, I’m okay with that. I get there in the end.

These days of course we do not just have to make do with purely audio as platforms such as YouTube and Twitch allow the visual side of the podcast to be broadcast live as well, and if you miss the live show the audio is available  for free download, forever. Most people are fully prepared to pay full price for entertainment but the fact that the majority of podcasts are available free is surely a driving force behind their ever climbing popularity. The entertainment value is only one reason to tune in, there are many factual podcasts where you can learn all manner of things as well as specialised sports podcasts that keep listeners up to date on the latest goings on.

The uncrowned king of podcasting is the UFC commentator and stand-up comedian Joe Rogan whose JOE ROGAN EXPERIENCE podcast has over 2 million subscribers on YouTube and is downloaded from his website between 100-120 million times per episode. Far from being the knucklehead republican MMA commentator that many people assume he is, Joe is a very intelligent, reasonable and open minded guy. Both his guests and his subject matters are very diverse from MMA, comedy, science and innovation, psychology, sociology to just people who have led very extraordinary lives. Most of the topics covered would never be okay’d by the board members of a big T.V. company, a fact mister Rogan is well aware of. There is no mandate or agenda, he has guests that he wants to talk to and covers subjects that are either of interest to him or that he wants to learn more about. Many of his episodes are far more educational than many of the shows on the documentary channels, others are just plain enjoyable which is what makes the podcast so popular.

Such is the high esteem that Joe Rogan holds the podcast format that when he has an interesting guest on his show he often advises them to start their own podcast, something many of those guests have gone on to do. Former U.S. Navy Seal and all round motivational badass Jocko Willink is one such guest who now hosts the Jocko podcast that cannot fail to motivate you into doing something worthwhile with your time as well as highlighting the stories of many unsung war heroes from past and present. Another service Jocko provides is detailing how effective good leadership can be and also how devastating poor leadership can be. Three of his episodes cover the Japanese destruction of Nanking, the massacre at My Lai in Vietnam and the actions of a group of German policemen detailed in the book Ordinary men, gut wrenching and heart breaking stuff to say the least.

Other guests, some of whom also went on to host their own podcasts and were very interesting were Russell Brand (surprisingly), clinical psychologist and free speech advocate Jordan Peterson, Mycologist Paul Stamets, journalist, author and filmaker Sebastian Junger, psychologist Stephen Pinker, former 6 time Mr Olympia Dorian Yates and saviour of the oceans Boyan Slat. Super interesting and educational podcasts I urge you to go check them out as well as Professor Brian cox’s INFINITE MONKEY CAGE and STARTALK from Neil Degrasse Tyson.

Podcast’s don’t have to boast thousands of followers or millions of downloads to justify your time and some of the smaller ones are well worth an hour or two. Many start out with a theme or a subject but as the conversations progress the chat turns to life in general, something that is relevant to us all.

If you are into gaming or streaming of any kind I recommend you check out the HITCHING POST podcast which is a couple of guys chatting about the stuff that interests them such as retro gaming, streaming on twitch and of course life in general. It is a really humorous podcast that is free from agenda’s or the pressure from advertisers. There are personal bias of course, such as a disdain of Sony and an unnatural love of all things SHENMUE but then we all have things we love and things we hate, that’s just being human.

Whatever you happen to be interested in there will be a podcast out there waiting for you, it’s all there if you just go and look for it. You won’t be sorry. I have over 900 songs saved in my phone but in work during the days I always listen to podcasts and I have learned so much from them in the process. Even if you’re not into learning, just listening to people chat about what interests them is enjoyable and can spur you into taking up a new hobby or into changing your life for the better. That’s got to be worth listening to, surely.

Ridley’s Universe.

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Friday the 5th of May 2017 saw the premiere of the movie Alien Covenant and I am outrageously excited to see this latest episode in the Human vs homicidal Xenomorph saga that began in 1979. I love all of the movies, even Resurrection (the ropey one with Ron Perlman and Winona Ryder) and that includes the versus Predator spin-offs. This new installment has me so captivated that I am even going to the cinema with a friend to watch it. I did of course ask my fiance first but she replied with “Aliens! No way, grow up!” which roughly means ‘No thanks love you go and enjoy yourself.’

To put the magnitude of this release into context the last time I went to the cinema for purely selfish reasons was to see the Dark Knight back in 2008! I have been many times since but that has been to satisfy my son’s imagination and has been to see a raft of animated and live action movies. Some have been great such as Big Hero Six, the Jungle Book reboot and more recently the Lego Batman Movie and the excellent Guardians of the Galaxy 2. On the flip-side however there has also been the SpongeBob square pants movie which is ingrained on my psyche like an embarrassing episode from my youth that will just not go away…ever!

My first experience of this universe was in about 1990 (When I was 10!) when I watched Aliens, James Cameron’s action packed 1986 sequel to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. At the time I didn’t even know that it was a sequel until a boy in my class at school told me about the original Alien. The next day he brought in an original VHS that I watched straight after school and loved so much that I did not want to return the tape, I did eventually and begrudgingly take it back. Both movies feature the same heroine and the same creature but they are vastly different, one atmospheric and filled with suspense and the other fast paced and a thrill-a-minute. Both are classics and will always be in my top 10 of all time.

1992 saw the release of Alien 3 and luckily for 12 year old me there just happened to be a local cinema that would let anyone in to see any film no matter what age you happened to be. The cinema was so chilled that in 1991 when I was 11 they let me and a friend in to watch FREDDY’S DEAD THE FINAL NIGHTMARE! Freddy Krueger at 11 for heaven’s sake even though it was clearly certified 18! Not that I cared at the time but looking back and with a child of my own it just seems crazy. Freddy would scar my boy for life, even Scooby Doo is too much for him just before bed, he is only 6 though.

Alien 3 was and still is epic (even though the director’s cut that I have on DVD is far superior), especially to my 12 year old eyes and I have loved that film ever since. Watching it on the big screen only enhanced it’s effect and that is why I will certainly be watching this newest one in the nearest Odeon. Even though Prometheus got some stick from some fans I thought it was great and I cannot wait to see this follow up. It has all the necessary ingredients (although obviously Sigourney Weaver is hard to top) Ridley Scott, Michael Fassbender and the greatest movie creature there has ever been.

The term ‘an alien’ can refer to all manner of species dreamed up by science fiction writers and movie makers but ‘the Alien’ can only mean one thing. The murderous Xenomorph with acid for blood has been with us for 37 years thanks to Ridley and the artist H.R.Giger. Let’s hope that it is with us for many more years to come.

Four grands worth of gold.

There are many types of movies out there for us to enjoy such as the mega budget blockbuster starring the biggest names that Hollywood has to offer, these films collect the largest box office takings and appear in the media the most which is hardly surprising given the wads of cash that follow these productions. There are other movies that are smaller in scale and budget but still carry the perfect teeth of some heavyweight veteran of the silver screen that adds some bulk to the smaller picture.

Next we have the truly independent film that whilst being entertaining also tries to make stars of a host of unknown actors, writers, directors etc. These movies are truly a favorite of mine because they tend to be more story and character driven and less dependent on a succession of special effects and explosions.

The digital age however has enabled a new generation of film-makers to be able to tell their stories in a way that was never possible before. Editing software for home computers and a range of sophisticated hand held recording devices allow the film making process to be attempted and indeed achieved to a high level by people who could not have found this possible in the past. With such equipment readily available the cost of the film making process can be massively reduced which opens the door for a new phenomenon, the micro-budget production.

These smaller budgets of a few thousand can be procured through the process of crowd funding by utilizing sites such as Kickstarter where we (the ordinary public) are encouraged to pledge a few pounds or bucks towards the projects that grab our attention. The crowd funding process is an excellent way to raise funds in order to get certain projects off the ground and to also get the fans involved by allowing them to help finance the movie/novel/album or whatever catches their eye in exchange for certain perks and rewards.

This brings me onto one such feature film called THIRD CONTACT which can be viewed on YouTube for free and absolutely should be…by everyone, in my opinion. Shot in black and white and brimming with atmosphere the film is a character driven Sci-fi that keeps you guessing and on edge from the first scene all the way to the last. A psychiatrist suffering from his own internal turmoil starts to look further into the apparent suicides of some of his patients. His search leads him down a dark and sinister path! I will not give too much away regarding the plot because i hope you will go straight to YouTube and watch for yourselves.

THIRD CONTACT comes from the mind of London film-maker Simon Horrocks and is the debut feature of his BODY DOUBLE FILMS production company. Using a meagre £4000 of crowd funded cash and thanks to a great story he has produced a truly great movie that is as entertaining as anything from across the pond, in many cases even more so. The little known but very capable actors perform expertly and the camera work is also stylish and professional. The most admirable aspect is that the finished product does not reek of a £4000 project, they could have spent £400,000 and you would not question where the money had been spent.

Please check out BODY DOUBLE FILMS on YouTube and also @sihorrock on Twitter for updates on further projects, he also has an excellent Sci-fi series under his belt called KOSMOS which is intriguing and entertaining and a follow up novel called A RACE OF MINDS which is available on Amazon and I am about to start reading myself.

One of the best things about THIRD CONTACT is the hope that it gives to others about what can be achieved with a good idea and a relatively small amount of cold hard cash. Greatness does not have to come at a price…a few thousand should do just fine.